Last week the Washington Post
published a scathing critique
by the executive director of Human Rights Watch, titled “Why the U.N. Chief’s Silence on Human Rights is Deeply Troubling.” Kenneth Roth argued that Secretary-General António Guterres “is becoming defined by his silence on human rights—even as serious rights abuses proliferate.”
In light of land degradation and climate change, the protection of the environment is crucial—but the protection of the very people working tirelessly and with much risk to preserve nature should be just as important.
In the stifling heat, Diego Matom takes the bread trays out of the oven and carefully places them on wooden shelves, happy that his business has prospered since his village in northwest Guatemala began to generate its own electricity.
The United Nations, as in so many other areas, gives lip service in support of Indigenous issues while lacking the political will and enforcement power over individual member states to comply with the protection of fundamental human rights for the Original Nations of Indigenous Peoples of the world.
A large steel wheel, 14 meters in diameter and 1.3 meters wide, could be the energy solution of the near future, generating 3.5 megawatts - enough to supply a city of 30,000 people, according to a company in the capital city of the state of Amazonas in northwest Brazil.
While residents across Prince Rupert, British Columbia are once again able to get safe drinking water from their taps, the boil-water advisory lifted there in late January should not be forgotten. Canada is a freshwater-rich country, but the time for complacency on essential water issues has long passed. Most people living in Canada have access to safe water. But drinking water advisories in the country about unsafe water have been concentrated in First Nation communities.
The ancient Qhara Qhara nation began a battle against the State of Bolivia in defence of its rich ancestral lands, in an open challenge to a government that came to power in 2006 on a platform founded on respect for the values and rights of indigenous peoples.
They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights.
They are the human rights defenders.
The remarkable story of an Adivasi lawyer and social activist who has led peoples’ movements against state development policies, and sought redress for human rights violations of his people in conflict-ridden regions of Maharashtra.
A school in the capital of Easter Island (Rapa Nui, in the local indigenous tongue) gives an example of clean management with the use of solar energy, rainwater recovery and an organic vegetable garden, as well as rooms and spaces built with waste materials.
Failing to understand the Adivasi world view and imposing the dominant development paradigm on Adivasi peoples is affecting their identity and well-being. The mainstream development paradigm has aggravated discontent among Adivasi communities. The reasons are not difficult to recognise—it encourages the siege of native resources, drives competition, is surplus-driven, instils private ownership, and consequently, is affecting the cultural identity of Adivasi peoples.
"We're in a very difficult situation. There is militarisation at a regional level, and gender-based violence. We are at risk, we cannot silence that," Aura Lolita Chávez, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, complained at a meeting of human rights defenders from Latin America held in the Mexican capital.
As High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations meet in Suriname at a major conference, it is obvious that the decision made by these countries to preserve their forests has been a difficult but good one.
Social activists and local authorities in Rapa Nui or Easter Island are calling for urgent action to address rising sea temperatures, declining rainfall, and rising tides that threaten their fishing resources and their Moais, the mysterious volcanic stone monoliths.
Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change in a resolution adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 2015.
Sustainable land management is becoming more important than ever as rates of emissions, deforestation, and water scarcity continue to increase. But what if you don’t have rights to the land?
While the impact of agriculture on land is well known, the relationship between land degradation and land tenure seems to be less understood.
Social organisations in the central Mexican municipality of Yecapixtla managed to halt the construction of a large thermoelectric plant in the town and are now designing a project to convert the installation into a solar panel factory, which would bring the area socioeconomic and environmental dividends.
Nancy López lives in a house made of clay, wood and corrugated metal sheets, on private land dedicated to agriculture. She is part of an indigenous community of 12 families in northern Argentina that, like almost all such communities, has no title to the land it occupies and lives under the constant threat of eviction.
"We have already been decimated and subjected, and we have been victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the national state," said indigenous leaders, as they rejected the new Brazilian government’s proposals and measures focusing on indigenous peoples.
"If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I'm afraid of that growth," Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.
According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or "disappeared" during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.