Amazon Defenders Fund

Mobilizing Direct and Effective Solidarity Support for Amazonian Forest Peoples and Grassroots Organizations' Initiatives

Since 2006, Amazon Watch has mobilized resources to address our grassroots Amazonian partners' priorities. We formalized our solidarity funding, now known as the Amazon Defenders Fund (ADF), built upon a multi-decade track record as a trusted partner among Indigenous nations and local organizations and guided by the principles and cosmology of Indigenous peoples. These principles are interconnectedness, relationality, and reciprocity, and are the ways in which Indigenous peoples trace their ancestral relationships to the environment, the cosmos, and to one another.

The ADF mobilizes flexible, timely, and direct solidarity funds into the hands of historical and emerging Indigenous leaders, peoples, and organizations to advance the Amazonian Indigenous agenda of autonomy and self-determination. In recent years, we've quadrupled our solidarity grantmaking and are working to decolonize philanthropy by distributing nearly one-third of our budget directly to the Amazon.

The ADF responds to an accelerating environmental and human rights crisis across the Amazon, such as the Amazon fires since 2019, the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent increase in violent threats against Earth Defenders. The fund is often the first line of support for many Indigenous and forest leaders and communities, as well as those facing repression and different forms of violence.

The ADF is one of the primary mechanisms sought by both foundations and private donors wishing to effectively and immediately reach those directly affected by emergencies across the Amazon Basin. Together with our philanthropic allies, we are able to meet our on-the-ground partners' ever-increasing needs.

How We Decolonize Philanthropy

The 10 principles of the Amazon Defenders Fund are guided by Indigenous cosmovision.

1. Indigenous movement-led

We are committed to walk along with historic Indigenous movements and emergent Indigenous actors. We support the voices, dialogue, connections, and strategies within and among movements. Therefore, the ADF prioritizes timely, safe, and direct funds for Indigenous-led movements and grassroots groups that organize and mobilize their communities to propose solutions.

2. Participatory grantmaking

We believe in a collective decision-making process among AW’s team, local funds, and Indigenous allies in the region.

3. Solidarity, respect, reciprocity, and partnership

We practice the principle of reciprocity and respect for the forest and Indigenous People by giving-back. We respect their autonomy and listen to the ancestral knowledge, priorities, and agendas of our partners.

4. Accountability, flexibility, and responsiveness

We are accountable to the Indigenous movements and organized civil society with whom we partner with by sharing our grantmaking principles, decision-making processes, and fundraising strategies. We practice transparency by providing information on the resources we mobilize. We also implement ally feedback and their recommendations on how we can best contribute to and strengthen the efforts of Indigenous peoples and other forest defenders.

5. Collective leadership and processes

Indigenous people achieve self-actualization by being of service to their community and by caring for each other, for their forest, and their larger home, the Amazon. We are committed to prioritizing organizational spaces that enable collective democratic decision-making and practices.

6. Dismantling patriarchal systems of power and white supremacy

The colonial project, or the justification for the occupation and exploitation of Indigenous land and the maintenance of unequal relationships between non-native and native, and colonization depend on the social construct of race and gender. We support our allies as they address the ways in which existing patriarchal systems of white supremacy negatively affect the rights of Indigenous women, girls, and gender non-conforming individuals in the process of achieving justice to protect the collective rights of Indigenous peoples and the Amazon forest.

7. Committed to long-term processes of change

Our mission of mobilizing resources is aligned with our partners’ vision that systemic change is achieved through rapid-response and long-term processes of strategizing, organizing, mobilizing, and proposing solutions.

8. Committed to rapidly and safely supporting allies in crisis and at risk

We respond rapidly, safely, and efficiently to partners at risk, including but not limited to: those receiving death threats, or attacks of any form that put Indigenous communities’ lives, livelihoods, ecosystems, and territories in danger.

9. Organizing philanthropic actors

We believe in building a community of solidarity to learn, coordinate and plan joint resource mobilization and advocacy actions to influence philanthropy in addressing white supremacy in order to become better allies with indigenous peoples and contribute with just systemic change alternatives.

10. Celebrating and regenerating the cycle of life

Celebration and regeneration of life are present in all moments of Indigenous life—across time and space. They follow the transformation and cycles of life from birth to death and coming back to the soil, the agriculture cycles and its direct relationship with the land, passages of changes at the individual and collective layers of human and other living systems. It is expressed in community action, art and music, and ritual and ceremonial activities.

We seek to further expand the ADF's regranting process and grow our commitment to strengthen the capacity and opportunities of Amazonian Indigenous organizations and local NGOs. With this support, Indigenous people can continue to pursue and exercise their collective rights, culture, and livelihoods.

The Amazon Defenders Fund in Action

If you would like more information on the Amazon Defenders Fund, please contact Angela Martínez at angela@amazonwatch.org.

Brazil's majestic Xingu River, at grave risk from the Belo Monte dam. Photo credit: Rafael Salazar

COVID-19

The ADF is providing rapid-response grants to meet the pressing needs of indigenous communities defending themselves from the spread of COVID-19, while supporting strategies on the ground to protect the lives, health and well-being of indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples in the Amazon are already struggling with the climate crisis, deforestation, criminalization and violence, and food sovereignty threats. They have historically been killed by infectious diseases due to their low immunity because they live in remote regions and depend on public services that continue to be dismantled. The COVID-19 global pandemic will exacerbate this situation, and put their lives in danger. This is one way that Amazon Watch is rapidly responding to our indigenous allies.

ADF grants are already addressing needs on the ground. In Ecuador, we supported the National Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) to design and implement and prevention and informative COVID-19 campaigns among indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In Peru, we contributed to the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon, AIDESEP – Peru's largest and most internationally-respected indigenous umbrella organization – to coordinate with local municipalities to equally assess and distribute governmental resources to indigenous peoples' needs. Additionally, AIDESP is carrying out a COVID-19 contingency strategy, which includes: prevention communication campaigns; providing food, water, and hygienic products to hard-to-reach populations; protection of indigenous people in voluntary isolation; and monitoring the entrance and exit of indigenous territories. In Colombia, we are supporting the Association of Traditional Indigenous U'wa Councils, ASOU'Wa to provide water, food, protection supplies (gloves, masks, glasses), temporary housing for Indigenous Guard, and others (mattresses, blankets, beds, tents, etc.).

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The 2019 Amazon Fires

In the wake of the devastating fires that ravaged the Brazilian and Bolivian Amazon – over 11 million hectares of forest were burned – the need for a nimble, dedicated small granting mechanism readily available for rapid distribution was essential. In addition to the destruction of the rainforest these tragedies placed human rights and environmental defenders at heightened risk of political persecution and violence.

Amazon Watch's track record as a trusted partner among indigenous nations and local organizations, made the ADF one of the primary mechanisms sought by both foundations and private donors wishing to effectively and immediately reach those directly affected by the Amazon fires. Due to those growing relationships in philanthropy, we were able to meet our ongoing partners ever increasing needs, and we were also sought out by new communities and organizations in Brazil and in Bolivia, where emergency support was desperately needed to respond to fires.

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