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Presentation to the Third Committee of the General Assembly

at its 73rd Session Item 71 (a & b): Rights of indigenous peoples

New York, 12th of October 2018

Honourable Chair of the Third Committee, Mr. Mahmoud Saikal

Distinguished Representatives of Member States,

Indigenous representatives and authorities in the room and across the world,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to address the General Assembly today for the fifth time since I took up the mandate as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in 2014. Over the last half decade, I have been reporting here and at the Human Rights Council on a range of troubling issues for indigenous peoples. I have tried to shed light on the structural reasons behind the human rights violations and marginalisation that indigenous peoples continue to face almost in every country. I have explored topics such as the impact of international investment and free trade agreements on indigenous peoples' rights; the impact of conservation and climate change adaption and mitigation projects; and the increasing attacks, criminalisation and even murder of indigenous peoples, amongst other issues.

Today, I want to discuss what I see as one of the possible solutions to address the challenges that indigenous peoples face across the world: namely the importance of protecting and promoting the role of indigenous peoples' own institutions and ways of governing themselves. At the core of this are the rights to self-determination, self- governance and autonomy.

In the report that I am presenting to you today  I therefore provide introductory remarks on the subject of "indigenous peoples and self-governance". I aim to focus more on this topic over the next year in dialogue with indigenous peoples, States and other actors in order to provide recommendations on how to strengthen indigenous self-governance.

Some may say that this is a very complicated or even controversial topic. However, as I have seen through my country visits, communications with governments and thematic studies over the last five years, there are many good examples of indigenous self-governance systems that exist as a matter of formal agreement with the State and that are recognised either in the Constitution, legislation, policies or at working-level of the State. I would like to start by focusing and learning more from these existing examples. Every day and as we speak here, these numerous indigenous governance systems are enabling indigenous peoples to practice their right to self-government and achieve sustainable development in ways they define themselves.

Even more, these indigenous governance systems are recognised as playing a positive role in ensuring sustainable development outcomes for indigenous peoples as well as society at large. In the context of the Sustainable Development framework, and its focus on good governance, participation, ownership and leaving no one behind, I consider it very important to better understand the role that indigenous peoples' own governing systems can play in achieving sustainable development.

It is difficult to narrowly describe or define what "indigenous self-governance systems" are, given the broad diversity of indigenous institutions that exist globally and the different histories, contexts and struggles they have been shaped by. What I refer to in my report are the centuries-old governance systems that establish rules on the ways indigenous peoples relate to each other and their neighbours, as well as with nature and the surrounding ecosystems. In many cases, these institutions include customary, oral and written laws as well as dispute resolution and adjudication mechanisms. These systems existed long before indigenous peoples were colonised by external forces and before post-colonial nation-States emerged. In many places, they continue to exist and operate in indigenous communities. They embed indigenous peoples' traditional worldviews, values, norms, laws, and their concepts of authority and ways of exercising leadership. In recent decades, contemporary forms of institutions, including indigenous parliaments, councils and organisations, have also been developed, often in cooperation with States and some with the aim to increase indigenous self-governance. The diversity of indigenous governance systems is a reflection of the diverse cultures, histories and realities of indigenous peoples.

Many of the traditional indigenous governance systems have proven to be better than external actors in ensuring the well-being, peace and security and rights of indigenous peoples. They furthermore contribute to conflict reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, conservation, and culturally appropriate education and health services, access to justice, amongst many other positive outcomes. The recognition of and support to indigenous governance systems is hence essential for the realisation of indigenous peoples' rights, and in particular their right to self- determination. Let me give you some examples of this:

Improved public services: Several studies, amongst others from North America, emphasise how indigenous governance systems efficiently manage a broad range of public services, often more effectively than external actors, given the profound understanding that indigenous peoples have of their own cultures, traditions and values.

