Success for Kichwa communities in San Martin as Regional Government drops threat to suspend land titling

Kichwa community of Nuevo Lamas de Shapaja, © Miluska Elguera Solar
Kichwa community of Nuevo Lamas de Shapaja, © Miluska Elguera Solar

Success for Kichwa communities in San Martin as Regional Government drops threat to suspend land titling

Lamas, San Martin. In a high level meeting on 12th September, representatives of the regional government of San Martin agreed[1] to abandon their attempts to suspend the titling of indigenous communities in the vicinity of the Cordillera Escalera Protected area (ACR-CE), a threat made by the government in response to a landmark law suit filed in August 2017 by the community of Nuevo Lamas which challenged the legality of existing land titling procedures in Peru and the failure of the Peruvian government to consult with indigenous peoples prior to the creation of the ACR-CE.

The formal agreement stated: ‘The authorities of the ACR-CE will annul documents No 069-2017GRSM/PEHCBM-DMA/ACR-CE and 206-2018-GRSM/PEHCBM/GG which had requested the suspension of processes of recognition, delimitation and titling of native communities. It will also formally announce its willingness to support the continuation of these processes submitted to the DTRT-CR (Directorate of Titling, land reversion and rural cadastre) by Friday 14th September’.

The government u-turn was a result of determined advocacy from affected communities and their representative organisations including CEPKA, CODEPISAM and AIDESEP and their allies who had pointed out to the government and the international donors backing the land titling programmes in the region not only the unlawful nature of this measure but the fact that  “the request for the suspension of the titling procedure is placing the ancestral lands of indigenous communities in a position of great uncertainty and legal insecurity”.[2] Prior to this, appeals had been made to UN human rights agency CERD in March 2018 which pointed out that:

“…..following the filing of the lawsuit by Nuevo Lamas in August 2017, the headquarters of the ACR-CE wrote a letter[3] to the Regional land Titling Director, in which they stated that. "From this moment, any activity related to the recognition, delimitation and titling of native communities with proposed leasehold use contracts within the Regional Conservation Area" Cordillera Escalera", will cease, including those which are governed by the round table for land titling" (emphasis added). He added that "all of this is dependent upon the legal process initiated by [CEPKA] and the Native Community of Nuevo Lamas de Shapaja. Therefore, we highlight our complete willingness to return to work regarding these processes once these actors have withdrawn their demand." (unofficial translation). In reality, this letter represents a threat, not only against the community implicated in the proposed action, but also to other indigenous communities seeking land titling in the region of San Martín: the titling procedures will come to a halt if the lawsuit continues. In this way, the authorities attempt to dissuade indigenous peoples from seeking protection of their rights, and makes compliance with a state obligation (the delimitation and titling of indigenous lands) dependent on the passive acceptance of other (previous and continuing) violations of their human rights”.

Gider Sangama, president of CEPKA responded to the agreement: “The government tried to set a date for another meeting to resolve this problem, but we did not accept that, we insisted on a solution today and thanks to the pressure from all of us they had to accept. We welcome this change of position on the part of the Regional Government which will help to ensure security for our lands and protection for our forests. Nevertheless, we call on the international donors like the UNDP and Norwegian government who are backing these land titling programmes to remain vigilant in order to ensure these commitments are upheld. As for us, CEPKA will be watching like hawks.”

In another welcome reversal the government also formally committed to implementing a prior consultation process with indigenous peoples on a new Master Plan for the ACR-CE which had been approved unilaterally by the government in August 2018.

Mr Sangama also commented: “CEPKA, CODEPISAM and FEPRIKESAM insisted that the government carry out the prior consultation of the master plan of the ACR-CE as its approval by supreme decree violated the rights of the indigenous peoples. Yesterday in a meeting we insisted on prior consultation and thanks to the pressure of all of us they had to accept this position.”

 

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