Roberto Borrero will never forget standing in the United Nations General Assembly on the day that countries voted to approve the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was September 13, 2007 in New York City, and Borrero had spent years roaming those halls on behalf of the International Indian Treaty Council, urging country representatives to adopt the new human rights standard.

Now, as he watched his fellow Indigenous advocates hugging one another and celebrating, he thought of how many times their peoples had been denigrated as savages and animals. Here was a new standard enshrining Indigenous rights as human rights. “The world is finally looking at Indigenous peoples as humans,” he thought.

The vote was a pivotal point for Indigenous advocacy. For decades, people like Borrero had turned to the United Nations to hear their pleas when colonial governments refused to do so.

Today, nearly two decades after that vote, Borrero senses Indigenous peoples are approaching another critical moment.

World leaders are pledging hundreds of billions of dollars to address climate change. At least 190 countries have committed to conserving 30 percent of the world’s lands and waters by 2030. Once again, Native advocates are flying to New York and Geneva to ensure that their voices are heard and their peoples’ rights and territories are respected. But increasingly, Borrero and other advocates have been unnerved by one particular acronym that keeps popping up in multilateral discussions: IPLC, which stands for Indigenous peoples and local communities.

If you study international conservation, you may have seen it before. It pops up in treaties, in scholarly works, in studies about what lands Indigenous peoples own and what solutions exist to climate change. It’s a phrase that seems to have originated in conservation treaties, but advocates like Borrero are noticing it more often across various international venues.

It sounds innocuous, but to Borrero it feels insidious. Indigenous people have spent decades fighting for their rights and recognition. To him, lumping them in with the very broad, amorphous term “local communities” threatens to roll back the progress that they have made.

It’s one thing for state governments to be expected to get the consent of Indigenous peoples before carving out a new protected area. It’s quite another if states can say that they need “IPLC” consent, and can argue that local communities’ support outweighs Indigenous opposition, effectively drowning out the voices of Native peoples and diminishing their rights.

Read the full article about Indigenous peoples and climate change by Anita Hofschneider at Grist.