CESE and partner organizations conclude one more cycle to strengthen indigenous organizations

Graphic facilitation produced by MiráDesign

Brazil is going through a tough period of socio-economic crisis and weakening democracy.  In this context, the rights of historically marginalized populations have been jeopardized. With the upward flow of conservative waves and political polarization, indigenous people see themselves as under even more threat.  In addition to fighting for the defence of life and against constant attacks on their rights, this population also faces the challenge of reinforcing their autonomy as indigenous organizations.

To strengthen this autonomy so that indigenous organizations can enter into contracts, receive, and directly and autonomously manage funding aimed at their territories and for the environment, CESE, in partnership with the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira: COIAB) and DH Advocacy (DH Advocacia), has carried out one more Institutional Strengthening activity for Indigenous Organizations.

This constitutes a new cycle of support, this time for 19 organizations from eight different states: Amazonas, Amapá, Acre, Maranhão, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Roraima.

The debates’ keynote was the resistance of indigenous peoples in the current political climate and the need for strengthening to continue running their activities, either through the management of internal processes or for compliance to access public funding.

For Josilene da Silva Nunes, better known as Jhosy-Marworno, a native of the Uahá community on the Uahá Indigenous Land, the training arrives within a context of a great many challenges for indigenous peoples: “We are experiencing difficult times in terms of the reduction of rights. There is criminalization, threats, attacks and many other conflicts.  We need to minimize the impacts within these indigenous territories and fight for security.  And to be in an association is one of the ways we can become stronger, receive funding and develop better work in the communities,” reported the Vice Coordinator of the Indigenous Coalition of the Oiapoque River (Articulação Indígena do Rio Oiapoque: AIRO).

In the midst of similar statements, Darlene Yaminalo Taukane, from the Yukamaniru Institute of Support to Bakairi Indigenous Women (Instituto Yukamaniru de Apoio às Mulheres Indígenas Bakairi), highlighted formal legal compliance as a way of relating to other actors in society.  For her, learning to use instruments considered modern does not compromise the traditional way of life, on the contrary, it strengthens the struggle: “With our association legally up-to-date, we can get moving and compete for grant funding and take projects to our villages that are of interest to our communities. This whole process of support and training provides us with tools to help us get organized, to demand and defend our territories,” Darlene asserted.

Graphic facilitation produced by MiráDesignDuring this entire cycle we could see the strength of indigenous collectivity and the sharing of challenges to overcome oppressive and colonial policies.  The project provided legal training as a focus for the organizations’ compliance; a roundtable discussion with women; a rich moment of questions about accounting; dialogue about the drafting of projects, administrative/financial guidance and the provision of accounts; and arenas for reflection and debate about the organizations’ universe.  It also promoted the exchange of experiences and information between participating leaders.

In this way, Manoel Barbosa da Silva, known as Manoel Chorimpa, described how the initiative has contributed to strengthening internal social organization and advocacy for the demarcation and protection of territories: “It is of vital importance for the survival of this unit called the indigenous movement. In the case of the Alto Rio Curuça Community Development Association (Associação de Desenvolvimento Comunitário Alto Rio Curuça: ASDEC), we are motivated by the strength of the management and the reactivation of our work, both administrative and political.”

And he added: “We won the right to have our organizations recognized through a historical struggle. We have to take care of our organizations for them to work effectively.  However, many have become weak, due to lack of support.  And all of this action has provided us with training and financial support to resolve any pending issues in these organizations, which hadn’t previously known how to manage resources to solve compliance problems.”

One of the conclusions that reverberated around the meetings was that the legal environment is ignorant of indigenous peoples’ specificities.  Manoel Chorimpa drew attention to the issue of organizational and cultural differences between the peoples and how powerful it is for the struggle when the associations are brought together for training: “Indigenous peoples are not able to adopt a single organizational model or parameter to resolve their problems.  We have unique specificities, meaning that the existence of these organizations is fundamental to our survival,” said Manoel Chorimpa who is from the Marubo people, located in Atalaia do Norte in Amazonas.

André Baniwá, COIAB consultant in Education and Strengthening Indigenous Organizations, noted that although issues specific to the indigenous movement are constitutional, they are not respected: “In general, the rights of indigenous people are not respected.  Hence the importance of this partnership between CESE and COIAB to provide not only political and institutional strengthening, but also guidance through technical knowledge aimed at laws and rights.  This is fundamental for dialogue and confrontation in the legal environment, against the whole process of violations that we are currently experiencing,” concluded the leader of the Baniwá People, who belong to the Arawak language family.


About the activity to strengthen indigenous organizations

In partnership with COIAB and DH Advocacy, CESE has been running this project for three years. It aim is to strengthen indigenous organizations, especially those in COIAB’s local bases. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Institute for Climate and Society (Instituto Clima e Sociedade: ICS).  So far, 146 organizations have registered and 73 have been supported through 05 training processes, 3 in-person and 2 virtual, attended by a total of 170 representatives.