Press release: 08 September 2022
Indigenous activists and NGOs urge EU politicians to protect Indigenous rights ahead of key deforestation law vote
Indigenous activists and their allies are urging European politicians to protect the rights of forest communities as EU lawmakers prepare to adopt a key law to tackle world-wide deforestation.
Members of the European Parliament will soon agree their position on the deforestation-free products law – designed to address the EU’s contribution to the destruction of vital forest ecosystems globally – following a debate in the Parliament’s plenary session next week.
Speaking at an event in Brussels highlighting the fight of Brazil's Indigenous communities against land grabbing and deforestation, Kuaimbú Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, an Indigenous activist from Brazil, had an urgent message for MEPs.
“Indirectly, the European community is contributing to the destruction of our forests through its consumption. Indirectly, it’s promoting violence against indigenous people,” he said at the event, attended by EU Commissioner for the Environment, Virginia Sinkevicious, and Parliamentarians.
“But this can change. The new European law is an opportunity to include the protection of indigenous rights, and ensure that importing Brazilian goods is no longer linked to violence perpetrated against indigenous communities.”
Kuaimbú is a member of the Jupaú Surveillance Team, an organised group of Uru-eu-wau-wau protecting their territory against land-grabbers and loggers who increasingly encroach on the communities’ lands with impunity.
Kuaimbú, ClientEarth, and the #Together4Forests coalition are urging politicians to support Indigenous-led monitoring and access to justice measures in the new law so that forest communities can protect their lands effectively.
Christophe Hansen, MEP and the Parliament’s Rapporteur for the deforestation-free products law, said: “Europe needs to take on its responsibilities and take a strong stance against global deforestation. The respect of international customary and tenure rights of indigenous peoples goes hand in hand with their empowerment to protect their own lands.”
During next week’s plenary, Parliamentarians will debate and then vote on a package of amendments to the draft deforestation law negotiated by MEP Hansen in the Parliament’s Environment Committee, which include proposals to strengthen access to justice provisions.
The committee wants to provide a mechanism that would allow Indigenous communities to present evidence of wrongdoing in European courts, and require companies to respect human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples over their lands and territories.
Civil society and indigenous groups urge MEPs to support these protections and further improve them by ensuring routes to remediation. They say it’s critical the law supports forest communities when their lands are impacted by the production of products bound for European markets, such as when land-grabbers convert areas of their territory into cattle ranches supplying the EU.
“As long as products causing deforestation are sold in the EU, Indigenous Peoples will continue to suffer the consequences,” said Michael Rice, ClientEarth lawyer.
“This law is a rare chance for the EU to reduce its contribution to deforestation globally, but it must provide access to justice and redress for Indigenous Peoples on the frontline when companies breach the rules. They are our best allies in the fight against deforestation and this law needs to support and empower them.”
After the Parliament has agreed its position, the deforestation law will enter trilogue negotiations with the European Commission and Council.
Notes to editors:
Background information on the European Commission proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products can be accessed here.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.
#Together4Forests is an international campaign, backed by 1.2 million citizens and almost 200 NGOs, that is geared towards ensuring further protection of the world’s forests and those who depend on them. For more information, please visit: together4forests.eu