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News articles on indigenous rights
Mongabay.com news articles on indigenous rights in blog format. Updated regularly.
‘Criminalization’ of local people in Indonesian province rife amid oil palm, coal booms
(07/01/2015) A coalition of local NGOs in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province is campaigning for an end to the criminalization of residents who oppose plantation and mining projects on their land. The issue was a theme in the government's recently concluded national inquiry into land conflicts affecting indigenous peoples, and last week President Joko Widodo promised to secure the release of indigenous citizens who had been criminalized.
NGOs, activists fret new role for Indonesia's spy agency
(06/29/2015) A mysterious new partnership between Indonesia's spy agency and Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) to boost foreign investment has civil society wary of deepening agrarian conflict in the post-authoritarian country. While little is known about the specifics of the new arrangement, activists point to Indonesia's long history of repression by state security forces to warn that intelligence reports on local sentiment could be manipulated to stymie community opposition to development projects.
Indonesian president pledges to accelerate long-delayed indigenous rights law
(06/26/2015) Indonesian President Joko Widodo reiterated his commitments yesterday to a number of indigenous rights issues at a meeting in Jakarta with the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). He promised to make passing a long-delayed law on indigenous peoples rights a priority; acknowledged the importance of setting up a task force for indigenous issues; agreed to the release, in principle, of indigenous citizens who have been "criminalized," or unfairly prosecuted by the law; and pledged to encourage economic development based on indigenous models as a counterweight to big business.
Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia
(06/24/2015) In one of the great tragedies of our age, indigenous traditions, stories, cultures and knowledge are winking out across the world. Whole languages and mythologies are vanishing, and in some cases even entire indigenous groups are falling into extinction. This is what makes the news that a tribe in the Amazon have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine all the more remarkable.
Indigenous Indonesians file land claim against IndoMet coal project
(06/24/2015) A few months before BHP Billiton’s Haju mine is set to begin operations in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, residents of nearby Maruwei village have filed a claim for 1,000 hectares of land in the area under a new land rights scheme for indigenous peoples. The scheme, called Dayak Misik and introduced by the provincial government last year, allocates 10 hectares to each village for communal use and five hectares to each household.
Director-generals inaugurated as merger of Indonesian Environment, Forestry Ministries continues
(06/02/2015) Indonesia's newly merged Environment and Forestry Ministry completed a major step in its restructuring last week with the inauguration of 13 director-generals, with important implications for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's agendas on climate change, land reform and more. Notable appointments include Climate Change Oversight Director-General Nur Masripatin, Environmental and Forestry Spatial Planning Director-General San Afri Awang and Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships Director-General Hadi Daryanto.
'Green' hydropower dam fuels charges of gross human rights violations
(05/27/2015) A hydropower project planned on Guatemala's Icbolay River has resulted in major human rights abuses, advocacy groups are charging. The 24-megawatt Santa Rita dam is backed by the World Bank and several European banks, as well as the Guatemalan government. In spite of the alleged abuses, the dam's owner has been granted approval to earn carbon offset credits for the electricity the dam would generate that could be traded under the European Union's Emission Trading System.
Mining and Energy Contracts under Investigation as Corruption Scandals Rock Guatemala
(05/22/2015) The Guatemalan cabinet ministers for the environment, the interior, and energy and mines stepped down May 21 amid corruption scandals and massive protests. Investigations into alleged irregularities in mining, energy, and other environmental project contracts and permits have been thrust back into the spotlight. Mining and energy projects in the country have faced intense community resistance, which has often become the target of crackdowns by state and corporate security forces.
Red tape or repression? NGOs fight for a place in the new Bolivia they helped Evo Morales create
(05/22/2015) For much of Bolivian history, environmental and human rights NGOs joined indigenous communities and the poor in an uphill battle against the entrenched old guard. Under the country's first indigenous president, these organizations face unexpected challenges.
Nickel Mine, Lead Bullets: Maya Q'eqchi' seek justice in Guatemala and Canada
(05/19/2015) This week, indigenous victims of violence related to Guatemala's Fenix mine travel to Canada to speak outside the shareholder meeting of the mine's former owner, HudBay. Legal proceedings related to the violence are moving forward in Guatemala and Canada.
Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year
(04/20/2015) The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed.
Featured video: 'A river in dispute' documentary explores how a planned dam in the Amazon is affecting traditional communities
(04/15/2015) Under the threat of losing their lands to a hydroelectric power plant project strategic to the Brazilian government, communities along the Tapajós River, one of the most pristine in Brazil, prepare to defend what is theirs. A video documentary tells their story.
Kaiduan dam in Borneo meets fierce opposition
(04/06/2015) Activists are calling on the government of Sabah, Malaysia, to reconsider the proposed Kaiduan dam, saying it has not considered other solutions to Sabah's looming water crisis and has failed to consult with the indigenous people who will be displaced if the project proceeds.
Common ground: balancing rights and responsibilities for natural resource investments and community development
(04/03/2015) Given globalization and rising demands for energy and raw natural resources, extractive industries and their investors deepen the search to the last reaches of the planet for fuel and material. Despite rapid urbanization, millions of people in remote and underserved regions from Colombia to Zambia increasingly come into contact if not conflict with mining, timber or agribusiness interests every day.
Indonesia's indigenous people still suffer human rights violations, says report
(03/18/2015) Indonesia's indigenous population has suffered a long history of human rights violations says a report to be released by the country's National Commission on Human Rights in May.
Bushmeat's dual role: threatened species face off against nutrition and culture
(03/05/2015) Deforestation, habitat destruction, climate change, and other man-made forces are threatening species around the world. But, often overlooked, overhunting is a rising peril to many animals. On the other hand, bushmeat hunting also helps provide vital protein in rural tropical regions and is an important cultural rite for many indigenous tribes. Thus, there is a dual challenge of maintaining food security for forest-dependent populations and ensuring wildlife conservation.
Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam
(02/25/2015) On Monday, Cambodia deported well-known environmental activist, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, back to his native Spain. Co-founder of the Cambodian NGO, Mother Nature, Gonzalez-Davidson played a vital role in blocking efforts to build the Cheay Areng Dam. But a day after deporting the activist, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said the country would postpone the dam until 2018.
Partnering for conservation benefits Tacana people, Bolivian park
(02/25/2015) Kneeling in a small clearing amid tropical trees, Baldemar Mazaro skillfully arranges a circle of sticks and a noose of cord in the community of San Miguel de Bala. He hands a branch to a tourist and asks her to prod the sticks as if the branch were the nose of an animal snuffling around, looking for food.
Dams or indigenous land: the battle over the Munduruku frontier
(02/20/2015) The Munduruku indigenous tribe have begun to mark out the limits of their land, in an action that could halt the giant São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the apple of the Brazilian government's eye. Although sacred, this land will be flooded if the dam goes ahead. 'We are not leaving,' says the village chief.
Exclusive: Funai confirms that land threatened by dam projects belongs to indigenous tribe
(02/19/2015) The Brazilian government opposes granting traditional land to the Munduruku people since it would jeopardize seven proposed hydroelectric dams on the Tapajós River. For this reason, a year-old report by Funai that supports the Munduruku claim has not been officially published, but a copy of this report was obtained by the Brazilian publication Publica.
Brazilian indigenous populations grow quickly after first contact devastation
(02/18/2015) Indigenous communities in South America have long experienced devastating impacts from contact with Western society. In the Sixteenth Century, European colonists brought slavery, war, and violence, but disease proved the most devastating. In all, European contact destroyed over 95 percent of the native population.
Arctic upheaval: new book outlines challenges at the top of the world
(02/16/2015) For most of us, the Arctic is not at the front of our minds. We view it as cold, stark, and, most importantly, distant. Yet, even in an age of vast ecological upheaval, one could argue that no biome in the world is changing so rapidly or so irrevocably. Two hundred plus years of burning fossil fuels has warmed up the top of our planet more quickly than anywhere else.
How do parks affect the poor? Jury’s still out, some experts say
(02/13/2015) In Peru’s vast northeastern region, where roads are scarce and forests abundant, crackdowns on the illegal plundering of timber, fish, and wildlife are sporadic and expensive. To fill the gap, the Peruvian National Park Service and non-profit conservation organizations encourage community groups to patrol their lakes and forests and control fishing and hunting.
Innovating Brazil nuts: a business with roots in the rainforest
(02/11/2015) Scientist and entrepreneur turn to Brazil nuts to protect Peru's threatened forests. Sofía Rubio was eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a biologist. 'I would skip school to go to the woods with my father or mother,' who did research in what is now the Tambopata National Reserve in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon, she says.
Video: innovative tourism helps protect forests in Amazonian Peru
(02/05/2015) A new short documentary highlights the innovative, locally-grown tourist ventures sprouting up in the buffer zone around Peru's Tambopata National Reserve. Not only do these tourist adventures--some specializing in rehabilitating wildlife, others in finding out how locals live, and some even in jungle yoga--help provide jobs and income in a region dominated by extractive industries, but they are also help to keep forests standing.
World Bank's forest carbon program falls short on indigenous peoples' rights, argues report
(02/05/2015) Countries poised to receive World Bank funds for achieving reductions in deforestation have insufficient safeguards for ensuring that local communities don't lose out in the rush to score money from the forest carbon market, argues a new report published by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Community tourism fills niche around Tambopata National Reserve
(01/29/2015) When Víctor Zambrano retired from the military and returned to his family’s old homestead outside the fast-growing jungle town of Puerto Maldonado in Peru, he got an unpleasant surprise. Strangers had moved in and cleared the trees to raise cattle. As Zambrano tells it, he ran up the Peruvian flag, chased the invaders off, and set to work planting 19,000 native tree seedlings.
Video: camera trap catches jaguar hunting peccaries
(01/26/2015) Catching a jaguar on a remote camera trap in the Amazon is a rare, happy sight. But catching a jaguar attempting to ambush a herd of peccaries is quite simply astonishing.
Indigenous territories play dual role as homelands and protected areas
(01/22/2015) Indigenous communities claim—and scientific evidence increasingly shows—that indigenous forested territories are as well protected as, or better protected than, government-designated parks. In areas under pressure from roads or development projects, deforestation rates are sometimes even lower in indigenous territories than in official protected areas.
Environmental wisdom: keeping indigenous stories alive
(01/21/2015) Enchanted lakes and magic hills: how traditional stories support conservation and abundance. 'Long ago, when animals were gente...' Those words, uttered countless times by indigenous Amazonian storytellers, blur the boundary between humans and other creatures in the forests and rivers, revealing a different view of the way human and non-human worlds intertwine.
A model forest? Regional park balances local needs and conservation
(01/21/2015) Regional conservation area safeguards subsistence and spirituality in the Peruvian Amazon. For Alfredo Rojas, the history of the remote villages along the Ampiyacu River is one of enslavement. Growing up here, Rojas listened to his parents tell stories of the rubber barons who beat and killed the Indians who failed to meet their latex quota.
Conservation conflicting with local ways of life in Mexican reserve
(12/23/2014) Although conservation has good intentions, it can give rise to conflicts when the interests of conservationists put local peoples’ livelihoods at stake. A recent study has uncovered an unhappy symbiosis between Mayan subsistence hunters and authorities in Yucatán, Mexico. A lack of understanding and communication about hunting regulations are forcing Mayan hunter societies to alter their traditional ways of living.
Conservation and the rights of indigenous communities
(12/12/2014) Many conservationists have long supported local communities and indigenous peoples seeking recognition of their rights to land and natural resources. In addition to being the right thing to do, supporting these local initiatives in land and seascapes across the globe helps strengthen the constituency for conserving healthy wildlife populations, habitats, and natural ecosystems.
Indigenous communities 'among the very few best protectors' of Peruvian Amazon
(12/12/2014) A new report examines the effects of timber harvesting, gold mining, agriculture, and oil and natural gas drilling that have been on the rise recently in the Peruvian Amazon, and states that ensuring indigenous land rights is a key tool in the fight to protect it.
New film highlights local resistance to Nicaragua's canal
(12/11/2014) This fall, filmmakers Tom Miller and Nuin-Tara Key with Pretty Good Productions found themselves in Nicaragua where they heard about a stunning project: the Gran Canal. Approved last year, the canal is meant to compete with the Panama Canal to the south. Built by a Chinese company, it will cut through 278 kilometers, destroying forests and driving through the largest freshwater body in Central America.
Deforestation puts cultural survival of forest-dependent peoples at risk
(12/10/2014) Forest-dependent peoples face grave threats from deforestation and other depredations, warns a new report that urges greater recognition of traditional land use and support of community-led initiatives to fight forest loss. The report, published Monday during climate talks in Lima, is based on research by dozens of indigenous and forest communities from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Is the Gran Canal really a 'big Christmas present' for Nicaraguans?
(12/04/2014) "A big Christmas present"—that is how Paul Oquist, an advisor to Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, described the country's plan to build a mega-canal across the nation. Preliminary construction on the canal is set to begin December 24th, despite major concerns over environmental destruction, forced removal of thousands of people, and a lack of transparency.
A tale of 2 Perus: Climate Summit host, 57 murdered environmentalists
(11/18/2014) On September 1st, indigenous activist, Edwin Chota, and three other indigenous leaders were gunned down and their bodies thrown into rivers. Chota, an internationally-known leader of the Asháninka in Peru, had warned several times that his life was on the line for his vocal stance against the destruction of his peoples' forests, yet the Peruvian government did nothing to protect him—or others.
An end to unjust conservation? (commentary)
(11/16/2014) In September 2014, events took place in three different parts of the world, which together highlight the multifaceted relationship between human rights and conservation. First, in New York, the UN General Assembly adopted the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous uprising earned tribe territories, but greatest challenges lie ahead
(11/06/2014) In 1925, Nele Kantule led a revolution that would make Guna Yala an independent and sovereign indigenous territory within Panama. Since then, the Guna have maintained a way of life that has allowed them to preserve their natural resources and mainland forest to an exceptional degree. But today, like many indigenous groups around the world, the Guna face some of their greatest challenges yet: the impacts of climate change, encroaching outside influences, and a younger generation that many elders feel is drifting from its roots.
Brazilian tribes demarcate territory in bid to block dams
(11/06/2014) Indigenous communities in Brazil have taken the unusual step of demarcating their own land — without the approval of the Brazilian government — in a bid to block two dams they say threaten their territory and traditional livelihoods, report International Rivers and Amazon Watch, advocacy groups that are fighting the projects. Last week the Munduruku people annexed the 178,000-hectare Sawré Muybu territory after authorities failed to recognize their claims.
Between the Forest and the Sea: The Yarsuisuit Collective - Part II
(10/31/2014) In this multimedia piece by SRI fellow Bear Guerra, we follow Andrés de León and the Yarsuisuit collective, a group of men who grow and harvest food sustainably in the Guna mainland forest. They also run a store on the island of Ustupu that helps support their families, serving as a model for the wider community.
Between the forest and the sea: life and climate change in Guna Yala - Part I
(10/27/2014) The island-dwelling Guna people of Panama are one of the most sovereign indigenous communities in the world, but now severe weather and sea level rise are causing regular flooding on many of the islands, and will likely force the Guna to have to abandon their island homes for the mainland. This multimedia piece offers an introduction to everyday life and customs in Guna Yala and touches upon the uncertain future the Guna are now facing thanks to the impacts of climate change.
Scientific association calls on Nicaragua to scrap its Gran Canal
(10/27/2014) ATBC—the world's largest association of tropical biologists and conservationists—has advised Nicaragua to halt its ambitious plan to build a massive canal across the country. The ATBC warns that the Chinese-backed canal, also known as the Gran Canal, will have devastating impacts on Nicaragua's water security, its forests and wildlife, and local people.
Top scientists raise concerns over commercial logging on Woodlark Island
(10/21/2014) A number of the world's top conservation scientists have raised concerns about plans for commercial logging on Woodlark Island, a hugely biodiverse rainforest island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The scientists, with the Alliance of Leading Environmental Scientists and Thinkers (ALERT), warn that commercial logging on the island could imperil the island's stunning local species and its indigenous people.
An impossible balancing act? Forests benefit from isolation, but at cost to local communities
(10/07/2014) The indigenous people of the Amazon live in areas that house many of the Amazon’s diverse species. The Rupununi region of Guyana is one such area, with approximately 20,000 Makushi and Wapishana people living in isolation. According to a recent study published in Environmental Modelling & Software, a simulation model revealed a link between growing indigenous populations and gradual local resource depletion.
Turning point for Peru's forests? Norway and Germany put muscle and money behind ambitious agreement
(09/24/2014) From the Andes to the Amazon, Peru houses some of the world's most spectacular forests. Proud and culturally-diverse indigenous tribes inhabit the interiors of the Peruvian Amazon, including some that have chosen little contact with the outside world. And even as scientists have identified tens-of-thousands of species that make their homes from the leaf litter to the canopy.
Extinction island? Plans to log half an island could endanger over 40 species
(09/22/2014) Woodlark Island is a rare place on the planet today. This small island off the coast Papua New Guinea is still covered in rich tropical forest, an ecosystem shared for thousands of years between tribal peoples and a plethora of species, including at least 42 found no-where else. Yet, like many such wildernesses, Woodlark Island is now facing major changes: not the least of them is a plan to log half of the island.
Legislation protecting Indonesia's indigenous communities is not good enough, says advocacy group
(09/18/2014) Approaching final legalization, an advocacy group for Indonesia’s indigenous communities has asked to postpone passing a bill granting protections to indigenous people, stating some demands still need to be addressed.
The cheap option on climate change: recognize indigenous rights to forests
(09/18/2014) Since 2008, governments have invested $1.64 billion in funds to kick-start REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, the global effort to conserve the world's forests in order to better mitigate climate change. However, a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that same amount of money could have secured the legal rights of indigenous and local people to 450 million hectares of forest, an area 40 percent larger than India.
'The green Amazon is red with indigenous blood': authorities pull bodies from river that may have belonged to slain leaders
(09/17/2014) Peruvian authorities have pulled more human remains from a remote river in the Amazon, which may belong to one of the four murdered Ashaninka natives killed on September 1st. It is believed the four Ashaninka men, including renowned leader Edwin Chota Valera, were assassinated for speaking up against illegal logging on their traditional lands.
REDD+ versus indigenous people? Why a tribe in Panama rejected pay for their carbon-rich forests
(09/04/2014) There isn’t a word or phrase in the Kuna language for "carbon trading,” and much less for something as complex as REDD+. Standing for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, REDD+ is the worldwide UN-backed climate change mitigation scheme that relies on carbon trading within forest landscapes to fund forest conservation programs. And yet, since 2008, the Kuna people have been hearing lots about it and referring to it often in their private conversations.
The Gran Canal: will Nicaragua's big bet create prosperity or environmental ruin?
(08/27/2014) A hundred years ago, the Panama Canal reshaped global geography. Now a new project, spearheaded by a media-shy Chinese millionaire, wants to build a 278-kilometer canal through Nicaragua. While the government argues the mega-project will change the country's dire economic outlook overnight, critics contend it will cause undue environmental damage, upend numerous communities, and do little to help local people.
Indonesia to hear indigenous peoples' grievances on land disputes
(08/22/2014) Public hearings into alleged violations of indigenous peoples' land rights will open next week in Palu on the island of Sulawesi. This is the beginning of a series of hearings by the Commission on Human Rights to explore conflicts affecting indigenous people in forest areas. The Commission will travel throughout Indonesia, providing concerned parties an opportunity to meet and discuss land disputes, before submitting the results of their findings to the next president.
Indonesia's children see ravaged environment in their future
(08/11/2014) A generation ago, Borneo was one of the wildest places on the planet. But decades of logging and oil palm plantations has changed the landscape of Borneo forever: in fact a recent study found that the island has lost 30 percent of its total forest cover since 1973. In the face of this large-scale environmental destruction, a new study finds that Indonesian Borneo's children have a pessimistic view of their future.
Peru slashes environmental protections to attract more mining and fossil fuel investment
(07/23/2014) In an effort to kickstart investment in mining and fossil fuels, Peru has passed a controversial law that overturns many of its environmental protections and essentially defangs its Ministry of Environment. The new law has environmentalists not only concerned about its impact on the country but also that the measures will undermine progress at the up-coming UN Climate Summit in December.
After throwing out referendum, Ecuador approves oil drilling in Yasuni's embattled heart
(06/02/2014) By 2016, oil drilling will begin in what scientists believe is the most biodiverse place on the planet: remote Yasuni National Park. Late last month, Ecuador announced it had approved permits for oil drilling in Yasuni's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) block, an untouched swathe of primary rainforest covering around 100,000 hectares or about 10 percent of the park.
53 indigenous activists on trial for police-protester massacre in Peru
(05/15/2014) In the summer of 2009, on a highway in Peru known as Devil's Curve: everything went wrong. For months, indigenous groups had protested new laws by then President Alan Garcia opening up the Amazon to deregulated logging, fossil fuels, and other extractive industries as a part of free trade agreements with the U.S.
New report reveals human rights abuses by corporations, governments in the Amazon
(05/14/2014) Regnskogfondet (the Rainforest Foundation of Norway) recently released a 52-page report that gives an in-depth account of the conflicts activists and indigenous peoples (IPs) are having with corporations and governmental agencies. It relays a situation that does not look good.
Papua New Guinea pledges to cancel massive land grabs by timber companies
(04/29/2014) Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, released a statement last week saying that hugely controversial land leases under the country's Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) will be cancelled if they are found to be run for extracting timber.
Loggers plan to clear 20 percent of tropical island paradise
(04/28/2014) Seven years ago, a palm oil company set its eyes on Woodlark Island—a small rainforest island nearly 200 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea—but was rebuked by the local populace. But locals and conservationists who spoke to mongabay.com at the time felt that wouldn't be the end of it: they were right. Recently, a company, Karridale Limited, has landed machinery on the island.
Illegal logging makes up 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's timber industry
(04/22/2014) Corruption, weak governance, and powerful timber barons are illegally stripping the forests of Papua New Guinea, according to a new report from the Chatham House. The policy institute finds that 70 percent of logging in Papua New Guinea is currently illegal, despite the fact that 99 percent of land is owned by local indigenous communities.
Small monkeys take over when big primates have been hunted out in the Amazon
(04/21/2014) The barbecued leg of a spider monkey might not be your idea of a sumptuous dinner, but to the Matsés or one of the fifteen tribes in voluntary isolation in Peru, it is the result of a successful hunt and a proud moment for the hunter's family. However, a spider monkey tends to have only a single infant once every 30 months, which necessarily limits the number of adult monkeys available to subsistence hunters.
Ecuador will have referendum on fate of Yasuni after activists collect over 700,000 signatures
(04/16/2014) In what is a major victory for environmentalists, campaigners with United for Yasuni have collected 727,947 signatures triggering a national referendum on whether or not oil drilling should proceed in three blocs of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.
