World Bank Breaks Promise To Awá Indians
press release, August 2000
World Bank Breaks Promise To Uncontacted Awá Indians
Brazil has violated its own constitution and the World Bank has flouted its Operational Directive by failing to demarcate Awá Indian territory – although funds were made available 18 years ago to do so. This has lead to the deaths of unknown numbers of uncontacted Awá and the destruction of their land. The demarcation has been blocked largely by businessmen and politicians who have large landholdings on Awá land.
Survival has just learned that the money for the Awá demarcation expired on the 30th June 2000, eighteen years after it was given to Brazil as part of a World Bank loan for the development of the Carajás mining project. A condition of this loan was that all Indian territories should be demarcated by the Brazilian authorities. However, the Awá area still has not been demarcated and this hunter gatherer tribe are facing increasing invasion of their land by settlers, ranchers and loggers, making them acutely vulnerable to disease and violence.
Despite having failed to ensure that the Brazilian authorities and mining company CVRD adhered to the conditions of the Carajás Project loan and agreement, the World Bank is preparing to make further loans to the area.
The Awá people are one of the few nomadic hunter gatherer peoples in Brazil. In 1950 their population was estimated at 800. Today they number less than 400, of whom about 150 are uncontacted. Living in mobile groups within the Amazon forest, they hunt game such as tapir and monkeys and gather fruit and nuts. Most of the Awá who have been contacted and live in villages are the survivors of brutal massacres. Attacks on groups of nomadic Awá are common and these survivors relate how Awá have been killed at gunpoint or deliberately poisoned by ranchers and loggers.
The World Bank's Operational Directive on
indigenous peoples (para. 15c) clearly states that
recognition of indigenous peoples' land tenure or ownership
rights is a fundamental prerequisite in any project
implementation where indigenous peoples are involved. The
World Bank is currently revising its Indigenous Peoples
Policy. Worryingly, a leaked copy suggests that the new
policy will be substantially weaker.
Survival's director general, Stephen Corry, said, 'It is scandalous that today, as Brazil celebrates the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese, the Awá continue to be decimated by the same abuses they have faced for five centuries. In our opinion, if action is not taken urgently, the Awá's survival as a people is in doubt.'