COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai

COP28: The fight for survival of Indigenous peoples

They have come from afar to defend their ways of life. Indigenous peoples from around the world are represented at COP28, courted by journalists, but sometimes side-lined in the immense Dubai World Expo site.

Marine Henriot – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A pencil line on her face, traditional clothes and a determined look, Keury Rodriguez is Taino, an indigenous people of the Caribbean. She explains that she traveled to COP28 in Dubai to ensure her survival: “My people are close to extinction. Almost extinct. By coming here, I represent thousands of ancestors, thousands of indigenous peoples who did not survive. Our mere presence makes things happen.”

Keury Rodriguez
Keury Rodriguez

At her side is  Gloria, who comes from the Pastaza region in eastern Ecuador, a province entirely covered by the Amazon rainforest and which today is home to a community descended from the Taino. “It rains every day and the river swells, but there is nothing to fish or hunt, and there is no market to buy food,” she laments.

Listen to the interview with Keury Rodriguez

The Taino people who are present today in the Caribbean and South America, already occupied part of the land before Europeans arrived in the 15th century. They are now on the front-line of climate change, which is disrupting their lifestyles based on respect and sound use of natural resources.

However, in the immense site of the COP28 in Dubai, they struggle to be heard, explains Keury Rodriguez. “I don’t feel listened to at all. It was already difficult get the accreditations to come here, and now, security forces have just confiscated our instruments. They don’t let us play our drums which is a  therapy for us, they don’t want us to be here because we, the indigenous peoples, are a medicine for the Earth” the young activist says.

Gloria, d'Equateur
Gloria, d'Equateur

“We need white people to carry our message”

The Taino were declared extinct in the 16th century. Today, there are no official figures on their number. At  COP28 they are represented under the banner of the UCPT, the United Confederation of the Taino People, based in Puerto Rico.

“We need white people to carry our message,” says Keury Rodriguez, still shaken by the altercation she had with the security forces, but determined in her fight, “I feel that I have a special role to play as a woman, as an indigenous woman, and as an African descendant.”

Women are even more affected than men by the consequences of climate change, she explains: “For example, our women have to walk to the rivers to draw water, and being women, they could not come back, because they are exposed to the risk of femicide. They are also directly affected by drought, because due to the lack of water, they don’t have access to basic hygiene products, especially during their periods. The lack of water, also makes childbirth less safe.”

Coming from the other side of the planet, these two indigenous women are awaiting an ambitious final text from COP28 which provides for the exit from fossil fuels.

An Indigenous Taino woman at COP28 in Dubai
An Indigenous Taino woman at COP28 in Dubai

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09 December 2023, 16:39