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IWGIA raises awareness on Indigenous Peoples' rights at annual Danish political event

Earlier this month, from 13-15 June, IWGIA was on Denmark´s “Sunshine Island” (Bornholm) to advocate for Indigenous Peoples´ rights at Folkemødet ('The People's Meeting'), a Danish festival for democracy and dialogue that attracts up to 65,000 participants every year.

“IWGIA had quite a strong presence in Bornholm this year. Taking part in six different events also exposed Indigenous Peoples' issues to many different guests who might not have heard much about this before,” Helle Løvstø Severinsen, IWGIA´s Danish Policy Advisor, said.

A group of IWGIA volunteers, three staff members, one Board member as well as one of IWGIA´s Indigenous partners worked together in leading and participating in a variety of successful events, from conferences to interactive workshops, that highlighted the active commitment of the youth.

Active youth commitment

The day before the opening of the festivities feels like the calm before the storm. The last tents and stages are being set up and IWGIA’s volunteer group, Roots of the World, is already here. On their agenda: two events to raise awareness about Indigenous Peoples´ rights and the many challenges they face in securing their right to self-determination.

Their first event, on 13 June, invited participants to explore the art of body mapping, an Indigenous feminist method from South America.

“How you represent your body is intrinsically linked with nature, and changes in your environment can impact you at the same time,” IWGIA volunteer Adam Skjalm-Rasmussen explained: “It is about putting everything in perspective to yourself; and yourself in perspective to everything around you.”

Indigenous Peoples´ special relationship to land and nature was also at the core of the volunteers´ second event: a guided foraging trip along the coast of Allinge Harbour.

Eagerly awaited, the foraging trip received a lot of attention, attracting a lot of participants who gathered rhubarb, elderflower, and nettles to make homemade drinks while learning about Indigenous Peoples´ sustainable farming practices. The tour was followed by a discussion with representatives of the Heñói Center for Studies who raise awareness about Indigenous Peoples´ land rights and the agro-industy in Paraguay.










First photo: IWGIA volunteers setting foot on the youth camp, ready to put up their tents against the island´s strong winds. Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Second and third photos: Volunteers and participants connecting during a very successful body-mapping workshop. Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Fourth photo: Volunteers and participants on the foraging tour. Credit: Adam Skjalm-Rasmussen

Indigenous Peoples in the Green Transition

The Green Transition was in many ways at the core of IWGIA´s work at Folkemødet. The common view that Indigenous Peoples constitute an obstacle and add an extra cost to sustainable development was questioned in an event co-organized with the Nordic Council, the company GreenLead and the Copenhagen Business School (CBS).

“Greenlanders are not against mining and industrial development as such,” Nauja Bianco, Director of Isuma Consulting and member of IWGIA´s Board, said, “but how we do it is very important.”

Bianco pointed out the worrying lack of knowledge about Indigenous Peoples´ specific rights and concerns: “Indigenous Peoples are thinking in the long-term, they are asking: will this benefit our future generations?”

Relying on his company´s successful experiences in Greenland, Claus Andersen-Aagaard, CEO of the Danish company GreenLead which offers specialized consultancy in sustainable energy and the Green Transition, emphasized the importance of involving Indigenous Peoples from beginning to end, saying that “Indigenous Peoples bring actual value to a project”.

Consultation, although fundamental, is not enough. Co-creation and co-ownership should be systematically promoted and implemented.

“We need honest agreements”, Paul Lekapana, Chairperson at the Hunter Gatherer Forum (Kenya), said, stressing that “Indigenous Peoples should get a fair share of what belongs to them”.

Against the backdrop of the Green Transition and the upcoming ´Summit of the Future´ this September, the future of the UN was also discussed during an event by Global Focus. IWGIA´s Executive Director, Kathrin Wessendorf, was invited on the panel to share her expertise working with Indigenous Peoples and insist on the importance to secure their rights for our common future.


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 gbFirst photo: From left to right: Bo Lidegaard (Partner – Kaya Partners), Nauja Bianco (Director – Isuma Consulting), Claus Andersen-Aagaard (CEO – GreenLead), Jette Gottlieb (Member- Nordic Council), Paul Lekapana (Chairperson - Hunter Gatherer Forum, Kenya). Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Second photo: Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of Denmark, Carolyn Bennett (standing in the middle), was very impressed by the commitment of the youth. Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Third photo: Participants actively engaged in the discussion and participated in a role-play negotiation between an energy company and Indigenous communities. Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Building corporate sustainability with the new EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

IWGIA organized a debate on 14 June moderated by IWGIA´s Helle Løvstø Severinsen on how the new EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive will be translated into Danish law. Adopted earlier this year, the directive requires European companies to ensure that their global operations are free from environmental and human rights violations.

Emil Weis, Project Manager at NOAH, Denmark's oldest environmental organisation and the Danish chapter of the global NGO Friends of the Earth, hoped that the directive “will create a space for Indigenous Peoples”.

Yet in its current implementation, the directive suffers several limitations regarding Indigenous Peoples´ rights. Paul Lekapana notably decried the insufficient emphasis on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) leading to inadequate consultation and the eventual violation of Indigenous Peoples´ rights. Emphasizing the overall lack of monitoring and accountability, he asked: “Are you actually implementing the policies or are you just giving money?”

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Photo: From left to right: Helle Løvstø Severinsen (Danish Policy Advisor – IWGIA), Emil Weis (Project Manager – NOAH), and Christina Gordon Christiansen (ESG Director – P+). Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Special focus on Africa

This year, IWGIA devoted a special focus on Africa through an event supported by Global Focus and the Danish Foreign Policy Society on 13 June.

“Africa is an important, if not the most important, strategic partner for Denmark. Most of the Green Transition investment from Denmark in Africa is happening on Indigenous Peoples´ territories and it is therefore crucial that politicians, business and the general public know about how we can best implement these projects for the benefit of all,” Geneviève Rose, IWGIA´s Head of Programmes, explained.

In Africa, Indigenous Peoples are still left behind in the Green Transition. A general lack of explicit recognition of Indigenous Peoples´ rights and of their traditional knowledge is preventing better cooperation currently and in the future.

For Paul Lekapana, a more equal and sustainable partnership fundamentally requires “open dialogue, inclusive in decision-making and shared responsibility”.

In Africa, as everywhere else, the issues debated at Folkemødet stood as an invitation to shift the narrative of our relations with Indigenous Peoples, to challenge our assumptions and to finally start learning from each other.



Photo: From left to right: Mette Müller Kristensen (Director – Global Focus), Paul Lekapana (Chairperson - Hunter Gatherer Forum, Kenya), Charlotte Flindt Pedersen (Director - Danish Foreign Policy Society), Oscar Rothstein (Journalist – Danwatch), and Toke Hanghøj (Head of Communications - Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies). Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA

Top photo: IWGIA´s volunteers joined by Kathrin Wessendorf (IWGIA´s Executive Director), Helle Løvstø Severinsen (IWGIA´s Danish Policy Advisor) and Paul Lekapana (Chairperson at the Hunter Gatherer Forum, Kenya). Credit: Floralie Dupré / IWGIA


>> Learn more about IWGIA’s work here


>> Learn more about IWGIA´s volunteer group and their mission here

Tags: Global governance



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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