Deeply aware of the crisis of socio-ecologic injustice created by a dominant system that values growth and profit above all else, an extraordinary group of panelist gathered to speak out at ‘Rights of Nature and Systemic Change in Climate Solutions’ in New York City on September 22, 2014. The event, presented by WECAN International and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature as part of the mobilization surrounding the People’s Climate March and U.N. Climate Summit, focused on the need to redesign our social, political, economic and legal structures to function with respect to the rights of the Earth and the knowledge systems of the original stewards of the land, the worlds indigenous peoples.
“If our environmental law system was working we would not be in this crisis,” explained Executive Director of WECAN International, Osprey Orielle Lake, in her opening statement. “Our current laws do not stop pollution, they ‘regulate’ it and allow it to continue. We must disrupt this broken framework.”
Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Shannon Biggs (Global Exchange), Gloria Ushigua (Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador), Linda Sheehan (Earth Law Center), and Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca Nation, Indigenous Environmental Network) joined Lake to expose fundamental flaws in our current laws and management schemes, while presenting bold strategies for re-visioning these paradigms. The issue could not be more critical, speakers explained, as a shift to a system that treats the Earth as a rights bearing entity is a requirement for any genuine solutions to the climate crisis.
Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network took the floor first, focusing on the need to learn from and re-allign with indigenous knowledge systems which conceive of the Earth as a vibrant, living Mother who must be cared for and respected. Tom explained how many climate action plans currently being considered, such as REDD carbon projects and biotechnology schemes, continue to violate the laws of nature and rights of the Earth in attempts to divide, conquer, and profit, ultimately making them false and highly destructive proposals. He emphasized that communities across the globe must reject twisted climate policies which continue to commodify and manipulate, instead coming back to “our true nature of working in harmony with Mother Earth.
Linda Sheehan of the Earth Law Center spoke next, reaffirming and expanding up Tom Goldtooths sentiment that our plans of action, movements, and policies must function with respect to the Rights of Nature.
According to Linda, our current legal structure overwhelmingly views the Earth as an entity to be traded, exploited, and degraded, leading to the continued failure of environmental law and policy. “We think we can chop up nature, we can control it. This is simply a misunderstanding,” she explained.
Working to challenge this flawed vision, Linda and allies at the Earth Law Center have been working with groups across the U.S. to create and instate new laws that put the rights of the Earth and communities above those of corporations, including notable successes in Santa Monica, California this year.
From the frontlines of the fight to end fossil fuel development in the Amazon Basin, Gloria Ushigua of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador shared her story next.
“We are here to defend our rights, our spirits, our forests,” Gloria explained, highlighting the ways that indigenous communities across the world, embedded firmly in a tradition that sees the Earth as a flourishing and living being, are already challenging conventional models and leading the way towards climate solutions
Gloria’s words however, also functioned to shake up the conversation as she explained how, despite the fact that the law in Ecuador officially gives rights to Nature, massive corporate and political violations continue. Thus, she implored, changing our legal framework much be but the first step, to be followed up with ceaseless civil society action to insure that those rights are respected on every level.
Shannon Biggs of the Global Exchange spoke next, expanding upon Gloria’s declaration that systemic change in climate solutions and our relationship with the Earth must come not only at the policy level, but at the level of communities and individuals across the globe.
“It all comes down to community, it is up to out communities to be stewards of the land,” Shannon explained, “we must challenge unjust law that says nature is property.”
Shannon continued on to detail the concrete ways that the Global Exchange and its partners are working to expand local ability to implement and enforce the Rights of Nature, focusing on community applications of these principles as tools for climate resiliency and the protection of the Earth.
Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation and Indigenous Environmental Network took the floor as the final presenter of the day. Her speech was one of hope, explaining to the audience that while the task of uprooting and re-visioning the dominant system seem daunting, this is only so when constrained under the false impression that politicians and economists are the center of ultimate power.
“If the sun did not rise today, would you be here? If you did not have a drink of water, would you be here today? THAT is the true power,” Casey explained, the audience erupting in applause.
Following the series of presentations, audience members and speakers engaged in a question and answer session that kept many enthralled in discussion for more than an hour after the official end of the event. Expanding upon earlier discussion surrounding mal-alligned climate policy that seeks to control and subdue nature, Linda Sheehan poignantly remarked, “they call it ecosystem management as is the earth has been unruly. No. We need to regulate ourselves.”
Notebook full of inspiring quotes, bitts of wisdom, strategies, ideas and tools, I set out after the event, eager to return home and start building alliances and making plans to enact the Rights of Nature in my community.
I’m showing up. As a baby-boomer from the U.S. As a person of faith. I am going to the People’s Climate March in New York on September 21.
The security of our home, planet Earth, is threatened. That’s why I’m going. It is not the terrorists, nor the immigrants, nor people who are poor that is causing this threat to Earth’s viability. It’s the continued excessive emissions of greenhouse gases created by those of us who live in highly industrialized, corporatized and technology-rich countries.
We baby-boomers in the U.S. are uniquely responsible for this major climate disruption. We have benefitted enormously from a way of life that provides every convenience, gadget and technology unimagined by our parents. We bought into the increased consumerism and easy access to a way of life made possible by increased use of fossil fuels. We taught our children to do the same. We didn’t know to teach them that Earth has capacity limits, just like every family.
Thousands are marching to reinforce the critical importance of the United Nations Climate Summit. I’m showing up with young and old, indigenous and immigrants, conservatives and liberals, business and labor, and people of every race, color and creed from all 50 states. Together we will march, sing and pray along the 26 blocks of the march route. We hope that our presence will demonstrate to the world leaders that they must take urgent action to prevent further ecological threats and mitigate the damage already done.
We are marching to demonstrate our solidarity with everyone who has a commitment to change the environmentally destructive ways we are living as a people – for the sake of our children and a viable future. We will march on behalf of all our kin: the threatened and endangered species, ecosystems and watersheds that are dying because of shifting climate patterns. Read more …
On the International Day of Mother Earth, April 22, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly hosted its fourth International Dialogue on Harmony with Nature. Linda Sheehan, Executive Director of Earth Law Center, moderated the panel discussions. Civil society was invited to submit statements related to Harmony with Nature and Rights of Nature. The UN’s Harmony with Nature website has added an informational page on Rights of Nature at: Rights of Nature Law and Policy.
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON HARMONY WITH NATURE TO COMMEMORATE INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY
UN HQ, NY, 22 April 2014
Statement by: Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
On behalf of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (the “Alliance”) thank you again for the opportunity to contribute to the Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly on Harmony with Nature. We commend you, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and all who continue to bring this initiative forward.
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is a global network of organizations and individuals committed to the universal adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce Rights of Nature and to making Rights of Nature an idea whose time has come. Our intention as an Alliance is aligned with the proposal made to the General Assembly by Ambassador Xavier Lasso of Ecuador, and others around the world to continue the discussion towards Rights of Nature. We, the Alliance, recommend the General Assembly begin the formal discussion for the adoption of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth by the United Nations.
To that end, in January 2014 the Alliance hosted a Global Rights of Nature Summit. A diverse gathering of scientists, attorneys, economists, activists, indigenous leaders, authors, spiritual leaders, politicians, actors, and others from 16 countries and 6 continents participated in the three day Global Rights of Nature Summit. Sixty participating principals represented diverse disciplines, cultures, nations, and bioregions. Participants traveled from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Italy, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the Azores, United Kingdom, and United States to create a framework of action for further expanding global integration of Rights of Nature within today’s social, economic, and legal systems.
The primary premise of the Alliance is that in order to insure an environmentally sustainable future, humans must reorient themselves from an exploitative and ultimately self-destructive relationship with nature, to one that honors the deep interrelation of all life and contributes to living in harmony with the natural environment. An essential step in achieving this is to create a system of jurisprudence that sees and treats nature as a fundamental, rights bearing entity and not as mere property to be exploited at will.
It is to this end that the Alliance hosted the Summit and, among its prominent outcomes, launched the formation of a Permanent Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal.
Permanent Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal
The Alliance launched the permanent International Ethics Tribunal to demonstrate how Rights of Nature can be implemented in practice. Nine prominent cases were presented to a distinguished international, multicultural panel of judges. Among the cases were the Chevron-Texaco pollution case (Ecuador); BP Deep Horizon oil spill (USA); Yasuní-ITT oil project (Ecuador); the endangerment of the Great Barrier Reef by coal mines (Australia); hydraulic fracturing (USA) and the impacts of Climate Change (global). The Tribunal provides a vehicle for reframing prominent environmental and social justice cases and to adjudicate the cases within the context of a Rights of Nature based earth jurisprudence. While the Ethics Tribunal does not have specific legal authority for enforcement, the adjudication process provides a platform for informed legal analysis of diverse cases based on Rights of Nature.
Furthermore the Tribunal provides a framework for educating civil society and governments on the fundamental tenets of Rights of Nature and serves as an instrument for legal experts to examine constructs needed to more fully integrate Rights of Nature. Individual Chambers will be heard around the world leading up to an international Tribunal in conjunction with UNFCCC COP20 in Lima Peru in December 2014. For more, visit http://www.therightsofnature.org/rights-of-nature-tribunal/.
We encourage the UN General Assembly to continue and expand the dialogue around Rights of Nature not only in the context of Harmony with Nature but in the broader context of creating the Future We Want through advocating economic systems and structures that are truly aligned supporting with a balanced, healthy Earth Community.
Linda Sheehan, Executive Director Earth Law Center spoke at the 3rd Interactive Dialogue of the United Nations General Assembly on Harmony with Nature on Earth Day April 22, 2013. Listen as Linda Sheehan speaks on creating Sustainable Human Communities, the necessary economic systems and the role of Rights of Nature.
“Recognition of the rights of nature is essential to help us build closer relationships with the environment and correct our upside-down ordering of Earth, humans and economic system. But we cannot complete this change in perspective
solely through rights of nature. We also must specifically reject the current neoliberal economic system and its false assumptions, and replace them with alternatives, such as those described by ecological economists. Roughly three dozen communities, large to tiny, across the United States have taken up this particular cause, with more joining in. Threatened by unwanted, destructive activities such as mining and hydrofracking, these communities have passed local laws that recognize the rights of local natural systems to exist, thrive and evolve. Significantly, these laws also reject the rights of corporations who would conduct these harmful activities, over the rights of local community members to live in harmony with each other and their environment. That is, these laws support a community’s right to nurture its home, rather than witness its destruction.”
Founding member of the Global Alliance and Executive Committee Cormac Cullinan has been awarded the prestigious Nick Steele Memorial Award for Environmentalist of the Year (2012) at the 24th annual SAB Environmental Awards in Johannesburg. As an environmental and green business attorney, author, speaker, and climate justice advocate, Cormac has been an influential leader in the global Rights of Nature movement. His book Wild Law. A manifesto for Earth Justice first published in 2002 presents the framework for transforming legal systems to align with the laws of Nature and recognize Rights of Nature. In 2010, President Evo Morales invited Cormac to be a lead author of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Just in the last year, Cormac has been a keynote speaker for Rights of Nature events at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP17 in Durban, South Africa, the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the WildLaw Conference 2012 in Brisbane, Australia, and the Environmental Law Conference in Oslo, Norway. Cormac also prepared a draft People’s Charter for Africa.
The following is a Press Release announcing Cormac’s prestigious award.
CORMAC CULLINAN NAMED 2012 SAB ENVIRONMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Cormac Cullinan has been awarded the prestigious Nick Steele Memorial Award for Environmentalist of the Year (2012) at the 24th annual SAB Environmental Awards in Johannesburg. Cormac is an author and practising environmental and green business attorney based in Cape Town. He is a director of the leading South African environmental law firm; Cullinan & Associates Inc. and of the governance consultancy EnAct International, and is a research associate of the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
Cormac is an author and practising environmental and green business attorney based in Cape Town. He is a director of the leading South African environmental law firm; Cullinan & Associates Inc. and of the governance consultancy EnAct International, and is a research associate of the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
Cormac has practised, taught and written about environmental law and policy since 1992 and has worked on environmental issues in more than 20 countries. In 2008 he was listed among the world’s most extraordinary environmental champions in Planet Savers: 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists; which lists 301 people in history to be commended for their important role in saving and conserving the environment and promoting sustainable governance ranging from St Francis of Assisi to Al Gore.
Cormac’s ground-breaking book Wild Law. A manifesto for Earth Justice was published in 2002 by Siberink and has since been republished in the United Kingdom, the United States and Italy. Wild Law recognises that humans are an integral part of a living system (Earth) and advocates transforming legal systems to align them with the laws of Nature, including by recognising legally enforceable rights for Nature. These ideas have become increasingly influential globally with organisations dedicated to promoting wild law and Earth jurisprudence now well established in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Italy. Cormac is also a founder and executive committee member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth that was adopted on 22 April 2010 by a World People’s Conference of 35,000 people in Bolivia. He is frequently invited to address international audiences in many countries and has addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York (April 2011), the C40 Cities meeting in Hong Kong, and most recently, the 2012 “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” at the Sydney Opera House.
Cullinan and Associates Inc is the only South African law firm to be independently certified as having offset its carbon emission. The firm actively promotes environmental protection by assisting companies to establish green businesses and to comply with environmental laws, and by taking important environmental cases. Recently the firm successfully represented the City of Cape Town in securing an important Constitutional Court judgement that confirms that mining activities may not commence without land use planning approvals (the Maccsand case). Currently the firm is representing the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) opposing fracking in the Karoo, the Thyspunt Alliance opposing the construction of a nuclear power at near Jeffries Bay and the amaMpondo communities fighting to prevent the construction of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road through their ancestral lands.
Over the past 15 years EnAct has played an important role in developing the legal and policy framework for environmental protection in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Cormac’s work has included leading the drafting of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, the Forests Protocol to the SADC Treaty and the Agreement between South Africa, Namibia and Angola that established the Benguela Current Commission to enable co-operative management of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
Cormac also prepared a draft People’s Charter for Africa that was taken around South Africa by the Climate Change Train prior to the COP17 climate change meeting in Durban. He is committed to supporting the emergence of an Earth Democracy movement in South Africa that will enable all South Africans who love Africa to work together to create ecologically sustainable and socially just communities.
Cormac Cullinan was born and grew up in Pietermaritzburg, educated at the University of KwaZulu Natal and at Kings College, London and now lives with his wife Mary Ann Cullinan in Kenilworth Cape Town. He has two sons, a step-son and two step-daughters.
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is hoping that their cause will be taken up by Rio+20.
They are calling for global recognition and acceptance of Rights of Nature. They say an essential step for achieving this is to introduce a system of jurisprudence that sees and treats Nature as a fundamental, rights bearing entity and not as mere property to be exploited at will.
Dianne Penn who is at Rio+20 spoke with Cormac Cullinan and Osprey Orielle Lake about their hopes for the UN Convention on Sustainable Development.
Click to access UN Radio Interview - then click Listen
Blessing ceremony of the historical Kari Oca II Declaration, Kari-Oka Village, at Sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 June 2012.
Click for IEN Delegation
Over five hundred Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and throughout the world gathered at Kari-Oca II, an encampment seated at the foot of a mountain near Rio Centro, to sign a declaration demanding respect for Indigenous Peoples’ role in maintaining a stable world environment, and condemning the dominant economic approach toward ecology, development, human rights and the rights of Mother Earth. Among the leadership at the Kari-Oca gathering were Tom Goldtooth and other IEN delegates.
Kari Oca II Declaration
We, the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth assembled at the site of Kari-Oka I, sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, thank the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil for welcoming us to their territories. We reaffirm our responsibility to speak for the protection and enhancement of the well-being of Mother Earth, nature and future generations of our Indigenous Peoples and all humanity and life. We recognize the significance of this second convening of Indigenous Peoples of the world and reaffirm the historic 1992 meeting of the Kari-Oca I, where Indigenous Peoples issued The Kari-Oca Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter. The Kari-Oca conference, and the mobilization of Indigenous Peoples around the first UN Earth Summit, marked a big step forward for an international movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in conservation and sustainable development. We also reaffirm the Manaus Declaration on the convening of Kari-Oca 2 as the international gathering of Indigenous Peoples for Rio+20.
The institutionalization of Colonialism
We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy” and its premise that the world can only “save” nature by commodifying its life giving and life sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years. The “Green Economy” promises to eradicate poverty but in fact will only favor and respond to multinational enterprises and capitalism. It is a continuation of a global economy based upon fossil fuels, the destruction of the environment by exploiting nature through extractive industries such as mining, oil exploration and production, intensive mono-culture agriculture, and other capitalist investments. All of these efforts are directed toward profit and the accumulation of capital by the few.
