Indigenous leaders propose alternative approaches to forests and climate change, and discuss Rio+20

Indigenous leaders propose alternative approaches to forests and climate change, and discuss Rio+20

Indigenous leaders gathered in Manaus in mid-August for a conference organized by COICA (Confederation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations of the Amazon Basin) to discuss traditional knowledge, forests and climate change, as well as the Rio+20 conference. Their final statement called for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their territories, respect for the principle of the ‘full life’[1] (‘vida plena’) and support for Indigenous approaches to climate mitigation in forests, (referred to in the statement as “Indigenous REDD+”). Communities were also advised to be alert to the bad practices of “carbon cowboys” and avoid entering into any contracts until international obligations on rights are fully implemented.

The Conference voiced its support for Bolivian indigenous peoples’ struggle against state plans for a highway project in the Tipnis indigenous territory. Brazilian Indigenous leader Raoni Kayapo denounced the impact of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingù River that would cause the forced resettlement of tens of thousands of indigenous peoples and local communities.

A number of governments in Latin America are facing an impasse caused by the social and environmental costs of their infrastructure development policies, the urgency of increasing public expenditure and the fact that this is mostly being covered by the export of oil and minerals from the subsoil of indigenous peoples’ territories. There will be no way out of this impasse if the basic assumptions behind national development policies continue to rest on unlimited quantitative growth, together with government drives to accelerate production and contribute to the global trade of raw materials. In short, states are failing to develop long-term sustainable solutions aimed at generating financial resources outside of an extractivist monoculture.

Therefore, indigenous peoples are proposing alternative approaches based on their livelihoods, traditional knowledge and human rights as the keystones for the responsible transformation of current economic and production models. Please see the Manaus Declaration and other statements at:

[1] A concept similar to ‘good living’ - ‘buen vivir’ or ‘sumac kawsay’