The Declaration of the Alliance of Guardians and Children of Mother Earth

Guardians and Children of Mother Earth logo

One Earth proudly supports the declaration of the Alliance of the Guardians of Mother Nature.

From October 11 to 16, 2017, the first Grand Assembly of the Alliance of Guardians of Mother Nature was held in Brasilia. For five days, nearly 200 Indigenous representatives from all around the world and leading conservationists discussed about global issues for the future of humanity: climate, biodiversity, environment, energy, technology, conflicts, human rights, rights of nature.

Together, inspired by the problems, challenges and solutions found on the traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples of all continents, be they are forests, islands or the Arctic, whether they live in the desert, in the steppes, in the mountains, they have written a declaration to inspire a global strategy for the protection of the planet, for peace, for future generations.

Having met as the Constituent Assembly of the Alliance of Mother Nature’s Guardians on November 28th, 2015, in Paris, representatives of Indigenous peoples, personalities and nongovernmental organizations from around the globe reminded:

  • That the Indigenous peoples represent over 370 million individuals in more than 70 countries on five continents;
  • That they form more than 5000 different groups and speak more than 4000 languages.

At the end of the foregoing Constituent Assembly, the Alliance approved seventeen proposals, which are contained in Annex 1.

On the invitation of Indigenous leaders from Brazil, Indigenous representatives and their allies to meet again in Brasilia, from October 11 to 16, 2017, to strengthen the principles covered in the seventeen proposals.

This Second Assembly is meant to carry the voice of Indigenous peoples and their allies, urging humanity to take the necessary measures to protect the sacred character of water, air, soil, earth, fire, and lifecycle.

Considering that the change necessarily involves the respect for the Rights of Nature, and the Rights of Mother Earth, as well as the adoption of rules that recognize the equality of rights for ecosystems to exist, thrive and regenerate;

that it is necessary to transform our way of addressing nature i.e., treating it not as a property, but as a subject of law;

that the recognition of such rights can only take place if there is a paradigm shift, particularly if the world's anthropocentric and pyramidal approach is challenged;

they have therefore adopted the following declaration to alert States and humanity:

We, Guardians and Children of Mother Earth’s, Indigenous peoples, and allied partners, held our 2nd Assembly, and our prophecies, our wisdom, our insights have allowed us to see that life on Mother Earth is in danger and is coming to a time of great transformation.

Indigenous peoples have continually taken care of Mother Earth and humanity. We wish that this can continue with the support of the people of the world. The Indigenous prophecies place in us the responsibility to tell the world that we must live in peace with each other and Mother Earth to ensure harmony with her natural laws and with the Creation. We are calling for effective solutions that recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are calling to the world leaders, the States, the United Nations and civil society to start thinking about phasing out those juridical systems inherited from the colonial times and replacing them with others that take up Nature, Mother Earth as an entity which has fundamental rights. We must evolve towards a paradigm based on Indigenous thought and philosophy, which grants equal rights to Nature and which honors the interrelationships between all life forms and the preservation of Mother Earth. There is no separation between the rights of Indigenous peoples and the rights of Mother Earth.

As a consequence, we call upon all States and humanity to:

1) Call for the adoption by the United Nations and national and local governments, including Indigenous peoples governance structures, of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, as proclaimed by 35,000 people, representatives, and delegates at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 2010. That Declaration is a call stating fundamental and universal principles with the aim to achieve the recognition of the rights of the Mother Earth and all its living beings, to lay the foundations of a culture of respect which is necessary for living well (Buen Vivir) and to unite all inhabitants of the Earth around a common and universal interest: the Mother Earth is alive, she is our common home and we must respect and take care of her and future generations.

2) Implement and affirm the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 2007, in response to the recommendation of UN Conference on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ratify and strictly apply the 169th Convention of the International Labor organization, adopted in 1989.

3) Encourage governments and companies to obtain the consent of Indigenous peoples according to the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), through collective decision in accordance with their own procedures prior to the approval of any projects affecting their land and territories, recognizing their right to refuse any project that will impact their peoples and life; including toxic polluting industries, agro-business and extractive activities mining such as subsurface and ocean submarine mining development; with assessment of the impacts on sacred areas, on culture and to human and environmental health. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to revoke at any moment the consent that may have been granted.

4) Plan a fair transition – at the State and local levels – taking into account Indigenous traditional and sacred knowledge, and ensure that their economies make a just transition away from the fossil fuel economy to 100% renewable clean energy, leaving all the earth elements that release climate changing gasses when burned, under the soil and beneath the ocean floor. We also demand banning all new exploration and exploitation of oil, tar sands, oil/gas shale, fracking, coal, uranium, natural gas, including the transportation infrastructures.

5) Take action to strengthen the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 to address Indigenous peoples’ rights and needs. The primary concern of Indigenous peoples and their allies is that the Agreement is not strong enough and its ambitions need to be raised with real solutions to stop contenting ourselves with the current projections of voluntary emission cuts, which will eventually lead to an average increase of the world’s temperature above 3-4 °C. Indigenous peoples will educate their communities and develop strategy to take action addressing the following issues: The Paris Agreement is a trade agreement that does nothing but privatize, commodify and sell carbon offsets for ocean, forest and agricultural lands, allowing those who are the most responsible for greenhouse emissions not only to buy their way out of compliance for emission reduction, but also to make a profit from it; the Agreement proposes a transition that relies on other dirty and destructive energy including hydraulic fracturing, nuclear power, agro-fuels, carbon sequestration and other technological proposals that pose serious ecological risks; as the operating text of the Agreement omits any mention of human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples, we need to work with States to develop protocols that include traditional knowledge in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; also, the Agreement does not address the remedial obligations from the Global North to the Global South, and the demand for payments for reparations and restoration of loss and damaged lands, territories and livelihoods to Indigenous peoples of the South and North. We believe that climate change is not simply an environmental issue; it is the result of an unjust economic system that is in the business of pursuing endless growth, concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and over-exploiting Nature to the point of collapse.

6) Adopt, with the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples, an international treaty establishing binding obligations on transnational corporations and other business enterprises to respect human rights, which must include the rights of Indigenous peoples, that would fully recognize all State’s obligations applicable to Indigenous peoples by virtue of prevailing international instruments.

7) Put into place mechanisms and legislation to ensure that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FIPC) must be given in order to protect Indigenous intellectual property rights, respecting their spiritual, sacred and secret dimensions of their knowledge. States must prevent unlawful and offensive appropriation of traditional knowledge. The provisions of the FPIC should be applied in the context of accessing such knowledge and sharing of the profits generated.

8) Take action on the illegal trade in: wildlife, timber, forest products and resources, genetic resources, endangered species and other biological resources. Assess the application of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as it applies to Indigenous people’s rights.

9) Recognize the actions of corporate and governmental policies that result in the destruction, degradation, contamination and toxic poisoning of the environment, ecosystems and habitat as an eco-crime against the territorial integrity of Mother Earth – also called ecocide. This shall align with the initiative to bring provisions of international crime of ecocide into the International Criminal Court.

10) Support the establishment of local, sub-national, nation-State and international programs and cooperation and partnership initiatives to protect, conserve and restore native forests and other ecosystems of the world within and near Indigenous peoples’ lands and territories, other than market-based systems, with the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples. These programs must include funding for the demarcation and granting of property titles to Indigenous forest dependent communities and to include Indigenous-approved monitoring and surveillance of all Indigenous lands. The self-management and full self-determination of Indigenous peoples in caring for the forests and biodiversity they protect is required. These programs should be evaluated with Indigenous peoples to enable them to be replicated in other forests regions in conjunction with mechanisms to finance the scaling up of implementation.

11) Urgently protect all primary forest spaces of this planet that are traditionally under the guardianship of Indigenous peoples, as sanctuaries since the UN has already recognized that their presence is a guaranteed factor of the non-deterioration of those invaluable environments. Indigenous peoples must, once and for all, own and guard these territories and cannot be evicted. The Alliance underlines the need for creating as soon as possible, with the support of States, an international legal status to efficiently protect these vital ecosystems from any form of predation. These ecosystems must not be used as part of a carbon market mechanisms that quantifies and commodifies Mother Earth, branded as payment for ecosystem services, carbon trading, carbon offsets, carbon pricing, mechanisms for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs), biodiversity offsets and financialization of Nature; turning nature into “units” to be sold in financial markets.

12) Protect and secure the future of oceans, oceanic biodiversity, marine species and ocean resources. If oceans die, we will die. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish ownership title (título de propriedade) to ocean, sea bed, sea areas, coastal seas and sea ice through the law of the sea and the process set up under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Therefore, to ensure the future of the oceans and oceanic biodiversity, we need to implement the following actions:

  • Cease all subsidies from governments of the world to industrialized fishing operations;
  • Ban all industrialized fishing technologies like super trawlers, longlines, drift nets, purse seiners, all plastic monofilament nets and lines etc;
  • Enforce international regulations against illegal fishing operations;
  • Ban all whaling activities, with the sole exception of the one practiced by Indigenous peoples for food purposes, to ensure their continued existences;
  • Ban all offshore drilling, fossil fuel exploration and sub-marine mining;
  • Encourage diversity by favoring population growth in the fishes, marine mammals, seabirds and all other marine organisms;
  • End the feeding of fish-meal (some 40% of the fish caught) to domestic animals  like pigs, chickens, and salmon;
  • Stop the dumping of chemicals into the sea and plastic, agricultural run-off and radioactive materials from entering the sea;
  • Put an end to sonic pollution caused by sonar exploration for oil and sonic weapon systems.

13) Ensure, within the UNESCO framework, the protection and respect of sites and sacred spaces with the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples, in accordance with FPIC, and taking into account their biological and cultural diversity, as well as their land and governance rights.

14) Ban the construction of new hydroelectric dams. We call for binding international and national laws to regulate the maintenance of existing, permitted hydroelectric dams in operation. The Alliance also recommends the dismantling of dams built in violation of the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the affected Indigenous peoples and other affected populations, and of all other applicable obligations in force.

15) Recognize rights for future generations, in particular through the adoption of a declaration of rights (and duties) of humankind. The text will aim to remind that the present generation has a duty to protect the heritage bequeathed by past generations, but also make choices which engage its responsibility towards future generations. The text will establish four fundamental principles: the principle of responsibility, equity and solidarity between generations, the principle of the human dignity, the principle of continuity of the existence of humankind, and finally the principle of nondiscrimination between generations. This aligns with Indigenous worldviews which express that all decisions must take into consideration their effect on future generations of all peoples, life and nature.

16) Recognize that water is a living being that has rights that must be protected now and for future generations. Water is a living spirit that has a right to be treated as an ecological entity, with its own inherent right to exist, including watersheds and aquatic ecosystems having right to be healthy and clean. Water can be either rain water, rivers, source of rivers, headwaters, glaciers, ice, water caches, springs, lakes, streams, waterfalls, coastlines, subsidiaries, estuaries, underground water tables, aquifers or other water bodies. Water is not a commodity and the States must ban the privatization of water. All of Mother Earth’s species have inherent rights to water. In particular, Indigenous peoples have inherent rights to water and waterways for navigation, customary and cultural uses. All Indigenous peoples have a right to access adequate supplies of water that are safe for human consumption, hygiene and cooking.

17) Recognize – at State and governmental levels – and take action against the targeting of Indigenous women and find new ways to end violence that is linked between the dominant society’s treatment and objectification of Mother Earth and women. Humanity must recognize the importance of Indigenous women as caretakers of biodiversity. Women have the strength and resilience to confront man-made climate change and environmental injustice. Indigenous women and Mother Earth bear the consequences of these effects; compounded by a patriarchal capitalistic society. With extractive industries, women are victim of domestic and sexual abuse; sex trading and prostitution; alcoholism and drug abuse causing disruption of maintaining healthy Indigenous 5 families and communities. Women are the “First Environment”. Nursing infants are the first victims. Women experience the effects of toxic chemicals and high toxic body burdens in their uterus, causing spontaneous abortions, breast milk contamination, causing harm to future generations. Funding mechanisms must be created to empower Indigenous women and their communities to have a voice in local, national and international levels as decision-makers in climate, energy, environment and health policy. This humanity made invisible is literally killing Indigenous women, children and future generations.

18) Protect the existence and respect the will of Indigenous peoples in situation of voluntary isolation to accept or refuse any contact. States must protect their territories and must recognize Indigenous peoples already contacted by national societies as guardians of the autonomy and the rights of these peoples. Governments and individuals must behold responsible for violations for rights and damage against Indigenous peoples in situation of voluntary isolation.