Two Agendas on Amazon Development
We, the Indigenous Peoples, have been an integral part of the Amazon Biosphere for millennia. We have used and cared for the resources of that biosphere with a great deal of respect, because it is our home, and because we know that our survival and that of our future generations depends on it. Our accumulated knowledge about the ecology of our home, our models for living with the peculiarities of the Amazon Biosphere, our reverence and respect for the tropical forest and its other inhabitants, both plant and animal, are the keys to guaranteeing the future of the Amazon Basin, not only for our peoples, but also for all of humanity.
What COICA Wants
1. The most effective defense of the Amazonian Biosphere is the recognition and defense of the territories of the region's Indigenous Peoples and the promotion of their models for living, within that Biosphere and for managing its resources in a sustainable way. The international funders of Amazonian development should educate themselves about the Indigenous People's relationship with their environment, and formulate new concepts of Amazonian development together with new criteria for supporting Amazonian development projects which would be compatible with the Indigenous People's principles of respect and care for the world around them, as well as with their concern for the survival and well-being of their future generations.
2. The international funders must recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples as those are being defined within the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, established by the UN Human Rights Commission. These rights should form the basis of the institution's policy towards the Indigenous Peoples and their territories who live in those areas where the funder is supporting development work. The funders should consult directly with the organizations of the Indigenous Peoples throughout the process of establishing this policy and should distribute that policy widely among governments and the organizations of Indigenous Peoples.
3. There can be no development projects in indigenous areas without the informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected. The funders must make every effort, through field research conducted by personnel of the funding institution, to verify the existence of an indigenous population, or the possible negative impact on an indigenous population, in areas where they are considering the implementation of a project. If either is the case, the funder must openly recognize the existence of this population or the negative impact on them, and then should establish as a condition for further funding the project
* that the government responsible for implementing the project also recognize the existence of the population and/or the negative impact;
* that the affected population be informed of the plans and impact of the plans; and
* that the affected population consent to the implementation of the plans.
These conditions should be monitored by both the funder and the organization which represents the affected population.
4. If the indigenous population has given its informed consent to the implementation of a development project within its territory, the project must be designed in such a way that it respects the territories of the population as they define them, their economy and their social organization, according to the institutional policy as described in Point One. There should be special components of the project which lend support directly to the indigenous population for their own needs and for the development proposals which they may have. The organization which represents the affected population should participate in the design of the project.
5. The international funders should enter into a direct relation of collaboration and mutual respect with the organizations of Indigenous Peoples, through their representatives. This relation should establish the basis for:
* consultations on all aspects of projects implemented in areas with an indigenous population or which have an impact on an indigenous population;
* exchange of information of mutual interest on plans, projects, activities, and needs of both.
How COICA Proposes Implementing This Agenda
1. Each funding agency should establish written accords with the Coordinating Body at the international level, and with each member organization of the Coordinating Body at the national level. These written accords should specify the conditions and objectives of the relation based on collaboration and mutual respect.
2. The representatives from the headquarters of the funder should meet with the representatives of the Coordinating Body at least once a year in order to monitor the implementation of the accords and of the institution's policy on Indigenous Peoples. This meeting could take place at the headquarters of either the funder or the Coordinating Body.
3. The resident representatives of the funder (country mission director, area representative, etc.) should meet periodically with the representatives of the member organizations of the Coordinating Body in order to make the necessary consultations, to exchange information, and to monitor the implementation of the accords.
4. In the event that projects be proposed for an area in which there are indications of the existence of an indigenous population, or if there is reason to suspect that the project may have an impact on an indigenous population, the Coordinating Body recommends establishing the following procedures:
* As a first step, the funder, through personnel hired by the funder, should verify in the field the existence of an indigenous population in the project area, and the possible impact of the proposed project on that population; during this verification process, the researcher should consult directly with the Coordinating Body and with the member organization within the country in question.
* If it is determined that the proposed project will affect an indigenous population, a Tripartite Commission should be formed with a representative of the funder, the government, and the Coordinating Body through its local representative (including a representative of the local organization which directly represents the affected population, if such an organization exists).
* This Tripartite Commission should have the following functions:
- inform the affected population of the development plans and determine if that population consents to the plans;
- determine if the proposed project represents a threat to the indigenous population and make recommendations about how to proceed;
- determine what priorities of the affected population are and make recommendations about how to best meet the priority needs;
- design the project component for the indigenous population, participate in the overall design of the project, and monitor the implementation of the project;
- design and implement a permanent evaluation of the impact of the project on the indigenous population.
Indigenous Peoples' Alternatives for Amazonian Development
An important task of the Coordinating Body is to present to the international community the alternatives which we indigenous peoples offer for living with the Amazonian Biosphere, caring for it and developing within it. This is one of our important contributions to a better life for humankind. The following represent, in general terms, our program for the defense of the Amazonian Biosphere.
1. The best defense of the Amazonian Biosphere is the defense of the territories recognized as homeland by Indigenous Peoples, and the promotion of our models for living within that biosphere and for managing its resources. This implies:
* education for the national and international communities regarding the Indigenous People's concept of the unity between people and territory, and regarding our models for managing and caring for our environment.
* work with national governments, environmental organizations, and international institutions which fund Amazon development to develop new concepts and models for occupying and using the Amazon Basin in keeping with our long-term perspective (future generations), our respect for the interdependence between humankind and our environments, and our need to improve the well-being of the entire community; further work with the same institutions to translate these new concepts into concrete programs for developing and caring for the Amazon Basin and its inhabitants.
* work with national governments, environmental organizations, and international funders to reorganize the occupation of supposedly empty Amazonian territories by combining indigenous territories, with forest, wildlife, and extractive reserves in favor of the indigenous and other current inhabitants; by discouraging the "conquest and colonization" of our homeland; and by recuperating those vast areas devastated by state policies of conquest and colonization.
* research on the natural resources and traditional crops used by Indigenous Peoples, on the traditional systems for utilizing and conserving resources, and on models for the extraction of renewable resources.
* evaluation and systematization of the development projects implemented by Indigenous Peoples which attempt to combine the demands of the market economy with a respect for indigenous principles of development.
2. The defense of the Amazon Biosphere/Indigenous territories must go hand-in-hand with the recognition of and respect for the territorial, political, cultural, economic, and human rights of the Indigenous Peoples. This implies:
* continued participation and support for the UN process for establishing an international instrument recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
* education for the national and international communities regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
* establishment of mechanisms at both the national and international level for defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples in cases of violations of or conflicts over those rights.
3. The right of self-determination for Indigenous Peoples within their environment/territory is fundamental for guaranteeing the well-being of the indigenous population and of the Amazonian Biosphere. This implies:
* respect for our autonomous forms of community, ethnic, and regional government.
* indigenous control over the economic activities within the indigenous territories, including the extraction of mineral reserves.
* respect for indigenous customary law and the indigenous norms for social control.
4. Concrete Proposals for International Cooperation: For many decades now, most of our peoples have been experimenting with ways to participate in the encroaching market economies of our respective countries while trying to survive as peoples intimately linked to the Amazonian forest. We have done this despite the hostility shown us by the frontier society and despite the fact that, within the context of the market economy, we are desperately poor. For these reasons, we have organized ourselves in new ways and developed and managed a variety of small programs to improve our health, education, and economy. The following is a brief listing which suggests the kinds of programs which we are currently undertaking or wish to undertake. It is these small-scale, locally controlled initiatives which should be the cornerstone of future Amazonian development.
* Programs for Territorial Demarcation and Defense - including research on territorial composition, land use patterns, soil and forest classifications; demarcation of territories; titling and registration of territories; training of paralegals, topographers; relocation of settlers and miners squatting on indigenous territories; recuperation of lands illegally taken; establishment of complementary forest reserves, wildlife reserves, national parks and joint programs to manage them.
* Programs for Resource Management - including research on land use capabilities, soil quality, inventories of flora, fauna, and mineral reserves, indigenous management practices; training in research methodology; projects for managing wildlife and aquatic life for food and commercial purposes; projects for managing forests through sustainable harvesting practices; projects for improving the productivity of rubber, Brazil nut, and other extractive activities; projects for recovering lands and resources devastated by conquest and colonization.
* Programs to Strengthen Material Self-Sufficiency - including research on traditional crops, foods gathered from the forest, farming practices, hunting and fishing technologies; projects for improving productivity, stability, and diversity of traditional farming systems; projects to introduce or improve small animal husbandry; projects to manage food resources found in the forest; projects to replenish and manage flora used for housing, clothing, and utensils.
* Programs for Economic Development - mending projects for industrialization on a small scale of products extracted from the forest; projects to adapt traditional artisan products to market demands; establishment of community marketing channels; establishment of community controlled transportation systems; projects to improve productivity of agriculture and animal husbandry where directed at the market.
* Programs for Maintaining a Healthy Community - including research on traditional healing practices, traditional medicines, health problems common to indigenous communities; projects to strengthen traditional health practices; projects to improve drinking water, nutrition, and sanitary conditions where deficient; community controlled health systems including primary care, diagnostic services, and stores of basic medicines; education and training for health care personnel.
* Programs for Bilingual and Intercultural Education - including research in the linguistics of Amazonian languages, on pedagogues relevant to our situations and cultures; training for indigenous teachers, linguists, and pedagogues; preparation of educational materials.
