Article | Brazil’s exit from Convention 169: country will agree

Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) is an important and necessary instrument for Brazilian traditional peoples and communities to defend their lives and their existence as an ethnic group.

Among all the guarantees signed in the International Treaty, the right to consultation, prior, free and informed is one of the most demanded points, which has entered the hearts and minds of peoples and traditional communities violated and made invisible in their rights.

Increasingly internalized and appropriated by traditional peoples and communities, Convention 169 is widely recognized in these territories. Today, we will hardly arrive at an indigenous, quilombola or traditional peoples and communities community and we will not find someone who is proud to say that they have the right to be consulted on a work, law or undertaking that affects their territory or way of life.

The Treaty has become one of the main normative instruments for guaranteeing and making visible violations and seeks to enforce the rights of indigenous peoples, quilombolas and traditional peoples and communities in Brazil.

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This is because, in addition to the great intensity of the content brought by Convention 169 – such as the recognition of territorial rights, the rights to self-attribution and autonomy of peoples, the right to consultation, education and health care, among others – the treaty constitutes itself as an important milestone in the recognition of diversities.

It is in the right to consultation that peoples found a way to say to the State and society: “look, we exist! We are here, we have rights and we want them guaranteed and made effective”.

It is from this guarantee that they seek to organize and mobilize for the realization of the right to prior, free and informed consultation with the construction of autonomous consultation protocols – today one of the instruments designed and built by peoples and which brings parameters and guidelines of how they want and must be consulted by the State.

In this sense, Convention 169 is not only an instrument for the constitution of a right, it is in itself the recognition of these peoples by the signatory States. This is reflected in policies and actions. Convention 169 has guided parameters for several Brazilian norms and public policies since the country’s ratification of the norm in 2002 – as in the structuring of health and education programs aimed at indigenous peoples and quilombolas.

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Contrary to the rights of these peoples, federal deputy Alceu Moreira (MDB/RS) presented to the National Congress the Proposal for Legislative Decree (PDL) nº 177/2021, which is currently being processed. This proposal authorizes the President of the Republic to denounce ILO Convention 169. In other words, if approved, Jair Bolsonaro will be authorized to withdraw Brazil from the Convention, which is considered one of the main international landmarks for the protection of the rights of traditional peoples, being recognized in 23 countries.

This is one more racist action by the Brazilian State and an attempt to weaken the regulations that deal with the fundamental rights and guarantees of peoples. By extension, it is an attack on traditional peoples and on the entire Brazilian society.

The attempt to denounce ILO Convention 169 also has direct implications for the creation of an environment conducive to the approval of other anti-indigenous, anti-quilombola and other peoples bills, such as PL nº 490/2007, which seeks to establish a time frame for indigenous peoples.

It is up to us to assert that the attacks on Convention 169, in addition to being unconstitutional, violate rights rather than assuring them. It is unacceptable for Brazil to take regressive action and a legal setback in the recognition of the rights of traditional peoples and communities. If this happens, communities lose, society loses, the country loses.

*Vercilene Dias is a quilombola Kalunga, popular lawyer at Conaq and Terra de Direitos, doctoral student in Law at UnB.

*Cláudia Pinho is a Pantaneira, biologist and coordinator of the Network of Traditional Pantanal Communities

*Samara Pataxó is an indigenous person, legal advisor to the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas (Apib) and a doctoral student in Law at UnB.

**This is an opinion piece. The author’s view does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil in fact.

Edition: Anelize Moreira

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