The right to self-determined funding for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Discover how Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities are changing the climate finance narrative. By Sarah Darcie, Policy & Stakeholder Youth Fellow | December 5, 2023

I always knew that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) play a crucial role in the climate crisis fight, but before joining the Climate Champions Team I never really asked myself how the current climate finance scenario was failing to support their on the ground work. How can the world rely on them to conserve more than 80 percent of our biodiversity – besides comprising less than 5 percent of the global population – and not guarantee that they will have access to finance? And in which way can the work of the Climate Champions Team help elevate their needs, highlight the importance of their solutions and contribute to changing the narrative of climate finance?

It was asking myself these questions that, together with the Climate Champions Inclusion Team, I started to delve deeper into the topic. At first, the data confirmed what we expected:

  • Less than 1 percent of funding currently reaches Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to secure tenure rights and manage forests in tropical countries;
  • From all the funds allocated in the last 10 years to support IPLC’s tenure rights and forest management, only 17 percent actually included an IPLC organization, which represents 0.13 percent of all the aid designated to climate change;
  • Out of the $US1.7 billion financing committed in the COP26 IPLC Forest Tenure Pledge for the period 2021 to 2025, only 7 percent of the funds distributed to date to fulfil this pledge have directly reached IPLC groups.

Besides this discouraging scenario, we found out that Indigenous and local community leaders were already self-organizing to hack this system. The way they are doing that is through the Indigenous-led and local communities-led funds, which are financial mechanisms made by and for IPLCs, to promote direct territorial investments to the communities and suit their needs. From our research, we found over 50 active funds, in different parts of the world, but we believe this number is probably much higher.

After the desk research, it was time to talk to the ones at the frontline of the climate crisis, the leaders who are facing this situation and bringing new solutions to the table. In August, I flew from São Paulo, my hometown, to Belém, where president Lula was hosting the ACTO Summit (Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization), bringing together representatives from all Amazon countries. In Belém, besides having the chance to know the city that will host COP30 in 2025, I could connect with inspiring Brazilian leaders that are changing the climate finance scenario. Some of them are worth highlighting and sharing here.

Maria Alaídes, the General Coordinator of Babaçu Fund, told me that the fund was created in 2012, inspired by other Indigenous-led funds from Brazil. Babaçu is a Brazilian palm that yields an edible oil which is often used in cosmetics. The fund was created to support the Interstate Movement of Babaçu Coconut Breakers, which operates in the states of Maranhão, Pará, Piauí and Tocantins. She shared that this activity allows for many women in the region to derive their livelihood, in a sustainable way, as they generate income while keeping the forest standing.

I also connected with Katia Penha, a quilombola environmental activist, who is engaged with the National Articulation Coordination of Quilombos (CONAQ) and leads the Mizizi Dudu Quilombola Fund. Quilombolas are Afro-Brazilian people resident of quilombo settlements, descendants of enslaved Afro-Brazilians who escaped slavery and started to self-organize in autonomous and sustainable communities. Today, they comprise over 1,300 million people in Brazil and the Mizizi Dudu Fund was established to strengthen their rights and autonomy in themes such as familiar agriculture, agroecology, land recovery, local trade and land rights.

These funds are part of the Network of Community Funds for the Autonomy of the People of the Amazon, a network of seven Iindigenous-led and local communities-led funds from Brazil that show how the Brazilian communities have been leading this work. Josimara Megueiro de Oliveira, a young Indigenous activist and the coordinator of the Rio Negro Indigenous Fund (FIRN), within only two years of work with the fund have already helped to support over 8,000 people, from 22 different communities, with the first round of investments.

We knew that stories like those needed to be shared, because they are proof of not only the need for direct access to finance, but also of how the funds are already operating, in an effective and efficient way, and reaching communities on the ground, who wouldn’t have access to funding in other ways. After Belém, we started to reach out to Indigenous-led funds managers all over the world with one main objective: hearing and sharing their testimonies to leverage and change the current financial climate system.

Having said that, it is with great honour that we share the “Indigenous Peoples and the Race to secure self-determined finance” campaign, where we compiled the results of these interviews in an effort to share with the world that the climate finance system can be different – more equitable, coherent, flexible and effective – when we put the true leaders at the centre of the decision making processes and let them promote their self-determined actions.

We thank those who contributed and trusted our work to promote and highlight their stories and testimonies. And I thank the Climate Champions Team for the opportunity to develop this work and share the stories of amazing women leading the change in my country. Echoing the words of Josimara: “It is no longer time to impose on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities that they have to adapt to the conditions imposed by financiers, requiring that they have to abandon their traditional ways of life to become financial managers. It is time for financiers to adapt to the reality of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples and meet their demands. Only then can we expand the impact of this type of financing to stop climate change”.


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