We, the indigenous and tribal peoples of the tropical-forests, present this charter as a response to hundreds of years of continual encroachment and colonisation of our territories and the undermining of our lives, livelihoods and cultures caused by the destruction of the forests that our survival depends on.
We declare that we are the original peoples, the rightful owners and the cultures that defend the tropical forests of the world.
Our territories and forests are to us more than an economic resource. For us, they are life itself and have an integral and spiritual value for our communities. They are fundamental to our social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political survival as distinct peoples.
The unity of people and territory is vital and must be recognised.
All policies towards the forests must be based on mutual understanding and respect for cultural diversity and gender perspectives, for a promotion of indigenous ways of life, and an understanding that our peoples have developed ways of life closely attuned to our environment.
THEREFORE WE DECLARE THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES, GOALS AND DEMANDS:
RESPECT FOR OUR RIGHTS
Respect for our human, political, social, economic and cultural rights, respect for our right to self-determination, and to pursue our own ways of life.
Respect for our autonomous forms of self-government, as differentiated political systems at the community, regional and other levels. This includes our right to control all economic activities in our territories.
Respect for our customary laws and that they be recognized by national and international law, as equally valid systems of law and decision-making.
Where the peoples so demand, nation states must comply with the different treaties, agreements, covenants, awards and other forms of legal recognition that have been signed with us indigenous peoples in the past, both in the colonial period and since independence, regarding our rights.
An end to violence, slavery, debt-peonage and land grabbing; the disbanding of all private armies and militias and their replacement by the rule of law and social justice; the means to use the law in our own defence, including the training of our people in the law.
The approval and application of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (1993 version), which affirms and guarantees our right to self-determination, and the ratification of ILO Convention 169, which guides States in the application of some of these principles.
The setting up of effective international mechanisms and a tribunal to protect us against the violation of our rights and guarantee the application of the principles set out in this charter.
There can be no sustainable development of the forests and of our peoples until our fundamental rights as peoples are respected.
Secure control of our territories, by which we mean a whole living system of continuous and vital connection between man and nature; expressed as our right to the unity and continuity of our ancestral domains; including the parts that have been usurped, those being reclaimed and those that we use; the soil, subsoil, air and water required for our self-reliance, cultural development and future generations.
The recognition, definition and demarcation of our territories in accordance with our local and customary systems of ownership and use.
The form of land tenure will be decided by the people themselves, and the territory should be held communally, unless the people decide otherwise.
The right to permanent sovereignty over the use and ownership of the territories which we occupy. Such territories should be inalienable, unleasable, unmortgageable and untransferable.
The right to demarcate our territories ourselves and that these areas be officially recognised and documented.
LAND RIGHTS FOR OUR NEIGHBOURS
Legalise the ownership of lands used by non-indigenous peoples who live within and on the forests’ margins in the areas that are available once title has been guaranteed to the indigenous peoples.
Land reforms and changes in land tenure to secure the livelihoods of those who live outside the forests and indigenous territories, because we recognise that landlessness outside the forests puts heavy pressure on our territories and forests.
Control of our territories and the resources that we depend on: all development in our areas should only go ahead with the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people involved or affected. We insist on recognition of our right to veto any developments proposed on our lands without our consent.
Recognition of the legal entity of our indigenous institutions and organisations, that defend our rights, and through them the right to collectively negotiate our future.
The right to our own forms of social organisation; the right to elect and revoke the authorities and government functionaries who oversee the territorial areas within our jurisdiction.
Our policy of development is based, first, on guaranteeing our self-sufficiency, material welfare, cosmo-visions and spirituality, as well as that of our neighbours; a full social and cultural development based on the values of equity, justice, solidarity and reciprocity, and a balance with nature. Thereafter, the generation of a surplus for the market must come from a rational and creative use of natural resources developing our own traditional technologies and selecting appropriate new ones.
Our right to self-development and to redirect the development process away from large-scale projects towards the promotion of small-scale initiatives controlled by our peoples. The priority for such initiatives is to secure our control over our territories and resources on which our survival depends. Such projects should be the cornerstone of all future development in the forests.
The right of our peoples to be broadly informed, consulted and, above all, to participate in the making of decisions on legislation or policies: and in the formulation, implementation or evaluation of any development project, be it at local, national or international levels, whether private or of the state, that may affect our futures directly or indirectly.
All major development initiatives should be preceded by social, cultural, health and environmental impact assessments, carried out with the full participation of local communities and indigenous peoples. All such studies and projects should be open to public scrutiny and debate by the indigenous peoples affected.
National or international agencies considering funding development projects which may affect us, must set up tripartite commissions – including the funding agency, government representatives and our own communities as represented through our representative organisations – to carry through the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the projects. In all such negotiations, the right to involve technical advisers and professionals of our choice.
The cancellation of all mining concessions in our territories imposed without the consent of our indigenous organisations. Mining policies must prioritise, and be carried out under, our control, to guarantee rational management and a balance with the environment. All mining on our lands should be subject to our free, prior and informed consent and should be carried out subject to freely agreed, openly negotiated, legally binding contracts assented to by our own indigenous institutions, communities and peoples.
An end to imposed development schemes and fiscal incentives or subsidies that threaten the integrity of our lives, forests and territories.
A halt to all imposed resettlement programmes.
The problems caused in our territories by international criminal syndicates trafficking in products from plants like poppy and coca must he confronted by effective policies which involve our peoples in decision-making.
Promotion of the health systems of the indigenous peoples, including the revalidation of indigenous medicine and health care, and the promotion of programmes of modern medicine, with measures to ensure our free and equal access to them. Such programmes should allow us to have control over them, providing suitable training to allow us to manage them ourselves.
Establishment of systems of bilingual and intercultural education. These must revalidate our beliefs, religious traditions, customs, and knowledge; allowing our control over these programmes, by the provision of suitable training, in accordance with our cultures; in order to achieve technical and scientific advances for our peoples, in tune with our own cosmo-visions, and as a contribution to the world community.
Promotion of alternative financial policies that permit us to develop our community economies and develop mechanisms to establish fair prices for our products.
Halt all new logging concessions and suspend existing ones, that affect our territories. The destruction of forests must be considered a crime against humanity and a halt must be made to the various anti-social consequences, such as roads across indigenous cultivations, cemeteries and hunting zones; the destruction of areas used for medicinal plants and crafts; the erosion and compression of soil; the pollution of our environment; the corruption and enclave economy generated by the industry; the increase of invasions and settlement in our territories.
Logging concessions on lands adjacent to our territories, or which have an impact on our environment, must comply with operating conditions – ecological, social, of labour, transport, health and others – laid down by the indigenous peoples, who should participate in ensuring that these are complied with. Commercial timber extraction should be prohibited in strategic and seriously degraded forests.
The protection of existing natural forests should take priority over reforestation.
Reforestation programmes in indigenous peoples’ territories must be subject to our free, prior and informed consent and should be prioritised on degraded lands, giving priority to the regeneration of native forests, including the recovery of all the functions of tropical forests, and not being restricted only to timber values.
Reforestation programmes on our territories should be developed under the control of our communities. We should select species in accordance with our needs.
BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION
Programmes related to biodiversity must respect the collective rights of our peoples to cultural and intellectual property, genetic resources, gene banks, biotechnology and knowledge of biological diversity; this should include our participation in the management of any such project in our territories, as well as control of any benefits that derive from them.
Conservation programmes must respect our rights to the use and ownership of the territories and resources we depend on. No programmes to conserve biodiversity should be promoted on our territories without our free, prior and informed consent as expressed through our indigenous organisations.
The best guarantee of the conservation of biodiversity is that those who promote it should uphold our rights to the use, administration, management and control of our territories. We assert that guardianship of the different ecosystems should be entrusted to us, indigenous peoples, given that we have inhabited them for thousands of years and our very survival depends on them.
Environmental policies and legislation should recognise indigenous territories and systems of natural resource management as effective ‘protected areas’, and give priority to their legal establishment as indigenous territories.
Since we highly value our technologies and believe that our biotechnologies can make important contributions to humanity, including ‘developed’ countries, we demand guaranteed rights to our collective intellectual property in both national and international law, and control over the development and manipulation of this knowledge.
All investigations in our territories should be carried out with our free, prior and informed consent and under joint control and guidance according to mutual agreement; including the provision for training, publication and support for indigenous institutions necessary to achieve such control.
The international community, particularly the United Nations, must recognise us indigenous peoples as peoples, as distinct from other organised social movements, non-governmental organisations and independent sectors, and respect for our right to participate directly and on the basis of equality, as indigenous peoples, in all fora, mechanisms, processes and funding bodies so as to promote and safeguard the future of the tropical forests.
The development of programmes to educate the general public about our rights as indigenous peoples and about the principles, goals and demands in this charter. For this we call on the international community for the necessary recognition and support.
We indigenous peoples will use this charter as a basis for promoting our own local strategies for our actions.