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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid