This August and September, the Amazonian School for Human Rights (EADH for its Spanish acronym) in Pucallpa, Peru, successfully carried out its 6th year of classes for indigenous leaders of the Peruvian Amazon. The EADH was founded in 2007 as an initiative of four alumni of ERI’s former Amazon School for Human Rights and the Environment, which trained students from 2001 to 2005 in Ecuador. The alumni have adapted ERI’s model of training for indigenous leaders and human rights defenders of communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

Since its founding, EADH has worked to increase knowledge regarding rights, the petroleum industry, and legal defense, but also emphasizes leadership training, having now provided capacity-building workshops to more than 130 indigenous leaders from across the Peruvian Amazon. Many of these leaders are currently in decision-making positions within their organizations or active in other ways at the service of their peoples.

This year’s EADH session, now formally part of the regional Ucayali indigenous federation, ORAU, was directed by ORAU vice-president Lizardo Cauper, an EarthRights School alumnus who also co-founded the EADH School. Other EarthRights School alumni involved in coordinating the school include Robert Guimaraes, Cecilia Brito, and Ronald Suarez. This year, ERI provided support in designing and coordinating the syllabus and speakers, and ERI staff taught a class.

The students, both men and women, are chosen by their indigenous organizations. All participants come from peoples and communities that are affected by extractive industries or mega-infrastructure projects that are promoted by the central and regional governments. As a requirement for participation, the students must be involved in or carrying out activities that defend the rights of indigenous peoples affected by extractives and mega-projects.

The school is also an opportunity for indigenous leaders to build bridges across communities and share their experiences. Each participant shared the types of projects that affect or threaten their communities and their personal working experience in defending the rights of indigenous peoples. This year in particular saw an increase in the participation of indigenous women.

During the four-week-long course, 25 specialized speakers from Peru and abroad shared their knowledge and experience in classes on indigenous peoples, leadership and territorial rights; extractive industry impacts, indigenous people’s rights and avenues for justice; application of indigenous rights and human rights in Peru; and leadership, written and video communication, campaigning and advocacy.

This year’s instructors included lawyers, activists and other professionals with years of experience in the areas of human and environmental rights in the Amazon. The instructors, most of whom have worked for years to build the capacity of indigenous communities, brought their strengths in training indigenous communities to the school program.