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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Securing Forests, Securing rights: Report of the International Workshop on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples

5 December, 2014

Securing Forests, Securing rights: Report of the International Workshop on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples

The global forest crisis is worsening and infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.

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Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous Perspectives on Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon

Forest Peoples Programme
AIDESEP

4 December, 2014

Revealing the Hidden

 

The report, Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous perspectives on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon was compiled by Peru’s national indigenous peoples’ organisation (AIDESEP) and international human rights organisation, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and is based on the analysis and perspectives of Peru’s indigenous leaders and organisations whose lives, lands and livelihoods are threatened by deforestation on a daily basis.

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Venezuela: Ye’kwana and Sanema of the Caura have again appealed to the Government to halt abuse of their rights by the armed forces

26 March, 2015

A delegation of indigenous representatives presented a petition to the Venezuela Government’s Ministry of Public Affairs to denounce the continuing of abuse of their rights by the armed forces who have been actively involved in illegal gold-mining on the indigenous peoples’ lands. They note that the commander of the local brigade, who along with several other members of his unit burned down two Ye’kwana houses in February and had then been detained by the Ye’kwana before being handed over to the authorities [who promised to investigate], remains in command of his brigade.

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Indigenous peoples of Putumayo say no to mining in their territories

23 March, 2015

March 2015

Twelve indigenous peoples inhabit the Putumayo region in Colombia. In the last few years, they have tried to be heard through constant demonstrations to say ‘no’ to mining and megaprojects in ancestral territories! They demonstrated once again last Friday the 13 of March in Bogotá through colourful actions, which back in the in the Sibundoy Valley of the Upper Putumayo they call “cultural marches and sit-ins”.  The cultural protest in Bogotá took place at the entrance of the Ministry of the Interior. 

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Toolkit on Indigenous women's rights in Africa

5 March, 2015

Toolkit on Indigenous women's rights in Africa

Forest Peoples Programme has created this toolkit to help indigenous women in Africa to better understand the African human rights system and how to use it effectively to secure their rights.

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Sengwer ask: "How can you ask for constructive dialogue, while you are destroying our homes?"

3 March, 2015

The burnings of Sengwer homes by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) resumed last week while at the same time, the Sengwer are expected to sit down tomorrow to discuss constructive ways forward with the same Government whose agencies burn their homes. This is intolerable to the Sengwer who are calling for an urgent meeting today with the organisers of tomorrow's International Colloquium - the World Bank and the Government of Kenya - so that such harassment can be stopped permanently before the talks begin.

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Stop evictions of Sengwer families or cancel the International Colloquium Conference until we are treated as human beings

27 February, 2015

Dear Colloquium Organizers,

The Government of Kenya and the World Bank have invited us and other traditional forest-dependent communities to sit down with them at the International Colloquium Conference at Eldoret next week.

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Joji Cariño on Indigenous Women Working for Their Rights

24 February, 2015

In February, women from 20 different countries met in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to discuss the challenges indigenous women and their communities face in relation to their land rights. The International Workshop on Indigenous Women’s Rights, lands and Resources was collaboratively held by the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP).

Joji Cariño from the UK (FPP), emphasises the importance of women’s roles and contributions in relation to land work and resource management.

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Maria-Josee Artist on Indigenous Women Working for Their Rights

24 February, 2015

In February, women from 20 different countries met in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to discuss the challenges indigenous women and their communities face in relation to their land rights.

Marie-Josee Artist, from Suriname, explains how women’s land rights in Suriname are not recognised. This poses many problems, as she explains…

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