Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 5, 2012

Rio+20: The untold story of traditional Indigenous in Brazil

What happened when traditional Brazilian leaders and chiefs, without expense accounts, arrived at RIO+20?
Rebecca Sommer tells the story

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photos copyright Rebecca Sommer

What happened when traditional Brazilian chiefs and leaders arrived, without expense accounts, to inform the United Nations at Rio+20 of ongoing violations of Indigenous rights in Brazil? Rebecca Sommer, who remains in Brazil, tells the story in words and video.

"Most traditional chiefs and leaders had no credentials to enter and participate. The traditional leaders were also very disappointed by the indifference of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights that had not responded to their request for a meeting with her during the Conference," Sommer said.

Sommer describes how the United Nations failed to honor, and listen to, Brazilian chiefs and leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.

"In my view, they had the greatest disadvantage. The grassroot Indigenous Peoples and their chiefs from Brazil, were not shipped by financed buses and had no per diems and hotels paid."

During the summit, the Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples Global Conference on Rio+20 and Mother Earth was released. It describes the commodification of nature by the "green economy" and continuing colonization since the first Rio gathering in 1992.

"Since Rio 1992, we as Indigenous Peoples see that colonization has become the very basis of the globalization of trade and the dominant capitalist global economy. The exploitation and plunder of the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the violations of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples that depend on them, have intensified." (Read Declaration below.)

Indigenous Peoples at the Free Land Camp also unleashed a Declaration.

Photo Free Land Camp
Rebecca Sommer
The Declaration of the Peoples Summit at the Free Land Camp described the destruction of Indigenous lands in Brazil, the murders of those defending their lands, the false climate solutions of carbon credits, and the need for a new society to carry forward civilization. This Declaration describes living well with respect for Mother Nature. (Read below.)

Sommer's video from the grassroots Indigenous at RIO+20 in June tells the story of grassroots Brazilian chiefs and leaders:

Dear all,
Here is our audio-visual report that I filmed at the Free Land Camp (Alternative space for Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) in the Peoples’ Summit during Rio +20.
As I haven't really filmed that much, the video shows only a bit of the struggle of the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples for the UN and the Brazilian Government to hear their grievances and demands, since most of them were almost excluded from the official discussion of the Rio+20 UN Conference. The video is of the protest march and occupation of the headquarters of BNDES against the construction of Belo Monte Hydroelectric dam. There is also the protest march in front of the Rio Centro, Place of the UN Conference in Rio +20, with the goal to deliver their Indigenous Free Land Camp Declaration.
Most traditional chiefs and leaders had no credentials to enter and participate. The traditional leaders were also very disappointed by the indifference of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights that had not responded to their request for a meeting with her during the Conference.
There have been three indigenous groups, that created three different Declarations.
Link to the  Indigenous Peoples RIO+20 FREE LAND CAMP DECLARATION (in English):
In my view, they had the greatest disadvantage. The grassroot indigenous peoples and their chiefs from Brazil, were not shipped by financed buses and had no per diems and hotels paid.
-- Rebecca Sommer in Brazil

Sommer also reports from Brazil on how Indigenous Peoples of Mato Grosso closed roads in protest against Decree 303 that eliminates indigenous rights



We, the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth assembled at the site of Kari-Oka I, sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, thank the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil for welcoming us to their territories. We reaffirm our responsibility to speak for the protection and enhancement of the well-being of Mother Earth, nature and future generations of our Indigenous Peoples and all humanity and life. We recognize the significance of this second convening of Indigenous Peoples of the world and reaffirm the historic 1992 meeting of the Kari-Oca I, where Indigenous Peoples issued The Kari-Oca Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter. The Kari-Oca conference, and the  mobilization of Indigenous Peoples around the first UN Earth Summit, marked a big step forward for an international movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in conservation and sustainable development.  We also reaffirm the Manaus Declaration on the convening of Kari-Oca 2 as the international gathering of Indigenous Peoples for Rio+20.
The institutionalization of Colonialism
We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy” and its premise that the world can only “save” nature by commodifying its life giving and life sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years. The “Green Economy” promises to eradicate poverty but in fact will only favor and respond to multinational enterprises and capitalism. It is a continuation of a global economy based upon fossil fuels, the destruction of the environment by exploiting nature through extractive industries such as mining, oil exploration and production, intensive mono-culture agriculture, and other capitalist investments. All of these efforts are directed toward profit and the accumulation of capital by the few.
Since Rio 1992, we as Indigenous Peoples see that colonization has become the very basis of the globalization of trade and the dominant capitalist global economy. The exploitation and plunder of the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the violations of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples that depend on them, have intensified. Our rights to self determination, to our own governance and own self-determined development, our inherent rights to our lands, territories and resources are increasingly and alarmingly under attack by the collaboration of governments and transnational corporations. Indigenous activists and leaders defending their territories continue to suffer repression, militarization, including assassination, imprisonment, harassment and vilification as “terrorists.” The violation of our collective rights faces the same impunity. Forced relocation or assimilation assault our future generations, cultures, languages, spiritual ways and relationship to the earth, economically and politically.
We, Indigenous Peoples from all regions of the world have defended our Mother Earth from the aggression of unsustainable development and the over exploitation of our natural resources by mining, logging, mega-dams, exploration and extraction of petroleum. Our forests suffer from the production of agro-fuels, bio-mass, plantations and other impositions of false solutions to climate change and unsustainable, damaging development.
The Green Economy is nothing more than capitalism of nature; a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in on Creation by privatizing, commodifying, and selling off the Sacred and all forms of life and the sky, including the air we breathe, the water we drink and all the genes, plants, traditional seeds, trees, animals, fish, biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems and traditional knowledge that make life on Earth possible and enjoyable.
Gross violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to food sovereignty continue unabated thus resulting to food “insecurity”. Our own food production, the plants that we gather, the animals that we hunt, our fields and harvests, the water that we drink and water our fields, the fish that we catch from our rivers and streams, is diminishing at an alarming rate. Unsustainable development projects, such as mono-cultural chemically intensive soya plantations, extractive industries such as mining and other environmentally destructive projects and investments for profit are destroying our biodiversity, poisoning our water, our rivers, streams, and the earth and its ability to maintain life. This is further aggravated by Climate change and hydroelectric dams and other energy production that affect entire ecosystems and their ability to provide for life.
Food sovereignty is one fundamental expression of our collective right to self-determination and sustainable development. Food sovereignty and the right to food must be observed and respected; food must not be a commodity to be used, traded and speculated on for profit. It nourishes our identities, our cultures and languages, and our ability to survive as Indigenous Peoples.
Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’ We have our place and our responsibilities within Creation’s sacred order. We feel the sustaining joy as things occur in harmony with the Earth and with all life that it creates and sustains. We feel the pain of disharmony when we witness the dishonor of the natural order of Creation and the continued economic colonization and degradation of Mother Earth and all life upon her. Until Indigenous Peoples rights are observed and respected, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty will not be achieved.
The Solution
This inseparable relationship between humans and the Earth, inherent to Indigenous, Peoples must be respected for the sake of our future generations and all of humanity. We urge all humanity to join with us in transforming the social structures, institutions and power relations that underpin our deprivation, oppression and exploitation. Imperialist globalization exploits all that sustains life and damages the Earth. We need to fundamentally reorient production and consumption based on human needs rather than for the boundless accumulation of profit for a few. Society must take collective control of productive resources to meet the needs of sustainable social development and avoid overproduction, over consumption and over exploitation of people and nature which are inevitable under the prevailing monopoly capitalist system. We must focus on sustainable communities based on indigenous knowledge, not on capitalist development.
We demand that the United Nations, governments and corporations abandon false solutions to climate change, like large hydroelectric dams, genetically modified organisms including GMO trees, plantations, agro-fuels, “clean” coal, nuclear power, natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, bio-energy, biomass, biochar, geo-engineering, carbon markets, Clean Development Mechanism and REDD+ that endanger the future and life as we know it. Instead of helping to reduce global warming, they poison and destroy the environment and let the climate crisis spiral exponentially, which may render the planet almost uninhabitable.
We cannot allow false solutions to destroy the Earth’s balance, assassinate the seasons, unleash severe weather havoc, privatize life and threaten the very survival of humanity. The Green Economy is a crime against humanity and the Earth. In order to achieve sustainable development, states must recognize the traditional systems of resource management of the Indigenous Peoples that have existed for the millennia, sustaining us even in the face of colonialism. Assuring Indigenous Peoples’ active participation in decision making processes affecting them, and their right of Free Prior and Informed Consent is fundamental. States should likewise provide support for Indigenous Peoples appropriate to their sustainability and self determined priorities without restrictions and constricting guidelines.
