Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Statement in Solidarity With Amazonian Indigenous Peoples Facing the Novel Coronavirus

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns joins other organizations and communities in issuing a statement calling for the international community to take immediate measures to protect Amazonian communities from the risk of COVID-19 outbreak, given their high levels of vulnerability and isolation from healthcare systems. 

Read the statement as a pdf.

April 2020

In solidarity with indigenous organizations, federations and nationalities at the Amazon regional level coordinated by COICA and its members AIDESEP, APA, CIDOB, COIAB, CONFENIAE, FOAG, OPIAC, OIS, and ORPIA; at the national level including APIB, CONAIE, ONIC, as well as other organizations, federations and communities1, who have expressed deep concern about the impending threat of COVID-19 in their ancestral territories and communities, we demand integrated, effective, and culturally adequate state responses to this crisis. This begins with an immediate moratorium on any activity that includes the entering of foreign persons into indigenous territories, the development of mining activities, logging, oil exploration and extraction, industrial agriculture, religious proselytization, or increased militarization, especially in transborder territories under pressure from armed actors and organized crime.

For over 500 years, indigenous peoples of the Amazon and across the Americas have faced invasions and loss of their ancestral territories, ethnic and socioeconomic discrimination, and the constant threat of physical and cultural extermination resulting in displacement, disease, and genocide. Now, indigenous peoples – particularly those living in voluntary isolation – are gravely threatened by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health of many indigenous peoples is already precarious due to the prevalence of externally-introduced contagious diseases and chronic illnesses throughout the population. The COVID-19 crisis further exposes the insufficiency of healthcare services and a lack of effective, linguistically relevant and culturally appropriate government policies.

Indigenous peoples throughout the region lack access to adequate sanitary facilities, many of which have entirely collapsed or can no longer be repaired. They do not have secure access to potable water sources or proper sanitation infrastructure. Indigenous peoples have also been denied access to timely and accurate information in their own languages, which would facilitate an understanding of the current pandemic and inform decisions on how to best defend and protect themselves accordingly. Extractive activities are an additional threat in a large number of indigenous territories, where they have not been halted by the various governments of the region because they are considered economically strategic.

The continued negligence of governments, extractive industries, and financial institutions in the face of the novel coronavirus could result in the ethnocide of the very peoples safeguarding rainforests, and who provide expansive knowledge and solutions to the other existential crisis we face: the global climate emergency.

Multilateral international organizations have failed to address and recommend actions to prevent the arrival of the novel coronavirus into indigenous territories, and must take a more active role in the various countries of the region to promote, defend and closely monitor the rights of indigenous peoples.

Without guidance or support from public health agencies, many indigenous organizations and peoples are taking preventative measures on their own to stop the coronavirus from entering their communities: by voluntary social distancing, using proactive hygiene practices, suspending major protests, events, and travel, closing traffic between villages and controlling the entry or exit of both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples into territories, and by producing public health communications materials in their own languages. Indigenous peoples across the region explicitly demand that any and all outsiders refrain from traveling to indigenous territories until further notice, due to the current threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numerous indigenous organizations that represent hundreds of towns, thousands of communities and millions of people across the Amazon have issued statements directed both internally to their communities and externally to governments and other actors. We join them in calling on government authorities, multilateral organizations, religious proselytizers, executives of extractive corporations, and finance industry leaders to:

  • Immediately cease extractive mining, oil, and logging activity, industrial agriculture, and all religious proselytization within or on the border of any indigenous territories;
  • Respond to calls by the indigenous organizations of their countries for adequate preventative measures and their proper implementation; such measures should consider the geographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental realities of indigenous peoples, recognizing them as populations particularly vulnerable to the pandemic;
  • Respect and promote the rights to self-determination, self-protection and governance that various indigenous peoples practice in their territories, including systems of government and guardianship that aim to physically protect indigenous territories by controlling the entry or exit of non-indigenous peoples into or out of them;
  • Guarantee access to adequate and culturally-appropriate public health services to indigenous peoples, including proper interpretation during consultations and in communicating information to the public, and sufficient access to testing and treatment protocols for COVID-19;
  • Ensure rigorous governance and law enforcement on organized crime in and around indigenous territories;
  • Establish virtual coordination and urgent action working groups for indigenous peoples among States, Indigenous Organizations, the International Health Organization (WHO) and other rights organizations in each country to deal with issues of health emergency, food security and the murders of indigenous leaders.
  • Finally, we urge the international community to develop and carry out humanitarian action in direct coordination with Indigenous Peoples' organizations.\

Signed:

