In August 2002, Canadian Inuit hosted the Inuit Circumpolar Conference General Assembly in Kuujjuaq a small town in northern Quebec, Canada.
This Assembly is held every four years in one of the four countries Inuit occupy namely; Canada, the United States (Alaska), Greenland and Russia. The theme of this year’s Assembly is “Inuit Voice Enlightening the world”, which is timely, considering that one-week later Inuit leaders will be in Johannesburg bringing an Inuit vision of sustainability to the global community.
Indigenous peoples everywhere face many challenges in finding their place in the new world order of globalization. A place that affords our peoples self-respect and security, and one in which we contribute to the well being of others. Our voices have not always been heard; our contribution and value not always recognized nor appreciated. We have had to fight hard to be heard.
When indigenous peoples work in isolation, many challenges are insurmountable and many common goals unattainable. But through partnerships and accepting differentiated responsibilities I believe sustainable development is achievable at the local, regional and global scale. New and meaningful partnerships are at the heart of moving sustainable development forward in our homelands and elsewhere.
The Arctic was virtually ignored in the debate leading up to and culminating at Rio de Janiero in 1992. The Arctic is not mentioned in Agenda 21. Yet, in the last 10 years Arctic issues have climbed up the political agenda, in part, as the South seeks our energy and mineral resources, contemplates Arctic shipping to link western Europe, eastern Asia, and North America, and as human health and environmental concerns such as persistent organic pollutants and climate change are framed in a global context. We welcome the attention to these issues of crucial importance to us in the Arctic as it allows us to ensure our traditional knowledge, perspectives, expectations, and recommendations on economic, cultural, social, and environmental issues are clear.
The Arctic is a barometer of the global effects of climate change, ozone depletion, and longrange transboundary contaminants – an indicator global health. A wake up call for many.
We must not, however, portray the Arctic and its residents nor any indigenous peoples as powerless victims of global forces. Quite the contrary. We must show that we are resilient, in the case of the Arctic; we are a culturally diverse region, home to numerous Indigenous peoples, and an emerging geopolitical region of growing importance to the world. We adapted to monumental change in the past and we will again.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development is an important opportunity for us all. Inuit and all indigenous peoples have much to give the global community and also much to learn from experiences elsewhere.
The face of sustainabledevelopment for the
next decade is an indigenous face
Let us use the WSSD process to ensure that Indigenous peoples concerns from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, are included in the eventual outcomes endorsed by ministers in Johannesburg. Let us ensure the face of Johannesburg; the face of sustainable development for the next decade is an indigenous face.