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Contribution of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Colombian Amazon to the accomplishment of SDG 13 and SDG 15

IPs are natural protectors of the forest and are therefore key stakeholders in the accomplishment of SDG 13 and 15. 94% of the 26 million hectares of legally recognized territories that belong to 62 indigenous peoples from the Colombian Amazon is currently under forest cover

Currently, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Organization of Indigenous Peoples from the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC) are carrying out an analysis of the contribution of IPs and their territories to Colombia’s commitments related to climate change and biodiversity. This input is relevant to strengthen OPIAC capacities for its interaction with the new government, and will ease the organization’s full and effective participation in environmental decision-making.

Objective of the practice

To strengthen indigenous organizations from the Amazon so they can be recognized in national dialogue and negotiation spaces and processes with the Colombian government, as well as in international scenarios, as key stakeholders for decision-making and the implementation of actions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation and the protection of forest ecosystems and the services they provide.

OPIAC is currently working for the inclusion of a regional indigenous vision in the National Development Plan – PND (2018-2022), which is under construction, so that it recognizes the great potential of indigenous communities and their territories in the accomplishment of the 2030 Agenda, especially in relation to SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land), while also providing solutions to the needs of indigenous peoples to guarantee their continued support for the Agenda’s implementation. The PND is the public policy framework that defines priorities, state interventions, and public investment projects during the sitting president’s time in office.

Historically, negotiation processes for PNDs with different governments, including the current one, have been complex; basic requirements needed to strengthen indigenous governance continue to be unattended. However, the development of a clear political roadmap and the creation of technical elements that demonstrate the preponderant role of IPs in the protection and proper management of the Amazon rainforest have been key to strengthening OPIAC’s political incidence related to environmental issues.

Key stakeholders and partnerships

WWF and OPIAC have led the process, working together to generate results and impact while seeking to increase engagement with the national government. Thanks to funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), WWF has been able to provide OPIAC with technical support for political incidence actions carried out in representation of 22 organizations and 56 indigenous peoples from six departments in the Colombian Amazon.

Implementation of the Project/Activity

In mid-2018, OPIAC and WWF began to carry out studies on the contribution of indigenous peoples and territories in the Amazon to the accomplishment of SDG 13 and 15. To support their findings, several analyses were done, among them to understand the conservation state of ecosystems in indigenous reservations (which are legally granted territories for indigenous peoples) and the ecosystem services they provide at different scales (local, regional, and global). Likewise, researchers analyzed ancestral practices that have allowed the protection of natural ecosystems in indigenous territories, as well as the sources of pressure that imperil the physical and sociocultural survival of communities.
Based on these studies, OPIAC fine-tuned a proposal to contribute to international environmental commitments, as well as those of the Colombian government, and defined a roadmap for political incidence to promote the recognition of rights, take advantage of capabilities, and finding ways to protect 24.7 million hectares of forest located within the indigenous reservations that together store approximately 11.973 MtCO2.
As part of the implementation of this roadmap for political incidence, OPIAC, alongside the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), presented during the Talanoa Dialogue (a platform where non-governmental stakeholders of the UNFCCC meet) their commitment to participate actively in the global climate agenda and to encourage their respective countries to increase their ambition in relation to the Paris Agreement.
At the national level, OPIAC has used these inputs to prepare and develop dialogue and negotiation sessions with the national government for the inclusion of goals, indicators, and monitoring tools in the environmental sections of the PND that correspond to the priorities and needs of indigenous peoples.
The government and indigenous organizations have reached agreements to include some of these elements in the PND, and it is expected that this will strengthen the incidence processes of OPIAC and its affiliated organizations in relation to the national government. In the coming months, the follow-up process for agreements reached between OPIAC and the national government will begin, which will be a fundamental moment to understand the impact that the process described in this application will have


- OPIAC makes use of technical evidence on the contributions of its territories to climate change mitigation and adaptation commitments in order to support their work for the inclusion of an indigenous vision in the climate change agenda, increased funding for the indigenous agenda, and an end to the tensions that threaten their territories.

- OPIAC has strengthened its participation in the implementation of cooperation programs like the Joint Declaration of Intention and the Amazon Vision Program (indigenous pillar). These programs form part of the bilateral agreements that the governments of Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom have signed with the Colombian government.

- Through the Talanoa Submission, OPIAC presented its contribution proposal to increase Colombia’s climatic ambition in the implementation of its commitments in the Paris Agreement. OPIAC’s proposal highlights the conservation of standing forests and the maintenance of their carbon storage potential, taking into account that one of the main sources of emissions is the agriculture, forestry, and land-use change sector (USCUSS).

