Knowledge, resistance, and reflection

By: Carlos Andrés Baquero*


In recent years, the global indigenous movement has strengthened. An example of this has been the participation of indigenous people at COP21 in Paris at the end of last year. In an unprecedented mobilization, different leaders navigated the Seine River to demand change. Like never before, in a single voice, indigenous peoples asked States to reach an accord on the protection of the environment and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

This kind of actions shows an increasing tendency regarding the globalization of social movements. Each time it is more common that indigenous movements demonstrate how the decisions that States make in their territories have direct impacts on the lives of others. With increasing force, they argue that what happens in a mine in the Amazon or with timber exploitation in Southeast Asia has effects all over the world. And thus, they have in common their struggles and challenges.

However, in the global conversation there are at least three challenges that make the breaking of geographic and political barriers increasingly difficult. The first challenge is the need to exchange knowledge and experiences. “The Latin American indigenous movements must talk with the rest of the world” said to me Prabindra Shakya of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact. Indigenous organizations from Latin American are the starting point in discussions on the implementation of the right to prior, free, and informed consultation. Such profound discussions regarding the effects of this right and the barriers to implement it have not happened in any other region in the world. On the other hand, the advances in territorial planning in Asia are an example of innovative creations regarding the use and ownership of the land. These projects spanning across Thailand and India give many clues about what could be done in the rest of the world to guarantee the territorial rights of indigenous peoples.

The second element is – as I have explained in more detail in another entry – how economic interdependence has increased with natural resources exploitation. Increasingly in the Global South, indigenous peoples face similar violations of their rights. That is why when I am talking to a Bolivian or Nepalese leader, it seems that I have superimposed the conversations. In many places, companies have encroached the land, threatened people, polluted the air and water, all without considering indigenous peoples. The urgency of this conversation increases when we realize that in many instances, it is the same transnational actor that creates these violations. Visualizing these continuities is necessary as a vital experience and at the same time, as a tool of resistance.

Last, the development of the indigenous movements in the Global South has also had an effect on institutional transformation. A large number of States and even international organizations have created specific sectors in charge of “indigenous issues.” However, the spaces of reflection regarding the effectiveness of these bodies or the impact they have had is insufficient. A case in point is the debate in Africa regarding the definition of the indigenous subject. Since most of international law is founded on a vision of indigenous peoples, international achievements have not had an effect on this continent. Now is the time to start analyzing this and other dissonances  created during the implementation of indigenous rights.

Because of these reasons, on February 2017, we will launch a project that seeks to respond to these three variables. Along with three indigenous organizations from the Global South, Dejusticia and the Racial Discrimination Watch will present a space for reflection and influence for indigenous leaders. From this effort, we will launch an integral strategy at the global, regional and local level to protect their rights. With these actions, we seek to contribute to decreasing the gap between the experiences of these different organizations, increase our shared influence, and stimulate reflection.

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*Carlos Andrés Baquero is a researcher at the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia).

Photo credit: Indigenous Uprising