Anda di halaman 1dari 244

State of the

World’s Minorities

and Indigenous international

Peoples 2012
Events of 2011

Focus on
land rights
and natural
State of
and Indigenous
Peoples 20121
Events of 2011
Front cover: Young Dinka men at a cattle camp Inside front cover: Indigenous miners working in
near Tali village in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria the Potosí mines of Bolivia. Samer Muscati. Inside
state. For decades, Dinka constituted a minority in back cover: An Adivasi woman fetches water from a
the Republic of Sudan. In July 2011, South Sudan lake that was formed when villages were flooded by
declared independence from the north after enduring the Machkund Dam in Odisha State, India. Stuart
Africa’s longest running civil war. The country’s Freedman/Panos.
future now depends on whether the government can
balance the interests of its myriad ethnic groups.
Sven Torfinn/Panos.

Acknowledgements Support our work

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) MRG relies on the generous support of institutions
gratefully acknowledges the support of all organizations and individuals to further our work. All donations
and individuals who gave financial and other assistance received contribute directly to our projects with
to this publication, including CAFOD and Matrix minorities and indigenous peoples.
Causes Fund. One valuable way to support us is to
subscribe to our report series. Subscribers receive
© Minority Rights Group International, June 2012. regular MRG reports and our annual review.
All rights reserved. To subscribe to our publications please visit
our website:, email
Material from this publication may be reproduced or call +44 (0)20 7422
for teaching or for other non-commercial purposes. 4200. We also have over 100 titles which can be
No part of it may be reproduced in any form for purchased from our website.
commercial purposes without the prior express MRG’s unique publications provide well-
permission of the copyright holders. researched, accurate and impartial information on
minority and indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide.
For further information please contact MRG. A CIP We offer critical analysis and new perspectives
catalogue record of this publication is available from on international issues. Our specialist training
the British Library. materials include essential guides for NGOs and
others on international human rights instruments,
ISBN 978-1-907919-27-5 and on accessing international bodies. Many MRG
publications have been translated into several
Published June 2012 languages.
Production: Jasmin Qureshi If you would like to know more about MRG,
Copy editing: Sophie Richmond how to support us and how to work with us, please
Design: Tom Carpenter, Texture visit our website
Printed in the UK
Visit the Minority Voices online newsroom for stories and
multimedia content from minorities and
indigenous communities around the world.

Minority Rights Group International

54 Commercial Street, London E1 6LT,
United Kingdom. Follow us:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7422 4200
Fax: +44 (0)20 7422 4201
Focus on
land rights and natural resources

State of
and Indigenous
Peoples 20121
Events of 2011
Edited by Beth Walker
Minority Rights Group International
6 Foreword
Vital Bambanze, Chair of the UN
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples

Part 1 Thematic essays

10 Natural resource development and the
rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
Corinne Lennox
22 Strategies of resistance: testing the limits
of the law
Carla Clarke
36 Corporate responsibility to respect the rights
of minorities and indigenous peoples
Corinne Lewis
52 Indigenous women’s land rights: case studies
from Africa
Elisa Scalise
Part 2 Regional overviews
60 Africa
Rahnuma Hassan, Paige Jennings,
Mohamed Matovu, Ukoha Ukiwo

88 Americas
Maurice Bryan

118 Asia and Oceania

Nicole Girard, Irwin Loy, Matthew Naumann,
Marusca Perazzi, Jacqui Zalcberg

172 Europe
Katalin Halász

192 Middle East and North Africa

Doreen Khoury

Part 3 Reference
211 Peoples under Threat 2012

224 Status of ratification of major international

and regional instruments relevant to
minority and indigenous rights

236 Who are minorities?

236 Selected abbreviations

237 Contributors

239 Acknowledgements
Foreword –
development with
Vital Bambanze, Chair of the
UN Expert Mechanism on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
6 Foreword State of the World’s Minorities
ne of the overriding threats facing indigenous peoples’ rights to cultural life and
minorities and indigenous peoples in to effective participation in decision-making
every region of the world is the risk of that will affect them or the regions where they
being driven from their land and natural live. Indigenous peoples’ rights have been
resources, which are vital for their livelihoods, strengthened further by the elaboration of
their culture and often their identity as a people. the right to free, prior and informed consent.
Many communities have been closely tied to But there is as yet no similar right expressly
their territory for centuries. Yet once their land granted to minorities, who consequently remain
is targeted for development – mining, oil and particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
gas, dams, agribusiness, tourism or conservation The Expert Mechanism has drawn heavily
– they are deftly and often violently evicted with on these standards in its efforts to ensure that
little or no compensation. indigenous peoples benefit from and are involved
While today’s threats to indigenous peoples and in decisions about the development of their
minorities are not new, their scale and severity land and natural resources. International and
have reached new proportions. Unprecedented domestic standards have moved forward over
demand for the world’s remaining resources, the past years, but implementation of these
combined with new technologies to extract standards remains an elusive goal. Even when
previously inaccessible resources in the remotest indigenous peoples’ claims of violations of their
regions, are putting even the most isolated rights have been upheld by domestic or regional
minorities and indigenous peoples under tribunals, governments continue to be reluctant
increasing threat from governments and private to implement these decisions.
companies wanting to profit from the resources Speaking to indigenous communities and
found on or under their lands. experts, I see the plight of my own community,
From 2011 to 2012, I chaired the UN the Batwa of the Great Lakes region in
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Central Africa, reflected in the struggles facing
Peoples, a body formed to advise the UN communities around the world. This MRG
Human Rights Council on the rights of volume shows how Endorois and Ogiek in
indigenous peoples. The right to traditional Kenya, hill tribes in northern Thailand, San in
land and natural resources has been a focal point Botswana and many more are locked in ongoing
of our work. Our current study on language disputes with governments and private companies
and cultural rights has shown that cultural life to secure their rights to their ancestral lands and
is inseparable from economic and social life; access to natural resources. Similarly, Bedouin in
it is interdependent with other human rights the Middle East and Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang
protections. Cultural life also encompasses province struggle to maintain their cultural
traditional livelihoods which are commonly integrity against their respective governments’
under threat from natural resource development. desire to put national development first.
Dominant national development paradigms This report provides a comprehensive and
tend to override alternative conceptions of much-needed overview of marginalized groups
development that may be held by minorities – both those who have been adversely affected
or indigenous peoples. Natural resource by natural resource exploitation and those who
development that affects these groups should be have fought to benefit from these resources –
pursued in accordance with their own cultural and adds to a series of efforts to establish firm
understanding of development and in a way that recommendations for reform of natural resource
does not erode cultural or religious identity. development.
The very existence of the Expert Mechanism I belong to the Batwa community in Burundi.
is an indication of the increasing recognition Batwa are some of the original inhabitants of the
that indigenous peoples and minorities are equatorial forests of the Great Lakes Region of
awarded under international human rights Central Africa. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, in
treaties and law. International treaties and Burundi, Batwa have never owned land. Over the
UN declarations recognize minorities’ and past decades, we have seen our forests dwindle

State of the World’s Minorities Foreword 7

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
and our right to live in them and use their their ancestral land in the name of forest
resources denied. Violent conflicts within conservation – to make way for national
the region have further undermined our parks. But historical discrimination means
livelihoods and culture. Today, no longer able that Batwa communities have little political
to live by hunting and gathering, most Batwa voice to negotiate and protect their rights to
live as landless labourers. In Burundi, unlike land. Few if any institutional mechanisms
neighbouring Rwanda, Batwa are recognized exist for Batwa to participate in political
as a distinct people, but we are not treated as decisions about their land. Our communities
full citizens and are discriminated against and are locked out of development opportunities
excluded from all realms of society. and left unable to seek justice following land
Batwa face similar discrimination and grabs and other human rights violations.
acute marginalization across the Great Lakes Forests, like most other valuable natural
Region – in the Democratic Republic of resources, are finite, and their destruction
Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. They are will have global repercussions. But
dispossessed of their land and denied their governments continue to focus on short-
right to practise their traditional culture. term gains at the expense of long-term
In Rwanda, Batwa are the forgotten sustainability. A state’s right to development
victims of the 1994 genocide. In Uganda, must not undermine the rights of minorities
almost all Batwa have been removed from and of indigenous peoples. And, indeed,

8 Foreword State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Batwa people in Matara, Burundi, harvest- groups around the world. And I hope that it will
ing a field of cabbages. Ben Rodkin. inspire all readers to support our communities
in the struggle to retain our unique cultures
ignoring this basic principle and the integral through continued access to our lands and
value of traditional livelihoods seriously hinders natural resources. p
attempts to move towards a path of more
sustainable development.
The hopes of the international community to
tackle global climate change by preserving forests
through carbon emissions trading have presented
a new threat to Batwa in the Great Lakes Region
and to other communities that live in forests
across the world. In my role as vice-president of
the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating
Committee (IPACC), I was acutely disappointed
by the low levels of participation by indigenous
peoples in UN REDD+ schemes (United
Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation). But indigenous communities
and minorities are demanding full participation
in global governance on carbon emissions
reductions and have played an active role
in publicizing the harmful effects of REDD
initiatives. There must first be fair and
meaningful consultations between communities
and the government before any negotiations
involving international organizations and other
players on the global carbon market can take
place. International actors, such as the World
Bank, also have an obligation to ensure the
participation of minorities and indigenous
peoples for these projects to have a significant
Indigenous peoples and minority
communities all face different challenges in
gaining recognition for their rights. Different
groups depend upon their lands in complex
and diverse ways and are uniquely affected by
natural resource development. This fact is not
adequately recognized by the international
community. But minorities and indigenous
peoples demand the right to choose their own
development path – development with culture
and identity. This publication will tell the stories
of minority and indigenous communities that
are being adversely affected by development
on their lands, and the strategies they are using
to secure their rights. I believe it will be a very
useful advocacy tool for minority and indigenous

State of the World’s Minorities Foreword 9

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Natural resource
and the rights of
minorities and
indigenous peoples
Corinne Lennox
aruturi Global is an Indian company development and extraction of natural resources
that grows roses in Ethiopia for export, is increasing due to factors including higher
mostly to Europe. They have recently energy costs, the need to attract investment
acquired 100,000 hectares in the fertile Gambella after the global financial crisis, and the interest
region to expand their agro-industry. To enable following the food crisis in providing cash crops
this investment, the government has forcibly for emerging economies. While natural resource
removed minority groups farming on ancestral development activities like logging and dams,
land in this region (such as Anuak and Nuer) and oil, gas or mineral extraction, coastal tourism,
resettled them in villages. One activist from the commercial fisheries, conservation parks and
region describes some of the effects of this so- large-scale agriculture have been successful in
called ‘villagization’ policy: generating vast revenues, it has not benefited all
communities equally and has had devastating
‘One year after the villagization programme even consequences for the lives of many and the
those farmers who tried to do farming in the environment we all share.
new places were not able to produce enough … Minorities and indigenous peoples across the
since the area is not a good one for the kind of globe are uniquely affected by natural resource
traditional farming they practise. The villagization development. They often occupy and use the
programme has made the people of Gambella food areas targeted for natural resource development,
insecure … and also increased the tensions between but they typically lack the economic or political
different communities who … are brought together power to oppose harmful or unwanted projects.
to share small pieces of land for farming. Since This means they gain few of the benefits but
this programme was launched, over 15 individuals experience all of the harms from such practices.
… have been killed in separate incidents. One The state has been able to justify disproportionate
woman was raped and beaten to death by other harms from natural resource development to
people from a different community as she went minority or indigenous communities in the
collecting firewood.’ name of ‘majority’ public gains. Minority and
indigenous communities suffer greatly as a result,
Karuturi Global calls Ethiopia ‘an ideal not only with regard to their livelihoods and
destination to base our agri-venture’ and refutes welfare, but also their cultural life, social cohesion
accusations that its land acquisitions have played and bodily integrity.
a role in displacement. These effects constitute violations of their
This year’s State of the World’s Minorities human rights, including their specific rights as
and Indigenous Peoples will provide many more minorities and indigenous peoples. While there
examples of how natural resource development have been extensive efforts to elaborate standards
can affect minorities and indigenous peoples. and guidelines for indigenous peoples on issues
Natural resource development is a broad related to natural resource development, there
category of development and extraction that are few such resources for minorities, making
primarily encompasses use of water, land, fossil them less able to rely on international norms for
fuels, minerals and forests. This development of protection.
renewable and non-renewable resources has often Indigenous and minority communities do
negatively affected human and animal life as well not reject all natural resource development;
as the environments they inhabit. Nevertheless, rather, they seek methods that respect their
internal and external pressures to increase rights, that are consensual and from which they
economic growth have led the majority of states can benefit fairly. Many groups have mobilized
to turn to natural resource development. Actual successfully to oppose harmful or unwanted
implementation of development projects is development projects, and others are taking the
often pursued by private corporations with state lead in determining forms of natural resource
permission and is usually export-oriented. There development that are consistent with their
is strong evidence, based on recent academic human rights. These struggles are not always
and civil society research, to suggest that peaceful and many are protracted. Nevertheless,

State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 11

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
the efforts of minorities and indigenous peoples Right: A Dalit girl works breaking up stones in
to reform the way we all pursue natural resource Pagadala village, Andhra Pradesh, India. Mikkel
development could be the key to greater Ostergaard/Panos.
sustainability and more equitable resource use.
is to be diverted to other drier regions, further
Marginalization and natural threatening the economic security of minority
resources depletion farmers and the local ecosystem. Attempts to
Some of the poorest minorities and indigenous legislate for 1.5 per cent of oil revenue to go back
peoples live in some of the most resource-rich to Khuzestan have repeatedly failed. Moreover,
regions of the world; this is true in both the about 90 per cent of the labour force of oil and
global North and the global South. From the gas industries located in this region is hired from
oil- and mineral-rich Aboriginal Australian outside the Ahwazi-Arab population. These and
outback, the lush African descendant coastal many other groups therefore suffer the ill-effects
areas of Central America and the dense forests of of natural resource development without accruing
India’s tribal peoples, minorities and indigenous many of the benefits.
peoples have lived in these areas for centuries These ill-effects are wide ranging. Natural
and even millennia yet have been denied their resource development can severely damage or
rightful ownership. While the revenues of natural even eradicate practices of traditional livelihoods,
resource development are filtered out of regions including pastoralism, fishing or shifting
where minorities and indigenous peoples live, the agriculture, thus pushing groups further into
harms stay behind. poverty. In China, investment in mining has
Their position of marginalization makes them forced minority herders off their traditional
particularly vulnerable to facing these harms. For grazing lands, away from their sacred and cultural
example, the World Commission on Dams found sites and out of their ancestral villages in regions
evidence that regions where indigenous peoples such as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
lived were more likely to be targeted for dam and Tibet. The Bagungu fisher people living
development but received little economic benefit in the Buliisa district in Uganda have been
as a result: in the Philippines, almost all the unable to continue their fishing practices due
larger dam schemes were situated on indigenous to intensive oil production in the area. Undue
peoples’ lands, whereas in India, 40–50 per restrictions can be placed on livelihoods: for
cent of those displaced by dam development example, traditional agro-forestry has frequently
projects were tribal people (constituting only 8 been outlawed to make way for commercial
per cent of the Indian population). Around the practices like logging or conservation parks for
El Cerrejón coal mine in north-east Colombia, tourism. In Cambodia, the Prey Lang forest,
poverty rates are 70 per cent for local African inhabited by the Kuy indigenous people, has
descendant and indigenous communities. Many been designated as a conservation area; however,
have been displaced from their villages and the government has granted tens of thousands of
land and water sources have been polluted, hectares of the forest for extraction of minerals,
traditional foods are no longer as accessible and timber and for rubber plantations, leaving the
they lack adequate access to health, education community unable to practise their traditional
and sanitation services. This is despite the fact livelihoods that make use of non-timber forest
that total government revenues from the mine products. Evictions and involuntary migration are
– currently owned by BHP Billiton (Australia), used commonly to get (illegal) access to lands and
Anglo American (UK) and Xstrata (Switzerland) resources. People are forced to migrate to urban
– are more than US$ 1.6 billion. Similarly, in slums where they face further marginalization or
the Ahwazi-Arab minority region of Khuzestan to even more remote regions where livelihoods
in Iran, where 90 per cent of the country’s oil are more difficult. Dam construction has
revenues originate, minority communities live in depleted the Aral Sea Basin and forced tens
poverty and suffer ill health from the pollution of thousands of Karakalpak into Kazakhstan
by industry of the Karoon River. The river itself and other neighbouring countries once their

12 Natural resource development and the State of the World’s Minorities

rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples 2012
State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 13
and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
traditional livelihoods literally and figuratively resource exploitation. In Australia, for example,
‘dried up’. the Minister for Indigenous Affairs of Western
There are particular impacts on minority Australia has backtracked on safeguards for
and indigenous women. Women’s burden of more than 200 sites of cultural significance
work can increase significantly due to increased to the Yindijbarndi people under threat from
problems in accessing clean water, fuel and a proposed iron mining venture by Fortescue
traditional food sources and to men’s migration Metals Group in the Pilbara region. Some
for employment once traditional occupations would argue that natural resource development
are no longer viable. In Colombia, for example, outcomes that prevent the exercise of traditional
Wayúu women displaced from their traditional practices can even constitute genocide: in the
lands in La Guajira as a result of coal mining words of George Poitras of the Mikisew Cree
have struggled to feed their families in new urban First Nation, facing the harmful environmental
environments, relying on bread and soft drinks, impact of the tar sands oil-extraction project
instead of traditional foodstuffs of fish, plantain, in Alberta, Canada, asserted: ‘If we don’t have
yam and fruit, thus increasing malnutrition in land and we don’t have anywhere to carry out
their families. our traditional lifestyles, we lose who we are as a
Women’s title to land is not legally recognized people. So, if there’s no land, then it is equivalent
in some states and when displaced due to natural in our estimation to genocide of a people.’
resource development projects, they will have
little legal recourse for compensation or redress. Root causes and resistance
In south-east India, Dalit women displaced from Minorities and indigenous peoples are more
the land to make way for Special Economic vulnerable to harmful natural resource
Zones in Polepally, Andhra Pradesh, reported loss development because their right to equality is
of status, less economic power and fewer marriage not respected fully in society. Discrimination is
prospects for their girl children, whose status one major root cause. This can lead to practices
had also declined due to loss of land. Women such as ‘environmental racism’, whereby higher
can also be forced into becoming labourers on incidence of pollution or other environmental
cash-crop farms following displacement from degradation is found in regions where minorities
their own land and will be paid less than their and indigenous peoples live. It can also affect
male counterparts. Where natural resource their access to justice when trying to oppose
development projects do offer employment to natural resource development projects or seek
local people, women are less likely to secure compensation for harms caused or illegal
those jobs due to gender discrimination and/or encroachments. For example, indigenous land-
household responsibilities. owners at the Krumbukari mine site in the
The destruction of traditional lands, resources Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, have
and livelihoods can also lead to cultural erosion, failed in their legal battle to prevent the China
putting the very existence of groups at threat. Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC)
Spiritual lives and traditional practices of and Australian-based Highlands Pacific from
medicine, food preparation and other ways of dumping over 100 million tonnes of waste
life tied to the natural environment can easily be from the Ramu Nickel Mine close to the
destroyed by natural resource development. In shore – a practice banned in both China and
the words of a member of the Ogiek community Australia. The government issued the mine an
in Kenya: ‘Mau forest is our home: we are not environmental permit in 2010 despite objections
encroachers, we are forest dwellers; we don’t from national experts.
cut trees, we nurture them for our livelihood; Dominant priorities for development can
we hang our beehives, it’s our sure “hospital” override alternative priorities and conceptions
where we get herbs, it’s a sacred mother earth to of progress that may be held by minorities
our traditions.’ These practices and traditional or indigenous peoples. The concept of
knowledge are not readily transferable to new ‘development with culture and identity’
spaces, and cultures are disappearing with highlights this intersection: this means that

14 Natural resource development and the State of the World’s Minorities

rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples 2012
natural resource development that affects states do have recognition of customary land
these groups should be pursued in accordance rights embedded in the constitution or national
with their own cultural understanding of law but such laws can be poorly enforced. For
development and in a way that is not harmful example, South Sudan’s new Constitution holds
to their cultural, spiritual or religious identity. that communities ‘enjoying rights in land shall
While many groups seek greater integration be consulted in decisions that may affect their
into the wider society through development, the rights in lands and resources’ (Article 171(9)).
price for accessing the benefits of development However, when an Emirati company was
should not be erosion or elimination of their granted a 2 million hectares lease for a tourism
own cultural identity. development project, community consultation
While international human rights standards did not take place and promises by the company
make clear provision for the full participation of to provide education and health for local groups
minorities and indigenous peoples in decision- have not materialized. In other states, there
making that will affect them or the regions where can be resistance to recognition of customary
they live, this is not often fulfilled in practice. land rights, making the process of allocating
Communities may not be consulted at all on title unnecessarily protracted and/or plagued by
natural resource development in their region, disputes.
or they may be consulted under only the most Without this legal protection, it can be very
cursory and insignificant processes. In many difficult to defend land and resource use rights
cases, there has not been full disclosure of the in the face of powerful corporations or state
potential impacts of development projects on interests. Moreover, laws regulating industries
communities or adequate impact assessment for natural resource development are generally
procedures. It is also not uncommon for groups promulgated without consultation with those
to be divided by consultations, and a small indigenous and minority communities whose
number of ‘representatives’ co-opted into consent rights may be deeply affected by such legislation.
without the full support of the wider community. Many states are reluctant to exact strong
For example, only part of the indigenous regulatory policies over corporations to ensure
community consented to an offshore gas hub effective social and environmental safeguards,
off the Kimberley coast at James Price Point, and corruption or bribery to avoid regulation is a
Western Australia, leading to tensions and the widespread problem.
need for a Western Australia Supreme Court Faced with these many challenges, indigenous
decision to render the agreement invalid. The peoples and minorities have implemented several
views of women are particularly liable to go strategies to resist harmful or unwanted natural
unconsidered given their lack of representation resource development. Various forms of non-
in many decision-making structures, both violent protest have been used but such actions
traditional and otherwise. The limited inclusion have often been met with violence, arbitrary
of minorities and indigenous peoples in structures arrest, enforced disappearances, torture and
of governance at all levels further undermines even death. The Mapuche in Chile have faced
their ability to utilize state and international government use of anti-terrorism legislation
protection safeguards. For example, indigenous against community members who have been
peoples have demanded full participation in protesting against exploitation of their lands
global governance on carbon emissions reductions by extractive industries; similar use of anti-
under the UN-REDD+ (UN Reducing Emissions terrorism and other spurious charges have
from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) been used in Ecuador for indigenous leaders
and have been an active voice in criticizing the protesting against mining laws. Protest has
harmful effects of REDD initiatives. also escalated into outright armed conflict in
Minorities and indigenous peoples would be some cases. Government failure to seek consent
in a better position to challenge harmful natural from minority or indigenous communities to
resource development where their rights to land, development projects, coupled with increasing
territories and resources are legally titled. Many poverty, inequality and mass displacement, risks

State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 15

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
pushing groups to take up arms against the state Right: A Mapuche man, near Temuco, Chile.
and corporations in defence of their rights. Julio Etchart/Panos.
Given the state or corporate crackdowns on
activism, some communities have adopted some the human rights of minorities and indigenous
alternative strategies. Many alliances have been peoples. The framework of what constitutes a
formed with civil society actors outside their serious violation in such cases is determined
countries. MRG is actively supporting a number primarily by the rights to self-determination, non-
of land rights claims by minority and indigenous discrimination, cultural life, means of subsistence,
communities around the world. and to land, territories and natural resources.
Some communities are taking a political path The specific standards elaborated for
to assert greater influence in decision-making on indigenous peoples and minorities respectively
natural resource development, often by seeking related to natural resource development do differ,
political positions. For example, in Mindanao in with those for indigenous peoples being more
the Philippines, a local indigenous community extensive and specific. This gap presents a serious
(Subanon) federation undertook a strategy to problem for minority groups affected by harmful
secure elected seats in local governance structures natural resource development, who have fewer
(barangay) where they would be better able to mechanisms and remedies available to them.
apply national laws and traditional rights in Some of this gap can and has been filled by
negotiations with the government and mining progressive interpretations of existing standards,
companies seeking resource extraction access in including non-legally binding standards such as
traditional territories. the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons
Litigation has been one option utilized by Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and
communities. There are some high-profile Linguistic Minorities (UNDM).
cases, such as that recently won against The right to self-determination is an important
Chevron-Texaco by indigenous and other local starting point for both groups, not least because
communities in Ecuador suffering health impacts it is linked to freedoms regarding the use of
from oil exploration; the company was ordered natural wealth and resources. All peoples have
to pay US$ 18 billion in compensation for the right to self-determination under common
environmental damage and harm to the affected Article 1 of the International Covenant on
communities. However, there are numerous low- Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
profile initiatives being taken by communities International Covenant on Economic, Social and
through legal mechanisms such as legislative or Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This article further
judicial review of decisions taken by the state states that ‘in no case may a people be deprived
in favour of natural resource development and of its own means of subsistence’, a crucial
in apparent contravention of minority and point in light of natural resource development
indigenous rights. These disputes can sometimes impact on (traditional) livelihoods. This right is
take decades to resolve and may entail complex reinforced for indigenous peoples in the 2007
legal cases; most minority and indigenous UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
communities simply cannot match the resources Peoples (UNDRIP) under Article 3, which holds
of their private or public sector opponents. Even that ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to self-
when they win such cases, implementation of determination. By virtue of that right they freely
decisions remains difficult in the face of obstinate determine their political status and freely pursue
governments and corporate interests. their economic, social and cultural development.’
Key to exercising self-determination over
A human rights framework for natural resource development is the right to ‘free,
natural resources development prior and informed consent’ in its various forms.
Policy decisions on natural resource development This right has been recognized in numerous
made in ‘the national interest’ cannot be based international legal standards and jurisprudence,
on the interests of the majority alone, particularly including in International Labour Organization
if such policies would cause serious violations of Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous

16 Natural resource development and the State of the World’s Minorities

rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples 2012
and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries the right to participate effectively in decision-
(ILO 169) and in the UNDRIP. Numerous making can afford many of the same protections
examples from the case law also support this, that are evident in the free, prior and informed
including the Ogoni and Endorois cases before consent standards on indigenous peoples’ rights.
the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ This includes ensuring that participation is free,
Rights and the Saramaka and Awas Tingni cases comes prior to decisions being made, is based on
at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. full access to relevant information, and is under-
In summary, ‘free’ means that consent must be stood as ‘effective’ only where minorities can con-
given without coercion or intimidation; ‘prior’ sent (or not) to decisions that may affect them.
means that consent must be given fully prior While the rights to land, territories and
to the commencement of any activity affecting natural resources are elaborated clearly for
the group or its land, territories or resources; indigenous peoples in international law, the
‘informed’ requires that groups be given full standards for persons belonging to minorities on
disclosure of the activity and its potential impact; land, territories and resources are less clear; the
and ‘consent’ is a collective right to give or to UNDM makes no provisions on these specific
withhold consent to proposed activities. points, nor do relevant regional standards.
The international standards on minority rights Protection for land, territories and resources
recognize that persons belonging to minorities can be included in nationally agreed autonomy
have ‘the right to participate effectively in deci- arrangements, whereby regulation of these issues
sions on the national and, where appropriate, is delegated to minority self-governance. Such
regional level concerning the minority to which rights may also be recognized under customary
they belong or the regions in which they live’ law or general property laws. In Colombia, for
(UNDM, Article 2.3). Progressively interpreted, example, Law 70, In Recognition of the Right

State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 17

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
of Black Colombians to Collectively Own and from such resources.
Occupy their Ancestral Lands, was adopted in International development banks, such as the
1993 to protect such rights for certain Afro- World Bank and Asian Development Bank,
Colombian communities. Law 70 has not been have elaborated policies to help ensure that
implemented fully, however, and many Afro- loans for natural resource development projects
Colombians with land rights claims have been do not harm indigenous peoples. But there is
left without protection. The situation underscores still scope for improvement: for example, the
the need for further elaboration of land and World Bank’s latest Operational Policy (2005)
resource rights protection for minorities at the only acknowledges the need for ‘free, prior and
national and international levels. informed consultation’ (emphasis added) where
The right to take part in cultural life is also indigenous communities might be affected
firmly protected in international law. Beyond by World Bank-financed projects, rather than
Article 15 of the ICESCR, Article 27 of the ‘consent’ as recognized in other international
ICCPR states further that persons belonging standards. Notably there are no global minority-
to minorities ‘shall not be denied the right, in specific standards related to development to
community with the other members of their mirror those elaborated for indigenous peoples,
group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and further evidence of the large gap in protection.
practise their own religion, or to use their own Indigenous peoples and minorities have
language’. Indigenous peoples’ right to cultural worked to shape these initiatives and emerging
life is recognized extensively in the UNDRIP and norms, but the outcomes have not often fully
ILO 169, particularly in relation to the pursuit met expectations. In many cases, the inclusion
of traditional livelihoods, education and health. of indigenous peoples or minorities in emerging
For minorities, the UNDM calls upon states to global initiatives related to natural resource
‘take measures to create favourable conditions to development has been hard won: for example,
enable persons belonging to minorities to express in REDD, which calls on parties to ensure
their characteristics and to develop their culture, ‘the full and effective participation of relevant
language, religion, traditions and customs’ stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and
(Article 4.2). local communities’ (paragraph 72) in national
Crucially, cultural life is not something to REDD strategies. These guidelines and initiatives
be pursued in detachment from economic and can contribute to better practice but they must
social life; it is inter-dependent with other human be implemented from a starting point of human
rights protections. Cultural life also encompasses rights recognition and protection.
traditional livelihoods which are commonly Adopting a human rights-based approach to
under threat from natural resource development. natural resource development for indigenous
The ILO Convention no. 111 concerning peoples and minorities is a vital means to this
Discrimination in Respect of Employment and end. The human rights-based approach calls for
Occupation is one tool to prevent discriminatory development outcomes and processes to avoid
policies against traditional livelihoods; human rights violations and to aim for the
ILO 169 also addresses this point extensively realization of human rights, without discrimina-
(see Articles 20–23). Sacred spaces or spaces tion. This approach emphasizes state duties and
essential to cultural life must also be protected accountability for these goals, and the central role
in natural resource development. UNESCO of participation by those affected in the design,
has promulgated several standards to this end, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of
including the Convention for the Protection development policies. Indicators that measure the
of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. impact on human rights of development inter-
Similarly, Article 8 (j) of the Convention on ventions are used to assess progress.
Biological Diversity protects traditional cultural
practices ‘relevant for the conservation and Addressing harmful natural resources
sustainable use of biological diversity’ and development: ways forward
encourages ‘equitable sharing of the benefits’ Minorities and indigenous peoples do not seek to

18 Natural resource development and the State of the World’s Minorities

rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples 2012
resist all natural resource development. In many to all natural resource development proposals
cases, they hope to benefit from the development and should include also assessment of impacts
to improve their social and economic life. They on the full range of human rights of affected
also have skills and knowledge to contribute to communities. Particular attention should be paid
the effective and sustainable management of to differential impacts on the basis of gender,
natural resources. The way forward is through age and disability. There should be free and easy
natural resource development that will respect, access to information on impact assessments for
protect and fulfil their human rights. affected communities, including translation or
An important starting point is the recognition other forms of communication as required. The
of the rights to self-determination and to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food,
participate effectively in decision-making Olivier De Schutter, has recently proposed a
regarding any natural resource development that set of ‘Guiding Principles on Human Rights
will affect minority and indigenous communities Impact Assessments of Trade and Investment
or their land, territories and resources. Agreements’ that could be one useful tool.
Indigenous communities in particular hold the In January 2012, the International Finance
right to free, prior and informed consent. There Corporation (IFC) (part of the World Bank
should be harmonization of laws regulating Group) adopted a new Performance Standard 7
natural resource development with these core on indigenous peoples that recognizes the right
rights of communities. This should also include of free, prior and informed consent as a required
laws to protect economic, social and cultural life component of social and environmental impact
for minorities and indigenous peoples. assessments for private sector financing. The IFC
Addressing land and resource title claims is Performance Standard 5 on land acquisition and
key to this process. The rights of communities involuntary resettlement offers related safeguards.
to occupy and use their land and territories In some cases, benefit-sharing agreements can
must be legally guaranteed in a process that be made between corporations (and states) and
is transparent and not unduly prolonged. affected groups. If constructed well, they can
Furthermore, norms on effective participation enable groups to benefit from natural resource
and on free, prior and informed consent must be development in their region and to greatly
respected fully through the adoption of effective improve their human development prospects.
mechanisms, including the use of customary law However, not all agreements are consistent
and structures of decision-making as appropriate. with the rights of minority and indigenous
Women belonging to minority and indigenous communities, and few fully recognize the legal
communities must be enabled to participate entitlement of groups over the land and resources
equally in these processes. In Kenya, for example, affected. Such benefit-sharing agreements should
the 2009 National Land Policy calls for the be reviewed regularly to ensure compliance and
proportionate representation of women in all continued consent of affected communities. One
institutions dealing with land. positive example is the Sakhalin Energy company
Impact assessments are also essential tools agreement in Russia. Following protests in 2005
to prevent harmful or unwanted natural from indigenous communities (mainly Nivkh
resource development being carried out by the and Orok people) on Sakhalin Island negatively
relevant actors in a specific project, such as impacted by oil and gas extraction on their
government authorities, development agencies traditional territories and waters, the company
and companies. General social and environmental has worked through a series of more progressive
impact assessments may not be sufficient to benefit-sharing agreements in partnership with
uncover particular harms faced by minorities formally elected indigenous representatives. They
and indigenous peoples linked to issues such as have agreed the second Sakhalin Indigenous
discrimination, cultural life or customary rights Minorities Development Five Year Plan (2011–
to land and resources. A minority and indigenous 15), which includes an external monitoring
rights component should therefore be integrated system, a grievance procedure and indigenous
into impact assessments. These should be applied governance structures.

State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 19

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
Full participation of minorities and indigenous processes. Disputes over natural resource
peoples is needed also at the level of global development can turn violent, frequently with
governance on natural resource development. state actors as perpetrators or complicit in the
The Convention on Biological Diversity is one actions of private security companies. Alternative
useful model, where the International Indigenous dispute resolution can be employed to bring
Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) has been created parties in natural resources disputes to agreement
as an advisory body. Similar measures are needed peacefully. Crimes committed against minorities
urgently in arenas like climate change and forestry and indigenous peoples in the context of natural
management. One promising initiative is the resource development should be subject to full
draft annex to UN REDD+ on free, prior and investigation and prosecution. Litigation against
informed consent, elaborated following several corporations or state officials for illegal natural
regional consultations with indigenous peoples’ resource extraction should be supported through
organizations. Similar institutional initiatives and appropriate legal aid assistance for affected
policy recognition are needed urgently for other communities. Such legal aid facilities can also
ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities whose be enabled to ensure communities negotiate fair
rights and situation are often ignored. benefit-sharing agreements or other contracts
Access to justice should be ensured to related to their land, territories and resources.
communities in natural resource development It is important to build the capacity of minority

20 Natural resource development and the State of the World’s Minorities

rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Work in progress for the Sakhalin Energy
oil and gas pipeline on the island of Sakhalin,
Russia, in 2007. Francesco Cito/Panos.

better for sustainable natural resource develop-

ment: for example, recent studies have shown that
forests managed by indigenous communities have
been more effective in reducing deforestation than
those protected for conservation only.

Indigenous peoples and minorities are getting few
of the benefits and more of the harms from the
myriad of natural resources development projects
currently being pursued. The lands and territories
they have long occupied and the resources they
have long relied upon are under increasing threat
from powerful state and corporate forces. The
negative effect of harmful and unwanted natural
resource development on these communities is
striking and constitutes a clear violation of their
human rights. In some cases, it is now a threat to
their very existence.
Many communities are successfully fighting
back against unwanted or harmful natural
resource development and also contributing
towards management of such resources. In
Canada, for example, the Environmental
Stewardship Unit of the Assembly of First
Nations is working with several government
ministries and commercial entities to ensure a
central role for indigenous peoples in sustainable
and indigenous communities to elaborate, moni- natural resource development. Meanwhile, others
tor and implement natural resource development do not have adequate access to information, legal
programmes that are consistent with their human assistance, knowledge of commercial natural
rights and view of development. This is not only resource development processes or funding in
about technical capacity to critically evaluate and order to defend their rights.
design good natural resource development but Ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities
also to assert alternative development strategies have so far not garnered the recognition of their
that might challenge dominant paradigms that rights and concerns that has been achieved by
have contributed to so many harmful outcomes. indigenous peoples. The gap in protection could
Support can range from technical and financial make these groups even more vulnerable to
assistance, including from international organiza- harmful natural resource development in future.
tions, inter-community solidarity and advisory The development of natural resources need
services, scholarships and training for community not be harmful or unjust. The future of natural
members on relevant standards and technical resource development is our common future,
knowledge. The Indigenous Peoples Resource and minorities and indigenous peoples have a
Management Program at the University of Sas- right not only to benefit in this, but also to help
katchewan in Canada is one model curriculum. determine its path. This is their right to self-
Undertaking such management roles can also be determination. p

State of the World’s Minorities Natural resource development and the 21

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
Strategies of
testing the limits
of the law
Carla Clarke
n November 2011, the African Wildlife with a US$ 4.8 billion project, which includes
Foundation (AWF), in partnership with moving all the water from neighbouring lagoons
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (two into separate reservoirs, have ensured that the
US-based charities), presented the Kenyan controversy will continue. The plans have
government with a gift of land, bought by been met with violent protests, the declaration
the charities for US$ 4 million from a private of a 60-day state of emergency, a ministerial
land-owner (reportedly the former president, resignation and a march on the capital as
Daniel arap Moi) for the establishment of the different groups from across Peru unite forces to
country’s newest national park. The 6,900 demand protection of their right to water.
hecatre property, to be named Laikipia National Two different countries, two different
Park, is said to provide a critical link between continents, two different industries, a single
neighbouring protected areas, allowing elephants, issue: the fragility of the rights of indigenous
big cats, and other species to safely navigate a peoples, not only to their lands and its resources,
wildlife corridor that spans Central Laikipia. but to their very identity and survival as a
distinct people in the face of a single prevailing
‘Together, African Wildlife Foundation, The Nature development paradigm, which essentially
Conservancy, and Kenya Wildlife Service are prioritizes economic interests over other factors.
conserving an ecosystem that is vital to this region, Despite a wave of standard setting and
while also enhancing the economic livelihood of progressive jurisprudence at the international,
Kenyans living around the park. Laikipia’s protection regional and domestic level in the area of
will stimulate local commerce, particularly tourism,’ indigenous peoples’ rights over the last 20-odd
said Patrick Bergin, chief executive of AWF. years, the reality for many of the world’s
approximately 300 million indigenous peoples is
‘People are at the core of our conservation work in that their way of life and very existence as distinct
Kenya, and it’s the people of Kenya who are gaining peoples remains under constant threat. This
ownership of a significant piece chapter examines some of that growing body
of land,’ said David Banks, Africa director of legal standards and jurisprudence regarding
for TNC. states’ obligations, both internationally and
across the three regions of Latin America, Africa
The Samburu of Laikipia District, semi- and Asia. The focus of the chapter is on the
nomadic pastoralists who were forcibly and rights of indigenous peoples’ to their lands and
violently evicted after the initial purchase of the their natural resources rather than on minorities
land by AWF and TNC, might well be forgiven more generally. There remains no single,
for questioning whose livelihoods are intended comprehensive definition of indigenous peoples,
to be enhanced by the creation of the national something which at times has been exploited
park and which people are at the core of TNC’s by governments opposed to recognizing such
conservation work. peoples and their rights. Nevertheless, one of
The Yanacocha gold mine is the largest gold the common factors used to describe indigenous
mine in South America, located north-east of peoples is their distinctive relationship with their
the Peruvian capital Lima. The mine is operated traditionally occupied lands and the natural
by Minera Yanacocha, a joint venture owned resources of those lands, not simply as a means
primarily by Newmont Mining Corporation of livelihood and economic survival but also
of Denver, Colorado with funding from the for their cultural and spiritual significance and
International Finance Corporation, the private ultimately as the basis of their very identity.
investment arm of the World Bank Group. The It is the particularity of this relationship
development of the mine, which started in 1993, with their lands and resources, the growing
has been mired in controversy and, in turn, acted recognition of the distinctiveness and value of
as an important rallying point for the Peruvian such a relationship, as well as its vulnerability
indigenous movement. in the face of development aggression, and an
Recent plans to expand the mine further increasing openness in some quarters to address

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 23

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
historical injustices (see Box 1) that has led to the
heightened standard-setting and jurisprudence in Case study
relation to indigenous peoples’ property rights.

Second, the term ‘indigenous peoples’ is
used here in its broadest sense so that, as in the

historical injustices
approach adopted by the African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), it is not

in New Zealand
limited to a ‘narrow/aboriginal/pre-Colombian
understanding of indigenous peoples’. Equally,
following the approach of the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), one might
refer to indigenous and tribal communities The Maori, the original inhabitants of New
so that, for example, descendants of African Zealand or Aotearoa, make up roughly 15
slaves forcibly brought to South America with per cent of New Zealand’s population of just
European colonizers, and who continue to form a over 4 million. Relations between Maori and
distinct social, cultural and economic group with the government are based on the Treaty of
a special relationship with their territory, benefit Waitangi, signed in 1840 between the British
from these standards as well. Crown and a number of Maori tribes or iwi,
Nonetheless, the focus on indigenous and and considered as one of New Zealand’s
tribal peoples is not to deny that there is a founding instruments. Under the Treaty, the
legitimate debate to be had as to whether some Maori were to retain possession of their lands
of the recently adopted standards in relation to and resources. In line with this, indigenous
their property rights, modified or not, should not or native title was recognized under the
equally apply to others whose relationship with common law of New Zealand as early as
the land is not necessarily an issue of identity and 1847 (R v. Symonds) and through legislation
cultural survival yet who similarly find themselves in the Native Rights Act 1865. However,
paying a heavy price for others’ development. For such early recognition of native title did not
example, in Cambodia, where more than half of last and subsequent actions by successive
the country’s arable landmass has been granted governments resulted in the individualization
as concessions to private companies for agro- of Maori land and its subsequent sale, such
industrial and mining projects, indiscriminately that most land in New Zealand had already
affecting both minority communities, such as passed out of Maori ownership by 1900 in
Cham Muslims, and indigenous peoples, it acts which are now widely recognized as
can be difficult to see why non-indigenous and being in breach of the Treaty.
non-tribal communities should not be entitled For Maoris with their concept of
under human rights law to have a greater role in turangawaewae (‘a place to stand’), indicating
participating in decisions directly affecting them the close connection between land and tribal
and their livelihoods. To the extent that much of and personal identity, such dispossession was
the emerging protection for indigenous peoples not simply about alienation of their land
has been carved out of what was previously but a loss of self-governance and of cultural
viewed as an individual right to property, there identity which continues to be reflected in
is the potential for human rights standards to the inequalities experienced by Maori in
continue to evolve so as to provide protection to comparison with non-Maori across a broad
other groups and collectives. range of social indicators.
Finally, by way of introduction, this chapter Beginning in 1975, with the establishment
refers to indigenous peoples collectively and does of the Waitangi Tribunal to hear claims
not provide a particular gender focus. This is brought by Maori against the government
primarily because the human rights standards, for breaches of the Treaty, notable steps
legislation and case law being examined do not, on have been taken to address these historical
the whole, touch upon the double discrimination

24 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities

testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
injustices and to reach settlements of Maori land Treaty Settlements, to oversee the process
claims (albeit that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction under which numerous Maori groups have
was only extended in 1985 to cover grievances negotiated settlements to their historical
dating back to 1840). Other steps include claims, while others continue to go through
the adoption of the Ture Whenua Maori Act the process.
1993 (or Maori Land Act), which, as well as Despite such positive steps the
establishing a Maori Land Court, preserves the settlement process is not without its critics.
capacity of Maori to hold land collectively and Common concerns are the fact that the
recognizes that Maori land is a taonga (treasure) recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal
of special significance to Maori people. There are not binding and are frequently ignored
has also been the development of the Treaty by the government; that the negotiation
settlement process, including the establishment procedure is inherently unbalanced in favour
in 1995 of a designated body, the Office of of the government, which determines the
framework and the procedure of negotiations;
and that no independent oversight exists.
Additionally, many Maori consider that the
value of the settlements represents only a very
small percentage of the value of the total loss.
In addition, even as the New Zealand
government was trying to negotiate
settlements to certain claims, the Foreshore
and Seabed Act 2004 vested the ownership
of the public foreshore and seabed in the
New Zealand government, extinguishing
any Maori customary title over that area
overnight, even as it preserved private,
individual title. Following widespread
criticism of this legislation, it was repealed
and replaced in 2011 with the Marine and
Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act which,
inter alia, restored any customary interests
in the common marine and coastal area that
were extinguished by the earlier Act and
restored the courts’ ability to determine and
legally recognize customary rights and title
in the foreshore and seabed. Both pieces
of legislation are ultimately testimony to
the continuing vulnerability of Maori’s
indigenous rights. p

Left: A Maori youth on the beach at

Waitangi, New Zealand, with a huge Tino
Rangatiratanga flag during the official
Treaty of Waitangi celebrations. The
Tino Rangatiratanga flag expresses self-
determination and is a well-recognized
symbol of Maori sovereignty. It is
often seen at Maori protest movement
gatherings. Jocelyn Carlin/Panos.

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 25

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
that indigenous women face and the differential and the Central African Republic (2010) the
impact that violations of the community’s right only African signatory. Nevertheless, its reach, as
to property might have on them. While some of an interpretative and comparative tool, extends
the UN treaty bodies, particularly the Committee considerably further than those 22 countries
on the Elimination of Discrimination Against through its being invoked by regional human
Women (CEDAW), are beginning to expressly rights tribunals and by domestic courts even in
examine the situation of indigenous women in relation to countries which are not signatories.
their concluding observations on state parties’ The adoption of ILO 169 has been followed
reports, such observations generally focus on issues by increasing attention within the UN human
of literacy/education and health. rights system to indigenous peoples and how
they benefit from protection under existing
Standard setting human rights treaties. For example, in 1994
International the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC)
The main international human rights treaties produced General Comment no. 23 in which it
adopted by the international community provided its interpretation of Article 27 of the
under the auspices of the UN after the Second International Covenant on Civil and Political
World War were, on their face, silent on the Rights (ICCPR). General Comment no. 23
issue of indigenous peoples. Instead, it was the expressly refers to how the protection of those
International Labour Organization (ILO), with belonging to minorities to enjoy their own
its historical concerns over the use of ‘native culture, as provided for in Article 27, extends
labour’ in colonial countries which emerged as an to culture as manifested ‘in a particular way of
early actor in the field of the rights of indigenous life associated with the use of land resources,
peoples. However, ILO Convention No. 107 especially in the case of indigenous peoples’.
exemplifies the thinking that still prevailed at This interpretation is significant given that the
the time of its adoption in 1957. While the ICCPR, unlike the Universal Declaration on
Convention provided for the recognition of Human Rights, contains no right to property.
indigenous peoples’ collective rights of ownership In an early communication brought to
over traditionally occupied lands, this was within the HRC in respect of Article 27 (Lansman
the wider framework of a policy of integration v. Finland, communication no. 511/1992,
which viewed indigenous societies as temporary adopted 1994) a group of Sami reindeer-
ones which would inevitably disappear under the herders complained to the HRC regarding the
tide of modernization. Finnish government’s granting of a contract
ILO Convention No. 169 (ILO 169), adopted for stone-quarrying on the side of a mountain
in 1989, marked a fundamental shift away that they considered sacred and the consequent
from an assimilationist orientation towards one transporting of the stone through a complex
which valued indigenous peoples’ difference and system of reindeer fences on territory whose
afforded them rights to ensure the continuation ownership was in dispute between the state and
of their communities and those differences. For the Sami. They claimed that their right to enjoy
example, Article 7(1) provides that ‘[t]he peoples their own culture, based on reindeer husbandry,
concerned shall have the right to decide their had been violated by the granting of the
own priorities for the process of development concession and the consequent economic activity.
as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and In dismissing the complaint, the HRC considered
spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy that the quarrying was not so substantial as to
or otherwise use’. It remains the case that ILO deny the complainants the ability to carry out
169, the only international treaty specifically on their traditional reindeer-herding and emphasized
indigenous peoples and, consequently, binding the fact that they had been consulted prior to the
on those states that have signed up to it, has granting of the quarrying permit.
only been ratified by 22 countries, the majority A more recent decision of the HRC, Poma
of which are in Latin America, with Nepal Poma v. Peru (communication no. 1457/2006,
(2007) representing the only Asian signatory adopted 2009), concerning the diversion of

