• Indigenous peoples in Panama

    Indigenous peoples in Panama

    There are seven indigenous peoples of Panama. These are the Ngäbe, the Buglé, the Guna, the Emberá, the Wounaan, the Bri bri, and the Naso Tjërdi. Although Panama has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its indigenous communities are facing a number of challenges, especially in relation to recognition of and rights to territories as well as forcible eviction.
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IACHR: Demands on indigenous consultation to ratify free trade agreements

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) emphasised the duty of states to consult indigenous peoples on free trade agreements when they affect their territories and natural resources. The thematic hearing particularly discussed the case of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will directly affect Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

This call came in the context of the special hearing on the “Human Rights Situation in the Context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the Americas" during the IACHR’s 159th Period of Sessions held from 1 to 7 December 2016 in Panama.

The petitioning delegation, which included IWGIA, explained the threat that trade agreements represent to human rights in general, and to indigenous peoples in particular. It referred specifically to the negative impacts of a proliferation of investments on indigenous territories in the region. The delegation emphasised the violation of indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decisions that affect them and to be consulted in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent in such public decisions.

The organisations also referred to the impacts the TPP will have on the intellectual property in terms of access to medicines and its effects on their ecosystems, ancestral territories, and the environment generally. They emphasised the implications of these possible threats not only for the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples but for all societies involved in the treaty.

Threatening biodiversity and accelerating migration

“The logging industry is expanding in Chile due to free trade agreements, and its activities have a direct impact on the Mapuche people’s access to their lands and the biodiversity of their territory,” stated the Mapuche representative, Ana Llao Llao (AD-Mapu). Llao Llao explained that the consequence of such investment was the Mapuche population’s growing and accelerated migration towards Chile’s larger towns and cities.
In the case of Peru, the Director of ONAMIAP, Ketty Marcelo, highlighted how large-scale projects directly affect indigenous women. She noted that indigenous women are the most vulnerable group of people in their communities and those most exposed to violent conflict. With regard to the investments being made by the Melka Group in Ucayali region, she explained: “We are witnessing a change in the ecosystem, 11,000 hectares of forest were felled between 2011 and 2013 alone, without any environmental impact assessment.”
Demands and recommendations positively received                           
The petitioners felt their proposals were well-received by the attending commissioners, which included the President of the Commission, James Cavallaro, and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Eguiguren.
“Consultation is a requirement whenever there are issues that affect indigenous peoples’ territories, particularly in the case of extractive industry investments,” emphasised First Vice-President of the Commission, Francisco Eguiguren.
José Aylwin, Co-Director of the Citizens’ Observatory (Observatorio Ciudadano) in Chile, felt the hearing was positive as it offered an opportunity for increased visibility of the way in which rights are being affected by trade agreements in the region. “These kinds of agreement generally have an impact on indigenous territories through extractive investments, which are imposed without prior consultation, without any participation in the benefits and without compensation for damage suffered,” he explained.
The representatives of the petitioning organisations also made a series of recommendations both to states and to the Inter-American Commission. With regard to the former, they called on states to conduct a study into the impact on human rights of trade agreements signed thus far. They also called for internal consistency in their policies, and for a rejection of further trade agreements that could compromise their compliance with international human rights obligations.
With regard to the Inter-American Commission, they requested a thematic report on trade agreements and human rights in the Americas. They particularly recommended that the IACHR urge states to comply with their international human rights obligations, and they further called on it to establish effective measures to protect the rights recognised in the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular, the right to ownership of lands, territories and natural resources, intellectual property and the right to define their own development priorities.

Petitioning organisations at the hearing:

Chile: Observatorio Ciudadano, Plataforma Ciudadana Chile Mejor Sin TPP, Ad-Mapu, Asociación de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas (ANAMURI), Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus alternativas (RAP-AL).

Mexico: Coalición de Organizaciones y Movimientos Sociales México Mejor Sin TPP, Coordinadora Nacional Plan de Ayala (CNPA), Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC).

Peru: Organización Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Amazónicas del Perú (ONAMIAP), Red Peruana por una Globalización con Equidad (REDGE), Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH).

International: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

Full video of the Hearing (Spanish):


Tags: Land rights



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

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