March 2020: IWGIA Newsletter

Business and Human Rights, Rights to Land, Indigenous Women and COVID-19
 // IWGIA appoints new Board chair and Director - March 2020 Newsletter


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Business and Human Rights, Rights to Land, Indigenous Women and COVID-19
 // IWGIA appoints new Board chair and Director

Dear friend of IWGIA,

In the first quarter of 2020, Indigenous Peoples have continued to fight and advocate for their rights. From organising protests to ensuring that their communities are protected from the emerging threat of COVID-19, Indigenous Peoples have been at the heart of protests and negotiations around the world to protect their rights and raise their concerns. 

In the start of 2020, COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the globe and is now recognised as a global pandemic. Many countries around the world have been and are severely affected by the fast-spreading virus which has proven to pose significant health risks especially for the elderly and persons with existing health conditions. However, people without access to adequate healthcare or relevant infrastructure – a reality for many Indigenous communities around the world – are at further risk. Throughout March, we have seen calls for support for these communities, as well as closures of Indigenous communities to outsiders as groups attempt to protect themselves.

In our response to COVID-19, IWGIA has taken a number of steps to ensure our staff, our partners and the communities we support remain safe. The Secretariat has been working virtually from home since mid-March and has postponed and/or cancelled any business-related travel through to the end of April for the time being. We also continue to remain in contact with our partners and communities, where we have advised them to heed the advice of their authorities and health professionals and have increased our flexibility in the projects we implement together. We all continue to monitor the situation.

All over the world, people have gone to the streets protesting against growing inequality. In Chile and Ecuador, Indigenous Peoples have had leading roles in the protests. A key component of these protests has been the recognition of violations of key human rights, you can read more about the situation in Chile in this report from the observation mission (available in Spanish).

At the same time, IWGIA has continued to document and advocate against human rights violations around the globe, from the Adivasis in India who have been protesting against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) which Indigenous Peoples fear will render millions of them stateless because they will not be able to provide the necessary documents to prove their citizenship, to Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been documenting and supporting Indigenous Peoples struggles against land grabbing in Bangladesh.

Further, with the launch of IWGIA’s new project, with support from Comic Relief, we continue to support and celebrate the strength of Indigenous women. Strong community women from across Tanzania, including from the Mgorogoro, Costal and Manyara regions, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, as well as from Kenya and Cameroon, came together to share their challenges, aspirations and visions, and to reinforce their movement in Mgorogoro, Tanzania in February. The room was full of determined and enthusiastic women ready to unite their forces so that the new generation of girls in their community can enjoy human rights and gender equality. Read more about the conference in Tanzania.

Finally - on an organisational note - IWGIA is pleased to announce that Ida Theilade has been elected as the chair of our board, and that Kathrin Wessendorf has accepted the position of Executive Director from 1 April 2020.

We are looking forward to the developments 2020 brings as we continue to promote, protect and defend Indigenous Peoples' rights with your support.

From all of us at IWGIA, we wish you health and happiness.

Yours sincerely, David Berger – Programme coordinator at IWGIA.
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  • Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders are more at risk of being targeted, as movement is restricted and governments broaden laws
  • Already marginalised, Indigenous Peoples chronically lack proper access to health resources and information, further exacerbating the risk to their communities in times of emergency
  • Indigenous Peoples’ are responding to the pandemic using self-determined protection mechanisms  Read more here >>
Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh –
alive, struggling, fighting and uniting

IWGIA provides on-site reporting on the situation for Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh sharing their struggle against the industrial development taking place on their ancestral lands, how Indigenous women are targeted, and how rape is used systematically as a weapon to suppress them.

Read more here >>

Impact of renewable energy projects on Indigenous communities in Kenya

Kenya’s ambitious plan to transition to renewable energy, while admirable, has also led to criticism for its neglect of respecting the Indigenous Peoples who live on the land that is being used for large-scale wind and geothermal projects. In one case, presented in IWGIA’s latest report on renewable energy projects in Kenya, Indigenous Peoples were forced to move away from their land – land they consider holy.
Learn more here >>

Indigenous women in Africa are making their messages of equality and empowerment heard

At a meeting in Morogoro, Tanzania, strong, united and dedicated Indigenous women came together to unite their forces so that the new generation of girls in their community can enjoy human rights and gender equality. Together they are capable to stand up for their rights and bring change in their communities.
Read more here >>

Biologist with strong indigenous peoples’ knowledge appointed as new IWGIA chair

IWGIA welcomes the appointment of its new Board Chair, Professor Ida Theilade. She has worked with participatory management and the conservation of tropical forests for the past 25 years. Her research explores the role local and indigenous knowledge and institutions can play in natural resource management, tropical forest preservation and climate action.
 Read more here >>

Indian citizenship laws have deep impact on Adivasis

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December 2019, is of great concern to Adivasis and Tribal Peoples in India, who feel that this is yet another threat adding to their insecurity when it comes to the state’s responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Read more here >>

Final Mission Report: Chile January 2020

In November 2019, Chilean human rights organizations convened an international observation mission to gain first-hand knowledge of the situation in Chile in the context of the mass demonstrations that began on October 18, 2019. The report [available in Spanish], documents the situation of widespread human rights violations characterized by the indiscriminate and arbitrary use of force. 

 Read more here >>

Kathrin Wessendorf has been working for the organisation since 2000 in different positions, including as Head of Programmes, Interim-Director, Arctic Programme Coordinator, Communications Coordinator, Editor of The Indigenous World, and Senior Advisor on Climate Change.

Kathrin represents IWGIA in the International Land Coalition (ILC) Council and hands over representation of IWGIA at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to Lærke Marie Lund Petersen. She has an MA in Social Anthropology from Basel University, Switzerland, and wrote her thesis on indigenous peoples’ territorial governance systems in the Arctic (particularly Nunavut, Canada).

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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