Open Letter to Mexican Congress

RAFI requests signatories to an open letter in support of the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights in Mexico that has been sent to the Mexican Congress. Full text below:


Dear Friends,

Today, an open letter in support of the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights in Mexico has been sent to the Mexican Congress, which is currently discussing this issue, undersigned by 14 recipients of the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes referred to as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize') and the Goldman Prize.

The letter was published in a full-page presentation in La Jornada on Thursday, March 22,2001 on page 14:

The letter emphasizes the role of indigenous peoples in nurturing and conserving natural and cultural biodiversity, as well as the resolutions and demands of the National Indigenous Congress and social movements in Mexico.

We would like to invite you to add your signature to the letter below, which will be posted again with all the new signatures on our website, and mailed to the Mexican Congress on April 2nd.

Please send your reply before March 31st to: (address removed as this is an old posting).


March 22th, 2001

Congressmen and women of Mexico:

The undersigned, members of many social and environmental organizations in the world, all of whom have been awarded the Goldman Award and/or the Right Livelihood Award,(called 'Alternative Nobel Prize') are following the current process of social mobilization and official discussions on indigenous rights in Mexico.

Particularly, we have noticed the recent resolutions adopted at the Third Indigenous National Congress in Nurio, Michoacan, March 2 through 4, 2001, in which more than 3000 delegates from 41 indigenous peoples of Mexico expressed several points that we consider of major relevance, such as the constitutional recognition of their lands and territories, which in their own words is 'the entire habitat in which we produce our material and spiritual existence as peoples, to preserve ourselves whole and maintain the communal stewardship of our lands, for only in that way will it be possible to preserve our social cohesion, our forms of free and collective work to benefit the entire community and to assure the patrimony and future of the next generations.'

We also noted as significant, the rejection of mega-projects, as the Puebla Panama Plan, and the demand of a moratorium to all projects of privatization of water, mine exploration and bioprospecting, as well as all other 'biopiracy' activities 'until the - indigenous peoples have discussed at our own pace and our own conditions the issues related to the control of our resources'

Particularly relevant, as it frames all other demands, is their central demand of approval of a constitutional reform elaborated by the Concord and Peace on Indigenous Culture and Rights (called 'COCOPA Law'), which emerged from the San Andres Larrainzar Accords, signed February 1996 by the federal government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army with the participation of the majority of the Indian Peoples of Mexico.

We believe that you as Congressmen and women, are in a unique historical situation.

As such, it is being followed with most attention by thousands of people, organizations and institutions concerned by the environment and the sustainability of the planet as well as the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples in the world. This, because the San Andres Agreements and the 'Cocopa Law' contain demands that make possible the realization of these rights and a better and more sustainable management of the environment, opening the framework to an effective implementation of basic indigenous rights such as self-determination, right to - their own language, to their territories and the control of their resources, among others.

Based on our research and activities, we know that peasants and -indigenous peoples of the world have been, through the centuries, the creators and conservers of biodiversity for survival, providing the whole humankind with the bases for the cultivated diversity for food, medicines and shelter. This has been an open and sustainable process, -the heritage of humankind and intimately linked to cultural diversity and the fact that indigenous peoples could practice their traditional livelihoods and cultures, their political, economical and social ways of life, indissolubly linked to the access and sustainable and autonomous management of their lands, resources and territories.

In spite of these invaluable contributions, the majority of the Indian peoples of the world are in displacement and marginalization, which not only put them in misery, but also threaten the continuation of this process of resource management upon which depends more than a quarter of the world's population directly, and the whole world's population indirectly. The genetic and environmental erosion is greater each day, and the cultural erosion that this marginalization has meant has reached such dimensions that, = for the first time in human history, our generation may loose more knowledge that it can generate.

Profoundly moved by these concerns, we thank all the -indigenous peoples of Mexico for the hard work, that is costing them enormous sacrifices, to achieve the recognition of their political, social and economic rights, that means, the right to live their cultures, and in this way, continue contributing to the conservation of the biological and cultural bases of the planet.

We believe that the Congress of the Union of the United States of Mexico have now the opportunity to positively correspond to this wide collective work, finally making effective the government signature in 1996 -unaccomplished until now- which committed itself to introduce the San Andres Accords as a constitutional reform, through the approval of the so called 'Cocopa Law'. We are convinced that this will be a pioneer example of major importance to all -indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of the world.

* * *

Ricardo Navarro
CESTA-El Salvador
Chair Friends of the Earth International
Goldman Prize 1995
UNEP Roll of Honor Award Global 500

Pat Roy Mooney
Executive Director
Rural Advancement Foundation International,
Right Livelihood Award 1985

Prof.Dr.Hans-Peter Duerr
Prof. of Physics University of Munich
Chairman of the Federation of German Scientists
Peace Nobel Prize 1995
Right Livelihood Award 1987

Prof. Johan Galtung
Founder of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo Noruega.
Conflict resolution facilitator/consult for UN on North and South Korea,Israel/Palestine, Gulf region and former Yugoslavia.
Right Livelihood Award 1987

Medha Patkar
Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement)
National Alliance of People's Movements, India
Goldman Prize 1992

El as D az Pe a
Sobrevivencia - Amigos de la Tierra , Paraguay
Goldman Prize 2000

Oscar Rivas
Sobrevivencia - Amigos de la Tierra , Paraguay
Goldman Prize 2000

Ossi Ron
Presidente, Campaign to Free Vanunu, UK
Right Livelihood Award 1987

Vandana Shiva
Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology, New Delhi, India
Right Livelihood Award 1993

Juan Pablo Orrego
Chair Grupo de Acci n por el Biob o GABB - Chile
Goldman Prize 1997, Right Livelihood Award d 1998

Tapio Mattlar
Hartola, Finland
Finnish Village Action Movement
Right Livelihood Award 1992

John Sinclair, Australia
Goldman Prize 1990

Mr. Raymond Abin
Executive Director
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS)
Goldman Prize 1990

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, Estados Unidos
Right Livelihood Award 1987