Reflections on Human Rights and Hope from COP27 | Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch

Reflections on Human Rights and Hope from COP27

December 3, 2022 | Leila Salazar-López | Eye on the Amazon

After two weeks in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for the Climate COP27 (The United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change), I’m reflecting on our purpose in attending and the outcomes.

Like many, my sentiments are bittersweet. We attended to call attention to the fact that the Amazon is at a tipping point and amplify the voices of Indigenous peoples, women, youth, and civil society who were demanding climate justice both inside and outside the official event. We also wanted to show our solidarity with Egyptian and African civil society, as this was the first COP on the continent. 

Specifically, we attended COP27 to expose the increasing threats to the Amazon, climate, and Earth defenders; call for the protection of 80% of the Amazon by 2025 to avert the tipping point; expose false solutions, including carbon offsets; demand the implementation of a global agreement that recognizes human rights and the rights of nature, and commits to phase-out of fossil fuels to keep global temperature rise at or below 1.5°C

The reality is that our freedom of expression to defend human rights was very limited. As 40,000 people from around the world descended on Sharm El Sheikh, over 60,000 political prisoners (many youth activists from the Arab Spring uprising in 2011) await their fate, including Alaa Abdel Fattah, a pro-democracy writer imprisoned in Egypt’s Wadi al-Natroun prison who began a water strike on the eve of COP27. Amazon Watch joined COP Civic and over 1,400 groups and individuals in expressing great concern over human rights abuses in Egypt and in particular the government’s restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. We encourage you to show your solidarity, too.

As Naomi Klein says in her article, “Greenwashing a police state: the truth behind Egypt’s COP27 masquerade,” published on the eve of the event in The Guardian, “Where Human Rights are under attack, so too is the natural world.” I would add that when Indigenous rights and women’s rights are under attack, so too is the natural world. 

Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, yet their rights, lives, and territories are under attack. In fact, according to Global Witness, Latin America is the deadliest place to be an Earth defender. Indigenous peoples, traditional communities, women, and youth are on the front lines defending the Amazon.

While extremely outnumbered, women and youth had a strong presence at COP27. One of the most powerful moments was to see recently-elected Indigenous congresswomen from Brazil, Celia Xakriaba and Sonia Guajajara, and colleagues from ANMIGA walk and sing through the halls of COP27 to let everyone know that they were there and Brazilian President-elect Lula had arrived.

Throughout the two weeks at COP27, Amazon Watch participated in and helped facilitate press conferences, side events, meetings, and receptions together with Indigenous leaders and NGO allies, including the Coordinating Body of Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous peoples (APIB), Brazil’s National Association of Ancestral Indigenous Women Warriors (ANMIGA), Mujeres Amazonicas, Sarayaku women leaders (Patricia Gualinga, Nina Gualinga and Helena Gualinga), Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), NDN Collective, Black Indigenous Liberation Movement (BILM), Stand.earth, Fossil Free Finance Campaign, and Time for Better Hope House.

A few highlights of hope

Gregorio Mirabal, General Coordinator of COICA welcomes climate vow from Brazil’s Lula to end deforestation with Indigenous help

“Once again, we’re here to say that the Amazon is reaching a point of no return. We announced that last year, and we’re here again saying that the Amazon needs urgent action, and we Indigenous peoples are bringing forth solutions. Scientists agree that Indigenous peoples are doing the best job as protectors of the forest and that Indigenous solutions need to be supported. So, once again, we’re here to demand the technical, political, and financial support that we need to continue to protect our forest and avoid the tipping point.”

Gregorio Mirabal, General Coordinator of COICA

The results of the elections in Brazil restore hope for democracy, human rights, the Amazon, and our global climate. President-elect Lula attended the second week of COP27 and was welcomed like a rock star. He has pledged to protect the Amazon and other ecosystems of Brazil by restoring support and funding for IBAMA (Environment Ministry)  and FUNAI (Indigenous Agency), which were gutted under the Bolsonaro administration leading to land grabbing, fires, and the highest deforestation rates in the last 15 years. Lula has called for zero deforestation and a crack-down on illegal activity threatening the Amazon and the rights and territories of Indigenous peoples. He has also announced the establishment of an Indigenous ministry to advance their rights and territories. Considering that Indigenous lands are the best protected in the Amazon, it is critical that efforts to defend and expand them are supported.

Helena Gualinga, Indigenous Youth Climate Justice Leader, speaks at high-level closing session of COP27

At the high-level closing session at COP27 in Egypt, Helena Gualinga, Kichwa Indigenous youth climate leader said, “I envision a future where we do not have to fear another flood, another fire, or finding another murdered protector of the Amazon. I envision a future where our children and your children do not have to fight for the future of humanity. I envision the Living Forest, the vision of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku that respects and ensures that the forest, the forest beings, and our people are permanently protected from extractive industries and other threats.”

Historic Agreement on Loss and Damage fund adopted

This agreement is critically important because it acknowledges that reparations are needed to support the most vulnerable communities and countries. They are on the front lines of the crisis, yet they are not responsible for historic global emissions that have caused the climate crisis.

However, it also came at a cost. Negotiators caved to the fossil fuel industry and did not increase commitments to reduce emissions or phase out fossil fuels. 

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry outnumbered us, once again. Over 600 fossil fuel industry lobbyists filled the halls of the blue zone at COP27 to ensure that limits to oil and gas extraction and expansion were kept out of the final text of the agreement.

While disheartening, that did not stop us and our allies from advocating to keep fossil fuels and minerals in the ground from the Amazon to the Arctic, rejecting their proposed false solutions, and supporting the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

For our climate, communities, human rights, and our future, we will never give up!

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