CESE, COIAB and the Podáali Fund evaluate results and plan next steps of institutional strengthening for indigenous organizations in the Legal Amazon

Evaluating what has been done, the results achieved so far and considering the next steps.  These were the three main goals of the meeting for the Evaluation of the Experience of Institutional Strengthening of Indigenous Organizations from the Legal Amazon, held on the morning of 26 May with representatives from the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE), the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira: COIAB), Podáali – the Indigenous Fund for the Brazilian Amazon (Podáali – Fundo Indígena da Amazônia Brasileira) and Human Rights Advocacy (DH Advocacia).

For approximately two years, CESE has run a project in partnership with these institutions focused on strengthening indigenous organizations, particularly those in COIAB’s local bases, so that they can enter into contracts, and receive and directly manage financial resources aimed at the territorial and environmental management of their lands. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Institute for Climate and Society (Instituto Clima e Sociedade: ICS).  Thus far, 54 organizations have been supported in 26 COIAB bases and 69 indigenous lands.

These organizations deal with various problems, which could be financial in nature – holding an assembly but unable to register its minutes at the notary’s office because of a lack of funds – or sometimes they are unable to access grant funding, for example, because accountancy and legal matters are not compliant with regulations.  The project has provided them with legal advice, training and support to projects.

Legal advice includes updating constitutions, verifying, where necessary, administrative issues and the content of assembly minutes.  Support to projects is aimed at ensuring the organizations’ compliance – which may involve paying notary fees, Federal Revenue Service fines and fees or other pending issues, contracting accountants or holding assemblies. Thus far, four training sessions have been held with 133 representatives from indigenous organizations.

Strengthening the organizations from the bases of COIAB’s operations is one of the project’s main objectives, so that they are able to manage projects and access funding from the Podáali Fund. In general terms, the fund seeks to support institutional strengthening activities, environmental management and territorial protection in indigenous lands within the Legal Amazon.


Political analysis and evaluations

When she analyses the political situation in the country, Angela Kaxuyana notes that indigenous people are experiencing one of the worst moments in the history of democracy in Brazil. “And what frightens us most is the feeling that all the other peoples are silent. We are trying to understand whether this is from convenience or fear. When we raise our voices, we feel alone.”

She stresses the need for union between all peoples. “Another mission we have is a commitment – as a person and as an institution – to ensure that quilombolas, women, extractivists, young people can become stronger and join the indigenous movement, so that we can shout out together. So that our voice can echo more powerfully”.

The 26 May meeting provided a moment for the organizations that lead the project to sit down and evaluate the results of activities so far, discuss their general view of progress and, among other things, evaluate the way information about access to grants and other support is disseminated, and how face-to-face and virtual workshops are run.

Toya Manchineri, COIAB political advisor and Coordinator for the Territory and Natural Resources Area of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica: COICA), spoke most forcefully about the results the project has achieved.  He is also founder of MATPHA – Manxinerune Tsihi Pukte Hajene, an organization located in Rio Branco, Acre, one of COIAB’s bases and supported by the project.

Toya Manchineri, COIAB political advisor and Coordinator for the Territory and Natural Resources Area of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin

“These little projects – running an assembly, paying small debts – have revitalized certain important associations, such as the Organization of Indigenous Teachers of Acre (Organização dos Professores Indígenas do Acre), a large association but one which had problems and ended up not holding its assembly within a certain period.  But the project provided this opportunity, so that they could ensure compliance with regulations and today they are working, including with us,” he confirmed.

At one point in his speech, Toya said “we are all COIAB” and these words echoed positively with Angela Kaxuyana.  “I was very happy.  This was feeling that we wanted: that the organizations are also COIAB.  To awaken this feeling of belonging to COIAB, that is the most incredible result that we hoped for.  It is the primary point”, she declared.

Angela Kaxuyana from the Kahyana people, COIAB’s Treasurer Coordinator

She completed by saying that she sees this link as the representation of two strands of one strengthening.  “COIAB’s connection enables these organizations, which have so much history in their municipalities, to go back to having access to a political position.  I see this measure of strengthening as something much broader – from the organizations to COIAB and from COIAB to the organizations.”

During the meeting, other aspects were discussed, such as how to improve information gathering about the associations prior to the Selection Committee meeting, how to foster effective participation of organization representatives in virtual training, how to involve more lawyers and accountants, the suggested development of a Legal and Administrative Management Manual and the creation of grassroots legal training for the associations.

Sonia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director noted how rich the meeting was. “It was great to listen to everything that we seeded and planted, and to hear this evaluation.  We have received so many tips, which will also help us in the other projects we are running. I would like to thank everyone who participated for their efforts and their generosity in sharing their learning.”

Sonia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director

At the end of the meeting, a 2021-2022 Activity Plan was presented – involving more projects, training, a meeting with lawyers and accountants, the production of promotional materials with audio classes, the production of teaching materials about the regulatory compliance of Indigenous Organizations, and other issues.

Representing CESE alongside Executive Director Sonia Mota were Dimas Galvão, Coordinator of the Projects and Training Advisory Department, Viviane Hermida and Vinicius Benites Alves, both from the Projects and Training Advisory Department and Mara Vanessa Fonseca Dutra, who is no longer a member of CESE but was part of the project’s coordinating team from its outset until January 2021.

For her part, Mara Vanessa noted that the project had progressed significantly towards its main objective which is to ensure the regulatory compliance of organizations. “It is gradually getting there. The pandemic held back many processes and required a great deal of adaptation. From an institutional point of view, this meeting was important to allow a more in-depth look at certain issues.  Various aspects have been brought up and, from there, we have to change what needs to be changed,” she noted.

Mara Vanessa Fonseca Dutra, was part of the project’s coordinating team from its outset until January 2021

Angela Kaxuyana and Toya Manchineri represented COIAB.  Representing the Podáali Fund were Valéria Paye (from the Kaxuyana people and Executive Director), Rose Meire Apurinã (Finance Director) Tarisson Nawa (Communications) and Aurélio Viana (Advisor). Virgínia Félix and Paulo Pankararu represented DH Advocacia.