WWF-Brazil and the DPU formalize partnership in socio-environmental struggle

janeiro, 26 2023

The objective is the promotion of human rights and defense of the rights of people and communities affected by environmental degradation
By WWF-Brazil

WWF-Brazil and the Federal Public Defender's Office (DPU) signed a cooperation agreement on January 19 formalizing a partnership that was strengthened during 2022. The goal is “to develop joint actions for the promotion of human rights and defense of the rights of the people and communities affected by the environmental degradation in different parts of the country”. With that, the two institutions combine to bring to the ecosystem of socio-environmental policies a strong and democratic institution, such as the DPU, which has a broad history of acting in the defense of human rights and which specializes more and more in socio-environmental agendas. 

In 2022, the partnership between the two institutions introduced the theme of climate change in the training courses for new Federal Public Defenders – extreme weather events, such as prolonged droughts and landslides that impact the most vulnerable populations, whose rights and interests are the work object of the Public Defender's Office. 

Another initiative in the area of training took place through a meeting that brought together more than twenty indigenous leaders of the Amazon and leaders of the DPU, including the then Federal Public Defender Daniel Macedo, the Special Advisor for Cases of Great Social Impact Ronaldo de Almeida Neto, and the defender Wagner Wille, representative of the Indigenous Communities WG. Held in July 2022, at the DPU headquarters in Brasília, the event was part of the course “Functioning of the Brazilian State and Political Incidence”, a project carried out by WWF-Brazil and the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab).

In recent years, the DPU has played an important role in the defense of indigenous rights, appearing as Amicus Curiae before the Federal Supreme Court in a process that required the Federal Government to install sanitary barriers to protect indigenous peoples and communities from the advance of Covid-19, and filing a lawsuit, together with the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), aiming to remove from the presidency of FUNAI a person considered as having an inadequate profile to exercise such an important role.

Combating the impacts of mining

After holding a technical seminar on the impacts of mining in the Amazon in April 2022, the DPU structured the National Observatory of Mining and its Socio-Environmental Effects, which has the function of enhancing the defense of the peoples and communities affected by the trail of destruction left by the illegal extraction of gold. Through the work of the Observatory, hundreds of Munduruku indigenous people from the State of Pará received legal and social assistance: they had IDs and birth certificates issued, were registered in the Single Registry, claimed benefits from the INSS and received medical care, among other demands, in a mission carried out in September. 

These results are part of an institutional strategy of the partnership between the DPU and WWF-Brazil to promote citizenship and the provision of public services in regions that have been abandoned and, therefore, have become targets of environmental degradation and violence. The Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, where the mission of the DPU, WWF-Brazil and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation was carried out, is one of the areas most affected by pollution derived from mining – the contamination of water and fish by mercury, a toxic and highly harmful substance to human health.

Illegal mining causes mercurial contamination, an invisible social problem. To change that and demand effective action from the Government, the DPU required the State of Pará and the Municipality of Itaituba to include all available data on people contaminated by mercury in the Notification Interlocutory Appeal Information System. Thus, the health problems arising from that situation are recorded and it is possible to measure the dimension of the illegal activity impact on the health of the region's residents, indicating the need not only to combat the criminal extraction of gold, but also to create specific public health policies for that context. 

WWF-Brazil has the fight against illegal mining and its socio-environmental impacts in its strategy, and boosts productive chains of socio-biodiversity products to offer economic alternatives to local populations. The DPU, in its mission of defending rights, demanded from the Ministry of Health the adoption of measures for the medical treatment of people with clinical symptoms of contamination. To combat the indiscriminate use of mercury in economic activities, the DPU questioned the Ministry of Mines and Energy about the implementation of the Minamata Convention, an international treaty that requires Brazil to reduce the use of such a polluting substance, aiming at its eradication. The DPU also contributed to the Transition Team of the Federal Government by making suggestions to solve the problems of mining and contamination.
In a mission carried out in September 2022, hundreds of indigenous people from the Munduruku people, from the State of Pará, received legal and social assistance
© Ariene Cerqueira / WWF-Brasil
The indigenous people had their identity cards and birth certificates issued, were registered in the Unified Registry, claimed INSS benefits, received medical care, and had other demands addressed
© Ariene Cerqueira / WWF-Brasil