On Waitangi Day 2020 I was privileged to be invited to join Julian Wilcox from Radio New Zealand, Mike Smith, and Mere Mangu for a panel discussion on climate change and Māori rights – made particularly poignant by the ongoing kōrero at Waitangi about land theft and the need for land reclamation for Indigenous Peoples to have our rights upheld. I shared reflections from COP25 Madrid, particularly around how the UN System works for Indigenous Peoples, and the efforts we must go to collectively to have our voices heard and our rights reflected in the negotiations; and highlighted the need for action at all levels – from our papakaika communities to international bodies. We must all be a part of the change, and if anything, our whānau doing the mahi on the ground at home are playing the most important and influential role.
The Iwi Chairs Forum Climate Change Leaders Group, with Mike Smith at its help, recently launched a climate change case against several New Zealand major companies. Our panel looks at how Māori vulnerability and susceptibility to the effects of climate change can be mitigated, and what work is being done by Māori to make that happen. Mike Smith is spokesperson of the Iwi Chairs Forum Climate Change Leaders Group, Mere Mangu is chair of Te Runanga o Ngapuhi and Kera Sherwood O Regan, from Ngāi Tahu is a human rights advocate and climate change campaigner.
NGO delegates at the UN’s COP25 conference express their anger at the lack of progress by world governments to act on climate change. ‘Stop taking up space with your false solutions and get out of our way,’ demands New Zealand indigenous rights activist Kera Sherwood-O’Regan. Representatives from environmental, workers, indigenous peoples and youth NGOs read out closing statements to the conference attendees. Francis Stuart from the Scottish Trade Union Congress says the conference is nothing less than parties trying to dismantle the Paris agreement. ‘They are much more interested in trading emissions and making money from it than actually reducing them,’ he says.
EXCERPT: She was recently named by Time as one of the 15 women leading the fight against climate change. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim tells Kera Sherwood-O’Regan about the effects of the changing climate on the village she grew up in in Chad, especially on women and girls, and what spurred her to action.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an indigenous climate activist and geographer from the Mbororo pastoralist community in Chad, and is deeply passionate about the rights of indigenous women and girls. Having set up a community organisation at age 15, and realising the connection between women’s rights and environmental rights, she has been involved in climate action ever since, and is now one of the most recognised and respected climate activists in the African region and abroad.
She says, “I got involved in climate change because of my community. We have a lake called Lake Chad which was, when I was younger, around 10,000 kilometres square. When I was growing up the lake was shrinking. Now the lake has lost about 90% of its water, so growing up and seeing, with my own eyes, nature shrinking and seeing my community struggling, for me it was normal to fight against climate change.”
Waves of rangatahi activists are using the UN to share kaupapa Māori values with the world.
“In 2017 Te Ara Whatu became the first all-rangatahi Māori delegation to attend a UN Conference, and played a significant role in advancing indigenous rights at the COP23 Climate Negotiations.
“It is when indigenous peoples come together that powerful things happen,” says India Logan-Riley, a member of the Te Ara Whatu organising committee. “Through building relationships and sharing ideas, we can start to gather under the rafters of our own whare to bring to light our own dreams, rather than just coming together when our governments or the UN wants us to…”
Medical student Kera Sherwood-O’Regan on what the student loan extension means for Māori studying medicine.
“… That relief comes from knowing that far bigger than me, this policy will affect so many students to come, so many whānau, and so many patients. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s going to put a whole bunch of possibilities on the table for our people to feel respected, and heard, and seen in our health system.
This policy is going to make medicine fairer.
It’s going to mean that our rangatahi who didn’t have the privilege of attending King’s College or Auckland Grammar, but instead call Manurewa, Waiuku and Kelston home have support that gives them the best shot at getting into this competitive degree. They can go do Hikitia Te Ora or a Tertiary Foundation Certificate, or whatever they need to prepare, without worrying about running out of student loan …”
Yesterday a nearly 70,00-strong petition was presented to Parliament calling for the revocation of Sir Bob Jones’ knighthood following racist comments made in the NBR. Kera Sherwood O’Regan was there.
“A petition containing 68,760 signatures asking for the removal of business magnate Sir Bob Jones’ knighthood was presented at a pōwhiri on Parliament steps yesterday, following a swiftly removed National Business Review column in which Jones proposed a “Māori Gratitude Day” in place of Waitangi Day where Māori would serve non-Māori out of “gratitude for existing”.
Over the past six weeks, petition initiator Renae Maihi and Bob Jones have faced off in the media, with Jones accusing Maihi of defamation and threatening to mount a legal case. Maihi has refused to back down from her criticism, saying that his words were ‘takahia mana’, or trampling on the mana of her people.
Despite the continued standoff, Maihi yesterday issued an invitation over social media for Bob Jones to attend the pōwhiri prior to petition delivery, to face the people and have an opportunity to apologise for his comments, which she labelled “racist”…”
Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu) is an Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute delegate to COP23, the United Nations Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany, reporting over the three-week conference. This week: she’s tired and no one’s listening to indigenous people.
“If you were looking for a nice and neat overview of the COP23 UN Climate Talks, I’ll save you the bother now. I can’t even pretend to have a handle on the full breadth of the negotiations. While we’re all trying our best to keep whānau at home abreast of our mahi in Germany, the reality is that it’s a giant clusterfuck we’re all struggling to make sense of.
For November, Bonn is the city that does not sleep. We’re gradually becoming immune to the cacophony of dings, rings, and whistles, that sound minute by minute into the wee hours as if all our devices have been issued a directive specifically to fray our nerves to the point of delusion. I’ve never felt exhaustion so deep in my bones.
It’s impossible to keep up to date with everything in these negotiations.
Hell, even following one topic (like the Indigenous Peoples’ Platform) you find yourself drowning in a rising sea of pedantic yet necessary text edits; circular arguments; action proposals; action invitations; press conferences; mailing lists; informal informals; and “bilaterals”… If I’m being honest, it feels like you need a law degree just to order a coffee here, never mind follow the negotiations…”