The History of Kari-Oca
In May of 1992, in the days leading up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), over 700 indigenous leaders from around the world gathered in a forested valley outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territories, Environment and Development. At this historic meeting, also known as the Kari-Oca Conference, participants drafted and unanimously signed two landmark documents in the worldwide struggle for indigenous peoples rights – The Kari-Oca Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter. These documents set out indigenous peoples’ demands and recommendations for environmental protection and sustainable development based on the principles of self-determination and respect for indigenous peoples’ collective rights to their territories, knowledge and resources.
The Kari-Oca conference, and the mobilization of indigenous peoples around UNCED, marked the birth of an international movement for indigenous peoples rights, and succeeded in gaining recognition, in the Convention on Biological Diversity, Agenda 21 and other agreements that came out of UNCED, of the important role that indigenous peoples play in conservation and sustainable development.
Since 1992, indigenous peoples have continued to make important gains, including: creation of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, and; adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.