* Programs to Defend Our Rights as Peoples - including research on reported violations of Indigenous Peoples' rights, on Indian customary law; training of indigenous lawyers and paralegals; recourse to top level advice when necessary; participation in forums promoting the rights of Indigenous Peoples; campaigns to end slavery, captive communities, debt peonage, and forced labor among Indigenous Peoples; campaigns against forced removal or relocation of Indigenous Peoples.
* Programs for Research and Documentation - including the coordination and systematization of information relevant to the programs of Indigenous Peoples within their organizations; establishment of libraries and research centers in the service of I Amazonian development.
* Programs for Strengthening and Communicating Our Voice - including systems which allow easy communication among indigenous communities and organizations; participation in local, regional, national, and international forums where decisions are made which affect our well-being; visits and exchange of experiences among indigenous communities, organizations, and programs.
TO THE COMMUNITY OF CONCERNED ENVIRONMENTALISTS
We, the Indigenous Peoples, have been an integral part of the Amazonian Biosphere for millennia. We use and care for the resources of that biosphere with respect, because it is our home, and because we know that our survival and that of our future generations depend on it. Our accumulated knowledge about the ecology of our forest home, our models for living within the Amazonian Biosphere, our reverence and respect for the tropical forest and its other inhabitants, both plant and animal, are the keys to guaranteeing the future of the Amazon Basin. A guarantee not only for our peoples, but also for all of humanity. Our experience, especially during the past 100 years, has taught us that when politicians and developers take charge of our Amazon, they are capable of destroying it because of their shortsightedness, their ignorance and their greed.
We are pleased and encouraged to see the interest and concern expressed by the environmentalist community for the future of our homeland. We are gratified by the efforts you have made in your country to educate your peoples about our homeland and the threat it now faces as well as the efforts you have made in South America to defend the Amazonian rain forests and to encourage proper management of their resources. We greatly appreciate and fully support the efforts some of you are making to lobby the US Congress, the World Bank, USAID, and the Inter-American Development Bank on behalf of the Amazonian Biosphere and its inhabitants. We recognize that through these efforts, the community of environmentalists has become an important political actor in determining the future of the Amazon Basin.
We are keenly aware that you share with us a common perception of the dangers which face our homeland. While we may differ about the methods to be used, we do share a fundamental concern for encouraging the long-term conservation and the intelligent use of the Amazonian rain forest. We have the same conservation goals.
We are concerned that you have left us, the Indigenous Peoples, out of your vision of the Amazonian Biosphere. The focus of concern of the environmental community has typically been the preservation of the tropical forest and its plant and animal inhabitants. You have shown little interest in its human inhabitants who are also part of that biosphere.
We are concerned about the "debt for nature swaps" which put your organizations in a position of negotiating with our governments for the future of our homelands. We know of specific examples of such swaps which have shown the most brazen disregard for the rights of the indigenous inhabitants and which are resulting in the ultimate destruction of the very forests which they were meant to preserve.
We are concerned that you have left us Indigenous Peoples and our organizations out of the political process which is determining the future of our homeland. While we appreciate your efforts on our behalf, we want to make it clear that we never delegated any power of representation to the environmentalist community nor to any individual or organization within that community.
We are concerned about the violence and ecological destruction of our homeland caused by the increasing production and trafficking of cocaine, most of which is consumed here in the US.
What We Want
We want you, the environmental community, to recognize that the most effective defense of the Amazonian Biosphere is the recognition of our ownership rights over our territories and the promotion of our models for living within that biosphere.
We want you, the environmental community, to recognize that we Indigenous Peoples are an important and integral part of the Amazonian Biosphere.
We want you, the environmental community, to recognize and promote our rights as Indigenous Peoples as we have been defining those rights within the UN Working Group for Indigenous Peoples.
We want to represent ourselves and our interests directly in all negotiations concerning the future of our Amazonian homeland.
What We Propose
We propose that you work directly with our organizations on all your programs and campaigns which affect our homelands.
We propose that you swap "debt for indigenous stewardship" which would allow your organizations to help return areas of the Amazonian rain forest to our care and control.
We propose establishing a permanent dialogue with you to develop and implement new models for using the rain forest based on the list of alternatives presented with this document.
We propose joining hands with those members of the worldwide environmentalist community who:
* recognize our historical role as caretakers of the Amazon Basin.
* support our efforts to reclaim and defend our traditional territories.
* accept our organizations as legitimate and equal partners.
We propose reaching out to other Amazonian peoples such as the rubber tappers, the Brazil-nut gatherers, and others whose livelihood depends on the nondestructive extractive activities, many of whom are of indigenous origin.
We propose that you consider allying yourselves with us, the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, in defense of our Amazonian homeland.
Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.