Conservation and maintaining biodiversity: There is also increasing evidence of the overlap between the territories and areas of indigenous peoples and high levels of biodiversity and healthy forests. While indigenous peoples occupy 22 per cent of the world's landmass, 80 per cent of the world's biodiversity is found in their lands and territories. A key factor explaining this overlap is precisely indigenous peoples' governance systems and customary laws, which define the relationship to their lands, territories and resources and are based on values of reciprocity and solidarity. Another factor is the ability of these systems to adapt to the physical, political and cultural changes which they encounter. One essential element of those customary laws is collective ownership and management of lands, territories and resources, which studies have shown contributes positively to conservation outcomes such as preventing deforestation and loss of wildlife.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation: Indigenous traditional knowledge, governance systems and holistic views of community and the environment have also been broadly recognised as a resource in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for instance documented how indigenous knowledge has been effective in developing measures to cope with climate hasards and has contributed to increased food security in many parts of the world.

Examples include the Inuit knowledge of climate variability when hunting, the Inca traditions of crop diversification and knowledge of genetic diversity and, in the Sahel, the use of water-harvesting strategies and weather forecasting. Through increased self-governance, these practices can provide better safeguards against the effects of climate change.

Conflict prevention and access to justice: Indigenous institutions also play an important role in ensuring conflict prevention, order and dispute resolution. For example, this can be observed in the community police models that are thriving in several Latin American countries. Other examples include traditional justice models that solve conflicts and provide access to justice in ways, which respect both cultural diversity as well as human rights norms.

Self-determination: Of course, the right to self-governance is also a right on its own. It is closely linked to the foundational right of self-determination, as it allows indigenous peoples to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Hence, it carries intrinsic value as it supports the ability of indigenous governance systems to evolve and adapt to changes.

These are still preliminary reflections on the topic. Over the next year, I would like to gather much more information about existing indigenous self-governance systems, and the outcomes they have contributed to. Furthermore, we need to learn more about the challenges that indigenous governance systems face and how to overcome them. The right of indigenous peoples to govern themselves is well established in international human rights law and jurisprudence. However, it is when it comes into practice that challenges arise. These include challenges such as the coordination between indigenous and contemporary institutions of the State; the limited financial and human resources available to manage the indigenous governance systems properly; the lack of control and ability to self-govern; as well as the need to ensure that indigenous governance systems are aligned with international human rights standards e.g. gender equality, due process and so on.

My hope is that we in this dialogue will hear good examples from the national level on how you have dealt with these challenges. This may assist in identifying recommendations that can be applied in other contexts.

I wish to mention that this topic has also been a core concern for the other United Nations mechanisms on the rights of indigenous peoples. It was addressed in the 2011 EMRIP study on participation in decision-making and the UN Permanent Forum's recent work on sustainable development in the territories of indigenous peoples. I look forward to coordinating with these mechanisms over the coming year to enhance our combined knowledge about the role that indigenous peoples' own governance systems can play, particularly as it relates to the achievement of sustainable development.

Mr. Chair,

I would now like to say a few words about my overall activities and work since I addressed the General Assembly last year. I will in particular focus on criminalisation, my two country visits to Mexico and Guatemala and the topic of Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation.

Violence against and criminalisation of indigenous peoples

My report to the Human Rights Council's 39th session in September (A/HRC/39/17) provided an analysis of the worrying escalation of violence, criminalisation, harassment and threats against indigenous peoples, particularly when they are defending and exercising their rights on their lands, territories and natural resources. These human rights violations often arise when indigenous leaders and community members voice concerns over large-scale projects related to extractive industries, agribusiness, infrastructure, hydroelectric dams and logging.

It seems that once more, indigenous peoples have ended at the forefront as targets of persecution. The rapidly intensifying competition over natural resources on their traditional lands and territories is driving this violence. Indigenous leaders and communities who object to the negative impacts of large-scale projects on their rights, livelihoods and the environment are being targeted and killed, forcibly evicted, threatened and subjected to insidious harassment in the form of criminal charges which are often nebulous, grossly inflated or fictitious. The aim of these attacks, whether violent or legal, is to silence any opposition by indigenous peoples to business interests and to prevent indigenous peoples from exercising their rights.

