On last January 24-29, Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), whose delegation included leaders of CIDOB (Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia) (Bolivia), COAIB (Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin) and APIB (Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) (Brazil), CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon) (Ecuador) and OPIAC (Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon) (Colombia), took part in the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Many social organizations of the whole region took part in the Social Forum. They discussed and developed their respective thematic areas, such as health, education, food security, gender, environment, water, communication, and the subject of indigenous peoples. The whole process was directed toward providing solutions from the social movements and organizations for the promotion of new global policies and toward agreement on proposals for coordination and action in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, “Rio plus 20”, where governments of the whole world will participate in Rio de Janeiro in June of this year.
In particular, the Forum launched the Summit of People for Environmental and Social Justice, opposed to the mercantilization of life and nature and in defense of the common good. The Summit will take place in Rio de Janeiro within the framework of “Rio plus 20”. As Edwin Vásquez, Coordinator General of COICA, has said, “The United Nations Rio Summit in 1992 established the bases for sustainable development, but we have only seen huge constructions, mining and petroleum; twenty years later. In the “Rio plus 20″ Conference, we have to make sure that we do not repeat that.”
In the Thematic Social Forum, COICA coordinated its activities particularly with the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), made up of the different indigenous organizations in Brazil, including COIAB, a constituent member of COICA. They covered subjects such as indigenous territories, climate change, mega-projects and the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), etc.
For the COICA there were three definitive “moments”: The first was the inclusion of the Indigenous Movement for Abya Yala (Latin America) in the development of the thematic areas as part of the answer from civil society for the “Rio plus 20” Conference. COICA was in charge of coordinating the answers from the indigenous peoples that will be presented in the negotiations with governments in “Rio plus 20”. The framework of the Thematic Social Forum placed major emphasis on the demand that the new Green Economy that the governments are trying to push in “Rio plus 20” must show recognition of and respect for territories such as those of indigenous people and recognize their rights in international agreements and in some national constitutions.
The second definitive “moment” was reaching agreement on a common agenda with the organizations making up the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) relating to policies, strategies, preparation of documents and coordination in the Summit of the People and the organization of the Free Land Camp of Indigenous Peoples. That is where the work of planning for the “Rio plus 20” Conference will be done.
The third definitive “moment” was a meeting with three cooperating organizations: World Wildlife Fund (WWF), CARE International, and Initiative for Conservation of the Andean Amazon. That led to a cooperation agreement, both mid-range and long term, based on strategic proposals on three current subjects for COICA: climate change, protected areas and indigenous territories, and communication.
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the activities carried out by COICA and the other indigenous organizations present in the Social Forum in Porto Alegre make clear that there is hard work to be done. That is: carry out another series of meetings, finalize agreements and prepare documents for policy positions, and carry out other activities to strengthen the COICA proposals defending and promoting the collective rights of the Amazon peoples, so that they are made visible and integrated into the framework of the Thematic Social Forum. The goal is to be more effective in the official negotiations at the “Rio plus 20” Summit.
Preparations include an early meeting with regional indigenous organizations such as COICA and, for the Amazon Basin, Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples (CAOI) on February 23 and 24. The Representative of the United Nations permanent forum for Indigenous Peoples, Dr. Mirna Cunningham, will be present at a meeting to work out strategies for “Rio plus 20”. Later on, there will be two other meetings to prepare for the United Nations in New York. One will be on March 26-27 and the later meeting will be part of the annual meeting of the continuous loss of our lands, on May 7-18, 2012.
Author: Diego Escobar y Rodrigo De la Cruz
Location: Porto Alegre, Brazil
Date Published: February 6, 2012
Source: Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA)
Translated By: Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator