Good morning, brothers and sisters.
My speech is going to contrast what the brother just said; not because of the science fact, but as to how -the vision of the indigenous peoples- we see reflected all this situation that is happening in the world; not only in Latin America, but the world itself.
First, I want to tell you that only 43 indigenous peoples inhabit Central America. There are 65 languages in Central America; 30% of the population is indigenous. Why am I my reflecting this? Because the Governments, the system, sometimes says: "Where are the indigenous? The indigenous do not exist anymore. Why are we going to dialogue with the indigenous, what can they contribute in this? It only has to be seen in the scientific way, not from the knowledge of the indigenous peoples.”
So, this 30% is more; we have taken it of the official data. When I say “of the official data”, they are those of ECLAC. I will give you and example in El Salvador, where I come from. My town, by the way, is Lenca, and until 2014 our existence was recognized in El Salvador. Imagine, an entire struggle of invisibility and marginalization we have had there.
This data, of course, is much more. In El Salvador a study was carried out in 2015 where we were - we came to be 17% of existing indigenous peoples in El Salvador, but nevertheless this frightened the Government at that moment and said: “Well, how is it possible there are so many?”; but because us the organizations built the question that had to go towards that census. In 2007 we were not asked; they asked their questions, and one very racist question, where they asked people if they considered themselves because of skin color or why. Do you understand? I mean, that shocked us.
Of the 17% imagine, in 2005, two years later in 2007, the 0.02% of indigenous peoples was reflected in El Salvador. In other words, technically, that is I am telling you: technically this is going to contrast, because sometimes the truth is technically hidden. Then our existence was hidden there. Technically the existence of indigenous peoples wanted to be wiped off the map; nevertheless there we are… resisting; and we continue onwards.
In the zones where us the indigenous peoples are there exists a highly rich biodiversity, waters and forests. We concentrate the major poverty indicators in the indigenous peoples (having riches). High investments in lands of the indigenous have been reported, but poverty sharpens; another shock we had. We are told: "But how do you say that…? Prove, demonstrate that yes, where indigenous peoples are there exists biodiversity and you will keep those natural resources"; because we have been accused many times that we are the promoters of this entire situation.
So we said: “Well, okay,” and we spoke with the UICN; we told them: “Look, we need to prove to the Governments that yes, what we are saying, is there.” We made a map of Central America. What this map showed… and many people came to work the map: technicians, many from the Government; and many of those things were taken from ministries, from the ministries of countries, most of the data; and it was demonstrated that the zone that is still green is where we indigenous peoples are, it was proven.
So they said: “Well, before all this, what is the approach you have?” So, it was still continued to that, then it will be continued… and I am telling you because in the forums, in the COP…, sometimes we have not even been allowed to enter to give our proposals; and it has been a whole struggle, but nevertheless, I believe we have been moving forward.
This map has demonstrated… And today they are using it, many ministries are using this to see the situation; because like us in the United Nations have been moving forward… Today the organisms -the World Bank, FAO, CRIDA- have there strategies, their safeguards for indigenous peoples. Then, when the Bank loans, says: "Well, we are going to loan resources, but precaution needs to be had at the beginning because they have indigenous peoples of prior, free and informed consent". Then they are now using this to see how much impact the megaprojects that are being carried out may have in indigenous communities.
CICA, to which I belong, are in all Central America, from Panama to Belize. These are the councils and tables in each one of the countries. I come from CCNIS, of El Salvador.
Besides that we had a problem ourselves, and a problem created as well because of the situation itself if interests of Governments, of keeping us apart. Us organizations reached the forums, sometimes not to propose, but to see internal issues among us, and we also did not agree, to make joint positions; a big problem we had.
Nevertheless, we also moved forward in that. One day we said: “Well, let us sit and really see what are those issues we have as indigenous peoples; but we do have to face, and in order to be heard, present proposals that allows us to have more incidence.” And that is how Foro Abya Yala* is created, where us the majority of organizations are in Latin America, from South America, Central America and some, as the first nations as well, from Canada.
Here in the Fifth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, declares the region of Central America as highly vulnerable to climate change. So scientifically they are already saying it themselves; but we warned them, well, we warned them; we told them: “Look, if we take....”
Because, look, another thing they say: “But the thing about this of the natural phenomenon has always happened.” Of course, it has always happened, because the healing of Earth has always happened. The problem is that the healing it can have in 5 years has been sped up to 50 years. In other words, that is the consequence. There are things that yes, are not inevitable, they have to happen; but if we are builders and also responsible of all we are doing, things can happen, in a natural way and not speed it up like now.
