Press release | 07.08.2019

Indigenous leaders link rights violations with Amazon deforestation

Videos published ahead of Indigenous Peoples Day decry murders of indigenous leaders and call for the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on indigenous rights

Two indigenous leaders have spoken out on the connections between mega-projects in the Amazon basin and indigenous rights abuses, climate degradation and the assassination of indigenous activists. “Years have passed since the creation of Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, yet indigenous peoples and local communities are still being systematically eliminated as a result of large-scale natural resource extraction in the form of oil drilling, mining, agro-industry, hydroelectricity and deforestation,” explains Tuntiak Katan, vice president of COICA and coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities. Katan has appeared in a video message denouncing the killings of indigenous leaders along with a related message from Robinson López Descanse, vice president of the Climate Alliance's city network, calling for the protection of indigenous territories and the ratification of the ILO Convention 169 on indigenous rights.

“The protection of indigenous territories in the Amazon translates directly to rainforest protection and thus climate protection,” explains López, who himself has been the subject of death threats along with several of his colleagues. Especially in Brazil, President Bolsonaro’s plans to massively develop the Amazon rainforest including indigenous lands have triggered further encroachment and deforestation. In June 2019 alone, 769km² of rainforest was cleared in Brazil, an increase of 60 percent on June 2018. The July murder of indigenous leader Emyra Wajãpi in connection with Brazilian mining interests is the latest incident in what has proven to be a rising trend. In his video message, Katan describes how more than 80 indigenous leaders and environmental activists were killed in 2018 in Latin America alone. Both videos come just before the publication of an IPCC report on climate change and land, widely expected to highlight the role of forests in the fight against climate change.

Further information


Joint press release by Climate Alliance, Climate Alliance Austria, the Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA) and the Alianza Global de Comunidades Territoriales (AGCT).

Photo: Juliana Radler/ISA