Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Legal & human rights

Indigenous and other forest peoples experience racial and cultural discrimination, are denied rights to lands and livelihoods, to organise and to represent themselves, and, in short, are hindered in myriad ways from fully exercising and enjoying their right to self-determination. FPP provides technical legal and related assistance to help forest peoples tackle these injustices. By supporting their organisations, nations and/or communities to understand and use national and international legal processes, we assist forest peoples to challenge violations of their rights, promote alternatives, including through legislative and other reforms, and pursue legal cases through the courts and international bodies.

Regional and international human rights mechanisms

Indigenous and other forest peoples may use regional and international human rights mechanisms to promote and seek enforcement of their rights. Strategic use of these mechanisms may address specific problems affecting individuals, communities or peoples and also contributes to the interpretation and creation of international law. In support of its partners, FPP makes extensive use of the United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the ILO, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights. In 2007, for example, the Saramaka People of central Suriname obtained a landmark judgment in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with the support of FPP's Legal and Human Rights Programme.

Country-level advocacy

Numerous actions are led at national level by forest peoples for the recognition of their human rights. Particular efforts are devoted to the effective implementation of international and regional standards and their harmonisation with national legislation. Community consultations and national and local advocacy processes can lead to submission of complaints to national human rights institutions or to litigation before national courts or tribunals, including by using human rights guaranteed by the country's constitution and international human rights law.

In Nepal, the process of drafting the new Constitution has failed to ensure that indigenous peoples are able to participate through their freely chosen representatives. Rather, the Constituent Assembly, the body tasked with drafting the new Constitution, is comprised solely of political party nominees and candidates. This was challenged in the Nepal Supreme court and was also raised with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, both in 2009 (see submission). The CERD adopted two communications under its early warning and urgent action procedures calling on Nepal to ensure effective participation by indigenous peoples in the drafting of the new constitution and that indigenous peoples consent be obtained. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, Professor S. James Anaya, also conducted a country visit to Nepal in November 2008 and concluded that the procedures available for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the Constitution drafting process were incompatible with Nepal's international commitments. His report is available here. The Supreme Court of Nepal finally issued a directive in April 2013 ordering the government to consider the representation and participation of indigenous peoples in constitution making processes. Although by this time the Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting the constitution, was dissolved after it failed to reach consensus on the new constitution, this decision by the Supreme Court will be significant for future decision-making processes at government level.

The advocacy work led by indigenous peoples in Africa is another example: drawing on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' rights' report on indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples on the continent are demanding the full recognition of their rights. As many African constitutions and laws do not recognise the existence of indigenous peoples per international and regional human rights law, indigenous peoples often make extensive use of those principles at country level in order to be heard. In Kenya, for example, the African Commission ruled that the government was responsible for the violation of the Endorois indigenous people’s rights when they were evicted to make way for a wildlife reserve. This landmark ruling marked a major step forward for indigenous rights in Africa. For more information please click here.

Relevant resources

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Indonesian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Forests finds rights unprotected and recommends recognition

29 April, 2016

National Inquiry on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the Territories in the Forest Zone

INDONESIA: KomNasHAM, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, just issued an English summary of its recent National Inquiry on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the Territories in the Forest Zone. Based on legal review, extensive testimony heard through seven hearings in all parts of the country and in depth investigation of 47 cases, the Inquiry found that despite Constitutional guarantees of the rights of the country’s indigenous peoples, these rights are systematically denied.

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Secure territorial rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge must be central to post-conflict initiatives to save the Colombian Amazon and achieve sustainable development

25 April, 2016

Bogotá, April 25: A new report “Deforestation and indigenous peoples rights in the Colombian Amazon” co-published by social justice and environmental NGO DEDISE and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) underlines the critical role of secure land and territorial rights and traditional knowledge in sustaining one of the most culturally and biologically diverse forests on the planet.

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Deforestation and Indigenous Peoples Rights in the Colombian Amazon

25 April, 2016

Deforestation and Indigenous Peoples Rights in the Colombian Amazon

New report on indigenous peoples’ rights and deforestation in the Colombian Amazon highlights that effective measures to save the Amazonian forest need to uphold FPIC, secure land and territorial rights, and harness traditional knowledge.

Press release in English and Spanish here. Report available here (in Spanish only)

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Wampis autonomous government declares a state of environmental emergency after oil spill

24 March, 2016

The Wampis autonomous government has issued a Supreme Order declaring the area affected the oil spill in the community of Mayuriaga to be in a state of environmental emergency.

According to Peru’s regulatory body of the environment OEFA, 1,000 barrels of oil spilled into the community land on 3 February 2016 when a 40-year-old pipeline owned by the state oil company Petroperú ruptured.

The spill affected 400m2 of land, and flowed into the Cashacaño river, which then flows into the river Morona.

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Livelihoods and forests at increased risk if land rights are ignored, says new report

2 March, 2016

Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights

Indigenous Peoples and local communities protect half the world's land, but formally own just 10 percent, according to a report released today by a global alliance of NGOs.

London, March 2nd 2016: The Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, backed by more than 300 organizations all over the world, launches today with the publication of a new report.

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Recognizing and expanding the territories of original peoples in Colombia is critical for the peace process

2 March, 2016

Press Note for the Global call to action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights

In Colombia, over 30% of the national territory has been officially titled to Indigenous Peoples, with some 6 million hectares of collective lands recognized for Afro-Descendant Communities. Nonetheless, in practice these territories are not recognized in the State’s actions, with mining, oil and gas, logging and other concessions issued unilaterally without upholding Indigenous or Afro-Descendant Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent.

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Press release: Wampis denounce negligence of state oil company Petroperú after oil spill devastates their territory

2 March, 2016

Community demands immediate suspension of pipeline use

London, March 2nd 2016: On the 18th February 2016 the autonomous territorial government of the indigenous Wampis people (Wampis GTA) submitted a formal complaint to Peru’s regulatory body for the environment (OEFA) accusing the state oil company (Petroperú) of gross negligence for its failure to prevent and contain the oil spill in the Wampis community of Mayuriaga. As a preventative measure the Wampis GTA demand that the pumping of oil along a branch of the pipeline is suspended.

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Statement from the indigenous members of FAPI - Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights

2 March, 2016

Today on the 2nd of March, day of the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights we, the members of the Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas – FAPI (Federation for the Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples) of Paraguay representing the indigenous community Cheiro Ara Poty, of the Mbya Guarani people, who have managed to legalize part of their customary territory after 34 years of struggles and claims, state as follows:

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Pushing for peace in Colombia: Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples join forces to uphold their rights, address mining-related conflict

Forest Peoples Programme
Palenke Alto Cauca - Proceso de Comunidades Negras,
Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta

2 March, 2016

 This executive summary/resumen ejecutivo synthesizes the outcomes of Year 1 (2014-2015) of a two year inter-ethnic project between the Embera Chamí People of the Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta (Riosucio, Supía – Caldas) and Afro-Descendant Communities of the Palenke Alto Cauca – Proceso de Comunidades Negras (northern Cauca) aimed at organizational strengthening and territorial defense ar

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