Inter Press ServiceIndigenous Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:17:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Driven to Extremes–How Poverty Fuels Extremism, and How to Help Africa’s Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:21:38 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152536 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1

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African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier greets a group of children during a patrol in the Kaa’ran district of Somali capital, Mogadishu. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Poverty is a blight, and one that disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa. It is a vast and complex issue whose tentacles reach into many areas, including climate change, sustainable development and–crucially–global security. The link between poverty and violent extremism is compelling, and means that if we want to address extremism, we must fight inequality too.

This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October takes as its theme A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies. This is timely, coming as it does just a few weeks after the release of a landmark survey into the forces driving young Africans towards violent extremism.

Published by UNDP, Journey to Extremism in Africa: drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment presents compelling evidence that violent extremism can never be beaten if feelings of deprivation and marginalization, especially among the young, are not addressed.

Almost 500 former–or in occasional cases current–voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or Ansar Dine were interviewed for the survey. Most cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as reasons for joining the groups, with very few mentioning religious ideology.

In Kenya as in many other countries, the regions acknowledged to be flashpoints for radicalisation and violent extremism are synonymous with extreme poverty, high illiteracy levels and under-investment in basic services. The majority of those living in these regions have for years believed themselves to be excluded from the national development agenda.

The findings drive home the reality that a focus on security-led responses to extremism cannot provide lasting solutions, but rather that confronting the challenges of radicalism and terrorist threats, particularly in Africa, calls for action on a range of social, cultural, economic and political fronts.

The report estimates that extremism caused 33,000 deaths in Africa between 2011 and 2016, with related displacement and economic devastation causing some of the worst humanitarian disasters on the continent.

Numerous studies show that increasing inequality hinders economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increases political and social tensions and drives instability and conflict.

Achim Steiner, the UNDP Administrator at an event in New York about SDGs in Action: Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Inclusive Prosperity in a Changing World, emphasized, “The critical importance of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first”.

A further challenge to Africa’s progress is highlighted in the latest UNDP Africa Human Development Report, which shows that gender inequalities continue to hobble the continent’s structural, economic and social transformation.

When women attain higher measures of economic and social wellbeing, benefits accrue to all of society. Yet too many women and girls, simply because of their gender, cannot fulfil their potential due to lack of education, early marriage, sexual and physical violence, inadequate family planning services, and high incidences of maternal mortality.

According to the UNDP report, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, equivalent to about six percent of the region’s GDP.

The challenge of creating economic opportunities for Africa’s youth is monumental. Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed, adding to existing social and economic pressures.

Government can help by creating a policy environment that encourages the young to become entrepreneurs and job creators. Simplifying registration processes, offering tax incentives, and incentivising the informal sector that employs the overwhelming majority of Kenyans would be a step in the right direction. Reforming an education system that ill-prepares the young for entrepreneurship and business would be another.

With only 13 years to achieve the SDGs, the search for solutions must make use of the evidence on the causes, consequences and trajectories of violent extremism. If Africa is to curtail the spread of violent extremism and achieve sustainable development, there must be determined focus on the health, education and employment of disadvantaged youth.

Only by tackling entrenched inequalities both economic and gender-based can Africa achieve sustainable prosperity, and end the scourge of poverty.

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Dams Hurt Indigenous and Fishing Communities in Brazilian Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:02:39 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152515 The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The change in […]

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The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river, caused by the installation of four hydropower plants, one in operation since 2015 and the others still under construction, is apparently reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein.

“When the water level rises, the fish swim into the ‘igapó’ and they are trapped when the level suddenly drops with unusual speed,” explained 26-year-old Aurinelson Kirixi. The “igapó” is a Brazilian term that refers to the forested, floodable shore of Amazon jungle rivers where aquatic animals seek food.

That includes the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), a species still abundant in the Brazilian Amazon, whose meat is “as important as fish for us,” the young Munduruku man told IPS during a tour of the indigenous territories affected by the hydroelectric plants.

“It’s even tastier than fish,” he agreed with his two fellow students. But “it is in danger of extinction; today we see them in smaller numbers and possibly our children will only see them in photos,” lamented Dorivan Kirixi, also 26.

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream,” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru, who could not study Administration because the degree is not offered in Alta Floresta, a city of 50,000 people in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil.

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. To return to their homes they have to travel at least eight hours, half by road and the other half by river.

This year they began to study law thanks to scholarships paid by the São Manoel Hydroelectric Plant – also known as the Teles Pires Plant, which is the nearest to the indigenous lands – as part of the compensation measures for damage caused by the project.

They offered a total of seven scholarships for the three affected indigenous communities: the Apiaká, Kayabí and Munduruku, the latter of which is the largest indigenous group in the Tapajós river basin, formed by the confluence of the Teles Pires and Juruena rivers.

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The compensations for the indigenous communities were few in number and poorly carried out: “precariously built houses and health posts,” said Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

“The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.

An oil spill further contaminated the river in November 2016. The hydroelectric plants denied any responsibility, but distributed mineral water to the indigenous villages, recalled Metuktire, whose last name is the name of his ethnic group, a subgroup of the Kayapó people.

Fisherpersons are another group directly affected by the drastic modification of the course of the river by the hydropower dams, because their lives depend on flowing water.

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon.

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station, as part of the Basic Environmental Program that the company that built and will operate the dam must carry out.

Colider, which will start operating in mid-2018, is the smallest of the four plants that are being built on a 450-km stretch in the middle course of the river, with a capacity of 300 MW and a 183-sq-km reservoir.

The others are the Teles Pires and São Manoel plants, downstream, and Sinop, upstream. The entire complex will add 3,228 megawatts of power and 746 square kilometers of reservoirs.

These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,” he told IPS.

The Teles Pires river is suffering from the accumulated effects of polluting activities, such as soy monoculture, with intensive use of agrochemicals, livestock farming and mining, he pointed out.

The Colider and Sinop plants do not directly affect indigenous lands such as those located downstream, but they do affect fisherpersons.

“They killed many fish with their explosions and digging,” said Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso.

“Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said.

At the age of 68, she now does administrative work. But she was a fisherwoman for more than two decades, and her husband still works as a fisherman, the activity that allowed them, like other colleagues, to live well and buy a house.

 Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

They are currently struggling to obtain better conditions for the sector, such as a warehouse and a refrigerated truck that would allow them to ”collect” the fish from the widely spread members and sell them in the market.

One difficulty facing this colony is the dispersion of its members throughout 32 municipalities. The association at one point had 723 members, but now there are only 290, mainlyin the cities of Colider and Sinop, from which the nearby hydroelectric plants take their names.

Many have retired, others have given up. “We are an endangered species,” Duleba lamented to IPS.

The compensations offered by the hydroelectric companies for the damage caused do not include a focus on helping small-scale fisherpersons recover their livelihoods, as Duleba and other activists had hoped.

The headquarters of the Colony, which will be built by the Sinop Power Company, owner of the power plant of the same name, will be more of a tourist complex, with a restaurant, lookout, swimming pools and soccer field, on the river bank, 23 km from the city .

There will be a berth and an ice factory which could be useful for fishing, but not the fishing village, with its houses and infrastructure, which Duleba tried to negotiate.

In Colider, fisherpersons preferred compensation in cash, instead of collective projects, she lamented.

Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources.

But its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production.

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Stepping Forward to Lead on Indigenous Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stepping-forward-lead-indigenous-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stepping-forward-lead-indigenous-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stepping-forward-lead-indigenous-rights/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:26:29 +0000 Rukka Sombolinggi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152485 *Rukka Sombolinggi is the new Secretary General of Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), known as the Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago

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Indigenous communities that live in traditional forests likes these on the Indonesian island of Lombok are not consulted when such lands are handed over to commercial entities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Rukka Sombolinggi
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

When nine women farmers from the Kendeng community in Central Java encased their feet in cement blocks last year, many indigenous advocates understood how that felt. Dressed in their traditional clothing, these women protested outside the State Palace in Jakarta to block a proposed cement plant that would pollute the rivers flowing through their villages. Their livelihoods as farmers were under threat, as was their cultural heritage.

These women who so inspire me, like most Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia, have lived on their land for generations without official recognition of their rights. Their communities began long before current laws were written—in fact, long before Indonesia was a country.

At first, their protest—hundreds of miles away from their homes—was successful. It brought attention to their plight and led the Supreme Court to rule in 2016 that factory construction must stop. But in response, the local government issued new environmental permits and the construction started again.

This prompted the women to renew their resistance—this time joined by men. More than 100 farmers have been protesting, and the added attention continues to press the local government and its private sector partner to comply with the court ruling.

This is how progress moves in Indonesia: for every two steps forward, we take one step back. In 2013, after decades of indigenous advocacy, the Indonesian Constitutional Court ruled that the government has no right to indigenous forests and must return them to their customary owners.

President Joko Widodo was elected in 2014 with the promise of recognizing indigenous rights to 9 million hectares of land—and yet, in 2017, his administration has only recognized indigenous rights to 13,000 hectares.

Many of those on the frontlines defending indigenous lands and resources are women. Before the Dutch colonized Indonesia, women had a prominent role in community governance and often served as judges and chiefs.

But European influences forced women into subservient roles. It wasn’t until my mother’s generation that indigenous women started to reassume their traditional leadership.

Aleta Baun, a farmer from the Mollo people in the western part of Timor, showed us all how this is done. When a mining company started digging into Mutis Mountain, fouling the headwaters of the rivers that run through the Mollo’s territory and desecrating one of their sacred places, Mama Aleta, as she is affectionately known, led the resistance.

