Berta Vive

In early March, Indigenous Honduran activist Berta Caceres was gunned down in her own home in response to her protests against a dam that threatens to displace hundreds of her people. A few weeks later, another member of her community, , was murdered for the same reason.

Berta received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 in recognition of her efforts, and was an inspiration to Indigenous Peoples around the world. During my official visit to Honduras last November, she facilitated my meeting with her people, who told me troubling stories of violence and intimidation in response to their protests.

Despite numerous death threats and emergency protection measures granted by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Honduran government failed to protect Berta, and continues to fail her community. Her family and her community remain in danger, and it is urgent that the government – who has thus far maintained that Berta’s murder was a botched robbery – act immediately to protect her family and stem the flow of indigenous blood.

Sadly, Berta and Nelson’s story is far from unique. On my recent trip to Brazil, numerous Indigenous Peoples told me of the intimidation, threats, and outright violence they have faced for standing up for their land rights. According to Global Witness, 29 of the environmental activists murdered in 2014 were from Brazil, more deaths than were reported in any other country. At least 454 persons have been killed for environmental activism and assertion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Brazil since 2002. And, judging by many metrics, Brazil is a “leader” on Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

In Mato Grosso do Sol, indigenous Guarani Kaoiwa communities face constant attacks and evictions from landlords seeking to develop industrial-scale farms and cattle ranches. Indigenous Peoples I visited showed me the scars on their bodies caused by rubber bullets and the graves of their murdered leaders. No perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice. The local judges and police are complicit in attempts to drive the Guarani from their homes. Tekoha Taquara, an indigenous land I visited in Juti, has been served an eviction notice that was to be implemented the day I left Brazil. The first community I visited was attacked only three hours after I left. In the past few years, over 300 Guarani have been killed in land conflicts in Mato Grosso do Sul, not to speak of the high level of suicide rates because of desperation and hopelessness.

This failure is not only in direct contradiction to Brazil’s obligations to protect its Indigenous Peoples under international law; it also contradicts the country’s promises under the climate change treaty agreed upon in Paris. Brazil’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution outlines a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and to achieve zero illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by 2030.

Meeting these commitments will require Brazil to protect its Indigenous Peoples’ land rights, as they are the proven best stewards of the world’s largest rainforest. To date, Brazil has been the most successful country in decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions, largely as a result of titling indigenous lands. In the Amazon, deforestation rates are 11 times lower in community forests than outside. Brazil contains nearly half the world’s remaining rainforest and sequesters 63 billion tons of carbon, much of it in legally recognized community forests.

The global aspiration of keeping warming below two degrees and protecting the earth for our children and grandchildren cannot succeed without forests, yet the very people we depend on to protect those forests are being murdered in droves. Illegal logging on indigenous lands persists, as do efforts to deprive Indigenous Peoples of their ancestral homes.

As mentioned, Brazil was an early leader in recognizing indigenous land rights, including protections for indigenous rights in its constitution and ratifying International Labour Organization Convention No. 169. But now the country has turned to large scale developments on indigenous lands as a means of buoying its economy, despite evidence that these strategies rarely result in sustainable development. Brazil’s government is merely standing by, and have not done much to bring those who murder and maim the guardians of the forest to justice.

The impunity with which indigenous activists have been murdered must end. It is urgent that governments around the world – Honduras and Brazil included – take immediate action to protect indigenous rights activists peacefully protesting for legal rights to their own lands and territories. Global Witness recently released data showing that at least 109 environmental activists were killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015; the murders are linked to a surge of destructive agriculture, mining, and dam projects that threaten the food sources, traditional livelihoods, and cultures of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the forests that we all rely on to mitigate climate change.

116 environmental activists were reported murdered globally in 2014; 40 percent of those killed were indigenous persons. I plead with governments around the world: do not allow Berta Caceres and hundreds of other indigenous leaders to have died in vain. Berta spent her life fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples to legally own the lands they have long called home, and to be free from destructive dams and other industrial projects. I am inspired and humbled by her courage and steadfastness. Let Berta and Nelson be the last in a long list of those who have given their lives in order to protect their homes and to protect the forests we all depend on.

Author: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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Civil Society speaker selected for the opening session in New York 22 April 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited all world leaders to a signing ceremony on 22 April for the historic climate agreement that was reached in Paris in December last year. The signing event will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on the first day the agreement will be open for signature, which coincides with the UN observance of International Mother Earth Day. At the request of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, UN-NGLS facilitated an open, transparent and participatory process for civil society to apply for a speaking role in the opening session of the signing ceremony.

For this key speaking role, the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General has now selected:

Ms. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim,
Association des Femmes Peules Autochtones du Tchad (AFPAT)

Ms. Ibrahim’s bio is available here.
More information about the process is available here.

For information about the Paris Agreement signing ceremony, please visit:

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Indigenous Caucus Statement at Closing Plenary of UNFCCC COP21 Paris, France December 12, 2015,
presented by Frank Ettawageshik, supported by Chief Bill Erasmus, Hindou Ourmou Ibrahim, and Saoudata Aboubacrine
The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took take place November 30th – December 11th, 2015 to finalize a legally binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, curb the pace of climate change and define programs to help the most vulnerable States and Peoples, including Indigenous Peoples, to mitigate and adapt to the impacts. IITC conducted seven pre-conference consultations on Climate Change in the U.S. and Canada to get input into this process from Tribal Nations. The report provides an overview of the consultations, work and gains at COP21. It also contains the compiled responses to the Climate Change Questionnaire representing the voices of over 318,000 indigenous individuals.

Download the Climate Change Consultation Report: Click Here

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CREDIT: AP PHOTO/FERNANDO ANTONIO: People embrace as they wait for the arrival of the body of slain Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist Berta Cáceres, outside the coroners office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, earlier this month. Not two weeks after, another member of Cáceres’ organization was shot and killed.

A member of the same indigenous organization as slain environmentalist Berta Cáceres was shot dead Tuesday in Honduras, incensing activists and convincing a European development bank to stop financing a controversial dam project.

Nelson García, 39, was killed outside his house after police evicted 150 families from lands in the northern village of Rio Chiquito, Honduran authorities said in a statement, noting the incident had nothing to do with the eviction. “The tragic death of Mr. Nelson García took place when two unknown assailants attacked him as he left his house some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where the eviction took place,” the statement reads.

García, a father of five children, was the leader of the community that was occupying a portion of Rio Chiquito, claiming property rights. His murder comes less than two weeks after the shooting death of renowned award-winning environmentalist Berta Cáceres, another vocal leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. She was also ambushed in her house.

Telesur reports that local sources dispute police accounts of the early morning eviction that ended a two-year-long occupation. “[Authorities] said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees, and the yuca plantations,” said Tomas Gomez, a COPINH coordinator.

Since Tuesday, activists and organizations, including the United Nations, have denounced the attacks via Twitter, adding pressure to a government that’s so far captured one person suspected of Cáceres’ killing.

And on Wednesday, the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) said it would suspend all activities in Honduras, and halt its funding for the Agua Zarca project, a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River that Cáceres and the COPINH opposed.

“FMO is shocked by the news that Nelson García, another COPINH member, has been murdered in Honduras,” the agency said in a statement. “We will not engage in new projects or commitments … no disbursements will be made, including the Agua Zarca project.”

Meanwhile, at least one activist in Washington reportedly burst into an Americas Society and Council of the Americas meeting to protest. ASCOA is a forum dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas.

Long before her murder, Cáceres reported threats against her life and the assassination of colleagues as they battled the Agua Zarca and other development. “In my organization alone,” she told CNN en Español in 2015, “we have 10 people who’ve been killed with total impunity.”

Environmentalists have for years faced threats of retaliation worldwide, but Global Witness — which keeps a tally of environmentalist killed — says attacks have worsened, particularly in Latin America. The region has seen a surge in investments in recent times, feeding encroachment and growth in previously undeveloped areas. At least 116 environmental activists were murdered in 2014, according to Global Witness’ latest figures. These deaths are almost double the number of journalists killed in that same period, and fatalities have been increasing since 2002. Moreover, 40 percent of those killed are from indigenous communities.

“By no means is the problem getting better,” Billy Kyte, senior campaigner at Global Witness, told ThinkProgress earlier this month. Global Witness will release an updated report in the next couple of months, though officials told ThinkProgress they expect 2015 to be deadlier than 2014. “The increase in demand of natural resources is fueling ever more violence,” Kyte said.

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. It’s also the fourth most dangerous for environmental activists with 12 recorded deaths in 2014, according to Global Witness.


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The 15th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) will bring Member States and indigenous peoples’ representatives together around the theme, ‘Indigenous peoples: conflict, peace and resolution.’ The session will address: implementation of the six mandated areas of the PFII with reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); conflict, peace and resolution; and coordination among the three UN mechanisms on indigenous affairs. A dialogue will take place with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The session will also consider the future work of the PFII, and emerging issues.

dates:9-20 May 2016  

venue:UN Headquarters, New York City  

location:New York City, US  contact:PFII Secretariat  

phone:+1 917 367 5100  

fax:+1 917 367 5102 


Register by 26 April 2016

To register your side event, please click on the following link: Side Event RegistrationYou must download Google Chrome in order to view the form.


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Mourning Berta Cáceres, the assassinated indigenous activist, in La Esperanza, Honduras, on Thursday. CreditOrlando Sierra/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — An indigenous activist in Honduras who won a prestigious international environmental prize for fighting a dam project despite continued threats was assassinated on Thursday in her hometown, officials said.

Gunmen broke down the door of the house where the activist, Berta Cáceres, was staying in La Esperanza, in western Honduras, and shot her early Thursday, human rights groups said.

Ms. Cáceres, 44, had led a decade-long fight against a project to build the Agua Zarca Dam along the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Lenca people. The campaign involved filing legal complaints against the project, organizing community meetings and bringing the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Last year, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded to grass-roots leaders who build community support to protect the environment.

The killing of one of Honduras’s most prominent environmental activists casts attention on the country’s dismal human rights record. It comes just after President Juan Orlando Hernández traveled to Washington and Mexico City last week to argue that his government was turning the corner in combating the violence that makes Honduras one of the most murder-plagued countries in the world.

Although the Inter-American Human Rights Commission had ordered protective measures for Ms. Cáceres, she was not under the protection of the Honduran security forces on the day of her death, Julián Pacheco Tinoco, the Honduran security minister, said at a news conference in Tegucigalpa, the capital. He said she was not in the place she had reported as her home when she was killed.

Her brother Gustavo Cáceres told media outlets in La Esperanza that her death could have been avoided. “The police were responsible for providing security for my sister here in the city,” he said. “She wasn’t hiding.”

There are no immediate suspects, officials said. Conflicts between local communities and large companies in Honduras often draw in several armed groups, including the army.

“Everyone is saying that the government or the company did it, but you’ll never know,” said Ms. Cáceres’s nephew, Silvio Carrillo, in a telephone interview from Oakland, Calif., where he lives. “It’s the art of obfuscation.”

Since 2013, Ms. Cáceres’s organization, the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, has protested to try to stop the dam’s construction. Under international law, indigenous groups must be consulted on projects that affect their lands, but the Lenca say they were not consulted about the dam. They maintain that the 22MW hydroelectric project, which would create a 300-meter long reservoir and divert 3 kilometers of the river, will jeopardize their water resources and their livelihood.

For over a year, the organization maintained a blockade to prevent access to the site despite attempts by security officials to evict protesters. In July 2013, a Honduran soldier fatally shot Tomás García, another leader of Ms. Cáceres’s organization, during a peaceful protest.

The protest prompted the Chinese company Sinohydro, which had the contract to build the dam, to withdraw from the project.

The Honduran company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., continued with the project, however, and Honduran business leaders took up the cause against Ms. Cáceres.

Aline Flores, president of the Honduran Council for Private Business, said in 2013 that the groups led by Ms. Cáceres were “boycotting, invading and making Honduras look bad internationally.” Criminal charges were filed against Ms. Cáceres, first for carrying an unlicensed weapon, which she said had been planted by military officers at a roadblock, and then for incitement.

The company resumed construction of the dam last fall, avoiding potential blockades by moving to the other side of the river, Ms. Cáceres said at the time.

Over the past month, the threats against Ms. Cáceres and her organization had mounted after security forces detained more than 100 people during a peaceful protest on Feb. 20.

Since a 2009 coup in Honduras, journalists, judges, labor leaders, human rights defenders and environmental activists have been assassinated in targeted killings, with their murders often going unsolved. Twelve environmental defenders were killed in Honduras in 2014, according to research by Global Witness, which makes it the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers.

In accepting the Goldman prize, Ms. Cáceres described what it had been like to live under siege.“They follow me and threaten to kidnap and kill me,” she said. “They threaten my family. This is what we have to face.”

Source: New York Times

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Notice from the UNPFII: Attached is a letter from the President of the General Assembly addressed to indigenous peoples on the launching of a process of the General Assembly to consider how to enable the participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations. A briefing to launch this process will be on 7 March at UNHQ in New York. Indigenous peoples can register to attend by email by Wednesday 2 March at 3PM(eastern standard time). The briefing will also be streamed at 

It is worth noting that this briefing is not intended to consult on the substantive issues related to participation. Ample time will be given to indigenous peoples to prepare for their participation in the consultations that will begin at a later date.
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