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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Buyers beware of trash and run: Melka group plans to sell off controversial oil palm plantations operations in the Peruvian Amazon

28 June, 2016

On 23 June, and no doubt in response to the growing challenges to their operations in Ucayali from the Peruvian government, Peruvian civil society and affected communities,  the Melka group decided to put their properties up for sale in a public auction.

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Behind the Veil: Transparency, Access to Information and Community Rights in Cameroon's Forestry Sector

Forest Peoples Programme
Anouska Perram

17 June, 2016

In 2010, Cameroon and the European Union signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products. One apparently positive element highlighted by the European Union and civil society organisations has been the inclusion of a 'transparency annex' in the document, which aimed to "make information available for public scrutiny to improve transparency and accountability".

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Indigenous leaders in the Amazon face death threats as community files lawsuit against Peruvian government for violation of their land rights

26 May, 2016

26th May, Pucallpa, Peru. Leaders of the Shipibo indigenous village of Santa Clara de Uchunya, accompanied by their representative organisation FECONAU, filed a constitutional law suit challenging Peru’s regional government authorities for failing to secure legal protection of their traditional lands and enabling its acquisition and clearance by an international agribusiness company.1 

Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC, an agribusiness company affiliated to the Melka commercial group appears to have begun acquiring the lands since 2012. Since that point, satellite images show that more than 5,000 ha of forest have been cleared to pave the way for an oil palm plantation.2  

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AIDESEP insists that IDB land titling programme which threatens to undermine indigenous land rights must be suspended while formal complaint is ongoing

25 May, 2016

Lima, 17th May. AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous Amazonian peoples’ organisation, has written a letter to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) executive directors urging them to suspend the PTRT3 project, an $80 million land titling programme, while a formal complaint about the project is ongoing.

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Human rights experts set the record straight for the World Bank

23 May, 2016

Indigenous rights experts have written to the World Bank President and Executive Board to underscore the importance of the World Bank adopting a standard of free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples potentially affected by development initiatives funded by the Bank. In the letter, the experts point out that the existing standard of Broad Community Support used by the Bank has failed to improve outcomes for development initiatives, and is a standard that is implemented ineffectively and inconsistently across the Bank’s portfolio. 

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Press Release: Amerindian Peoples Association calls for Government of Guyana to secure full extent of traditional lands

19 May, 2016

GEORGETOWN, May 13, 2016: The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) held its 9th General Assembly on 10-12 May 2016 in the village of Pakuri, Region 4. The main issues discussed during the assembly included land rights, climate change, and the various social and environmental issues affecting indigenous communities throughout the country. The assembly also highlighted the proactive measures communities are engaged in to build a stronger, greener, and more just Guyana.

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Peruvian environmental prosecutor documents Plantaciones de Pucallpa’s violation of government suspension order

17 May, 2016

Indigenous activists under threat

Urgent update:  A video (Spanish only) recording a formal visit to the oil palm plantation of Plantaciones de Pucallpa in Ucayali by Peruvian environmental prosecutors and officials documents how the company has continued to maintain and cultivate its plantation operations in violation of the suspension order of the Ministry of Agriculture issued in September 2015.  

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Shipibo video testimonies document destruction of their forests for palm oil by RSPO member

13 May, 2016

In the territory of the Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, the indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are facing the devastation of their ancestral forests and rivers. This is due to the expansion of a palm oil plantation operated by Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C, a member of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil. 

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Human rights and agribusiness in South East Asia – Workshop report of the 5th Regional Meeting in the Philippines

4 May, 2016

Human rights violations linked to agribusinesses in South East Asia compelled concerned human rights groups to come together at the 5th Regional Meeting on Human Rights and Agribusiness in South East Asia on 5 and 6 November 2015 in Puerto Princesa, on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.

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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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