Eye on the Amazon

An Effective Response to Crisis in the Amazon Requires Global Collaboration

When the novel coronavirus first began to emerge as a global pandemic, its spread also carried centuries of collective memories of the diseases that previously decimated Indigenous peoples across the Americas. Indigenous peoples across the Amazon began to ban outsiders from their territories and disperse preventative information and resources in their communities.

Indigenous peoples sounded the alarm and took preventative action long before governments began to address public health needs. COVID-19 poses an immense threat to Indigenous communities because of the entrenched socio-economic discrimination and marginalization that deprive their communities of life-saving resources.

As of May 27th, there were 133,971 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the Amazon and nearly 7,000 deaths. In Brazil alone, we know of 149 Indigenous lives that have been taken by COVID and over 1,471 people have reportedly contracted the disease.

At Amazon Watch, we immediately stepped up to support our Indigenous partners across the Amazon by calling for an immediate moratorium on all extractive and destructive industries on Indigenous lands and bringing over 250 international NGOs together to sign on to a statement of solidarity with Indigenous peoples of the Amazon facing the pandemic.

Lizardo Cauper Pezo, of the Shipibo Indigenous people in the Ucayali region of Peru shares, "I am the President of AIDESEP, which represents more than 2,000 communities across the Peruvian Amazon. We demand immediate concrete action to support our Indigenous communities, including that the Peruvian government stop all extractive industries in our territories and provide immediate public health resources. Finally, I ask the international community to continue supporting us during the COVID19 pandemic."

Since mid-March, we have mobilized and disbursed over $250,000 in urgent and immediate rapid response grants via our Amazon Defenders Fund to support emergency communications, humanitarian aid, and territorial defense. But as each day passed, the needs and requests of our partners across the Amazon dramatically increased. In response, we organized conversations to unite Indigenous and NGO allies around an emergency response to COVID-19 in the Amazon.

After a few weeks of planning, we jointly launched the Amazon Emergency Fund in coordination with COICA (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), NGO and donor allies, and advisors to raise urgently needed funds to address the impacts of the pandemic across the Amazon. Our goal is to raise $5 million dollars by July 1st.

The threat of ethnocide is very real for Indigenous peoples in the Amazon. During the press conference for the launch of the Amazon Emergency Fund, Jose Gregorio Diaz Mirabel, general coordinator of COICA and member of the Wakeunai Kurripaco people of Venezuela said, "We cannot wait any longer for our government...we are in danger of extinction."

The Amazon Emergency Fund is an Indigenous-led fundraising campaign providing rapid response grants to Indigenous communities threatened by the pandemic. It's designed to mobilize funds quickly and directly into the hands of communities across the Amazon to address a full spectrum of needs. This includes not only food, medical supplies, and urgent care, but also emergency communications support, evacuation transportation, and protection and security for Forest Guardians. The Fund's longer-term strategies include grantmaking for food sovereignty and community resilience.

Amazon Watch is a proud member of the Founding Solidarity Circle, which consists of Indigenous leaders from COICA and its member organizations, representatives of participating NGOs, donors, and advisors. As the fund is a collective effort, all grantmaking and governance decisions will be carried out under strict coordination and communication by the Governing Council, composed of a majority of representatives from Indigenous organizations.

The Amazon Emergency Fund Is fiscally sponsored by the Rainforest Foundation U.S. Amazon Watch is contributing in-kind operations, technical assistance, and communications support. We are also actively engaging with and recruiting NGO partners and donor allies to join the Founding Solidarity Circle and contribute to the Fund's success.

With your support, Amazon Watch has contributed $100,000 in seed funding to launch the Fund, but the level of financial support needed in the Amazon requires so much more than support from one organization. That is why today we are co-hosting Artists United for Amazonia: Protecting the Protectors, a livestream benefit event for the Amazon Emergency Fund, featuring musical performances, entertainment influencers, Indigenous leaders, activists, scientists, and conservation advocates.

The line-up for the livestream includes Sting, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, Jane Goodall, Jeff Bridges, Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Trudie Styler, Cara Delevingne, Brazilian Grammy winners Ivan Lins and Luciana Souza, as well as numerous others scientists, Indigenous leaders and a broad coalition of NGOs. Produced by Artists for Amazonia, the event will run from 5 to 8:30 pm PT (8 to 11:30 pm ET), and be hosted by activist, actress, and Game of Thrones and Avatar sequel co-star Oona Chaplin, with closing remarks by Barbara Streisand. The livestream will also be available via Facebook and our YouTube channel.

The Amazon and its peoples are in a state of emergency due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a crime against nature and a crime against humanity. It is a time for all to unite and act in defense of the forest and in solidarity with the Indigenous and traditional peoples across the Amazon who are protecting this great rainforest and our climate for all of humanity and life on Earth.

Learn more about how Amazon Watch is responding to COVID-19 here.

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