Lima, 7 August - Nearly 25 indigenous and civil society organisations, including five National Land Coalitions from Latin America and the Caribbean, are coming together in the regional campaign "Securing Indigenous Territories to Protect Life'' to demand that States secure, protect and promote the land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples. The initiative, promoted by the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the International Land Coalition Latin America and the Caribbean (ILC LAC), also seeks to raise awareness of how without secure land rights, other fundamental rights are violated and the important contributions that indigenous peoples make to protecting biodiversity and addressing climate change are affected.
Recent studies have highlighted the central link between indigenous peoples' territorial rights and the fight against the global climate crisis: between 2000 and 2012, titled indigenous territories in the Bolivian, Brazilian and Colombian Amazon avoided between 42.8 and 59.7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year during that period (FAO and FILAC, 2021). However, despite their fundamental role, indigenous peoples do not receive the recognition they deserve, and their rights to land and territory are still not fully ensured by states.
"Although there are international human rights instruments and national regulations that recognise our territorial rights, in practice these are not adequately implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is a pending task that Latin American states must resolve," explains Neydi Juracán, a young leader of the Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), Guatemala.
According to the Global Land Governance Index (LANDex), which assessed 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the normative development of secure land rights for the indigenous peoples scores 67.7/100. The implementation of these frameworks is even lower, with a score of only 27.8/100. Moreover, of the 404 million hectares inhabited by indigenous peoples in the region, 135 million hectares have not yet been recognised as having collective ownership or usufruct rights for these peoples (FAO and IDFAC, 2021).
This reality exposes indigenous peoples to various threats, such as the indiscriminate use of natural resources and the dispossession of their lands in the name of "economic development", severely impacting their collective territorial rights and triggering severe socio-environmental conflicts. Between 2017 and 2021, there were more than 2,000 cases of communities affected by extractive industries in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras (RRI, 2022).
The campaign will kick off with the Regional Forum: "Securing Indigenous Territories to Protect Life'', which will be held virtually on Wednesday 16 August, from 9:00 to 11:30 am (Peru time). This event, which is also part of ILC LAC's commemorative actions for the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, will feature widely renowned indigenous leaders such as Melania Canales, from the National Organisation of Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru (ONAMIAP); Tarcila Rivera Zea, from the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA); Kantuta Conde, from the Network of Indigenous Youth of Latin America (Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de América Latina); Omar Jerónimo, from the Asociación Indígena Campesina Ch'ort'i Nuevo Día (Guatemala); Q’’apaj Conde, from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Diocelinda Iza and Elvia Martínez from Luna Creciente (Ecuador); the environmental defender Beatriz Débora Sajama, from the Grupo Mujeres Defensoras del Hábitat Natural - Jujuy (Argentina); and Darío Mejía, president of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
During the Forum, emblematic cases from Central America, the Andean region and the Southern Cone of Latin America will be presented, illustrating different situations of vulnerability and strategies for the defense of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples in the region. There will also be a reflection on the application of international frameworks on the rights of indigenous peoples to land and territory, as well as their potential to promote their security and protection. Some of the instruments to be reviewed are the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of food security, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity.