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

Syndicate content

FIPN letters to the World Bank's President Kim

7 October, 2014

Letters from Peter Kitelo, Kenya Forest Indigenous Peoples Network (FIPN), to President Kim of the World Bank on behalf of the requesters, the Sengwer indigenous people:

FIPN Pre-Board letter to President Kim

FIPN Post-Board letter to President Kim

Read more

"World Bank pledge to resolve the land issues of the Sengwer forest indigenous community"

6 October, 2014

Thousands of homes belonging to hunter-gatherer Sengwer people living in the Embobut forest in the Cherangani hills were burned down earlier this year by Kenya forest service guards who had been ordered to clear the forest as part of a carbon offset project that aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation.

Read more

Ecuador apologizes to indigenous community for allowing oil drilling

2 October, 2014

Thursday, October 2nd 2014 - 06:54 UTC

Ecuador has apologized to an indigenous community for authorizing oil drilling on ancestral land without their permission. The apology to the Sarayaku community came two years after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the OPEC nation had violated the tribe's right to be consulted on oil concessions granted for their land.

Ecuador paid 1.3 million dollars to the community, which lives in the southeastern jungle region of Pastaza, as a result of the court's decision.

Read more

IACHR Calls upon Member States of the OAS to Guarantee Fully and Effectively the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas

1 October, 2014

September 22, 2014

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) / Washington, D.C. – On the occasion of the First World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to take all available measures in order to respect and guarantee effectively the rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas, free from any form of discrimination.

Read more

Pour des réformes cohérentes et équitables dans le secteur forestier du Cameroun: contribution de la société civile

Plateforme Forêts-Communauté Européenne (ECFP)
Plateforme Nationale de la Société Civile sur REDD et Changement Climatique (PFN-REDD & CC)

3 September, 2014

Pour des réformes cohérentes et équitables

 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more