November 21, 2018
The Xingu River flows near the area
the Belo Monte dam complex is under construction
Amazon basin on June 15, 2012 near Altamira, Brazil.
controversial project is opposed by many
environmentalists and indigenous groups.
Mario Tama/Getty Images)
"We have come
from the forest
and we worry
about what is
Alarmed by rampant
destruction in the Amazon rainforest and the long-term impacts on
biodiversity, an alliance of indigenous communities pitched the
creation of the world's largest protected area, which would reach
from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, at a
United Nations conference in Egypt
"We have come from
the forest and we worry about what is happening," declared
Tuntiak Katan, vice-president of COICA, the alliance.
"This space is the
world's last great sanctuary for biodiversity. It is there
because we are there. Other places have been destroyed."
COICA, which represents about 500
groups across nine countries and is seeking government-level
representation at the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity, aims
to safeguard a,
"sacred corridor of
life and culture" about the size of Mexico.
The alliance hopes to implement an "ambitious" post-2020 regional
plan to protect biodiversity in the Andes-Amazon-Atlantic or
corridor from agribusiness, mining, and the global
climate crisis, but they are also concerned about territorial
rights, as they don't recognize modern national borders created by
The Andes, Amazon, Atlantic Corridor Project
communities are guardians of life for all humanity, but they are
in danger for protecting their forest," Katan said. "We are
integrated with nature - it runs through our lives and we need
rights to defend it."
While fighting for the
right to defend the forest from development and the impacts of
global warming, the indigenous groups said they welcome
opportunities for collaboration.
Although Colombia had crafted a similar triple-A plan that was set
to be unveiled at next month's climate talks, as the Guardian noted,
"the election of new rightwing leaders in Colombia and Brazil has
thrown into doubt what would have been a major contribution by South
American nations to reduce emissions."
Outlining recent shifts in regional politics, the newspaper
proposal was smaller and focused only on biodiversity and
climate. But government enthusiasm has waned since an election
in June in which the rightwing populist Iván Duque took power.
Brazil was more
skeptical but had previously engaged in
ministerial-level talks on the corridor-plan. Its opposition is
likely to grow under its new rightwing president, Jair Bolsonaro,
who will take power in January.
indicated he would only stay in the Paris climate agreement if he
had guarantees ensuring Brazilian sovereignty over indigenous land
and the "triple-A" region.
Bolsonaro's comments about environmental and indigenous issues on
the campaign trail,
because they nurture a disturbing tendency in different parts of
where almost three-fourths of environmental defenders
assassinated in 2017 were indigenous leaders
where opposing agro-industry is the main cause for assassination of our leaders
where imposing projects on to communities without
their free, prior, and informed consent,
...is at the root of all
attacks to indigenous and community leaders," said Juan Carlos Jintiach of COICA.
"Likewise, we see that it is increasingly frequent for
indigenous peoples and communities to face costly and difficult
processes to legalize their lands, while corporations obtain
licenses with ease," Jintiach noted, calling on Bolsonaro to
obey all laws and ensure the rights and safety of the people of
Despite the changes to
the local political climate, Katan vowed the indigenous communities
will keep working to play a key role in protecting the forest.
"We know the
governments will try to go over our heads," he said. "This is
nothing new for us. We have faced challenges for hundreds of
"Indigenous peoples and local communities are a solution to the
devastation of our ecosystems and climate change both in the
Amazon as well as in the rest of the world," Katan added in a
"But whether policies
addressed at mitigating climate change and promoting the
restoration of rainforests succeed, depends on the security of
having possession of community lands."