On July 2nd 2023, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, during his visit to Suriname, made a trip to the indigenous village of Pierre Kondre.
Pierre Kondre lies about 67 kilometers south of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. The area is surrounded by 9,000 hectares of forest and has a population of about 100 people.
After driving through the iron-rich landscape, characterized by its reddish-brown soil, Mr. Guterres was received by Captain Lloyd Read of the Kaliña people, along with the women and men of the community. They sang and were dressed in their traditional, predominantly red-colored clothing.
"The challenge [we face] to protect Mother Earth and the Amazon rainforest is not appreciated and poses a threat to our lives," Mr. Read lamented, adding that his people - through no fault of their own - are currently at risk from the exploitation of natural resources and the effects of climate change, such as large and persistent rainfalls and floods.
He said mercury pollution - mainly caused by illegal mining activities - also threatens the lives and livelihoods of indigenous people in the region.
"In the south, life is ruined by mercury. There is no fish, no meat and no clean water to drink. In fact, extremely high concentrations of this metal have been found in the hair of our indigenous people," he said.
The Secretary General noted these concerns and asked Mr. Read for more details, promising to be the "spokesperson" for the community during his subsequent meeting with government officials. "This is a visit in solidarity with indigenous communities in Suriname and around the world. When we see that we are still losing the battle of climate change, when you see that biodiversity everywhere is more and more threatened, when you see the pollution around the world, it is very important to recognize that indigenous communities show the wisdom, the resilience and the will to live in peace with nature," he told those gathered in the village.