26 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities

testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
water from a region of the Andes to the coast ‘free and informed prior consent when the
that impacted on Aymara pasture land and preservation of their cultural resources, especially
their traditional raising of llamas, illustrates the those associated with their way of life and cultural
development of legal standards in this field in the expression are at risk’.
ensuing years. In finding a violation of Article Activity around indigenous peoples’ rights
27, on the basis that the interference with the within the UN culminated with the adoption
culturally significant activity of llama-raising in 2007, after two decades in the making, of the
was substantial, the HRC stated that for such UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
substantial interference to be acceptable required Peoples (UNDRIP). In many ways the declaration
that the community had the opportunity to takes ILO 169 as a starting point and then builds
participate in the decision-making process which, on it considerably. Of particular note is the
in contrast to the earlier Lansman decision: repeated reference not simply to participation or
consultation but to the need to obtain indigenous
‘requires not mere consultation but the free, prior peoples’ ‘free, prior and informed consent’ prior
and informed consent of the members of the to certain actions being taken. This includes the
community. In addition, the measures must respect requirement under Article 32 to obtain indigenous
the principle of proportionality so as not to endanger peoples’ free, prior and informed consent to ‘the
the very survival of the community and approval of any project affecting their lands or
its members.’ territories and other resources, particularly in
connection with the development, utilisation or
While the complaint was brought by an exploration of mineral, water or other resources’
indigenous woman, given that Article 27 refers (emphasis added).
to individuals belonging to minorities, there is no The declaration was adopted with
reason why the free, prior and informed consent overwhelming support (143 states in favour, 4
standard set out in Poma Poma should not apply against and 11 abstentions) and has already found
equally to non-indigenous minorities who find a its way into certain domestic legislation (notably,
culturally significant activity being impacted on Bolivia). The votes against the declaration are
by development affecting their land. telling, coming as they did from wealthy Western
The decisions of the HRC, albeit not binding, states with notable indigenous populations
are important and should be read in conjunction (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United
with the increased attention being given to States) and even those states that voted in favour,
indigenous peoples’ property rights by other UN as well as those that have subsequently come on
treaty bodies. For example, the Commission board, qualified their votes with references to the
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination political nature of the document or to it being
(CERD)’s General Recommendation no. 23 on subject to their existing legal and constitutional
Indigenous Peoples (1997) calls upon states ‘to framework. As a declaration rather than a
recognize and protect the rights of indigenous convention, the UNDRIP is strictly non-binding.
peoples to own, develop, control and use their Nevertheless, it is clear from its provisions in
communal lands, territories and resources’. There relation to the rights of indigenous peoples to
is also the General Comment no. 21 of the the lands, territories and resources that they
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural have traditionally used and occupied, taken in
Rights (CESCR), adopted in 2009, relating to conjunction with ILO 169 and the General
Article 15(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Comments of the HRC, CERD and CESCR
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), referred to above, that rights to land and natural
which provides for the right of everyone to take resources are an integral part of indigenous
part in cultural life. The General Comment peoples’ rights in international human rights law.
expressly considers this right in relation to
indigenous peoples and their relationship with Regional
their lands, territories and resources, and identifies Americas
as a core obligation the obtaining of communities’ Many of the countries in the Americas (though

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 27

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
certainly not all) have been at the forefront
of affording constitutional and legislative Case study
recognition to their indigenous populations and

The Maya of
to certain accompanying rights. For example,
the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador provide

the Toledo
for their being plurinational states; Colombia’s
1993 law recognizes collective rights to territory

district in Belize
and its 1998 decree provides for prior consent in
respect of the exploitation of natural resources
on the lands of indigenous peoples and Afro-
Colombian communities; and Peru’s 2011
legislation on prior consultation with indigenous The Toledo district in southern Belize is
peoples. The judiciaries in these countries have home to approximately 14,000 Mopan- and
also, to varying degrees, been active. Indeed, Q’eqchi’-speaking Maya people, descendants
Colombia’s Constitutional Court is described of Maya subgroups that inhabited the territory
as having established ‘a world-class model of at least as far back as the seventeenth and
jurisprudence’ in the protection of the rights eighteenth centuries when Europeans arrived.
of indigenous peoples and the Afro-Colombian In 1998, following the granting of a number
community; a decision in May 2011 declared of oil and logging concessions on their
legislation reforming the country’s mining code traditional lands without their involvement,
as unconstitutional due to the lack of prior and a failure to obtain any timely remedy
consultation with indigenous peoples. Another from the local courts, a petition was lodged on
example of judicial activism in the region is behalf of the Maya with the Inter-American
provided by the Supreme Court of Belize (see Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
case study). alleging a violation of the right to property
There has also been considerable activity and the right to non-discrimination under the
with regard to the recognition and protection American Declaration on Human Rights.
of indigenous peoples’ rights at the inter- In a decision of 2004, the IACHR upheld
governmental level under the auspices of the the communities’ complaint finding that
Organization of American States (OAS). In Belize had failed ‘to provide [the Maya] with
1989, the General Assembly of the OAS asked the protections necessary to exercise their
the Inter-American Commission on Human right to property fully and equally with other
Rights (IACHR) to prepare a legal instrument members of the Belizean population’. The
on the rights of indigenous populations. While Commission went on to recommend that
admittedly the declaration remains in draft Belize, inter alia: (i) adopt legislative and
form some 15 years after its inception, no other administrative measures, in fully informed
region is even beginning to attempt to engage
in a similar process. Shortly after the first steps
towards a regional instrument on indigenous rights to their ancestral territories and related
peoples’ rights were taken, the IACHR natural resources coming from these two bodies
established in 1990 the Office of the Rapporteur is reflective, on the one hand, of the preparedness
on the rights of indigenous peoples. in the region to at least recognize the existence
Perhaps though the most significant of indigenous peoples and the justiciability of
developments in the region, including in their the issues facing them. But, on the other hand, it
potential to impact beyond the region itself, is reflective of states’ failure to offer meaningful
have been the decisions of the IACHR and the protection at the local level, even where their
IACtHR in respect of petitions brought before domestic laws make provision for the same.
them by or on behalf of indigenous communities. The first case in which the IACtHR
The extent of the jurisprudence on indigenous adjudicated upon indigenous peoples’ collective
peoples’ rights and specifically their collective right to property illustrates this dichotomy.

28 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities

testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
consultations with the Maya, to delimit, ... in interpreting the fundamental human
demarcate and title their territories; and (ii) until rights provisions of the Constitution’). This
such measures are carried out, abstain from any exploration includes not only Belize’s bind-
acts that might lead the state or third parties to ing treaty obligations but also includes ILO
affect the existence, value, use or enjoyment of Convention No. 169 (to which Belize is not
those territories. a party), whose provisions on indigenous peo-
Despite a constitutional amendment in 2001, ples right to land in Article 14 are described
which inserted into the Constitution’s preamble a as ‘resonat[ing]with the general principles of
reference to the people of Belize requiring ‘policies international law regarding indigenous peo-
of state which protect … the identity, dignity and ples’, and the UN Declaration on the Rights
social and cultural values of Belizeans, including of Indigenous Peoples. While this declaration
Belize’s indigenous peoples … with respect for is not binding, the Court notes that Belize
international law and treaty obligations in the voted in favour of it, that it was passed by an
dealings among nations’, no attempt was made overwhelming majority of the General Assem-
to implement the IACHR’s recommendations bly and embodies general principles of interna-
by Belize. Consequently, in a renewed attempt tional law relating to indigenous peoples and
to enforce their rights, a further case was brought their lands and resources resulting in it ‘being
in 2007 before the domestic courts by two of the of such force that the defendants representing
communities concerned, alleging the violation of the government will not disregard it’.
provisions of the Belize Constitution regarding the As with the IACHR, the Court concluded
right to equality, to property and to life from the that the Maya communities’ interest in
failure to recognize the communities’ traditional their lands based on Maya customary land
communal property rights and the granting of tenure was protected by the right to property
logging and oil concessions. In an important and that such right, as well as the right to
judgment, in which regard is shown to the IACHR equality, had been violated by the granting
decision, the Supreme Court explores in detail the of concessions to third parties to utilize the
history of the Maya of the Toledo district, their property and resources located on their land.
customs and their relationship with their lands, as The Court similarly ordered the delimiting,
well as providing a useful synthesis of some of the demarcating and titling of the land, and that
key cases on native or indigenous title in common the government abstain from any action
law jurisdictions ranging from Malaysia to Canada, which would affect the property unless such
and that such title was not extinguished merely by action had the informed consent of the
settlement by the British Crown. communities. Five years on, the communities
Notably, the judgment considers at some are still waiting for implementation of this
length Belize’s obligations under international law domestic decision, even as US Capital Energy
(matters which ‘weighed heavily with [the court] continues its oil exploration in the area. p

In Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community what it itself described as ‘an evolutionary
v. Nicaragua (2001), the Awas Tingni interpretation’, found that Article 21, until that
community (one of numerous Mayagna or point regarded as protecting a classic, individual
Sumo communities inhabiting the isolated private right to property, protected the right to
Atlantic Coast region of Nicaragua) challenged property ‘in a sense which includes … the rights
Nicaragua’s failure to demarcate their communal of members of the indigenous communities
lands and the granting of a timber concession within the framework of communal property’.
in an area which potentially belonged to the This was a ground-breaking development. Yet,
community without consulting them. Despite the the reason why the Awas Tigni community had
fact the American Convention on Human Rights to take their case to the regional level was not
made no express reference to indigenous peoples because Nicaragua’s Constitution and legislation
nor to communal property, the Court, through made no provision for indigenous peoples

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 29

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
and their property rights. Indeed, Nicaragua’s provision for all three generations of rights (civil
1995 Constitution contains several enlightened and political, economic, social and cultural
provisions on the country’s indigenous peoples, and environmental) and its specific provision
their communal form of land-ownership and for group rights, it might have been expected
their enjoyment of their natural resources. that African countries and the ACHPR would
Instead, as found by the IACtHR, there was no have been at the forefront of the protection and
established procedure for the titling of indigenous development of indigenous peoples’ rights. Until
lands and therefore for making the constitutional relatively recently, the opposite has been the case.
and other legislative provisions effective in Recognition of particular ethnic groups as having
practice. specific rights has been resisted by many African
The more recent case of Saramaka v. Suriname states on the basis that it would create tensions
(2007), concerning the Saramaka people, whose between different ethnic groups and instability in
roots are traceable to African slaves forcibly newly sovereign countries.
brought to the land now known as Suriname In support of such resistance, many states
by European colonizers during the seventeenth have exploited the lack of any agreed definition
century, builds considerably on the Awas of who indigenous peoples are, and argued that
Tingni case with which it shares similar facts. all Africans are indigenous in the sense of being
As well as directly addressing the question pre-colonial. The uneasy relationship between
of ownership of natural resources, the Court African countries and their indigenous peoples is
established clear steps that need to be followed well exemplified by the concerns raised over and
if an indigenous community’s property rights amendments proposed to the UNDRIP at the
are to be lawfully restricted by development on eleventh hour by the African Group.
their land (all derived from Article 21 of the Given this general attitude of African countries
American Convention). The IACtHR set out to their indigenous peoples, it is not surprising
three additional safeguards to ensure that any that domestically, few of them provide for
restriction does not endanger the very survival of recognition of indigenous peoples and their
the indigenous group and its members: effective property rights, and when they do such laws
participation of the community; benefit-sharing; are generally not enforced. For example, in
and the carrying out of prior environmental and Botswana, home to over 40 tribal groups, the
social impact assessments. The Court further Tribal Territories Act divides the land between
provided a valuable blueprint as to what effective the 8 dominant Tswana tribes and makes no
participation and the duty to actively consult provision for the rights of other tribes. By
involves in practice, including such matters contrast, the Constitution of Ethiopia, as well as
as the need for early notice to be provided of recognizing the right of ‘every people’ in Ethiopia
any proposed development; the community to self-determination (Article 39.1), specifically
being alerted to possible environmental and recognizes pastoralists’ right not to be displaced
health risks; and account being taken of the from their own land (Article 40.5). However,
community’s traditional decision-making process. such provisions have proved of scant comfort
Unfortunately, even as the Court’s decision is to the country’s Nuer population, involuntarily
being invoked by domestic courts, for example in displaced by the government’s villagization
Peru, and other regional tribunals (the ACHPR’s programme which is purportedly aimed at
in its landmark Endorois decision, described ensuring that they are housed in villages with
below), the Saramaka have yet to benefit fully adequate infrastructure and services but which,
from the judgment as the vested interests of those in reality, appears aimed at freeing up their
in power mean that the implementation process traditional lands for investment by outsiders for
continues to be stalled. commercial agriculture.
South Africa stands out as one country in the
Africa region which is trying to come to terms with
Given the unique nature of the African Charter its past both at a constitutional and legislative
on Human and Peoples’ Rights, with its level and in judicial decisions. In the landmark

