Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’


Railroad Proposal 600 Indigenous Communities

China has submitted a proposal to build an east west railroad between Brazil’s Atlantic coast and Peru’s Pacific coast that would accelerate the movement of South American commodities to Asian markets.

The railroad, which is approved in Brazil and under review in Peru, is triggering apprehensions from the 600 Indigenous communities along its proposed path, including communities living in voluntary isolation. Projects in both countries have lost billions of dollars due to poor social risk management.

Large infrastructure projects are especially vulnerable because of their heavy footprints and perceived tendency to accelerate other forms of unwanted development. Yet key decisions are being made with zero input from communities, indicating that neither country has learned from past mistakes. The early stages of discussion are critical; beginning community engagement after decision making is almost guaranteed to dash chances of local support.

Sources: All Media NY, International Business Times


Country Risk Alert: Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

Indigenous Peoples in Brazil are protesting a bill that would transfer responsibility for demarcating Indigenous land from FUNAI (the government agency that manages Indigenous affairs) to Congress. Indigenous Peoples fear that this will make it harder for communities to secure land title and reduce the size of existing land title, as Congress is perceived to be more hostile to Indigenous interests than FUNAI.

This will also aggravate violent land conflicts that afflict many regions of the country, making it an even riskier business environment. A report by Global Witness found that more land defenders were murdered in Brazil than in any other country in 2014, and that 40 percent of the victims were Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: Survival International, Rainforest Foundation


Awa Victory Short-Lived

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Less than a year after Brazilian soldiers evicted all non-Awa settlers from an Awa reservation in Maranhao, illegal loggers have resumed their activities in the region. The evictions were mandated by the government in response to a campaign led by Survival International, and were hailed as a success. But as soon as the headlines died down, so did the government’s attention to the issue. The forces of supply and demand have driven illegal loggers back into Awa lands, and the likelihood of violence may be stronger than ever. This is why activist campaigns must be supplemented with market reforms that attenuate financing for business activities that violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Brazil's military has moved in to stop illegal logging around the land of Earth's most threatened tribe. [photo credit: Courtesy Exército Brasileiro/Survival International]

Brazil’s military has moved in to stop illegal logging around the land of Earth’s most threatened tribe. [photo credit: Courtesy Exército Brasileiro/Survival International]

Sources: Indian Country Today, Indian Country Today, The Independent

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


RepRisk Reports on Indigenous Peoples

In September 2014, RepRisk published a report on “the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks businesses face in their encounters with Indigenous communities.” The report identified the sectors and countries that are most exposed to these risks, based on the RepRisk Index, which is a “quantitative risk measure that captures criticism and quantifies risk exposure related to ESG issues. It is based on the number and frequency of the risk incidents captured by RepRisk, the severity and novelty of the criticism or incident, as well as the source of the news.” RepRisk identified the most exposed sectors as food and beverage, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and utilities, and the most exposed countries as Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and the Philippines. Additionally, the report includes six case studies that “analyze the effects of hydropower in Brazil, tar sands in Canada, forestry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mining in Guatemala, palm oil in Indonesia, and transgenic crop production in Paraguay.”

Sources: RepRisk

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Indigenous Peoples Protest the World Cup

Indigenous Peoples in Brazil successfully harnessed the publicity generated from the World Cup to bring international attention to their plight. Demonstrations were held to protest the government’s lavish spending on stadiums, while reducing funding for Indigenous Peoples and other social services.page1image16816 page1image16976 page1image17136 page1image17296

Indigenous leaders toured European cities to bring attention to policies that “threaten the land rights of Indigenous groups and the health of the whole Amazon.” Meanwhile, twenty Indians were shot with rubber bullets and stun grenades at the Belo Monte Dam – one of Brazil’s most controversial projects – weeks before the tournament began. The World Cup’s corporate sponsors, which included Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, were criticized for their lack of engagement on these issues.

When associating with countries that do not respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights, companies expose themselves to reputational damage. When Indigenous Peoples use globalized media outlets to bring local and national issues to the international forefront, they tap into ever growing networks of information channels that include a focus on Indigenous issues, all of which are fueled by the global movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Sources: The Guardian, RT News, Eco-Business, The Ecologist


Settlers Evicted From Awa Reservation

In January 2014, in response to international pressures to protect the land rights of the Awa (considered “earth’s most threatened tribe” by Survival International), a Brazilian court ordered all non-Awa settlers to vacate an Awa reservation in the northeastern state of Maranhao.  The settlers (most of whom are farmers, loggers, and ranchers) were given forty days to leave the reservation, and those that refused are being evicted by force.

Although this situation is being hailed as a victory for the Awa, the Brazilian government’s actions could endanger them by inciting retaliation from the settlers, some of whom have lived in the area for decades prior to the reservation’s establishment.  There are no reports of violence in Maranhao yet, although one settler was arrested for refusing to leave her home.  In the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, a similar situation ignited bitter conflicts in which scores of Guarani Indians were murdered.  Government approaches to Indigenous land rights are often not suited for successful partnerships with external entities, highlighting the importance of companies and communities working directly together to identify and work towards their mutual interests.

Sources: Indian Country Today, The Independent


Upcoming Chico Vive Conference: The Legacy of Chico Mendes and the Global Grassroots Environmental Movement

Reposted from Cultural Survival



Celebrating the legacy of Chico Mendes and the courage of thousands of present-day grassroots activists who follow in his footsteps.

April 4-6, 2014
School of International Service
American University, Washington, D.C.

Meet activists and experts from around the world to discuss and debate global environmental issues that affect all of us.

Brazilian environmental martyr and rural union leader Chico Mendes was killed in 1988. In the past 25 years grassroots activists in many places have mobilized to protect the environment and their communities from destruction. Every month someone like Chico Mendes is killed somewhere in the world as a result of nonviolent advocacy.

Activists and experts will meet at the Chico Vive conference to talk about Mendes’ legacy and their own efforts on the front lines of sustainability. The agenda will include keynote speakers from Brazil and the United States; grassroots panelists from Indonesia, Guatemala, and other countries; cultural performances; and a mini-film festival of documentaries about Chico Mendes and today’s grassroots environmental movements.

For more information contact or, or call 301-270-3003. To pre-register for the conference go to

The Chico Vive conference is cosponsored and funded by 20 nonprofit organizations, and foundations and other donors, including Cultural Survival:
American University Global Environmental Politics program (host), Action Aid, AIUSA Group 297, Amazon Watch, AU Center for Environmental Filmmaking, AU International Development Program Student Association, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Cultural Survival, EcoSense, Ford Foundation, Forest Peoples Programme, Georgetown University Environmental Law Society, Global Witness, Greenpeace, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Oxfam America, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation, University of Maryland Latin American Studies Center, and International Labor Rights Forum.

– See more at:


The Cost of Ignoring FPIC – Chile and Brazil

In November 2013, two more mining projects were shut down by the courts in South America.  A Chilean court, less than one month after lifting its 18-month suspension of El Morro (owned by Goldcorp [TSE:G] and New Gold [NYSEMKT:NGD]), accepted an appeal from Diaguita communities and refroze the project.  The appeal negated the court’s earlier claim that the communities were sufficiently consulted about the project.

Meanwhile, a Brazilian court ruled against the issuance of an environmental permit to Belo Sun’s (TSE:BSX) proposed Volta Grande Project in the Brazilian Amazon, because it violated the country’s legal obligations to Indigenous Peoples under ILO Convention 169.  Belo Sun reported that it will “take all applicable legal measures to appeal the decision…and defend the validity and legality of the licensing process”, but did not mention intentions to strengthen its relationship with affected Indigenous communities.  The proposed location of the Volta Grande Project is downstream from the Belo Monte Dam, and the court’s decision could have been prompted by concerns about the cumulative negative impacts of the two projects.

Sources: Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources, The Star


Brazilian Policies Instigate Conflicts

Conflicts between Indigenous Peoples and the industrial agriculture industry in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul escalated last month, and federal security forces were deployed to defuse the situation.  The conflicts are rooted in the government’s ambiguous approach to Indigenous land rights.  In 2010, the government promised a parcel of land to the Terena Indians in 2010.  Fulfillment of this promise was postponed numerous times due to legal challenges from farmers and ranchers whose holdings overlapped with the Terena’s land claims.  Frustrated with the delay, the Terena took matters into their own hands and began to occupy the land in May 2013.  Police attempts to evict the protestors quickly turned violent, resulting in the death of a community leader and several injuries.  The Terena continued their occupation, while Guarani and Kaingang Indians, who are also waiting to return to land promised to them by the government, blockaded highways and invaded local government offices.  In June 2013, another community leader was reportedly killed.

Rather than effectively balancing economic development and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, the government’s approach to Indigenous land rights is characterized by conflicting laws, broken promises, and muddled legal battles that leave both sides uncertain about the future of their holdings.  The solution to the conflicts in Mato Grosso do Sul lies in companies and communities working directly together to establish methods of development that align with the interests of both.

Sources: The Economist, Indian Country Today, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources




In September, 2012, Oxfam America held a panel in Washington, D.C. to discuss its new Community Consent Index report, which outlines the community rights policies of 28 major oil, gas and mining companies. The report emphasizes the importance of acquiring Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous communities before any commercial activity is undertaken on their lands. Each member of the panel, which included the president of Oxfam America, Ray Offenheiser, as well as representatives from the extractive industry and socially responsible investment organizations, spoke at length on the critical importance of community engagement, participation, and partnership to corporations seeking to operate in Indigenous territories. Dr. Chris Anderson, the Americas Director for Communities & Social Performance at Rio Tinto Limited, a mining company, commented on why his and other companies are so interested in following FPIC guidelines. “I think the simple answer is we don’t have any business otherwise,” he said.

There was only one thing wrong with this panel on including Indigenous people in the making of decisions that affect them—there were no Indigenous people on it.

A number of Indigenous-led organizations are headquartered in Washington, D.C.—the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, for example, are only blocks from where the panel was held—yet none of them were invited to participate.

To be clear, Oxfam America means well, as do the scores of other NGOs that advocate for Indigenous Peoples. Working together with them, Indigenous groups have accomplished a great deal. But FPIC does not apply only to corporate operations – it must begin with the inclusion of Indigenous stakeholders in the reporting and standard-setting efforts that advocate for Indigenous rights and inform the behavior of entire industries.  It is crucial that Indigenous perspectives be represented in every conversation, including those among Indigenous advocates, that may have an impact on Indigenous issues.

Unfortunately, many pro-Indigenous but non-Indigenous organizations fail to recognize that the advancement of Indigenous Peoples begins with the principle of self-determination. Benefits that are simply handed down by outsiders cannot truly address the issues Indigenous communities are facing. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that there is no single “Indigenous community,” and every group, given its distinct circumstances, must decide for itself what it needs.

Chief Tashka Yawanawa of the Yawanawa tribe in Brazil, in an open letter to the non-Indigenous NGOs engaged in a debate about conservation’s impact on Indigenous Peoples, said, “We are tired of anthropologists, environmentalists, church-related organizations and other specialists speaking for us and using us for their self-interest. Please respect our self-determination to make our own decisions.”

Excluding Indigenous voices in policymaking is misguided and counterproductive, but there is a deeper problem here of how Indigenous Peoples are perceived. The exclusion of Indigenous participants from the Oxfam America panel, for example, is symptomatic of a dangerous assumption—that the people meant to benefit from such discussions are not themselves qualified to discuss the issues that impact their communities. Nothing is more crucial to our survival than the protection of our rights, yet we are often told that we are not competent enough to decide what those rights are or how to use them.

This brings us back to the principle of self-determination. To assume that we are not capable of directing the change we need, that we are not in fact essential in the process of addressing the problems of the entire planet, contradicts the very premise of FPIC in the first place. Corporations and NGOs around the world are seeking the consent and cooperation of Indigenous Peoples precisely because they have demonstrated vast capacity and knowledge in retaining control of their lands and their way of life. Any organization seeking FPIC in earnest should have no qualms about including the input of Indigenous Peoples in project development—in fact, they will see it as an invaluable asset.

Indigenous Peoples can and should be equal partners in commercial efforts, and we should benefit from them more than anyone else when they are undertaken on our lands. In order for this to be possible, we must secure and protect our right to self-determination, not just in the eyes of industry leaders, but in the eyes of NGOs and other advocacy organizations as well.