News / 17 January 2011

Young Indian leaders committed to the future of the Amazon

Felsi Gonzales from Bolivia and Gamaniel Lopez from Peru both run the risk of losing their land because of the planned construction of large dams in the Amazon. They are part of a group of some twenty young indigenous leaders from Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia who participated in a training programme organized by Both ENDS and Cross Cultural Bridges, which forms part of a larger two-year course. The unique training programme was held from 19 to 29 November at a location near Santarém in the Brazilian rainforest. Sanderijn van Beek of Both ENDS briefly attended the event.


Regional integration is high on the agenda of many Latin American countries. These countries are cooperating more intensively to achieve both political stability and economic growth. Optimizing infrastructure plays an important role here, to ensure that products (such as wood, soy and minerals) can be transported and exported easily from inaccessible areas. There are many examples of large-scale infrastructure projects that are planned and implemented in the context of this "regional integration", such as mines, dams and highways that cut through the forest.


Projects such as these have enormous and disastrous consequences for local communities and their living environment, placing pressure on the very existence of these human beings. They are often deprived of access to land and natural resources. Because of the increasingly transnational character of such projects, it is often unclear who the driving forces behind them are. And, it is difficult to protest until that is known.


The two-year course aims to provide young indigenous leaders with more insight into the dynamics behind these large infrastructure projects. Who finances these mega projects? What institutions are behind them? How do you get vital information? What can you do next? Can sustainable alternatives be created? By learning from others' experiences, the Indian leaders learn to stand up for the rights of their communities in a constructive and effective way.


The ten-day training concluded with participation in the Pan-Amazonian Social Forum, where three thousand people from different countries discussed issues relating to the Amazon region. The young Indian leaders made a great impression there with their impassioned speeches and artistic and spiritual rituals. The group will meet twice more in 2011, in order to prepare various projects that will be implemented in different countries.


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