New initiative to secure indigenous land tenure across the globe


Senin, 20 Nov 2017 10:06 WIB


Ric Wasserman

Nonette Royo, Director of the Tenure Facility. (Photo: Ric Wasserman)

Nonette Royo, Director of the Tenure Facility. (Photo: Ric Wasserman)

One thing indigenous people across the world have in common is a special connection to their land. But many also share the struggle to access that land on their own terms, as they contend with colonisation, land grabbing, mining, and the impacts of climate change. 

In Sweden, our reporter Ric Wasserman spoke with indigenous activists at the launch of the Tenure Facility, a new initiative that aims to support Indigenous struggles for land across the globe.

In this room full of Indigenous people from all over the globe, everyone has a story to tell about their fight for land. 

"I grew up in a dictatorship. I stood up in front of the tanks facing military pointing guns at us,” says  Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, from The Philippines. "The leader of the Kalinga indigenous community was shot dead because he opposed the dam."

Tauli-Corpuz is the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people.

We’re at the launch of The Tenure Facility, a new initiative that supports indigenous peoples’ efforts to secure their rights to land, forest and water.

Tauli-Corpuz recalls when she and her people, the Kalingas, a hill tribe from the northern Phillippines fought a double battle in the 1970s- against the repressive Marcos regime, and the IMF funded Chico River Dam Project.

The Kalinga organised. They protested. Women were on the front line. Dozens were arrested. Finally, after two decades of struggle, in 1987, the project was shelved. 

It was the first time that an IMF and World Bank-funded project was successfully stopped by the militant opposition of indigenous people. 

But Tauli-Corpuz says gaining land tenure is a long and hard battle. 

"The problem is government’s think that if they give the title that’s it. But it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work that way," she emphasised. "They need the law, and they need the support from the Tenure Facility."

Across the Celebes Sea in Sulawesi, Indonesia, another indigenous activist, Rukka Sombolinggi, is also pushing for change.

Rukka has been fighting for her people’s rights through indigenous rights organisation, AMAN since 1999. They’ve made inroads, despite the odds. 

"When we see people are talking about development, about beautiful things, we still have our leaders being sent to jail in Indonesia just because they happen to be in the areas where the government gives concessions to private companies," Sombolinggi stated.

In 2013 Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the government wrongly appropriated 40 million hectares of customary farmland. 

Earlier this year, President Joko Widodo agreed to return 12.7 million hectares of land to indigenous communities.

The Toraja people are still waiting for the handover to be put into action. Sombolinggi hopes they’ll soon obtain land title, and be able to use their land as they see fit.

"When you get recognition what is beyond that?" Sombolinggi asked. "The fact of having options for fair and sustainable life. That’s the promise we can see from this new initiative."

Today 88% of land disputes in South East Asia remain unresolved. Nearly half of them have become violent disputes.It’s usually big companies versus indigenous communities.

But Nonette Royo, the newly appointed director of the Tenure Facility, says that’s changing.

"Companies are realizing that the kind of loss, the amount of money they lose when they encounter conflict. So there is an interest to begin the process right. To begin it right sometimes they offer the mapping work, ensuring that the arrangements and agreements are witnessed by government,” Royo said.

With an initial 100 million US dollars donated by the Swedish and Norwegian governments and the Ford Foundation, the Tenure Facility is providing lawyers, climate, and forestry experts. 

They’re aiming to support Indigenous people secure land and water rights, and to combat climate change and economic loss. 

And Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, is quick to note a major shift in decision making power.

"The thing that is so remarkable and historic about this facility is that the board, the governance of this new, independent entity is chaired by an indigenous woman, and much of its governance is represented by indigenous people," Walker stated.



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