ILC’s Approach to Indigenous Peoples’ Issues

The International Land Coalition is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue and capacity building. Indigenous peoples comprise more than 370 million people worldwide. It is estimated that they constitute approximately 5% of the world’s population, but make up 15 % of the world’s poor and about one-third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. Indigenous peoples have strong spiritual, cultural, social and economic relationship with their traditional lands, but their land rights are often the most precarious. Hence, indigenous peoples’ issues are of central importance for ILC’s mandate.

ILC’s main goal in its Strategic Framework 2011-2015 is “to enable poor rural women and men to gain secure and equitable access to and control over land in order to increase their food security and overcome poverty and vulnerability”. Indigenous peoples are mentioned significantly in ILC’s Strategic Framework, but the Coalition has not yet identified indigenous peoples as a specific category of collective rights-holders and has not applied a systematic
focus on indigenous issues.

On April 27 2013, ILC’s members committed themselves through the Antigua Declaration at the close of the Global Land Forum and 27th Assembly of Members. In this document, ILC members voice their concern at the extreme vulnerability of numerous indigenous peoples to land grabbing and the criminalisation of customary forms of land and natural resource use, particularly in relation to extractive industries, conservation areas and commercial agriculture. Recognising that respect for indigenous cultures contributes to sustainable and equitable development and management of the environment, ILC members committed “to work together to more effectively support indigenous peoples in their struggle for territorial rights and the protection of their environments”.

A list of 10 People-Centred Land Governance commitments to action, based on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) and in the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (ALPFG)- was annexed to the Antigua Declaration. One of these actions is oriented to “respect and protect the inherent land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples,
as set out in ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including by recognizing that respect for indigenous knowledge and cultures contributes to sustainable and equitable  development and proper management of the environment”.

During the 2013 Assembly of Members, ILC membership expanded to include several prestigious organisations that specifically represent indigenous peoples or have expertise on indigenous affairs, such as the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), the International Workgroup on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program.

Additionally, a survey to map ILC members’ involvement, experiences and interest in indigenous peoples’ land rights was undertaken between February and March 2013 in an effort to identify the main areas of relevance for ILC’s work. Forty-two members responded, constituting approximately 37% of ILC’s membership2. Although it can be assumed that these respondents represent those members most immediately interested in indigenous issues, the survey confirms than an overwhelming percentage of respondents are currently working on issues pertaining to indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources; 88% are currently working on issues connected to indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories or resources, 90% consider that ILC should have a more explicit focus on this matter, and 83% are interested in participating in an ILC’s thematic group on indigenous peoples.

The Scoping Study
Between February and May 2013 ILC developed a positioning paper to define how the work already undertaken by ILC regarding indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources could be widened and consolidated to support a more strategic and systematic engagement.

ILC collected inputs at a Brown Bag Lunch on 13 February 2013 during the IFAD indigenous Forum that was attended by 18 participants representing diverse indigenous and international organisations. An ILC technical workshop on indigenous peoples from on 3-4 March aimed at identifying challenges that indigenous peoples face in Africa, Asia and Latin America and defining the possible major points of relevance and strategic lines of actions for ILC.
The workshop was attended by 10 experts representing various regions and international organisations. Finally, the aforementioned survey mapped out ILC’s involvement, experiences and interest on indigenous peoples’ land rights and provided relevant information.

All of these actions were meant to engage relevant actors working on indigenous peoples’ issues within and exterior to ILC’s networks and to contribute to the development of the scoping study. A synthesis paper of this study was widely shared for comments, and distributed at the Global Land Forum and Assembly of Members in Guatemala and during an ILC side event during the 12th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

For indigenous peoples, their relationship with lands or territories has special importance for their cultures and spiritual values and ultimately for their continued existence as distinct peoples. Therefore, indigenous peoples are identified as distinct and collective rights-holders in the context of international law, most prominently in the UNDRIP, with a well-defined set of rights to lands, territories and resources. These are not special rights, but special measures to ensure that indigenous peoples can enjoy the full range of human rights on an equal footing with other segments of the population. Unfortunately, indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly to lands, territories and resources, are in many cases violated due to non-recognition by States or non-implementation or enforcement of existing legislation. These violations have severe consequences on the peoples affected, as well as on the societies in which they live, engendering conflict and insecurity.

The analysis of ILC’s work as a global network shows a considerable overlap between indigenous issues and thematic priorities such as the commons, rangelands, collective land governance and commercial pressures on lands. Moreover, much of ILC’s work with pastoralists in Africa, peasants in the Andean region and ethnic communities in Asia address or involve indigenous peoples. In spite of this, the ILC has not identified indigenous peoples as a specific category of collective rights-holders or focused systematically on indigenous issues. Consequently, it is not possible to directly associate ILC knowledge outcomes and experiences with the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights.