Brazil shows no progress in response to UN calls on indigenous rights

  • Brazilian civil society groups say the government has failed to implement any of the 34 recommendations on indigenous rights made by a UN council in 2017.
  • These suggestions were part of a larger set of 242 human rights recommendations, of which Brazil has only fully implemented one, according to the civil society coalition.
  • Indigenous rights advocates say the government’s highlighting of its distribution of food aid to indigenous communities in its report shows how little it has done in terms of real policy.
  • A similar analysis by a congressional group also concluded that the government had not implemented any recommendations on indigenous rights.

In May 2017, Brazilian representatives to the United Nations Human Rights Council reported 242 recommendations from other UN member states on how to improve the country’s compliance with international human rights standards. ‘man. Thirty-four of these recommendations, or 14%, were explicitly about or related to Indigenous peoples. Norway suggested, for example, that Brazil ensure the protection of traditional communities against threats, attacks and forced evictions; Peru called for the need to continue the process of territorial demarcation; Togo stressed the importance of new measures to combat violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Five years later, as Brazil again prepares to submit to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council, none of the recommendations on the rights of traditional communities have been implemented. work, according to a report by a group of 31 civil society organizations from across the country. In 14 of the 34 Aboriginal-specific recommendations, there were real setbacks. For example, Brazil has ignored Canada’s advice to ensure that the federal agency for the protection of indigenous peoples, Funai, has the necessary resources to demarcate indigenous territories and carry out investigations into indigenous killings. .

The wider picture isn’t encouraging either. Brazil failed to comply with 35% of the 242 recommendations and regressed to 46%. Only 17% of suggestions were considered partially implemented. Brazil has made full progress on one request: to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers, as recommended by Nicaragua. That lone success came in December 2017, a year before current president Jair Bolsonaro took office.

The group that drafted the recent report, the Coalition for UPR Brazil, was created by civil society organizations in 2017 to monitor the adoption of the recommendations. It includes organizations like the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and the Indigenous Research and Training Institute (Iepé). His report, which will be submitted in parallel to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is very critical of the Bolsonaro administration. Under his presidency, the coalition warns, the country “is taking a serious step backwards in legally established rights and heading towards socio-environmental and political barbarism”.

Excerpt from the joint submission sent by the UPR Brazil Coalition to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a civil society shadow report.

Erika Yamada, who until March this year served on the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stressed the importance of the contribution of civil society.

“Human rights organizations are fundamental in a long-term perspective of what Brazil could and should improve in this area, especially with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples,” said Yamada, titular in Indigenous Law and Politics from the University of Arizona. Mongabay in a telephone interview.

Michelle de Sá e Silva, assistant professor and co-director of the Center for Brazil Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said each country should have its own UPR coalition to track its progress and setbacks regarding the council’s recommendations. United Nations human rights. In 2012, when Brazil, under the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, participated in the second cycle of the UPR, Sá e Silva worked at the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights, where she coordinated the preparation of the official report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is very upsetting that these entities are beginning to register not only the non-implementation of the recommendations of the previous cycle, but also setbacks in several areas,” Sá e Silva told Mongabay in a telephone interview. She noted that Brazil was one of the countries that actually designed and developed the peer review mechanism at the UN. She commended the monitoring work done by the civil society coalition and expressed concern about its findings.

Demonstration demanding the demarcation of land and the rights of indigenous peoples in Brasilia, in 2018. Photo by Marcelo Camargo / Agência Brasil.

Members of the Coalition for UPR Brazil organized a seminar on May 25 in Brasilia to publicize their report and discuss its findings. Representatives of the Bolsonaro administration and Congress were also present at the event. Media coverage was not allowed, but the seminar was streamed on YouTube.

The findings of Brazil’s Coalition for the UPR match the findings of a congressional group that also monitored the country’s progress in implementing UPR recommendations. The Congressional group released its own report two months earlier, after 26 public hearings, and also found a general lack of progress on indigenous rights. Like the civil society group, the parliamentary report also concluded, for example, that Brazil has regressed in Canada’s recommendation on the Funai budget. According to these two documents, the country has also not adopted an effective plan to delimit the lands of the indigenous peoples.

Government officials presented their own official document at the May 25 seminar, prepared by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights (MMFDH). The report does not give a complete list of recommendations and the level of compliance. Luís Donizete, executive coordinator at Iepé, the indigenous research institute, who also participated in the seminar, ridiculed what the government chose to highlight in the report as progress on indigenous rights.

“I have to say that I recognize the country represented there,” he said. “I only counted two mentions of promoting the rights of indigenous peoples: one on the donation of 400,000 basic food parcels and another on a course on access to fundamental rights.

“I think these two mentions show very well how this government deals with the rights of indigenous peoples,” Donizete added.

“The current autocratic regime not only attacks institutions, but has also elected indigenous peoples as its main enemies,” says Dinamam Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Coalition (left). Photo by Arthur Morhan.

Douglas dos Santos Rodrigues, a special officer with the MMFDH, defended the government’s report, saying it had to be brief because of the methodology used.

“We were unable to assess recommendation by recommendation due to lack of space. We could just briefly mention the topics in general,” he said.

Sá e Silva agreed that the official UPR report must indeed respect the limits imposed by the UN reporting standards. But she criticized the actions the government chose to put forward.

“Brazil was struggling to fit everything into the available space. But if the government now includes the distribution of basic food parcels, that means it has little say in terms of real public policy for indigenous peoples,” she said. Sá e Silva added that although the provision of food helps families, it cannot be considered a real public policy.

Yamada said she was not surprised by the disparities between the official report and the one compiled by the UPR Brazil Coalition.

“Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil have accumulated throughout the last administrations, not just under the current government,” she said. “But, indeed, in this last period, the regression is deliberate and announced.”

The official document has been open for public consultation since May 23 and will remain open for civil society submissions until early August, when Brazil will have to submit its final version to the UN “We will incorporate the contribution of civil society to the final version of our text, as we have already done with other reports presented to international organizations,” said Rodrigues.

In an email exchange with Mongabay, Funai said it does not comment on unofficial reports. But the agency said protecting indigenous villages is one of its priorities and it spent the equivalent of $16.9 million on monitoring indigenous lands from 2019 to 2021, more than double that. amount from 2016 to 2018. Since 2019, according to Funai, it has conducted about 1,200 monitoring and surveillance activities. Funai said these operations, often in partnership with the police, are fundamental to keeping communities safe and preventing criminal activities such as illegal logging and mining, drug trafficking and wildlife poaching.

Banner image: Demonstration in front of the Brazilian National Congress, in 2019. Photo by José Cruz / Agência Brasil.

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