UNODC Brazil launches project to strengthen mechanisms for monitoring, early warning, and responses to environmental crimes in indigenous territories

Brasilia-DF, 4 March 2024 - On 29 February, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Brazil officially launched a new project aimed at strengthening mechanisms for monitoring, early warning and, responses to environmental crimes in the context of illegal gold mining and indigenous territorial protection. More than 15 federal institutions and civil society organizations – such as the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples (MPI), the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), the Federal Police (PF), the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) – attended the technical launch meeting, held at UNODC headquarters in Brasilia.

At the meeting, UNODC Brazil presented the project to different partners from the Brazilian federal government, the UN system, indigenous associations and organizations and civil society. The agenda also provided a space to exchange information on the advances and challenges related to the monitoring and surveillance systems used in indigenous territories, to create a multi-sectoral and multi-institutional work agenda.

The new project, entitled Strengthening Early Warning Systems and Responses to Environmental Crimes related to Illegal Gold Mining in Indigenous Territories – SAR-TI, is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) of the Government of Italy and complements other ongoing UNODC Brazil initiatives including Tapajós - A Prevalence Project to Reduce Human Trafficking and Forced Labor in the Gold Mining Sector in the State of Pará, Brazil and ECOS - Regional Cooperation to Address Environmental Crimes.

Opening the event, Elena Abbati, UNODC Representative in Brazil, reaffirmed UNODC’s commitment to contributing to the Brazilian government’s response to the threat posed by environmental crimes in the Amazon. "Illegal mining, in particular, has severe environmental, social, and economic consequences, significantly jeopardizing the region's biodiversity, threatening the Amazon ecosystem, and exposing its population to a context of vulnerability and risk to security and health," she said.

Federico Ciattaglia, Minister Counsellor of the Italian Embassy in Brazil, stressed the need to establish a relationship of trust between local communities and the authorities in charge, in a joint effort. "It will be important to listen to the experiences of all the relevant actors in order to structure the initiative in the best way and adapt it to the specific needs of the communities concerned, sharing and deepening good practices among those already being implemented," he said.

MPI's National Secretary for Indigenous Territorial Rights, Marcos Kaingang, emphasized the need to establish partnerships in order to achieve an effective response to the challenges faced. "We put ourselves at the disposal of UNODC, as well as the other institutions, to develop partnerships and actions together, from the creation, planning and execution of these activities, and above all with the organizations that are in the indigenous territories," he highlighted.

Technical discussions – In addition to the official speeches and the presentation of the new project, the agenda for the technical meeting included three thematic roundtables and a final discussion for recommendations.

At the first panel, indigenous and civil society organizations detailed autonomous and participatory experiences in structuring preparedness, surveillance, and response systems in the context of indigenous territorial protection. The initiatives were presented by the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), and the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam).

In the following panel, representatives from the MPI, Funai, and the Ministry of Health's Indigenous Health Secretariat (Sesai/MS) discussed governance, surveillance, and response within the scope of public policies for indigenous territorial protection. At the end of the agenda, Ibama, ICMBio, PF, and MPF discussed the role and complementary competencies of law enforcement and justice system actors in monitoring and responding to crimes on indigenous lands.

Other organizations – such as the Ministry of Social Development and Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger (MDS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), and the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) - also attended and made contributions to the discussions.

With this first technical meeting, UNODC sought to promote, within the framework of the new project, a space for institutional strengthening and articulation between stakeholders for structuring a preparedness and response plan for risks and impacts caused by environmental crimes - including those related to illegal mining - in indigenous territories.

The discussions and recommendations raised during the event will be systematized in a report to be shared with the participants and which will help define the project's next steps.




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