News / Africa

Slowdown Reported on Indigenous Rights

Clear cutting of tropical forest in Liberia's Sinoe County to make room for palm oil plantation. Many of the trees are left to rot. Credit Dan Klotz
Clear cutting of tropical forest in Liberia's Sinoe County to make room for palm oil plantation. Many of the trees are left to rot. Credit Dan Klotz

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on tropical forest land rights

Joe DeCapua
Two new reports say there’s been a dramatic slowdown in recognizing the rights of indigenous people to tropical forest land and resources. The Rights and Resources Initiative says it’s happening despite favorable court rulings and statements by corporations and governments.


The Rights and Resources Initiative says the slowdown comes “as the global hunger for food, fuel, water and mineral wealth continues.”

“Our main concern is that there are indigenous peoples and local communities around the world who have customary rights before us – but often those rights are not recognized legally by governments. And we have seen some progress over time in the legal recognition of those rights, but in fact our most recent research is showing that there’s been a slowdown in the recognition of rights since about 2008,” said Jenny Springer, the group’s director of global programs.

The reports find that land tenure laws passed since 2008 are “weaker and recognize fewer rights than those passed before.”

Springer said over the last 20 years or so, Latin America has led the way in recognizing indigenous land rights in tropical forest nations.

“At this point, about 39-percent of the forests in Latin America are either owned or designated for use by indigenous peoples and local communities.”

Indigenous people have not fared as well in some other regions.

Springer said, “A couple of the areas that our analysis shows where the forests are still largely controlled and administered directly by governments are Central Africa. About 99 percent of the forests are directly administered by government -- and also peninsular Southeast Asia.”

More countries are discovering they’re rich in natural resources, such as oil and minerals. But Springer said that does not mean those countries automatically will be exploited. In some cases, she says, there’s been a positive effect.

“Local communities, including in Africa, are often the best stewards of their forests and the wildlife in them. So, for example, I spent some time in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There’s an area around a place called Malabo where there are still very well functioning and traditional governance systems of the local communities. They have done a very good job in conserving the forests in their area and also a species of bonobos – a primate species that at this point is only found in DRC,” she said.

But the global demand for resources, she said, does increase pressure on tropical forest land.

“So we see a lot of corporations, a lot of investors, moving into rural areas in developing countries --and the governments want to encourage foreign investment. They want to have revenues and have a means for economic development. But often these large-scale land acquisitions – these industrial concessions – are overlaid right on top of indigenous peoples and community lands.”

The Rights and Resources Initiative reports that “At least one out of every three hectares licensed to natural resource development overlaps with land inhabited by indigenous peoples and local communities.”

Springer is encouraged, though, that some corporations are making statements about protecting rights.

“We think it’s really just the beginning – that there’s a lot more than needs to be done. There’s more that needs to be done in terms of turning verbal commitments into real action – into implementation. And there’s more that needs to be done in terms of spreading these kinds of approaches more broadly across global and local private sector actors,” she said.

The issue of land rights is expected to be addressed in September at the World Conference on Indigenous People at the U.N. Also, the next climate change conference, COP 20, will be held in December in Peru, where there are disputes over land rights in the eastern Amazon.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid