By Melissa Rossi, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As part of the Rio+20 debates on culture and sustainability, representatives of the Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian communities participated in the seminar “Quilombos, terreiros e juventudes: justiça ambiental e práticas culturais africanas e afrodescendentes” (Quilombos, terreiros and youth: environmental justice and Afro-descendent cultural practices) organized Saturday at the Galpão da Utopia in Rio.

Xingu Indian, Rio+20, Brazil News
Xingu Indian, photo by Eduardo Giacomazzi/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The seminar aimed at evaluating the barriers against
ILO Convention 169, which covers the rights of indigenous and tribal populations in independent countries.

According to Minister Sílvio Albuquerque, Head of the Ministry of Foreign Relations’ Division of Social Matters, and one of the round-table speakers at the event, Brazil’s judicial inaction in guaranteeing the rights of these groups is inexcusable, since “Brazil is one of the twenty nations who ratified the Convention, out of a total of 194,” he argued.

ILO Convention 169 is a binding international convention that was ratified by Brazil in 2002. The country was required to adjust its domestic legislation to the convention’s principles within a year of its ratification.

Several indigenous representatives in the audience believe this still is not the case for Brazil and complained about the lack of interest in their culture by the mainstream Brazilian population, from issues concerning health challenges to land demarcation and religion.

In light of the ongoing protests against the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project that will alter the course of the Xingu River in the Northern state of Pará, affecting the livelihood of numerous indigenous populations, the seminar touched on important points regarding the social inclusion of groups whose voices should gain more weight in the national debate.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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