The Brazilian Amazon alone is home to 180 original peoples, and the number rises even more if the other seven countries located in the biome are included. Even so, only one representative of the indigenous peoples of the eight nations will have the right to speak at the Amazon Summit, which begins this Monday (8), in Belém (PA), and will be attended by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in addition to representatives from the other Amazonian States – Bolivia, Colombia, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Suriname.
The indigenous person chosen was Toya Manchineri, from the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), who will read a joint statement. The meeting of presidents will result in the Charter of Belém, which will stipulate socio-environmental commitments for the Member States of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).
In partnership with the federal government, the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib) actively participated in the preparation of the program for the Dialogos Amazônicos, a mega-event with social movements that brought together 24,000 people in the capital of Pará, on the eve of the meeting of presidents. The demands raised by the participants were gathered in five thematic reports that will be delivered to the Heads of State at the Summit.
Although Apib considers the Diálogos Amazônicos a positive historical landmark in terms of popular participation in the elaboration of public policies, the coordinator of the largest indigenous organization in South America reports dissatisfaction with the lack of representation at the Summit, where decisions will actually be taken.
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“With regard to representation at the Summit, it is clear that, for us, it is not yet the way we wanted. Governments – whatever they may be – still need to understand our own forms of social organization. Understanding that sometimes a leadership or an organization, however representative it may be and however much it involves a set of organizations, this is still not the best form of collective representation of indigenous peoples”, said Kleber Karipuna, who is in charge of from Apib.
According to Kleber Karipuna, Apib tried to convince ACTO to allow at least one indigenous person from each Amazonian state to speak during the Summit. “Because of the speaking time, it wasn’t possible,” she explained. The indigenous people’s counter-proposal was that there should be at least one speech by an indigenous man and woman, to ensure gender representation. “It wasn’t possible either,” she lamented.
“In fact, we would like (representation) to be much greater. We understand the timing issue. We understand that President Lula himself would have no problem listening to one, two or three leaders to give a better representation of the speech of the movements”, evaluated Kleber Karipuna.
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How the movements will be represented
During the Summit, the representatives of each of the five thematic plenaries held during the Amazon Dialogues will have the right to speak. Only the first of them, represented by Toya Manchineri, dealt exclusively with indigenous issues. Are they:
A new inclusive project for indigenous peoples Protection of territories, peoples and activists / Eradication of slave labor Health, sovereignty and food security Science, technology and innovation Climate change, agroecology and new production methods
Even with the lack of representativeness at the Summit, the Minister of Indigenous Peoples and former coordinator of Apib, Sônia Guajajara, showed optimism when speaking at the thematic plenary session on indigenous peoples, during the Amazonian Dialogues. She told the crowd of indigenous people that her ministry worked for the plenary proposals to be included in the Declaration of Belém.
“We want the proposals discussed here to be fully included in the official document of the Summit of Presidents. And for that, we have this guarantee from the Brazilian government. We are going to manage, for the first time in history, that indigenous participation is actually included in this document”, said Guajajara.
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meeting of presidents
In 45 years, this is the fourth time that the presidents of the Amazon basin have met. When the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) was signed in 1978, Brazil was living under a military dictatorship, a period marked by the intensification of indigenous genocide in the Amazon. The region was treated by the Brazilian government as a new frontier of economic expansion, with the construction of roads, hydroelectric and mining projects.
At the time, the Treaty was concerned with guaranteeing the sovereignty of Pan-Amazonian governments over their own territories, allowing major infrastructure works to proceed without international challenge. The participation of indigenous peoples and other traditional populations was not even considered. In 1972, the world had gathered for the first time to discuss actions to mitigate the environmental impact, at the Stockholm Conference, which laid the foundations for the environmental policy of the United Nations (UN).
Therefore, Apib assesses that the low representativeness does not prevent the Summit from going down in history as an unprecedented advance. Although some points defended by Brazil, such as the demarcation of indigenous lands, will not be a consensus among the presidents, Apib believes that the Declaration of Belém will bring concrete commitments from ACTO member countries.
“We have a positive expectation and we hope that these commitments will actually be carried out. It is not possible for Brazil to resume global leadership in the environmental agenda and here we have no written word of this commitment in the declaration of the presidents of the countries of the Amazon basin”, said Kleber.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas