Writes: David Rivera
Indigenous peoples have been a long-forgotten sector of the population that, thanks to many years of struggles, and with them, achievements; they have been acquiring an increasing political presence and representation in front of the different sectors of the State. In this way, they have managed to vindicate their territorial, cultural and citizen rights, based on the organization and the firmness of their claims.
These peoples generally represent a very small portion of the national population, but their culture and traditional use of the territory make them occupiers of large areas, mainly in the Amazon; the same ones that they have been managing with friendly logics and means for their sustainability, without that necessarily being their explicit purpose.
Although the State has been making significant efforts to formalize the territorial rights of these peoples through international cooperation agreements and support from civil society and non-governmental organizations, there is a sector of this population that is even more vulnerable and neglected by the national society, which is still pending protection and recognition by the State. We refer to the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI).
The nineties marked an important milestone at the national level in relation to the protection of the PIACI, especially vulnerable peoples, this was with the adaptation of the "Law of Native Communities" to this context. Thus, the first Territorial Reserves were created, explicitly oriented to the protection of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact, without necessarily having until then the legal tools necessary for their effective and permanent protection.
Later, during the first decade of the new century, the first “Law for indigenous or native peoples in isolation and in a situation of initial contact was passed. Law No. 28736 ”. With this norm, the State regulates and is responsible for protecting the life and health of these peoples, making its decision not to maintain contact with the rest of the national society prevail. In the same way, the protection of their culture, traditional ways of life, traditional territorial occupation is prioritized and, therefore, restricts the entry of outsiders, seeking to guarantee the extensive use of this territory and its resources.
It took many years for the State to generate a specific law for the protection of the PIACI, and even given its existence, there are still technical, operational, economic and political deficiencies for a real protection of the formally categorized spaces, either as a Reserve Indigenous or Territorial. Worse still, for those spaces pending recognition, but on which there are studies and evidence that support the need to protect the PIACI.
To date, there is neither the capacity nor the technical instruments necessary, or at least suggested, in the standard, call it guidelines for protection plans, protocols, contingency plans; for the management and protection of these areas, mainly when it comes to coordinating work with other sectors or stakeholders. These shortcomings make it impossible to implement the standard in its entirety and make it difficult to manage reserves in operational terms.
On the other hand, there is no decentralized management, nor the ideal logistics to guarantee the care of the vast areas to be protected. This could improve with decentralized management, following the operating model of the System of Protected Natural Areas. Well, although there is a work of interrelation with the sectors and levels of regional and local government; The inexistence of decentralized headquarters makes it difficult for the governing body of the PIACI protection policy to interact with and control neighboring populations, traditional users and even informal ones. This, in turn, hampers their ability to respond.
In any area in which it is sought to protect large extensions of territory, and even more, spaces previously occupied or, on which traditional uses have been given; it is absolutely necessary to involve local actors, be they indigenous, mestizo or concessionaires. Only prohibition as a vertical measure does not necessarily imply prevention, and in many cases, it leads to conflict.
The participatory management of spaces such as Territorial or Indigenous Reserves does not mean delegating specific functions or referring them to neighboring populations, but it does mean incorporating them into the protection logic through constant awareness and support, since they are the most important actors, mainly, if the governing body does not have sufficient financial means or ability to influence the development of its functions.
In the background, it is possible to improve operational and logistical capacity if the relationship with indigenous organizations and organized civil society (NGOs) is strengthened, which are important allies to equalize political conditions, when it comes to extractive or economic interests over protection spaces. Similarly, the support of indigenous organizations can facilitate the granting of the social license and support, since they accompany and facilitate the presence of the sector.
Political decisions that affect the economic aspect, greatly limit technical and operational capacities; and mainly they condition them; therefore, it is necessary to work in a participatory manner under specific and formal guidelines that avoid counter-movements, that is, the more clear, sustainable over time and oriented to a general planning in the matter are the steps; greater should be the commitment to develop them from the governing body.
The first step to be able to think about the elaboration and execution of technical guidelines is to have a completely known and delimited panorama of the Indigenous Reserves. For this, the areas pending recognition and categorization or, on which a request falls, must be prioritized.
The legal framework provides mechanisms that undoubtedly can and should be improved, in order to guarantee the protection of the PIACI over any other political or economic interest; Likewise, it shows that the protection of many of these spaces can be better built with internal synergies at the state level, considering that the overlapping layers of protection reinforce care and should not be a reason for conflict, on the contrary, they should encourage the articulation and maximizing the means and resources, which are generally scarce. And it is from this framework that all aspects pending implementation must be specified, in order to think about a real protection of these peoples.
Although there are many aspects to correct, reinforce and work, it is necessary to begin to raise awareness in civil society regarding the urgency of protecting these highly vulnerable peoples, respecting their free determination to remain in isolation, maintaining their culture and territory, within what current historical conditions allow. Raising awareness and respect for the care of these populations contributes greatly to their care, but mainly to respect for their condition.