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Brus Rubio / Reunión De Los Clanes (The Council of the Clans), 2023

The Legal Assistance Program (Area Legal) of the Shipibo Conibo Center, in conjunction with the Consejo Shipibo Conibo (COSHIKOX), provides free legal defense to Indigenous communities threatened by environmental crimes, land invasions and various forms of criminalization and exploitation. Today, Indigenous Peoples residing in the Peruvian Amazon face constant threats, as their territories have become one of the main centers of global resource extraction whilst being claimed as crucial to the health of the planet. This results in a situation where actors–both private and public–constantly attack Indigenous ways of life, as much through classic means of encroachment and dispossession as through contemporary forms of usurpation such as imposed and exclusionary natural parks and carbon credit schemes which are projected as environmentally beneficial to all. The work of the program has intensified in recent years due to the increase in forced evictions in Indigenous territories, the growing pressure from extractive industries such as oil, logging, and palm oil, the proliferation of illegal coca leaf plantations used for drug trafficking and the expansion of exclusionary conservation projects and an unequal carbon market.

In collaboration with Coshikox, the main representative body of the Shipibo-Konibo-Xetebo People, Guardia Indigena Shipibo, and other grassroots organizations, the Legal Assistance Program consists of lead attorney Linda Vigo Escalante alongside a team of Shipibo-speaking legal practitioners. Working closely with the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), a civil society organization founded in 1983 whose mission is promoting human rights, democracy and peace in Peru and Latin America, the Legal Assistance Program works towards the right to self-determination of the Shipibo Nation.

The day to day work of the Legal Assistance Program is focused on five lines of action:

  1. Territorial Defense: We work to ensure that the collective rights to the territory of Indigenous peoples is respected and protected. Our focus extends beyond the physical territory and also emphasizes the defense of Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (DESCA).

  2. Land Titling: Our goal is to support land titling of Indigenous communities, while also recognizing Peruvian titling law as an an insidious strategy to break up the unity of Indigenous Nations by granting land titles only at the level of the unit of local, small native communities under the politico-juridical structure of a settler colonial state, without recognizing the right to self-governance of Indigenous Nations and their ancestral territories as a whole, thereby sabotaging any true possibility of exercising collective political and territorial self-determination. 

  3. Safety of Land Defenders: Faced with constant criminalization and situations that jeopardize the lives of Indigenous Activists and Land and Water Defenders, we coordinate actions to protect those on the front lines. Their safety and well-being are essential for the continuity of our movement and the defense of their territories.

  4. Creation of Indigenous Ecological Areas: We recognize the history of conflict between State-run Conservation Area and the Indigenous and local communities who inhabit them. Alongside Shipibo communities, we hold biodiversity to consist of a dynamic ecological relationship that includes human and nonhuman worlds. It is not a thing that may simply preserved. Any approach to the ecology of the Amazon must consist of strategies  based on an intercultural approach centered on the political participation and ancestral worldviews present in these territories. We are working to promote the creation of Indigenous Ecological Areas that guarantee the right to self-determination to Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge their leading role as ecological actors and Water and Land Defenders.

  5. Leader Training: The interplay between Indigenous jurisdiction and State jurisdiction requires that leaders and advocates have all the necessary tools to understand and defend their rights. Our training spaces are designed to strengthen the capacities of current leaders and future ones in managing the fraught interface with the state and international non-profit actors.

 

The Program has been funded in part thanks to the support of the Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) and The AMB Foundation.

 

ARTICLES and RESOURCES:

Criminalization of the Indigenous Guard:

Analysis of an unusual report on organized crime in Lake Imiría.

By Álvaro Másquez Salvador, Metsa Rono (IDL)

and Bryan Cruz Sánchez, Xanen Bima (Coshikox)

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