Indigenous peoples pay with their lives for environmental protection | free press

Quito (AP) – The guardians of the forests live dangerously: Although indigenous peoples are considered important allies in the fight against climate change, intensive farming, illegal mining and huge energy projects put the indigenous peoples in the crosshairs of big business and criminals.

Time and again, indigenous activists in Latin America are killed when they resist economic activity in their traditional settlement areas.

“Killing Must Stop”

“If we don’t stop the killing of indigenous environmentalists, we cannot protect the rainforest and therefore the climate,” Father Michael Heinz, the director of the Catholic Latin American aid organization Adveniat, said on the occasion of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. “This murder of the indigenous forest protectors must stop.”

Over the past year, an indigenous activist has been murdered on average every other day in the region. According to Adveniat, 600 indigenous environmental activists have been violently murdered in Latin America since 2014. Many indigenous organizations in the region see a growing threat to the lives and limbs of their members.

At least 5000 indigenous peoples

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, more than 370 million people belong to a total of at least 5,000 indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous peoples play a key role in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. According to a study by the World Food Organization (FAO), indigenous peoples protect their lands particularly well from deforestation and destruction.

“The fundamental role of the indigenous peoples is to protect the riches of nature as guardians of the forests,” Tuntiak Katan of Volk der Shuar in Ecuador told the German news agency. “That’s our way of life. We are part of nature and nature is part of us.”

Protests in Brazil that lasted for weeks

In Brazil, however, the right-wing government of President Jair Bolsonaro is currently trying to use legal means to contest the land of the indigenous people. A few days ago, the Chamber of Deputies passed a law that would allow land squatters to obtain legal titles to stolen lands in the future. For weeks, indigenous peoples protested in front of Congress in Brasília against the initiative, which now goes to the Senate. “It is very important that society expresses clearly and unequivocally that land grabs are a crime and should not be legalized,” said a statement from the environmental organization WWF.

The state is now also rewarding the thieves by legalizing the stolen land, criticized Brazil’s indigenous umbrella organization Apib. “If they occupy our territories, it will have a major impact not only on the country, but also on our culture,” said Marcia Wayna Kambeba of the Omágua people in the Brazilian state of Pará. “I’m afraid this law will set off a process of extinction in the Amazon.”

Supply chains make Germany co-responsible

Through global supply chains, businesses and consumers in Germany are also jointly responsible for the situation of the indigenous peoples of Latin America. In April, the Bundestag ratified Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The treaty regulates the consultation and involvement of indigenous peoples in economic projects in their areas of settlement.

“Although the federal government sent positive signals shortly before the end of the legislature with the ratification of ILO Convention 169 and the adoption of the Supply Chain Act, there are few bright spots even for the indigenous people of Europe,” says Yvonne Bangert of the Threatened Peoples Association. For example, the livelihoods of the Sami in Norway are currently in danger because copper is mined in their settlement area.

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