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Indigenous Peoples Demand a Role in Global Waste Management

MADRE partner Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), is participating at the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meeting this week and next at the UN. This letter is a response to the Thematic Cluster on Waste Management by Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
18th session
May 3rd - 14th, 2010
United Nations Headquarters, New York
Thematic Cluster on Waste Management

Mr. Chairman, 

Waste management is one of the key concerns for Indigenous Peoples and their local communities. It is a concern because, despite the fact that they do not play a key role in the generation of the dangerous waste, they feel the impact that affects their health, lands, water and biodiversity they so dearly depend on for their survival. 

The liquid, solid and hazard waste and substances dumped into the waters and onto the lands enters the lifecycle of the different communities unnoticed, and it slowly causes short and long term health impacts, like cancer and waterborne diseases, that affect women, children, youths and all members of the communities. Mercury, uranium, asbestos, e-waste and other liquid and solid wastes from different industries are just a few of the pollutants we can mention. Most hospitals in developing countries, especially those of Africa, have not put in place measures restricting dumping hospital waste. The lands are not productive anymore because of the contamination of the soil caused by the dumping of the waste. In sub-Saharan Africa and other nomadic pastoralist areas in the world, livestock herders have lost their livestock due to the poisoning of the waters.

This, again, goes unnoticed and undocumented, as data is a challenge in most of these remote areas. Communities have seen the impact in the loss of the biodiversity they depend on for their medicine and wild fruits and foods that they depend on for their health.

Mr. Chairman, we have listened carefully to all the proposals and presentations by panelists and agree with their recommendations and contributions, especially those made by the G77 and China, the EU and Africa.

  1. However, we remind you all that good governance is key to all the issues we are discussing here. Indigenous and local communities globally feel that a lot has yet to be done for the recognition of the role communities can play in contributing to the success and outcome of the formulation and implementation of policies on sound waste management.
  2. Capacity building and awareness is important to ensure communities can handle and recycle safely the wastes dumped in their lands and waters and can have the basic capacity to drink their water and be ensured of the safety from contamination for both humans and animals.
  3. Training on technology and management of sound waste management should be inclusive for all. The Governments should ensure that recycling techniques are domesticated and disseminated to all to ensure a sustainable management of all waste including liquid, solid, heavy metals and e–waste and plastics.
  4. Government should ensure that Environmental impact assessments are done in a participatory way to allow communities to have a right to contribute and give guidance in dumping sites and that their prior informed consent on the use of their lands can be respected.