“Unity is strength”: Voices from ILC Members at IFAD's Indigenous People’s Forum

Friday, 24th February 2017

On February 10th and 13th, 2017 the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) hosted the third annual Global Meeting of the Indigenous People’s Forum, where a number of ILC members from Indigenous Peoples’ organisations gathered to discuss how they can participate in and shape development projects. 

ILC at the third Global Meeting of the Indigenous People’s ForumILC as a global network has prioritised some key shifts for 2017 to work towards our joint goal of land governance for and with people; strengthening in-country work, committing to protecting land rights defenders, and recognising and using the power of data that exists in the Coalition. 

We know that our members are already working on these issues back home, and so we took the opportunity to sit down and discuss with two of them, the Integrated Program for the Development of the Pygmy People in the Kivu (PIDP) from DR Congo and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) based in Peru, how the Coalition can support them in their efforts. 

Strengthening in-country work

DR Congo and Peru are two of over twenty National Engagement Strategies (NES) processes set in motion by the ILC. This number is growing and so is the support that the Coalition is providing to current and new country multi-stakeholder platforms. 

Mr. Diel Mochire Mwenge is PIDP’s Provincial Director for North Kivu. He explained how as a new member of the ILC, it took time to understand how the process of National Engagement Strategies works. “Now we take advantage of activities at national level because in order to influence governments we need to work together”,  he says.  “Each of the members of the national platform have their own area of expertise and can approach issues from different angles, be it women's issues, youth or Indigenous Peoples.  This helps us to put the pieces together to make a whole”.

                                                              (Diel Mochire Mwenge,  PIDP’s Provincial Director for North Kivu)

Ms. Teresa Zapeta from FIMI works with programmes across Latin America and shares Diel’s sentiment:  “All changes at the country level are thanks to multi-stakeholder actions. Changes in policies and laws are really slow, take a lot of time, efforts, resources… and perseverance! I don’t know any organisation that could achieve them alone, it always needs to be been a joint work: unity is strength!

With ILC's increased focus and in-country support, there are more frequent and better opportunities to encourage new partnerships, share good practices and strengthen engagement with government officials and regional authorities.

Thanks to these spaces, Teresa says that for Indigenous Peoples Organisations, “ILC offers an opportunity to connect at the national level with organisations who are engaged in different processes that we have never worked with. This can help us support existing initiatives or propose new activities”. “At the global level, ILC is an important ally to help gain influence in international spaces. We are working on creating alliances and on finding out what type of change we can achieve trough joint advocacy. The goal is to bring international policies and agreements to the national level, and vice versa”.

                                       Teresa Zapeta (FIMI)
                                                                    (Teresa Zapeta, FIMI's Programme Coordinator)

Committing to land right defenders

Realising people-centred land governance means responding to the needs of those who live on and from the land. Land grabbing and attacks on land rights defenders represent two of the biggest hurdles in achieving this goal. Diel explains that “land grabbing in DR Congo is linked to the creation of national parks and reserves which lead to the eviction of Indigenous Peoples from their territories. We are working hard to influence national politics in recognising  Indigenous People’s sacred lands and in gaining access to justice”.  “The biggest challenge is to get governments to see things through our eyes.  When we have more people working together, it is easier for this to happen”.  

Following a pilot project to provide ad-hoc support to land and environmental defenders in the ILC membership, the Coalition is now looking to develop a more strategic approach which includes awareness raising, advocacy, capacity building and financial support to land and environmental defenders and their organisations.

According to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 'free prior and informed consent' (FPIC), is the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use.

Failure to comply with FPIC is a source of conflict for many communities around the world. “Indigenous women and land defenders face even more challenges, because different issues come up: personal safety and the presence of military forces, corporations and other external actors." Teresa says, adding that "indigenous women are more exposed to risks because of the absence of the State, feeling that they have no one to turn to.”

Drawing from existing tools and experiences within the Coalition, a mechanism will be developed and piloted in 2017 in all regions to support member’s work and local communities in preventing land grabbing with a focus on protecting land rights defenders.

Unleashing the power of data

The ILC is a network rich in people-centred data and enabling members to collect, use and share land data is a priority area of work for 2017. FIMI has developed a pilot observatory in Central America focused on creating a database of violence against Indigenous women, and is currently discussing on how to replicate this initiative to collect data on violence against women land and environmental defenders.

An important part of people-generated data from within the network is collecting Indigenous Peoples' data, which will be crucial in monitoring progress towards the ten commitments. especially in NES countries, while linking this data to benchmarks including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs) to complement official data sources. To tie everything together, we'll be creating an interactive platform - the Dashboard - to make this data visible and accessible to all members. 

Keep an eye out for progress on these priorities and more updates from ILC members!