She organized the remote villages of her people, dodging assassination attempts along the way, and led a year-long occupation of the mining site by women weavers that eventually stopped the operation.

And we must not forget Nai Sinta Sibarani, who led her community, the Batak in North Sumatra, in resisting Inti Indorayon—a mega-sized pulp and paper company—under the oppressive General Suharto regime in the early 1990s.

Yet Indonesia’s laws afford women like Mama Aleta and Nai Sinta Sibarani even less protection for their lands than men. A recent analysis of 30 developing countries from Rights and Resources Initiative found that Indonesia is one of only two countries that does not include equal protection for women in its constitution.

In addition, not one of the country’s six legal frameworks regulating community forests adequately protects women’s rights to inheritance, community membership, governance, or dispute resolution, which are key for women to assert their voice, achieve economic security, and play a leadership role in their communities.

Because women are so often responsible for managing their customary forests and feeding their communities, this lack of protection for women leaves entire communities vulnerable. Huge swathes of indigenous lands have already been leased or sold to oil palm plantations and other developments, resulting in deforestation and forest fires. Indonesia now has one of the most unequal land distribution in the world.

A recent study on conflicts between communities and companies in Indonesia and seven other Southeast Asian countries found that almost half were driven primarily by Indigenous Peoples being forced from their homes. This can be particularly hard on women, who so often depend on the lands for their livelihoods.

The Kendeng farmers and Mollo weavers rely on the land for traditional dyes as they handcraft their textiles, as do the Dayak basket weavers from Kalimantan and the Baduy in Western Java.

As I take the lead of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (known by its Bahasa acronym, AMAN), a coalition of more than 2,300 indigenous communities throughout Indonesia, I draw my strength from Mama Aleta, the women of Kendeng, and many others—including my own mother, whose tireless advocacy for women’s rights helped open the doors I have walked through.

Indigenous women will not sit idly by while their rights to their lands are violated—the lands that sustain them and are part of who they are as Indigenous Peoples. When our communities’ lands and livelihoods are threatened, we will continue to be on the front lines leading the resistance. It is time for our government to recognize this, and to recognize and protect our rights.

*Rukka Sombolinggi is the first woman to lead the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (known by their acronym in Bahasa, AMAN).

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The Tuxá Indigenous Paradise, Submerged under Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/#respond Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:43:52 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152296 The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir. […]

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Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS)

The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.

Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.

While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone." -- Manoel Jurum Afé

“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.

The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.

After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.

After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.

The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.

Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.

But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.

She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.

“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her "marakú", a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

Dorinha Tuxá, a leader of the native Tuxá people, sings to her sacred river and smokes her “marakú”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, to ask her ancestors to help them get the lands which were promised to them when they were evicted from their island to make way for a dam in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

After three decades of living with other local people, the Tuxás stopped wearing their native clothes, although for special occasions and rituals they put on their “cocares” (traditional feather headdresses).

They welcomed IPS with a “toré” – a collective dance open to outsiders. Another religious ceremony, “the particular”, is reserved for members of the community. That is how they honour the “enchanted”, their spirits or reincarnated ancestors.

But they are also Catholics and very devoted to Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Rodelas, which was named after Captain Francisco Rodelas, considered the first chief who fought alongside the Portuguese against the Dutch occupation of northeast Brazil in the 17th century.

Armando Apaká Caramuru Tuxá is a “pajé” – guardian of the Tuxá traditions.

“The waters covered the land where our ancestors lived. Many times I saw my grandfather sitting at the foot of a jua (Ziziphus joazeiro, a tree typical of the eco-region of the semi-arid Northeast), there on the island talking to them up there (in the sky),” he said.

“We lost all that. That place which was sacred to us was submerged under water,” he said, sadly.

The Tuxá people, who for centuries were fishermen, hunters, gatherers and farmers, practically gave up their subsistence crops in their new location.

Some bought small parcels of land and grow cash crops, such as coconuts.

“We need to improve our quality of life. Before we used to live on what we produced from agriculture and fishing. Today that is not possible, so we want to return to agriculture, and to do that we need our land,” Chief Uilton Tuxá told IPS.

In 2014, a decree declared some 4,392 hectares of land an “area of social interest” in order to expropriate it and transfer it to the Tuxá people.

In June of this year, they won a lawsuit in a federal court, which ruled that the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) had three months to create a working group to begin the demarcation process. It also set
a new compensation to be paid to the Tuxá people.

But distrustful of the state bureaucracy and the courts, the Tuxá people decided to occupy Surubabel, the area near their village, on the banks of the reservoir, which was expropriated in order for it to be demarcated in their favor, but this never happened.

They began to build a new village there, in what they call “the recovery” of their lands.

“The occupation of this land by us, the Tuxá people, represents the rekindling of the flame of our identity as an indigenous people native to this riverbank. We were already here, since the beginning of the colonization process, even in the 16th century when the first catechists arrived,” argued Uilton Tuxá.

“We want to build this small village for the government to fulfill its obligations and the order to delimit our territory,” he said.

During the week they have other activities. They are public employees or work on their plots of land. But on Saturdays they load their tools in their vehicles and build their houses in the traditional way.

“Nowadays a lot of land in this sacred territory of the Tuxás is being invaded by non-indigenous people and also by indigenous people from other ethnic groups,” chief Xirlene Liliana Xurichana Tuxá told IPS.

“We were the first indigenous people from the Northeast to be recognized and we are the last to have the right to our land. This is just the beginning. If the justice system does not grant us our right to continue the dialogue, we will adopt forceful measures, we will mobilise. We are tired of being the good guys,” she warned, speaking as a community leader.

Meanwhile, the small portion of their ancestral land that was not submerged, and the land they occupy now, are threatened by new megaprojects.

These lands were left in the middle of two canals, on the north axis of the diversion of the São Francisco River, a project that is still under construction, which is to supply 12 million people with water.

“The Tuxá people have suffered impacts, above and beyond the dam. There is also the diversion of the river and the possibility that they might build a nuclear plant will also affect us,” said Uilton Tuxá, smoking his marakú during a break.

They say the marakú attracts protective forces. And this time they hope these forces will help them to get the land promised to them when their ancestral land was taken away, and that they will not lose it again to new megaprojects.

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Marginalised Minorities and Homeless Especially Hard-hit by Mexico’s Quakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 23:45:17 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152266 Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City. The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring […]

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A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City.

The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla, caused structural damage to the building, which like many other buildings in the city is in danger of collapsing.

The two-storey building, inhabited by indigenous families since 2007, had already been damaged by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 10,000 lives on September 19, 1985 in the Mexican capital, exactly 32 years before the one that hit the city a week ago."These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake…The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore.” -- Alicia Vargas

Since Sept. 19 “we have been sleeping outside, because the house is badly damaged and may collapse. We do not want to go to a shelter, because they could take the building away from us,” explained Fernández, a mother of two who works as an informal vendor.

The residents of the house, including 16 children, set up a tent on the sidewalk, where they take shelter, cook and sleep while looking after their battered house and belongings inside.

Fernández, a member of the non-governmental “Hadi” (hello in the Ñahñú language) Otomí Indigenous Community, told IPS that humanitarian aid received so far came from non-governmental organisations and individual citizens.

But she criticised what she described as disregard from the authorities towards them and the discrimination exhibited by some neighbors.

“It is unfair that they discriminate against us for being indigenous and poor. Nobody deserves that treatment,” she said.

The earthquake had a death toll of at least 331 people – mostly in Mexico City – while at least 33 buildings collapsed and another 3,800 were partially or totally damaged.

Most schools resumed classes on Monday Sept. 25, as did economic activity and administrative work, but thousands of students and employees are reluctant to return to their educational institutions and workplaces until they have guarantees that the buildings are safe.

A similar situation is faced by another Ñahñú community living in a different rundown, abandoned building in a neighborhood in the centre of the capital, which has a population of nearly nine million people and which exceeds 21 million when adding the greater metropolitan area.

After the earthquake they set up a camp in the street next to the building that is damaged but still standing, where they sleep, cook and eat. Their refusal to move to a shelter is due to the fear of eviction and the loss of their home and belongings.

The 10 Nahñús families who were living in an old house in Mexico City since 2007 are now living outside the building due to the structural damages caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake. They are staying there in order to protect their property and belongings and to demand support for access to housing. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

The 10 Nahñús families who were living in an old house in Mexico City since 2007 are now living outside the building due to the structural damages caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake. They are staying there in order to protect their property and belongings and to demand support for access to housing. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

“We have organised ourselves to prepare food and watch over our things. The government has not taken care of us. They always ignore indigenous people,” complained Telésforo Francisco Martínez, a member of the group of 35 families who inhabit the property.

The whiteness of three large tents and a smaller one contrasts with the black canvas that protects the entrance to the building. Two camping tents complete the makeshift camp, together with two campfires and a few small tables.

These indigenous people work in the informal sector, selling traditional crafts and art, cleaning cars on the streets or cleaning houses.

“We have not been able to work, so we have no income,” said Martínez, who cleans car windshields on the streets.

Since 1986, some 2,000 Ñahñú natives have migrated to Mexico City from the municipality of Santiago Mezquititlán in the central state of Querétaro, and they now live in eight shantytowns in neighborhoods in the center-west of the capital.

Mexico City attracts thousands of people from other parts of the country who leave their towns to seek an income in the informal economy and often live in slums on the outskirts of the city.

The Ñahñús, who numbered 623,098 in 2015, are one of 69 native peoples in Mexico, representing about 12 million people, out of a total population of 129 million.

