Category Archives: Rights are Fundamental

Can the World Bank enforce its standards on indigenous peoples?


Former World Bank official says bank shut down his efforts to defend rights of tribal group in Kenya

In public statements, the bank says it works hard to help indigenous groups preserve their rights and improve their lives. Among the examples it cites are an initiative in the Amazon region that led to the “collaborative mapping” of 2,344 indigenous territories and a new grant program for fighting forest loss that puts “project design and funding decisions in the hands of indigenous peoples.”

In the Sengwer case in Kenya, the bank has said in public statements that it’s not to blame for the evictions. It says it “acted swiftly” to deal with problems when they arose. It attributes many of the problems with the project to issues it had no control over, including “tension over historic land issues, longstanding grievances of indigenous communities, and unresolved conflicts between those communities and the Kenya Forest Service.”

Others—including the bank’s own internal Inspection Panel—argue that the bank mishandled the case, violating its own principles.

The behind-the-scenes story of the World Bank’s struggles in the Cherangani Hills reveals the frustrations of advocates—both inside and outside the bank—as they’ve tried to push the bank to live up to its commitments to defend indigenous peoples who live in the path of development initiatives.

World Bank projects used to evict indigenous peoples from conservation areas?


Community Conservation Efforts in Nepal just get stronger


“The Nepalese model of community forest governance is first of all build on the strong sense of community and social collaboration. At the heart of its success was the establishment of 18000 Forest User Groups managing almost 2 million hectares who subsequently joined their forces in the Federation of Community Forest User Groups Nepal (FECOFUN). No less than 33 % of the entire Nepalese population is involved in these Forest User Groups.Their community efforts have created a sustainable model of forest conservation, restoration and use that succeeded to halt forest degradation and deforestation, which was still rampant in the period up to the 1990’s.”

Protected Areas as a Threat to the Sustainable Development Goals

New Community Land Recognition for 2030


The Sustainable Development Goals finally include recognition of the need to secure collective forest and land tenure and rights for economic, social and environmental sustainability and, importantly, for social justice.  Rights and Resources Initiative annual State of Forest Tenure Rights report — just out — defines this goal concretely:

First, by 2030, at least 50% of total forest area in Low and Middle Income Countries are owned or designated for use by Indigenous Peoples and local communities

Further, rights to conserve, manage, use and traditional forest products and services are recognized in 100% of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’  lands in these countries

Closing the Gap: Strategies and scale needed to secure rights and save forests

Bear Ears Coalition National Monument

bearearscoalition siteA unique coalition of Utah tribes continue to exhort Obama to declare Bear Ears Coalition sacred and historical sites as a national monument to protect native heritage, sacred lands and resources into the future.

Tribes supporting protection of Bears Ears:

  • Navajo Nation
  • Hopi Tribe
  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
  • Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Tribe
  • Hualapai Tribe
  • Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Ysleta Del Sur, Zia and Zuni

So much heritage. So much threat. So little time.

Lets not lose a treasure we will forever regret.

Strong Majority of Utahns Shown to Support Bears Ears National Monument



Did you know Alaska Hwy cut right through Tlingit land but they kept their communities?

IMG_4831 IMG_4829

In 1942, the US sent troops to Canada to build the ALCAN-Alaska Canada Highway and protect north america from the Japanese during the war.  But no one noticed they were ‘invading’ Tlingit territory.

The Tlingit survived contact anyway, despite the insensitivity of the war effort and bad disease outbreaks.

A wonderful museum tells the story with wonderful photos by a Tlingit photographer — George Johnston.

Amazing resource in Teslin, CA

Picturing a People: George Johnston, Tlingit Photographer

1997, 50 min.
Canada, Documentary, Docudrama

Director: Carol Geddes (Tlingit)
Producer: George Hargrave, Sally Bochner
Writer: Carol Geddes (Tlingit)
Produced by: Nutaaq Media Inc., National Film Board of Canada

This portrait of George Johnson, who made a remarkable photographic record of his people during the first half of the twentieth-century, is done by a filmmaker from the same inland Tlingit village in Canada.

Mayagna in Nicaragua celebrate having their territorial rights

Pueblo Mayangna commemorates the restitution of their rights in the 14th anniversary of the Awastigni case in the International Human Rights court

Awastigni anniversary

The community of Awastigni in the Amasau territory of the Mayagna Peoples of Nicaragua hosted a celebration of the 14th anniversary of an historic ruling in Latin America by the International Human Rights Court reclaiming their rights to 62,000 hectares that had unjustly been granted to a timber concession of Sol del Caribe S.A. (SOLCARSA) by the Nicaraguan government.  This ruling is historic for the Mayagna and also set a key precedent for other Indigenous Peoples of Central America and South America to gain restitution of land and territories and rights over natural resources.  What a great anniversary!

At what price biofuels?

New posting in — an online science news culling site which everyone should have in their inbox has posted an odd article from Brazil arguing that there are millions and millions of hectares of land available to grow biofuel currently being used for pasture.

Global Biofuels posting

Unfortunately there seems to be very little context in this article about how governments or investors are to determine that a pasture land is ’empty’.  The article proposed intensification of animal rearing and grazing — counter to much of the more recent research by WISP ( (a pastureland advocacy program of the World Conservation Union) and by the World Bank and others.  That research found that many of the pasturalists practicing transhumant or rotational grazing in Africa, Asia and Latin America can in fact make very efficient use of grasslands — rearing for meat, hides and dairy with much less use of water and other inputs that intensive livestock rearing.  African transhumant herders have long complained that intensive urban livestock rearing programs in Sahelian and sub-Saharan countries in fact require much more intensive use of water and inputs (and carbon emissions) than their traditional systems kg. per kg. of output.   Women displaced from transhumant systems by allocation of land and resources can also be serious losers in large scale production of biofuels — losing income generating opportunities, access to natural resources, family consumption goods, and status.

It also found that tenure of pasturalists can be quite precarious — (see RRI policy briefs by Liz Alden Wily) ignored historically by nation states laying claim to natural resources in their boundaries  or undermined by conflicting forest, biodiversity, livestock and agriculture policies.  This too commonly leads to decisions over allocation of grasslands that ignores indigenous and local tenure and rights, international agreements over movement of transhumant peoples, and blindsides the environmental community looking for ways to store carbon and reduce consumption of oil, gas, and other non-renewables.

It is a complex story — I am sure there are opportunities, but without a careful examination of rights, realities of the full landscape, traditional and alternative practices, and gender equity, expanding biofuels can just be the source of a different social and environmental problem.