Inter Press Service » Indigenous Rights http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/feed/ 0
Bougainville Women Turn Around Lives of ‘Lost Generation’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:08:20 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145600 Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
HAKO, Buka Island, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea , Jun 13 2016 (IPS)

Finding a sense of identity and purpose, as well as employment are some of the challenges facing youths in post-conflict Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.

They have been labelled the ‘lost generation’ due to their risk of being marginalised after missing out on education during the Bougainville civil war (1989-1998), known locally as the ‘Crisis’.

But in Hako constituency, where an estimated 30,000 people live in villages along the north coast of Buka Island, North Bougainville, a local women’s community services organisation refuses to see the younger generation as anything other than a source of optimism and hope.

“They are our future leaders and our future generation, so we really value the youths,” Dorcas Gano, president of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC) told IPS.“There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened." -- Gregory Tagu, who was in fifth grade when the war broke out.

Youth comprise about 60 percent of Bougainville’s estimated population of 300,000, which has doubled since the 1990s. The women’s collective firmly believes that peace and prosperity in years to come depends on empowering young men and women in these rainforest-covered islands to cope with the challenges of today with a sense of direction.

One challenge, according to Gregory Tagu, a youth from Kohea village, is the psychological transition to a world without war.

“Nowadays, youths struggle to improve their lives and find a job because they are traumatised. During the Crisis, young people grew up with arms and knives and even today they go to school, church and walk around the village with knives,” Tagu explained.

Tens of thousands of children were affected by the decade-long conflict, which erupted after demands for compensation for environmental damage and inequity by landowners living in the vicinity of the Panguna copper mine in the mountains of central Bougainville were unmet. The mine, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational, opened in 1969 and was operated by its Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, until it was shut down in 1989 by revolutionary forces.

The conflict raged on for another eight years after the Papua New Guinea Government blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the national armed forces and rebel groups battled for control of the region.

Many children were denied an education when schools were burnt down and teachers fled. They suffered when health services were decimated, some became child soldiers and many witnessed severe human rights abuses.

Tagu was in fifth grade when the war broke out. “There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened,” he recalled.

Trauma is believed to contribute to what women identify as a youth sub-culture today involving alcohol, substance abuse and petty crime, which is inhibiting some to participate in positive development.

They believe that one of the building blocks to integrating youths back into a peaceful society is making them aware of their human rights.

In a village meeting house about 20-30 young men and women, aged from early teens to late thirties, gather in a circle as local singer Tasha Kabano performs a song about violence against women. Then Anna Sapur, an experienced village court magistrate, takes the floor to speak about what constitutes human rights abuses and the entitlement of men, women and children to lives free of injustice and physical violations. Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect were key topics in the vigorous debate which followed.

But social integration for this age group also depends on economic participation. Despite 15 years of peace and better access to schools, completing education is still a challenge for many. An estimated 90 percent of students leave before the end of Grade 10 with reasons including exam failure and inability to meet costs.

“There are plenty of young people who cannot read and write, so we really need to train them in adult literacy,” Elizabeth Ngosi, an HWC member from Tuhus village declared, adding that currently they don’t have access to this training.

Similar to other small Pacific Island economies, only a few people secure formal sector jobs in Bougainville while the vast majority survive in the informal economy.

At the regional level, Justin Borgia, Secretary for the Department of Community Development, said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government is keen to see a long-term approach to integrating youths through formal education and informal life skills training. District Youth Councils with government assistance have identified development priorities including economic opportunities, improving local governance and rule of law.

In Hako, women are particularly concerned for the 70 percent of early school leavers who are unemployed and in 2007 the collective conducted their first skills training program. More than 400 youths were instructed in 30 different trade and technical skills, creative visual and music art, accountancy, leadership, health, sport, law and justice and public speaking.

Two-thirds of those who participated were successful in finding employment, Gano claims.

“Some of them have work and some have started their own small businesses….Some are carpenters now and have their own small contracts building houses back in the villages,” she said.

Tuition in public speaking was of particular value to Gregory Tagu.

“I have no CV or reference, but with my public speaking skills I was able to tell people about my experience and this helped me to get work,” Tagu said. Now he works as a truck driver for a commercial business and a technical officer for the Hako Media Unit, a village-based media resource set up after an Australian non-government organisation, Pacific Black Box, provided digital media training to local youths.

Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. HWC’s president is particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/feed/ 0
Polynesian Voyagers Bring Messages of Hope to UN on World Oceans Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 03:58:04 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145499 The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The Hōkūle‘a canoe sails past the United Nations in New York. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2016 (IPS)

Polynesian voyagers who have sailed the world by canoe using ancient navigation skills will bring pledges they collected along the way to the UN on Wednesday as part of World Oceans Day celebrations.

The voyagers sailed the Hōkūle‘a canoe to New York to deliver the pledges from countries and communities committed to doing their part to help save the world’s oceans to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator told IPS that they were inspired to collect the declarations after Ban sailed with them in Apia, Samoa in the Summer of 2014.

“He gave us this bottle (capped) with his own handwritten note of his pledge to work with the membership of the UN (for) the betterment of the ocean,” said Thompson.

Thompson is master navigator of the Hōkūle‘a canoe. The voyagers uses the ancient traditions of Polynesian navigation to travel the oceans without technical instruments, knowledge which almost became extinct, but has been revived through decades of training.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Nainoa Thompson. Credit: The Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Hōkūle‘a has recently returned from a 37-month voyage covering about 50,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean.

“We are sailing on the belief that there are millions of people that are working for kindness and caring and compassion for the earth even though we’re not connected,” said Thompson. “We just want our voyaging canoe and our community to (be) part of that movement.”

The Hōkūle‘a canoe was launched 41 years ago, the first of its kind launched in over 600 years, says Thompson.

“It was our vehicle to allow us to explore and rediscover our ancient traditions primarily in voyaging and in navigation.”

“It was a reconnection not just to our culture, and to our tradition, and to our ancestors, but also reconnection back to the Pacific Islanders.”

Over that time, he says the voyagers have seen many changes in the oceans and peoples of the region.

“We’ve been witness to watching shifting change, not only in what’s been happening to the oceans physically, but what’s been happening to the relationship between islanders and the ocean in the biggest ocean, that’s the Pacific.”

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976." -- Nainoa Thompson.

During this time, Thompson says that he has observed increasing awareness around the Pacific of the science of the negative impacts on the oceans such as climate change and acidification.

“I think part of the solution to figure out how to protect the oceans is going to really require a meshing and a coming together of both science and technology with indigenous knowledge — those people who have lived and known these islands for generations and thousands of years.”

Thompson says that he has personally learnt a lot from his own teacher, who he described as the only known master navigator.

“We’re not master navigators, our generation is students of the great master, his name is Mau Piailug, he was the one who navigated to Tahiti for the first time in 1976.”

Thompson describes Piailug, who came from a tiny island called Satawal in Micronesia, as “a window into the ancient world and the ancient oceans.”

