Precautionary measures urged for isolated indigenous peoples


Latin America Press

Date of publication: 
7 November 2012

Organizations demand protection from the IACHR for ethnic groups at risk of extinction.

South America indigenous representatives pushed for precautionary measures to protect the isolated native communities during the 146th session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, which is taking place in Washington, DC, from Oct. 29 to Nov. 16.

Jaime Corisepa, an indigenous Harakmbut from Peru’s Amazonian region of Madre de Dios, on the border with Bolivia and Brazil, and coordinator for the International Indigenous Committee for the Protection of Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact in the Amazon, the Gran Chaco and eastern Paraguay, or CIPIACI, argued that the physical and cultural extinction of isolated communities “is imminent unless urgent action is taken.”

Corisepa made several demands to the IACHR: a report on the situation of communities in voluntary isolation, the promotion of programs and monitoring in the region, and the adoption of a position of support and complementarity in line with United Nations guidelines.

He reminded the assembly that states continue to promote colonization and grant concessions to exploit natural resources on indigenous lands, and highlighted that governments are not respecting the rights established by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous communities have, on several occasions, requested protection from the IACHR, due to the fact that there is “no political will from the state to ensure those rights,” Corisepa said.

According to Survival International, an indigenous rights activist organization, the majority of isolated indigenous communities are in South America.

These communities are at risk of extinction from disease and losing their lands, Survival International said in a statement.

“Oil workers and illegal loggers are invading their land and bringing disease,” the group added. “They won’t survive unless this stops.”

One of the communities in most danger of disappearing, according to Survival International, is the Awá, comprising a few hundred members in northeastern Brazil. It is considered one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer communities in the world. They depend on the forest for survival, and could die off if illegal loggers continue destroying their habitat.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said in March that “the Awá are the world’s most threatened tribe. If their rights are not protected, they’ll only exist in the pages of history books.” He made the statement ahead of the April launch of a campaign to bring attention to the issue and to demand from the Brazilian government protection for this indigenous Amazonian population of about 360 people, of whom about 100 haven’t had contact with the outside world.

Other isolated tribes at risk of extinction are the Nukak Maku in Colombia, the Tagaeri-Taromemane in Ecuador, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode in Paraguay, and the Murunahua in Perú.