Featured video: celebrities speak out for Yasuni
(04/02/2014) A group of celebrities, including recent Academy Award winner Jared Leto, Law and Order's Benjamin Bratt, and Kill Bill's Daryl Hannah, have lent their voices to a new Public Service Announcement to raise signatures to protect Ecuador's Yasuni National Park from oil drilling.
Study warns of possible REDD+ land grab
(03/30/2014) A UN program to reduce global carbon emissions may be putting indigenous communities at risk, jeopardizing local land rights and laying the groundwork for large-scale “carbon grabs” by governments and private investors, argues a new report.
Indigenous communities demand forest rights, blame land grabs for failure to curb deforestation
(03/25/2014) Indigenous and forest-dependent peoples from Asia, Africa and Latin America have called for increased recognition of customary land rights in order to curb deforestation and ensure the survival of their communities. The Palangkaraya Declaration on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples calls on governments to uphold forest peoples’ rights to control and manage their customary lands and to halt rights-violating development projects being carried out without consent from local communities.
Featured video: indigenous tribe faces loggers, ranchers, and murder in bid to save their forests
(03/19/2014) A new short film, entitled La Trocha, highlights the plight of the Wounaan people in Panama, who are fighting for legal rights to their forests even as loggers and ranchers carve it up. The conflict turned violent in 2012 when local chief, Aquilo Puchicama, was shot dead by loggers.
New web tool aims to help indigenous groups protect forests and navigate REDD+
(03/12/2014) A new online tool, dubbed ForestDefender, aims to help indigenous people understand and implement their rights in regard to forests. The database, developed by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), brings together vast amounts of legal information—both national and international—on over 50 countries.
New forest map for Sarawak reveals large-scale deforestation, encroachment on indigenous territories
(02/24/2014) A new online platform released by the Bruno Manser Fund reveals large-scale destruction of Sarawak's rainforests, peatlands, and traditional lands. Drawing from a variety of sources, the Sarawak Geoportal includes data on logging concessions, oil palm plantations, existing and proposed dams, historical forest cover, the extent of indigenous cultivated areas, election results, and area where there are current native customary rights (NCR) disputes.
Gas company to drill in Manu National Park buffer zone, imperiling indigenous people
(02/04/2014) The Peruvian government has approved plans for gas company Pluspetrol to move deeper into a supposedly protected reserve for indigenous peoples and the buffer zone of the Manu National Park in the Amazon rainforest. The approval follows the government rescinding a highly critical report on the potential impacts of the operations by the Culture Ministry (MINCU), the resignation of the Culture Minister and other Ministry personnel, and repeated criticism from Peruvian and international civil society.
Brazil begins evicting illegal settlers from hugely-imperiled indigenous reserve
(01/06/2014) Months after closing sawmills on the fringes of an indigenous reserve for the hugely-imperiled Awá people, the Brazil government has now moved into the reserve itself to evict illegal settlers in the eastern Amazon. According to the NGO Survival International, Brazil has sent in the military and other government agents to deal with massive illegal settlements on Awá land for logging or cattle.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2013
(12/19/2013) China begins to tackle pollution, carbon emissions: As China's environmental crisis worsens, the government has begun to unveil a series of new initiatives to curb record pollution and cut greenhouse emissions. The world's largest consumer of coal, China's growth in emissions is finally slowing and some experts believe the nation's emissions could peak within the decade. If China's emissions begin to fall, so too could the world's.
Canada's biggest logger loses eco-certification
(12/17/2013) Resolute Forest Products, the largest industrial logging company in Canada, suffered a major setback this week when the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) revoked three certifications for the forestry giant. According to Greenpeace, the company lost its certification in Quebec and Ontario due to several problems, including a lack of consent from the Crees nations and failure to safeguard high priority conservation areas.
Indonesia urged to implement decision recognizing indigenous rights to land
(12/10/2013) Indigenous rights groups are circulating a petition asking the Indonesian government to immediately implement a court ruling that would take management of million of hectares of customary forest out of the hands of the Ministry of Forestry and turn it over to traditional communities. The petition was posted on Change.org by Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).
Ecuador's government shuts down indigenous rights organization over oil battle
(12/10/2013) Last Wednesday, the government of Ecuador shutdown the indigenous rights NGO, Fundación Pachamama, in Quito over the group's opposition to oil drilling in indigenous areas. More than a dozen government officials showed up at Pachamama's office with a resolution by the Ministry of Environment that officially dissolved the organization, the first such moved by the government which in June passed an Executive Decree that tightened governmental oversight of the country's NGOs.
Gold mine near controversial Belo Monte dam suspended
(11/22/2013) A gold mining project proposed near the Belo Monte dam site in the Amazon rainforest has been suspended by a Brazilian court, reports Reuters.
Prize exploring the next big idea in rainforest conservation announced
(11/16/2013) Mongabay.org, a non-profit that aims to raise awareness about social and environmental issues relating to tropical forests and other ecosystems, has announced the first winner of its environmental reporting prize its Special Reporting Initiative (SRI) program. The prize sought proposals to explore the question of what's the next big idea in tropical biodiversity conservation. After a two-month application window and a month of deliberations, this week an independent panel of journalists and tropical forest specialists selected environmental journalist Wendee Nicole as the first recipient of the Mongabay Prize for Environmental Reporting.
Murum dam blockaders may be suffering human rights violations warns NGOs
(11/12/2013) A coalition of nearly 30 organizations has sent a letter to top authorities in Sarawak and Malaysia warning them of possible human right violations against a group of indigenous Penan who are blocking roads to the construction site for Murum Dam. Over 100 indigenous people have been blocking a road for over a month as they demand more compensation and land after being forced to move from their traditional lands to make way for the 900 megawatt dam.
Redeeming REDD: a conversation with Michael Brown
(11/11/2013) In Redeeming REDD: Policies, Incentives and Social Feasibility for Avoided Deforestation, anthropologist Michael Brown relays a constructive critique of the contemporary aims, standards and modalities for mitigating climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Brown advocates for REDD as a viable mechanism for the long-term pro-poor conservation and restoration of tropical forests as well—but only if local forest dwellers and Indigenous. Peoples can join the negotiating table and act as forest stewards. Local people must first be empowered to make 'socially feasible' decisions that are necessary for their livelihoods and well-being. In other words, there can be no environmentalism without credible local leadership, which requires investment in capacity building at the local level for sustainable institutions.
Tapirs, drug-trafficking, and eco-police: practicing conservation amidst chaos in Nicaragua
(10/10/2013) Nicaragua is a nation still suffering from deep poverty, a free-flowing drug trade, and festering war-wounds after decades of internecine fighting. However, like any country that has been largely defined by its conflicts, Nicaragua possesses surprises that overturn conventional wisdom. Not the least of which is that the Central American country is still home to big, stunning species, including jaguars, giant anteaters, pumas, and the nation's heaviest animal, the Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii). Still, not surprisingly given the nation's instability, most conservationists have avoided Nicaragua. But tapir-expert Christopher Jordan, who has worked in the country for over four years, says he wouldn't have it any other way.
Indigenous people of Honduras granted one million hectares of rainforest
(09/12/2013) One-hundred and fifty years after a treaty with England granted the Miskito people rights over their land--a treaty which was never fully respected--the government of Honduras has officially handed over nearly a million hectares (970,000 hectares) of tropical forest along the Caribbean Coast to the indigenous people. The Miskito are found along the eastern coast of both Honduras and Nicaragua and number around 200,000.
Japanese firms buying illegal timber from Malaysia’s endangered rainforests
(09/10/2013) Japanese companies are failing to keep illegally logged timber from entering their supply chains, international human rights and environmental watchdog Global Witness said in a report released today. The report links several major Japanese firms to logging companies that are destroying tropical rainforests in Malaysian Borneo through illegal and destructive logging practices in Sarawak province.
Indonesian group vows to map 30 million hectares of customary forest in 7 years
(08/28/2013) An indigenous peoples’ rights group has vowed to map millions of hectares of customary land in Indonesia, an ambitious target it hopes will help protect indigenous forests from encroachment by palm oil and pulp and paper concessions.
Isolated Amazonian tribe makes another appearance in Peru (video)
(08/26/2013) Over 100 members of a voluntarily isolated tribe emerged from the jungles of Peru in a rare appearance on the Las Piedras River across from the a Yine Indian community in late June. Belonging to the Mascho-Piro Indians, members of the "uncontacted" tribe are occasionally seen on riverbanks during the dry season, but appearances in such numbers and so close to a local community was unprecedented.
Yasuni could still be spared oil drilling
(08/26/2013) When Ecuadorean President, Rafael Correa, announced on August 15th that he was abandoning an innovative program to spare three blocs of Yasuni National Park from oil drilling, it seemed like the world had tossed away its most biodiverse ecosystem. However, environmental groups and activists quickly responded that there may be another way to keep oil companies out of Yasuni's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) blocs: a national referendum.
UN REDD program failing to build capacity for indigenous people in Panama
(08/22/2013) The U.N.'s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (UN-REDD) program may be faltering in Panama due to its failure to build capacity for indigenous people who should play a central role in the initiative, argue researchers writing in the journal Nature.
Weak laws governing Malaysia's indigenous people complicate conservation efforts
(07/22/2013) The balance between biodiversity conservation, land acquisition, natural resource utilization and indigenous peoples is often wrought with conflict. Legislation governing the use of natural resources should ideally protect biodiversity and address the needs of indigenous peoples, but in many places, falls short of these ambitions. In a recent study published in Biodiversity Conservation, researchers examined the weaknesses in select natural resource laws that affect the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, and compared these laws with data on a specific group of indigenous people’s use of natural resources, collected through questionnaires. In addition to suggesting potential solutions to address legislative weaknesses, the researchers make a strong case for why natural resource legislation is a matter of concern for conservationists.
Brazil's military takes on illegal loggers to protect nearly-extinct tribe
(07/18/2013) Brazil has launched a military campaign to evict illegal loggers working from the fringes of an indigenous reserve home to the Awá people, reports Survival International. Inhabiting the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Brazil, only around 450 Awá, also known as Guajá, survive today, and around a quarter of these have chosen voluntary isolation.
Billions lost to corruption in Indonesia’s forest sector, says report
(07/17/2013) Corruption and mismanagement in Indonesia’s forest sector have cost the government billions of dollars in losses in recent years, including over $7 billion in losses from 2007-2011, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. The report also blasted the country’s 'green growth' strategy, saying that despite recent reforms, Indonesia’s forestry policies as they are implemented today continue to allow widespread forest clearing and threaten the rights and livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.
Featured video: Indonesian community uses mapping to fight palm oil takeover
(07/15/2013) Communities across Indonesia are facing the questions: palm oil or no? A new short documentary Mapping our Future explores the issue through one community's efforts in West Kalimantan to map our their ancestral lands as they attempt to take control of their future.
Activists raise alarm over park that will dispossess Borneo tribe of land
(07/10/2013) Rights activists are warning that a proposal to classify islands forming in the midst of the Bakun Dam reservoir will further deprive indigenous forest people of their traditional land.
Activists, indigenous people plan healing walk in 'sick' tar sands landscape
(07/01/2013) Hundreds of activists including Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein are going into the heart of Canada's tar sands this week – not to protest the destruction of the local environment, but to pray for the 'healing' of land and the people. Native elders from all over North America will lead people past lakes of tailings wastewater and massive infrastructure of the tar sands industry along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Indonesia’s president says he will work to register and recognize customary forests
(06/28/2013) Last month, Indonesia’s indigenous people won the right to manage their own customary forests after a landmark Constitutional Court ruling struck down a law that had previously given the central government control over indigenous land within the country’s forest estate. On Thursday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced his support for the decision and said he was committed to taking a first step towards its implementation – beginning a process to register and recognize traditional territories.
Why Panama's indigenous pulled out of the UN's REDD program
(06/25/2013) This week in Lombok, Indonesia, the Policy Board of the United Nations climate change program known as UNREDD is addressing the first major test of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations, which recognizes the right of Indigenous People to stop projects in their territories that could endanger their traditions and livelihoods. The National Coordinating Body of the Indigenous People of Panama pulled out of UNREDD’s national program in February and have called on the United Nations to close the program.
Over 30 tons of explosives to be detonated in Manu National Park buffer zone
(06/24/2013) A consortium of gas companies headed by Pluspetrol and including Hunt Oil plans on detonating approximately 38 tons of explosives in the south-east Peruvian Amazon in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The detonations are part of 2D and 3D seismic tests planned by Pluspetrol in its search for new gas deposits in the Camisea region—plans that are currently pending approval by Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM).
Indonesia denies it has any indigenous peoples
(06/13/2013) Indonesia is home to an estimated 50-70 million indigenous peoples, but the government does not recognize the rights of its indigenous peoples and claims that none live in Indonesia. In a response to the United Nations Periodic Review in 2012, a four–year human rights check-up for all countries, Indonesia said: "The Government of Indonesia supports the promotion and protection of indigenous people worldwide... Indonesia, however, does not recognize the application of the indigenous peoples concept...in the country."
Indigenous sacred sites now qualify as protected areas in Colombia
(05/28/2013) The first indigenous sacred site set aside under a new category of protected area in Colombia has been established in the northeastern part of the South American country. The development is significant because it could spur other indigenous sacred sites in Colombia to be granted protected status.
Indigenous groups protest hydropower congress as controversy hits meeting in Malaysia
(05/22/2013) The opening of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) World Congress in the Malaysian state of Sarawak was marred today by indigenous protests and controversy after a local indigenous leader was barred from attending a pre-conference workshop. Over 300 people from local indigenous people protested the ongoing construction of around a dozen mega-dams in the state that threaten to flood traditional lands, force villages to move, and upend lives in the state. The Sarawak hydropower plans are some of the most controversial in the world—making the choice of Kuching, Sarawak for the IHA meeting an arguably ironic one—with critics contending that the dams are have been mired in political corruption, including kickbacks and bribes. IHA brings together dam builders, banks, and various related organizations worldwide every two years.
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