Indigenous leaders want a voice at COP26
Activists say governments, companies and civil society must commit to caring for the Amazonia.
Amazonia represents a unified call to action in response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency. A bright blue morpho butterfly reminds us what is at stake if action is not taken. Blue butterflies are traditionally symbols of life, rebirth and transformation. In ancient stories from the region, the blue morpho butterfly appears as a spiritual guide to reveal key truths about the world Photo: Gareth Morris
Indigenous leaders from the Amazonia say they are being left out of the COP26 gathering currently underway in Glasgow, Scotland.
Amazonia is a region that spans nine countries, including Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyane Française, Guyana, Perú, Suriname and Venezuela.
Amazonia indigenous leaders have two messages for global leaders gathered at COP26:
- They want 80% of the Amazon to be saved by 2025
- Climate Justice musts be recognised as Racial Justice
“Among all the world leaders in Glasgow, indigenous voices are missing. COP26 has not done enough to ensure inclusion, hanging a question mark over the success of the entire conference,” said José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, the Coordinator of Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA).
Mirabal said: “We need to establish an economy that values all forms of life and that respects the rights of indigenous peoples while integrating our economic initiatives and keeping them standing together with the forest.”
He said governments, companies and civil society must commit to caring for the Amazonia.
“COP26 should solutions take into account the indigenous peoples because we are the ones who have conserved the territories.”
The indigenous leaders say without them, the Paris Agreement or the Development Goals would remain on paper.
“It is not possible to make decisions without consulting those of us who have been violated by the destruction of these territories,” said Mirabal.
“The leaders gathered at this COP26 cannot boast a success that leaves indigenous peoples out. It would be unacceptable and a failure for humanity,” said Mirabal.
Climate justice is racial justice
The destruction of the Amazonia and the omission of indigenous voices in the conference rooms at COP26 are interrelated.
Mirabal said the relationship of exploitation embodied by the reckless deforestation of Amazonia had been replicated in the treatment of indigenous people.
“Many of them rely on the basin to live, and its destruction is a direct attack on their lives. Placing hazardous industries on and enabling the violent deforestation of indigenous land is environmental racism, and institutional exclusion means these communities often lack the resources to create effective opposition.“
Indigenous environmental activists in Brazil are regularly murdered in an attempt to silence this movement.
In 2020, Vatican News reported that an Indigenous rights defender was killed in Amazonia every two days.
“This silencing of indigenous voices who call the Amazonia home must not continue in Glasgow and beyond,” said Mirabal.
“Prioritizing development at any cost is not just poisoning Brazil — it is threatening our way of life,” said Sônia Guajajara, Executive Coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB).
“Our lives are inextricable from the natural world. The creatures of the rainforest protect us, and in turn, we protect them. Our battle is not just for the future. It’s for the present,” said the indigenous activist, environmentalist and politician.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney