UN Urges Brazil to Ensure Human Rights to Its Indians

Amazon Indians in Brazil Despite some advances in their conditions and the Government's commitment to improve their situation Brazil's indigenous peoples still struggle to exercise real control over their lives and lands. This according to a United Nations human rights expert wrapping up a 12-day visit to that country.

S. James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said in a statement that indigenous people in Brazil are likely to be poor, to endure low health and education standards and to face discrimination that sometimes results in violence.

While the Government has promised to advance indigenous rights in line with the recently struck UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with national constitutional protections, a significant part of Brazilian society opposes Government policies that try to respond to the aspirations of indigenous peoples.

"Reforms are needed to ensure that indigenous peoples are better able to exercise their right of self-determination within the framework of a Brazilian State that is respectful of diversity," he said.

"It is evident that indigenous peoples frequently do not control the decisions that affect their everyday lives and their lands, even when their lands have been officially demarcated and registered, because of invasions and mining by outsiders and other factors."

During his official visit, Anaya met with senior Government officials, human rights experts and with representatives of indigenous groups and civil society organizations and toured various areas in the states of Amazonas, Roraima and Mato Grosso do Sul, which have large indigenous populations.

The Special Rapporteur found that while indigenous communities have some input into the delivery of services to them by government agencies, they do not have adequate control and sometimes suffer from paternalistic attitudes from government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"While culturally rich, indigenous peoples remain impoverished economically, without sufficient power or opportunities to develop on a sustainable basis, are continually suffocated by discrimination."

Health and education standards remain poor at best, especially for indigenous women and children, while Mr. Anaya said he also heard of persistent discrimination and "alarming accounts" of violence against indigenous individuals – particularly their most vocal leaders.

He added that a mechanism is missing for ensuring indigenous groups are adequately consulted on major development projects, such as the construction of highways, hydro-electric dams and large mines, that lie outside their lands but still affect them.

More broadly, too many Brazilians are unaware of the rights of indigenous peoples, even when they have been enshrined in the national constitution.

"A national campaign of education on indigenous issues and respect for diversity, guided by the Government in partnership with indigenous peoples, and with the support of the news media, would likely help build bridges of mutual understanding," Anaya concluded.

The Special Rapporteur, who assumed his post in May this year, serves in an unpaid and independent capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.


  • Show Comments (4)

  • ch.c.

    So right “There is no excuse for any À¢€œmodernÀ¢€Â nation during the 21st Century”
    But that is another proof that Brazil is NOT in the 21st Century !
    You also harvest the majority of your sugarcane like you did in the 18th century despite mechanical harvesters are available for several decades.
    We all know how tradition is important to Brazilians !
    😉 😀

    Brazilians cant even build a car by their own…in 2008 !
    India build their own cars for decades. Thus to some extent they are in the 20th Century, Brazil in the early 19th Century !

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    What did the U.S. do to its Indians…?
    After the conquest period, at the height of U.S.attempts to “resolve the Indian question”, THIS is what the U.S. did to Indians…

    The U.S. Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887, which provided for the distribution of Indian reservation lands in severalty to the members of the tribes. Said lands were to be held in trust for 20 years while the Indians were “brought up to civilization”, and then individual, saleable title would be given to the Indian and he would be named a citizen of the U.S.

    This policy was overthrown in the 1930s because IT DIDN’T WORK. It did not magically transform Indians into indistinguishable American citizens because the Indians by and large DID NOT WANT TO BECOME indistinguishable American citizens. What it did do, however, was pass hundreds of thousands of square KM of Indian lands into white hands with, in most cases, little being left to the Indians.

    The Hoover and Roosevelt administrations finally scuttled allotment in severalty because it IMPOVERISHED Indians and – contrary to the expectations of American nationalists – taking their lands didn’t suddenly get rid of the Indian problem. The upshot of the policy was that the U.S. had a growing rural population of impoverished Indians who were an icreasing drain on federal resources.

    I bring this up because it needs to be said that even at the height of social darwinism, the U.S. at least attempted to deal with Indians in a fashion that was not predicated on their physcial elimination. In fact, late 19th century U.S. Indian law was basically the same sort of thing Ricard Amaral and other right-wing nationalists are preaching Brazil to follow today.

    Kinda chill you to the bone, doesnÀ‚´t it, when one realizes that an Indian policy proposed by the U.S. over 100 years ago and rejected as fatally flawed more than 70 years ago can now be represented by certain right-wing Brazilian intellectuals as “the only decent thing to do with the Indians”.

    In other words, these Brazilian intellectuals are about 100 years behind the times and are so ignorant about the history of Indian affaris in this hemisphere that they don’t even relaize how fucking stupid they look.


    Shameful conduct!
    It is indeed unforgivable that Brazil does not take the necessary steps to protect so fragile a group of innocent individuals…

    There is no excuse for any À¢€œmodernÀ¢€Â nation during the 21st Century, particularly one which claims to abide to democratic principles and human rights, would fail to have the decency of protecting its primitive natives and permitting them to proceed existing according to their mores and customs.

  • ch.c.

    – that all emerging nations or thirld world countries, outside Brazil, members of the UN, agree of how things should/must be elsewhere….. but not in their own country.
    – that the UN did not exist when the USA did the same with their own Indians as Brazil do today.

    So is humanity !

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