Why am I saying this, well? Look, in Central America we have a problem now, and sometimes that map “comes back a double-edged knife,” they say. For what reason? We needed to prove that where we indigenous peoples were natural resources are kept; but that has also worked for the extractive industries to say: “Oh, well, there are natural resources, so we have to go in there.” Today we have more problems in Central America, in La Mosquita area, in Honduras, where they are incurscionating… Well you can see in Honduras how many people have died defending the earth; there we have Berta Caceres, who has been a symbol standing up for the rivers. But, nevertheless, Governments ignore that.
What is said today? “Well, the natural resources are there, but how can we go into those natural resources?” So today we have… What is it that is done? The fights we indigenous peoples are having are linked to other illegal ways (such as narcotrafic and other things), but what for? In order to take us out from there; and there extractive industries go in to make use of our natural resources.
So here we see it; it is a matter of how, in Central America, it is becoming a chaotic situation in terms of climate change. Let us not talk about the recent phenomenons, worldwide; because it has not only been here in Latin America, but worldwide (these are the hurricanes).
Look, in COP22 the approach of the indigenous peoples is that it will not happen, 1% of the degrees worldwide will not rise; but the Governments said: "No, we have to accept the 2%; and the brothers here can say it. It is an approach that has been put in Governments. If we have 1.5%, imagine the heat, the situation we are currently living; when we reach the 2%, what will happen? In other words, sometimes that situation is not measured, but what is done is find a way to keep this matter of the system itself, capitalist; when I say "capitalist" it is not that I am… but rather those are ways of life that sometimes we have to see.
Then the extinction… What will happen there? Extinction of the species, shortage of water, that now the fight will come because of the water: there are places where there is no water, and if it exists, water, it is contaminated. So that is a big problem
we have worldwide, not only in Central America.
The displacement, associated with the extreme events such as the ones we are seeing now; the reduction of the terrestrial carbon sinks; fewer growth and survival of crustaceans with commercial values of other qualifying organisms, due to the acidification of the ocean.
Another thing that acid does is… the marine species also die. Now we see, well, what is happening with the companies? Yesterday we were nothing but speaking here in Panama and said: “Well, there are lots of buildings, many hotels, that look very good; but will these waters be treated or will they just let them go into the sea like this?” Then what is happening? Will there be someone who will look at that situation? Well, as in every country, almost always that is ignored, when what is intended is nothing more than having tourism and thus generate more money; but, well, that is also one of the things that governments must be very careful about.
Given the situation we are experiencing, well, and the brother also referred to this. This is what I am also saying, which is the shortage of water and urban floods; food production is also scarce.
Look, these are the phenomena that are being experienced right now, this year we have lived through all these phenomena. Yesterday, I was also reading that they said that some of these things were created; it was not even natural, they were also created. We would have to see that also scientifically, if it could have been given.
Look, these are the recommendations that the IPCC made: “For adaptation to succeed it must be adapted locally, aligned with mitigation and development strategies, and must address the different social and environmental stress factors in a holistic and fair manner”; something that is not happening. That is not happening because… I’m going to maybe bore you by telling you that it’s because of the same economic model that countries are living. The same economic model (call it one or another ideology); but when it comes to the system, the system absorbs that and what it does is that these governments end up doing favors for the systems and calling the big companies.
We as indigenous peoples have our normative framework, and that has cost us, as I say. The first sisters and brothers who went to the United Nations had to sleep outside, without money, and sometimes they were not allowed to enter the discussions; but, nevertheless, those women and men who were there, and that many are no longer with us, but left us this legacy. Because its impact there is what has allowed us to have a legal framework at the international level that now allows us to fight for that and claim it in each of the countries.
There we have Convention 169, which is an agreement that is binding on governments and is the one of which they are afraid. Central America, Panama and El Salvador are the only ones that have not ratified it. There is fear, there is fear because there is talk of land.
Speaking of land in El Salvador, a legislator (we were there to receive the constitutional recognition): “Look, do not talk about the Convention here, because talking about the Convention is like pouring holy water on the devil,” Yes! “Interests are coming!”, he told me. I mean, he was very… "Do not talk about that. Talk about being recognized but do not talk about agreements or rights.” More in El Salvador, that the lands… Well, the indigenous peoples there do not have land, there are few lands that are cultivated collectively, because we were stripped of them.
