Good News for Rivers and Rights in the Amazon

Brent Millikan

Bishop Krauter at assembly of Indigenous peoples in Altamira, May 2008
Bishop Krauter at assembly of Indigenous peoples in Altamira, May 2008

Great news! Bishop Erwin Kräutler has just received the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize. "Dom Erwin", as he is known in Brazil, is Bishop of the Xingu, the largest diocese in the country and President of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) of the Catholic Church. Krautler been an unwavering ally of indigenous peoples and social movements opposed to the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River for over two decades. He was honored at an awards ceremony at the Swedish Parliament yesterday “for a lifetime of work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and for his tireless efforts to save the Amazon forest from destruction.”Here are a few quotes from Bishop Krautler's speech at the awards ceremony: 

  • I accept the Right Livelihood Award in the name of those who fight with me today, on behalf of the indigenous peoples, Amazonia and human rights. I accept it also in the name of the dozens of people who have given their lives, whose blood has been spilled and who were brutally assassinated because they opposed the systemized destruction of Amazonia.
  • There is a lack of public policy that encourages the preservation of Amazonia, this gigantic biome. Amazonia is “unique,” its biodiversity is “exceptional”! Nothing in the whole world exists that is comparable to this region, the marvel of God`s creation. Brazil is responsible for the largest part of this biome of Amazonia.
  • The Belo Monte project appears to be sacrosanct, unquestionable and assumes the air of being a veritable historical subject. Human beings, families and communities are no longer protagonists of their own history. They were not heard, they were silenced before the project was planned and elaborated in Brasilia, a project that never took into consideration the legitimate rights and preoccupations of the population of the Xingu. All those who are quoting this project are immediately labeled as 'enemies of progress', or 'against development'.
  • I am honoured with the award at a moment, when our struggle on behalf of the indigenous people, dignity and human rights are taking on new dimensions and greater importance in the face of the development projects that threaten Amazonia. Those anti-ecological projects of enterprise will have a huge and destructive impact on everyone sitting here in Stockholm this evening, on all people living on earth.
  • Read the entire acceptance speech

The Right Livelihood Award going to Bishop Krautler is a victory for popular human rights struggles throughout the Amazon in the face of authoritarian and destructive mega-projects such as Belo Monte. Viva Dom Erwin!

"I'm convinced that another world is possible, in which indigenous and poor people finally shall live in dignity and peace." - Dom Erwin Krautler, Bishop of the Xingu