Message from an Amazon Hero

April 19th, 2023 - by Avaaz & United Nations

Message from an Amazon Hero

Brazil has appointed its first Minister for Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara, who will head the country’s newly created Ministry for Indigenous Affairs. The move comes after former president Jair Bolsonaro’s pursuit of policies hostile to both the climate and indigenous communities. The country’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula, campaigned in part on promises to protect the Amazon rainforest, and Guajajara has vowed to hold him to the promise.

UNITED NATIONS (April 18, 2023) — I am Sonia Guajajara, a warrior of the Guajajara people of the Brazilian Amazon, and the first-ever Minister of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Today Indigenous leaders from around the world are at the United Nations to deliver an urgent call to save the Amazon and commit to zero deforestation. We need your help to make this louder!!

Here is part of what I said:
“Human greed is pushing the Amazon towards a dangerous point of no return. We live in an economic system where everything that is in nature can be privatized or purchased. This unrestrained exploitation of the common goods of nature does not generate wealth, but wears down and impoverishes the planet. It is time to fight for the good of humanity and for a new story. A story where indigenous peoples lead… because we know the way.”

I invite you to watch my full speech below. Hear my words as a call to action — don’t just support us, fight with us. If you resonate with this message, please urgently share my call with everyone you know and be part of the movement to save the Amazon.

For the past few years, you and the rest of the Avaaz community have been key allies of Indigenous peoples, from the Amazon to the Congo basin, and around the world. And together, I have every hope that we will achieve a future where our rights will be respected, and our planet will be safe.

With hope and determination, and love for the planet,
Sonia Guajajara, Minister of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, together with the Avaaz team

Avaaz is a 70-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) 

UN Chief: ‘Indigenous Peoples Live
On the Frontlines of the Climate Emergency’
United Nations

(April 17, 2023) — Addressing the opening of the 22nd session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) today (17 Apr), the UN Secretary-General said that Indigenous Peoples live on the frontlines of the climate emergency but also hold many of the solutions to the climate crisis and are the guardians of the world’s biodiversity.

He also stated that the UN stands with indigenous peoples and added that the Organization is committed to keeping promoting their rights in policies and programming at all levels – and amplifying all their voices. This year’s Forum focuses on the intersection of human and planetary health, the climate crisis, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Address by UN Secretary-General António Guterres

“It is my privilege to welcome you to this twenty-second session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Indigenous Peoples reflect humanity’s magnificent diversity — representing more than 5,000 different cultures and speaking over 4,000 different languages. Customs and traditions vary widely.

“”But the challenges are strikingly similar: Marginalization and exclusion. The denial of human rights. Illegal exploitation of resource-rich territories. Dispossession and eviction from ancestral lands. Even physical attacks and violence.

“Around the world, millions of Indigenous Peoples are losing their lands, their rights, and their resources. The injustice of generations of discrimination manifests itself in staggering inequalities.

“Indigenous Peoples make up around five per cent of the world’s population – but fifteen per cent of the world’s poorest. Indigenous women, the keepers of so much rich heritage, often suffer the most.

“My message today is clear: the United Nations stands with you. Excellencies, I welcome your focus this year on the intersection of human and planetary health, the climate crisis, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. I salute indigenous movements across the world – often led by women and young people – for spearheading efforts to protect nature and preserve biodiversity.

“For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples have pioneered sustainable land management and climate adaption. In the Sahel, ancient farming techniques are breathing life into the semi-arid region. Across the Amazon, indigenous agriculture has preserved and enhanced the richness of the rainforest’s ecology. And in the Himalayas, systems developed by Indigenous Peoples preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water, and reduce disaster risks.

“But Indigenous Peoples live on the frontlines of the climate emergency. Last year, I traveled to Suriname and had the extraordinary privilege of visiting with the Kaliña peoples. I saw first-hand how climate change is devastating their lands, destroying their way of life, and threatening their very survival.

“Indigenous Peoples have done nothing to cause the climate crisis but often face the worst and most immediate impacts. That is why we must speed-up efforts to deliver climate justice and scale up finance and capacities for adaptation and loss and damage. At the same time, Indigenous Peoples hold many of the solutions to the climate crisis and are guardians of the world’s biodiversity.

“The so-called “green economy” is not a new concept for Indigenous Peoples. It is a way of life — stretching back millennia. We have so much to learn from their wisdom, knowledge, leadership, experience, and example. And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, Since the adoption of the landmark Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, the United Nations has steadily broadened the participation of Indigenous Peoples in our work.

“The declaration has been utilized in courts and galvanized political action, including the development of national action plans. I welcome the strengthened participation of Indigenous Peoples through platforms established within UN processes, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“The report on Our Common Agenda calls for innovative approaches to advance the meaningful participation and leadership of those traditionally marginalized, including minority and indigenous groups. This includes efforts to combat food insecurity and close the digital divide.

“The United Nations is committed to keep promoting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in policies and programming at all levels – and to amplify your voices. Let us learn from and embrace the experiences of Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

“Let us work together and walk hand-in-hand towards peace, sustainability, and prosperity for all. I wish all of you a very successful Forum. Thank you”. Full remarks [as delivered]: