Monday, May 12, 2008

May 6 - 12, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of May 6 - May 12, 2008

New Ecuador Constitution Addresses Demand for ‘Plurinational’ State

Ecuador’s new constitution, which a constituent assembly expects to finish drafting by mid-June, establishes a united "plurinational" state, recognising equality along with ethnic diversity, as agreed between the government and indigenous organisations.

"’Plurinationalism’ means admitting that several different nationalities coexist within the larger Ecuadorean state, which is obvious in this country and need not scare anyone," said President Rafael Correa. "Everyone should have the same opportunities," he added.

"The next step is to properly define the scope of plurinationalism, which basically means recognizing the different peoples, cultures and worldviews that exist, and for all public policies, such as education, health and housing, to recognize the plurinational dimension," he said.

The Ecuadorean Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) agrees that the proposed plurinational state reflects reality in the country. Read the rest of the story here....

Bolivia Vote Shows Depth of Divisions Towards Indigenous Peoples

Pro-autonomy supporters in Bolivia's eastern department of Santa Cruz have turned the capital city's main square into a sea of green and white flags - the colours of the region.

The celebrants have ignored the allegations of fraud made by supporters of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales. It is a defining moment for an increasingly powerful civic and business movement and a skilled political opposition which united in this resource-rich province to challenge Mr Morales.

Before thousands of exultant "crucenos" - as the people from Santa Cruz are called - Ruben Costas, the now self-declared governor of Santa Cruz, claimed that the victory meant, "initiating the path towards a new republic". Supporters of more autonomy for the region want to loosen what they term the "totalitarian and hegemonic centralism" of the central government in La Paz. Read the rest here....

Three Indigenous Chiefs in Fiji to File a Complaint with United Nations Over Interim Regime

Three paramount chiefs from Fiji’s Namosi, Rewa and Cakaudrove are planning to file a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council on issues surrounding indigenous Fijians.

The head of the Burebasaga confederacy and Rewa chief Ro Teimumu Kepa has confirmed to Fijilive that with Ratu Suliano Matanitobua and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, they are putting together a paper that would be forwarded to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues. Ro Teimumu said indigenous Fijians are being threatened through the actions of the interim government. She said their rights have been taken away because the interim regime dictates everything now and the people have no say. She said they are being threatened with changes to their chiefly system, which includes the GCC.

Ro Teimumu said these changes have greatly affected the indigenous Fijians one way or the other. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly last year with the mandate to develop a set of minimum standards that would protect indigenous peoples. Learn more here....

Obstacles to Easing Plight of Baka Indigenous People in Congo, Africa

Faced with the still pressing marginalisation of the indigenous Baka people, NGOs in Congo are implementing projects to improve living conditions in these communities. In most of the country, the Baka people, sometimes referred to as Pygmies, have been the victims of poverty, endemic famine, lack of education and basic medical care, social isolation and exclusion from the political decision-making process.

Access to drinking water and a healthy and balanced diet remains a problem and a source of numerous illnesses. In a bid to resolve this situation, NGOs have been trying to implement projects aimed at improving their living conditions. However, they reckon the task is not easy. Find out more about the situation here....

No More Arbitrary Land Allocation in Kenya for Indigenous Peoples

Excerpts on land-related issues

SUNDAY NATION: Land allocation has been a huge problem in Kenya since independence. How do you plan to deal with this in law?

ORENGO: The law has previously been abused. Although the President has powers, which are drawn from the Crown Lands Act that was repealed and became the Government Lands Act, such powers should be in the public interest as was exercised by the colonial governor on behalf of the queen. However, over the years, presidents have used this power to dish out land to politically correct groups or persons. This is even in instances where the beneficiaries do not need land other than for speculation. The exercise, therefore, became a mechanism for rewarding sycophants and people who were greedy.

As a remedy, no public land, including trust land, can be given without justification, even if the Commissioner of Lands or the President thought there is an appropriate case. And, to ensure that there is transparency and accountability, there must be a justification on record as to why that piece of land has to be given out.

Secondly, we want to regulate the issuance of letters of allotment and beneficiaries must accept the offer within 30 days and develop the land in question within two years. Any default on any of these would lead the ministry to cancel the letters and withdraw the offer.

We are also building a system in which letters of allotment will be given at the highest level, either by the Commissioner of Lands or the deputy. But the permanent secretary and the minister must be kept abreast. Read the rest of the interview here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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