Satawal is “only a mile and quarter long and half mile wide,” yet the people who live there have a phenomonal “knowledge of the oceans, and of the stars, and the heavens, and the atmosphere, and the winds, and the clouds, and the sea life, and the sea birds,” said Thompson.

“We were lucky to have (Piailug), he changed the whole world view from another native group that was losing language and culture to a whole new world where we were the greatest navigators.”

“He came back and trained us for 30 years.”

“In that process we tried to understand really the importance of listening to your elders and spending time and trying to protect and preserve their knowledge of the ocean because it was getting so lost so quickly.”

“Extinction of cultural values and cultural lifestyles are happening everywhere so Mau singlehandedly shifted that whole mindset.”

“Back in 1975 there were no canoes, there were no voyages, there were no navigators. In Polynesia now there’s about 2500 active sailors,” said Thompson.

He added that learning the navigation skills helped his generation to better understand the oceans.

“The thing about the navigation is it forces it you to do two things: to observe and secondly to understand nature.”

Thompson says that his generation now has a responsibility to share this knowledge with the children of Hawaii and the world.

He says that there is also a need “to move education towards catching up with the real core issues that our children need to know.”

“The worldwide voyage is a relationship between those who are exploring, those who are learning, those who are bringing things back and getting it embedded into schools.”

The President of the University of Hawaii sailed with the Hōkūle‘a from Washington DC, to New York, and the Superintendent of the Hawaiian public schools system will also be joining the Hōkūle‘a at the UN on World Oceans Day.

Thompson said that ensuring that the knowledge was shared with Hawaii’s students was important because in the past that knowledge had been lost when it was banned from schools.

“The problem of why we know so little of native people is because it wasn’t taught in schools and Hawaiian culture, language and geneology was outlawed by policy by public and private schools back a hundred years ago.”

“The way to change that is really to change what you teach in schools.”

The voyagers plan to share the knowledge they collect of people who are doing great things to protect the oceans with the children of Hawaii.

Many of these examples also include school children, such as is the case with oyster farming in New York.

“New York was considered the largest oyster population in the world, the indigenous people lived directly off the sea food, that’s all they needed.”

However eventually the water became so polluted that the oyster larvae couldn’t survive, but more recently some New York schools have begun breeding the oysters themselves.

“The equation is that if you plant reefs of oysters, if you get a billion oysters you can filter the harbour in three days,” said Thompson.

New York restaurants have now got involved, and Thompson described the program as an example of how the economy and environment can work together for the better.

“That’s an equation that Hawaii needs to figure out, and that’s an equation that the world needs to figure out, but it’s happening in very special places.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/polynesian-voyagers-bring-messages-of-hope-to-un-on-world-oceans-day/feed/ 0
Indigenous Peoples Inclusion at United Nations Incompletehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 17:44:57 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145213 Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations Indigenous Forum is one of the UN’s most culturally diverse bodies yet its inclusion within the overall UN system remains limited.

“Thousands of people who come to the forum throughout the years do not have the opportunity to express their concerns,” said Alvaro Esteban Pop Ac, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, here Thursday.

Over 1,000 Indigenous people from all over the world came here for the 15th session of the  Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held from May 9-20.

“The demand by indigenous peoples is to have a new category as observer,” said Joan Carling, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Carling said that while indigenous people are not states or NGOs, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they “have the right to self-determination.”

“The main aim of the resolution is to really ensure that effective participation of indigenous peoples is afforded in the UN system.”

“We need to be able to participate in decision-making processes in the UN  to be able to express our specific conditions and our aspirations as peoples. That deserves the space at the highest level,” she said.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected," -- Joan Carling

The contributions that Indigenous peoples are making, to areas such as peace and environmental protection, are not reflected in their level of participation at the UN.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected,” said Carling.

“The issue of conflicts and the issue of injustice will continue because decisions are being undertaken at global level where we don’t have any participation, that is the thing that we want to rectify,” she added.

Indigenous peoples still cannot make recommendations directly to Security Council, only through the Economic and Social Council.

Carling, an indigenous activist from Cordillera in the Philippines, said that the situation of Indigenous women in particular should be addressed by the 15-member UN Security Council, arguably the most powerful organ within the UN system.

Violence against Indigenous women was a major theme of the 2016 forum.

Throughout history, Pop Ac said, “Indigenous women have lead indigenous dialogue. Women play a key role in keeping the community together. We promote our issues through women,” said Pop Ac.

He pointed to Northeast India, where there is a heavy presence of more than 70 armed groups and 500, 000 military troops, which have been related to the rampant sexual abuse and trafficking of indigenous women.

Jacob Bryan Aki from Peace Child International-Hawaii and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was one of the young Indigenous people who participated in the forum.

“We come here, we learn, and the work doesn’t stop,” said Aki.  “The two weeks we have here sets us up for the rest of the year, to go back home, to work with our family and our communities, to take the opportunities we have had here to those who do not. These messages need to be heard from youth.”

“We are the next generation of leaders and scholars,” said Aki. “It is very important for us to engage in this international level because in 10-20 years we are going to be thrust into these leadership roles and this is preparation to lead and learn how to make this world a better place for our people.”

With over 5000 different cultures and an estimated 7000 different languages, Indigenous peoples represent much of the world’s cultural diversity.

Yet despite their cultural differences Indigenous peoples – who make up five percent of the world’s overall population – have many shared experiences.

“The first criteria which defines an indigenous peoples, is a peoples that have survived colonization,” said Pop Ac.

“Humanity needs a different logic and ethic in defining wealth” Pop Ac added.

“It is human greed which is destroying the environment.”

Indigenous peoples are the “guardians of life” and are working to protect their environments, he said.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete/feed/ 0
Will Canada Recognise Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Developing Countries Too?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 15:09:32 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145192 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/feed/ 1 A Latin American Humanitarian Emergency Invisible to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 23:42:43 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145171 In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.

Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Mar. 2, is in Mexico after visiting several European cities to ask for help clarifying her mother’s murder and to call for a cancellation of the financing for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, to which the Lenca indigenous people are opposed.

In an interview with IPS she admitted that despite the death threats and the murders of other activists, she didn’t believe they would dare kill her mother, who was so well-known at an international level.“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency).” -- Rubén Figueroa

She herself and her siblings had fled to Mexico due to the threats against members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), which was founded by Cáceres 23 years ago. She had been studying in Mexico for a month when her mother was killed.

Now she wants to tell the world about communities that are displaced and forced off their land because of a “neoliberal, racist and patriarchal” system.

The victims, she said, are not only the Lenca Indians. Also affected are the Garifunas, mixed-race descendants of native people and African slaves, who have been displaced by the construction of tourist resorts in their coastal territory.

To that is added abuse by the police and other agents of the state, since the 2009 coup d’etat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, mixed with criminal violence that has forced thousands of people to seek refuge outside of Honduras.

Rubén Figueroa, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 11 caravans of Central American mothers searching for their children who have gone missing in Mexico, concurs with Zúñiga Cáceres.

“The situation in the entire Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is a humanitarian crisis,” the migrants’ rights activist told IPS.

“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency),” he said.

Figures from an invisible crisis

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of internally displaced people forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence rose to a record 40.8 million in 2015.

Of that total, at least 7.3 million were in Latin America, most of them in Colombia, because of its decades-long armed conflict.

But the report dedicates a special analysis to the growing new phenomenon of displacement caused by criminal violence, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

These four countries accounted for a total of one million internally displaced persons – nearly double the number reported in the 2014 edition of the report. They are mainly victims of criminal violence, principally associated with drug trafficking and gangs.

The IDMC stresses that these are incomplete figures, to which must be added the number of people who are forced to leave the country by criminal violence.

It describes those displaced by criminal violence as “unseen and in displacement limbo”.

Human rights activists in Mexico blame this generalised violence on the war between organised crime groups, as well as on violence by the states against opponents to mining and energy projects.

“What we are experiencing is not a war on drug trafficking, but a war by the state against the general population,” María Herrera, an activist with the group of relatives searching for family members forcibly disappeared in Mexico, who number in the thousands, told IPS.

Also part of this new kind of humanitarian emergency, arising from transnational crime, are civilian victims of the growing militarisation in countries of Central America and Mexico, according to those interviewed by IPS, who complain that the issue is not on the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

Figueroa said a series of regional policies, such as Mexico’s Southern Border Plan and the Alliance for Progress in Central America, were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Approximately five years ago we began to notice that displacement is caused by more direct violence. We have seen young people who come to the shelters with bullets in their bodies. People who have returned to their countries and have been killed,” the activist said.

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

“Migration has always existed, but now people are being displaced by drug trafficking and gang warfare, and there is also the question of persecution and harassment of activists and human rights defenders in Honduras. It’s become structural violence,” he said.

Mexico between a rock and a hard place

The Central American diaspora triggered by violence, along with the deportation of thousands of migrants by the United States, has turned Mexico into a sort of sandwich. And this is causing a growing phenomenon, which has not been addressed either: Central Americans who are choosing to stay in Mexico rather than head north to the United States.

More than two million people were deported during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term – 2009-2012 – alone.

The governmental Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) reports that 2,000 Central Americans requested refugee status in 2014, and only one-fifth were granted it.

Mexico, meanwhile, has its own humanitarian emergency. The Mexican Commission of Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) documented 281,400 cases of forced displacement caused by generalised violence between 2011 and February 2015.

One-third of these displaced persons fled their communities in 141 mass displacements in 14 states.

Mass displacement is defined as an event simultaneously affecting more than 50 people or 10 families. Between January 2014 and February 2015, the CMDPDH registered 23 mass displacements.

One-fifth of these happened in Guerrero, a state that doubled its record and became the leader in forced displacement due to violence in Mexico in the last year.

“People who have been internally displaced do not have mechanisms or institutions for their protection or assistance,” says the report Forced Displacement in Mexico, released by the CMDPDH, a government agency, in 2015.

But there are other cases, like that of Myrna Lazcano, a Mexican woman who, after marrying and having two daughters in the United States, decided to return to Mexico in 2008.

However, the violence against women in her home state of Puebla and in Veracruz, where she found work, forced her to send her daughters back, first, and then return herself to the United States, where she has requested asylum.

Like her, another 9,200 Mexicans applied for asylum in the United States in 2012 – three times the number of requests filed there by Mexicans in 2008.

“This is an emergency that no one wants to address,” said Figueroa. “It is influenced by the position, especially on the part of the United States, with regard to the situation in Central America, because they would be forced to offer refuge if they recognised it.”

But in his view, “another element is the stance taken by Mexico and the countries of origin (of the migrants), because they would be forced to admit that they are failing, as is the international community.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/feed/ 0
Justice for Berta Caceres Incomplete Without Land Rights: UN Rapporteurhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 21:44:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145113 UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

All around the world, Indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one Indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism.

“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.

Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Caceres activism received international recognition, including through the 2015 Goldman Prize, however this was not enough to protect her.

She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.

Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.

While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres murder.

“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”

Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other Indigenous activists around the world, in her role as Special Rapporteur.

Their experiences have startling similarity, Indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, whenever they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.

“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries,” she said.

“You see a situation where the state is meant to be the main duty bearer for protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, but at the same time you see investors having strong rights being protected and that is really where a lot of conflicts come up,” she said.

In Guatemala, Tauli-Corpuz says that 50 Indigenous women are still waiting for justice after their husbands were murdered and their lands taken in 1982.

“(Their) husbands were killed by the military because they were demanding the rights to their lands then (the military) took the women (to) the military camps and raped them and made them sexual slaves,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the women were brave enough to take their case to the courts but had to cover their faces because they were still being harassed by the military.

She said that when she recently asked the women what they would like if they won their case, they said that they would like their land back. After 33 years, their lands have never been returned.

Tauli-Corpuz also noted that for Indigenous peoples justice is incomplete if their lands are protected but they are denied access to them.

“(The land) is the source of their identities, their cultures and their livelihoods,” she said. If the forest is preserved but people are kicked off their lands, “than that’s a another problem that has to be prevented at all costs.”

In other cases, Indigenous peoples are forced off their lands when their food sources are destroyed.

For example said Tauli-Corpuz a major dam being built in the Amazon is not only destroying the forest but also means that there are no longer any fish in the rivers for the Indigenous people who rely on them.

Tauli-Corpuz said that it is important to remember that Indigenous peoples are contributing to climate change and environmental solutions by continuing their traditional ways of forest and ecosystem management.

Tauli-Corpuz has first-hand experience as an Indigenous activist and environmental defender. As a leader of the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines she helped successfully protest the construction of the Chico River Hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.

She notes that dams shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a climate change solution because they destroy forests and produce methane which is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/feed/ 0
Asia’s Indigenous Communities Marred by Militarisationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 04:08:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145037 Opening of the Fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Opening of the Fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2016 (IPS)

Militarisation in indigenous territories in Asia is exacerbating conflict and human rights violations, said Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Joan Carling at an event during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held here Monday.

The annual two-week forum has brought together over 1000 participants from around the world to discuss issues of conflict, peace, and resolution and its implications on indigenous communities.   

On its first day, a group of delegates came together during a side event to focus and raise awareness of the theme in the context of Asia.

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s indigenous population lives in Asia, making it the most culturally diverse region in the world. Among the increasingly major challenges in the region is militarisation and the denial of indigenous self-determination and rights to land.

Home to 11 indigenous groups, Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) continues to be one of the most militarized areas in the world.

According to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), an estimated one-third of the Bangladesh Army is in the CHT, an area that only accounts for one percent of the country’s total population and nine percent of land mass.

The military bases were initially established due to a two-decade war between the Government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) over indigenous rights and the region’s autonomy.

“After their deaths, [the paramilitary] said that we had to evacuate in two days and if we didn’t, we would all be massacred." -- Josephine Pagalan.

