Kari-Oca II: The Largest Indigenous Gathering at Rio+20

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
June 2012

Background: In the lead up to the second United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio +20, Land is Life and co-organizers saw a unique opportunity to capitalize off of the global momentum surrounding the internationally anticipated meeting by creating a special space for indigenous peoples to convene, exchange ideas, and reflect on the past two decades of the international indigenous movement. Echoing the spirit of the first World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territories, Environment and Development (1992) where the Kari-Oca Declaration was signed, the idea for Kari-Oca II was born.

A Historic Moment

Based in a traditional village constructed by Kamaiurá master builders at Fio Cruz, Taquara, Kari-Oca II provided a homebase for indigenous peoples just 10 minutes from the UNCSD meeting site. For the 9-day conference, over 450 indigenous peoples ate and slept on site, and an additional 150 people convened at the village each day. With an average of 600 peoples in attendance each day of the conference, Kari-Oca II was one of the largest gatherings of indigenous peoples in the last twenty years and the largest at Rio +20 by a landslide. 

Kari-Oca II brought together indigenous peoples from around the world along with environmental experts, civil society representatives, and policy makers.

Kari-Oca II served as a historic opportunity for indigenous peoples to influence governments and industry, create new alliances, and be heard by the global public. Meetings and workshops focused on a range of issues and topics, including the  implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); Climate Change and Traditional Knowledge; and Human Rights. Local struggles, such as the Belo Monte dam project, indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, and human rights abuses committed against indigenous peoples in Brazil were also discussed in depth. Kari-Oca II was also a center for ceremony and cultural exchange, with spiritual leaders of the Guarani, Lakota, Cofán and other peoples performed sacred ceremonies throughout the conference. The Indigenous Games, which began in Brazil, were held each evening during the gathering and allowed conference participants to share traditional sports and hunting practices, as well as highlight culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development.


To draft the Kari-Oca II Declaration, participants broke out in four working groups (Women, English, Spanish, Portugese) over three days and reported their proposals to the plenary. A Drafting Committee was formed and worked tirelessly reporting back to the plenary at each stage of the writing of the declaration. On June 22nd, 2012, the Kari-Oca II Plenary unanimously approved and adopted the Kari-Oca II Declaration. The Declaration was delivered to the UNCSD by a procession of over 500 indigenous people and also in meetings between Kari-Oca II representatives and government officials from around the world.



Drafting and delivering the Kari-Oca II Declaration as a march of over 500 to the UNCSD was a powerful, symbolic moment that continues to resonate throughout our coalition. The Declaration itself has influenced further resolutions since the conference and will continue to do so. Additionally, through the preparation process, Land is Life was able to strategically expand its coalition, gain much stronger relationships in Brazil, and make many new allies including indigenous communities, NGOs, government officials, and other individuals.

Kari-Oca II re-energized a large part of the international movement for indigenous peoples’ rights and helped gain a stronger indigenous voice in the entire UNCSD process. 

Kari-Oca II was not a one-time conference. Land is Life is committed to continuing the spirit of Kari-Oca by continuing to host conferences and gatherings that provide indigenous peoples with opportunities for international solidarity and exchange at a grassroots level, and allows them to chart their own way forward on issues of self-determination and sustainable development.


As one of the main organizers for the event, Land is Life oversaw every step in the process of bringing Kari-Oca II to life — from preparatory meetings to coordinating local logistics in Brazil to managing the daily operations of the conference itself. Land is Life played an integral role in building the Kari-Oca Village, supporting a caravan of youth from across South America, providing food and accommodation for hundreds of participants, and ensuring that indigenous voices were heard both at Rio+20 and in press coverage of surrounding activities.

For example, using diplomacy and persistence, Land is Life turned the National Guard into a strategic partner in allowing all of the conference participants to march within UNCSD premises to deliver the Kari-Oca II declaration – the only group that was allowed to do so. Land is Life also fostered a relationship with the Commander of the National Guard to advocate on our behalf with the leadership of the Brazilian Army and the Rio de Janeiro police force to make this a reality. He also worked with Land is Life to ensure transportation and protection of all Kari-Oca II delegates during the march to the UNCSD.


Inter-Press Service
NBC News