AIDESEP (Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon)
APIB (Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil)
COICA (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin)
COIAB (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon)
CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador)
CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon)
ABAI Estrada Municipal Otávio de Jesus Biscaia
Abibinsroman Foundation
Accion Ecológica
Actions Communautaires pour le Developpment Integral
Adorers of the Blood of Christ, US Region
Alianca de Batistas do Brasil
Alliance for Empowering Rural Communities
Alliance of Baptists
Alternativa Terrazul
ALTSEAN-Burma
Amazon Aid Foundation
Amazon Frontlines
Amazon Watch
Amazonia Everywhere
Americans for Indian Opportunity
Amis de l'Afrique Francophone- Benin (AMAF-BENIN)
Anglican Alliance Latin America
ARA - Germany
Artists for Amazonia
Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente
Asociación Libere Educación y Desarrollo
Associação Alternativa Terrazul
Associação de Agricultores Familiares
Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany
ASW (Germany)
Australian Forests and Climate Alliance
Avaaz
Awakened Potential
Babelatino Associación – Italy
Banana Link
Biofuelwatch
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project
Brasilieninitiative Freiburg e.V. – Germany
Brazilian Women's Group
Brazilians for Democracy and Social Justice
Brighter Green
Campanha Nem um Poço a MAis
Canopée
Care About Climate
Centar za zivotnu sredinu – Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka
Centro Takiwasi
Christian Aid
Church of the Eagle and the Condor
Citizens Climate Lobby Latin America
Climate Action Network Canada
Climate Change and Consciousness Community
Climate Save Movement
Colectivo CASA
Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC
Coletivo Desbordar
Coletivo Mura de Porto Velho
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Comitê de Povos Tradicionais, Meio Ambiente e Grandes Projetos da Associação Brasileira de Antropologia
Comite Defensor Da Vida Amazónica Na Bacia do Rio Madeira
Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ), Nepal
Cool Effect
Coperaccción
Corporate Accountability Lab
CSKT (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes)
Culture Hack Labs
Defend Democracy in Brazil
Denver Justice and Peace Committeee
Dhaatri Trust
Digital Democracy
Dogwood Alliance
Earth in Brackets
EarthRights International
Earthworks
Earthworm Foundation
EcoNexus
Emerald Network Ltd
Environment East Gippsland inc
Environmental Engineer
Equitable Cambodia
Estonian Forest Aid (Eesti Metsa Abiks)
Extinction Rebellion – Hyderabad, India
Family Farm Defenders
FDCL – Forschungs und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika
FERN
Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES)
Focus Association for Sustainable Development, Slovenia
Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina - FAU AL
Forest Peoples Programme
Forty Hall Farm
Fórum Mudanças Climáticas e Justiça Socioambiental -FMCJS
FracTracker Alliance
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia
Gaia Amazonas
GardenAfrica
GeaSphere
Gestion JLusignan
Global Forest Coalition
Global Justice Ecology Project
Global Witness
Globaltech Contractors Inc.
Grassroots International
Green Alternative
Greenpeace
Grupo de estudos em Etica ambiental -UFF/VR
Grupo de Estudos em Tematicas Ambientais - GESTA-UFMG
Grupo de Pesquisa e Extensão Política, Economia, Mineração, Ambiente e Sociedade - PoEMAS
Grupo Re-Existir, Santa Cruz, CA
Guardian of life
Healing every Step
Healthy Pathways
Heart and Leaf LLC
Heart to Heart Companions
Heartwood
ICEERS
Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
Indigenous Environmental Network
Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology, Germany
Institute of Shamanic Studies
Instituto Amazônico de Agriculturas Familiares - INEAF
Instituto Centro de Vida - ICV
Intituto Madeira Vivo - IMV
Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul
InterAmerican Clean Energy Institute
International Forestry Resources and Institutions, University of Michigan
International Rivers
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)
JA!Justica Ambiental
Justice and Peace Committee of Franciscans
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements(KFEM)
KRuHA Indonesia
Laboratório e Grupo de Estudos em Relações Interétnicas - LAGERI, DAN/UnB
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
LifeMosaic
Little Citizens for Climate
Lock the Gate Alliance
London Mining Network
Madden Sainsbury Foundation
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mediterranean Youth Climate Network
Mercy hands
Miami Network for Democracy in Brazil
Middlesex University School of Law
Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Milkwood Media
Mining Watch
Missão Mobilizando Vidas
Missionary Oblates/OIP Trust
Mouvement Ecologique FoE Lux
Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração-MAM
National Family Farm Coalition
National Forum for Advocacy, Nepal
NDN Collective
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Neuromeditation Institute
New Florida Majority
New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light
Nicaragua Center for Community Action
NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark
Norwegian Social Forum
Nós na Criação
Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales OLCA
Oil Change International
Oilwatch
Oklahoman Committee for Democracy in Brazil
Oxfam
Pachamama Alliance
Pax Christi International
Penn State Committee for Democracy in Brazil
People for Truth
Planète Amazone
Plant for the Planet
Politon – Strengthening Democracy
Pratt Institute – Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment
Prismatik SAS
PsychedeLiA Integration (Los Angeles)
Psychedelic Integration
Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Foundation Norway
Rainforest Foundation US
Recourse
Rede IBEIDS - Ação Sindical Mineral
Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos
Rights of Mother Earth
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia)
SanDiego350
Shema: Jewish Action Against Climate Change
Shine Shine Shine
Sierra Club
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Social Value International
Social Value UK
Sociedade de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos
Society for Responsible Design
Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland
Soul of Money Insititute
Soul Quest
Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth
Stand.Earth
Sunflower Alliance
Sustainable Value Investors
Tatu Pictures
Tearfund Brasil
The Sacred Science
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
The Weaving Lab
The Wildfire Project
Trinity Ethical and Green Affairs
U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG)
Universidad para la Cooperacion Internacional
University of Toronto Environmental Action
US Network for Democracy in Brazil at Harvard
V Productions
Washington Office on Latin America WOLA
Water Justice and Gender
Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
World of Wisdom
Young Med Voices
YOUNGO
Youth and Environment Europe
Youth and Women for Opportunities Uganda
Youth Climate Leaders
Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation (YFEED Foundation)

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