Indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest have a clear message for decision-makers ahead of two global environment conferences: respect our land and human rights to slow climate change and protect biodiversity.

“People who exploit and take out resources don’t live (in the Amazon) — but we do. The forest is our home,” said Nemonte Nenquimo, a native leader of Ecuador’s Waorani people.

“If we don’t protect the forest, climate change will get worse and unknown illnesses will come,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call from her Amazon community.

About 195 countries are expected to finalize a new pact to safeguard the planet’s plants, animals, and ecosystems at the two-part COP15 UN summit, which starts on Monday with a virtual session and concludes in May 2022 in Kunming, China.

The accord will build on the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, designed to protect the planet’s rich catalog of plant and animal species, ensure sustainable use of natural resources and enshrine the “biocultural rights” of indigenous communities.

Such rights are interpreted differently by each indigenous group but often include intellectual property, such as ancestral knowledge and practices handed down between generations.

Those range from farming methods, crops, and plant-based medicine used in an area to traditional arts and crafts. Ancient plant remedies often form the basis of modern treatments.

Chile’s rare native quillay trees, for instance, long used by the indigenous Mapuche people to make soap and medicine, provided key ingredients for the world’s first malaria vaccine and a successful shingles vaccination.

A draft of the proposed new UN biodiversity pact includes a goal to ensure that benefits derived from the use of local genetic richness “are shared fairly and equitably” and also support conservation and sustainable use of those resources.

Read the full article about Indigenous rights from Thomson Reuters Foundation at Eco-Business.