Since Rio 1992, we as Indigenous Peoples see that colonization has become the very basis of the globalization of trade and the dominant capitalist global economy. The exploitation and plunder of the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the violations of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples that depend on them, have intensified. Our rights to self determination, to our own governance and own self-determined development, our inherent rights to our lands, territories and resources are increasingly and alarmingly under attack by the collaboration of governments and transnational corporations. Indigenous activists and leaders defending their territories continue to suffer repression, militarization, including assassination, imprisonment, harassment and vilification as “terrorists.” The violation of our collective rights faces the same impunity. Forced relocation or assimilation assault our future generations, cultures, languages, spiritual ways and relationship to the earth, economically and politically.
We, Indigenous Peoples from all regions of the world have defended our Mother Earth from the aggression of unsustainable development and the over exploitation of our natural resources by mining, logging, mega-dams, exploration and extraction of petroleum. Our forests suffer from the production of agro-fuels, bio-mass, plantations and other impositions of false solutions to climate change and unsustainable, damaging development.
The Green Economy is nothing more than capitalism of nature; a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in on Creation by privatizing, commodifying, and selling off the Sacred and all forms of life and the sky, including the air we breathe, the water we drink and all the genes, plants, traditional seeds, trees, animals, fish, biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems and traditional knowledge that make life on Earth possible and enjoyable.
Gross violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to food sovereignty continue unabated thus resulting to food “insecurity”. Our own food production, the plants that we gather, the animals that we hunt, our fields and harvests, the water that we drink and water our fields, the fish that we catch from our rivers and streams, is diminishing at an alarming rate. Unsustainable development projects, such as mono-cultural chemically intensive soya plantations, extractive industries such as mining and other environmentally destructive projects and investments for profit are destroying our biodiversity, poisoning our water, our rivers, streams, and the earth and its ability to maintain life. This is further aggravated by Climate change and hydroelectric dams and other energy production that affect entire ecosystems and their ability to provide for life.
Food sovereignty is one fundamental expression of our collective right to self-determination and sustainable development. Food sovereignty and the right to food must be observed and respected; food must not be a commodity to be used, traded and speculated on for profit. It nourishes our identities, our cultures and languages, and our ability to survive as Indigenous Peoples.
Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’ We have our place and our responsibilities within Creation’s sacred order. We feel the sustaining joy as things occur in harmony with the Earth and with all life that it creates and sustains. We feel the pain of disharmony when we witness the dishonor of the natural order of Creation and the continued economic colonization and degradation of Mother Earth and all life upon her. Until Indigenous Peoples rights are observed and respected, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty will not be achieved.
This inseparable relationship between humans and the Earth, inherent to Indigenous, Peoples must be respected for the sake of our future generations and all of humanity. We urge all humanity to join with us in transforming the social structures, institutions and power relations that underpin our deprivation, oppression and exploitation. Imperialist globalization exploits all that sustains life and damages the Earth. We need to fundamentally reorient production and consumption based on human needs rather than for the boundless accumulation of profit for a few. Society must take collective control of productive resources to meet the needs of sustainable social development and avoid overproduction, over consumption and over exploitation of people and nature which are inevitable under the prevailing monopoly capitalist system. We must focus on sustainable communities based on indigenous knowledge, not on capitalist development.
We demand that the United Nations, governments and corporations abandon false solutions to climate change, like large hydroelectric dams, genetically modified organisms including GMO trees, plantations, agro-fuels, “clean” coal, nuclear power, natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, bio-energy, biomass, biochar, geo-engineering, carbon markets, Clean Development Mechanism and REDD+ that endanger the future and life as we know it. Instead of helping to reduce global warming, they poison and destroy the environment and let the climate crisis spiral exponentially, which may render the planet almost uninhabitable.
We cannot allow false solutions to destroy the Earth’s balance, assassinate the seasons, unleash severe weather havoc, privatize life and threaten the very survival of humanity. The Green Economy is a crime against humanity and the Earth. In order to achieve sustainable development, states must recognize the traditional systems of resource management of the Indigenous Peoples that have existed for the millennia, sustaining us even in the face of colonialism. Assuring Indigenous Peoples’ active participation in decision making processes affecting them, and their right of Free Prior and Informed Consent is fundamental. States should likewise provide support for Indigenous Peoples appropriate to their sustainability and self determined priorities without restrictions and constricting guidelines.
Indigenous youth and women’s active participation must also be given importance as they are among the most affected by the negative impacts brought by the commodification of nature. As inheritors of Mother Earth, the youth play a vital role in continuing defending what is left of their natural resources that were valiantly fought for by their ancestors. Their actions and decisions amidst the commercialization of their resources and culture will determine the future of their younger brothers and sisters and the generations to come.
We will continue to struggle against the construction of hydroelectric dams and all other forms of energy production that affect our waters, our fish, our biodiversity and ecosystems that contribute to our food sovereignty. We will work to preserve our territories from the poison of monoculture plantations, extractive industries and other environmentally destructive projects and continue our ways of life, preserving our cultures and identities. We will work to preserve our traditional plants and seeds, and maintain the balance between our needs and the needs of our Mother Earth and her life sustaining capacity. We will demonstrate to the world that it can and must be done. In all matters we will gather and organize the solidarity of all Indigenous Peoples from all parts of the world, and all other sources of solidarity with non-indigenous of good will to join our struggle for food sovereignty and food security. We reject the privatization and corporate control of resources such as our traditional seeds and food. Finally, we demand the states to uphold our rights to the control of our traditional management systems and by providing concrete support such as appropriate technologies for us to develop our food sovereignty.
We reject the false promises of sustainable development and solutions to climate change that only serve the dominant economic order. We reject REDD, REDD+ and other market-based solutions that focus on our forests, to continue the violation of our inherent rights to self determination and right to our lands, territories, waters, and natural resources, and the Earth’s right to create and sustain life. There is no such thing as “sustainable mining.” There is no such thing as “ethical oil.”
We reject the assertion of intellectual property rights over the genetic resources and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples which results in the alienation and commodification of Sacred essential to our lives and cultures. We reject industrial modes of food production that promote the use of chemical substances, genetically engineered seeds and organisms. Therefore, we affirm our right to possess, control, protect and pass on the indigenous seeds, medicinal plants and traditional knowledge originating from our lands and territories for the benefit of our future generations.
The Future We Want
In the absence of a true implementation of sustainable development, the world is now in a multiple ecological, economic and climatic crisis; including biodiversity loss, desertification, deglaciation, food, water, energy shortage, a worsening global economic recession, social instability and crisis of values. In this sense, we recognize that much remains to be done by international agreements to respond adequately to the rights and needs of Indigenous Peoples. The actual contributions and potentials of our peoples must be recognized by a true sustainable development for our communities that allows each one of us to Live Well.
As peoples, we reaffirm our rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage our traditional lands and territories, waters and other resources. Our lands and territories are at the core of our existence – we are the land and the land is us; we have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with our lands and territories and they are inextricably linked to our survival and to the preservation and further development of our knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem management.
We will exercise the right to determine and establish priorities and strategies for our self-development and for the use of our lands, territories and other resources. We demand that free, prior and informed consent must be the determinant and legally binding principle of approving or rejecting any plan, project or activity affecting our lands, territories and other resources. Without the right of Free Prior and Informed Consent, the colonialist model of the domination of the Earth and its resources will continue with the same impunity.
We will continue to unite as Indigenous Peoples and build a strong solidarity and partnership among ourselves, local communities and non-indigenous genuine advocates of our issues. This solidarity will advance the global campaign for Indigenous Peoples rights to land, life and resources and in the achievement of our self-determination and liberation. We will continue to challenge and resist colonialist and capitalist development models that promote the domination of nature, incessant economic growth, limitless profit-seeking resource extraction, unsustainable consumption and production and the unregulated commodities and financial markets. Humans are an integral part of the natural world and all human rights, including Indigenous Peoples’ rights, which must be respected and observed by development.
We invite all of civil society to protect and promote our rights and worldviews and respect natural law, our spiritualities and cultures and our values of reciprocity, harmony with nature, solidarity, and collectivity. Caring and sharing, among other values, are crucial in bringing about a more just, equitable and sustainable world. In this context, we call for the inclusion of cultureas the fourth pillar of sustainable development.
The legal recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to land, territories, resources and traditional knowledge should be a prerequisite for development and planning for any and all types of adaptation and mitigation to climate change, environmental conservation (including the creation of “protected areas”), the sustainable use of biodiversity and measures to combat desertification. In all instances there must be free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
We continue to pursue the commitments made at Earth Summit as reflected in this political declaration. We call on the UN to begin their implementation, and to ensure the full, formal and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all processes and activities of the Rio+20 Conference and beyond, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
We continue to inhabit and maintain the last remaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots in the world. We can contribute substantially to sustainable development but we believe that a holistic ecosystem framework for sustainable development should be promoted. This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally sensitive and knowledge-based approaches.
We declare our solidarity and support for the demands and aspirations of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil found in the Annex to this Declaration.
We Walk in the Footsteps of our Ancestors.
Accepted by Acclamation, Kari-Oka Village, at Sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 17 June 2012.
The fourteen Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties, evolved through a consultative process with hundred of civil society organizations, converged at the Rio+20 to launch a Manifesto on the final day of the summit. They have declared that another world is possible after Rio+20 and pledged their commitment to a transition toward increasingly sustainable futures on earth.
The signatories to this Manifesto refuse to sit idly by in the face of another failure of governments to provide hope for a sustainable future for all. They announced their own responsibility for undertaking actions, inviting and encourage similar actions and commitments by other rightsholders and stakeholders, communicating a vision for healthy communities, sustainable and equitable human well-being and its associated strategies, and coming together in the form of a global citizen’s movement to shepherd the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and democratic future. These would come together in the form of a global citizen’s movement to shepherd the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and democratic future, one in which ethics is both a right and a responsibility—at the level of the individual, the community and the planet.
Humankind faces multiple and daunting crises that are more than likely to confront and impact billions of people in the decades to come. In addition, research is showing us that our actions are very likely going to cause us to transgress multiple planetary thresholds and boundaries. Despite this, governments at Rio+20 are missing yet another opportunity to formulate an effective response to these crises. Indeed, since 1992, there has been a retrogression in the consensus that was reached at the Earth Summit—and reflected in such principles as burden sharing, articulation of rights, mobilization of support, and protection of the vulnerable. Repeated attempts to revive this consensus—at Johannesburg in 2002, Bali in 2007, Copenhagen in 2009, and now Rio de Janeiro in 2012—have come up empty handed, thus thwarting efforts to build upon it. Despite unprecedented growth in the global economy since 1992, governments are trapped in making insatiable demands for still more unsustainable growth and rising inequity to remedy problems that economic globalization itself has caused.
The signatories have pledged to:
Equity is the overarching demand from the civil society world, and must be the foundation of the collective global response. We call for equity within generations, equity across generations, and equity between humans and nature. For this we need to revert back to making individual and societal decisions based on equity and ecological factors and not merely on monetary factors. A different sort of economics, a new approach to learning and education as a process, a revised understanding of ethics and of spirituality then become the ways in which we can work toward a more Equitable society; one that recognizes our integral relationship with the natural world
Localizing our systems of economies, decentralizing governance, and advancing sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods becomes the new social order of sustainable societies. Localism is the theme emerging across the board which is linked to the principles of devolution, of decentralization and of subsidiarity, turning localism into a world-wide movement becomes the key to unpacking many of the complexities we face, whether in the case of sustainable consumption and production or in the case of radical ecological democracy. Protecting the rights of Mother Earth and of humans, transforming our governance systems through radical ecological democracy, respecting cultural diversity, and strengthening sustainable economies is the way towards sustainable futures for all. It is thus essential that we create a more effective, responsible and democratic system of global governance
A Global Citizens Movement is the collective response towards transitioning to a sustainable world. All sections of society must thrive to converge upon their visions and convictions and find common ground for collective action that can bring about the transformation required to ensure the wellbeing of all on the planet—humans as well as nature. Such a global citizens movement would catalyze for a peaceful and prosperous new world that generates widespread happiness and contentment – thus propagating widespread practices of mindful intentional action. For this, a new sense of ethics, values and spirituality must be seeded within current and future generations through a redesigned system of learning, education and enlightenment.
This manifesto calls for action that helps move simultaneously toward a more localized socio-economic structure and toward a supra-national mindset that helps us transcend the parochial concerns of a corporate-capitalistic globalization to activate a global citizens movement.
The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties is an initiative by global civil society organizations to come together to develop an independent, collective outcome for a sustainable future beyond Rio+20. The treaties are essentially a forward looking process and targets a future beyond Rio+20 and will become a living document towards the transition to a sustainable world order.
“We, the peoples and nations of Earth: considering that we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny…” -Click to sign the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth
“Every component of the Earth Community has three rights: —The Right To Be,
—The Right to Habitat,
—The Right to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing processes of the earth community.”