By adopting new rules on the rights of Indigenous peoples within the World Heritage process--and by working to integrate the review of natural and cultural values in its evaluations--UNESCO has taken important steps in the right direction, which the people of Pimachiowin Aki hope will improve the ability of Indigenous peoples.
The member states of the World Heritage Committee have so far declined to declare Lake Turkana a World Heritage in Danger. They have instead asked the Ethiopian government to avert the destruction of Lake Turkana by carrying out a strategic environmental assessment of the projects in the Omo Valley. Yet so far, the Ethiopian government has thumbed its nose at the UN body.
Sustainable water and energy development requires public participation in decision making just as much as money and technical expertise. The Nature Conservancy makes a strong case that smart planning needs to address the systems level rather than just individual dams. It now needs to expand its approach and give the rights of affected communities the place they deserve.
Indigenous people are, by definition, outsiders, due to their geographic and political remoteness. They make up about 5 percent of the world's population and anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of the world's poorest people. Yet they hold the vital knowledge of generations on how to live with nature and be in balance and harmony with the natural world.