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Protect Our Environment And Its Defenders, Uphold Land And IP Rights

As the world celebrates World Environment Day, IPMSDL joins everyone by forwarding its call to uphold for Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) self-determination and land rights as key in protecting the environment.

The 370 million IP that make up less than five percent of the world's population supports 80% of global biodiversity. The rich ecosystem in rainforests, rivers and in ancestral territories proves how successful indigenous stewardship has been in living in balance with their environment.

But such recognition has done little to reduce the threats to IP and their ancestral lands. More often, IP are viewed as an obstacle to economic growth. Since the time of early colonialism, IP were violently uprooted and even annihilated to give way to colonial expansion, setting up of colonialist States, slavery and resource exploration and exploitation.

Multinational companies, State infrastructures, and conservation projects replace forests with plantations, mining sites, and cattle ranches, while rivers are choked with big dams. In India, Brazil, Thailand, and Malaysia, IP are even robbed of their own local plants and resources as companies patent them for commercial use. The historic violence, discrimination, and landlessness persist as IP continue to be murdered, harassed, or criminalized. According to the Global Witness report, three land defenders are killed every week, and 30-40% of these killings are IP. As land conflicts linked to miners, illegal loggers, or State forces increase, the killings also escalate.

Forest loss that accelerates climate change also drives new viruses and diseases, and IP are on the frontlines of these destructions. With the coronavirus pandemic, the urgency to rethink how the dominant system drives environmental crises and IP rights violations comes more pressing.

Environment protection for IP is not abstract. For them, it means exercising their right to self-determination in everyday living through sustainable ways of food production, supporting their livelihood, and practicing their culture, communal land ownership, and community governance.

The vital role of IP in protection and conservation of the environment will remain unfulfilled unless they are included in decision-making on ancestral land use and policy, and their culture, rights, and lives are guarded. Thus, the demand for justice for all the victims of systemic attacks on IP and IP rights defenders call for accountability from big companies and State forces that put them at risk as they work against environment plunder.

As we celebrate the gifts of our world’s environment, let us assert a rights-based approach to environmental protection and conservation that brings justice for IP and their communities.

It is our duty to amplify the narratives that uphold the IP right to land and self-determination! Let our love for the environment expand into international solidarity to defeat all forms of attacks to IP, forest defenders and human rights workers. The enjoyment of a clean, safe, and healthy environment can only exist when people’s rights, especially of the greater marginalized population including IP, are enjoyed without fear and injustice.

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