In This Section
Indigenous peoples are rarely given the rights they deserve, and face many challenges as a result.
We work towards better legal frameworks for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, and improved respect for existing laws
Indigenous peoples’ rights are a cross-cutting issue in our work internationally. Indigenous peoples face a variety of challenges:
- Discrimination. Due to indigenous peoples' differing cultures and priorities, they often face structural exclusion and discrimination in almost every country in which they live. In the Congo Basin, the situation is particularly severe, with some placed into forced labour.
- Lack of legal protection or weak implementation of laws. Despite years of advances in laws to protect their rights, implementation remains weak and legal advances are undermined by subsequently revised laws. In the Congo Basin, only 2 countries have adopted legislation to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, and yet there is still a lack of understanding of what this legislation means in practice.
- Lack of respect for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This is a key right of indigenous peoples; to decide their own priorities for the use of their land and for the pursuit of their own development goals. Indigenous peoples in the Andean Amazon have laws protecting this right, yet are often excluded from decision making about policies and actions that affect them.
- Lack of secure rights to lands and resources. Indigenous peoples have long depended on their land and resources for their survival, but currently, state ownership of land means indigenous peoples can be removed from their land with no consultation, to make way for logging concessions and infrastructure development, among other things.
We work towards better legal frameworks for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, and improved respect for existing laws, where they do exist.
We support indigenous peoples to pursue the priorities they identify for the protection of their rights through technical and legal support, mapping, capacity building and coalition building for policy advocacy.
- The RFUK is the only non-governmental organisation that has undertaken substantial work on the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples in the Central African Republic (CAR), having started our programme there in 2007.
- CAR became the first African country to ratify ILO Convention No. 169 on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, following extensive support from RFUK. We are continuing to support CAR with its implementation.
- In 2011, the Republic of Congo adopted the first national law in Africa focused on the rights of indigenous peoples. This adoption followed a process of legal analysis and advocacy conducted by the RFUK and its partners, OCDH.
- Through our Community Lawyers Programme (which has thus far been implemented in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon), we have trained indigenous paralegals to support communities to address the legal problems they are facing, supported over 300 indigenous people to access official identify documents and negotiated their rights with companies and local authorities.