Indigenous youth and women’s active participation must also be given importance as they are among the most affected by the negative impacts brought by the  commodification of nature. As inheritors of Mother Earth, the youth play a vital role in continuing defending what is left of their natural resources that were valiantly fought for by their ancestors. Their actions and decisions amidst the commercialization of their resources and culture will determine the future of their younger brothers and sisters and the generations to come.
We will continue to struggle against the construction of hydroelectric dams and all other forms of energy production that affect our waters, our fish, our biodiversity and ecosystems that contribute to our food sovereignty. We will work to preserve our territories from the poison of monoculture plantations, extractive industries and other environmentally destructive projects and continue our ways of life, preserving our cultures and identities. We will work to preserve our traditional plants and seeds, and maintain the balance between our needs and the needs of our Mother Earth and her life sustaining capacity. We will demonstrate to the world that it can and must be done. In all matters we will gather and organize the solidarity of all Indigenous Peoples from all parts of the world, and all other sources of solidarity with non-indigenous of good will to join our struggle for food sovereignty and food security. We reject the privatization and corporate control of resources such as our traditional seeds and food. Finally, we demand the states to uphold our rights to the control of our traditional management systems and by providing concrete support such as appropriate technologies for us to develop our food sovereignty.
We reject the false promises of sustainable development and solutions to climate change that only serve the dominant economic order. We reject REDD, REDD+ and other market-based solutions that focus on our forests, to continue the violation of our inherent rights to self determination and right to our lands, territories, waters, and natural resources, and the Earth’s right to create and sustain life. There is no such thing as “sustainable mining.” There is no such thing as “ethical oil.”
We reject the assertion of intellectual property rights over the genetic resources and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples which results in the alienation and commodification of Sacred essential to our lives and cultures. We reject industrial modes of food production that promote the use of chemical substances, genetically engineered seeds and organisms. Therefore, we affirm our right to possess, control, protect and pass on the indigenous seeds, medicinal plants and traditional knowledge originating from our lands and territories for the benefit of our future generations.
The Future We Want
In the absence of a true implementation of sustainable development, the world is now in a multiple ecological, economic and climatic crisis; including biodiversity loss, desertification, deglaciation, food, water, energy shortage, a worsening global economic recession, social instability and crisis of values. In this sense, we recognize that much remains to be done by international agreements to respond adequately to the rights and needs of Indigenous Peoples. The actual contributions and potentials of our peoples must be recognized by a true sustainable development for our communities that allows each one of us to Live Well.
As peoples, we reaffirm our rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage our traditional lands and territories, waters and other resources. Our lands and territories are at the core of our existence – we are the land and the land is us; we have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with our lands and territories and they are inextricably linked to our survival and to the preservation and further development of our knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem management.
We will exercise the right to determine and establish priorities and strategies for our self-development and for the use of our lands, territories and other resources. We demand that free, prior and informed consent must be the determinant and legally binding principle of approving or rejecting any plan, project or activity affecting our lands, territories and other resources. Without the right of Free Prior and Informed Consent, the colonialist model of the domination of the Earth and its resources will continue with the same impunity.
We will continue to unite as Indigenous Peoples and build a strong solidarity and partnership among ourselves, local communities and non-indigenous genuine advocates of our issues. This solidarity will advance the global campaign for Indigenous Peoples rights to land, life and resources and in the achievement of our self-determination and liberation. We will continue to challenge and resist colonialist and capitalist development models that promote the domination of nature, incessant economic growth, limitless profit-seeking resource extraction, unsustainable consumption and production and the unregulated commodities and financial markets. Humans are an integral part of the natural world and all human rights, including Indigenous Peoples’ rights, which must be respected and observed by development.
We invite all of civil society to protect and promote our rights and worldviews and respect natural law, our spiritualities and cultures and our values of reciprocity, harmony with nature, solidarity, and collectivity. Caring and sharing, among other values, are crucial in bringing about a more just, equitable and sustainable world. In this context, we call for the inclusion of cultureas the fourth pillar of sustainable development.
The legal recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to land, territories, resources and traditional knowledge should be a prerequisite for development and planning for any and all types of adaptation and mitigation to climate change, environmental conservation (including the creation of “protected areas”), the sustainable use of biodiversity and measures to combat desertification. In all instances there must be free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
We continue to pursue the commitments made at Earth Summit as reflected in this political declaration. We call on the UN to begin their implementation, and to ensure the full, formal and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all processes and activities of the Rio+20 Conference and beyond, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
We continue to inhabit and maintain the last remaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots in the world. We can contribute substantially to sustainable development but we believe that a holistic ecosystem framework for sustainable development should be promoted. This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally sensitive and knowledge-based approaches.
We declare our solidarity and support for the demands and aspirations of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil found in the Annex to this Declaration.
We Walk in the Footsteps of our Ancestors.
Accepted by Acclamation, Kari-Oka Village, at Sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 17 June 2012.