- During COP 24, OPIAC participated actively in a side event aimed at identifying and creating new alliances to support projects and initiatives from indigenous peoples in the Amazon, position them as key allies in the implementation of the NDC and climatic ambitions, and identify financial mechanisms to attend to the indigenous agenda.

- OPIAC, as one of 5 national indigenous organizations, was delegated as leader of environmental affairs to carry out negotiations with the government in the framework of the PND.

Enabling factors and constraints


- Colombia has acquired various commitments related to climatic regulation and the conservation of biodiversity in the framework of existing conventions and agreements in the global agenda (e.g. Paris Agreement, Aichi Targets, 2030 Agenda), which have been adopted through national goals. For the accomplishment of SDG 13 and 15, Colombia has its Enhanced Strategy for Deforestation Control and Forest Management – EICDGB, which has the objective of strengthening forest management in the country to reduce deforestation and forest degradation using a holistic approach for rural sustainable development.

- The EICDGB was built based on the implementation of a participatory roadmap with support from the UN-REDD Program, the World Bank’s FCPF, GIZ’s Forests and Climate Change Program, and various NGOs. Different public, private, and civil society stakeholders, among them indigenous peoples and Afrocolombian and campesino communities, participated in national and regional spaces for dialogue to seek the best policies, measures, and actions to face and fight back deforestation.

- OPIAC and WWF have been working together for several years within a framework agreement in which they established lines of action, based on the shared interests of both parties, to strengthen processes related to climate change and environmental topics. Specifically, since 2015, WWF has created spaces for dialogue related to the participation of indigenous peoples in policymaking and program development processes for climate change mitigation and access to climate finance.

- As part of the agreement, several projects and initiatives have been developed, including the “Inclusion of key elements of the indigenous proposal for REDD+ in the Amazon in regional and national strategies and climate change policies,” which was funded by the German Ministry of Environment (BMU) and executed jointly by WWF and COICA. This project set the foundations for the proposal on the contribution of Indigenous Peoples to climate change mitigation.

- Alongside the construction of the EICDGB, the Colombian government signed cooperation agreements to implement early actions to control deforestation and forest degradation, including the Amazon Vision Program, the Joint Declaration of Intention, and the Heart of the Amazon GEF Project.

- AIDESEP (Peruvian indigenous organization) has brought forth strategies for its contribution to the accomplishment of the country’s emissions reduction targets. This initiative has served as a source of inspiration for work carried out on similar topics by other indigenous organizations in the Amazon basin, including OPIAC.

- COICA and its subsidiary organizations, among them OPIAC, have met to take a joint message to the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to make visible the contribution of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge to face climate change and work jointly with decision makers in the climate agenda.

- Currently, the government’s priority is to implement control actions in areas with deforestation hotspots and to offer alternatives to the inhabitants of these areas in order to reduce pressure on forests. There is limited support to help indigenous communities continue conserving nearly 24.7 million hectares in their territories.

Sustainability and replicability


- The national government must recognize the role of Indigenous Territories and Peoples in the accomplishment of the 2030 Agenda. It would be strategic for the government and indigenous organizations to bring with them a consolidated message to international roundtables such as the UNFCCC and the CBD.

- Indigenous organizations from the Colombian Amazon must participate fully and effectively in the development of policies, decision-making regarding actions and measures for the protection of forests and their biodiversity, and in project implementation and follow-up. Under these conditions, indigenous peoples may maintain their territorial conservation strategies, which will make possible the accomplishment of SDG 13 and 15.

- OPIAC’s incidence process related to making visible the contribution of indigenous territories in the Amazon to climate change mitigation and adaptation actions, as well as in the protection of biodiversity, may influence other Amazon countries, as long as it forms part of a shared regional vision brought forth by COICA.

- It is key to broadcast information on the contribution of indigenous peoples and territories in the Colombian Amazon to the accomplishment of SDG 13 and 15 to promote indigenous incidence in the climate agenda. For this, it is key to form alliances with the Amazon Network of Socio-environmental Information (RAISG) and the local communities and indigenous peoples platform, whose creation was encouraged during the COP21.


The 2030 Agenda principles asure vulnerable peoples must be empowered if we want to fullfil all the dimensions of the SDGs successfully and this is what this Project aims to do.

