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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Letter to Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General

September 17, 2009

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon,
United Nations Secretary General,
760 United Nations Plaza,
New York, NY 10017,

17 September 2009

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

We applaud your leadership, in this age of climate change, in bringing together world leaders in New York on 22 September to press for an equitable and durable agreement in Copenhagen. We stand with you in your efforts to 'seal the deal' this December.

No less important in any agreement in Copenhagen is the vital issue of human adaptation to climate change, especially concerning those peoples most vulnerable to cultural and livelihood displacement and destruction.

In this light, we would like to draw your attention to the plight of Tibet's 2.25 million nomads, whose culture and sustainable livelihoods are gravely threatened on the one hand by the impact of climate change across Tibet[1], the Earth's Third Pole, and on the other by China's policies of forcibly removing them from the vast grasslands of the Tibetan plateau.

As you know, under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are being denied their fundamental right to make their own choices concerning how best to adapt to climate change. The impact of climate change combined with the repressive political system across Tibet makes Tibet's nomads one of the most vulnerable peoples on the Earth today.

According to Western, Tibetan, and even Chinese experts, China’s current resource management policies across Tibet are leading to further degradation of the fragile environment of the high plateau, which in turn is increasing poverty and social breakdown, both among Tibetans and among more than a billion people in ten nations downstream from the plateau.

We are therefore greatly encouraged that, amidst the many challenges of negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions, you have not forgotten those peoples being severely impacted by climate change. We specifically note your recent meetings with nomadic herders in Mongolia, following which you stated, “As we have seen here in Mongolia, the human family directly depends on the health of our global home. When we live in harmony with nature we all benefit.”

Tibetan nomads have long lived in harmony with nature, combining sound livelihood practices and a deep religious devotion to assure not only their own well-being in the harsh and fragile environment of the Tibetan plateau, but also assuring the stability of Tibet’s ecosystem services which Asia, including China, have for so long depended upon. Tibet’s nomads must therefore be full participants in an equitable and durable agreement in Copenhagen that secures the future of Tibet's ecosystem services.

Yet, without international pressure, the Chinese government will continue, under the guise of conservation, to remove Tibet’s nomads from the plateau's vast grasslands. Tibet's nomads must therefore have decision-making power over any and all efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in Tibet.

We appeal to you directly to raise this urgent issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and to use your good offices to urge the government of China to change its policies in Tibet. We call on you to ensure that Tibet's nomads are firmly on the climate change agenda as full partners in addressing how best to deal with climate change, in Tibet and for all who depend on Tibet.

We urge that you press China to:

1. Halt the removal of Tibetan nomads from the grasslands and return stewardship of Tibet's grasslands to Tibet's nomads.
2. Halt all land uses that threaten the Tibetan Plateau's ecosystems, ecosystem services and water resources.
3. Press China’s government to ensure that Tibetan nomads are the key decision-makers in any activities involving Tibetan grasslands and freely consent to any efforts made to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change in the region.

Finally, we welcome your assurances that the world’s most vulnerable people will receive assistance for adaptation, but we ask for your personal guarantee that the United Nations will not provide China with any funds that will be used to pay for the removal of Tibet’s nomads from the grasslands and condemn them to a life of despair, with the loss of their culture, livelihood and very way of life.

We wish your summit every success and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

169 member organizations of the International Tibet Support Network.

[1] When referring to Tibet, we mean the Tibetan Provinces of U’Tsang, Kham and Amdo, now subsumed in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Chinese Provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan.

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