So taking this agreement there means to dialogue with the Government so they can… not to return, but perhaps of the surpluses that many people have, they can give collective lands for the indigenous peoples.
There is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is not binding, but it is more advanced than Convention 169; because Convention 169 still did not talk about extractive industries, we did not talk about the problems we had at that time. The Declaration already speaks of that. So that’s why many countries do not want to make it a law, but they want to keep it as… Only Bolivia has declared it a law, to claim the rights that have been denied to us for a long time.
Recognition of indigenous rights in international documents on climate change. Look, this has been an odyssey. The Paris agreements, the indigenous peoples, and as I said, as Abya Yala forum…; and as Abya Yala forum we are also coordinating at world level with other indigenous brothers; and the Global Group of Indigenous Peoples has been formed, where we have already presented proposals together, not separately. and as Abya Yala forum we are also coordinating at world level with other indigenous brothers; and the Global Group of Indigenous Peoples has been formed, where we have already presented proposals together, not separately.
So, we did a whole fight of incidents to present a proposal; but nevertheless, of everything that we present, we only have a little something around there (which is also an issue, because everything is a process), where people talk about the knowledge of indigenous peoples; and the preamble talks about the rights of indigenous peoples. That is all there is in the Paris agreements on indigenous peoples; it’s a matter of… And that does not mean that it was not done: a fight was done so that we indigenous peoples were reflected in that.
This is the COP; but the brother already spoke about these situations that are happening at the world level.
We have that in Table 1 we are talking about this, that there is a sister here in Panama who is very active, and today I told her: “Look, we started young in this and today we are already seeing ourselves a bit… we have to think about leaving them for the generations,” I said to Florina López, who is a companion who has been there. And she is the president, is the one that coordinates the regional level what has to do with the convention on 8(j), of knowledge about indigenous peoples; but here “Every law has a loophole (say the lawyers).”
Although it is true, Article 8(j) claims rights, but also refers that it is based on the national laws of the countries; and in some countries, as in El Salvador, national laws do not… well, right now there is recognition, but there is no secondary law that regulates that.
So that’s why I say: “Every law has a loophole”; because in some countries this is also not taken into account because the law says otherwise.
We go to Belize, in Belize they say: “No, if we have advanced; that those things… Our laws recognize the autonomy of the indigenous peoples,” but that is a lie. These are issues that are being lived day by day. But here we are: doing, fighting, trying to influence, trying to claim all those rights.
This is an event we had at El Salvador with the GEAP, the Global Embassy of Activist, where we showed that we indigenous peoples do exist in El Salvador; it was massive, there were more than 2,000 people there in El Salvador, at that event. We also invited indigenous brothers from Central America.
If the governments tell us: “But what are you going to prove?”; but we indigenous peoples have always been scientists, and we have proved it: there are calendars, of what the vice-minister was talking about today, which was also done in an orderly fashion even to plant, even to cut a tree. Everything was done in an orderly manner, and that also allowed… Because they tell us: “Well, today we have to adapt”; we always had that process of adaptation. Why? Because we did it responsibly, the indigenous peoples.
This is a work at the Central America level, which we have presented to the governments, which is the Balu Wala, it is a way of life that we indigenous peoples have, which is the orderly way of how we see that we can work and dialogue to allow an economy that can allow us… see, because sometimes the problem is that governments have become existentialist, and that has also caused communities to die with their own ways of life. That is, it is a way that we have also said: “No, do not do it. Help, join”; but not only that people are waiting for what the companies or the government are going to give us in order to survive. But it is a way of sometimes having us also dominated, then.
We have made proposals, we have presented the Mesoamerican Agenda for the Defense of our Mother Earth, where I am going to try and leave all those documents.
As well as the Mesoamerican Strategy on Indigenous Lands and Protect Areas. That is, we have documents as indigenous peoples, there you can see; and it also allows the governments to seek which is the best way, the new way for relating that they have have and the dialogue they can have with indigenous peoples.
This is the strategy of the CICA, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, in Central America as well.
Organizations such as FAO have recently recognized that indigenous peoples are key to combating climate change. Organizations themselves are already saying it, when before, these organizations said that the knowledge they had did not work; but today, they are recognizing it.
Science for climate change: as the indigenous peoples. And I am showing you because these are articles that have come out; if I say it, they will tell me: “Well, where did you get it from.”
There we have it, the work of the indigenous peoples. I would have liked to do into detail; but I know that later on we have a debate, there we can give feedback what I have talked about.
Thank you very much.