Afro-Interamerican Forum on Climate Change meets to set direction for its second year

October 26, 2022

The Environmental Solutions Initiative celebrated the first year of the Afro-Interamerican Forum on Climate Change (AIFCC) at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, DC, this October 12 with leaders from across the Americas.

Originally launched at COP26 (the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties) last year in Glasgow, the AIFCC seeks to elevate the voices and contributions of Afro-descendant communities in climate mitigation and adaptation. Across the Americas, Afro-Descendant populations such as the Garifunas in Central America, Quilombos in Brazil, and Afro-Descendant populations in Colombia’s Pacific region are stewards of some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich lands on the planet. However, they are largely invisible in global and international conversations on climate, and experience social and economic exclusion within their own countries.

Members of the Afro-Interamerican Forum on Climate Change at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, DC

Members of the Afro-Interamerican Forum on Climate Change at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, DC

The creation of the AIFCC was spearheaded by Luis Gilberto Murillo, former MIT ESI Fellow and current Colombian Ambassador to the United States. ESI continues to work to develop and grow the Forum, with efforts led by Marcela Angel, Research Program Director, and Angelica Mayolo, Fellow at ESI and former Minister of Culture for the Government of Colombia.

In the past year, AIFCC leaders have grown the effort to span multiple countries in Latin America, building a stakeholder base of Afro-descendant leaders to contribute to research and data collection, build awareness of the role of Afro-descendant communities in conserving some of the world’s largest natural bulwarks against climate change, and support community innovation.

This October’s gathering at the Colombian Embassy included forum founder Kelvin Alie, Senior Vice President at Conservation International; remarks from Sandra Vilardy, Colombian Vice Minister of Environment, and Phil Thompson, Professor at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning; as well as members of the AIFCC’s Coordinating Committee, a group of community leaders from Colombia, Panama, Honduras and Brazil. Within this committee are youth organizers, researchers, community advocates, and longtime champions for Afro-descendant communities.

Gathered around the table were longtime collaborators and newcomers alike. Julio Guity-Guevara presented the AIFCC’s plans for representation at COP27 in Egypt; Robert Asprilla discussed the Forum’s larger values; and Raisa Banfield, Heiny Palacios and Josefina Klinger shared work around environmental education, youth engagement and other community-based work in Panama and Colombia.

AIFCC leadership discusses the Forum's work and future direction

AIFCC leadership discusses the Forum’s work and future direction

The Forum also welcomed representatives from the Waverley Street Foundation, Rights and Resources, and the Center for American Progress, in addition to the Open Society Foundation, which has been a key supporter of the AIFCC’s work. Online and in the room, leaders discussed the confluence of environmental stewardship and economic democracy, and the need for data and research to tell the story of these communities’ stewardship to the world.

Most importantly, participants set out an agenda for the future of the Forum’s work—including the need to increase support for community-level pilot projects, participation at COP27, and the formation of hubs across the Americas to bolster local climate advocacy.