About 1.2 million indigenous people live in the capital, according to data from the non-governmental Interdisciplinary Center for Social Development (Cides).

“These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake,” Cides director Alicia Vargas told IPS.

“The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore,” she said.

For Vargas, whose organisation works with these minorities, these groups have been “traditionally invisible, especially children” and their level of vulnerability is exacerbated by disasters and the exclusion and discrimination they suffer.

The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

“The State’s response is to come and assess the properties and evict them, leaving them on the streets, with nothing. They have not offered them any alternative. There is no official response from any government housing body to temporarily resolve their situation,” the activist complained.

The homeless, forgotten as always

The homeless have also suffered from the earthquake, which has exacerbated their extreme poverty.

“It’s the same as with historically excluded groups: in times of disaster, they always do worse. The disaster is so severe that no one remembers these groups. On the street they are more on their own than ever,” the director of the non-governmental organisation El Caracol, Luis Hernández, told IPS.

After the earthquake, squads of 25 community workers with El Caracol, which works with street people, visited groups at risk in different Mexico City neighbourhoods.

The monitoring found that they had received food, but the services they traditionally have access to – such as preventive health care – are now unavailable to them, as these services have been reoriented to care for those affected by the deadly earthquake.

“That neglect exacerbates their vulnerability. No governmental or private institution has approached them to provide assistance. They have remained on the streets and have not been evacuated or taken to shelters,” said Hernández, who noted that many homeless people participated in the efforts to rescue people trapped in damaged buildings.

In Mexico City, 6,774 people are homeless and of these, 4,354 stay in public spaces, and 2,400 in public and private shelters, according to the Census of Homeless People in August, carried out by the Ministry of Social Development.

Of the homeless, 5,912 are men and 862 are women. The majority are between the ages of 18 and 49 and nearly 40 percent have come from other states seeking work.

IPS found at least four people on the street who had received no kind of assistance, and were wandering about without being aware of where they were or what had happened.

In recent years, organisations such as El Caracol have denounced violations of the rights of the homeless, such as eviction from bridges and avenues, without offering them alternative shelter.

Fernández and Martínez just want a decent place to live. “We want to live here…we want them to tear the house down and build housing,” said Fernandez.

Martínez, for his part, complained about the slow process of regularisation of ownership of the property. “We have already completed it and they have not given us an answer. We don’t want anything for free, we just want to be taken into account,” he said.

For Vargas, the cleaning of debris, the installation of temporary housing, the provision of basic services and a safe space for about 100 children are urgent needs.

“Perhaps given this situation they can have access to social housing. In the medium-term, what is necessary is the immediate resolution of the definition of land to build housing for these families, with accessible credits. The indigenous population are in the areas of highest risk in the city, with the worst overcrowding,” he said.

Hernández proposed developing protection policies during emergencies. “What we are worried about is that they could be evicted from their areas, unless it is due to safety issues caused by collapses or demolitions,” he said.

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Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attention in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:36:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152204 The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders. It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who […]

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An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders.

It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who on Aug. 1 participated in a protest in the southern Patagonian province of Chubut by Mapuche indigenous people, who were violently evicted by security forces. Since then, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

This mobilised broad sectors of society, and brought out of the shadows a conflict that in recent years has flared up into violence on many occasions, but which historically has been given little attention.

“I hope the sad incident involving Santiago Maldonado will help Argentina understand that it is necessary and possible to find legal and political solutions for theindigenous question,” said Gabriel Seghezzo, director of the Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz) .

“It is imperative to work to defuse conflicts, because otherwise, the violence will continue,” added the head of Fundapaz, anorganisation that works to improve the living conditions of communities living in the Argentine portion of the Chaco, a vast subtropical forest that extends to Paraguay and Bolivia.

Fundapaz was one of the organisations that worked for more than 20 years on a territorial claim of rural lands in the northwestern province of Salta, which ended in 2014, when the local government transferred ownership of 643,000 hectares to the families that lived there.

Communal ownership of over 400,000 hectares was recognised for members of the Wichi, Toba, Tapiete, Chulupí and Chorote indigenous peoples, while the rest was granted in joint ownership to 463 non-indigenous peasant families.

The case, however, was merely one happy exception, since the vast majority of the country’s indigenous communities still do not have title to their lands.

Ten years ago, the government launched the National Programme for the Survey of Indigenous Territories, in which 1,532 communities were registered. To date, only 423 of them have been surveyed, although they do not yet have title deeds, while there are another 401 in process.

According to the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), these 824 communities are demanding that 8,414,124 hectares be recognised as their ancestral lands. That is bigger than several countries in the continent, such as Panama or Costa Rica, but it is only about three percent of the 2,780,400 square km of the Argentine territory.

In the remaining communities, the survey has not even started.

This means the constitution, which recognises “the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples” and guarantees not only “respect for their identity and the right to a bilingual and intercultural education”, but also “the communal possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy,” is not being fulfilled.

These principles were incorporated in the constitution during the latest reform, in 1994, and marked a tremendous paradigm shift for a nation that has historically seen native people as an alien element, to be controlled.

"Where is he?" That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“Where is he?” That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In fact, up to 1994, Argentina’s laws actually instructed the authorities to “preserve the peaceful treatment of Indians and promote their conversion to Catholicism.”

However, the extraordinary progress on paper seems to have brought few concrete improvements for native people, whose proportion in the Argentine population is difficult to establish.

In the last National Census in 2010, 955,032 people identified themselves as belonging to or descended from an indigenous group, which represented 2.38 percent of the total population at that time of 40,117,096.

But the number of indigenous people is believed to be higher, since many people are reluctant to acknowledge indigenous roots, due to the historical discrimination and stigma that native people have suffered. The largest indigenous groups are the Mapuche in the south, the Tobas in the Chaco region, and the Guarani in the northeast.

“Since the constitutional reform that recognised indigenous peoples’ rights, we have had 23 years of absolute failure of public policies to solve the indigenous question. There has been a terrible postponement of the issue by all government administrations in this period,” said Raúl Ferreyra, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Buenos Aires.

For Ferreyra, “land disputes have clear roots in the uncontrolled advance of soy monoculture in the north of the country, and the passage to foreign hands of vast swathes of land in the south.”

“What we need is dialogue, but there is a lack of will and of tools,” he told IPS.

What happened with the land question is a good example of the gap between rules and reality.

In November 2006, the national Congress passed Law 26,160 on Indigenous Communities, which declared an “emergency with regard to the possession and ownership of indigenous territories” for four years.

During that period, which was to be used to determine which are the ancestral lands of the communities, as a preliminary step to the granting of title deeds, evictions were banned, even if a court order existed.

However, little progress was made on the survey, despite the fact that Congress voted for an extension of the original term of four years twice, for a total of 11 years.

The latest extension expires in November and dozens of social organisations across the country have called for its renewal until 2021, while Congress will begin debating the fate of the law on Sept. 27.

The demand was backed by hundreds of intellectuals, in a public letter in which they pointed out that “in Argentina, the recognition of indigenous peoples’ collective rights over their ancestral territories is increasingly irreconcilable with the expansion of profitable lands for capital.”

According to a study by global rights watchdog Amnesty International, there are 225 conflicts in the country involving indigenous communities, nearly all of them over land.

In 24 of them there were acts of violence with the intervention of the security forces, and even deaths. One case was the 2009 murder of Javier Chocobar, the leader of a Diaguitacommunityin the northwestern province of Tucumán, which is still unsolved.

“In all these years, many judges have continued to order evictions of indigenous communities despite the law prohibiting it. That is why we believe that if the emergency is not extended, the situation will get worse, “explained BelénLeguizamón, coordinator of the Indigenous Rights area of the Lawyers Association for Human Rights and Social Studies in Northwest Argentina (ANDHES).

In her view, “the law is an umbrella with holes, but an umbrella nonetheless.”

“The survey of Argentina’s indigenous territories should already have been completed, and today we should be studying the granting of title deeds on lands. We have to work against the strong discrimination that not only exists on the part of authorities and the mainstream media, but also among some sectors of society,” Leguizamón told IPS.

As an example, she noted that “schools in Argentina still teach that indigenous people belong to a past that no longer exists.”

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Refugee Camps “bursting at the seams” in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh/#respond Sat, 09 Sep 2017 06:26:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152002 A dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing Myanmar is placing a huge strain on already very limited resources in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said. In the last two weeks alone, an estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees had sought safety in Bangladesh amid escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. “The situation is very […]

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New arrivals struggle to find space in the already-overcrowded Kutupalong camp, which saw over 16,000 new arrivals within a week of the outbreak of violence in Myanmar on 25 August 2017. Credit: UNHCR/Vivian Tan

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2017 (IPS)

A dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing Myanmar is placing a huge strain on already very limited resources in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

In the last two weeks alone, an estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees had sought safety in Bangladesh amid escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

“The situation is very grave,” said UNCHR Bangladesh’s spokesperson Joseph Tripura to IPS.

“There are people everywhere and refugees are scattered…[the camps] are at a point of saturation,” he continued.

Two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in south-east Bangladesh has seen its population more than double, from nearly 34,000 to over 70,000 Rohingya refugees.

“These are people that have been walking for days, many of them are tired and hungry and many are traumatized,” Tripura said.

Though many arrive on foot, refugees are now seeking alternative and risky routes including a five-hour boat ride across the Bay of Bengal.

One family of seven, one of whom was born just nine days ago, told UNHCR that they walked three days through the jungle to Myanmar’s border before taking a fishing boat to neighboring Bangladesh.

At least 300 boats carrying refugees arrived at Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration reported.

“There are many more waiting for boats,” another family told UNHCR.

“It would take a month to bring them all.”

Though both families reached Bangladesh’s shores safely, others are not so lucky.

A boat carrying at least five children sank on Wednesday and Bangladeshi border guards have reportedly pulled out the bodies of up to 40 Rohingya Muslims last week.

Humanitarian agencies have also reported that many refugees are arriving with serious medical needs including some that have been injured by gunshots and bomb blasts.

Myanmar’s military has repeatedly denied targeting Rohingya Muslims.

With refugee camps already “bursting at the seams”, many new arrivals have no shelter, food or water and limited access to health services.

UNHCR said that refugees are now squatting in makeshift shelters along the road and on available land in the border areas of Ukhiya and Teknaf.

The agency estimated that up to 300,000 Rohingya Muslims may cross the border into Bangladesh.

Tripura told IPS that there is an urgent need for more life-saving resources including more land and shelters. “We are not able to reach everyone and it is growing faster,” he said.

The agency also called for swift action to end the conflict in Myanmar.

“[The Government of Myanmar] needs to understand the underlying root causes of this problem and they should create a conducive environment so these refugees can feel safe to go back—it is a political decision that needs to be made as early as possible,” Tripura said.

“We have been dealing with this situation for a long time, but we are not seeing any improvement…it is getting worse,” he concluded.

The Rohingya Muslim community has faced a long history of repression in Myanmar where their status as citizens is disputed and their movement and access to social services is restricted, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

Prior to the most recent exodus, Bangladesh had already been hosting an estimated 500,000 Rohingya Muslims for over three decades.

The influx began after Myanmar’s military launched “clearance operations” following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 by an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Many have appealed to Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi including the Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu who fought apartheid in his home country of South Africa.

“For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people,” Tutu wrote in a letter.

He added that it was “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country” that “is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people.”

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Once Decimated by AIDS, Zimbabwe’s Khoisan Tribe Embraces Treatmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 13:13:21 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151858 Sixty-seven-year-old Hloniphani Sidingo gives a broad smile while popping out through the gate of a clinic in her village, as she heads home clutching containers of anti-retroviral pills. The first Bantu people to dwell in present-day Zimbabwe, the Khoisan, also known as the Bushmen or Basagwa, populate remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, […]

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Members of Zimbabwe’s Khoisan tribe perform a traditional dance during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign conducted by Tsoro-O-Tso San, a development trust that aids the tribe. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
TSHOLOTSHO, Zimbabwe, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Sixty-seven-year-old Hloniphani Sidingo gives a broad smile while popping out through the gate of a clinic in her village, as she heads home clutching containers of anti-retroviral pills.

The first Bantu people to dwell in present-day Zimbabwe, the Khoisan, also known as the Bushmen or Basagwa, populate remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Here, the Khoisan community is found in Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho district, where many like Sidingo are domiciled. Other Khoisans live in Plumtree in this country’s Matabeleland South province.

Now, with the word spreading far and wide about AIDS awareness, many Khoisans like Sidingo have joined the fight against the disease. And thanks to the Zimbabwean government’s anti-retroviral initiative, she is still alive more than 16 years after she tested positive for HIV.

“I’m so happy. I’m happy I continue to receive my share of treatment pills from government and this keeps me going,” Sidingo told IPS.

“AIDS killed my husband and my children – five of them,” she said. “I’m not taking chances because I want to survive. My husband back in the days didn’t trust community health workers when they approached us urging us to embrace HIV/AIDS tests and get treatment if we have the disease. Ntungwa, my husband, actually thought health workers were up to no good and avoided them, resulting even in our children, who also later died of AIDS, doing like their father,” added Sidingo.

Meanwhile, organisations catering for the welfare of the Khoisan here say the dread and shame surrounding HIV/AIDS is fading among members of the tribe.

“The Khoisan now understand the existence of the (AIDS) virus and almost all who are infected are on ARVs,” Davy Ndlovu, Programmes Manager for Tsoro-O-Tso San, a development trust that aids Khoisan people in Zimbabwe, told IPS.

But while success stories are there to be told about the ancient tribe’s strides in combatting HIV/AIDS, a combination of poverty and ignorance has sometimes disrupted ARV treatment.

“As you might be aware, the San are a poor people and when the nursing staff here once told them not to take the medication on an empty stomach, this was interpreted in that when one had no food for that day, one would not take his or her medication. Due to this ignorance, a number of Khoisan people living with AIDS have lost their lives,” Ndlovu said.

While the tribe now embraces ARV medication, they still face the burden of having to walk long distances to access treatment, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

“The other issue has to do with reviews where people are expected to travel to the nearest hospital, which is about 15 to 20 kilometres away. When they fail to raise transport money, they just stay and miss the review,” said Ndlovu.

Despite such hurdles, for Khoisans living with HIV like Sidingo, fighting the disease has become top priority.

“I have learnt to adhere to taking my medication consistently. Many people in my community now understand the importance of getting tested for HIV,” Sidingo told IPS.

Ndlovu said like Sidingo, many Khoisans now live with HIV and are trying to cope with the virus like everybody else, in  a country where 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

To Ndlovu, “They (the Khoisan) are no longer discriminated against in the AIDS battle.”

Of the 2,500 Khoisan people domiciled in Zimbabwe, approximately 800 of them now live with HIV/AIDS, about a third of the population, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

Meanwhile, the rush to get tested for HIV/AIDS amongst Zimbabwe’s Khoisan tribe comes at a time the tribe stands accused of engaging in careless sex habits, exposing the tribe to the ravages of AIDS.

“The biggest threat is that the San still practice casual sex with no protection at all. Sex among the San is a pastime to be enjoyed and you still find people sharing girlfriends – young and old do this,” Ndlovu of the Tsoro-O-Tso San told IPS.

“Organisations like Medicine Sen Frontiers (MSF) have worked with the Khoisan tribe on issues related to HIV/AIDS. A number of the Khoisans, both male and female, the youths in particular, have been trained as peer HIV/AIDS educators with the intention to teach people issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, safe sex, and treatment,” said Ndlovu.

The Zimbabwean government’s National Aids Council fosters also HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns amongst the country’s ancient tribe, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

To do this, NAC works in conjunction with the country’s Ministry of Health to provide anti-retroviral drugs to the minority tribe, a gesture that has put smiles on many HIV-positive Khoisans like Sidingo.

“Back in the years, as the Khoisan we thought our people were being bewitched as we saw them succumbing to AIDS, but thanks to the treatment, we have started to live on even with the virus,” Sidingo told IPS.

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Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 02:01:46 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151824 “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS. […]

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Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

“There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.

But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.

To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.

“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.

For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”

In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.

He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.

According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.

Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.

Specific policies for women

“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”

“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.

“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.

The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”

Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”

“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.

“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.

He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.

Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.

In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.

The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.

Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.

“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.

“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.

“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.

Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.

There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”

And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.

“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.

“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.

Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.

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Forced Evictions, Rights Abuses of Maasai People in Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/forced-evictions-rights-abuses-maasai-people-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forced-evictions-rights-abuses-maasai-people-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/forced-evictions-rights-abuses-maasai-people-tanzania/#comments Mon, 28 Aug 2017 10:17:07 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151804 Indigenous Maasai people in Loliondo region,Tanzania have been facing new cases of forced evictions and human rights violations, a major international organisation supporting indigenous peoples’ struggle for human rights and self-determination warned. “Forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are right now happening in Tanzania,” the International Working Group for […]

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A plume of smoke billowing from a burnt hut in Loliondo, Tanzania on16 August 2017. Photo: courtesy of IWGIA.

A plume of smoke billowing from a burnt hut in Loliondo, Tanzania on16 August 2017. Photo: courtesy of IWGIA.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 28 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous Maasai people in Loliondo region,Tanzania have been facing new cases of forced evictions and human rights violations, a major international organisation supporting indigenous peoples’ struggle for human rights and self-determination warned.

“Forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are right now happening in Tanzania,” the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has alerted quoting “reliable information.”

The reported violations have been taking place on registered village land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, IWGIA informs in an “evidence-based urgent alert.”

“Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo are at the moment being subjected to serious human rights violations including forced evictions, burning of houses, loss of property and livestock and serious harassment,” Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Land Rights (Africa), confirmed to IPS.

“They find themselves in a very serious situation with food insecurity and impoverishment and many are suffering from psychological trauma,” she added.

 

Not the First Time

Asked if it is about an unprecedented case, Wiben Jensen told IPS “The Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo have been subjected to similar forced evictions and human rights violations previously, such as in 2009.”

It is very important to find “a long lasting solution that will guarantee that no further evictions will take place and that the rights of the pastoralists to their legally registered village lands are secured,” she stressed.

A lot of evictions and human rights violations toward pastoralists have reportedly taken place over the years in Tanzania, as documented in IWGIA’s report: Tanzania Pastoralists threatened: eviction, human rights violations and loss of livelihood.

The report explores the evictions of pastoralists and other conflicts over pastoralists’ land in Tanzania, with focus on the past decade. “Although most of these evictions and land based conflicts have been documented, the associated human and legal rights violations have increasingly lead to concern” amongst civil society.

 

Maasai houses reduce to ashes - August 2017. Photo: IWGIA.

Maasai houses reduce to ashes – August 2017. Photo: IWGIA.

 

Loss of Livelihood and Property

“According to community testimonies provided in field work, it was found that not only are pastoralists losing their legitimate village land through government endorsed evictions and land encroachments, but these eviction processes and conflicts lead to loss of livelihood and loss of property.”

