02/05/2018 11:42 EST | Updated 02/05/2018 11:42 EST

Indigenous-Led Partnerships: Leaving No Ecosystem Behind

When looking to partner with Indigenous communities in Canada, it is imperative to recognize the immense knowledge that exist at the community level.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are universal. Why then does the global development sector look so narrowly overseas to apply them?

Canada has committed to achieving 17 ambitious goals to address social and environmental issues globally. That means we are equally responsible for reaching sustainable development targets internationally as we are here at home.

But when it comes to measuring our achievements against the SDGs, the disparities between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people in Canada will get lost in the only type of statistic we'll be obligated to report: national aggregate data.

Aggregate data doesn't tell the full story. It will simply require Canada to report back a percentage of people nationally who face challenges with issues like food insecurity or access to clean drinking water.

In a country where most people have access to clean drinking water, but where more than 20,000 First Nations people do not, and in fact where there are 110 to 130 First Nations under boil water advisories at any given time, there will be little accountability for Canada to meet the targets of the SDGs for Inuit, Métis and First Nations communities unless we all demand a call to action.

The call to leave no one and no ecosystem behind presents an opportunity for the global development sector to embrace and strengthen partnerships within Canada and with Indigenous communities who are already carving out the solutions for themselves.

Indigenous leadership: knowledge keepers, communal action, global solidarity

When looking to partner with Indigenous communities in Canada, it is imperative — just as it is in partnering internationally — to recognize the immense knowledge, assets and expertise that exist at the community level.

The SDGs merely put forth what Indigenous communities have respected and honoured all along: the ecosystem is the centre of everything and we must care for it together because we are all interconnected.

Global Indigenous solidarity movements have fought for clean water, zero hunger, climate action, land and water protection, gender equality, peace and justice, and sustainable communities long before these principles were enshrined as specific SDGs.

When Idle No More arrived at Parliament Hill in 2013 demanding Indigenous sovereignty and protection over the land and water, their call was answered by allies on Global Days of Action in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Colombia and beyond.

When the Standing Rock Sioux tribe spoke out against the construction of a pipeline across their land last year, thousands of people from Indigenous nations across the United States and around the world joined them in their chorus.

Indigenous movements inspire global and grassroots responses because the violation of Indigenous rights and the impacts of colonization are universal experiences. These experiences are the foundation of the injustices that the SDGs aim to change.

Acknowledging, listening and creating opportunities for action with Indigenous leaders and communities is the first step towards building a more equitable Canada in the pursuit of the SDGs.

Honouring Indigenous world views throuh community-led partnerships

Equitable, community-led partnerships can provide the support and investment necessary for Indigenous communities to achieve their own solutions.

As an organization that works with Indigenous communities in both Canada and Bolivia, and with communities in three African nations, we have been on a journey of learning to work alongside communities on shared food security and sovereignty, as well as sustainable development goals.

Through the model of shared community-led solutions and by prioritizing the hiring of Indigenous and local change makers, communities in Canada have begun to move from high rates of childhood hunger to the revitalization of thriving community-owned food systems.

Learning from Indigenous partners and honouring Indigenous worldviews, which are holistic and sustainable, advancing traditional knowledge, and leaning into long established communal practices, must be woven into partnerships at the local and global levels.

This community-led approach is essential no matter where in the world we are pursuing the SDGs.

As a sector, we have a duty to embrace the duality of working both in Canada and overseas, to realize the challenges and opportunities for learning exchange, and to advocate for the necessary structural and policy change that will enable community-led solutions to thrive.

If we truly believe in our obligation to leave no one and no ecosystem behind, then we must work equally as hard with Indigenous communities and peoples to achieve the SDGS in Canada as we do around the world. We must recognize that each of us has a responsibility to end poverty domestically as well as internationally.

To learn more about CSO and Indigenous partnerships in Canada, check out the Ontario Council for International Cooperation's Transformations Exhibit online.

Tyra Cox is a Program Officer - Canada Programs with Canadian Feed The Children. She provides innovative solutions in food security and sovereignty by working directly with Indigenous nations employing education, advocacy, and strategic planning to food systems.

Jessica Hum-Antonopoulos is a Regional Program Manager with Canadian Feed The Children providing support and cross learning to Canada and International programs for a range of community-led food security, health and education initiatives.

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