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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Venezuela: armed assaults on Yabarana indigenous peoples by illegal miners

4 February, 2016

Alarming reports have emerged of illegal miners harassing the lives of Piaroa, Yabarana and Hiwi indigenous peoples in the Manapiare valley in the Venezuelan Amazon. The latest report details how illegal miners attacked and seriously wounded the Yabarana leader, Benjamin Perez, who leads the organisation, OIYAPAM, and then burned down his farm.

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The National Constitution and Forest Dweller Land Rights in Kenya

Liz Alden Wily

20 January, 2016

How the National Constitution treats minorities is a good test of a nation’s maturity. How government applies their rules is a good test of the state’s maturity.

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Conserving injustice: The unnecessary ongoing eviction and displacement of Sengwer communities in Embobut

14 December, 2015

The Sengwer community at Embobut has been dispersed, with most still living in their forests and glades high in the Cherangany Hills despite the evictions by the Government’s Kenya Forest Service (KFS). There they hide from the forest guards’ harassment, from having their now makeshift and temporary homes burnt and basic household property destroyed, as well as from being threatened with arrest despite the existence of a High Court injunction forbidding such harassment and evictions.

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The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay: Their lands and the Laws that Would Protect Them

14 December, 2015

On 12 November 2015, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and its partner in Paraguay, the Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas (FAPI) released a companion set of reports describing the current situation of indigenous people, their lands, resources, and territories in Paraguay, along with the national legal framework that is meant to respect, promote and protect their rights.  Many have argued that the last big “land grab” with respect to indigenous lands, resources and territories will not be from large infrastructure projects, but from conservation and resource protection initiatives.

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Protecting the Amazon is the key to resolving the climate crisis

11 December, 2015

December 11 2015: It is 11.30 in the morning in Paris, the negotiation among the members of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) is crucial to build consensus towards a new global climate agreement, an agreement that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate climate change.

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Gobierno Autonomo de la Nacion Wampis en Peru

7 December, 2015

Entrevista con Wrays Perez. El primer lider del nuevo Gobierno autonomo Wampis

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New Analysis Reveals that Indigenous Lands Hold More than 20% of World’s Tropical Forest Carbon

1 December, 2015

New analysis of forests in indigenous territories shows recognizing, protecting rights of traditional peoples can make major contribution to slowing climate change and would support nat'l commitments to reduce climate impacts

An analysis released at the UN climate conference (known as COP 21) maps and quantifies, for the first time, the carbon stored in indigenous territories across the world’s largest expanses of remaining tropical forest.

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United Nations recognises sustained work of Wapichan people to defend land and forests

30 November, 2015

Paris, 26 November 2015 – The Wapichan people in Guyana, South America, have received the prestigious Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in recognition of their prolonged efforts to legally secure their ancestral lands and conserve extensive rainforests and diverse wildlife habitats in the South Rupununi.

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A message to the world from the Wampis

30 November, 2015

My name is Andres Noningo Sesen, I live in Puerto Galilea, a community in Northern Peruvian amazon. We are Wampis, one of the first peoples. Our ancestral lands cover over 1.3 million hectares of forest in the river basins of the Kanus (river Santiago) and Kanken (river Morona). We Wampis are a forest people, traditionally we lived in small groups, dispersed in the forest, hunting, fishing and gathering. It’s only recently that we have settled in large communities.

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Press Release: The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru

30 November, 2015

**PRESS RELEASE: For immediate Release**

The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru to defend the totality of their ancestral territory covering 1.3 million hectares of tropical forest.

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