VIDS (Vereniging van Inheemse Dorpshoofden in Suriname), the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname, was established in 1992, after the end of the so-called “Interior War” (1986-1992) between the National Army (military regime), and armed guerrilla groups from the Interior. Indigenous villages were heavily affected by the hostilities and the destruction of all infrastructure, and village leaders recognised the need to restore and strengthen their authority after the war ended.
VIDS was therefore established in September 1992, and became operational in August 1993 when the first VIDS Conference was held. VIDS is an association of indigenous community leaders from all 51 indigenous villages in Suriname. Each leader is appointed by the community or chosen in accordance with traditional practices.
In addition to restoring traditional authority structures and mechanisms, VIDS has taken the leading role in advocating for and defending indigenous peoples’ rights, as well as in sustainable development and environmental protection. VIDS is now the most important partner of the government concerning policy issues affecting indigenous peoples in Suriname.
VIDS sees indigenous peoples occupying a worthy place in Surinamese society and in the global community. In this vision:
- indigenous peoples enjoy legal security that is based on our rights to self-determination and legal recognition and protection of the collective rights to the lands and resources which we have occupied, used and protected for many centuries;
- indigenous peoples enjoy respect and esteem for our traditional culture and life style;
- indigenous peoples have equal development opportunities and enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal footing with other segments of the population, without any discrimination on the basis of race, social class, cultural identity or gender; and
- indigenous peoples are recognised as substantial contributors to the sustainable development of the country and the world.
In order to fulfil this vision of the future, VIDS strives to be an efficient and representative organisation that provides effective support to its members (village leaders); to influence national policy in order to strengthen, ensure and protect the rights of indigenous peoples in Suriname and to ensure the effective participation of indigenous peoples in all decisions that affect us.
- legal recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in Suriname, in particular land rights and legal recognition of our traditional authorities;
- increased capacity of village councils and local organisations in order to set up, manage and implement their own development objectives and plans;
- increased capacity of VIDS to be an effective representative national and international advocate of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples in Suriname;
- increased capacity of the VIDS bureau to provide effective support to the communities with small projects.
Fields of activity
VIDS has established a Paramaribo-based secretariat (Bureau VIDS) which is active in the implementation of the policies and strategies as decided by the VIDS Conference and VIDS Board, in particular in the following fields:
- Day-to-day implementation of VIDS’ policies, programmes and projects
- Policy formulation and monitoring
- Project formulation, resource mobilisation and project implementation, including the financial administration
- Training/capacity building of traditional village authorities and local organisations including women’s groups
- Influencing national and international policy regarding indigenous collective rights and development issues
- Technical and policy assistance and legal advice to communities regarding development and rights-related issues
Regional working arms of VIDS
In different regions in Suriname villages have also organised at regional levels. Among others in the KLIM (the organisation of Kaliña and Lokono in Marowijne) and OSIP (Organisation of Collaborating Indigenous villages Para district) and similar organisations are in establishing phase in West Suriname and the Wayambo area. These organisations also function as regional working arms of VIDS.