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Report: murders, evictions, violence on indigenous and rural communities are increasing worldwide

The earth is moving: Oxfam reported a dramatic increase in the number of murders, forced evictions and violence in lands inhabited for centuries by indigenous populations and rural communities. 2.5 billion people live in over half of the world’s land but formally own just 10 percent. An appeal and a petition

In Honduras every three days an indigenous person is killed simply for defending his land, which to him is “mother earth”, by ruthless land-grabbers who intend to exploit it for touristic purposes. Environmentalist leader Berta Caceres was one of the most sadly renowned victims. The Quechua people living in the Amazon, Peru, have been engaged in a long legal dispute against the government to obtain the recognition of their property rights. In Australia mining companies destroyed the sacred sites of Aborigines populations. In Sri Lanka, along with money and economic development, the tourist industry has brought destruction, forced evictions and violence in villages on the coast inhabited by farmers and fishermen. The survival of the community of Kutia Kand Adivasi in the Indian State of Odisha, in the northeast region of the sub-continent, is threatened by expanding teaktree plantations. The Wacua community in Mozambique was deceived by representatives of an agri-food company that forced a farmer who cannot read to sign documents approving the sale of her land. These are but some of the many struggles for land property rights taking place worldwide, involving in particular indigenous populations and rural communities, up to 2.5 billion people which make up over 50% of the land on the planet, but legally one just one fifth. In the report presented today during the “Mother Earth” initiative held in Turin, Italy, the NGO Oxfam denounced the rising tide of murders, evictions, forced expropriation and violence in the lands inhabited for centuries by populations that love, respect and draw all their sustainment from those lands. The Report, “Custodians of their land, defenders of our future” was drawn up in cooperation with “Land Matrix Initiative”. Oxfam’s campaign Land Rights Now calls to action the governments of the involved countries to double the global area of land legally recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities by 2020, thereby de facto preventing the devastating phenomenon of “land grabbing.”

unspecifiedMillions of people evicted from their own lands. According Oxfam millions of people are evicted from their homes. It were as if a portion of land as large as the whole of Germany were put on sale scornfully trampling on the rights of the legal owners. Over 75 percent of the more than 1500 land deals recorded in the past 16 years are found to be “in operation.” But the most worrying aspect is that over 59 percent of these deals cover communal lands claimed by Indigenous Peoples and small communities, whose ownership rights fail to be recognised by national governments. Only a small fraction of deals have involved any real dialogue with local communities, while in most cases the local populations were victims of acts of violence, murders and indiscriminate evictions throughout many villages. “We are entering a new phase in the global rush to land ownership, the most dangerous one – said Roberto Barbierie, national director of Oxfam Italia –. The frenzied trade in millions of hectares of forests, coastlines and farmlands in a large number of poor Countries has led to murder, eviction of indigenous populations. It’s a veritable ethnocide. Urgent action is needed in order to prevent escalating conflicts and bloodshed.”unspecified

A petition against forced evictions in Sri Lanka. One of the most emblematic conflicts occurred in the beautiful coastal villages of Paanama, in Sri Lanka, where 350 families of farmers and fishermen were evicted from their homes by force. World tourism on the coast has skyrocketed –notably surfers – including Italian citizens, to the expense of local villagers. The homes of hundreds of families were raided overnight by members of the army: settlements were burnt down, the villagers’ crops destroyed. The military forced the local population to be housed by relatives or make do with makeshift shelters. Luxury resort centres and a military base were built shortly after. After years of peaceful demonstrations the Sri Lankan authorities decided to return the land back to the Paanama villagers who had been living away from their homes for six years. But the Cabinet’s decision has not yet been carried out. Hence the Oxfam’s petition in cooperation with Slow Food and Rights and Resources, calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement their decisions “on immediate release of these lands back to the community of Paanama which depends on them for livelihoods and food.”

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