A crucial underlying cause of the current intensified attacks is the failure to provide indigenous communities with secure land tenure, as this in turn undermines their ability to effectively defend their lands from the damage caused by large-scale projects.

The report is a first step of looking at this issue. I am committed to continue raising attention to attacks and criminalisation of indigenous human rights defenders and to promote solutions in terms of better prevention and protection measures.

Indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact

At the Human Rights Council in September, I also presented a thematic report on indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact in South America, following a conference on this topic in Peru last year. This is an underexplored but extremely important topic, as there is an urgent need to redouble efforts to improve protection for the territories and environment of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact, in line with international standards. The report recommends that States need to develop and adequately implement differentiated policies directed at indigenous peoples in initial contact, notably in the area of health, while at the same time refraining from implementing actions that affect their lands and resources.

Visits and communications

Let me continue with a few words on my recent country visits as well as my communications with governments and other entities.

Since I reported to the General Assembly last year, I have conducted two official country visits: to Mexico from 8 to 17 November 2017, and to Guatemala from 1 to 10 May 2018. I wish to thank the Governments of Mexico and Guatemala for their invitations, as well as for their cooperation during the missions and for allowing me to pursue them in an independent manner.

Mexico and Guatemala have played an important role in supporting the advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples at the international arena, including in the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in the establishment of my mandate. However, at the national level, both countries country still face serious challenges in implementing these commitments.

In Mexico, I received information about some positive measures in the fields of health and education, as well as efforts to facilitate indigenous peoples' access to justice. But I could observe that the actual situation of indigenous peoples in the country reflects a huge gap between the international commitments adopted by the State and the reality on the ground.

There is a need for effective and coordinated action at the federal, state and municipal levels to confront the serious situation of indigenous peoples, notably the lack of adequate implementation of their rights to self-determination and to their lands, territories and natural resources, their political participation and access to justice. Urgent measures should also be adopted to solve the violence and insecurity problems as well as the poverty, marginalisation and discrimination affecting indigenous peoples.

In Guatemala, indigenous peoples constitute the majority of the population. In spite of this, they have never participated on equal footing in the political, social, cultural and economic life of the country. I could observe that indigenous peoples face structural racism and discrimination in their daily lives, reflected in the lack of protection of their lands, territories and natural resources and in their difficulties in gaining access to justice, health and education, or political participation. I was concerned to learn that in spite of the overall national economic growth, the levels of inequality are increasing. Around 40 per cent of indigenous peoples still live in extreme poverty, and more than half of all indigenous children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished.

I observed that the implementation of the vast majority of the commitments in 1996 Peace Accord on Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Identity remain unfulfilled, as do most of the recommendations issued in 2002 by my predecessor, Professor Stavenhagen, following his country visit. It is deeply disturbing, that today, 22 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, only 19% of the commitments adopted in the Accord on Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Identity have been implemented. There has been insufficient progress in particular related to securing land and resource rights, bilingual intercultural education, and recognition of indigenous authorities and justice.

Both in Mexico and Guatemala, I received numerous complaints about the impacts of the current 'development' model on the rights of indigenous peoples. The drastic increase of extractive and other projects fails to respect indigenous peoples' right to determine their own priorities and strategies for the development and use of their lands, territories and natural resources. These projects are generally undertaken without adequate human rights impact assessments nor good faith consultations to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned.

I am extremely concerned about the increasing levels of violence, forced evictions and the criminalisation of indigenous peoples in both Mexico and Guatemala. In Guatemala, I visited indigenous leaders in prison for defending their lands and I am particularly disturbed by the killings of several indigenous leaders during and since my recent visit.

Apart from the country visits, I have continued to share information with governments and other actors in relation to allegations of violations of indigenous peoples' rights globally. Since last year, I have sent 48 communications to 19 States and other entities in relation to violations of a wide range of economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political rights. I appreciate the responses I have received and the dialogue some of the communications have led to with different Governments.

