“From the voices of peoples' organisations: their fight for land rights as part of a bigger network” Learning Lab series is a space for peer-to-peer exchanges among peoples’ organisations of ILC. It seeks to understand how these organisations engage with the ILC network, their expectations, institutional challenges, and strengths. Over 100 ILC member organisations represent over fifty-six thousand communities and more than seventy-one million people around the globe. These peoples’ organisations directly represent and are accountable to people depending upon the land, whether at the local level as grassroots organisations or on a larger scale as regional federations.
Amina Amharech of AZUL, Morocco, facilitated the session and took the audience to Morocco, Bolivia, and Bangladesh and explored the challenges and successes in securing indigenous people’s land rights.
Indigenous peoples and local communities protect more than fifty per cent of the world’s land surface but only have formally recognised ownership to just over ten per cent. Indigenous peoples have a strong spiritual, cultural, social, and economic relationship with their traditional lands, but their land rights are often precarious. Hence, indigenous peoples’ issues are of central importance for ILC’s mandate.
different contexts, similar challenges
Campaign and awareness raising in Bangladesh
Pallab Chakma is an indigenous rights activist from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. He is the Executive Director of the Kapaeeng Foundation, a leading indigenous peoples’ organisation in Bangladesh that promotes and protects indigenous peoples’ land rights.
Bangladesh does not recognise indigenous peoples; instead, it identifies them as minorities and tribes. Consequently, indigenous peoples are excluded from participating in dialogues and decisions affecting their lands and livelihoods, resulting in the unavailability of data on indigenous peoples’ land rights. Furthermore, the quality of the laws and policies reflects indigenous peoples' exclusion as the statutes do not speak to their needs. In addition, indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts suffer discrimination and military intimidation, making it impossible to enforce their land rights.
The Kapaeeng Foundation works with indigenous peoples to secure land rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. At the national level, Kapaeeng is part of the National Engagement Strategy (NES Bangladesh), a multi-stakeholder platform for advocating for indigenous peoples’ land rights. Some of Kapaeeng Foundation’s achievements over the years include advocating for the amendment of the Land Commission Act and lobbing the World Bank to halt a road construction project that commenced without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. Specifically, Kapaeeng Foundation held a campaign, raising awareness about a World Bank project to construct a road linking Chittagong Hill Tracts and India. The project violated the World Bank Safeguard Policies by proposing to build roads on several crucial watersheds and fragile eco-zones of high cultural value to the indigenous communities, without their free, prior, informed consultation. The World Bank eventually rescinded the project, protecting the land rights of indigenous peoples and realising their rights to FPIC and participation in decision-making.
Inclusive decision making in Latin America
Antonia Benito is a Mayan indigenous person and a journalist. She is a member of the Red De Jóvenes Indígenas De América Latina y el Caribe (RJI), an indigenous youth network operating in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Indigenous youth succeed in sharing their experiences by telling their stories and those of their forefathers at community, national, regional, and international levels, highlighting the importance of their ancestral lands. Therefore, it is essential to include indigenous youth in public policy and decision-making platforms to address their diverse needs in Latin America. RJI is a network that strengthens and gives visibility to grassroots initiatives of youth and indigenous communities. Specifically, RJI encourages and facilitates inclusive decision-making processes developed within their communities at national and regional levels. To this end, RJI, as a regional platform, allows indigenous youth to articulate their voices better in various decision-making forums that affect their rights. RJI also works with the elderly to meet their demands. For instance, RJI continues to accompany and represent the elderly before community leaders.
Although it is still challenging to reach indigenous populations to convey messages, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) strengthens RJI’s work with the youth in documenting indigenous knowledge and traditional farming techniques. The COVID-19 pandemic set indigenous youth back in documenting their traditional knowledge, deepening indigenous peoples' exclusion from decision-making. However, the pandemic period also allowed the youth to revive traditional food and biosafety knowledge for the local communities. The youth have also started an information campaign on indigenous food systems and traditional medicines.
Cultural rights and awareness raising in Morocco
Mbarki Lahoucine is a youth indigenous and communities’ land rights researcher at AZUL in Morocco.
The Imazighen indigenous peoples live in North Africa, including Morocco. They face marginalisation and discrimination, resulting from the lack of their recognition as indigenous peoples under the Moroccan Constitution. The Imazighen indigenous peoples still reside in the remote Rif and High Atlas Mountains, with significant barriers to educational, health, and political representation.
As an indigenous peoples’ network, AZUL protects and promotes the political, cultural, and land rights of the Imazighen indigenous peoples. Specifically, AZUL promotes the cultural rights of the Imazighen indigenous peoples by raising awareness about indigenous youth and women’s land rights and inclusive decision-making. Under the banner “Africa to Africans”, AZUL supports indigenous communities by sharing relevant information regarding indigenous peoples’ land rights. In addition, the AZUL group uses popular social media platforms to coordinate efforts with other indigenous peoples’ organisations, particularly for more remote regions such as the Anti-Atlas and Riff Mountain ranges.
the value of being part of a network
Antonia Benito - The UNDRIP is a critical first step in giving indigenous peoples the right to maintain their spiritual relationship with their ancestral lands, territories, and waters. However, more must be done to implement the UNDRIP in different countries and regions because indigenous peoples are still not recognised by governments. Some countries criminalise indigenous peoples and their land rights advocacy programmes. For instance, this region-wide phenomenon is seen in Brazil, where the houses of indigenous peoples have been set on fire by the mining industry.
"ILC gives indigenous peoples the platform to form a cohesive voice in advocating for indigenous land rights. But, more importantly, indigenous peoples get an opportunity to interact with the rest of the platform and share successful strategies, tools, and practices for defending their land rights. In the future, RJI hopes to collaborate and partake in more experiential exchange with other members" Antonia Benito
Pallab Chakma - Kapaeeng Foundation recognises the various skills of ILC members and benefits from the knowledge sharing platforms of the ILC, mainly through the Commitment-Based Initiative on indigenous peoples’ land rights (CBI5) and youth-related work.
Mbarki Lahoucine – As part of a great platform of members, the indigenous peoples of Morocco are less isolated, strengthening our skills and competencies in defending indigenous land rights. Since the EMENA region is the newest region of the ILC, AZUL requests that the ILC establishes an initiative on indigenous peoples’ land rights.
WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN ILC OFFER TO BETTER RESPOND TO THE NEEDS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES?
- Advocacy and campaigning – 60%
- Support participation of indigenous peoples in relevant processes -14
- Joint funding for joint initiative – 6%
- Capacity building and training – 54%
from the database of good practices
ILC Toolkit #5: Indigenous Peoples and communities land rights
26 April 2018Read More
NES Bangladesh: Good Practices from a Multi-Stakeholder Platform
27 January 2020Read More
NES Guatemala: Good practices from a multi-stakeholder platform
10 June 2019Read More
Saneamiento interno para la regularización de tierras comunales y privadas
8 April 2020Read More
Protecting forests and securing customary rights through Community Forest Governance
11 March 2017Read More