Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 22 - 28, 2008: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of July 22 - July 28, 2008

New Studies Predict Record Land Grab As Demand Soars For New Sources Of Food, Energy And Wood Fiber

Escalating global demand for fuel, food and wood fiber will destroy the world's forests, if efforts to address climate change and poverty fail to empower the billion-plus forest-dependent poor, according to two reports released today by the U.S.-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an international coalition comprising the world's foremost organizations on forest governance and conservation.

The studies were delivered today at an event in the House of Commons hosted by Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham. Sponsored by RRI and the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme, speakers included Gareth Thomas, the UK Minister for Trade and Development; authors of the two reports; as well as advocates for forest communities in Africa and Asia.

According to the findings released today in RRI's comprehensive study, Seeing People through the Trees: Scaling Up Efforts to Advance Rights and Address Poverty, Conflict and Climate Change, the world will need a minimum of 515 million more hectares by 2030, in order to grow food, bioenergy, and wood products. This is almost twice the amount of land that will be available, equal to a land mass 12 times the size of Germany.

At the same time, a second RRI study, From Exclusion to Ownership? Challenges and Opportunities in Advancing Forest Tenure Reform, finds that developing country governments still claim an overwhelming majority of forests and have made limited progress in recognizing local land rights, leaving open the potential for great violence, as some of the world's poorest peoples struggle to hold on to their only asset—millions of hectares of the world's most valuable and vulnerable forestlands.

The studies also report a sharp increase in government allocations of forests to industrial plantations, and suggest that the booming growth in demand for food and fuel is rapidly eating up vast forestlands in the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Read more about indigenous people's land grab here....

To Speak And Be Heard: Making Rights A Reality In The 2006 Oaxaca Social Movement

How people imagine themselves as citizens has increasingly been influenced by global rights discourses. This chapter explores acts of testimony and their links to global discourses of human, women's, and indigenous rights in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Testimonials here are urgent oral accounts of bearing witness to wrongs committed against the speakers. Broadcast on the radio, television, at public demonstrations, and in the street, testimonial rights claiming repositions previously excluded speakers as active citizens instead of as folkloric parts of the landscape. This chapter centers on a recent and ongoing social movement in Oaxaca, Mexico and the emergence in June, 2006 of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a coalition of over 200 organizations that effectively ran the city for six months until the Mexican federal police force intervened.

The APPO continues to be active. Testimony and rights claiming occupy central roles in this complex context, permitting silenced groups to speak, be heard, and to enact alternative visions for political and cultural participation. Because Oaxaca is a state with 16 different indigenous languages and a population that largely receives news and culture through non-print media, the orality of testimonials is a particularly important and compelling aspect of the shaping of new models of citizenship.

During the summer and fall of 2006, what began as a large group of teachers exercising their right to bargain for higher salaries through the occupation of Oaxaca City's historical colonial square erupted into a widespread social movement after state police violently attempted to evict the teachers. Mega-marches of thousands, the creation of a popular assembly known as the APPO composed of more than 200 groups, occupation of state and federal buildings and offices, the take-over of the state's television and radio stations, the construction of barricades in many neighborhoods, and regional movements throughout the state questioned the legitimacy of the state government and resulted in a massive assertion of rights by many. Read more about the Oaxaca Indigenous Peoples Social Movement here....

Google Launches Indigenous Maori Search Engine

Coinciding with Maori Language Week, the company yesterday launched Google Aotearoa to cater specially for people who speak the language of New Zealand's indigenous people.

Aotearoa is a Maori word often translated as Land of the Long White Cloud, and commonly used by North Island Maori as the word for New Zealand.

A spokeswoman from the Maori Language Commission said 29 people had been part of the team working on the project during the last year, including three key translators.

More than 8750 words were translated as part of the project.

"It is a huge resource for Maori living overseas who are raising bi-lingual children or who are developing their own proficiency," she said.

"It is reaching young people in something that is a big part of their world. It also allows fluent and native speakers to search for their content in Maori," the spokeswoman said.

She said other Pacific people, like those from the Cook Islands, would also benefit from the move, because their language was very similar to Maori.

The next step would be to allow search results to be translated directly in Maori, although this was not expected to occur for some time, she said.

People wanting to use the new interface have to visit google.co.nz and click on the link to search in Maori. Read more about the indigenous Maori search engine here....

Hawaii Ruling Could Affect Indigenous Land Trust

Despite the complaints and legal challenges of our elected officials, I am afraid that the Chamorro Land Trust Act (CLTA) will suffer the same fate as that of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) of 1920. Unless, of course, the U.S. Congress has its way in the legislative process.

The CLTA is almost an exact replica of the HHCA. The Land Trust applies to people who became American citizens in 1950 as a result of the Organic Act of Guam, and it gives them the opportunity to lease land at $1 per year for 99 years. The land can be used for residences, agriculture or aquaculture, or for ranching. Approximately, 14,000 acres of local government land has been identified and set aside for such leases.

Everyone knows, or must have heard, of what had happened to the HHCA in recent years. Recent court decisions have put federal, state and local programs designed to support native Hawaiians' cultural integrity in serious jeopardy. Read more about Hawaii indigenous land trust here....

Pitfalls Open In Philippine Mining For Indigenous Peoples

Australian ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith last week jumped to the defense of the dozen or so Australian mining companies operating there, in what is turning out to be a nightmarish venture for most of them. It's the latest sign that all is not well in the Philippine mining business, despite the government's various initiatives to promote more foreign investment in the underdeveloped sector.

One Australian mining company now faces criminal charges for alleged tax evasion; another is under investigation by the independent Commission on Human Rights for complaints of harassment, killings and mass displacements of indigenous tribes. A third is complaining behind the scenes about extortion from political operatives with alleged links to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's government.

Smith says Australian mining firms operating in the Philippines adhere to the highest safety and environmental standards, according to reports, including one on the Radio Australia web site. He was confident the mining companies gave highest priority to sustainable development, the report said. Read more about Philippine mining here....

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

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