Despite a 1997 peace accord which included commitments to withdraw military troops and self-governance, military presence and de facto control persist.

“Almost 18 years have passed and major commitments have not been fulfilled,” said Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Forum Sanjeeb Drong during the event.

Drong stressed that indigenous communities are not against the military, but they do not support military rule.

“The military can be there, but civil government will rule the area,” he stated. However, this has not been the case in CHT as indigenous institutions continue to be invalidated, he added.

An appointed Special Rapporteur Lars Anders-Baer also expressed concern in a report over the failure to implement the agreement and the continued deployment of armed forces in the region.

“The lack of substantial progress is leading to an increasing sense of frustration and disillusionment among the indigenous peoples in the region,” the report states.

“Adding fuel to the dwindling faith in the Government’s sincere intent or political ability to fully implement the accord are developments and initiatives that violate or go against the spirit of the accord,” Anders-Baer adds.

Violations include torture and arbitrary arrests committed by military personnel, suppressing dissident voices. Another major issue is land grabbing, Drong notes.

Beyond forced evictions of indigenous residents and illegal land leases to non-local individuals, Drong stated that the military’s involvement in the tourism industry has contributed to the expropriation and destruction of indigenous lands in CHT.

Sena Kalyan Sangstha (SKS), the business wing of the Bangladesh military, is a key player in real estate construction and management. With the help of government subsidies and funds earned from UN peacekeeping missions, the group operates luxury resorts including the Nilgiri resort in CHT. During its construction, the army reportedly tore down a local indigenous group’s orchard as well as shops and a nearby school.

Similarly, indigenous leader Josephine Pagalan spoke of land grabbing in the resource-rich Mindanao island of the Philippines.

The island is particularly known for its mineral resources including copper and gold. As a result, Mindanao host 60 percent of the Philippines’ armed forces excluding paramilitary groups, she noted.

The southern Philippines is also is home to the majority of the country’s indigenous groups, collectively called the Lumads.

The country’s military have forcefully evicted and displaced numerous Lumad residents, which many believe are aimed to protect and allow the expansion of large-scale mining industries.

The military has also been involved in the massacre of indigenous leaders.

Pagalan, who witnessed the event, recalled the incursion by a paramilitary group, stating: “Last September 1st, at 3:30 in the morning, we were forced awake and forced to leave our houses…all 150 of us.”

In front of her, the group stabbed the Executive Director of a Lumad school Emerico Samarca multiple times along with indigenous leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo.

“After their deaths, [the paramilitary] said that we had to evacuate in two days and if we didn’t, we would all be massacred,” she told attendees.

The event reportedly sparked the evacuation of almost 3,000 Lumads.

Just a month prior to these attacks, Human Rights Watch reported that Philippine government soldiers killed five members of a Lumad family, including children ages 13 and 17, reflecting larger, systematic violations of human rights.

President Benigno Aquino III denied any wrongdoing, stating that “there is no campaign to kill Lumad people, we are serving the people.”

Pagalan urged for government accountability and justice for affected indigenous peoples, including the return of ancestral lands.

Bangladeshi politician and activist Devasish Roy especially highlighted the need for justice in CHT at a press briefing Monday, stating: “We really need to look at peace…with justice as a necessary part of it. You can have the cessation of hostilities…but [it] doesn’t mean that’s real resolution.”

Carling expressed her hope to IPS that the UNPFII will particularly raise awareness among member states to respect and enforce conflict resolution and indigenous rights.

“Unless states take this matter seriously and have the political will to address the issue of militarisation…then we cannot expect much of any improvement in the situation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a video message during the opening of the forum, announced the launch of a system-wide action plan for coherent and coordinated action on indigenous issues.

“Lasting peace requires that indigenous peoples have access to cultural, social and economic justice…it is essential that we work as one to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples,” he stated.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation/feed/ 0
Black Colombian Activists Continue Our Struggle For Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 23:28:03 +0000 Charo Mina Rojas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144920 Black Women are leading the resistance in Northern Cauca, Colombia.  Credit: ACONC (Association of Community Councils of Northenr Cauca).

Black Women are leading the resistance in Northern Cauca, Colombia. Credit: ACONC (Association of Community Councils of Northenr Cauca).

By Charo Rojas
Cauca, COLOMBIA, May 1 2016 (IPS)

While Colombia’s peace talks continue in Havana, Cuba, back home in the region of North Cauca, Black Colombians have found their cries for access to their ancestral lands met with tear-gas and rubber bullets.

We saw them approach, the ESMAD, the dreaded special police unit called out to squelch popular mobilizations against the government. We pressed even closer together to maintain our lines on one of the main highways that connects Colombia’s north and south. Over a thousand of us, black Colombians from one of the poorest regions of the country, gathered to demonstrate to the government that we would not be silenced while our territories are taken away. Suddenly, without warning, the ESMAD began their assault and soon elders, children, women and our young people were choking from the tear-gas and holding parts of their bodies stinging from rubber bullets indiscriminately fired at us.

The ESMAD’s assault took place on April 25 in the region of North Cauca, Colombia. The next day, the ESMAD sabotaged conversations between the community councils and the authorities, their renewed attacks this time also effecting some of the government officials. A three month-old baby and several children were hurt by a tear-gas grenade that exploded inside their house. We black Colombians are more or less held hostage by the ESMAD, while the national government had promised a meeting at the Mayor’s office in the nearest town.

The Afrodescendant Women’s Mobilization has received numerous death threats due to our actions to protect our community’s rights and territories. However, the government fails to find the responsible persons for the illegal mining or the death threats.

The Northern Cauca region, located in the department of Cauca, is a critical area in the negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC that are currently taking place in Havana, Cuba. Yet Black communities and our interests have not been considered during these discussions, even though our ancestral territories will be compromised by at least one of the agreements: the 63 so-called campesino reserves. Most of the areas the FARC wants to settle or continue to control are in the middle of or close to black and Indigenous lands.

The main national Black organizations have been concentrated in the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA by its acronym in Spanish), which with the Interethnic Commission of Peace, has demanded and lobbied the Colombian government to bring our voice and interests to the table in Havana. But since our demands have been ignored we have had to find new ways to make our voices heard.

As has often been the case in our long history of struggle and resistance in Colombia we have again had to turn to protest. In November 2014, eighty Afro-descendant women mobilized and walked across the country to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, where we seized the building of the Ministry of Interior to demand a stop to the increase in illegal mining in our territories. These mining activities have brought death, violence and tragedy. In one mine collapse alone, over 40 of our people were killed.

These mobilizations have often been led by Black women, increasingly so in recent years. We have made the government sign agreements to remove illegal mining and admit that granting mining rights to multinationals violates its own laws. We have also made the government acknowledge that these agreement violate the right to prior and informed consultation and consent, as recognized by the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. Yet those admissions and agreements have not translated into respect for our rights or any change in government’s actions or approach. In fact, despite the agreements, and the laws and the constitutional mandate to consult, to respect, promote and protect the rights of Black people, the Colombian government has granted mining concessions that cover seventy percent of the Cauca lands to multinationals such as Anglo Gold Ashanti.