(non-officialtranslation into English by Earth Peoples)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 15 to 22 June 2012

We, more than 1,800 leaders,representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations present (APIB -Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil - COIAB, APOINME, ARPINSUL,ARPINSUDESTE, indigenous peoples of Mato Grosso do Sul and Guasu ATY), COICA -Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations Amazon Basin, IOTC - Andean Coordinatorof Indigenous Organizations, CICA - Indigenous Council of Central America, andCCNAGUA - Guarani Continental Council of the Nation and representatives ofother parts of the world, gathered in the parallel space of organizations and social movements, the Free Land Camp IX, at the Peoples Summit, during theUnited Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20).
 After intense debates and discussions held during 15-22 June on the various issues that affect us, the violation of our fundamental and collective rights as a peoples, we express as one united voice our cry of indignation and outrage to the governments, corporations and society inthe face of severe crises which beset the planet and humanity (financial crises, environmental, energy, food and social) as a result of the predatoryneo-development process of the commodification and financialization of life and Mother Nature.
It is thanks to our resilience that we keep our people alive as a (distinct) peoples, with our rich, ancient and complex knowledge systems and our understanding of all live that guarantees existence, with its currently vaunted Brazilian biodiversity, which explains that Brazil is the host two major conferences on the environment. Therefore, the (Indigenous Peoples) “Free Land Camp” is of fundamental importance in the Peoples' Summit,the space that allows us to reflect, share and build alliances with other peoples, organizations and social movements in Brazil and the world, who like us, believe in other forms of living than the one imposed upon us by the capitalist and neoliberal development model.
We advocate and defend plural and autonomous forms of lives, inspired by the model of Living Well/ Healthy Life, where Mother Earth is respected and cared for, where humans are just another species among all the other compositions of the multi-diversity of the planet. In this model, there is no room for so-called green capitalism, or to new forms of appropriation of our  biodiversity and our traditional knowledge.
Considering the importance of the Peoples' Summit, we elaborated this Declaration, to clarify in it the main problems that affect us today, and to indicate ways on how to establish new relations between States and indigenous peoples, with the vision to construct a new model of society.
In accordance with the discussions at the Peoples Summit, we repudiate the structural causes and false solutions to the crises which beset our planet, including:
 ·      We reject impunity and violence, imprisonment and murder of indigenous leaders (in Brazil, where Kayowá-Guarani, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala and Paraguay, among others).
       We reject major projects in indigenous territories, such as dams - Belo Monte, Jirau and others; transposition of Rio S. Francisco, nuclear power plants; Canal do Sertão, ports, national and transnationalHighways, production of biofuels, the road within TIPNIS in Bolivia, and mining projects throughout Latin America).
       We condemn the action of financial institutions such as BNDES - National Bank of Economic andSocial Development, which finances large projects with public money, but does not respect the right of the affected populations to be consulted, including400 regions in Brazil, and in all countries that BNDES operates, includingLatin America and Africa.
       We reject REDDcontracts, and carbon credits that are false solutions that do not solveenvironmental problems but seek to commodify nature and ignore the traditional knowledge and ancient wisdom of our peoples.
        We reject the reduction of indigenous territories.
       We reject all legislative initiatives that aim to weaken indigenous rights in order to serve the interests of big business, through the relaxation or distortion of indigenous and environmental legislation in several countries, such as the PEC 215and the Forest Code in the Brazilian Congress and the proposed changes inEcuador.
       We condemn the repression suffered by the Bolivian relatives at the Ninth March "Defense of Life and Dignity, Indigenous Territories, Natural Resources, Biodiversity, Environment and Protected Areas, the Compliance of CPE (Political Constitution of the State) and respect for democracy." We express our solidarity withthe relatives killed and arrested in this crackdown by the Bolivian state.
       We demand that dialogue between the United Nations and the Brazilian Indigenous Movement mustbe facilitated in an respectful manner by the UN system, our representationthat defends Collective Rights must be supported and legitimized by the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.
 Exigimos que a Organizacao das Nacoes Unidas possa reconhecere
       We call for the protection of indigenous land rights. In Brazil, more than 60% of Indian territorieswere not demarcated and ratified. We demand the immediate recognition and demarcation of indigenous lands, including policies to strengthen the demarcated areas, including the removal of farmers and others that are invading other territories.
       We demand an end to impunity for the murderers and persecutors of the indigenous leaders. Indigenous leaders, women and men are murdered and the criminals continue to befree, and no action has been taken to charge them. We request that the instigatorsand executors that committed crimes (murder, robbery, rape, torture) against our people and communities are tried and punished.
       We demand the end to the criminalization of indigenous leaders. That the struggles of our  peoples for their land rights are not criminalized by governmental authorities thatshould instead ensure the protection and implementation of indigenous rights.
       We demand the guarantee of the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent of each indigenous people - in accordance with the ILO Convention 169, according to the specificity of each people, strictly following the principles of good faith of this binding Convention. We need to be respected and strengthened in the institutional fabric of each of our peoples, to have our own appropriate mechanisms for deliberation and representation, and to be enabled to participate in consultation processes with states.
       We call for the expansion of indigenous territories.
       We call for transparent and independent monitoring of watersheds.
·      We call for therecognition and strengthening the role of indigenous peoples in the protection of biomes.
·      We ask for theurgent demarcation of land for the people without assistance and camped inprecarious situations, such as on riverbanks, roadsides and areas withoutsanitation infrastructure. In Brazil alone, there are hundreds of indigenous camps in this situation. 40% of the population of these camps are children.
 ·      We call for theimprovement of health conditions of indigenous peoples, such as in Brazil, to increase the budget of SESAI - SpecialSecretariat of Indigenous Health, the implementation of financialadministrative and political autonomy of DSEIs (Special Indigenous Health Districts), and to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities.
       We want an Indigenous Education that respects the diversity of each nation and culture, with special and differential treatment for each language, customs andtraditions.
       We demand that states implement effective policies within ethno-cultural territories to guarantee appropriate indigenous education.
       We want an indigenous education with components of environmental education that promotes environmental protection and sustainability of our territories.
       We demand conditions for the development of our traditions and ancient ways of production.

