Indigenous peoples and local communities from Mexico, Central America and the Amazon join Greenpeace to demand the recognition of their role in the protection of biodiversity from leaders gathered at COP13

More than 50 indigenous leaders and local communities joined Greenpeace activists to carry out the Global Canoe action, with which they demand that their peoples and proposals are formally included and with full respect of their rights, in the biodiversity conservation strategies.

Indigenous and local communities are calling on governments and leaders gathered at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) urging them to go beyond declarations and words and to turn the protection of biodiversity into action, in which they have been protagonists since ancestral times.

Indigenous and local community leaders raise their voices about the increase in violence and criminalization they are living in protecting forests, jungles and biodiversity from the predatory development models of governments and private companies.

Diana Ríos, representante local y defensora de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas del mundo. Viajo desde las selvas amazónicas en Perú, para sumarse a la movilización de la Canoa Global.

December 11th, Cancun, Mexico. Indigenous and local leaders from Mexico and Central America, as well as the countries that make up the Amazon River basin, joined in Cancun, and along with dozens of activists from Greenpeace Mexico demanded from the world’s governments as well as the leaders and decision-makers participating in the COP13, the true inclusion of their peoples in biodiversity protection and conservation plans.

The call came during the Global Canoe action, held at Laguna Nichupté, Cancun, within the framework of the COP13 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in which leaders and decision makers hope to make agreements for the protection of global biodiversity and the achievement of the Aichi plan (a global strategic plan for biodiversity conservation). A week ago, leaders of 190 countries issued the document known as the “Cancun Declaration,” in which they committed to develop an integrated approach to biodiversity conservation, considering areas such as agriculture, fisheries, the protection of forests and the role of the private sector, among others.

Despite the statement, indigenous peoples urge leaders to go beyond declarations.

Yuam Pravia, Miskita from Honduras and representative of Masta, an organization that fights to protect the rights of this region said: “We have been excluded for years from these issues, nevertheless we know that we are included in agreements and conventions, in international legal documents, which in reality are not put into practice. Today we demand from the States and Governments to be included through facts and not words, because we are the true owners and protectors of forests and jungles, where the greatest biodiversity in the world is found. “

Indigenous peoples and local communities have traditionally been guardians of forest, jungles and ocean resources. According to World Bank figures, about 80% of biodiversity is found in indigenous territories. In Mexico 51.4% of the national territory is under a social ownership scheme, therefore, it belongs to ejidos or communities (1).

AMPB expressed the need for titling of indigenous territories, in favor of the communities that have ancestrally inhabited them.

For Tuntiak Katan, leader of the Shuar people of Ecuador “The indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin are the guardians and protectors of forests and biodiversity, we are the guardians of life for humanity; therefore, we urge people, societies and governments of the world to recognize and guarantee the territories, rights and development strategies of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practices are a true science for holistic management of forests, this knowledge must become public policy for the protection of forests, cultures and biodiversity”.

“We ask the governments of the world to let us live. Let us live in our territories as we’ve done until now, in harmony with everything that is ours. We are a miracle, because despite the extermination here we are, with the sacrifice of blood from our grandparents; here we are with their strength, and with the hope of leaving to the generation that follows a world where we all can live and breathe” said Carol González, of the Cubeo people from Colombia.

Rodolfo Cunanpio, Cacique de Alto Bayano, of the Emberá People of Panama, joined the voice of leaders and representatives of Latin America, who asked that their peoples and communities be formally involved in the formulation of programs for the conservation of biodiversity.

The role of indigenous peoples and local communities in the conservation of forests and biodiversity is vital. The challenges they encounter are similar, either at Standing Rock where the Sioux resist the construction of a pipeline, or in Honduras, where Berta Cáceres died fighting against the hydroelectric dam that would kill a sacred river for her Lenca people.

Leví Sucre, indigenous Bribri leader from Costa Rica and a member of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) called attention to the trend in Latin America, and the world in general, against indigenous leaders of local communities fighting for the protection of nature “It seems that political dialogue has failed and today we are facing a dialogue that has few actions and is not solving our problems. Indigenous peoples face new problems, for example, governments are stripping us of our territories, trying to submit us and to create tourism projects or protected areas, which far from helping us, exclude us and create more poverty.”

“The global trend of intimidation and violence that the historical guardians of our natural resources live is alarming. These reprehensible acts are related to opposition to megaprojects that put biodiversity at risk. It is time for governments to act to prevent it, recognizing the importance of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting our forests, jungles and coasts” said Miguel Rivas, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Mexico.

Approximately 200 people, including Greenpeace volunteers, activists and collaborators, joined the Global Canoe mobilization.

Approximately 150 people participated in the course of 9.6 kilometers, led by indigenous and local community leaders. At the Cancun Tajamar, place in which an ecocide took place, a devastation that caught the attention of the world and its indignation. “We are here in Tajamar, Cancun, where mangroves are being devastated to build tourism projects, because we do not want it to happen in our communities,” said indigenous and local community leaders from countries as diverse as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela. “I live in a biodiverse forest of the world and I do not want what happened here in Tajamar, Cancun, to happen in my community,” said Tuntiak Katan, Shuar indigenous leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon, and member of COICA. Video available here:

About Global Canoe

The Global Canoe action was organized by the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) and Greenpeace Mexico to demand that indigenous and local peoples be considered in global agreements such as the discussions taking place at COP13, guaranteeing their territorial rights and the free, prior and informed consent about their habitat, as well as a halt to their criminalization in the defense of the environment (3), measures that must be adopted and integrated into the policies by each member country of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Notes for editors
The Global Canoe event has been held on two previous occasions. The first in December 2015 on the River Seine, in Paris, France, during the COP 21, in which dozens of indigenous representatives of the world united with one voice and called on world leaders to protect the rights of peoples and include them as part of actions to address climate change. In April of this year, the second edition was held, this time in the East River, New York, next to the United Nations Headquarters.

(1) Lucía Madrid, Juan Manuel Núñez, Gabriela Quiroz and Yosu Rodríguez. Social forestry ownership in Mexico. Environmental research 2009. Available at:

(3) The risk of defending. The intensification of attacks on human rights activists in Latin America. Oxfam International. October 2016. Available at:

Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques

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Somos un espacio de coordinación e intercambio entre autoridades territoriales que influyen sobre las principales masas boscosas de Mesoamérica.