Making use of traditional knowledge, indigenous peoples have been able to create lifestyles that have allowed them to use natural resources sustainably and successfully manage their territories’ spiritual and material aspects, which has helped avoid the degradation of forests and other natural ecosystems. The relationship between indigenous peoples and their natural environment is based on a sophisticated understanding of the natural world, where respect for and exchange with the spiritual owners of flora, fauna, and certain physical spaces is fundamental.

Forest cover in indigenous territories (24.7 million hectares) represents more than 50% of the Colombian Amazon. This forest area stores close to 11.900 MtCO2, or 18 times the amount of emissions that Colombia must reduce between 2015 and 2030 to meet its NDC. By protecting these forests, biodiversity will be preserved, as will ecological connectivity between protected areas in the Colombian Amazon and between this region and others in the Amazon biome. Additionally, there is significant evidence of the vital role that the Amazon rainforest plays at different scales (local, regional, and planetary) related to the water, energy, and carbon cycles, among other variables.

Though generally speaking indigenous territories in the Amazon are in a good state of conservation, it is necessary to safeguard them from external sources of pressure like mining, fossil fuels extraction, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, and forest clearing, among others.

Facing climate change is not limited to avoiding and/or reducing deforestation and restoring degraded forests, but it should also contemplate the implementation of actions that, within the particularities of each indigenous territory, contribute to generating and/or consolidating the necessary conditions for indigenous communities to continue contributing in an effective manner to climate change mitigation and adaptation. That is why supporting OPIAC’s incidence in the 2030 Agenda has been critical in order to promote the protection, diffusion, and recognition of traditional knowledge as the basis for ecosystem management, sustainable development, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This support has resulted in OPIAC’s active participation in spaces for dialogue with the national government and in the international arena, which has positioned them as an indigenous organization that leads environmental affairs at the national level.

Other sources of information

- Perspectiva Pueblos Indígenas frente a la deforestación y degradación del territorio: Un insumo para la construcción e implementación de la Estrategia Bosques Territorios de Vida –Estrategia Integral de Control a La Deforestación y Gestión de los Bosque.
This UNREDD+ (supported by WWF) publication highlights an indigenous´ approach to deforestation and climate change in Colombia and recognizes the role of indigenous organizations in its mitigation. This document is based on recommendations made by IP in different dialogue spaces between 2015 and 2017 about how to implement EICDGB.
- “Servicios ecosistémicos y riesgo de su pérdida para las comunidades indígenas" y "Análisis de servicios ecosistémicos en el territorio de Azicatch, Amazonia colombiana"
These two books gather the results of a local research carried out by an indigenous organization supported by WWF and other NGO to assess ecosystem services in their territory as part of RIA (Amazon Indigenous REDD+) implementation. RIA (for its Spanish acronym) seeks to highlight other ecosystem services in indigenous territories, not only carbon capture, which is important to recognize the role of indigenous communities in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

- OPIAC and WWF are now focused in the completion of the analysis about Amazonian Indigenous Territories contribution to the Colombia´s NDC, Aichi goals and ODS. We have a draft document that includes a routemap for OPIAC´s advocacy processes with National Government. The document was also used as an input for the Tanaloa Dialogue submission that was uploaded in October jointly with AIDESEP.
Other published articles and news stories:
- ¿Por qué los pueblos indígenas de la Amazonia son claves en la lucha contra el cambio climático? http://www.wwf.org.co/?uNewsID=316370

- Los pueblos indígenas, aliados estratégicos en la lucha contra el cambio climático http://www.wwf.org.co/?uNewsID=339790

- La contribución de los Pueblos Indígenas a la implementación de las NDC y de la ambición climática en los países amazónicos http://www.wwf.org.co/?uNewsID=316056

- Los indígenas que unieron la sabiduría tradicional y la occidental para estudiar su territorio http://www.wwf.org.co/sala_redaccion/publicaciones_new/?uNewsID=328097

Goal 13
13.1 - Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
13.2 - Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
13.3 - Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
13.b - Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities

* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international,
intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
Goal 15
15.1 - By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
15.2 - By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
15.4 - By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development
15.5 - Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
Goal 16
16.7 - Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
Goal 17
17.14 - Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development
Financing (in USD)
25,000 USD
Basic information
Start: 15 January, 2018
Completion: 31 December, 2019
Ongoing? no
Latin America and the Caribbean
Geographical Coverage
Colombian Amazon Region (48.316.400 ha)
WWF Colombia
Type: Civil society organization
Contact information
Pia Escobar, Governance and Communitarean Development Officer, pescobar@wwf.org.co, +57 3205669608
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United Nations