With these words, I would like to end my report to the General Assembly and give the word to you. I am ready to listen and I am very hopeful that today we can have a constructive dialogue on indigenous peoples' right to self-govern and its contribution to achieving sustainable development for all, also for indigenous peoples.


Thank you.


Read: A/73/176 - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to General Assembly 2018


(September 26, 2018)-- Joan Carling is an indigenous rights activist and environmental defender from the Philippines. She has been defending land rights from grassroots to international levels for more than 20 years. Her main concerns include protection of land rights of indigenous peoples, ensuring sustainable development of natural resources and upholding human rights of marginalized people. She has actively participated in global processes to defend these concerns, including those related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and REDD+. She has twice served as the Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance. She was appointed by the UN Economic and Social Council as an indigenous expert and served as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues between 2014 and 2016. She is a member and co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for the Sustainable Development Goals. As an environmental defender, Joan has faced threats against her life and security.

Joan Carling: Building resilience to overcome injustice

I have dedicated my life to teaching about human rights. I have spent much of it campaigning for environmental protection and sustainable development. So, I was surprised to learn that I was labelled as a terrorist.

In February this year, I was placed on a list of alleged armed rebels in the Philippines. I haven’t been home since. It has uprooted me: I fear for the safety of my family and friends. But I need to stay more motivated than ever. I cannot give up the fight for my people.

I am from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera: the land of gold. Our land sits on a mineral belt, rich in gold, copper and manganese. It belongs to us, the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Yet, our natural resources and way of life are threatened by mining companies and other so-called “development projects”. As of July 2000, over half of the Cordillera land had mining applications pending.

Selling our environment: at what cost?

I spent my childhood in a remote forest under logging concession. Nomadic communities from the forest often visited, travelling up to six hours to exchange their sweet potato or other crops for rice or sugar, which they couldn’t grow themselves. My parents would offer a meal, and it was from these simple exchanges that I learned humility, reciprocity, and respect for our diverse indigenous communities and cultures.

In my youth, I was inspired by the struggle against the construction of hydropower dams along the Chico River. If developed, these dams would have affected 16 towns and villages and displaced 100,000 tribal peoples, tearing apart their livelihoods and social fabric. Many of those who opposed the dam were jailed. Macli-ing Dulag, a Kalinga tribal leader, was assassinated. More killings took place in the name of national security and development.

When I was at the University of the Philippines, I spent two months in the Kalinga tribal area who fought hard to stop the Chico dams. What I learned from indigenous communities is this: when we destroy our landscape, we destroy ourselves. By defending our land, we also defend our future and the generations to come.

I was struck by their sense of community; their simple lifestyles, their cooperation and selflessness. Their culture and values are intrinsically linked to the land, their livelihood and identity just like my own kankanaey people. The way these people care for each other and the environment deeply moved and inspired me.

Over the years, I’ve seen first-hand the environmental devastation caused by large dams and gold mining. To us, these are not development projects. They are not designed by us nor for us. This is just resource extraction. Mines leave massive toxic waste, and communities collapse. These projects cause mass displacement, worsen poverty and destroy the cultural heritage of our people.

I’ve seen indigenous peoples living in remote villages silenced, unable to raise their voice to protect their land and the environment. I have worked with them for more than a decade to raise awareness, through protests and dialogue. We engaged with mining companies, dam builders, local authorities and the media, and formed support groups alliances for the protection of human rights and the environment. Despite the threats, risks, and more repression, I persevered in my work, along with other dedicated leaders.

Time to strengthen our resilience!

Through my work with communities in the Philippines, in Asia and beyond, I have realized that this is a global issue. We need to bring voices of indigenous peoples to the debate and raise them in front of policymakers. Indigenous environmental defenders are experiencing the devastating effects of militarization to give way to development projects. Indigenous leaders are jailed and killed, while communities are powerless.  It’s heartbreaking, but it has also strengthened my commitment to work on human rights and environmental sustainability.

Together with other leaders, we are strengthening our networks and capacities. We are building alliances to protect our rights and the environment. We are campaigning regionally and globally for human rights and sustainable resource management, community-based climate change adaptation and renewable energy. In this way, we are building our resilience.

Indigenous peoples are not the enemies. We are not against development. We are conserving our environment for the future of humanity. But we cannot do this alone. The global community, governments, companies and civil society must act in solidarity, and assume responsibility for realizing sustainable development for all.



A global crisis is unfolding. The rapid expansion of development projects on indigenous lands without their consent is driving a drastic increase in violence and legal harassment against Indigenous Peoples.

I've been alerted to hundreds of cases of "criminalization" from nearly every corner of the world. These attacks—whether physical or legal—are an attempt to silence Indigenous Peoples voicing their opposition to projects that threaten their livelihoods and cultures.

My new report finds a pattern of abuse, with the private sector often colluding with governments to force Indigenous Peoples from their lands by whatever means necessary to make way for infrastructure, agriculture, mining, and extractive projects.

According to Front Line Defenders, 67 percent of the 312 human rights defenders murdered in 2017 were defending their lands, the environment, or indigenous rights, nearly always in the context of private sector projects. Around 80 percent of killings took place in just four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines.

These murders nearly always occur in the context of ongoing threats against entire communities. The first step is typically smear campaigns and hate speech that paint Indigenous Peoples as "obstacles to development"—or in the worst cases, terrorists or thugs.

Then come arrest warrants on trumped-up charges, which are sometimes deliberately left hanging so that communities live under perpetual threat. When indigenous leaders are arrested, they often sit in jail for years awaiting trial. In many of the worst cases, militarism, anti-terrorist legislation, and "states of emergency" are used to justify escalating physical violence.

I myself was put on a list of terrorists by the Philippines government in retaliation for advocating for the Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao, many of whom have been displaced by growing militarization. Although the case against me has been dismissed, there are still many others on the list who have been falsely accused and whose safety and security are under threat, including long-time indigenous advocate Joan Carling.

At the same time that justice systems are wielded as weapons against Indigenous Peoples defending their rights, there is widespread impunity for those who commit violence against Indigenous Peoples.

At the root of this global crisis is systematic racism and the failure of governments to recognize and respect indigenous land rights. Indigenous Peoples and local communities customarily own more than 50 percent of the world's land but only have legally recognized rights to 10 percent. This enables governments to declare them "illegal" on the lands they have lived on and protected for generations.

In spite of incredible risks, Indigenous Peoples continue to speak out. They continue to defend their ways of life, their communities, and the lands and forests all humanity depends on.

It is time for world leaders to listen. They should have known better.


Read the full report here.



GENEVA/NEW YORK (7 August 2018) – States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts*. In a joint statement marking International day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands:

"In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.

We wish to remind States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights. In addition, states must recognise indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language.

The Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples' rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will. States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants. As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

We call on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples.

We express particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples' issues.

On this International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples' rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues."



(*) The experts: The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council. Its mandate is to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to assist Member States in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is composed of seven independent experts serving in their personal capacities and is currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Forum is made up of 16 members serving in their personal capacity as independent experts on indigenous issues. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight by the President of ECOSOC, on the basis of broad consultation with indigenous groups. It is currently Chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples was established by the General Assembly in 1985. The Fund provides support for indigenous peoples' representatives to participate in sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, and UN human rights treaty bodies. Its Board of Trustees is currently Chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

For the Expert Mechanism: Mr. Juan Fernando Núñez (+41 22 928 9458 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For the Permanent Forum: Ms Martina Volpe Donlon (+1 212 963 6816 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Ms. Mirian Masaquiza (+1 917 367 5100, more information at

For the Special Rapporteur: Ms Christine Evans (+41 22 917 9197 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Ms. Julia Raavad (+41 22 917 92 88 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For the UN Voluntary Fund: Mr. Morse Flores (+41 22 917 9898 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


For the Kasepuhan, the forest is a way of life. Living in Java, Indonesia, the Kasepuhan rely on their lands for food, shelter, medicine, and income. Kasepuhan translates as “the keeper of ancestral land,” and the Kasepuhan follow their customary practices in their interactions with nature—the forest is intimately connected with their spiritualities and cultures.

Kasepuhan women are often responsible for sustainably managing these forests and resources. They hold multiple roles: as keepers of traditional religious rituals, agents of peace, and providers of food and medicine for their families and communities.

Yet like the vast majority of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, the Kasepuhan—who have lived in the Lebak district since the 17th century—had no formal legal recognition of their lands. The Indonesian government designated their territory a national park without their consent in 1992, and declared their traditional forestry and farming practices illegal.

This impacted the entire community, but was particularly dehumanizing for women given their unique connection to their forest and lands. They faced harassment and intimidation by police, who cracked down on them for gathering their traditional foods but failed to put a stop to illegal logging by outsiders.

Reduced forest access meant reduced access to traditional foods and medicine, leading to lower health rates for indigenous women and forcing them to travel long distances to reach markets. And because purchasing food is more expensive than harvesting from the forest, many children felt pressured to work rather than attend school, diminishing educational opportunities, particularly for indigenous girls.

This is part of a larger pattern across the country: Indonesia’s National Inquiry into the Rights of Indigenous Peoples found Indigenous Peoples were frequently evicted from their sources of life in forest zones due to the establishment of national parks, reserves, and other conservation areas in customary forests without their consent.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities have managed and protected Indonesia’s great forests for generations—yet despite having customary rights to at least 40 million hectares, they legally own less than 1 percent of the country’s land. This gap leaves their lands vulnerable to expropriation for development projects—but also for protected areas.

The National Inquiry found particular violations of women’s rights when their lands were converted to protected areas. Ironically, those districts that are richest in natural resources—and therefore prime targets for both conservation and development projects—have the highest rates of poverty, lowest rates of education, and highest rates of infant and maternal mortality.

The very social fabric of communities can also be torn by the loss of customary forests. It becomes more difficult to transfer knowledge to younger generations, leading to the loss of traditions and heritage and threatening the very identity of forest communities. Kasepuhan and other indigenous women help maintain peace, but losing access to the forest threatens this role as well. In Kalimantan, for example, Indigenous Peoples bring a gift of the fruit durian when entering negotiations between communities; without access to the forests, they instead arrive empty-handed.

Being expelled from customary territories also often comes with threats, harassment, and discrimination that can be particularly difficult for women, who have limited access to information and decision-making, and little or no training for work in the market-based economy.

After decades of uncertainty, the Kasepuhan successfully achieved a local regulation recognizing their land rights in 2014. In 2016, at the national level, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry recognized the rights of Kasepuhan Karang, one of the six Kasepuhan communities living in the National Park, over 462 hectares of forest (out of 1,081 hectares). This first achievement needs to be expanded, as recognition of the Kasepuhan’s rights protects their lives and livelihoods, and enables them to continue protecting Indonesia’s forests, which are a crucial bulwark against climate change.

There is a growing body of evidence to prove what Indigenous Peoples and local communities have long known: where community rights are secure, forests are more likely to stay standing. New research finds that communities achieve at least equal conservation outcomes with less than a quarter of the budget of formal protected areas.

In many cases, it is women who manage and protect the forests. Ensuring respect for their rights is vital to achieving Indonesia’s—and the world’s—sustainable development and climate goals.

Read the full case study at


They are indigenous women, whom in the complexity of their diverse realities, meet and organize themselves to weave innovative initiatives in order to defend their individual and collective rights. Overcoming this, impoverishment, multiple discrimination and different forms of violence. There are more than 185 million who belong to 5 thousand different Indigenous peoples, according to the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture.

From an innovative intercultural philanthropy approach, the International Indigenous Women`s Forum (FIMI for its acronym in Spanish)[1] through its Fund for Indigenous Women AYNI [2] implements, for the second year the Leading from the South program, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Foreign from Holland.

Leading from the South (LFS) has invested in projects around the world, accompanying processes where indigenous women from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific, have an active role in the management and distribution of resources in their communities; leading initiatives to influence public policies, which allows them access to land, services and resources; and face unequal power relations to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence.

Currently, FIMI and its AYNI Fund is launching the LFS 2018 call, hoping to co-invest in projects of groups, organizations and networks of indigenous women related to the following thematic areas: political advocacy; institutional strengthening; land, territory and resources; Mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and access to public services.

Organizations or networks lead by indigenous women can access: until July 31, 2018, to apply for three types of grants: small, medium and large, depending on the size and amount of the grant for your organization.

Be updated at

17th Session Report of the Permanent Forum (2018)

21 June 2018, 3:29 am Written by
Published in Latest News

The report of the 17th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (16–27 April 2018) on the theme “Indigenous peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and resources” is now available in all UN languages:

E/2018/43 – E/C.19/2018/11: | AR | EN | ES | FR | RU | ZH |

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has identified the proposals, objectives, recommendations and areas of possible future action set out below and, through the Economic and Social Council, recommends that States, entities of the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations, indigenous peoples, the private sector and non-governmental organizations assist in their realization.

Follow links to the report at

Speakers at a programme in Rangamati yesterday called for an impartial investigation into the alleged assault on Yan Yan, the queen of the Chakma circle, and female volunteers at Rangamati Sadar Hospital on February 15.

They also demanded that the government identify the persons, who raped two Marma sisters, and ensure justice for the victims.

The demands were made at a rally organised in solidarity with the Chakma royal family at Rangamati Rajbari premises. Indigenous people from three hill districts took part in the rally.

The Marma sisters -- aged 18 and 13 -- were admitted to the hospital on January 22. Earlier in the day, the elder one was allegedly raped while the other sexually assaulted during a drive by a team of security forces in their village, Bilaicchari.

Following a writ petition, a High Court bench on February 13 ordered the authorities concerned of the government and Rangamati Sadar Hospital to hand over the girls to their father. The petition was filed by the girls' father.

Meanwhile with the court order, several policemen accompanied by the parents of two sisters, went to the hospital on February 15 and handed them over to their parents.

The sisters, however, refused to go with them, as they feared for their safety, according to witnesses. As a group of volunteers, who had been giving the two sisters company day and night at the hospital, and Chakma circle queen Yan Yan protested the police move, a group of masked men attacked them, they added.

Speaking at the protest rally, Chakma Raja Devasish Roy said we have to get united against the attack on Chakma royal family and CHT people.

He demanded exemplary punishment for the culprits. “If anyone thinks that … CHT people are afraid, their idea is wrong,” he added.

Goutam Dewan, president of Chittagong Hill Tract Citizen Committee, said the assault on Chakma queen is tantamount to the attack on all CHT indigenous people.

"We want exemplary punishment for the attackers," he said.

In the rally, Chakma queen Yan Yan, Professor Mongsanu Chodhury, former member of National Human Rights Commission Nirupa Dewan, and headman-karbari representatives of three hill districts were present, among others.

Source: (Posted on 20 February 2018)

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has initiated the preparation of her next thematic report on criminalisation and attacks against indigenous peoples defending their rights under human rights treaties and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The report will specifically consider the collective impact on indigenous communities and consider the design of prevention and protection measures. This report will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2018.

Building on numerous recent initiatives undertaken by indigenous peoples, civil society actors as well as by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur wishes to focus her report on the specific experiences and challenges faced by indigenous peoples. Concrete steps taken by different stakeholders to prevent attacks and provide collective protection measures will be explored with a view to identify proposals for action.

Attached is a Concept Note providing more information about the upcoming report.

Within the context of the preparation of this report, you are encouraged to submit your inputs by 16 March 2018.

Kindly submit a summary of maximum 5 pages of the situation/cases you wish to submit for the consideration of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, indicating the subject ‘Criminalisation report 2018’ in the subject heading to; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



17 February 2018, 2:49 am Written by
Published in Latest News

This year IIWF/FIMI will award the Prize in honor of the vision and creativity of indigenous women's organizations fighting for ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE in their communities.

General characteristics of the call.

The prize is organized by the International Forum of Indigenous Women-FIMI, and is aimed at indigenous women's organizations in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

This award seeks to promote a process of recognition and visibility of the historical participation of indigenous women in the protection of Mother Earth and its diverse and profound connection of the territory. Also, strengthen and motivate good practices and collective experiences promoted by indigenous women's organizations as first carers of their environment, their natural resources and their livelihoods.

We know that the environmental violence experienced by indigenous peoples generates diverse dynamics and local individual and collective processes for environmental justice in indigenous communities, and we are aware that in these processes indigenous women play a fundamental role, contributing in the cultural, spiritual, political or social areas. Therefore, the nominations should have a collective work approach led by indigenous women.

Lines of action.

It is expected that environmental justice initiatives are framed in some of the following lines of action:

*Access to clean and safe water

*Demands and complaints about deforestation

*Conservation and recovery of ancestral spaces.

*Protection of knowledge related to traditional medicine.

*Protection of health from the impacts of extractive industries and megaprojects

*Strategies for adaptation to climate change.

About the objective of the call.

The objective is that indigenous organizations have systematized information on different initiatives to protect their lands, territories and resources, which will serve as a tool for the incidence and monitoring of compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mainly the one referred to gender equality together with the objectives aimed at preserving and using in a sustainable way the terrestrial species and ecosystems of the planet, access to clean and safe water, as transversal axes for environmental justice.

Rules of the contest.

About the profile of the applicants to the prize.

Organizations, associations, networks or groups of indigenous women that are part of a community of indigenous or tribal peoples, who have obtained significant achievements, successful practices and alliances from the implementation of a community initiative related to the conservation and protection of their land, territory and / or resources in indigenous communities.

Initiative nominations of NGOs or state institutions will not be taken into account.

Characteristics of successful shared practice.

The actions of the successful practice must have been of a collective and community nature, and have benefited a group or a community.

Through successful practice, positive environmental changes in the community must have been achieved.

Participation, decision making and leadership of indigenous women in said practices or collective processes.

About the prize.

Three prizes of USD 10,000 (Ten thousand US dollars) will be awarded each, one for each region (LAC, Asia and Africa) assigned to the winning organization. The prize will be presented at an event organized by IIWF/FIMI during the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues of the UN, in New York.

Requirements for the nomination to the prize.

Applicants for the award must comply with the following procedures:

Fill and send form established by IIWF/FIMI for documentation of good practice.

Submit the minutes of the conformation of your directive

Attach photographs or other documentation that you consider relevant to support your application, may be: testimonies, life stories or links to newspaper and magazine articles that document the activities.

Two letters of recommendation from allied organizations of your process.

Nomination letter.

Selection of proposals

The evaluation of the nominations will be in charge of a selection committee made up of indigenous women of outstanding international trajectory in the field of human rights of the indigenous peoples and defense of the land, who will value the relevance of the presented practice.

Other important aspects

For the protection and safety of the people involved, please inform us of any restriction for the public management of information, especially the protection of the identity of the people, if they consider it necessary.

Send your nomination by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the deadline for submission: March 9, 2018 at 12:00 p.m.

Download the application document.

Fraternal greetings,


Teresa Zapeta

Directora Ejecutiva




Nadia Fenly Observatorio de Mujeres

Indígenas Contra la Violencia