At the end of three intense days of discussion, exchange and drafting, representatives from the Ik, Tepeth, Batwa, Benet and Ngikarimajong have released the Kisoro Memorandum, a definitive statement of their rights and expectations for support from their government and from other actors, including the UN system.
On 8th February 2013, the Batwa of Uganda submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court of Uganda seeking recognition of their status as indigenous peoples under international law and redress for the historic marginalisation and continuous human rights violations they have experienced as a result of being dispossessed of their ancestral forest lands by the government.
Before their eviction, the Batwa had lived in the forest since immemorial times. The measures taken to remove the Batwa, to create ‘environmentally protected’ areas, and to limit access and use of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Echuya Central Forest Reserve, resulted in the violation of the Batwa’s property rights over their ancestral lands. While colonial protection of the forest started in the 1920s, most Batwa continued to live in the forest and to use its resources until the 1990s; when they were evicted, without consultation, adequate compensation or offer of alternative land.
FPP and Natural Justice organised a joint submission to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in response to a request for contributions from Parties and stakeholders about the CBD’s programme of work that deals with traditional knowledge about biodiversity (Article 8j).
A gender workshop organised in Kisoro, south-western Uganda, from the 19-21 November 2012 that aimed to initiate indigenous people in general aspects of gender, has ended successfully.
The workshop was facilitated by the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) and Forest Peoples Programme and hosted fifty Batwa men and women from the districts of Kanungu, Mbarara, Kabale and Kisoro. Youngsters aged 14 - 20 also attended the workshop.
Uganda's first Participatory Three-Dimensional Modelling Project was organised in 2011 in Kisoro by the Batwa, former hunter-gatherers who were evicted from two national parks 20 years ago. Watch the video here.
In 2009 a group of Batwa representatives from Uganda travelled to Ogiek communities in Kenya to learn about their situation and the different advocacy strategies they were using. One of these strategies was the use of Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling (P3DM), which helped the Ogiek engage Kenyan agencies on their rights to their ancestral territory, the Mau Forest. The Batwa walked away from this visit impressed by the simplicity of the P3DM technique and hopeful of replicating it in their own context.
Two years later in June 2011, the Batwa, with support from the ARCUS Foundation, began their own three-dimensional modelling of their ancestral territory, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. More than 100 representatives from the Batwa communities surrounding Bwindi, including youth, elders, women and men attended the exercise over a three-week period.
The land rights of indigenous peoples and human rights of minority communities were discussed in Kampala, Uganda on 4th March 2011 during the first East Africa Regional Dialogue on Minority Community Rights. The event came as a result of the collaboration of many national and international organisations including the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda, Forest Peoples Programme, Minority Rights Group International, Institute for Law & Environmental Governance, Uganda Land Alliance and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment. The dialogue was attended by representatives of indigenous peoples and minority communities from throughout the East African region as well as government and civil society organisations from Uganda and Kenya. Honoured guests included the Minister of State for Gender and Culture from Uganda and the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, former Commissioner of the African Commission Bahame Tom Nyanduga, representatives from the African Commission’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities, as well as indigenous leaders from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
Indigenous peoples’ representatives met with Chairs of Commissions of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation organizations, for a high-level dialogue during the Sharing Power conference, in Whakatane, New Zealand, on January 13th, 2011. IUCN agreed to review the implementation of resolutions related to indigenous peoples taken at the 4th World Conservation Congress (WCC4) in 2008, in Barcelona, Spain, and to advance their implementation. These resolutions, along with the Durban Action Plan and the Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), are often termed as the “new conservation paradigm”. They are crucial for ensuring that conservation practices respect the rights of indigenous peoples and their full and effective participation in policy and practice. Unfortunately, the actual implementation of these decisions in support of indigenous peoples has been very patchy. The information gathered by the IUCN review processes will feed into its 2013-2016 Programme, to be discussed and adopted in September 2012 in Jeju, Republic of Korea.
Specifically, the meeting participants agreed that IUCN will:
· Reinforce its multi-level process (encompassing international, regional, national and local levels) to assess and advance the implementation of the “new conservation paradigm”. This process would focus on specific WCC4 resolutions relevant to indigenous peoples.
· Implement pilot assessments of protected areas at the local level that should be carried out by teams composed of indigenous peoples, IUCN national and international offices, government officials and other relevant actors. The pilot assessments should specify recommendations to address gaps between the observed practices and the ‘new conservation paradigm’. The findings will be reported in national workshops, which will then explore ways to implement the recommendations from the assessments. The assessments would also bring examples of successful projects and best practices to the international community.
· Carry out a review of the implementation of each of the WCC4 resolutions relevant to indigenous peoples, based on information from commissions and regional and global thematic programmes. This review will identify gaps and make recommendations to address them, which will be included in IUCN’s 2013-2016 Programme.
· Submit reports on these matters to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the CBD.
· Spread awareness of WCC4 resolutions on indigenous peoples to all national IUCN offices.
· Improve the coordination between regional and national IUCN offices and indigenous peoples’ organizations.
Will conservation organisations finally take practical action to implement agreed commitments that recognise the rights of indigenous peoples in protected areas?
The Batwa of south-west Uganda, through their organisation, the United Organisation for Batwa Development (UOBDU), officially opened their new joint tourism venture with the Uganda Wildlife Authority on July 1st, 2010. A related news article “Trail of hope for Uganda's lost Pygmy tribe” in The Guardian, 17 July, 2010, notes that “...for the first time, the Batwa have a stake in the conservation and management of the national park, even though they still live outside it.” Click here to read the full Guardian article.
In December 2009, the Batwa community in south-west Uganda and their own representative organisation, the United Organisation of Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), continued their efforts to secure their rights by holding a series of meetings with local and national level government representatives.