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Indigenous peoples trained on the practical use of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests


25/02/2016 - 

From February 14 to the 19th, 25 indigenous peoples' representatives and experts from Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras met in Panama City to learn and discuss on the practical uses of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) for indigenous peoples. This capacity-building initiative, which is being implemented in partnership with Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (CADPI), has been build up to support indigenous peoples in improving their tenure issues, in particular by strengthening their capacity to participate and contribute effectively to the wider ongoing dialogue on tenure-policy in their countries. 

Indigenous peoples have inherent rights to the lands, territories and resources that they have traditionally occupied, owned or used. In addition, lands, territories and natural resources have a particular cultural and spiritual significance and value for them, constituting the basis for the continued existence of their societies. In this context, core elements of the VGGT, such as the legal recognition of customary and collective tenure rights, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral lands, can be a key means for empowerment.

"Our problem is that we have been dispossessed of our lands, which is very difficult for us. As we say an indigenous person without land is a dead indigenous person.  The same way women create life, we believe our mother earth gives us life. So we are in this struggle demanding tenure for indigenous peoples, but a tenure that is collectively held, something the State does not want to recognize," explained Myrna Elisabeth Hernandez, representative from the indigenous community Juaiyúa in El Salvador. 

Another participant, Jorge Armando, from the Tolupán Peoples in Honduras, said: "I think the voluntary guidelines are a very powerful tool that is going to help us in the process of dialogue between indigenous peoples and the government regarding tenure issues." On the other hand, Myrna Cunningham, president of CADPI, highlighted the importance of Free, Prior and Informed Consent whenever a project affects indigenous peoples’ lands, territories or resources directly or indirectly, and underlined the importance to carry out independent assessments of environmental impact of these projects. 

As a part of its agreement with FAO, CADPI is also translating the Guidelines into the indigenous languages Miskitu and Q'eqchi, so they can be more widely distributed and used.

 

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