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SOURCE: ABS-CBN News

Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

BARCELONA – Indigenous people and local communities lack legal rights to almost three quarters of their traditional lands, sparking social conflict and undermining international plans to curb poverty, hunger and climate change, researchers said.

A study released on Wednesday by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) showed that 10 percent of land in 64 countries analysed is owned by indigenous people and local communities, and 8 percent is controlled or managed by them.

Yet they claim or have customary use of as much as 65 percent of the world’s land area.

The new figures highlight “the catastrophic failure of governments to respect the basic land rights of more than 1 billion people”, said Andy White, coordinator of RRI, a global coalition working on forest policy.

“Now there is absolutely no mystery why there is so much conflict in the rural world, and why there is so much violence over investments and agriculture and mining in those areas,” White told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The first of 17 new global goals adopted by the United Nations on Friday, on ending poverty, commits to ensuring that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to ownership and control over land by 2030.

White said that most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were connected with land, because it is the basis of survival for the world’s poor.

The RRI study showed the huge disconnect between local people and governments over land rights, he said.

“It’s very clear now that the SDGs will fail unless governments address this crisis,” he said.

The countries studied for the RRI report cover 82 percent of global land and different types of ecosystem from forests to drylands.

Twelve of them are included in the World Bank’s list of fragile countries, and in these, only 2 percent of the land is controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities, and a fraction of 1 percent is owned by them, the report said.

White said this highlighted the importance of tackling land rights issues in efforts to help countries recover from war.

In Liberia, for example, the government has been working on a draft Land Rights Act that would formally recognise customary tenure without titling. But there are concerns this may not apply to commercial concessions already agreed, which cover around three quarters of the country’s land, the report said.

LAWS NOT ENFORCED

At a conference in Bern, Switzerland, on strengthening community land rights, experts said laws and policies exist, and court decisions are made, to enforce those rights, but governments often ignore them.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said she had seen a “retreat” in implementation by governments – from the Philippines to Brazil, India and Paraguay – causing increased conflicts over land ownership, use and management.

“Indigenous rights are sacrificed by governments when they enter into … investment and free trade agreements,” she said.

Tauli-Corpuz blamed the dominant economic model of growth, “incessant” consumption and unsustainable production patterns for ongoing displacement of indigenous peoples and violations of their human rights.

“States comply more with investment and free trade agreements because these have heavier sanctions in terms of economic payments,” she said. “But for the human rights conventions, there are no such sanctions … and that is one of the weaknesses.”

Past studies have found that forest dwellers and other local communities conserve their territories best, preventing planet-warming carbon emissions from trees and the soil and thus slowing climate change, the RRI said.

The report said that around two thirds of the lands recognised as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities are found in just five countries: China, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Mexico.

Nearly 90 percent of the countries studied have at least one law on the books that could be used to legally recognise land rights, it said.

In 2013, for example, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled government control of customary forests invalid. If implemented, this judgment could increase the amount of land controlled by local people from 0.25 percent of national territory to around 23 percent, the report said.

“Without rights to the lands that we live on, indigenous peoples in Indonesia get pushed aside without free prior and informed consent, for industrial projects like palm oil plantations and strip mines,” said Rukka Sombolinggi of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).

White said a small number of companies had begun to realise that riding roughshod over communities would harm their investments, and were seeking fairer deals with those living on the land they want to exploit.

A separate analysis, released by consultancy TMP Systems, showed that of 262 agriculture, energy and mining sector disputes, conflicts with local populations had a materially significant impact on investors in 67 percent of cases.

A campaign to double the area of land recognised as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and communities by 2020, backed by a coalition of groups, will kick off early next year, development charity Oxfam told the Bern meeting.

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SOURCE: SciDevNet

Asian indigenous groups bag UNDP awards

Copyright: Kemal Jufri / Panos

[JAKARTA] Indigenous communities from Indonesia have been awarded the Equator Prize 2015 by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for their struggle in advocating land rights and environmental restoration.

They are among the 21 community initiatives in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America that were given the UN prize on 21 September for securing land rights, protecting forests from destruction, saving endangered species and creating thousands of jobs for their localities.

During the press conference in New York announcing the winners, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres linked the importance of the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris this December to the role of indigenous groups and local communities in assisting the world to reach its collective climate goals.

“The agreement governments will reach in Paris will be a crucial catalyst for sustainable development in the twenty-first century — everyone from governments, cities and companies to local and indigenous communities have an interest and everyone has a role to play in reducing emissions and building resilient societies,” she said.

“These winners show what is possible when indigenous people and local communities are backed by rights to manage their lands.”

By Helen Clark, UNDP administrator

One of the winners is Komunitas Adat Muara Taen, an indigenous group in East Kalimantan which has replanted 700 hectares of forests with traditional wood and fruit trees. They have also been struggling for land rights in Muara Tae since the 1970s to protect their land from the government and private companies which are trying to claim these.

Hairudin, information head of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the umbrella group of Indonesian indigenous groups, tells SciDev.Net that the people of Muara Tae are a unique community compared to other indigenous groups in Kalimantan because of their persistence in asserting their rights.

“The people in Muara Tae have kept on struggling and they have secured 4,000 hectares of traditional forests,“ he says.

Other winners from Indonesia are Peoples in the Heart of Borneo, an Indonesia-Malaysia indigenous peoples’ alliance championing land rights and improved livelihoods, and Kelompok Peduli Lingkungan Belitung, an environmental group in Belitung island, Sumatra which has restored coral reefs and fishing zones devastated by tin mining.

Three other winners in the Asia-Pacific are the Prey Lang Community Network in Cambodia, an alliance of indigenous Kuy communities that have protected 500,000 hectares of lowland forests through forest patrols and geo-referencing technology; the Yunnan Green Watershed Management Research and Promotion Center in China, a model for indigenous self-organisation which has protected over 1,300 hectares of mountain forests; and the Wanang Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea, an alliance of ten indigenous groups which has protected 10,000 hectares of forests from commercial logging and operates a research station.

According to UNDP administrator Helen Clark struggling for land rights is good for the climate and sustainable development because forests and wildlife are protected, water is secured, jobs are created and local people are empowered.

“These winners show what is possible when indigenous people and local communities are backed by rights to manage their lands, territories and natural resources,” she says.

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Source: Yale Environment 360

The villagers of Setulang in Indonesian Borneo have enlisted a new ally in their fight against the illegal clearing of their forests for oil palm plantations: aerial drones.

Setulang lies within a forest conservation area managed by the indigenous Dayak people, who have fostered a thriving tourism industry based on the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and their own cultural heritage. After successfully ousting an oil palm company operating illegally in their territory, the Dayaks are now hoping the drones can help them protect their land.

Dayaks and Drones,” a video produced by Handcrafted Films, chronicles how the villagers teamed up with an Indonesian nonprofit to learn how to program and operate drones. Equipped with GPS technology, the small drones photograph the forest and monitor the area for illegal activities, especially plantations and mines. The villagers will use information gathered by the drones to create a detailed map of their land, which will help in future conservation efforts.

“The international community must help Indonesia accelerate the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples,” Abdon Nababan, an Indonesian indigenous rights leader (AMAN), tells the filmmakers. “

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