Good morning Mr. Emilio Sempris, Minister of the Environment of Panama; Mrs. Gabriela Lara, general director of the Activists for Peace movement; Mariam Wallet, president of the 16th Permanent Forum of the UN of the Indigenous Peoples; Leo Heileman, director of the UN Environment for Latin America and the Caribbean.
For me it is an honor to participate in this 2017 Peace Summit; I thank all the staff that made this great event possible.
To begin our presentation, on behalf of the indigenous peoples of my country, of Panama, and to all those brothers who cannot be heard from this rostrum, to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the world: the commitment that today belongs to society seems to be crystallized in this first session called Session of Science for the Preservation of the Life of Mother Earth and of the Human Being.
Truly, the subject is known to all, but why don’t we follow what we already know? I will share some words that we heard when we were in school: that we received all products from Mother Earth, everything (that we learned in fourth, fifth, sixth grade): we receive medicine, we receive clothes, we receive paper, we receive ink to write; we learned that at a very young age. But in exchange for that, what do we give to nature when we extract that contribution for the development of humanity? We’ve only gone halfway.
Most definitely, education must be one of the most important steps that governments in the world must take so that youths can become aware of the reality that is approaching if we do not responsibly take care of our Mother Earth.
And also, in legal matters: the parliaments of the world, the parliaments of developed society, sadly (and we cannot deny this) sometimes legislate to seek more funds to create sophisticated weapons to kill the human being; sometimes they devote millionaire resources for investigations, to have sophisticated weapons to destroy nature; because it cannot be said that at the moment a bomb explodes anywhere, that it is not destroying nature; the environment is being destroyed.
With education, we can begin to take important steps for protection, for the conservation and care of our Mother Earth, and with it the human being.
The laws, in our country, in particular, have made some very important advances, and I will mention a few of the many laws that have been enforced:
1) Law 23, of March 26, 2012: the protection of natural water and mining resources of the Ngäbe-Buglé comarca. I will say no more because those who live in Panama (and maybe the world) found out why this law came to be. After eight days of street fighting, the national government, through the Assembly, was able to dictate this norm and protect our natural resources.
2) Another extremely important law that gives value to our Mother Earth, is Law 17 of June 2, 2016, related to the protection of traditional medicinal knowledge of indigenous peoples. We are in the regulation stage of said law.
3) Finally, I also quote a law that we know is going to be very belligerent in the matter of consultation: it is Law 37 of August 2, 2016, which is the Law of Prior, Free and Informed Consultation, which requires society, the Government, to make all the necessary consultation so that a project can be developed within the territories and indigenous peoples.
Honorable gentlemen who accompany us in this great event: it is time for us to become aware of our actions, even though they may seem insignificant at the time. We see the street sometimes when it rains for two or three hours, the street gets flooded, but we are responsible for that because we do not have the culture of cleaning. It is very easy to stick your hand out the window and throw out bottles, plastics, trash; and we consider ourselves civilized.
Gentlemen, it is our time ... That action that is suddenly insignificant affects the education of a child who is probably behind me; that education or that action I do... let’s say, without thinking, will stay with that man or that lady who has no more academic training. So, gentlemen, let's start with a culture on my part, contributing to the protection of Mother Earth.
To finish, our country at this moment, the national Government, is making great efforts to implement a plan: the Plan for the Integral Development of Indigenous Peoples, where the seven peoples participated: Bribri, Naso, Emberá-wounaan, Ngäbe, Gunas ... where the main wishes of the indigenous peoples and the kind of projects they want to be developed were collected or captured.
In these first five years, four well-consulted topics will be developed. One is governance: You cannot walk if you do not have a serious and responsible structure within indigenous peoples. Work is being done in the organization and, above all, protecting the traditional authority of the indigenous peoples. You have to listen to them. They have the knowledge, the idiosyncrasy, and their worldview of their world; that's why you have to listen to them and work with them.
The environment is one of the aspects that will be worked on.
Water and sanitation. Gentlemen, the indigenous regions and the territories of the indigenous peoples conserve one of the vital resources for the life of the human being and of nature in general: water.
You, since you start moving to the area of the central province of Chiriqui, almost all the rivers that cross the paddocks of the big ranchers come from the mountain range of the indigenous peoples. And here in this country that has not yet to be legislated.
This year, I think (if Minister Sempris does not let me lie), there is a water agency that is going to fight for the rational use and conservation of that vital liquid.
Honorable gentlemen, I do not want to tire you with my speech, but the indigenous people know their world, they know that worldview. Before, we had no need of seeing how we would produce certain technology; just seeing stars, seeing the Moon, we knew when we could cut a stick, when we could knock down a piece of forest to sow, because we had direct contact with nature. Today, that is ending. Today, that is no longer taught in our schools.
So, honorable, it is a true honor for me, that we can take this teaching from the indigenous peoples of the world, and in particular from our country, as a commitment; that the issues that are developed within the region (whether education, investment, in legal matters), consult us, because we will be owners of the development of our own destiny.
Thank you very much.