More rights, more life
“No rights, nothing goes forward,” said Indigenous Amazonian leader Juan Carlos Jintiach, adorned in traditional decorations across his chest and a headdress of blue, yellow and red feathers.
In various versions, this message resounded throughout the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, which on 22–23 June assembled more than 600 participants from 83 countries, more than 7,500 on-line viewers and reached 14 million more through social media with research, stories and ambitions around the importance of rights as a solution to climate change and a fundamental necessity for life on earth.
The GLF first and foremost addressed the rights of 350 million Indigenous peoples caring for over a quarter of the world’s land surface – at least 38 million square kilometers across nearly 90 countries or politically distinct areas. This intersects with 40 percent of protected terrestrial landscapes and includes 80 percent of all the world’s biodiversity.
“We have a mother, and that mother is our territories, our common home of all the Indigenous peoples and everyone who inhabits this earth,” said Maximiliano Ferrer, general secretary of the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama.
Without secure land rights and certainty that their lands will not be taken from them, these traditional custodians not only struggle to care for their home environments, but they also have no incentive to do so.
Rights for gender equality, youth, environmental defenders – worldwide, at least 200 people were killed defending their lands in 2017, according to a study by environmental and human rights watchdog Global Witness – and nature itself were also brought into the discussions.
“The water has rights, the tree has rights, the storm has rights,” said Jintiach, who works with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin to protect his native lands and its peoples.
Despite an increasing number of countries enshrining the rights of nature in legislation, these rights are often not implemented due to overpowering priorities of oil, mining and plantation development, mirroring the reasons for land-related human rights violations as well.