30 January 2019, Pucallpa. On the eve of a public forum on deforestation and threats to human rights defenders in the city of Pucallpa, representatives of indigenous peoples’ communities and organisations from across the Amazonian regions of Ucayali and San Martin issued an Urgent Declaration calling on the Peruvian Government to implement immediate measures to resolve the escalating land grab of indigenous territories and the resulting destruction of forests and threats to human rights and land defenders in the Peruvian Amazon.
The ‘Declaration of Yarinacocha’, signed by 16 indigenous communities and 4 indigenous organisations including the Federation of the native communities of Ucayali (FECONAU), the ethnic council of the Kichwa peoples of the Peruvian Amazon (CEPKA), the federation of Kichwa peoples of the Lower Huallaga of San Martin (FEPIKBHSAM) and the Coordinator for the development and defense of the indigenous peoples of San Martin (CODEPISAM) echoes the findings of a new report: “The Dynamics of Dispossession: Drivers of Violence and Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon” released by the Institute of Legal Defense (IDL), the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), CEPKA and FECONAU to coincide with today’s public forum.
The report’s central message is that the Government is responsible for the widespread land conflicts in indigenous territories in the Peruvian Amazon, as a result of its ongoing failure to recognise indigenous land rights and the widespread practices of issuing land certificates, individual land titles and forest concessions in indigenous peoples’ traditional lands to third parties. In addition to being the main driver of increasing deforestation in the Amazon region, in turn these land conflicts are behind the threats and violence towards leaders and communities who dare to defy forest destroyers.
“How is it possible that in indigenous territories, the Government has granted and continues to grant individual land titles to loggers and farmers? The Government is driving these territorial conflicts which are engulfing our communities,” says Elias Cinty, outgoing president of FEPIKBHSAM, from the Bajo Huallaga region.
It would be impossible to speak of human rights and land defenders in the Peruvian rainforest without speaking of Manuel and Quinto Inuma Alvarado, leaders from the community of Santa Rocillo de Yanayacu in the Bajo Huallaga region. Only last week, Manuel was ambushed and kidnapped by actors intent on preventing the titling of the community, while his brother Quinto was held captive in his home and prevented from leaving the village to seek safety.
“Our only reward for conserving and defending our forests is to be threatened and forced to leave our families to escape. Where is the support from the State?” asks Quinto Inuma.
Urgent measures proposed by both the Declaration and report include the development of an indigenous land registry, including all indigenous lands without legal recognition to prevent land grabs and their conversion to timber concessions, oil palm plantations and other agribusiness operations. Other proposals include new mechanisms to accelerate and streamline land titling procedures; measures to improve access to justice for indigenous peoples, including the provision of urgent legal aid for human rights defenders who are being prosecuted legally for their interventions to protect their territories; as well as effective measures to secure the restitution of indigenous lands which have been illegally or fraudulently issued to third parties.
The Declaration closes with a call upon the regional governments of San Martin and Ucayali to introduce a moratorium on the issuing of any new rights in Amazonian provinces until these measures to safeguard indigenous territories are implemented.
Robert Guimaraes Vasquez, President of FECONAU urged international donors backing Peru’s attempts to stem deforestation to ensure that the conclusions of this report and the voices of communities are taken into account.
“Although the government has seemingly abandoned its goal to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2020 it retains ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation by 30%. At the same time it has also adopted high level political commitments to defend and protect human rights defenders. Resolving the land issue of indigenous peoples would not only ensure Peru fulfils its international legal obligations but would go a long way to securing both these objectives. We trust that the governments of Norway and Germany who are backing Peru’s deforestation plan will ensure that effective measures will be taken to secure the legal recognition of our lands."
For further information, contact: Conrad Feather o Tom Younger, 00 51 945 232 198 (Peru)