Finally, it won’t be the false solutions that are proposed by governments - the so-called green economy, that will pay off the debts of States with our people.
 We reiterate our commitment to unity of indigenous peoples as demonstrated in our alliance within our communities, with indigenous nations, organizations, the Indigenous Caucus and others.
 APIB - Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, COICA - Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of theAmazon Basin, IOTC - Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, CICA -Indigenous Council of Central America, and CCNAGUA - Guarani ContinentalCouncil of the Nation
Olá a todos.
Aqui nosso relatório Audio-Visual que eu filmei no Acampamento Terra Livre (espaço alternativo para os Povos Indígenas do Brasil)
em Cúpula dos Povos, durante a Rio +20.
Como eu realmente não tenho filmado muito, o vídeo mostra apenas um pouco da luta dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil para a ONU eo governo brasileiro para ouvir suas queixas e demandas, pois a maioria deles foram quase excluídos da discussão oficial a Rio +20 Conferência das Nações Unidas. (Marcha de protesto e ocupação da sede do BNDES contra a construção da barragem de Belo Monte Hidrelétrica. Marcha de protesto em frente ao Centro do Rio (Praça da Conferência das Nações Unidas no Rio +20), com o objetivo de entregar a sua Declaração de Acampamento indígena Terra Livre)
Quasi todos lideres tradicionais não tinham credenciais para entrar e participar no evento da ONU. Os líderes tradicionais também foram muito decepcionado com a indiferença do Alto Comissariado da ONU para os Direitos Humanos que não tinha respondido ao seus pedidos para uma reunião com ela durante a Conferência.
Link para o Povo Indígena Rio 20 DECLARAÇÃO ACCAMPAMENTO TERRA LIVRE Rio+20 (em Iportuguese):
Quem, na minha opinião tinha a maior desvantagem era os povos indígenas Grassroot e seus chefes do Brasil, que não foram enviados por ônibus financiados e que não tinha ajudas de custo diárias e hotéis pagos.

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