International Human Rights Day and land governance: A key indigenous right

December 10, 2020
Cañón de las Guacamayas in Araracuara, Colombia. (Credit: SCIOA)

By the SCIOA project team

Indigenous communities have a spiritual connection with their territories that is reflected culturally and economically. Land bonds because it allows a collective sense of belonging, but it also protects because it guarantees survival itself; in this sense, it is a human right.

Accordingly, Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (an extension of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights) says that these peoples “shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories."

Today, 13 years after the formal publication of the rights of indigenous peoples, many indigenous organizations still must defend their territory and culture from external threats, including those related to illegal activities.

This is the case of the Federation of Native Border Communities of Putumayo (FECONAFROPU) in Peru, which, within the Strengthening the Capacities of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon (SCIOA) project and with the support of the Institute for the Common Good (IBC), has been trained in legal matters related to territorial defense of indigenous lands. Amid Covid-19, SCIOA helped FECONAFROPU to install satellite internet to be able to continue documenting invasions and raising complaints to the relevant entities.

FECONAFROPU members try their new satellite internet. (Credit: SCIOA)

Likewise, in Colombia, the Nonuya Villazul Reservation (department of Amazonas), made up of two independent communities, has decided to unite under a single governance structure that allows them to be recognized by other public and private institutions, and thus access resources to develop their "life plan" for their future. Autonomous governance over their territory is what motivated them to resume dialogue, despite their differences.

Members of the Nonuya Reservation discuss on their new governance structure. (Credit: SCIOA)

With USAID funding, SCIOA supports 10 other organizations in five Amazon countries (Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Guyana and Suriname), through a capacity development process that promotes the institutional strengthening of these organizations to increase their influence on the governance of the Amazon region in the protection of the environment and in the defense of the rights of the region.

Today, in celebration of International Human Rights Day, we are proud to give visibility to such initiatives, because they demonstrate how dialogue and planning lead to action.