According to Global Witness 2015 was the worst year on record for killings of land and environmental defenders. Indigenous Peoples comprised a staggering 40% of those killings. IFIP’s call to action recommends funders to offer flexible, long-term and responsive support for legal defense, communications technology, security measures and transportation to indigenous groups and networks at risk.
Photo credit: Victor Mallqui
Written by Ashley Hernandez, IFIP
Recently, another indigenous activist was killed brutally in Honduras. Jose Santos Sevilla was the leader of Tolupan people, who are fighting to protect their lands from mining and logging industries. Jose was assassinated by armed gunmen in his home, a chilling reminder of the killing of Honduran environmental defender, Berta Caceres. This mounting violence against environmental activists and land defenders is an alarming trend impacting Indigenous communities throughout the world. According to Global Witness, “2015 was the worst year on record for killings of land and environmental defenders.” Indigenous Peoples comprised a staggering 40% of those killings. This violence is not the only common denominator as patterns emerge among the perpetrators and the brutality they unleash.
Photo credit: Goldman Prize.
Extractive industries are part of these patterns as corporations snatch Indigenous lands for their business interests, stripping away the natural resources that are central to the livelihoods and food security of communities. The land grabs are initiated through both, legal and illegal means, and are often times executed with the support of local and national governments. Given the magnitude of this crisis affecting Indigenous Peoples, IFIP convened an ‘Indigenous Security and Well Being’ workshop in Lima last year at our Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference. Born out of this event was a call to action and the development of concrete strategies. Our call to action recognizes that support and funding from the global community can make a significant difference to prevent violence against Indigenous defenders.
Photo credit: Goldman Prize.
Our call to action recommends that funders and the global community can make an impact through flexible, long-term and responsive support for legal defense, communications technology, security measures, transportation, and developing closer links between global and grassroots advocacy. Please see our complete ‘Call to Action’ for more details. Another recommendation from our workshop advocated for an approach where Indigenous communities don’t focus on a single activist, putting her or his life at increased risk, but instead promote a collective solution. Workshop panelists and participants advised that we should learn from collective safety and security strategies that other Indigenous social movements and groups have developed to protect their communities.
We are sharing a powerful testimonial by Paul Pavol Palosualrea from West Pomio, East New Britain Province of Papua New Guinea, who has dedicated his life to fight the theft of his land from logging companies. This battle is arduous and is a long-term struggle, but his story illuminates a collective strategy that is building resilience and strengthening resistance of his community. These stories remind us that it is critical to build solidarity with Indigenous land defenders and movements around the world.