The Afrodescendant Women’s Mobilization has received numerous death threats due to our actions to protect our community’s rights and territories. However, the government seems incapable of finding those responsible for the illegal mining or the death threats.

That is why we must continue to resist. The Community Councils will continue blocking the road until the national authorities commit to a renewed dialogue that will lead to substantive changes in how the interests of our communities are protected. It is clear for us that our Black lives matter only through our own efforts.

Charo Mina Rojas is an activist with the Black Communities’ Process in Colombia.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IPS.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights/feed/ 0
West Papuans Turn to Africa for Support in Freedom Bidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:30:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144913 Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Apr 30 2016 (IPS)

For more than half a century, the indigenous people of West Papua, located on the western side of the island of New Guinea, who are related to the Melanesians of the southwest Pacific Islands, have waged a resistance to governance by Indonesia and a relentless campaign for self-determination.

But despite regular bloodshed and reports of systematic human rights abuses by national security forces, which have taken an estimated half a million West Papuan lives, the international community has remained mostly unwilling to take concerted action in support of their plight.

Now Benny Wenda, a West Papuan independence leader who has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2003, is driving a mission to build the support of African states. Following a visit to Senegal in 2010 and two visits to South Africa last year, Wenda was welcomed at the 59th Independence anniversary celebrations in Ghana in March this year.

“There has been widespread attention and further pan-African solidarity for West Papua renewed following my diplomatic visits to these African countries, both at parliamentary and grassroots levels,” Wenda told IPS.

In Ghana, Wenda met with political and church leaders, including former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufuor.

‘We are honoured to fight for your people. We share a similar history. It is no surprise to me that you had support from Ghana at the UN in 1969 and that we accepted West Papuan refugees in the 1980s,’ Jerry John Rawlings said to the Ghanaian media.

The alliance which Wenda is forging is based on a sense of shared historical experience.

“Africa is the motherland to all people and we Melanesians feel this strongly….our affinity primarily lies in our shared ancestral heritage, but also in our recent history because Africa has also suffered the brutalities of colonialism,” Wenda said.

Following decolonisation of the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia gained independence in 1949, but there was disagreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia about the fate of Dutch New Guinea, which the former was preparing for self-determination. A United Nations supervised referendum on its political future, named the ‘Act of Free Choice,’ was held in 1969, but less than 1 per cent of the region’s population was selected to vote by Indonesia, guaranteeing an outcome for integration, rather than independence.

At the time, Ghana and more than a dozen other African states were the only United Nations members to reject the flawed ballot.

During Wenda’s visit to South Africa last February, other leaders, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela MP, added their solidarity.

‘I’m shocked to learn that West Papua is still not free. I call on the United Nations and all the relevant bodies, please, do what is right, as they know, for West Papua,’ Tutu said in a public statement.

The momentum continued when the Nigeria-based non-government organisation, Pan African Consciousness Renaissance, held a pro-West Papua demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Lagos in April 2015.

Indonesia’s refusal to recognise secessionist aspirations in its far-flung troubled region is often attributed not only to concerns about national unity, but the immense mineral wealth of copper, gold, oil and natural gas which flows to the state from ‘West Papua’, the umbrella term widely used for the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Since coming to power in 2014 populist Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has vowed to increase inclusive development in the region and called on security forces to refrain from abusive measures, but the suffering of West Papuans continues. In May last year, there were reports of 264 activists arrested by police ahead of planned peaceful protests. Twelve Papuans were shot by security forces in Karubaga in the central highlands in July, while in August three people were abducted and tortured by police in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, and two shot dead outside the Catholic Church in Timika.

West Papua’s political fate stands in contrast to that of East Timor at the end of last century. East Timor, a Portuguese colony militarily annexed by Indonesia in 1975, gained Independence in 2002. The positive result of an independence referendum in 1999 was widely accepted and further supported by a multi-national peacekeeping force when ensuing violence instigated by anti-independence forces threatened to derail the process.

But in the political climate of the 1960s, Wenda says “West Papua was effectively handed over to Indonesia to try and appease a Soviet friendly Indonesian government….our fate was left ignored for the sake of cold war politics.” Now Indonesia staunchly defends its right of sovereignty over the provinces.

In the immediate region, West Papua has obtained some support from Pacific Island countries, such as the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu which have voiced concerns about human rights violations at the United Nations.

And last year the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a sub-regional intergovernmental organisation, granted observer status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua coalition. However, Indonesia, a significant trade partner in the Pacific Islands region, was awarded associate membership, giving it an influential platform within the organisation.

“Luhut Pandjaitan’s [Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff] recent visit to Fiji suggests that Indonesia is continuing its efforts to dissuade Pacific states from supporting West Papua and is willing to allocate significant diplomatic and economic resources to the objective,” Dr Richard Chauvel at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute commented to IPS.

In contrast to Indonesia’s Pacific Island neighbours, Dr Chauvel continued, “African states mostly do not have significant trade, investment, diplomatic and strategic interests with Indonesia and do not have to weigh these interests against support for the West Papuan cause at the UN or elsewhere.”

How influential south-south solidarity by African leaders will be on West Papua’s bid for freedom hinges on whether championing words translate into action. In the meantime, Benny Wenda’s campaign continues.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/feed/ 2
Forced Closure of Bedouin Settlementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:43:44 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144775 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/feed/ 1 Ethiopia’s Smoldering Oromohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ethiopias-smoldering-oromo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopias-smoldering-oromo http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ethiopias-smoldering-oromo/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:31:40 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144551 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ethiopias-smoldering-oromo/feed/ 7 Are Indigenous Women Key to Sustainable Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 23:06:48 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144285 By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

“We, indigenous women want to be considered as part of the solution for sustainable development, because we have capabilities and knowledge, ” said Tarcila Rivera, a Quechua journalist and activist for the rights of indigenous people in Peru, at a press conference on the Empowerment of Indigenous Women.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) and a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, addresses a press conference on indigenous women’s rights, March 2015. Photo: UN Media/ Mark Garten

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) and a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, addresses a press conference on indigenous women’s rights, March 2015. Photo: UN Media/ Mark Garten

Rivera, like many other women who are fighting for the rights of indigenous people in parts of Central and Latin America, Northern Europe, Canada, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa, is attending the 60th annual sessions of the inter-governmental body, UN Commission of the Status of Women (CSW60), which concludes March 24.

As a functional commission of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CSW is meeting with representatives of Member States, U.N. agencies, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society to discuss the status of women’s political, economic and social advancement and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Opening the 60th CSW session, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who during his nine years in office has appointed over 150 women as Assistant Secretaries-General or Under-Secretaries-General — urged country leaders to take action to end gender inequality.

“In countries where children have “disappeared”, grandmothers stood up to demand justice. In areas ravaged by AIDS, HIV-positive mothers replaced stigma with hope. In homophobic societies, lesbian victims of rape survived and organized […] As long as one woman’s human rights are violated, our struggle is not over.”

In line with this year’s CSW theme —Women’s Empowerment and Its Link to Sustainable Development and the U.N. 2030 Agenda– indigenous women are demanding governments in their countries to recognise them as a driving force in achieving economic and social development.

In Kenya, it is mostly women who play a key role in supporting families despite growing up in a patriarchal society, explained Valerie Kasaiyian – an indigenous Maasai woman, lawyer and educator for girl’s reproductive rights.

There are indigenous women groups, such as those from Samburu, who for the past 20 years have provided alone for their entire community by building houses and schools. They also established self-sustaining economic activities by selling livestock or traditional jewels in order to get their families out of poverty, continued Kasaiyian.

Women from Marsabit, in the northern part of Kenya, developed sustainable farms, where they grew tomatoes and other crops in greenhouses, and then sold them to the community, without reliance on their male counterparts.

“Sustainable development is about preserving resources and the land for future generations. Indigenous communities, who for centuries have lived in isolation, have found their own system to work the land and to preserve it. It is in our ancestral culture and identity,” Kasaiyian told IPS.

“Yet we assist to a systematic ethnocide of our indigenous culture by the government […] where young indigenous women are meant to be homogenised and integrated into the mainstream culture,” she added.

Since the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, along with the U.N. Resolution 1325, on the importance of women in peace negotiations and peace-building, and the 2007 U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, there have been several important steps to highlight the voices of indigenous women in the international arena. But at a slow pace.

Indigenous women and girls- who are not to be confused with rural women – have their own identity, defined by their own specific language, education, traditional knowledge and socio-economic values, remarked Rivera, who is the founder of the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) .

However, they are mostly excluded by government policies, as they are not fully treated with human dignity, said the Peruvian activist.

“Many programs look at us as subject of assistance. But we don’t want to depend on these kind of food programs. We are trying to be considered as subject of change, and development from within, (through) our capacity,” she said.

Despite the lack of thorough national statistics, indigenous women suffer from high levels of discrimination, sexual and domestic violence, extreme poverty, trafficking, lacking in access to land rights and education and poor maternal and infant healthcare.

Myrna Cunningham Kain, member from Nicaragua of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, briefs journalists on highlights of the twelfth session of the Forum on Indigenous Issues, taking place in New York from 20 to 31 May, 2013.Photo: UN Media/Evan Schneider

Myrna Cunningham Kain, member from Nicaragua of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, briefs journalists on highlights of the twelfth session of the Forum on Indigenous Issues, taking place in New York from 20 to 31 May, 2013.Photo: UN Media/Evan Schneider

Myrna Cunningham, an indigenous Mixteca woman from the Waspam community in Nicaragua, told IPS about the problem of data disaggregation in certain countries, where indigenous people are not counted or excluded from certain indicators.

“When talking about statistics” – said Cunningham, who is President of the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples (CADPI), and former chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues – “self-identification, should be the main indicator, which can be used complementarily to other types of info-gathering questions. Also, government statistics should use more culturally sensitive indicators, which will help to define public policies and implement them.”

With the adoption of the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, the U.N. set a framework that will foster the partnership between members states and indigenous communities, through dialogue, proposals and projects, in order to further implement the Declaration and recognise and protect indigenous women, Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told IPS.

Kasaiyian said: “We will strongly push for a U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Women specifically, so that women can prosecute in case of violation of their rights in international tribunals.

Indigenous women must bridge the gap between academics, professionals and activists, by establishing their own jurisprudence and theories of law regarding the eradication of violence against women and to empower future generations.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development/feed/ 1
Corruption Threat to Pacific Island Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-threat-to-pacific-island-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corruption-threat-to-pacific-island-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-threat-to-pacific-island-forests/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 07:15:48 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144266 Customary landowners in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, both rainforest nations in the Southwest Pacific Islands, are suffering the environmental and social impacts of illegal logging. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Customary landowners in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, both rainforest nations in the Southwest Pacific Islands, are suffering the environmental and social impacts of illegal logging. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

The vast rainforests of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean are crucial for environmental sustainability, survival of indigenous peoples and the wider goal of containing climate change. But forest degradation, driven primarily by excessive commercial logging, most of which is illegal, is a perpetual threat.

PNG is now the world’s top exporter of tropical timber, estimated at 3.8 million cubic metres in 2014. But an estimated 90 per cent of the formal trade in wood-based products from the country and 85 per cent from the Solomon Islands are illegal, reports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Eighty per cent of log exports from PNG are exported to China, the world’s main destination for illicit timber.

On the International Day of Forests, observed on March 21, Pacific Islanders spoke of why fighting for the future of their rainforests is also a struggle against fraud and crime.

Samson Kupale of the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum, a non-governmental organisation headquartered in the capital, Port Moresby, told IPS that lack of compliance and enforcement of the logging code of practice is a major issue.

“Trees are being cut in prohibited zones, logging occurs beyond surveyed areas….community obligations [by logging companies], such as roads and bridges, are not built to standards,” he declared.

PNG is one of the world’s largest tropical rainforest nations with an estimated 29 million hectares covering about 75 per cent of its landmass. Neighbouring to the east, the Solomon Islands has 2.2 million hectares of forest covering 80 per cent of the country, considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to contain ‘globally outstanding biodiversity.’ More than 80 per cent of the population of both countries resides in rural areas and forests are essential sources of food, fresh water and materials for shelter.

But industrial logging has escalated with the immense demand for raw materials by emerging Asian economies. Land clearance for other uses, such as agriculture and plantations, now contributes further to high timber export volumes.

The monitoring of logging operations, which are mostly conducted in remote rural locations, can be a serious challenge for forestry authorities in developing countries. Recently, the London-based Chatham House rated PNG 25-50 per cent for level of forest governance.

Professor Simon Saulei of the PNG Forest Research Institute said that, amongst other factors, “the [forestry] authority is not effectively addressing and responding to such issues [of logging non-compliance] due to insufficient manpower and other resources, including funds.”

Inadequate law enforcement further undermines PNG’s strong forestry legislation, according to Chatham House.

Meanwhile, the US-based Oakland Institute recently claimed in a new report that there are strong indicators of widespread transfer pricing in the country with the potential loss of US$100 million per year in tax revenues. Despite the rapacious appetite for timber extraction by foreign investors, the majority claims that they have made little or no profit over the past decade and, thus, avoided paying 30 per cent income tax on profit, the report details.

“In any business venture, if you cannot make any profit from whatever you are doing then it makes no sense to continue and you might as well close up or do something else profitable. Here one can only ask where are they getting the money to continue their respective operations?”, Professor Saulei probed.

In the Solomon Islands, the situation is now critical where, after decades of commercial logging peaking at seven times the sustainable rate of 250,000 cubic metres per year, accessible forest resources are nearing exhaustion.

Half the forests on Kolombangara Island in the country’s northwest are now degraded after 50 years of voracious extraction while local landowners have battled against illegal loggers in the courts for years.

Timber trafficking depends on the agency of government, forestry and customs officials; the actions, often involving bribery and patronage, of people in critical positions throughout the production and supply chain. Crooked collusion between foreign logging companies and political elites is acknowledged as a serious barrier to industry compliance.

“There are government ministers, provincial ministers who are agents of these loggers and they exercise undue discretionary powers over the granting of logging concessions,” Ruth Liloqula, Chair of Transparency Solomon Islands, told IPS, adding that loggers also “have undue influence over the politicians not to pass relevant legislation in this sector.”

Misconduct in public office, according to the nation’s leadership code, includes business associations which could lead to conflicts of interest with public duties. However, the Leadership Code Commission, which is mandated to hold leaders accountable, is “under-resourced and the penalties are too small,” Liloqula claims.

Another problem, she said, is that logging companies, rather than the government, now pay the costs of timber rights meetings where decisions are made about logging proposals.

“Even when the evidence is heavily on the side of the objectors, the decision is [often] in favour of the side supported financially by the loggers,” Liloqula said.

The fate of forests is being decided at the local level, too. More than 80 per cent of land in the Solomon Islands is under customary ownership and negotiation between logging companies and traditional landowners for access to land can be flawed. ‘Middle men’, or individuals within communities who do not have the traditional authority, are known to sign-off logging agreements in return for sweeteners, Liloqula confirms.

Yet educated informed rural communities play a significant role in environmental justice. In 2012, landowners from Western Province in PNG, supported by the Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights, achieved a victory in the national court following legal action against Malaysian logging company, Concord Pacific. It was found to have cleared a vast tract of unauthorised forest either side of a road construction project and fined US$97 million for environmental damage associated with the wrongful extraction of an estimated more than US$60 million worth of timber.

“This win was an important moment for the environmental NGO movement in PNG and sends out a clear message that destructive logging is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated,” Kupale emphasised.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-threat-to-pacific-island-forests/feed/ 1
Tribute to a Slain Environment Activisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 07:20:11 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144181 Berta Cáceres on the banks of the Gualcarque River, in the Rio Blanco region in western Honduras that she fought so hard to protect. Photo Credit: Goldman Environment Prize

Berta Cáceres on the banks of the Gualcarque River, in the Rio Blanco region in western Honduras that she fought so hard to protect. Photo Credit: Goldman Environment Prize

By Amantha Perera
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Mar 15 2016 (IPS)

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, was in her early 20s when she co-founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Cophin), a group that campaigned for the rights of indigenous communities in the Central American nation.

Influenced by a mother, who took in fleeing El Salvadorian refugees, Cáceres was fully committed to her cause. She told friends and colleagues that her struggle was against ‘deadly powers’ that put profit before the rights of her people. In the last two decades, she saw colleagues being threatened, attacked and killed, but her work only got bigger.

Twenty three years after she formed Cophin, Cáceres paid the ultimate prize. She was gunned down in her home after assassins had stormed it around 1 am on March 3.

Before her death, Cáceres had received dead threats and had in fact moved house for safety. Recently, she had been in the forefront of protests against one of the biggest hydropower projects in Central America. The envisioned four dam Agua Zarca project on the Gualcarque river was being built by a local Honduran firm DESA but initially had the backing of China’s Sinohydro and the World Bank’s private sector financier International Finance Cooperation (IFC).

Both pulled out following the protests and Cáceres and others had been publicly calling for other backers like the Dutch Development Bank, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and Germany’s Siemens and Voith to follow Sinohydro and IFC.

Her work won worldwide recognition. “With her people she made the World Bank withdraw from Honduras. It is precisely because of this struggle of Cophin led by her and for more then 20 years of resistance to new colonial powers that she won the Emma Goldman Prize in 2015,” Tatiana Cordero, executive director, Latin America at Urgent Action Fund, an international organisation that works for women’s rights, told IPS.

Such global accolades only strengthened Cáceres’ resolve to campaign more vigorously against the dam project, but they obviously need to give her more protection. Less than two weeks before her assassination she led a massive march in Rio Blanco that ended in a confrontation with government security personnel and employees from DESA.

“She was a global voice for the rights of indigenous people to water, food, land and life. She bravely challenged those in positions of power to do what was right — instead of what would result in the most profit,” said Terry Odendahl, President and CEO, Global Greengrants that has funded over 3,000 grants in over 145 countries to the tune of over $45 million said.

The brazen murder of a high-profile activist sent shockwaves through the global environmental rights community. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said she was horrified at the murder. Tauli-Corpuz had met Cáceres during a visit in November 2015 and had been personally appraised on the threats.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the international community should work together to bring such wanton violence faced by indigenous activists to a stop: “It is time for the nations of the world to bring perpetrators to justice and to protect indigenous rights activists peacefully protesting the theft of their lands and resources.”

That grass roots environmental activists are under threat across the globe has been known for awhile now. Global Witness found that in 2014, 116 environmental activists were murdered, almost double the number of journalists killed in the same period. Over 40 per cent of the victims were from indigenous communities while three quarters of them were from Central or South America. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 903 citizens engaged in environmental protection work were killed world over.

“The case of Cáceres is emblematic of the systematic targeting of environmental defenders in Honduras. Since 2013, three of her colleagues have been killed for resisting the Agua Zarca hydro-dam on the Gualcarque River, which threatens to cut off a vital water source for hundreds of indigenous Lenca people,” Global Witness said soon after the murder. The organisation also found that such attacks do not get much attention in the international press.

Activists say that the international community needs to understand the real dangers faced by the likes of Cáceres and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. “There is a difference between realising the danger and holding the people and systems accountable. This assassination took place because of the Honduran government’s inability to ensure indigenous people and women can carry out their legitimate work without fear.” Odendahl said.

Aleta Baun, an Indonesian activist from the western half of Timor, who has been campaigning on behalf of her Mollo people can relate easily to the Cáceres predicament. Baun, who also won the Goldman Environmental Award in 2013, has survived at least two assassination attempts.

“You feel completely alone when such attacks happen,” she said of an attack in when she was waylaid by 30 men. She said that there has been no serious pressure brought on by local governments and international players to curb such attacks.

Suryamani Bhagat an activist with Save the Forests of Jharkhand Movement in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand also shares these sentiments. “I work with a lot of women, so I feel safer,” she said.

But once they are alone, that protective shield shatters and leads to deadly consequences.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist/feed/ 0
Public Primary Boarding Schools in Pastoral Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/public-primary-boarding-schools-in-pastoral-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=public-primary-boarding-schools-in-pastoral-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/public-primary-boarding-schools-in-pastoral-communities/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2016 06:49:20 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144086 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/public-primary-boarding-schools-in-pastoral-communities/feed/ 0 Tanzania Farmers, Pastoralists Launch Forum to Resolve Water Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tanzania-farmers-pastoralists-launch-forum-to-resolve-water-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tanzania-farmers-pastoralists-launch-forum-to-resolve-water-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tanzania-farmers-pastoralists-launch-forum-to-resolve-water-conflicts/#comments Thu, 03 Mar 2016 06:52:30 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144067 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tanzania-farmers-pastoralists-launch-forum-to-resolve-water-conflicts/feed/ 0 Latin America’s Indigenous Peoples Find an Ally in the Popehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/latin-americas-indigenous-peoples-find-an-ally-in-the-pope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-americas-indigenous-peoples-find-an-ally-in-the-pope http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/latin-americas-indigenous-peoples-find-an-ally-in-the-pope/#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2016 21:26:12 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143888 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/latin-americas-indigenous-peoples-find-an-ally-in-the-pope/feed/ 0 Agroecology in Africa: Mitigation the Old New Wayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way/#comments Mon, 11 Jan 2016 17:36:27 +0000 Frederic Mousseau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143552 agroeocology project. ]]>

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, coordinated the research for the Institute’s agroeocology project.

By Frederic Mousseau
OAKLAND, California, Jan 11 2016 (IPS)

Millions of African farmers don’t need to adapt to climate change. They have done that already.

Frederic Mousseau

Frederic Mousseau

Like many others across the continent, indigenous communities in Ethiopia’s Gamo Highlands are well prepared against climate variations. The high biodiversity, which forms the basis of their traditional enset-based agricultural systems, allows them to easily adjust their farming practices, including the crops they grow, to climate variations.

People in Gamo are also used to managing their environment and natural resources in sound and sustainable ways, rooted in ancestral knowledge and customs, which makes them resilient to floods or droughts. Although African indigenous systems are often perceived as backward by central governments, they have a lot of learning to offer to the rest of the world when contemplating the challenges of climate change and food insecurity.

Often building on such indigenous knowledge, farmers all over the African continent have assembled a tremendous mass of successful experiences and innovations in agriculture. These efforts have steadily been developed over the past few decades following the droughts that impacted many countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

In Kenya, the system of biointensive agriculture has been designed over the past thirty years to help smallholders grow the most food on the least land and with the least water. 200,000 Kenyan farmers, feeding over one million people, have now switched to biointensive agriculture, which allows them to use up to 90 per cent less water than in conventional agriculture and 50 to 100 per cent fewer purchased fertilizers, thanks to a set of agroecological practices that provide higher soil organic matter levels, near continuous crop soil coverage, and adequate fertility for root and plant health.

The Sahel region, bordering the Sahara Desert, is renowned for its harsh environment and the threat of desertification. What is less known is the tremendous success of the actions undertaken to curb desert encroachment, restore lands, and farmers’ livelihoods.

Started in the 1980s, the Keita Rural Development Project in Niger took some twenty years to restore ecological balance and drastically improve the agrarian economy of the area. During the period, 18 million trees were planted, the surface under woodlands increased by 300 per cent, whereas shrubby steppes and sand dunes decreased by 30 per cent. In the meantime, agricultural land was expanded by about 80 per cent.

All over the region, a multitude of projects have used agroecological solutions to restore degraded land and spare scarce water resources while at the same time increasing food production, and improving farmers’ livelihoods and resilience. In Timbuktu, Mali, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has reached impressive results, with yields of 9 tons of rice per hectare, more than double of conventional methods, while saving water and other inputs. In Burkina Faso, soil and water conservation techniques, including a modernized version of traditional planting pits­zai­ have been highly successful to rehabilitate degraded soils and boost food production and incomes.

Southern African countries have been struggling with recurrent droughts resulting in major failures in corn crops, the main staple cereal in the region. Over the years, farmers and governments have developed a wide variety of agroecological solutions to prevent food crises and foster their resilience to climatic shocks. The common approach in all these responses has been to depart from the conventional monocropping of corn, which is highly vulnerable to climate shocks while it is also very costly and demanding in purchased inputs such as hybrid seeds and fertilizers. Successful sustainable and affordable solutions include managing and harvesting rain water, expanding conservation and regenerative farming, promoting the production and consumption of cassava and other tuber crops, diversifying production, and integrating crops with fertilizer trees and nitrogen fixating leguminous plants.

The enumeration could go on. The few examples cited above all come from a series of 33 case studies released recently by the Oakland Institute. The series sheds light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent in the face of climate change, hunger, and poverty.

These success stories are just a sample of what Africans are already doing to adapt to climate variations while preserving their natural resources, improving their livelihoods and their food supply. One thing they have in common is that they have farmers, including many women farmers, in the driver’s seat of their own development. Millions of farmers who practice agroecology across the continent are local innovators who experiment to find the best solutions in relation to water availability, soil characteristics, landscapes, cultures, food habits, and biodiversity.

Another common feature is that they depart from the reliance on external agricultural inputs such as commercial seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and chemical pesticides, on which is based the so-called conventional agriculture. The main inputs required for agroecology are people’s own energy and common sense, shared knowledge, and of course respect for and a sound use of natural resources.

Why are these success stories mostly untold, is a fair question to ask. They are largely buried under the rhetoric of a development discourse based on a destructive cocktail of ignorance, greed, and neocolonialism. Since the 2008 food price crisis, we have been told over and over that Africa needs foreign investors in agriculture to ‘develop’ the continent; that Africa needs a Green Revolution, more synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified crops in order to meet the challenges of hunger and poverty. The agroecology case studies debunk these myths.

Evidence is there, with irrefutable facts and figures, that millions of Africans have already designed their own solutions, for their own benefits. They have successfully adapted to both the unsustainable agricultural systems inherited from the colonial times, and to the present challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. Unfortunately, a majority of African governments, with encouragement from donor countries, focus most of their efforts and resources to subsidize and encourage a model of agriculture, largely reliant on the expensive commercial agricultural inputs, in particular synthetic fertilizers mainly sold by a handful of Western corporations.

The good news is that an agroecological transition is affordable for African governments. They spend billions of dollars every year to subsidize fertilizers and pesticides for their farmers. In Malawi, the government’s subsidies to agricultural inputs, mostly fertilizers, amount to close to 10 percent of the national budget every year. The evidence that exists, based on the experience of millions of farmers, should prompt African governments to make the only reasonable choice: to give the continent a leading role in the way out of world hunger and corporate exploitation and move to a sustainable and climate-friendly way to produce food or all.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way/feed/ 1
Initiatives Revive Palestinian Heritage Boosting Economy and ‘Homeland’http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/initiatives-revive-palestinian-heritage-boosting-economy-and-homeland/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=initiatives-revive-palestinian-heritage-boosting-economy-and-homeland http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/initiatives-revive-palestinian-heritage-boosting-economy-and-homeland/#comments Fri, 25 Dec 2015 11:27:41 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143445 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/initiatives-revive-palestinian-heritage-boosting-economy-and-homeland/feed/ 0