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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Sarawak: New report details violations of Dayak peoples’ rights by dam builders

19 August, 2014

No Consent to Proceed

 

A new report issued by SAVE Rivers, a Sarawak Indigenous Peoples Network, details violations of Dayak peoples’ rights by both the government and companies planning to build a huge dam across Sarawak’s second largest river, the Baram.

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No Consent to Proceed: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Violations at the Proposed Baram Dam in Sarawak

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP)
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) - The Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia
PACOS Trust, Sabah (Partners of Community Organisation)

18 August, 2014

No Consent to Proceed

 

This report issued by SAVE Rivers, a Sarawak Indigenous Peoples Network, details violations of Dayak peoples’ rights by both the government and companies planning to build a huge dam across Sarawak’s second largest river, the Baram.

Read more

The Batwa Petition Before Uganda's Constitutional Court

9 July, 2014

Author: United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU)

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.

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Statement on the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

26 June, 2014

Joint statement of AIPP, CAOI and ENIP regarding the work of the UN Working Group on Buisness and Human Rights at the occasion of the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

To read the statement in English please click here

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Venezuela: Indigenous peoples of the Caura demand their constitutionally guaranteed territorial rights

2 June, 2014

Invoking their right to self-determination, the Ye’kwana and Sanema peoples of the Caura River in the State of Guayana have issued a statement demanding recognition of their territorial rights. Pointing out that their fully documented land claim has been unanswered by the executive since 2006, the statement also rejects the imposition of any protected areas on their lands and territories until their constitutionally recognised rights to the ‘habitats’, as territories are referred to in Venezuela law, are first recognised.

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Indigenous Rights a "Bridge to the Future"

19 May, 2014

Indigenous peoples from around the world have historically struggled for the recognition of their rights and the protection of their ancestral territories upon which they depend for their cultural, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

The continuous struggle and the urge of being recognised as peoples and nations brought indigenous peoples representatives together for the first time at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva in 1977. This year marked an inflection point for the contemporary history of indigenous peoples worldwide.

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Peru's indigenous leaders face life sentences for defending their rights

13 May, 2014

Clima-Selvas-Pueblos somos Uno Solo

On the 14th May 2014 the trial will begin of 53 of Peru's indigenous leaders who are charged with crimes related to the tragic events at Bagua on the 5th June 2009 where over 20 people died and hundreds were injured after Peruvian forces opened fire on indigenous peoples blockading a road in peaceful protest at the efforts of the Peruvian government to dismantle legal protections for their lands.

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Nepali Indigenous groups laud Supreme Court verdict on Constitutional Assembly nominations

13 May, 2014

Kamal Pariyar

KATHMANDU, May 13: Indigenous communities have lauded the Supreme Court´s (SC) recent order on filling the 26 vacant CA seats with representatives of indigenous communities that have not been represented in the CA. They have expressed hope that the implementation of the decision would make the new Constituent Assembly (CA) to be more inclusive. Of the total CA seats, 575 have already been filled, with only 23 of the total 59 scheduled indigenous communities represented at present.

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Realizing Indigenous Women's Rights: CEDAW and Indigenous Women

Helen Tugendhat & Eleanor Dictaan-Bang-oa

21 March, 2014

Realizing Indigenous Women's Rights: CEDAW and Indigenous Women

A guide to using CEDAW to defend and protect the rights of indigenous women, published by the Asian Indigenous Women's Network (AIWN), Tebtebba Foundation and the Forest Peoples Programme.

To read the publication please click here

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Indigenous woman representatives attend the CSW58 as a part of global indigenous leaders

21 March, 2014

Kapeeng Foundation

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014. Each year, thousands of civil society activists, representatives of member states, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attended the session, this year with the priority theme being “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.

Global indigenous women leaders came from across the world to share their stories of marginalisation and deprivation, to exchange ideas, make connections and push for change following some advocacy process of caucuses, side events, high-level round table events, debriefing and lobbying with government delegations to include language in the Agreed Conclusion.

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