Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 24, 2019

Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation Travels to Toronto for Climate and Human Rights

2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation members outside of the White House. Photo Credit: WECAN International/Teena Pugliese
On July 30th, a fifth Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies led by 'Divest, Invest, Protect' and the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International will travel to Toronto, Canada to meet with the Equator Principles Association or 'EP Banks' as they facilitate an external consultation process in regards to revising the Equator Principles (EP). The revision of the EP is critical for holding financial institutions accountable for their investments. The Delegation will advocate to strengthen the EP and demand that banks stop financing activities that commit Indigenous and human rights abuses and further harm the global climate.

The EP Banks are a group of 94 international banks who have signed-on to adhere to a voluntary set of principles enshrined in the 'Equator Principles' document. As stated on the EP Banks website, the Equator Principles is used as "a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects and is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence and monitoring to support responsible risk decision-making."

Yet, EP banks continue to finance industries that commit human rights violations, from the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction to the Mexico/United States border. EP banks have financed destructive projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, the Belo Monte mega-dam in Brazil, and the Agua Zarca hydro project in Honduras. Similarly, banks who are EP members have extended lines of credit and term loans to companies like GEO Group, who operate detention centers on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Millions of people are forced to leave their homes and many seek asylum due to climate catastrophes and economic exploitation created by the companies and industries financed by EP banks.

"As we travel to Toronto on this delegation, half a hemisphere away Kanaka Maoli land defenders are rising up to protect their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, from a billion-dollar development project. This most recent Indigenous uprising is part of a decade-long cluster of Indigenous uprisings in the Western Hemisphere to halt development projects aimed at exploiting resources like natural gas, water, oil, and coal at the expense of Indigenous human rights and sovereignty. The efforts unfolding atop Mauna Kea will not be the last; Indigenous peoples will continue to protect our lands and waters until we achieve climate justice for all. It is imperative that the global community heeds the demands of Indigenous land defenders and water protectors and divests from the carceral and extractive infrastructures that are killing our planet. We call upon powerful financial institutions to reinvest these funds in measures that will ensure equality for all, including renewable energy, education, universal healthcare, clean water and air, healthy foods, and housing."
 Dr. Melanie K. Yazzie (Bilagáana/Diné) - Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico and National Chair of The Red Nation

Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegates and allies, (on left) Dr. Melanie K. Yazzie (Bilagáana/Diné), Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico and National Chair of The Red Nation, and (center) Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo), Founder of Divest, Invest, Protect, and Co-director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations and Education Program. The delegation will be joined by (on right) Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations and Education Program.
Catalyzed by the human rights abuses at Standing Rock, EP banks said they would reform the Equator Principles and begin a revision process to be completed by 2019, which would more effectively address concerns about potential rights violations and environmental degradation. In July 2019, EP Banks released the first revision of the Equator Principles, which falls exceedingly short of holding financial institutions accountable for human rights abuses and addressing the climate crisis. The Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies will provide necessary and critical inputs and critiques to this revision process in the Toronto consultation meeting.

To learn more about WECAN International's analysis, please read our full press release.

It is vital that women's voices for climate justice are included in the Equator Principles Revision process. Women are impacted first and worst by climate change, yet studies worldwide demonstrate that women must be engaged at all levels of participation, leadership and decision-making to build effective and just social and ecological programs and policies. During the external consultation, the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies are committed to ensuring women's voices are heard by advocating for stronger revisions that uphold Free, Prior, and Informed Consent; respect Indigenous rights and women's rights; protect the global climate; and include the voices of those most impacted by the financing decisions of EP banks.

The 2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation getting ready to meet with the credit rating agency, MSCI, in New York City. Photo Credit: WECAN International/Teena Pugliese
From June 21 - 26, 2019 WECAN International traveled to the Tongass National Forest as part of our 'Women for Forests' program. Guided by Wanda Culp, Tlingit activist and WECAN Tongass Regional Coordinator, we spoke out at a rally; held strategic meetings and advocacy trainings; met with legal teams and the U.S. Forest Service; traveled throughout the region documenting the impacts of old-growth logging; and conducted interviews with local Indigenous women who we are working with to protect the 2001 National Roadless Rule, which is now under attack in the Tongass. 

"We are here in support of the current Roadless Rule to protect the largest national forest in the country, the Alaska Tongass National Forest, which is in Tlingit territory. Our people have been here over 10,000 years, and we are here to protect and preserve the land so we can be here 10,000 years more. Our culture is alive and we want our traditional ways of life that have protected the forest to continue for future generations." Kari Ames (Tlingit) - Alaska Native Voices Cultural Heritage Guide and keeper of traditional life-ways

You can find the video on FACEBOOK or YOUTUBE
The WECAN Tongass delegation and allies cheer for the protection of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska during the _Turn Out for they Tongass_ Rall
WECAN International Tongass Delegates and allies take a stand outside the Alaska State Capitol during the 'Turn Out for the Tongass' Rally in Juneau, Alaska. Photo Credit: WECAN International/Katherine Quaid
The Tongass National Forest exists 
Wanda Culp, WECAN Tongass Coordinator and Ernestine Hanlon-Abel, Old-Growth Advocate, speak out during the 'Turn Out For the Tongass' Rally. Photo credit: WECAN International/Katherine Quaid
within the traditional territories of the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian peoples in Alaska. As the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world, the Tongass is critical for sequestering vast amounts of carbon and cooling the planet. Recent studies have found that forest protection and restoration is one of the key solutions to our current climate crisis, yet, the Tongass is under attack as Alaska Congress members try to re-open the old-growth forest for further destructive logging. WECAN International is working with Indigenous women leaders and allies to protect their homelands from further destruction.The 'Turn Out for the Tongass Rally', co-organized by WECAN International and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, brought together Alaskans to speak out in support of the Roadless Rule - a critical measure for protecting over 9 million acres of the Tongass from old-growth logging. Wanda Culp spoke at the rally, held on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol, and the WECAN Tongass delegation led the march through Juneau, singing, drumming, and standing proudly with the trees.

Currently, Alaskan congressional members are attempting to exempt the Tongass from the 2001 National Roadless Rule, which will lead to devastating industrial logging, destruction of Indigenous life-ways and wildlife habitat, and further harm to the climate. The rally was held in anticipation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Alaska-specific Roadless Rule, which is expected to be released this summer and open for public comment for 60 days. During the upcoming public comment period, we will call on you to join us in taking action to protect the Tongass - Click the button below to learn more!
The WECAN Tongass delegation also traveled to the Tlingit community of Hoonah where we documented the impacts of decades of deforestation on local ecosystems in the Tongass, as well as the re-growth that has occurred since the implementation of the 2001 National Roadless Rule. We interviewed Indigenous women to hear their stories and perspectives on the effects of deforestation, colonization, and climate disruption in their local communities.

On left, Adrien Lee, President of Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) Camp 12, Phyllis Grant, Vice President of ANS Camp 12, and Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director, strategize during a community meeting in Hoonah, Alaska. On right, Wanda Culp, WECAN Tongass Regional Coordinator is interviewed by BBC. Photo Credit: WECAN International

We met with Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12 to discuss how best to support community-led local economies not based on destructive extractivism. WECAN International was also glad to have facilitated an in-depth interview for Wanda Culp with BBC television, which included a deep journey into the forests of Hoonah to investigate what will happen if the Tongass becomes exempt from the 2001 National Roadless Rule. We are very grateful to Wanda Culp and the WECAN Tongass Delegation - Kari Ames, Adrien Nichol Lee, and Rebekah Sawers - and the many Indigenous Women who shared their stories, voices, perspectives, and culture with us. 

The Tongass National Forest is a complex ecosystem, abundant with life, and WECAN International is fiercely dedicated to continuing our 'Women for Forests' program in the region and fighting for the Tongass!

MEDIA COVERAGE for the "Turn Out for the Tongass" Rally:
On August 13th, in Brasília, the first Indigenous Women's March in Brazil will take place in resistance to the hugely dangerous policies and actions of Brazilian President Bolsonaro's administration. 

Since his inauguration, Bolsonaro has worked to dismantle key protections and policies that protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Amazon in Brazil. His regime's devastating assaults on social and environmental protections has led to a surge in deforestation and violations of Indigenous Rights.

In response, Indigenous women from across Brazil are coming together in the country's capital to oppose Bolsonaro's current attacks on human rights and the environment, and to visibilize the immense power of Indigenous women and women's role in protecting the Amazon and their communities from further harm.

WECAN International is honored to have an amazing network member, Daiara Tukano on the ground for this historic march. We will live-stream the march on Facebook as well as document the stories of Indigenous women who are participating in the action. Stay tuned on August 13th for the Facebook live-stream! 

No comments: