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Forests Are Not Empty Spaces: To Save the Climate, Recognize Our Land Rights

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MESSAGE FROM AN INDIGENOUS LEADER AT THE BIDEN CLIMATE SUMMIT

*** Global indigenous leadership welcomes the commitment to finance the protection of tropical forests to save the climate, while pointing out that success depends on recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands ***

WASHINGTON DC / ONLINE (22 April 2021).— The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, a coalition of organizations representing indigenous and local communities from Brazil, Indonesia and  the nations of the Amazon and Mesoamerica, called for the recognition of the ancestral and traditional peoples’ lands, during the Leaders Summit on Climate organized by President Biden.

“It is not a request for charity, nor even for justice: It is our right and also what western science and the data indicate as the only possible course of action to confront this climate crisis,” said Tuntiak Katan, coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and Indigenous leader of the Shuar people of Ecuador. Katan was invited to speak at the Summit session on “Nature-Based Solutions” session, led by the US Secretary of the Interior, Debra Ann Haaland.

The time for truth has arrived, Katan said, addressing a global audience gathered for the Summit: “Just as our elders traveled to Geneva in 1923 to claim their right to live according to their own laws, on their own lands, and according to their own cosmovision, we come again before all nations, with open hearts, looking ahead to the future together and building a new era, all of us, the protagonists in implementing the solutions that will determine the future of humanity.”

On behalf of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, Katan welcomed the Biden Administration’s announcements of funding for climate action and the launch of an initiative on Lowering Emission through Accelerated Forest Finance (LEAF). He also invited governments and international institutions to, “learn from past mistakes and avoid depending on the same financing model that has not resulted in the expected outcomes in climate impacts and solutions”, in clear reference to the REDD + initiative, and its single minded focus on the capture of carbon.

Katan noted that the findings of a recent study had reported that Indigenous and other local communities receive less than 1% of climate finance for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

“That must change, if we really want to avoid climate change,” Katan said. “The forests that are the focus of this Climate Summit are not immense empty spaces:

“We, indigenous peoples and local communities, occupy those forests, and we are ready to contribute our forests to one of the most important challenges of our era: the restoration of the Earth”, he said. “However, real restoration can only happen with legal recognition of our rights to our territories. Without this, it will not be possible to ensure the integrity of ecosystems or climate security.”

In the 18 countries that are home to the organizations represented by the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, Indigenous Peoples and local communities occupy more than 840 million hectares of land, the equivalent of 80% of the area of the United States.

“Out of those 840 million hectares, at least 400 million hectares have no recognized legal rights (1), Katan said. “We need those land rights to be recognized as the first step to ensure the integrity of ecosystems and to live according to our own rights.”.

He urged the US president and other heads of state to consider investing in the $5 cost per hectare of titling the forests claimed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in tropical forest countries. Funding this proven climate solution, as calculated by experts at the Rights and Resources Initiative and other research groups, would channel at least US$2 billion dollars into securing land rights.

“Numerous scientific studies(link is external) show the key role of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting forests and other key ecosystems,” Katan said. “Where our rights are recognized there is less deforestation and degradation.”

At a time, “full of darkness, it is also time to wake up”, Katan said. “This is a time when Western science and our traditional wisdom are building bridges.”

For this reason, Katan said,  the Indigenous leaders of the organizations represented by the  Global Alliance disagree with the concept of “Solutions Based on Nature.” Instead they call on the international community to speak and act with a focus on “Nature and Community-based solutions”.

“The communities are already implementing initiatives for the sustainable management of forests,” Katan said. “We are part of the solution to climate change, and that is why recognition of our rights to land is the first step in any serious effort to tackle the climate crisis.”

He ended with the following message: “Mr. Biden, you have the opportunity and the historic responsibility, along with other world leaders, to make the right political decisions to stop the climate crisis.”

For more information: Lucas Tolentino, +55 61 9254-0990 (WhatsApp), lucas.tolentino@alianzaglobal.me(link sends e-mail)

Notes to editor: 

(1) Recent research shows that in the last 10 years, less than 1% of cooperation funds against climate change have been allocated to forest management and recognition of rights (RRI and Woodwell Climate Research Center: preliminary evidence from a study of forthcoming publication).

ABOUT THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE:

The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities represents indigenous peoples and local communities from the Amazon Basin, Brazil, Indonesia and Mesoamerica, grouped in four territorial organizations: the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN), the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) and the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA).

Original Source: Landportal.org

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URGENT ALERT: Tanzanian Government Resorts to Cattle Seizures to Further Restrict Livelihoods of Maasai Pastoralists

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On December 1, 2022, we exposed how the Tanzanian government has made harsh cuts in vital public services, including health services and imposed strict livelihood restrictions, to force the Maasai out of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Resettlement plans for the NCA residents are critically flawed and communities continue to courageously speak out against forced evictions. On January 16, 2023, The Guardian echoed this struggle in an article, “‘It’s becoming a war zone’: Tanzania’s Maasai speak out on ‘forced’ removals,”(link is external) that captured the harsh situation on the ground.

Today, we are sharing a concerning update as the government of Tanzania is further escalating the pressure on the Maasai by seizing their cattle. Once captured, the cattle are auctioned off and exported from the area, unless the owners manage to get it back by paying a ransom to the authorities.

Livestock is central to the Maasai culture and livelihoods. Losing cattle is therefore catastrophic for them. With this new tactic, the government’s goal is clearly to drive them away from their ancestral lands. This is happening in Loliondo — in and adjacent to the “Pololeti Game Reserve” — which was created during the government’s violent demarcation exercise in June 2022 and dedicated for trophy hunting by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC). These seizures are now increasingly being practiced near other “protected” areas of the country. This update provides additional evidence of the Tanzanian government’s brutal campaign against the pastoralists.

In November and December 2022 alone, several massive seizures were carried out, including:

Loliondo, Ngorongoro District

  • November 26, 2022 — 60 cows of Sarkay Tiiyee from Malambo were seized at a water point, outside the illegally demarcated “Pololeti Game Reserve” area.
  • November 27, 2022 — Also in Malambo, 167 goats belonging to Kimani Taretoy Tiiyee were seized. The rangers demanded TSh 60,000 per goat and slaughtered 27 of them.
  • December 14, 2022 — An estimated 1,772 cattle belonging to the pastoralists of Ngorongoro District were sold at a public auction by court order on the grounds that they had no owners and were unclaimed property. The cattle owners were reportedly threatened with trespassing and robbery if they tried to reclaim their cattle.
  • December 17, 2022 — 600 sheep belonging to Malee Risando Lekitony were seized next to his boma. He had to pay TSh 2 million to get his sheep back.
  • December 19, 2022 — Over 300 cows belonging to four families were seized at Oloosek, Ololosokwan — an area within the newly created “Pololeti Game Reserve” in Loliondo. The demand to release the cattle was TSh 100,000 per head — a very high amount for the pastoralists. Given the fear of losing their cattle, the fine was eventually paid and cattle returned.
  • December 22, 2022 — Approximately 400 cows from Arash, belonging to herders from Sangok and Losekenja were seized in the “Pololeti Game Reserve.” On Christmas Eve, the livestock owners tried to inquire about the procedure to get the cattle back and found that all the cows had been sold.

Note: In June 2022, following the violent government demarcation exercise in Loliondo, we previously reported that an elderly man, Mbirias Oleng’iyo, went missing. In the latest update, Mr. Oleng’iyo has still not been found and his family continues to search for him. It is alleged that he was arrested by the police.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

  • Continued drought and restrictions on grazing areas cattle can access within the NCA have caused the deaths of hundreds of cattle, driving pastoralists further into poverty.

Tarangire National Park

  • December 17-24, 2022 — an estimated 3,083 cattle belonging to herders living in Simanjiro District in Manyara Region were seized for allegedly entering Tarangire National Park and sold at an auction. A media story on the event is available here.(link is external) Sources on the ground report the cattle were not in the park when they were seized.

Ruaha National Park

The government’s use of cattle seizures to force pastoralists into poverty and drive them from their lands as seen in Loliondo is now being repeated in areas surrounding and within the Ruaha National Park. For instance:

  • November 22, 2022 — Ruaha National Park conservation rangers seized 172 cattle in Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, belonging to Kideka Dabda. Even though Mr. Dabda showed up and the Mbarali District Court issued an injunction stating that the cattle should not be auctioned off, the cattle were still sold.
  • Just a few days later on November 25, 2022, the Minister of Lands, Dr. Angelina Mabula, at a public rally in Ubaruku in the Mbarali District, announced that villagers in 48 villages and townships in the district “encroaching” the Ruaha National Park must leave the park immediately.
  • December 2, 2022 — 93 cattle from Madundasi Village (located south of Ruaha National Park) were auctioned off with the permission of the Mbarali District Court.

Due to the ongoing violation of human rights, Tanzania CSOs released a statement(link is external) on December 20, 2022, condemning the cattle seizures. Local CSOs are calling for an immediate end to “military exercises carried out by the conservation rangers to unjustly arrest the herders and confiscate their livestock because those actions perpetuate poverty and cause suffering for innocent citizens.” CSOs are asking for the government to compensate the pastoralists “whose livestock have been auctioned fraudulently, as the livestock is the primary support for the economy and the family’s food security.”

Original Source: Oakland Institute

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La Via Campesina Call to Action for the 27th UN Climate COP

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Year after year, one UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP) after another, the global climate crisis only worsens. Caused in great part by agribusiness and the destructive capitalist system it fuels, today’s crisis is a direct result of an economic system that exploits every form of life without recognizing any limits to nature. Mother Earth’s intricate systems and life-sustaining cycles are broken, with the devastating Covid19 pandemic, and the inaccessibility of health care for many, demonstrating just how cruel capitalism can be when it comes to inflicting the pain, suffering and loss, caused by the destruction of nature. Be it in Pakistan, Palestine or Puerto Rico – to name just a few – the once distant threat of “climate change” now comes in wave after wave of “catastrophic weather events” making climate-fueled tragedies an all-too-frequent part of people’s daily lives.  From droughts to floods, through wildfires and hurricanes, these extreme manifestations have threatened and even destroyed people’s lives and food sovereignty, who are calling for real solutions to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As if that weren’t enough, wars, occupations and sanctions are dished out by the power-hungry with little regard for the UN-recognized rights to Food, Health, Peace and Self-Determination, much less the now universal human right to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment” (UN General Assembly, 2022). In addition, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI, 2022) reported that the climate vulnerable and extremes underline rising numbers of hungry people, poverty and inequality.

At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its annual Climate COPs, transnational corporations (TNCs) use their control over most national governments and multilateral institutions to commodify the crisis, deny fossil fuel capitalism has anything to do with it, and limit any real possibility of transformative change. Though the corporate food system is responsible for more than 50% of all greenhouse gasses (GHGs), the Bayer-Monsanto’s of the world offer nothing more than profit-hungry proposals packaged into shameful “net zero” schemes. Instead of a very real, urgent and necessary reduction in emissions – whose main responsibility lies with the elites of historic emitters such as the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia – corporate false solutions provide a free pass to the dominant colonial core while leading a global assault on rural communities, livelihoods and territories. So-called “nature-based solutions” (NBS) such as REDD and REDD+, “soil carbon for offsetting” and other market-based trading schemes, and the corporate takeover of agriculture through patenting, “digitalization”, “sustainable intensification” and “climate-smart(ation)” are all big wins for agribusiness but terrible losses for peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, forest dwellers and others on the frontlines of the global climate crisis. And when the great hoax of “net zero” fails to calm the climate, transnational corporations promise extremely high-risk geoengineering will somehow save the day (or at least their profit margins). This has been the norm at Climate COP after Climate COP, and the 27th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP27) is unlikely to be any different.

Supposedly “Africa’s COP”, this year’s Climate COP is set to take place at the elitist and artificial enclave that is Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh. Far removed from the African and Arab People’s steadfast struggles for self-determination, COP27 is leaving very little room for organized communities to speak truth to corporate power. For this reason, among others, many of our sister organizations of the Africa Climate Justice Collective (ACJC) organized the African People’s Counter COP demanding real solutions rooted in climate justice, a prioritization of people and the planet, and an end to corporate control of the UNFCCC. These demands are in line with our hard-fought UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP):“States shall take all necessary measures to ensure that non-State actors that they are in a position to regulate, such as private individuals and organizations, and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, respect and strengthen the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas..(and)…take appropriate measures to ensure that peasants and other people working in rural areas enjoy, without discrimination, a safe, clean and healthy environment”.

It is precisely because of this context that La Vía Campesina will be at COP27. Delegates from member organizations will make their voices, traditions, experiences and solutions heard. We will continue to promote, practice and uplift Food Sovereignty as the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and the right to define our food and agricultural systems. We will explain once again that peasants through agroecological practices and territories cultivate more than 70% of the food produced worldwide on less than 30% of the arable lands available. We will emphasize that Agroecology is a sustainable path forward based on centuries of experience and accumulated real evidence – it is a  science, a social movement and a lifestyle practised by millions around the world through meaningful work, cooperation, strategy and organization. We will amplify and share UNDROP, an international legal instrument that we helped to create and that defends people’s rights over their territories, seeds, waters, forests and that promotes a more sustainable way of being and living. We will stand in Solidarity with all who struggle for collective rights and reiterate the need for “common but differentiated responsibilities” among States – including a vibrant Green Climate Fund free of any International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank (WB) influence, void of all neo-liberal impositions that serve only to further exploit people and the planet, and fully financed through climate reparations for the colonial legacies of the past and present. We stand in solidarity with and support those in the Climate Justice Movement demanding climate just reparations, not simple “climate finance”. Finally, we will be in COP27 continuing to expand our arms and shoulders building solidarity, action and common strategy with grassroots organizations, alliances and social movements from around the world fighting for climate and social justice.

While most national governments and multilateral institutions offer capitalist solutions that systematically fail to address the climate crisis,  we, the organized voice of over 200 million peasants, landless workers, indigenous people, pastoralists, fishers, migrant, farmworkers, small and medium-size farmers, rural women, peasant youth and gender-diverse persons of La Via Campesina, in convergence with a diversity of movements for Climate Justice, reiterate here and now our real solutions: FOOD SOVEREIGNTY COOLS THE PLANET ! We will build it with agroecology and peasants’ rights to ensure a Just Transition rooted in people’s power, ecological and social well being, and solidarity at the local, regional and international context. Together, in struggle, we will win!

Original Source: La Via Campesina

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#COP27: HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES URGE PARTIES TO INCREASE RECOGNITION AND PROTECTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND LAND DEFENDERS.

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Environmental and land defenders play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change, yet they’re often subjected to violence, harassment, intimidation, and criminalization for speaking out against land dispossession and climate abuses. Today, the climate justice and human rights organizations EarthRights International, Global Witness, Natural Justice, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), CIVICUS, and the International Land Coalition released a set of recommendations for policymakers attending the upcoming COP27 climate conference in Egypt, calling on them to take meaningful steps to protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and to enable diverse, safe, and effective participation of civil society observers during COPs.

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn that the world has an ever-narrowing window to avoid climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, Indigenous and frontline communities bear the brunt of the world’s climate change impacts and are increasingly threatened for speaking out against environmental abuses. Most of these threats relate to land conflicts involving climate-damaging industries – from deforestation by agribusinesses to mining, yet corporate accountability for such harms is lacking. Civil society and Indigenous peoples have also been raising concerns for years about access, participation, and freedom of assembly at UNFCCC meetings. COP27 in Egypt raises additional challenges because of the context of closed civic space in Egypt.

“States have been unable to offer environmental and land defenders the adequate level of protection and guarantees they need to safely exercise their role. Either it is apathy or incapacity, or the intervention of large power schemes, corruption, or organized crime, but States do not advance as needed in the defense of defenders’ rights. A higher recognition and incorporation by UNFCCC and COP27 of the role of defenders in facing the climate crisis is crucial to move States towards stronger protection schemes,” said Silvana Baldovino, SPDA’s Biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples Program Director.

According to Global Witness, on average, one land and environmental defender has been killed every two days since 2012. Civil society experts have also reported an uptick in efforts to criminalize defenders, enact legislation to prevent freedom of assembly, and deter activists with punitive lawsuits such as strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs). In September, EarthRights identified 134 cases in the past ten years in the U.S. in which the fossil fuel industry has used SLAPPs and related tactics against its critics.

“All over the world, Indigenous peoples, environmental activists, and other land and environmental defenders are working to address climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Shruti Suresh, Strategy Lead – Land and Environmental Defenders Campaign for Global Witness. “Yet they are under attack themselves facing violence, criminalization, and harassment, perpetuated by repressive governments and companies prioritizing profit over human and environmental rights. We urgently need to promote corporate and government accountability in defending the defenders and enable their participation in climate decision-making.”

These trends contradict recent international multilateral environmental agreements such as the Escazu Agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean, which came into force in 2021, and the Aarhus Convention in Europe, which recognize the role of environmental defenders in building a just transition and the need to protect them from further harm.

“The Escazu Agreement was the first treaty in the world to include specific obligations for the recognition and protection of environmental defenders,” said Natalia Gomez, EarthRights Climate Change Policy Advisor. “However, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change climate negotiations, there is very little recognition of the central role that environmental and human rights defenders play in the global response to the climate crisis. The upcoming COP27 is a historic opportunity for parties to enhance climate action by advancing the recognition and protection of environmental defenders. We cannot achieve climate justice without protecting those at the frontlines of the crisis.”

While reprisals against activists occur worldwide, experts who helped author the analysis agree that parts of Africa are particularly dangerous for environmental and human rights defenders.

“Environmental defenders in Africa have increasingly become the subject of reprisals linked to the increasing appetite for fossil fuels, unsustainable development projects, and conservation initiatives across the region,” said Eva Maria Okoth, Senior Program Officer for Natural Justice. According to Natural Justice’s 2021 report on the African Environmental Defenders Emergency Fund, the majority of environmental defenders who were supported by the Fund received multiple threats, including death threats, threats of being arrested, and/or threats of being attacked. The report further established that eviction is the second most prominent threat faced by applicants. Other common risks documented around the world include physical attacks, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits), judicial harassment, and emotional and sexual violence.”

Environmental and Land defenders in Africa face a myriad of challenges in their efforts to demand climate action, characterized by violence, repression, harassment, and criminalization,” added Audace Kubwimana, Africa Regional Coordinator of the International Land Coalition. “As the climate crisis deteriorates, so does the violence against those protecting our land and environment. Silencing dissenting movements endangers the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations and dampens the significant role played by defenders in the context of the climate crisis.”

“Environmental, land, and Indigenous rights defenders in Africa are among the communities that are most vulnerable to violence and harassment at the hands of their States. Such impunity continues unabated in many countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. States must ensure that environmental, land, and Indigenous defenders suffer no reprisals for legitimate activities to defend the rights of their communities,” said Dr. Paul Mulindwa, Civicus’ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for Africa.

“The reprisals faced by land and environmental defenders in the global south, coupled with the increasing threats of climate-induced loss and damage, is an egregious violation of their fundamental human rights and untimely their right to self-determination. It is paramount that defenders, Indigenous peoples, and frontline communities are protected, and their rights expanded and safeguarded from the preparators of reprisals and climate criminals who persistently put profit before people and the environment,” concluded Katherine Robinson, Head of Campaigns, Natural Justice.

Recommendations for Parties at COP27: 

  • Parties must recognize the link between the climate crisis and the growing violence and repression against land and environmental defenders and take meaningful steps to protect the role of defenders in promoting ambition and enhancing climate action.
  • Ensure a strong and effective Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) action plan by including the following activities:
    • Hold an ACE Dialogue on Environmental Human rights defenders, including Indigenous peoples and frontline communities, to identify the obstacles that defenders face when trying to exercise their rights to access information, public participation, and education.
    • Identify gaps preventing environmental defenders to exercise access to information and participation in climate action through consultation with Indigenous peoples and frontline communities, relevant UN offices, relevant civil society groups, and other key stakeholders.
    • Provide targeted recommendations for parties, inter-government bodies, and other relevant key stakeholders to take action to increase protection for defenders and enable them to exercise their rights to participate and contribute to decision-making related to climate and environmental matters.
  • Ensure that human rights experts, Indigenous peoples, environmental and human rights defenders, and representatives of frontline communities can participate in the technical dialogue and roundtables of the Global Stocktake and facilitate and lead some of the discussions.
  • Address the situation of environmental and land defenders during the Global Stocktake Technical Dialogue and roundtables. The outcomes of the Global Stocktake should offer specific guidance on how parties should increase their ambition to fulfill their human rights obligations. This should include guidelines to protect the rights of land and environmental defenders and guarantee their access to information, public participation, and consultation.
  • Governments wishing to host COPs should enable the exercise of rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly and guarantee safe participation by civil society and Indigenous representatives during COPs.

Read more here.

Source: Earth Rights

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