Bolivia

Indigenous peoples in Bolivia

There are 36 recognized peoples in Bolivia. With the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and a new Constitution, Bolivia adopted the status of a plurinational state. However, the country's indigenous peoples still face challenges, especially in terms of seismic work in search of new oil and gas reserves and hydroelectric projects.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples was approved by Law in November 2007. Since 1991, Bolivia is a signatory of ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. 

The Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous groups

According to the 2012 National Census, 41% of the Bolivian population over the age of 15 are of indigenous origin, although the National Institute of Statistics’ (INE) 2017 projections indicate that this percentage is likely to have increased to 48%.

There are 38 recognised peoples in Bolivia, the majority in the Andes are Quechua-speaking peoples (49.5%) and Aymara (40.6%), who self-identify as 16 nations. In the lowlands, the Chiquitano (3.6%), Guaran. (2.5%) and Moje.o (1.4%) peoples are in the majority and, together with the remaining 2.4%, make up 34 recognised indigenous peoples.

Main challenges for Bolivia’s indigenous peoples

A major challenge for the indigenous peoples of Bolivia relates to the seismic work in search of new oil and gas reserves, as well as hydroelectric projects. They directly impact the people inhabiting the territory of the projects, often indigenous peoples and peasants.

Progress for Bolivia's indigenous peoples

To date, the indigenous peoples have consolidated 23 million ha. of collective property under the status of Community Lands of Origin (TCOs), representing 21% of the country’s total land mass.

Thanks to the Framework Law on Autonomies 031/10 of 22 July, a number of indigenous peoples are now forming their own self-governments. Thirty-six indigenous autonomies have commenced the process for accessing self-government, 21 by means of municipal conversion and 15 by territorial means or TIOC. Three of them have already established their self-government, and another five have achieved their autonomous status through a declaration of constitutionality. 

In 2017, the government of Bolivia decided to revive the conflict over the building of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway through the Isiboro S.ruce National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) by approving Law No. 969/17 on 13 August. However, the VIII Indigenous March, supported by all of the country’s indigenous organisations, stopped this construction of the highway.

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