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Protection and Redress

Indigenous peoples’ struggles against land dispossession are repeatedly met with violent responses from state security forces and other armed groups, often committed with impunity.

To address this situation, IWGIA supports legal aid and indigenous peoples’ human rights observatories and training on documenting and monitoring human rights violations.

IWGIA also pays special attention to supporting the mandates and work of the relevant UN mechanisms and the cooperation between the UN mechanisms dealing with indigenous peoples’ rights and other relevant UN bodies and the regional human rights systems within the Organisation of American States, ASEAN and the African Union.

Below you can see examples of our work:

Supporting the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

In 2010, IWGIA continued to support activities aimed at fulfilling the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This support focus on establishing direct dialogue between local indigenous organizations and the Special Rapporteur during his country visits, and facilitating indigenous initiatives aimed at following up on his reports and recommendations.

Furthermore, in 2010, through the Fund to Support the Implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, IWGIA continued to provide the Special Rapporteur with additional funds that enabled him to carry out country visits to Guatemala, New Zealand and the Republic of Congo.

“The Fund to Support the Implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights has provided invaluable support of my work as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am extremely grateful for the support that the Fund has provided over the past year, which has enabled me to respond to daily allegations of human rights abuses, engage directly with governments around the world to address systemic human rights abuses, and raise broadened awareness and understanding of the issues affecting indigenous peoples.”

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Advocating for the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord

IWGIA facilitates the international Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. Its mandate is to promote respect for human rights, democracy, restoration of civil and political rights, participatory development and land rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh.

To address the severe human rights violations committed in the region and lobby the government to implement the 1997 CHT Peace Accord, the Commission has carried out two missions to Bangladesh and extensive national and international advocacy, including facilitating a group of journalists to visit the CHT to highlight alleged acquisitions of indigenous peoples’ land.

Both missions were conducted to assess the situation in the CHT while one of the missions also facilitated the gathering of information for a study on the status of implementation of the CHT Accord, to be presented by a former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues during the 2011 session of the Permanent Forum.

Recovering the land of Guaraní slaves in Bolivia

In Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, IWGIA supports indigenous rights observatories aimed at monitoring human rights violations and promoting public policy proposals in favour of indigenous peoples.

In Bolivia, through CEJIS and the Assembly of the Guaraní People, a major achievement was reached in 2010 when lands were recovered for Guaraní communities that have been living in slavery for decades.

“We are once again returning to the place where we were born because now we can live freely. Before, we had no freedom; we were working for our masters all the time. Now it’s different, now we only work for ourselves and our families". - Angel Rojas, Guaraní leader

Protecting the rights of isolated indigenous peoples

IWGIA pays particular attention to the human rights situation of highly vulnerable indigenous peoples, such as those living in isolation or initial contact.

In South America, there are approximately one hundred groups of indigenous peoples that have chosen to live in isolation from the surrounding society - many of them fleeing to remote forest areas to avoid epidemics that decimated their peoples.

We must repect these peoples’ desire to be left alone. IWGIA supports different initiatives to gain a better understanding of their situation and guarantee the protection of their territories.

On a national level, IWGIA supports and cooperates with local NGOs, who monitor and report on their situation. On an international level, IWGIA supports raising their case through the Inter-American Human Rights system.

In 2010, IWGIA organized a conference in Bolivia to discuss guidelines for the protection of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and published four human rights reports (out of a series of seven publications) on the situation of peoples in isolation and initial contact in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela, who are increasingly facing encroachment and destruction of their livelihoods.

The series of IWGIA Reports contains comprehensive documentation of the vulnerable health and human right situation of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and gives concrete recommendations to governments on how best to ensure their rights.

Adressing human rights violations of indigenous peoples in Africa

IWGIA supports the African Commission’s Working Group in its mandate to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and seek redress when a violation occurs.

The Working Group issues urgent appeals to African governments when urgent human rights situations have been brought to its attention. For example, in 2010, the Working Group issued an urgent appeal to the Government of Botswana to urge them to embrace the decision of the High Court and allow the San peoples to have access to water from their existing borehole at Mothomelo.

The Working Group also conducts country visits to gather information on the situation of indigenous peoples in particular African countries. Following the visit, a report is produced with recommendations to the Government and other relevant stakeholders. In 2010, the Working Group conducted visits to Kenya and the Republic of Congo and clear and constructive recommendations were made for the protection and the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights in both countries.

Landmark ruling on indigenous land rights

On 4 February 2010, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled on the Endorois case, condemning the Kenyan government’s expulsion of the Endorois people from their ancestral lands in the 1970s and ordering the government to restore the Endorois’ rights to their ancestral lands and to compensate them. This is a landmark ruling as it is the first to determine who indigenous peoples in Africa are, and what their rights to land are and it sets an unprecedented reference. The Endorois ruling is a victory for all indigenous peoples across Africa.