Indigenous Resistance Day 2020: Peru to Make Pivotal Vote on Forest Defenders

October 9, 2020

Vote is on agreement that protects the rights of and protects the lives of indigenous peoples who are opposing degradation of their lands and waterways

It is likely that on this upcoming Monday Oct 12 – Indigenous Peoples Day – that the Peruvian congress will make a critical vote whether to ratify an agreement that protects the rights of and protects the lives of indigenous peoples who are opposing degradation of their lands and waterways.  

Known as the Escazú Agreement, its objective is to reinforce the implementation of the tenth principle of the Rio Declaration related to the right of people to participate in decisions that affect their environment and quality of life.  This is a commitment made by Peru in 1992.

With the ratification of Argentina last September, the Escazú Agreement is one step away from becoming a reality.

Since 2012, more than two-thirds of murders of environmental defenders have taken place in Latin America, making it the most violent region on the planet (Global Witness Report 2020).  More than half (56%) were against members of ethnic minorities.  In 2019, 90% of the murders in Brazil occurred in the Amazon. 

For the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, the ratification of this agreement constitutes a vitally important step that not only recognizes their permanent struggle in the defense and protection of the Amazon forests and basins, but also establishes a specific regulatory framework that legally supports their safety.

The murders of environmental and human rights defenders are mainly linked to mining, agribusiness, logging, oil extraction (Global Witness 2020). The pandemic and the consequent sanitary emergency have exposed the abandonment of indigenous peoples by governments by most countries in the Amazon Basin.  Peru is not the exception. 

The lack of medical facilities, personnel and supplies has not only resulted in the death of dozens of indigenous leaders due to COVID-19, but also in state violence that resulted in the death of 3 indigenous people and 10 injured by the brutal police response to indigenous interventions in the oil Block 95 in September.

The Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) are issuing an urgent call for the ratification of the agreement in order to guarantee the safety of indigenous peoples in a situation of isolation and initial contact (PIACI) in the Peruvian Amazon. These peoples are particularly vulnerable to the negative impact generated by the extractive activities, legal and illegal, in the territories where they live. In this context, the non-ratification of the Escazú Agreement, adds to the delay and obstruction of the approval of the modification of Law 28736 that seeks to guarantee the right to life of these peoples.

In a letter sent to Congress on October 9th., Lizardo Cauper, President of AIDESEP expresses in this letter: “to deny the ratification of the Escazú Agreement is to contribute to the systematic threat that the PIACIs face in all the Amazon region from the conquest to the present. Let us not forget that these peoples are the living expression of indigenous resistance and resilience, living testimony of a lineage that has resisted colonization and that endures in its struggle to preserve its ancestral knowledge in harmony with the forests of the Amazon.”

AIDESEP’s President underscores the importance: “The ratification of the Escazú Agreement as an instrument that has the potential to change the history of Peru, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  Peru can have a leadership role in respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and the fight against climate change.”

We urge the Congress of the Republic of Peru to ratify this indispensable agreement. We will remain vigilant, trusting that you will act in favor of the most vulnerable populations and the rights of nature.  October 12th. can be the start of a new chapter in Peru’s history and this Congress is the protagonist.