Sweeping development throughout the Amazon rainforest is an abiding concern for indigenous groups. The Amazon’s extraordinary biodiversity is being destroyed for profits and political gain. In response, an alliance of some 500 indigenous groups from nine countries, known as COICA, is planning to safeguard a “sacred corridor of life and culture” covering 761,600 square miles—an area about the size of Mexico. The alliance presented its Bogota Declaration, outlining “the principles and joint vision of the indigenous confederations to protect the Amazon rainforest by using a traditional and holistic perspective,” at the 14th UN Biodiversity Conference, held in Egypt in November 2018.
In a report for Common Dreams, Tuntiak Katan, the alliance’s vice president, said, “This space is the world’s last great sanctuary for biodiversity. It is there because we are there. Other places have been destroyed.”
The alliance aims to protect biodiversity in the “triple-A” corridor from the Andes mountains across the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean. This region faces challenges from agribusiness, mining, and the global climate crisis. But members of the alliance also aim to address territorial rights. As Common Dreams reported, they “don’t recognize modern national borders created by colonial settlers.” Katan, COICA’s vice president, observed, “”We know the governments will try to go over our heads,” he said. “This is nothing new for us. We have faced challenges for hundreds of years.”
New rightwing leaders in Brazil and Colombia threaten to undermine COICA’s plans. In October, 2017, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s incumbent president, indicated that he would only stay in the Paris climate agreement if Brazil was guaranteed sovereignty over indigenous land and the “triple-A” region. According to Juan Carlos Jintiach of COICA, Bolsonaro’s comments about environmental and indigenous issues “are concerning because they nurture a disturbing tendency in different parts of the world, where almost three-fourths of environmental defenders assassinated in 2017 were indigenous leaders; where opposing agroindustry is the main cause for assassination of our leaders worldwide; and where imposing projects on to communities without their free, prior, and informed consent is at the root of all attacks to indigenous and community leaders.
Observing that indigenous peoples and communities “face costly and difficult processes to legalize their lands,” while corporations “obtain licenses with ease,” Jintiach called for Bolsonaro to obey all laws and ensure the rights and safety of the people of Brazil.
Jessica Corbett, “Calling for Corridor of Life and Culture, Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth,” Common Dreams, November 21, 2018, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/11/21/calling-corridor-life-and-culture-indigenous-groups-amazon-propose-creation-largest.
Student Researcher: Robert Andreacchi, (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, (Sonoma State University)