"Community Land Initiative" in Peru, advances of the Instituto del Bien Común

Friday, September 14, 2018

From the Namati Blog series 3/6

Today, after a century of recognition of indigenous communities by the State, in Peru there are still no official figures, precise data, nor an official map of native and peasant communities in the Andes. As part of the Community Land Initiative in...

In recent years, work to mitigate climate change has highlighted the need to strengthen the territorial governance of Amazonian indigenous peoples. There are many public and private institutions (NGOs, indigenous organizations, etc.) that have been working on the titling of native communities in the Amazon; these efforts have led to the  creation of different tools to improve the governance of these communities, such as “Communal Life Plans.” However, the titling and strengthening processes of territorial governance of peasant communities in the Andes has not moved forward. The State of Peru argues that the Andean communities are not indigenous and are therefore not elleigble to receive the legal protections due to indigenous peoples. IBC feels that the denial of the indigenous identity of the Andean indigenous people is a stratagy used to undermine the territorial rights of the peasant communities, so as to allow the government to grant rights to third parties (in this case, extractive industries) without having to consult the local people. This is a serious infringeemnt on the rights of these indigenous communities. According to Article 7 of ILO Convention 169, these peoples have "... the right to decide their priorities regarding the development process ...", which implies that they are free to choose their own ways to improve their quality of life and not stick to the proposals by external actors. Adding to the matter is the  lack of policies aimed at strengthening the governance of Peru’s peasant communities in the Andes. So far, planning processes and communal governance, such as "life plans" have been developed exclusively in native communities in the Amazon (which the government does consider to be indigenous peoples).  When the IBC was chosen to participate in the ILC’s Community Land Protection Co-Learning Inititiave, we chose to pilot strategies we have used successfully in the Amazon  - and strategies we learned from the other Initiative partipants - in peasant communities for the first time. Since April 2018, we have been working with two Quechua communities: Cruz de Mayo (located in the Ancash region, eight hours from Lima by land, to the north) and Huachón (located in the Pasco region, ten hours from Lima via terrestrial, to the east). This work is a new challenge for the IBC.  Peasant communities differ from Amazonian native communities in terms of social, cultural, political, economic and natural characteristics, and also in terms of the relationship between human beings and their environment and natural resources. The IBC hopes that this pilot initiative may be extended to other communities and may also serve as a model for other initiatives that pursue similar goals. 

Advances of the process so far

 This initiative implies the territorial reorganization of both communities, the revision of their communal statute (or rules of coexistence) and the elaboration of communal life plans. In the four months of project development, the IBC has: 

  1. Introduced the initiative to members of both communities. This work involved several visits and meetings with the authorities of each community, where the objectives of the initiative and the actions to be taken to achieve the protection and security of their communal lands were presented, beginning with the recognition and titling of their territory communal. After these meetings, there was evidence (for IBC) of the lack of documents for titling and limitations on their property and security rights over their lands.
  2. Visited the institutions in charge of the recognition and titling of communal territory.. The interaction with the officials in the regions of Áncash and Pasco allowed the IBC to introduce the initiative’s and to better understand the formal legal situation of both communities. In addition to obtaining physical copies of important documents related to communal property, it will be necessary for the two communities to undertake planning activities, descriptive memory activities, acts of adjacency, and recognition and titling resolutions, among other steps towards formalization of their land claims.

 As part of these efforts, IBC was able to: 1) obtain documents on the state of the communal territories of both communities; 2) draw up and sign cooperation agreements between the IBC and each of the prioritized communities; and 3) togeher with government officials, coordinate and plan the work of georeferencing in the field of the communal territory, as part of the recognition and titling process, to begin in mid-August.

Challenges faced:

  • The communities of Cruz de Mayo and Huachón face problems of ownership and security over their lands: despite being recognized and titled and registered in public registers, their ownership is imperfect because they are not geo-referenced. To this is added that SUNARP does not have all the documentation required for their registration, in the absence of an official cadastre..
  • The State lacks willingness to finish the recognition and titling of the communal territories of Cruz de Mayo and Huachón: this has manifested in the the absence of guidelines and methodologies to guide regional governments in this recognition, insufficient staff to carry out fieldwork, a lack of budget,  and a shortage of the precision equipment to georeference the collective lands of both communities. This lack of will is exacerbated by uncertainty caused by the pre-electoral political context (regional elections will be held in October 2018) which is leading to further inaction by the current authorities.
  • Each of the two communities has a proliferation of sub-communiy “annexes,” which makes it difficult to find consensus. The Cruz de Mayo community has 21 annexes, alltitled by the DRA and registered in public registers individually, despite belonging to the same community. This causes each annex to believe that it have the right to decide individually about the land that has been recognized, not collectively with the other annexes. In Huachón community there are 12 sectors, but these do not have individual titles; he community has a single communal title. However, some sectors of the Huachón community do not feel properly represented by the main population center and its authorities, and are looking for ways to separate. 
  • State and private companies interventions to promote the disintegration of community unity and increase internal conflict, so as to more easily. allow the state to grant mining concessions to third parties and to faciliate the construction of new infrastructure (like dams and new roads).

Learnings to date:

The processes of territorial recognition and titling of the peasant communities in Peru will be complicated and complex. The government regularly approves new regulatons aimed at weakening communal property rights in the region. The absence of an official cadastre and the constant contradictions of administrative functions between different State institutions increase this complexity. Further complicating the situation is  the influence of external actors from the extractives sector, which contribute to a general distrust of external actors (including NGOs). The IBC has had to work hard to build trust and create foundational relationships with the pilot communities to achieve significant results.  The IBC’s experiences  have confirmed that social processes take time, patience and long-term commitment. In this sense, we believe that developing the initiative in a longer period than anticipated, far from being an obstacle, provides an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to both communities, consciously carrying out a process for the benefit of the communities.