It was further alleged that serious human and legal rights violations are committed during eviction processes, none of which have been addressed, warns the study.

“Reports indicate that Maasai houses/bomas have been burned down, livestock have been lost, people have been forced to pay fines, and have been harassed and threatened,” IWGIA informed in its latest alert, adding that it has been reported that there is lack of water and food and that men, women, children and the elderly have to sleep out with no shelter.

“Families are being separated, and many people are now suffering from psychological trauma because of the evictions and harassment.” The evictions are creating food insecurity and lead to impoverishment.

 

Homeless

The Copenhagen-based international human rights organisation supporting indigenous peoples right to territory, control of land and resources, cultural integrity, and the right to development, also informs that precise data at this time is not available, but according to the information received the following violations have taken place:

— On the 13 and 14 August 2017, an estimated 185 Maasai bomas (homesteads) were burned down by Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) rangers, supported by police from Loliondo.

As a result, it is estimated that approximately 6.800 people have been rendered homeless, had most of their property destroyed and been left without any shelter, food or water. The number is  still increasing since the violent eviction is still going on.

People’s livestock are also unprotected and many have scattered into the surrounding areas.

— It is yet to be established how many livestock have been lost. However, it is reported that more than 2000 livestock have been lost in Ololosokwa village alone.

The eviction operation started on the 13 August in Ololosokwan village, and on 14  August the operation reportedly continued in several other areas: Oloosek, Illoibor Ariak, Endashata areas in Ololosokwan village, Oleng’usa area in Kirtalo village, Oloorkiku area in Oloipiri village and Loopilukuny area in Oloirien village.

“All the affected areas are classified as legally registered village land as per the Village Land Act no. 5 of 1999 under the formal administration of their respective village governments as per the Local Government Act, adds IWGIA.

Although accurate figures are hard to arrive at since ethnic groups are not included in the population census, the estimated number of Maasai in Tanzania is around 430,000.

 

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes - they want to be heard and respected. Photo: IWGIA

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes – they want to be heard and respected. Photo: IWGIA

 

Severe Drought

The evictions take place at a point of time where pastoralists are trying to cope with a serious drought in the area, which has diminished the quantity and quality of pastures for their livestock, IWGIA adds.

There are reported incidents of pastoralists grazing their livestock within the Serengeti National Park, and having to pay massive fines to the [Serengeti National Park] SENAPA rangers, the organisation warns.

“It is reported that even pastoralists grazing their cattle outside the park boundaries have been fined. In conjunction with this, it is also reported that at least one young man from Olosokwan village has been shot and seriously injured by SENAPA rangers outside Serengeti National Park.”

“Now the on-going evictions and harassment, coupled as it is with the drought, make the local peoples’ situation even more desperate.”

 

Who Ordered the Evictions and Why?

Asked who ordered the evictions and why, IWGIA told IPS that it is not entirely clear who ordered the eviction. Reportedly there was no consultation at either District Council or Village Government level, nor with the people directly affected, which means there was no agreement on the evictions either.

There was no warning given.

“The evictions and human rights violations are carried out by armed SENAPA and [Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority] NCAA rangers supported by Loliondo police officers.”

It is also not clear why the evictions are happening and no official reason has so far been given, adds IWGIA. “It will be important to clearly establish who ordered the evictions and why such that these relevant authorities can be held responsible.”

The latest development is that a press statement released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism stated that the purpose of the operation is to remove livestock and housing from Serengeti National Park and also from the boundary areas, which are legally registered village land, and it is clear from the press release that houses/bomas are being burned on village land, warns IWGIA.

The evictions, harassment and human rights violations take place within an area of where several other attempts of forced evictions have taken place over the years (such as in 2009, 2010 and 2015 where thousands of people lost their homes and properties), the organisation reports.

“Local leaders say that the on-going eviction is an operation organised to ensure that there will be no more people or livestock living in the villages of the area. This area, which is legally registered village land encompassing 8 villages, covers 1.500 km2 and has long been leased by the Government of Tanzania as the key hunting block in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area.”

Read more on Maasai People of East Africa at Maasai Association.

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This Is How Indigenous Peoples Help Curb Gas Emissions, End Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:55:42 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151639 A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations. Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and […]

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Indigenous Peoples can provide answers to food insecurity and climate change challenges. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations.

Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Constituting only 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples nevertheless are vital stewards of the environment. Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22 per cent of the world’s land surface, but 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. “

According to this Rome-based UN specialised body, indigenous peoples ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature.

“Mobilising the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future,” it added on 9 August on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

According to FAO, here are 6 of the many ways in which Indigenous Peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

1. Their Traditional Agricultural Practices Are Resilient to Climate Change

Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes, the dry grasslands of Kenya or the extreme cold of northern Canada.

These time-tested techniques, like terracing that stops soil erosion or floating gardens that make use of flooded fields, mean that they are well-suited for the increasingly intense weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.

2. They Conserve and Restore Forests and Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live. Natural resources are considered shared property and are respected as such.

By protecting natural resources, like forests and rivers, many indigenous communities help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

3. Indigenous Foods Expand and Diversify Diets

The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Wheat, rice, potatoes and maize represent 50 per cent of daily calories consumed. With nutritious, native crops like quinoa, oca and moringa, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base.

4. Indigenous Foods are Resilient to Climate Change

Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also had to adapt.

Indigenous peoples often grow native species of crops that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme conditions.

Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.

5. Indigenous Territories hold 80 Per Cent of the World’s Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in forests, rivers and lakes and pastures.

Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.

6. Indigenous Peoples’ Lifestyles Are Locally Adapted and Respectful of Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and reduce the risk of disasters.

In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems improve when indigenous people inhabit them.

FAO considers indigenous peoples as “invaluable partners” in eradicating hunger and in providing solutions to climate change.

“We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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One Earth: Why the World Needs Indigenous Communities to Steward Their Landshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:41:07 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151603 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9.

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An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

“Showing them a picture-book crow, I intone ‘kaak’ in Bengali, the State language. While others repeat in chorus, the tribal Santhali first-graders respond with a blank look. They know the crow only as ‘koyo’. They’ll happily roll out glass marbles to count but ask them how many they counted, they remain silent because in their mother tongue, one is mit, two is bariah – very different sounding from the Bengali ek and du.”

Teacher Ramakrushna Bhadra faced a formidable challenge at the rural Hatrasulganj Santhal primary school in India’s eastern West Bengal state, until he decided to learn the tribal language himself.Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million people.

For Santhals, the largest tribal community in West Bengal, Bengali is a foreign tongue. Hence at school, the new entrants learnt nothing, lost interest, dropped out of classes and joined their parents in seasonal migration. Generational illiteracy has only perpetuated the poverty cycle.

India even passed a law declaring education as a constitutional right for all children 6 to 14 years old, and to reduce the drop-out rate of ethnic minorities, it provided for mother-tongue primary education and set up free residential schools in tribal pockets.

With a precarious demographic total of around 8,000, and a female literacy rate of 3 percent, the Dongria Kondh tribal community in neighbouring Odisha state has an exclusive girls-only free residential school in Rayagada district set up by the government in 2008. While enrolling and retaining the girls demands continued effort, teachers say older girls who have been in the school for some years have now distanced themselves from their roots, viewing their unique traditional costume and hair-dress as embarrassing.

Retaining unique indigenous cultures, their traditional knowledge systems and sustainable management of natural resources, even while aiding them to access, choose and prioritize from the development pathway so that they are not left behind, has been a challenge for governments around the world.

Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million.

Central to this challenge and offering the closest solution is granting their right to customary land and the resources within it.

Their ancestral land and natural resources have a fundamental importance in their livelihood, ways and of life, culture and religion and, in fact, in their collective physical and cultural survival as communities.

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community's remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community’s remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The government has several specific programmes for indigenous communities such as in education, livelihoods, quotas in educational institutions and jobs, and food security at huge funding expense, whose aim has been to bridge the conspicuous economic gap between them and the mainstream population.

“Poor implementation of existing schemes in the tribal regions has meant that not only poverty

continues at exceptionally high levels in these regions, but the decline in poverty has been much slower here than in the entire country,” according to an earlier national report by the Planning Commission, now Niti Aayog.

Discrimination, official apathy, and insensitivity to tribal ways of life, rampant corruption, denial of justice and human dignity, and political marginalization has led to entrenchment of left-wing extremism is several tribal regions in India.

In India, most of the indigenous groups live in deep natural forests that sit atop rich deposits of iron, bauxite, chromites, coal and other minerals. The government and corporate miners want to get their hands on as much of this as possible.

But the Indian Constitution has given powers of self-governance and autonomy to tribal communities over their habitat, where the village council holds the last word in decisions, even over government’s, on the use of its resources, specifically in the context of the Forests Rights Act 2006 and the Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

Still, this power of the village council has been subverted time and again by government agencies and corporate, as numerous studies and reports have established.

Lack of clear recognition and protection of indigenous people’s land rights and natural resources especially forests, is today the root cause of conflict and unrest around a majority of infrastructure and mining projects, resulting in time over run, aborted project with losses running into billions of dollars.

While the ethnic groups have become somewhat more aware, India’s apex court has been keenly monitoring their land and forest rights implementation. This has made a tremendous difference in the last decade. The issue continues to be on the boil as civil society organizations, both local and international keep the debate open and protest ongoing.

Until the 2011 census, more than half of the total indigenous population in India had left home to live in urban areas, completely alien to their nature-loving lives and livelihoods. Poverty, project-related displacement and loss of livelihoods from denied access to land and forests are the main causes for migration.

In Kadaraguma village high in the hills of Rayagada, 66-year-old Kone Wadaka is looking for an heiress to pass on her confidential wealth of medicinal knowledge in forest plants. The oral knowledge of generations was passed down from her father, a tribal healer of a Dongria Kondh clan. Accompanying him as a teenager for days before the sun was up, Wadaka learnt to identify leaves and roots that could prevent conception, alleviate fits and seizures, heal wounds, and subdue pain. Herself unmarried, a young girl she had set her mind on to relay the family knowledge has moved on to school.

As the forest moves further away from their villages, and trees are cut, to be replaced by commercial timber plantations, Wadaka is afraid if she does not find someone suitable soon, the invaluable knowledge might die with her. It saddens her that her people will lose something that was theirs for generations.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, whose key larger goal remains building inclusive societies, seeks to empowerment of indigenous people through secure tenure rights to land, parity in education and vocational training, doubling of small-holding agricultural productivity and income and encourages States to include indigenous leaders in subsequent reviews of country progress towards the goals.

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A Hostage to Parliament, Temer Sacrifices Indigenous Rights to Save Himselfhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:19:48 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151600 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9

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Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Brazilians now have new reasons to yearn for and at the same time fear the parliamentary system of government. It facilitates quick solutions to political crises such as the one that is currently affecting the country, but it also further empowers reactionary forces and has led to backsliding on gains such as indigenous rights.

In a country with a presidential system of government, the “semi-parliamentarism” which many people, including President Michel Temer, identify in the current administration, is working against indigenous people and other sectors that have little say in parliament.

“The national Congress forms part of a conservative system, a ‘democracy’ which never took indigenous representation into account,” lamented Marcos Terena, coordinator of the World Indigenous Nations Games, also known as the Indigenous Olympics, and a veteran activist of the Terena people, who live in west-central Brazil.

Native people are suffering an offensive against their rights, which has intensified since Temer took office.

Temer, who went from vice-president to president in May 2016 after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2014 and accused of fiscal fraud, totally depends on mainly conservative parliamentary groups.

This dependence started with how he rose to power, because a two-thirds majority in both houses was required to remove Rousseff. But it has been heightened since May 17, when the scandal broke out that made Temer the country’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime.

A conversation recorded by Joseley Batista, owner of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, was the basis for a formal accusation of corruption against Temer by the federal prosecution office.

On Aug. 2, the lower house of Congress rejected a corruption charge against Temer for alleged bribe-taking, which saved him from a possible Supreme Court trial might have removed him from office. But the federal prosecution office is preparing new charges of obstruction of justice and activity in a criminal organization, drawing out the parliamentary and judicial battle for the current presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

To ensure the backing of the ruralist parliamentary group, which according to their website has 214 representatives and 24 senators – 40 per cent of parliament – Temer is granting its members a number of benefits and the approval of legal measures, to the detriment of native peoples, the environment and fiscal austerity.

Headed by large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets, this bloc sees indigenous lands, whose demarcation is ensured by the 1988 constitution, as an obstacle to the expansion of agriculture.

According to the last census, there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil in 2010, or 0.47 per cent of the population of 190.7 million at the time. But they occupy more than 13 per cent of the national territory, which the powerful ruralist caucus considers excessive.

A constitutional amendment that would submit the demarcation of indigenous lands to approval by Congress is one of the ruralist bloc’s proposals, which would likely prevent the creation of new protected areas to ensure the physical and cultural survival of native peoples.

Submitted in the year 2000, the initiative has been shelved until now. “I think that even the ruralists themselves recognise that the conditions for it to be passed do not exist,” said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the non-governmental organisation that has the largest database on indigenous people in the country.

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, which has become more difficult to obtain with a governing coalition weakened by accusations of corruption, not only against Temer, but also against his chief ministers and parliamentary leaders.

“The biggest threat, more than a risk, is the time frame, a concept with which they want to limit the entire public administration,” on the indigenous issue, Santilli told IPS.

This time frame is October 1988, when the constitution was approved. The rights of indigenous peoples were to be limited to the area occupied at that time, according to an interpretation by the Supreme Court, when it ruled in 2009 on the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra do Sol indigenous reserve, in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil.

The ruralist caucus wants this to be the general criteria followed. Up to now what have been demarcated are “lands traditionally occupied” by indigenous people, as stated in the constitution. Anthropological studies are carried out identify the territory to be demarcated, in a process carried out by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which answers to the executive branch.

The Attorney General’s office, which advises the executive branch, pronounced itself in favour of the validity of the time framework, “extending the threat” to prevent new demarcations, said Santilli, who presided Funai in the 1990s.

According to data from ISA, Brazil has 480 indigenous lands already approved, but there are still 72 declared and 44 identified which are still pending demarcation, in addition to other 108 in process of identification, the initial phase of the process.

There is a huge lag, because the constitution established that all the areas were to be demarcated within a five-year period – in other words, by 1993.

A time frame makes no sense in “a country that was 100 per cent indigenous” when, in 1500, “the native people encountered the unknown world of the ‘coloniser’ which caused the extermination of thousands of natives and their communities, generating a national debt which cannot be subject to a moratorium,” Terena told IPS.

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Besides, the offensive against indigenous rights and lands has brought violent conflicts. From 2003 to 2015, 891 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, an annual average of 68, according to the latest report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council. The violence has intensified in recent years, with 137 murders in 2014 and 138 in 2015.

The current context encourages “anti-indigenous groups to promote proposals that range from changes to the sacred national constitution to attempts to block a budget capable of addressing indigenous demands,” Terena asserted.

Another ruralist threat is to close down Funai, the government body which implements indigenous policies and has suffered constant budget cuts that curtail its functions, such as the anthropological studies and the defence of demarcated territories.

The loosening of measures against mining and the construction of roads, hydroelectric plants and power transmission lines on indigenous lands are other means of pressure exercised by the ruralists and by companies that seek to “break down or weaken” indigenous peoples’ exclusive rights to use their lands, said Santilli.

“There is an ‘anything goes’ mentality, against an absurd backdrop of weakness of the president, accused of corruption and with only five per cent approval in opinion polls,” who is incapable of defending the diluted rights of the minorities and the environment against the private interests of legislators, he lamented.

The ruralist caucus reflects a distortions in parliamentary representation. Landowners make up a small sector of the population with disproportionate political power, in contrast to the millions of small-scale farmers, who are practically absent in Congress.

The economical clout of the former and the electoral rules, which assign a larger proportion of legislators to small states in Brazil’s hinterland with rural economies than to the most urbanised states, go a long way to explaining the power of the conservatives, said Santilli.

Weakened, Temer is distributing “prizes, incentives, public posts and advantages, paying the price for being saved, but when the money is finished, there will be an exodus,” predicted Antonio Queiroz, head of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advisory, which supplements the legislative work in Brasilia.

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World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:43:55 +0000 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151593 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine is Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Albert K. Barume is chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

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Women from Nepal's indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Albert K. Barume and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
GENEVA / NEW YORK, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

The world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights, a group of United Nations experts and specialist bodies has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the group says States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders.

The joint statement from the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reads as follows:

“It is now 10 years since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, as the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights.

But a decade on, we need to acknowledge the vast challenges that remain. In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago.

Indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.

Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Indigenous women face double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence.

We call on all States to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Declaration and emphasize that their rights are a concern for all of us.

The worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders.

Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.

They even risk death. Last year alone, some sources suggest that 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend land, indigenous and environmental rights.

We urge States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. Lasting peace requires that States, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’, in particular indigenous women.

Many States still do not recognize indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth still face a lack of official recognition and direct political participation. Even in States where laws are in place, the Declaration has not been fully implemented.

It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector.

The minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, as set out in the Declaration, must now be met.

These include the rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, alongside the duty of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them.

The Declaration represents important shifts in both structure and the practice of global politics, and the last 10 years have seen some positive changes in the situation of indigenous peoples and greater respect for indigenous worldviews.

But we still have a long way to go before indigenous peoples have full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds.”

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Latin America Discusses How to Make Environmental Rights a Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:35:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151563 The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean. That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational […]

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Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational legal instrument with the aim of making public access to information and to environmental justice a reality for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates from 24 countries are taking part Jul. 31 to Aug. 4 in the Seventh Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land.” -- Danielle Andrade

This week’s meeting in Buenos Aires, organised by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Argentina, is to be the second-to-last debate on Principle 10, and is being held behind closed doors.

The final document is to be approved in November or December in an as-yet undetermined city.

But there is still a long way to go.

At the current meeting it has become clear that the debate on how far public participation should go has not come to a conclusion, although the ECLAC-sponsored negotiations began in November 2014.

The main sticking point is whether or not the document will be binding on signatory states.

If an agreement is reached for a binding document, it would set minimum standards for the participating countries to guarantee public participation in environmental matters.

If the decision is that it should be non-binding, it could merely become yet another declaration of principles that changes nothing.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox of the United States, said “the instrument should be binding, even though that would make it harder to reach a consensus.”

“If it isn’t binding, the impression will be that instead of taking a step forward, we took a step back,” he said.

Knox was a special guest speaker during the opening of the meeting, which was held at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, with the presence of three Argentine cabinet ministers and Costa Rica’s deputy minister of environment, Patricia Madrigal.

The Costa Rican official took part on behalf of the Negotiating Committee board, which is presided by her country and Chile, and is also composed of Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the same vein as Knox, the Argentine expert on environmental law, Daniel Sabsay, a speaker at a special session on the implementation of the future agreement, said he was “worried by the prospect that the text will just end up as another grand declaration, without any actual results.”

Rights of indigenous peoples and communities

The draft of the Regional Agreement makes several references to indigenous peoples and establishes that it will acknowledge the right to consultation, and prior, free and informed consent, which has been recognised in most national legislations, and in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which regulates the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

It also stipulates that information must be delivered in indigenous languages, and that native people must receive special assistance to access information, since they are identified as a vulnerable group.

In addition, it establishes that, in every project with an environmental impact, the State has the obligation to identify the directly affected communities and promote their informed participation in the decision-making processes.

“The drafts that have been released until now set out no concrete instruments which countries are required to enforce and which would empower civil society. If it is not binding, it will not be useful,” he told IPS.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of escalating disputes over land and natural resources, around the world and in this region in particular.

“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land,” said Danielle Andrade of Jamaica, chosen as a civil society representative in the negotiations.

This situation shows the failure of governments to address the concerns of local communities in the face of extractive or land use projects that affect them.

Principle 10 of the Río Declaration establishes that States must facilitate and promote social participation in debates on environmental issues, making information widely available and guaranteeing access to legal and administrative proceedings.

The consensus is that Latin America in general has sufficient regulations in this respect. In fact, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that “since 1992, 20 countries in the region have incorporated in their constitutions the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The issue, it seems, is how to put into practice those rights which are only on paper.

“Nearly every country has environmental laws, but they have problems enforcing them. That is why we believe the creation of a committee for implementation of the treaty is crucial, to which people in the region could turn with their environmental conflicts, and which should include public participation, and should have powers to intervene,” Andrés Nápoli of Argentina, another civil society representative in the negotiations, told IPS.

The agreement that is being negotiated is inspired by the so-called Aarhus Convention, approved in 1998 in that city in Denmark, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Convention was especially useful for Eastern Europe countries, which had abandoned Communism a few years before, and had few environmental regulations.

“The countries of Latin America have been developing environmental laws since the 1990s, and recently some English-speaking Caribbean nations have being doing so,” said Carlos de Miguel, head of ECLAC’s Policies for Sustainable Development Unit.

“For that reason, the aim is enhancing the capacities of countries to ensure the rights established in the existing laws. Some countries have not been able to implement their environmental legislation, not because they don’t want to, but due to a lack of training and of financial resources,” he told IPS.

De Miguel said “we expect an ambitious agreement, that includes the creation of the institutions that will enforce it. We hope it will be signed not only by the 24 countries that are negotiating, but by all 33 countries in the region.”

The countries taking part in the discussions include all of the nations of South America except for Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam, and all of the countries of Central America with the exception of Nicaragua, while Caribbean island nations like Barbados and Cuba are absent.

Among the articles that are under discussion in Buenos Aires are article 6, which defines the scope of the right to information; 7 and 8, on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes; and 9, which regulates access to justice.

The last meeting will discuss the articles that define the institutions created by the treaty and whether or not to create an enforcement committee that, according to the majority, will define its effectiveness.

“It is essential to establish mechanisms to ensure that participation is real and ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to information, because official bodies and NGOs on their own cannot mobilise participation,” said Leila Devia, head of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South America, at the special session on implementation.

That convention, which has 186 member States, deals with the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peopleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:59:55 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151547 Over the centuries, Indigenous peoples who have in-depth and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world , have been increasingly dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and have lost control over their own way of life. Traditional indigenous lands and territories contain some 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity and indigenous peoples have […]

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 2 2017 (IPS)

Over the centuries, Indigenous peoples who have in-depth and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world , have been increasingly dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and have lost control over their own way of life.

Traditional indigenous lands and territories contain some 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity and indigenous peoples have a crucial role in managing natural resources.

One of the root causes of poverty and marginalization of indigenous peoples is loss of control over their traditional lands, territories and natural resources.

Worldwide, indigenous peoples account for 5 per cent of the population, but represent 15 per cent of those living in poverty. Too often, they pay a price for being different and face discrimination.

Enabling indigenous peoples to overcome poverty requires supporting their efforts to shape and direct their own destinies and managing development initiatives crafted with that goal in mind. Their concept of poverty and development must reflect their own values, needs and priorities; they do not see poverty solely as the lack of income

Indigenous peoples have rich and ancient cultures and view their social, economic, environmental and spiritual systems as interdependent. Their traditional knowledge and understanding of ecosystem management are valuable contributions to the world’s heritage.

Indigenous languages are key to ensuring the continuation and transmission of the culture, customs and history that constitute the core parts of the heritage and identity of indigenous peoples. It is estimated that there are between 6,000 and 7,000 oral languages in the world today. A great majority of these languages are spoken by indigenous peoples, and many (if not most) of them are in danger of becoming extinct. One indigenous language dies every two weeks.

There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous peoples in over 70 countries around the world. There are more than 400 groups in Latin America alone, each with a distinct language and culture. The biggest concentration of indigenous peoples, an estimated 70 per cent, live in Asia and the Pacific region.

On the Tenth Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the IPS Inter Press Service and its partners call for the voices of the Indigenous Peoples to be heard and their rights respected.

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UN Appoints Experts to DRC’s Kasai to Probe Harrowing Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 18:27:16 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151462 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, appointed a team of three international experts yesterday to collect information and raise awareness about grave atrocities in the ongoing conflict in the remote Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Central Kasai has been mired in a conflict between government forces […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, appointed a team of three international experts yesterday to collect information and raise awareness about grave atrocities in the ongoing conflict in the remote Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Security Council observes a moment of silence in memory of two UN experts who were killed recently while monitoring the sanctions regime in the Kasaï Central region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Credit: UN Photo

The Security Council observes a moment of silence in memory of two UN experts who were killed recently while monitoring the sanctions regime in the Kasaï Central region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Credit: UN Photo

Central Kasai has been mired in a conflict between government forces and local militias called Kamuina Nsapu since August 2016. The conflict, which has escalated in recent months, garnered international attention when two U.N. experts in the region were killed in March 2017.

The conflict intensified in the run up to the elections of December 2016, when government security forces clashed with demonstrators who contested the president’s bid to stay in power beyond his term ending in 2016, and killed 50 people. Hundreds were jailed, and media outlets were banned.

Ever since, the situation has only become worse.

Newer armed groups like Bana Mura have emerged to fight the Congolese army and police. They have carried out brutal attacks against targeted civilians of Luba and Lulua ethnic groups, killing hundreds and burning villages. Small children have been gravely wounded from machete attacks, and pregnant women have been cut open.

Victims have speculated that members of the Congolese army have also been part of these horrific killings.

Today, as many as 3,300 people have died, and 1.3 million people have been displaced within the country. In Angola alone, more than 30,000 people have been registered as refugees as thousands more stream into the central African country every day. Some 42 mass graves have been documented by the Joint Human Rights Office.

The atrocities committed against civilians have put pressure on the UN, which adopted the UN Human Rights Council resolution on June 22, 2017.

In the resolution, the Council expressed its grave concerns about the recurrent violence and the “recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, destruction of houses, schools, places of worship, and State infrastructure by local militias, as well as of mass graves.”

The Council puts the newly appointed team in charge of collecting information, determining facts and circumstances, and to forwarding “the judicial authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo the conclusions of this investigation in order to establish the truth and to ensure that the perpetrators of deplorable crimes are all accountable to the judicial authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The team includes Bacre Ndiaye, a Senegal national, Luc Côté, a Canadian who has worked on human rights violations in the DRC, and Mauritania’s Fatimata M’Baye.

A comprehensive report with the findings will be presented in June 2018, at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council.

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How to Achieve Universal Goals, Strategicallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-universal-goals-strategically http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:49:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151328 Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week. Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week.

A view of the Trusteeship Council Chamber during the Ministerial Segment of the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve the 2030 universal goals—such as eradication of poverty and hunger.

“We have come to New York in order to find common solutions for common problems,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a top expert on policies on the Global South, to IPS News.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, among other key panelists, led discussions on the exchange of information, also addressed as interlinkages, between countries in one such panel, called Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs.

The main goal of the panel was to identify the different ways in which different targets and goals could be mix and matched to produce maximum results.

For example, the goal of eradicating hunger necessarily means a sustainable chain of food production and consumption. Food production relies on fertile soil, which ultimately caters to goals of environmental conservation. This pattern of information in an interdependent ecosystem sits at the heart of reviews and assessment to improve implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Crucial information, such as who needs the most help and how to provide it, are collected by different agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in every country. While this exchange of information becomes important to identify synergies between countries, they are not enough to bring the goals to a vivid global reality.

“Setting up various kinds of agencies is important to ensure the flow of information is important, but are not fully adequate. We need to assess how to build one policy over another, so that two policies don’t add up to two, but more than two,” Debapriya Bhattacharya told IPS news.

The next crucial part of this flow is establishing a relationship—or seeking leverage—with the global community.

This partnering with a resourceful global community is especially important for countries to mitigate financial and technological issues. For example, a landlocked country with varying special needs can also quickly benefit from a global partnership.

To achieve this partnership, panelists stressed on the importance of political leadership.

Ultimately, with the help of newer technologies, this wide array of information coalesces into quantitative and qualitative data, and guides policy making.

Hopefully, in the next and complimentary step—the implementation of the data to deliver on the goals—all that glitters will turn to gold.

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Civil Society on SDG Engagement: “We Are Not Guests”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:55:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151313 Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting. Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in […]

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Indigenous children hold signs supporting the struggle in Cherán. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting.

Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015.

Concerned about the slow progress towards sustainable development by governments after two years, civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world have descended upon the global meeting to make their voices heard and demand engagement in order to achieve the ambitious agenda.

“One thing that is very different in the 2030 Agenda is the call for inclusion of all stakeholders and all people…we are not guests, we are not in the shadow, we are part of the implementation of this agenda as we were also part of the crafting of the agenda,” co-chair of the Steering Group of the Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Naiara Costa told IPS.

MGoS is a newly created space to help civil society access information, increase their participation in decision-making processes, and facilitate collaboration across major stakeholder groups including indigenous peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.

“It is an agenda that is attracting so much attention and that civil society is taking so seriously that you need to have a space where people can come and get information and be prepared…if we are not engaged, [the agenda] is not going to be delivered,” Costa added.

Though there has been some progress towards inclusion of marginalised groups, there is still a long way to go.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is the senior inclusion advisor of international disability and development organisation Light for the World, told IPS that persons with disabilities have long been neglected, stating: “When talking about persons with disability, we are talking about billions—that’s 1/7th of the global population which is a huge segment of the population that has been highly overlooked.”

Though comprising of 15 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty.

They encounter exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis, including in development programmes and agendas like the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which made no reference to persons with disabilities.

Two years into the new 2030 Agenda, participation is still uneven for persons with disabilities, Nigussie said.

“Most of disability organizations were not fully informed—even in cases that they were consulted, accessibility needs were not addressed, and they were not meaningfully included,” she said, adding that there are also cases of exclusion against disability organizations within civil society itself.

Filipino indigenous activist and former Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Joan Carling echoed similar sentiments to IPS on the exclusion of indigenous groups.

“Indigenous people who are defending our lands are being killed. So how can there be effective participation of indigenous peoples if that is the situation at the local level?” she said.

According to Global Witness, more than 200 environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, were killed trying to protect their land in 2016, more than double the number five years ago.

Almost 100 have already been killed so far in 2017, including Mexican indigenous leader and illegal logging opponent Isidro Baldenergo Lopez.

States often exclude indigenous groups in development processes because it is too political otherwise, Carling noted.

“[States] are threatened by our demand of our rights to our territories and resources…so they try to avoid any reference to indigenous peoples because once they call us indigenous peoples, then they have to recognize our rights,” she told IPS.

Both Carling and Nigussie also highlighted the shrinking space for civil society around the world.

CIVICUS has found that civic space is severely constrained in 106 countries, over half of the UN’s members, through practices such as forced closure of CSOs, violence, and detentions.

Civil society activists are imprisoned most when they criticise the government and its policies or call attention to human rights abuses, the group noted.

Nigussie told IPS that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a “joint responsibility” between governments and civil society and that if they fail, they are “mutually accountable.”

To promote such accountability, the SDGs must be linked to the human rights model which will entail frequent consultations with persons with disabilities from the grassroots to the international levels.

Though engagement at the local and national levels are most important to successfully achieve sustainable development, global forums like HLPF at the UN allow civil society to make sure their concerns are heard.

“There is a lot of interest in bring the issue of lack of consultations at the global level simply because the space at the national levels are not provided,” Carling told IPS.

She highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to identify, support, and have ownership of their own solutions.

“The goal is leaving no one behind—so if it is not participatory or rights-based, then it will end up as business as usual again,” Carling said.

Costa urged for nations to bring lessons learned back home, concluding: “It cannot stop here, [countries] need to bring the discussion back home. Otherwise its just a talk shop and we cannot allow this to happen.”

This year’s HLPF is held at the UN from 10-19 July with the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It will focus on evaluating implementation of SDGs in 44 countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand.

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Chilean President’s Apology to the Mapuche People Considered “Insufficient”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:27:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151087 Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short. Native leaders in that region are calling for […]

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Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short.

Native leaders in that region are calling for concrete actions and policies with regard to key questions such as their demands for self-determination, respect for their rights to their ancestral land, water use rights, and an end to violence against indigenous people.

The latest incident took place on Jun. 14, when members of the carabineros militarised police used tear gas during a raid in a school in the town of Temucuicui, which affected a number of schoolchildren and local residents.

On Jun. 27, lawyers at the government’s National Human Rights Institute filed legal action on behalf of the schoolchildren in that Mapuche town of 120 families, in the region of Araucanía.“While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.” -- Carlos Bresciani

“This apology and acknowledgment that mistakes, and especially atrocities, have been committed is important,” said Adolfo Millabur, mayor of the town of Tirúa, the hub of the Mapuche people’s ancestral territory, with respect to the Jun. 23 request for forgiveness by the socialist president, during the launch of a Plan for Recognition and Development of Araucanía.

“I think it is positive that a president of Chile has recognised mistakes and above all atrocities committed after the Chilean state’s invasion of Mapuche territory started in 1860, in the misnamed ‘Pacification of Araucanía’,” he said.

The “Pacification of Araucanía” was a brutal military campaign by the Chilean army and settlers that ended in 1881 with the defeat of the Mapuche people, leaving tens of thousands of indigenous people dead and leading to the reduction of Mapuche territory from 10 million to just half a million hectares.

But Millabur called for “concrete measures to repair the damage caused” and said “the demilitarisation of the area would be a good gesture.”

“Children are suffering, there are victims of all kinds, Mapuche people have died, and there is no indication of how the state is going to act in the immediate future, if it is going to continue to militarise the area as it is doing now,” he added.

The Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayors acknowledged in a communiqué that Bachelet’s apology “is aimed at gaining a better understanding between the Mapuche people and the state.”

But it also said “this gesture must be accompanied by concrete developments such as new forms and methods of dialogue, a different approach by the police in our communities…fair trials for our brothers and sisters, and the non-application of the anti-terrorism law.”

The mayors were referring to the prosecution of Mapuche activists accused of setting trucks on fire, and the continuous raids on Mapuche homes and buildings, such as the one in the school in Temucuicui.

Mapuche activists have been arrested and prosecuted under the 1984 anti-terrorism law, put in place by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and still in force, which allows witnesses to conceal their identity while testifying, and provides for longer periods of arrest on remand and extremely heavy sentences.

According to the last census, from 2012, 11 percent of Chile’s population of 17.7 million people identify themselves as indigenous.

Of the country’s 1.9 million indigenous people, 84 percent are Mapuche. Smaller native communities in Chile include the Aymara, Atacameño, Pehuenche and Pascuense people.

Catholic priest Carlos Bresciani, the head of the Jesuit mission in Tirúa, told IPS that “it is laudable that the president apologised, but asking for forgiveness is not enough if it is not accompanied by fair reparations.”

 During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency


During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency

Bresciani also believes greater dialogue with the Mapuche people will be possible “if more political questions such as self-determination or autonomy are put on the table, and if the dialogue includes all sectors, no matter how radical they might be.”

The priest was referring to the low level of representation of Mapuche leaders on the Araucania Presidential Advisory Commission, appointed by Bachelet in January 2015, which wrapped up its work in January with a package of proposals that included a suggested apology by the president.

“If she wants to talk about collective rights, (Bachelet) should be reminded of the treaties signed by Chile, such as convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous people which, among other things, declares their right to self-determination or autonomy, terms that are absent from her plan for Araucanía,” Bresciani said.

Jorge Pinto, a history professor at the Universidad de La Frontera, a university in Temuco, the capital of Araucanía, who sat on the commission set up by Bachelet, told IPS that the government’s new plan for that region is “sound and complete” and interpreted the apology as a gesture aimed at reactivating dialogue.

“We need more dialogue,” said Pinto. “I agree with the president’s call for more dialogue, without repression, because repression brings more violence.”

But the academic urged “talks with the different actors from the region who have been left out so far.”

He also said “it is not enough to guarantee rights to land ownership and water use. Control over their land by indigenous people and autonomy in managing resources are also necessary.”

“No one is proposing that the forestry and hydroelectric companies pull out of the region,” said Pinto. “What we are saying is that agreements must be reached with the local communities affected by hydropower dams, logging companies and mines, and not with the authorities.”

Jesuit missionary Bresciani said “the main issue is not poverty or marginalisation; it’s political.”

“The proposals talk about economic or development policies,” the priest said. “While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.”

According to Bresciani, the extreme poverty in Araucanía “is the result of a systematic and planned policy to appropriate resources, under an unsustainable extractivist model. The measures proposed are not aimed at modifying these structural policies, but at continuing to offer money to turn the communities into clients of the existing system.”

Social activists and indigenous leaders admit the value of some of the initiatives included in Bachelet’s plans, such as the official declaration of Jun. 24 – We Xipantu, the Mapuche new year – as a national holiday, and a stronger effort to teach Mapuzungún, the Mapuche language, in schools in their communities.

They also applaud the proposal to explicitly recognise native communities in the projected new constitution, which would replace the current one, which dates back to 1980 and is a legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship which successive democratic governments have failed to replace, implementing limited reforms instead.

Activists say however, that the measures taken so far have been inadequate, and point out that Bachelet’s term ends in just nine months.

That will make it difficult to bring about real actions in areas such as land ownership and water use rights, which are key to a regional economy dominated by the interests of large logging, hydropower and mining companies.

Former right-wing president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), who is the favorite in the opinion polls for the November elections as the likely candidate for the Chile Vamos alliance, supports Bachelet’s apology to the Mapuche people.

“I agree with the apology because I believe that throughout history, many injustices have been committed against the Mapuche people,” said Piñera. He added, however, that “the apology is just a gesture, and does not solve any problem.”

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