Support to the Survival International’s Campaign for the Awa Tribe
Project location: BRAZIL, Mato Grosso do Sul
Project start date: January 2013 - Project end date: December 2013
Project number: 2012-099
Beneficiary: Survival International
TIMELINE OF THE PRESENT ACTIVITY REPORT: from January 2013 to June 2013
The project foresaw a short field trip to meet the Awá and investigate what the situation was on the ground. It is also foresaw the making of a short update video on the Awá problems to be circulated worldwide. The overall goal of the SI Awá campaign was to pressure the Brazilian government into protecting the Awá tribe’s land from illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers.
In May 2013, SI submitted a legal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It participated in a meeting with mining giant Vale, which is planning to expand the railway line which has already brought devastation to the Awá. The Awá have warned that the expansion would increase the amount of noise from the railway, scare away the game they need to survive, and increase the number of invaders in their forest. Survival is pushing Vale to consult the Awá properly about this project, and not to put their land and lives further at risk. SI liaised with an advertising company has created a magazine advert for the Awá pro bono. SI has been successful in placing the advert (free of charge) in many publications worldwide, including a full page spread on the inside cover of prestigious TIME magazine.
At the beginning of the year, a Survival researcher visited the Awá communities, and governmental and non-governmental bodies working on the Awá case, to collect updated information, testimonies and video footage to feed the campaign. She met with officials in Brasilia to brief them about the Awá and further pressure the government to take urgent action.
A source in government informed SI that as the Ministry of Justice is releasing special funds for FUNAI to carry out the plan and increase the number of staff working with the Awá. This would not have happened without SI campaign.
In February 2013, FUNAI completed the construction of its first basecamp from which it will conduct the operations to evict the invaders. FUNAI staff are ready to commence the evictions as soon as central government supports them by sending police and officials from other government bodies to form the evictions team. SI is doing all it can to keep up pressure on national government to ensure that they provide the necessary support to FUNAI from other ministries to carry out evictions.
Despite being very pleased with these concrete successes, the project is not without its complications. On the local scale, due to the Awá’s isolated and remote location, it can be difficult to obtain news from the communities immediately after it happens.
Sometimes SI has to wait several days, or even weeks to find out details of events on the ground. Furthermore, pressure coming from the loggers means that a few of the Awá spokesmen are reluctant to speak out freely for fear for their safety.
On the national scale, there is confusion in Brazil regarding the timing of the deadline for the removal of all invaders from the Awá indigenous territory, as ordered by a legal ruling. In addition, SI is hampered by a lack of coordination between government authorities. It is vital that the different bodies cooperate in order to conduct the evictions operation: FUNAI must be accompanied by teams from both the police and environment ministries.
Worryingly, a series of political changes within national government threaten to weaken indigenous rights across the country. What is more, FUNAI is currently in chaos, as the head of the department resigned, and the government makes moves to reduce its powers. If the changes the government plans do come into effect, this has the potential to harm not just the Awá but indigenous peoples across Brazil. Survival is campaigning with indigenous organisations in Brazil against the government’s proposed changes.
Survival International continues to drive supporters to its webpage through press releases and social
media. The petition to save the Awá passed 50,000 signatures in April, 2013. To spread the message yet further, and to show the Brazilian government what support the Awá have worldwide, SI created a new addition to the webpage:
SI continues to publish appeals from the Awá, emphasizing the increasing threats being placed on their lands and lives, and calling for the authorities to take concrete action.
An example of a recent video appeal can be seen here:
SI will continue to carry out campaign work in a similar fashion and expects the government to have sent in the first operation to evict illegal loggers, settlers and ranchers by the end of 2013.