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.
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.