On 25 March the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, delivered a lecture on international human rights and indigenous peoples at a conference hosted by the Andean University Simón Bolivar and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in La Paz. During his presentation, Anaya addressed the objectives of consultation and consent mechanisms.
Indigenous peoples in Bolivia
There are 36 recognized peoples in Bolivia. With the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and a new Constitution, Bolivia took the name of plurinational state. Still, the country's indigenous peoples face challenges, especially in terms of seismic work in search of new oil and gas reserves and hydroelectric projects.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted
The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples was approved through Law in November 2007. With the entrance into force of the new Constitution, Bolivia adopted the name of plurinational state.
Since 1991, Bolivia is a signatory of ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous groups
According to the 2012 census, 2.8 million peoples over the age of 15, or 41 per cent of the total population, is of indigenous origin.
There are 36 recognized peoples in Bolivia, with the Quechua and the Aymara comprising the majority in the western Andes.
The Chiquitano, Guaraní, and Moxeño are the next most numerous, forming a part of the 34 indigenous peoples living in the lowlands of the country’s eastern region.
Main challenges for Bolivia’s indigenous peoples
A major challenge for the indigenous peoples of Bolivia relates to the seismic work in search of new oil and gas reserves, as well as hydroelectric projects. They directly impact the people inhabiting the territory of the projects, often indigenous peoples and peasants.
Case: Progress in the process for indigenous autonomy
On 20 November 2016, referendums were held to approve the indigenous charters in the Andean zone and the Chaco. In the Andes, the Uru and Chipaya peoples in the high plateau department of Oruro obtained a 77.4 per cent vote of approval for their Autonomous Charter, with which they qualified to form an indigenous government replacing the current municipal government.
The Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, issued an urgent warning about the situation of growing social tensions in Bolivia generated by the march of about 1,500 indigenous people against the construction of a highway through the indigenous territory and national park Isaboro Secure (TIPNIS). The Special Rapporteur called for the initiation, as soon as possible, of a process of good faith consultation with the indigenous peoples affected, in order to find a peaceful solution to this situation and address the underlying problems related to the construction of the road through the TIPNIS reserve. In addition, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government of Bolivia to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of persons participating in the march, and to prevent, investigate and punish any acts that affect their lives or physical integrity.
Hundreds of indigenous Bolivians have started a second long march against the construction of a road through Tipnis National Park. Last year a similar march led to the cancellation of the project but after other communities has been in favour of the road Evo Morales has backtracked and are now saying that all communities in the area will vote on the road plan. The protesters plan to march 500 km from Trinidad in the Amazon to La Paz in the Andes. They hope to attract more supporters as they go.
As the first country in the world, Bolivia has adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as national law. National Law 3760, which is an exact copy of the UN Declaration, was passed in November.