30 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities

testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
decision of Richtersveld v. Alexkor (2003), have lived for centuries in the Lake Bogoria area
its Constitutional Court first examined an of Kenya. In the 1970s, the land which they
indigenous community’s land rights prior to had traditionally occupied was designated as a
annexation by the British Crown with reference Game Reserve. The Endorois were evicted from
to indigenous law rather than common law. their lands and their access to Lake Bogoria,
Having identified that right as one of communal with its cultural and religious significance, was
ownership, including ownership of minerals curtailed. Having failed to find redress at the
and precious stones below the surface, the domestic level, the Endorois took their case to
Court went on to hold that this right was not the ACHPR, claiming violations of their right to
terminated merely by the Crown’s annexation of property, their freedom to practise their religion,
the territory. Instead, the community’s rights of their right to culture, their right to natural
ownership remained intact until the discovery of resources and their right to development. All of
diamonds led to their eviction in the 1920s and these claims were robustly upheld by the ACHPR
the subsequent passing of the Precious Stones Act in the first decision to recognize that Article 14
which did not recognize non-registered owners. of the African Charter (the right to property)
Given the racially discriminatory nature of this protects the right of ownership (and not mere
dispossession, the community was entitled to access) of indigenous peoples to the lands they
restitution under the Restitution of Land Rights have traditionally possessed.
Act 1994. In a decision which is testimony to the cross-
The ACHPR itself, after a slow start, has fertilization between regional human rights
shown increasing willingness to engage with bodies, the ACHPR drew extensively on the
issues of indigenous peoples and their rights. jurisprudence of the IACtHR. First though, it
In 2000, it set up the Working Group on addressed directly the question of who indigenous
Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa peoples are within Africa, setting the issue in its
whose work has included the production of an current context:
influential report in 2003 examining the human
rights situation of indigenous peoples on the ‘while the terms “peoples” and “indigenous
continent, as well as exploring possible criteria community” arouse emotive debates, some
for identifying indigenous peoples in the African marginalized and vulnerable groups in Africa are
context. suffering from particular problems. [The ACHPR]
Unlike its counterpart in the Americas, the is aware that many of these groups have not
ACHPR has had very few cases presented to it been accommodated by dominating development
regarding indigenous peoples and their rights paradigms and in many cases they are being
to property. The first was the 2002 case of victimized by mainstream development policies and
The Social and Economic Action Rights Centre thinking and their basic human rights violated.’
v. Nigeria concerning Shell’s oil exploration
activities in Ogoniland, in conjunction with a Additionally, while drawing very much upon
state oil company, with devastating effects on decisions such as Saramaka v. Suriname, the
the lives and welfare of the Ogoni people of the ACHPR broadened the protection afforded by
region. While a landmark decision established the IACtHR in several regards. In particular,
the justiciability of economic, social and cultural the right to natural resources contained in
rights, it represented a missed opportunity to a community’s traditional lands was not
examine indigenous peoples and their property limited to those to which they had some
rights. particular attachment, and the requirement for
That task was left to the 2010 decision of consent by the community, as distinct from
Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) mere consultation, appears to apply to any
and Minority Rights Group International (on development or investment project that would
behalf of the Endorois Welfare Council) v. Kenya. restrict their property rights and not only those
The Endorois are a semi-nomadic pastoralist major projects that would have a profound
community of approximately 60,000 people who impact on such rights.

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 31

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
Further, in the first decision to adjudicate upon implementation of the ACHPR decision.
the right to development, the ACHPR rejected The Ogiek, a forest-dwelling community, have
Kenya’s contention that ‘the task of communities similarly brought a case against Kenya before
within a participatory democracy is to contribute the ACHPR, in a sign that Kenya’s 2010
to the well-being of society at large and not only Constitution, which specifically recognizes
to care selfishly for one’s own community at the marginalized groups and provides for community
risk of others’. Instead, the ACHPR emphasized land, including ancestral lands, has yet to bring
the right to a particular process of development about real changes on the ground. Due to the
which involves the community on an equal serious violations involved, in the first half of
footing and increases their choices and well-being 2012 the ACHPR referred the case to the
and results in the empowerment of its members. African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
As in the case of the Saramaka, Endorois This will be the first opportunity for that body,
are, some two years on, still waiting for whose decisions, unlike the ACHPR’s, are

32 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities

testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Endorois people near Lake Bogoria, Kenya. It is a similar story in Cambodia, where
This photo was taken during a MRG trip to Lake the 2001 Land Law is progressive on its face,
Bogoria. Ishbel Matheson/MRG. specifically including a chapter on ‘immovable
property of indigenous peoples’, which enables
binding, to adjudicate upon indigenous peoples’ indigenous communities to gain collective
property rights. title to their land as well as prohibiting sale of
indigenous land, even before formal titles are
Asia awarded. However, neither provision is enforced
Despite being home to the majority of the in practice.
world’s indigenous peoples, resistance to the Malaysia serves as an example of where short-
very concept of indigenous peoples plus the comings in legislative protection have been
lack of any independent regional human rights addressed through the courts. In a series of cases
mechanism has meant that protection of beginning in 1997 with Adong bin Kuwau v.
indigenous peoples’ property rights (as well as Kerajaan Negri Johor, the courts have upheld
other rights) remains severely underdeveloped indigenous peoples’ native customary rights and
in the region. As in Africa, the debate around made clear that they can only be extinguished by
indigenous peoples has been caught up in clear legislation or by an executive act with appro-
questions of definition and concerns that priate compensation. While Malaysia’s indigenous
affording rights to particular groups will people clearly have some faith in the judicial sys-
undermine national unity. The debate has tem (there are said to be over 200 cases currently
at times been highly politicized and, as with before the Sarawak courts alone regarding indig-
the wider human rights debate, charges have enous communities’ exercise of their customary
been made of Eurocentricism and Western rights), the results have been mixed, as the chapter
domination. on South East Asia demonstrates.
At a domestic level, many states still refuse It remains to be seen what effect developments
to recognize their indigenous populations. at an international level and in other regions
Thus, Bangladesh’s 2011 amendment to its will have within Asia. Perhaps encouragingly, an
Constitution continued the non-recognition of early draft of the Association of Southeast Asian
indigenous peoples as such, making reference Nations (ASEAN) human rights declaration (as
instead to tribes and ethnic groups, something of January 2012) includes a specific reference
strongly criticized by indigenous peoples and to indigenous peoples and ethnic groups and
their representative organizations. their right to the enjoyment, collectively and
Some states have shown themselves more open, individually, of all human rights, as well as their
at least on the legislative books, to recognizing right to consultation, and the obligation on states
indigenous peoples and their rights. For to obtain their free and informed consent prior
example, the Philippines enacted the Indigenous to embarking on certain development projects.
Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) back in 1997, the However, whether such provisions will be
constitutionality of which has since been upheld retained in the final draft remains to be seen.
by the country’s courts. Nevertheless, the IPRA,
which provides for the recognition of ancestral Challenges
domains, the right to self-determination and the The foregoing section has provided a brief
duties of consultation and obtaining free, prior overview of the legal standards regarding
and informed consent, has been heavily criticized. indigenous peoples and their right to their
In particular, the IPRA is said to be undermined traditionally occupied lands and their natural
by the 1995 Mining Act, and the number of resources. Some of those standards are specialized,
certificates of ancestral domain title or ancestral applying only to indigenous peoples, as in ILO
land title have been limited due to the unduly 169. Others are derived from generally applicable
burdensome requirements on indigenous peoples standards (the right to property) but elaborated
to prove occupation of their lands since time on by human rights tribunals to include specific
immemorial. requirements in their application to indigenous

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 33

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
34 Strategies of resistance: State of the World’s Minorities
testing the limits of the law and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Portrait of a Waorani woman at Yasuni standards they have signed up to) has its place.
National Park, Ecuador. The Waorani are trying However, indigenous peoples and their ways
to protect their land against the threat of oil of life challenge the dominant development
multinationals. Julio Etchart/Panos. paradigm, which essentially remains about
economic development and is premised on the
peoples. The standards are not written in stone notion of the greatest benefit for the greatest
and are continuing to evolve (for example, with number. Unless and until a new development
regard to the extent of indigenous peoples’ rights model prevails, indigenous peoples, whatever their
over natural resources on their lands, and when rights in theory, will find themselves vulnerable to
the doctrine of free, prior and informed consent governments and third parties wanting to benefit
applies) but the basic parameters of the rights from the resources found on or under their lands.
of indigenous peoples to their properties and This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that
the corresponding obligations on states are now the demand for natural resources has reached
established. unprecedented levels.
The various decisions being made by tribunals One initiative which seeks to modify the
at the domestic, regional and international level current development paradigm is Ecuador’s
are important in terms of holding governments Yasuni-ITT proposal. The Yasuni region is home
to account and in contributing to the ongoing to the Waorani indigenous people. It is an area
evolution of such rights. Ultimately though, such of extreme biodiversity. It also contains Ecuador’s
cases are a means of last resort: to hold states to largest oil reserves in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-
account for actions they should already be taking Tiputini (ITT) oilfields. Negotiations have been
(recognizing and protecting in actual practice taking place on a scheme whereby Ecuador
rights to property by delimiting, demarcating and would forgo oil development in the ITT region
titling ancestral lands) or refraining from (giving of Yasuni National Park if the international
away mining and logging concessions, establishing community compensates the country for at
of wildlife reserves) without the full participation least half the revenue it would have generated
of the local people. And, as shown, even where from such oil exploration. Under this model,
indigenous peoples’ claims of violations of their development still has a price tag, but it is not
rights have been upheld before domestic or always the highest possible price and it is not
regional tribunals, governments continue to drag about exploiting natural resources until they are
their feet in implementing the decisions. depleted and then moving on to new terrain.
At the root of this implementation gap is From the perspective of indigenous peoples’
a failure of states and other players, such as rights, the project can, on its face, be criticized:
private companies, to take indigenous peoples the implication being that if Ecuador does not
and their rights seriously, and also a continuing receive the requested funds it will go ahead and
refusal on the part of sovereign states to fully extract the oil despite the consequences for the
appreciate that, just as sovereignty has been Waorani. Nevertheless, it makes the case that
ceded in some areas to external economic factors biodiversity and cultural richness also have value.
and international bodies, part of their internal It remains to be seen whether the Yasuni-ITT
sovereignty needs to be ceded. And, as such, proposal is successful and how workable similar
states are not always the final arbiters of which proposals in other areas might be. In fact, at
development projects can take place, where or the end of 2011, the future of the Yasuni-ITT
how, within their borders. The examples with proposal appeared to be in doubt. What is clear
which this chapter opened are not isolated though is that, while immense progress has been
incidents but just two of countless examples achieved by and on behalf of indigenous peoples
which illustrate this ongoing state of denial. over the last few decades, there remains much
The incremental chipping away through to be done in implementing their rights on the
litigation at widely held views by states as to the ground. p
real position of indigenous peoples (irrespective
of what domestic, regional or international

State of the World’s Minorities Strategies of resistance: 35

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 testing the limits of the law
responsibility to
respect the rights
of minorities and
indigenous peoples
Corinne Lewis
inorities and indigenous peoples controlled by the Singapore-based Wilmar
around the world continue to face Group, to evict Suku Anak Dalam indigenous
eviction from their lands and other people from three settlements and burn down
violations of their rights caused by private sector their houses in August 2011.
development and extractive projects, such as
mining, oil and gas, and logging activities. Dam construction: The ongoing construction
Governments tend to regard new development of the Ilisu dam on the Tigris River in Turkey
and extractive projects as opportunities to will displace as many as 55,000–65,000 Kurds,
contribute to national economic development create environmental pollution, and affect the
and bring benefits to the country, such as water supply to communities in Iraq and Syria.
employment, infrastructure investment and
increased tax revenue. However, minorities and Logging: The Penan indigenous community
indigenous peoples often view such projects living in the rainforests in Sarawak, Malaysian
differently. For them, the land that will be Borneo, continue to demand the recognition
developed is an integral part of their lives and of their native customary rights to land in
culture; the forests, mountains, plains and water the forests that have been heavily logged by
resources are not only crucial to the sustenance Malaysia-based companies, including Samling,
of their communities, they also have cultural Interhill and Shin Yang. Penan claim that
and religious meaning. The negative impacts community members who resist logging
of development projects – loss of land and operations have received death threats and that
livelihoods, environmental and labour issues, Penan women have been raped by workers
and security implications – often far outweigh from the logging companies.
any positive benefits, such as employment
opportunities or new roads. A few examples of Nature reserves: Ogiek have been subject to
a variety of projects illustrate the severity and repeated mass evictions from Kenya’s Mau
breadth of the problem: Forest since colonial times. Most recently, in
2009, the Kenyan Parliament authorized the
Extraction of fossil fuels: Etche, Ijaw, Okrika, eviction of all inhabitants from the forest,
Ogoni and other minorities who live in the ostensibly for conservation purposes, although
Niger Delta struggle today with the after- this was done without proper consultation.
effects of extensive and repeated oil spills in the Two Ogiek land-rights activists were brutally
region, which have damaged their health and attacked in early 2011. The 40,000 hectare
livelihoods and destroyed the environment. forest is seen as a key area for the development
A 2011 report by the United Nations of tourism, as well as power generation projects
Environment Programme estimates that clean- and tea plantations.
up and recovery could take 25–30 years.
The threats to minorities and indigenous peoples,
Mining of precious minerals: Ipili people were as well as women within these communities,
evicted from their land to make way for the will increase as their lands are coveted for new
Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea’s projects. With the world’s population expected
highlands in 2009. A local joint venture to grow from 7 billion today to over 9 billion
controlled by Canada-based Barrick Gold by 2050, new sources of energy and mineral
Corporation housed and fed over 200 troops, supplies, food, water and timber will be required.
who razed Ipili houses. Rapes of women and The World Bank estimates that more than
killings by the mine’s security guards have also 56 million hectares of farmland (worldwide,
been documented. although 70 per cent is in Africa) was leased to
foreign investors in 2009 alone, and over 227
Agribusiness: In Jambi province on the island million hectares of land – an area the size of
of Sumatra, local Indonesian police allegedly Western Europe – has been sold or leased since
worked with the staff of a palm oil plantation, 2001. This has been driven in large part by the

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 37

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
need of foreign governments to secure food
and bio-fuel sources, and by private investors
following the 2008 commodity boom. Box 1
As the debate concerning the impact of
companies on human rights has intensified,
pressure has increased to codify their obligations.
Global Compact
Two non-binding documents, approved by the principles
UN Human Rights Council, seek to create a
framework for ensuring companies’ responsibility
to respect human rights: the 2008 UN ‘Protect, Human rights
Respect and Remedy’ Framework for Business Principle one: Businesses should support
and Human Rights (Framework), and its and respect the protection of internationally
supplement, the 2011 Guiding Principles on proclaimed human rights; and
Business and Human Rights: Implementing the Principle two: make sure they are not complicit
UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework. in human rights abuses.
They elaborate on the human rights-related Labour
principles contained in the UN Global Compact Principle three: Businesses should uphold
(see Box 1), a voluntary corporate responsibility the freedom of association and the effective
initiative that was launched in 2000, and draws recognition of the right to collective
on existing standards and practices. bargaining;
Source: un global compact’s ten principles.

The Framework establishes three key pillars: Principle four: the elimination of all forms
states’ duty to protect against human rights abuses of forced and compulsory labour;
by third parties, including business; corporate Principle five: the effective abolition of
responsibility to respect human rights; and child labour; and
access for victims to effective remedy. Under the Principle six: the elimination of
Framework, companies must avoid infringing discrimination in respect of employment
upon human rights and address the adverse and occupation. p
impacts of their operations. And this refers to all

38 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Suku Anak Dalam community members liv-
ing in the middle of a palm oil plantation, Jambi, Box 2
Indonesia. Sophie Chao/Forest Peoples Programme.

internationally recognized human rights – not only Minority

civil and political rights, but also economic, social
and cultural rights – plus fundamental labour communities at
standards. In addition, companies should respect
the rights of individuals belonging to groups which
a disadvantage
may be adversely affected by their operations.
These include the principles set out by the UN
with regard to minorities and indigenous peoples. The Buela, a forest community in the
The Guiding Principles that operationalize the Congo Basin, in the Democratic Republic
Framework do not specifically mention the rights of Congo, signed an agreement in 2011
of minorities and indigenous peoples, although with Sodefor (Société de Developpement
the commentaries to the principles encourage Forestier), a subsidiary of Nordsudtimber,
businesses to consider standards for minorities a Liechenstein-based company, to allow
and indigenous peoples as part of broader due forest areas used by the community to be
diligence procedures. According to another logged by the company.
commentary, states should provide guidance to However, the process leading up to
business enterprises on how to consider issues the signing was skewed in favour of the
relating to specific challenges faced by minorities company. According to a Congolese lawyer
and indigenous peoples. working through an initiative of Avocats
The corporate responsibility to respect human Sans Frontières with forest communities
rights is a voluntary commitment made by in the region to ensure respect for their
companies themselves, except where national rights, no company representative ever
laws, such as those with respect to labour came to discuss the agreement with the
standards, non-discrimination, indigenous community. Instead, Sodefor sent an
peoples, health and the environment are NGO that it engages, PABO (Partisans
applicable to companies’ operations. However, et Artisans de Bongandanga). PABO
in many countries where extractive and told the community members that it
development projects are located, such national supported them, but actually advocated the
laws are either non-existent or unenforced. company’s position and failed to inform
Companies have recently begun to articulate the community of its rights and options
their commitment to respect human rights in with respect to the company’s proposed
corporate codes, policies and reports. Industry agreement.
associations, such as the International Council The lawyer also said the community
on Mining & Metals, and the global oil and gas members’ inexperience in these matters
industry association for environmental and social meant they were unaware they could
issues (IPIECA) are also encouraging member discuss and negotiate the terms of the
companies to respect human rights. While these agreement. The presence of military
industry associations and companies specifically personnel at the signing ceremony, coupled
address the topic of indigenous peoples, they give with the memory of the military’s arrest,
very little consideration, if any, to minorities. torture and killing of some Buela and
Yet the real challenge arises from the fact that rape of Buela women following Sodefor’s
companies in the extractive and development request for military intervention in 2005,
sectors continue to perpetrate serious rights allegedly created sufficient fear in the
violations, including of the rights of minorities community members that they simply
and indigenous communities. Consequently, the signed the agreement. p
question is whether the voluntary commitment

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 39

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
by companies to respect human rights is effect on women from minority or indigenous
sufficient or whether binding legislation and communities, since they lose not only their
regulations, new governmental policies and other livelihoods, but also their roles in the family
actions are needed. and community. Moreover, displaced women
and girls generally are at risk of exploitation,
Concerns such as trafficking and prostitution, as well as
Land issues sexual violence. These risks are compounded
The land leased to companies to develop by the discrimination faced by many minorities
a project is rarely land that belongs to no and indigenous communities. Companies do
one. Even where no formal legal title exists, not always consider these effects. Vedanta,
minority or indigenous communities may a London-based company, failed to evaluate
have ownership rights under customary law. properly the impact of its bauxite mine on
Companies sometimes lease land that is subject women in India’s Odisha state, despite evidence
to community ownership directly from the that other extractive projects in India had led
community, as Rio Tinto has done for land to ‘loss of access to resources and livelihood,
owned by Aboriginal communities in Western greater insecurity and increased vulnerability to
Australia that contains iron ore deposits. violence’ for women according to a 2011 report
However, the agreement should be a consensual of Amnesty International.
one and the process used to arrive at the
agreement should be fair, which was not the case Consultation and free, prior and
with respect to the agreement signed by the Buela informed consent
forest community in the Democratic Republic of Companies often receive land concessions
Congo (DRC) (see Box 2). from governments that did not consult with or
Generally, companies purchase or lease obtain the ‘free, prior and informed consent’ of
the land from the government. However, indigenous communities affected by a project.
governments often either appropriate land For example, the Cambodian government
or force members of minority or indigenous granted a land concession for a rubber plantation
communities to sell their land. For example, to Socfin-KCD, a joint venture controlled by
palm oil companies, such as Colombia-based a holding company registered in Luxembourg,
Urapalma, acquired land from Afro-descendant without obtaining the consent of the indigenous
communities in the Choco department in Bunong community, even though the concession
western Colombia through forced sales. partly overlaps with the Bunong’s land.
Company representatives allegedly colluded with States’ duty to consult indigenous peoples is
paramilitary groups to present the landowners established in international law under Article
with offers that were well below the estimated 6 of the International Labour Organization
market price; these offers were backed up by Convention no. 169 Concerning Indigenous and
indirect or direct death threats. Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO
When companies receive land concessions 169). Such consultation with a view to agreement
from the government, minority and indigenous must be provided to indigenous communities
communities are frequently displaced; they are not whenever consideration is being given to legal or
resettled nor do they receive fair compensation administrative measures that may affect them.
for the land or for the adverse effects of the The principle of free, prior and informed
displacement. For example, when the Tanzanian consent, contained in Article 32 of the UN
government leased Sukenya Farm in Western Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Arusha to a US safari tour operator, pastoralists Peoples is arguably developing into a customary
were forcibly ejected from their land, and continue international law standard. The principle has
to be subjected to harassment, beatings and extra- also been found to apply to states in both a 2007
judicial arrests when attempting to access their decision of the Inter-American Court of Human
traditional sources of water on the land. Rights, Saramaka People v. Suriname, and a 2009
Displacement can have a disproportionate decision of the African Commission on Human

40 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
and Peoples’ Rights concerning Endorois in The original owner of the Marlin Mine in
Kenya. The legal standard articulated by the two Guatemala, Canada-based Glamis Gold, was
decisions is that in the case of: required by the IFC to hold consultations with
local communities, including indigenous Mayans,
‘any development or investment projects that would as a condition for receiving a loan from the
have a major impact within the [community’s] institution. While the company held workshops,
territory, the State has a duty not only to consult these served only to inform the community
with the community, but also to obtain their free,
prior, and informed consent, according to their
customs and traditions.’
Box 3
Moreover, these standards are entering into
national law. For example, Peru adopted
legislation in September 2011 that follows the
ILO 169 approach of consultation leading to
an agreement. It also provides that where such community
an agreement or consent cannot be reached,
the government must still take all measures to resistance
guarantee indigenous rights.
The emerging obligation to obtain the free, The ‘community protocol’ is gaining
prior and informed consent of indigenous recognition as a tool that can be used by
communities falls upon states rather than indigenous and other communities to
companies. However, a company’s failure to protect their natural resources, livelihoods
ensure that the government has fulfilled its and community traditions.
obligations will likely manifest itself in actions of The protocol can take a variety of forms,
anger and frustration directed at the company. depending on the needs of the community,
Shuar indigenous people in Peru (also known as and often includes:
Wampis) blockaded the Morona River to stop p a description of the group, including
Canada-based Talisman Energy from conducting its values, relationship with their land
exploratory oil drilling in September 2011 in and resources, customary laws and
anger over the lack of consultation. governance system;
Recently, some lending institutions have p a statement of the community’s
begun to articulate the standard as a requirement development aspirations;
for extension of financing to a company. p their rights and responsibilities under
The European Bank for Reconstruction and national and international laws; and
Development (EBRD) and the International p the process for obtaining the community’s
Finance Corporation (IFC) require companies to ‘free, prior and informed consent’.
obtain such consent in relation to projects funded
by these institutions. In addition, over 70 banks The protocol serves as a guide to
that have adopted the Equator Principles – a companies or others who wish to engage
set of standards that allow banks to determine, with the community and access their
assess and manage environmental and social risks natural resources. In addition, the process
in projects they finance – incorporate the IFC’s of creating the protocol, with support as
standards and thus also impose this requirement required, can contribute to a greater sense
on their borrowers. of community, understanding of their
But, too often, companies consult with rights, and legal empowerment.
indigenous peoples in a perfunctory and A good resource is UNEP’s website on
superficial manner, and so not only undermine community protocols:
the purpose of the process, but also engender communityprotocols/resources.asp. p
distrust and frustration among communities.

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 41

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
about the planned project, rather than providing Right: An Ogoni boy looks up at the black smoke
opportunities for discussion. Once the scope pouring from a burning Shell oil pipeline in
and environmental impact of the project became Kegbara Dere, Nigeria. George Osodi/Panos.
clear, the communities staged demonstrations
and blocked the road leading to the mine. company, Compañía General de Combustibles.
Women from minority and indigenous The company placed explosives in over 450 pits
communities may not have any significant voice along their traditional hunting trails, according to
within the community during the consultation a report by EarthRights.
process, or be able to complain about the actions
of a company. As one Antanosy woman in Security issues
Madagascar stated: ‘If someone, or a woman like When tensions arise with the local community,
me, tries to complain and talk to the mayor, he companies frequently hire security personnel or
may say, “What does a woman know about this request police assistance to ensure the safety of
problem?”’ the company’s facilities. The Voluntary Principles
The Tachara indigenous community found on Security and Human Rights were developed
their land, water and sacred groves under threat in 2000 by a group of governments, companies
when the Ghanaian government granted Azumah and NGOs in reaction to incidents in the 1990s,
Resources Limited permission to prospect for gold such as when Shell paid military personnel to
in the Upper West Region of Ghana, and illegal suppress resistance to its oil activities in Nigeria.
miners also came into the area. The community The principles provide guidance to companies on
decided to take action; with the assistance of how to prevent human rights violations by hired
the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and security personnel and avoid corporate complicity
Organizational Development, they drafted a in violations committed by government officials.
community protocol to protect their traditional However, recent reports that Shell has fuelled
knowledge and natural resources. As a result, they violence in Nigeria by hiring and arming youth
were able to drive away illegal miners and bring militia groups to protect its facilities suggest
their case to the regional and national government. that such non-binding guidelines are insufficient
Communities in many other countries have now to ensure that the rights of local people are
adopted such protocols (see Box 3). protected.
So far, the right to free, prior and informed
consent has been most clearly stated with regard Environmental issues
to indigenous peoples rather than to minorities. Extractive and development projects inevitably
However, there are some minorities who give rise to alterations to the environment, and
claim the right because they, like indigenous can cause extensive damage. This begins with
communities, own land communally, have the construction of infrastructure, including the
religious and cultural links to land and natural roads, housing, power, water and waste facilities,
resources, and suffer from marginalization and a and continues throughout the operation of the
lack of political power within the country. project, which may entail use and disposal of
toxic chemicals. All this can cause the landscape
Freedom of movement to be transfigured, and the flora, fauna and
The presence of an extractive or development ecosystem to be disturbed. Even after a project
project on lands used by minorities and ends, the land and habitat may remain scarred or
indigenous peoples often restricts their freedom irreparably damaged.
of movement and makes it difficult for them to These activities can disrupt the lives and
access vital resources, and cultural and religious destroy the livelihoods of the minorities and
sites on the land. Kichwa people in Sarayaku, indigenous communities, who often maintain a
Ecuador have alleged, in a case to be heard by close relationship to the natural environment for
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, that their livelihoods and also because their religious
their freedom of movement was restricted in their and cultural practices are linked to the land.
own territory by the actions of an Argentinean oil Dongria Kondh in India’s Odisha state, for

42 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
example, strongly oppose Vedanta’s proposed impoverished and are suffering from poor
bauxite mine project in the Niyamgiri Hills health; Penan children are increasingly afflicted
where they live. They fear that the project will by diarrhoea and influenza. Other indigenous
not only destroy the forests and disrupt the groups in the region, such as Kayan, who have
rivers upon which they rely, but also the sacred traditionally grown their food on small areas of
mountain, Niyam Raja, where their god who land in the forest, have had their lands taken over
protects the people from unnatural deaths resides. by oil palm plantations as well.
Deforestation commonly imposes hardship Chemicals used in extractive projects can have
on local communities as it affects their ability to serious repercussions on minority and indigenous
obtain food and, potentially, their very survival. communities when they are not properly handled
Penan, an indigenous community of hunter- and are released into the environment. In the US
gatherers who live in Sarawak in the Malaysian state of Montana, around the Zortman Landusky
part of Borneo, rely on the flora and fauna of the gold mine – operated by US-based Pegasus Gold
rainforests and the rivers that flow through the until it went bankrupt in 1998 – there were over
forest for nourishment. But, as logging operations a dozen cyanide spills that polluted the land and
and, more recently, oil palm plantations have groundwater of the Fort Belknap tribes. Even
encroached on their land, Penan have become after the closure of the mine, acid mine drainage

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 43

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
Right: Dongria Kondh protest against Vedanta
Resources, Niyamgiri, India. Survival.

continues to pollute local water resources.

Companies do not always take the necessary
steps to reduce such pollution. For example,
gas flares, which burn off natural gas from oil
extraction processes, release known pollutants
that have been blamed for a wide range of
illnesses, from respiratory problems to cancer,
and create noise pollution. Companies continue
to use gas flaring in the Niger Delta and in other
oil operations around the world, despite the
existence of technology designed to avoid its use,
which is ‘already available and commonly used in
other countries’, according to a 2011 European
Parliament report.
The vulnerability of minorities and indigenous
communities, when their lands and the air
they breathe are being polluted by a company,
is compounded by their inability to access
information about such harms, or to access
adequate health care. When a truck from the
Yanacocha mine in Peru spilled 151 kg of mercury
over a 40 km stretch of road in 2000, indigenous
people picked up the glittering liquid in their bare
hands and consequently suffered adverse health
effects, including blindness, neurological damage
and memory loss. The government estimated that
more than 900 people were poisoned.
Though the contract for the sale or lease of
land to a company may not explicitly cover use of
water, companies generally want to secure water
rights as part of the deal; water is essential to
most operations. But when enterprises consume
significant quantities, this leaves less water Canada, owned by Rio Tinto-Alcan, a subsidiary
available for local communities and their livestock, of the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto group, has
which is a particular problem in regions subject caused a decline in the fish stocks upon which
to long dry periods and seasonal rains. In Chile, a they rely.
national mining company, Soquimich, bought up
and polluted so much of the water in Quillagua Labour issues
town that local Aymara indigenous groups can no Individuals within minority or indigenous
longer produce crops, and the majority of people communities often have very divergent views of
have been forced to migrate elsewhere. the arrival of a company on or near their lands.
The construction of dams not only displaces Some individuals may see it as a threat to their
local people and destroys biodiversity of an area culture, livelihoods and control over resources,
through flooding, but can also drastically alter the while others consider it as an opportunity for jobs
availability of water resources to a community. and a welcome move away from their traditional
Two Canadian First Nations communities claim livelihoods. The Organization for Economic
that the Kenney Dam on the Nechako River in Co-operation and Development (OECD),

44 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
whose 34 member countries formulate policies skilled workers from outside the region.
to improve the economic and social well-being In some cases, when land is purchased by
of people throughout the world, encourages foreign investors for large-scale agricultural
companies to employ local workers to the greatest purposes, farmers have lost their livelihoods
extent possible. due to the mechanization of farm processes; for
But all too often the hopes of minorities are example, when Indian agricultural businesses
dashed upon realizing that the available jobs are have bought up land in Africa. In other cases,
fewer than promised or expected, are mainly minorities such as Uighurs in Xinjiang Uighur
low-paid unskilled positions and are only short Autonomous Region, China, were forced by
term. Forest communities in Madagascar were the government to perform labour on resource
reportedly angry with Rio Tinto’s Canadian development projects, such as agricultural
subsidiary, QIT Fer et Titane, which controls projects, without compensation.
the ilmenite mine project on the east coast
of Madagascar, for breaking promises about Destabilization of communities
employment and training, and instead hiring The presence of companies on lands traditionally

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 45

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
owned or used by minorities and indigenous groups – particularly minorities and indigenous
peoples can destabilize communities when jobs, peoples – are not protected from harmful
profits and benefits, such as the construction corporate behaviour. This section will explore
of roads and schools, are seen to be unequally some aspects of these failings.
distributed among different groups, leading to
conflict within communities. Vedanta’s planned Legal redress of violations
bauxite mine in Odisha state, India, was opposed Minorities and indigenous peoples who have
by Dongria Kondh people, who are farmers, but had their rights violated in connection with a
was supported by other villagers who are wage development or extractive project should be
labourers. The other communities blocked routes able to access legal procedures within their state.
into the area, essentially holding Dongria Kondh However, many of these violations occur in
under siege. Dongria Kondh drew international countries with inoperative or ineffective judicial
attention to their situation and, as a result of systems, weak governance or internal conflicts.
widespread criticism of Vedanta, the Indian In countries where a fair local judiciary system
government suspended the project in 2010. The exists, legal procedures can be costly, time-
decision is currently pending appeal. consuming, psychologically daunting and require
Companies have also abetted conflicts within expert legal assistance. For many marginalized
minority and indigenous communities by communities, long travel distances and language
providing assistance to members who support barriers are further potential obstacles. These
their projects. Achuar spokespersons, in the difficulties render national legal procedures
Peruvian Amazon, allege that Talisman Energy, practically inaccessible to most minorities and
a Canadian-owned oil company, transported a indigenous peoples who have suffered violations
group of armed members of their community of their rights.
who support Talisman’s oil drilling, to confront The laws of the country in which the ultimate
community protesters in May 2009. Such parent company is incorporated may permit
incidents undermine community traditions of criminal as well as civil, tort and negligence
collective decision-making. claims, but the problems mentioned above
In addition, projects can divide different for minorities and indigenous communities
generations in a community as younger people seeking legal redress are multiplied to a daunting
obtain jobs with the company, and thus money degree when envisioning legal claims in another
and independence, while the older generation country. Legal principles, such as the ‘corporate
risks losing its traditional influence and role. New veil’ that regards a parent company as distinct
development and extractive projects have also from its subsidiaries, and thus not liable for
served to attract significant influxes of individuals the wrongdoings of the subsidiary, also serve as
from outside communities, as well as the creation significant obstacles to claims by minorities and
of new businesses, including unwanted ones, indigenous peoples.
such as prostitution, alcohol supply and drug Another option is for minorities and
trafficking, which significantly disrupt the local indigenous peoples to submit complaints to
social fabric. regional human rights bodies and UN treaty
bodies. However, the claimant must normally
Weaknesses in the existing have exhausted domestic remedies. In addition,
framework to ensure corporate the claim must be made against the state rather
respect for human rights than the company. The claimants should
While the Guiding Principles are a positive step assert that the state failed to provide sufficient
forward, corporate responsibility standards still protection against acts by the company and
have some way to go. This is partly due to the that the state has not implemented systems that
fact that international initiatives have so far been permit it to prevent, investigate, punish, and
voluntary, and partly because local enforcement redress human rights violations by businesses.
of national legislation continues to be patchy. Even where regional human rights bodies and
Consequently, some of the most vulnerable UN treaty bodies issue decisions that protect the

46 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, there procedures are not a replacement for effective
can be problems of ensuring compliance and judicial mechanisms. Nevertheless, they do
enforcement, not least when development and permit local persons to communicate their
extractive projects are involved. concerns and complaints, which they may
Minorities and indigenous peoples who have not necessarily express as violations of rights,
been victims of human rights violations also have directly to the company, thereby opening up the
the possibility of submitting a complaint to a possibility of redress of such issues.
‘National Contact Point’ (NCP), a governmental But few companies have instituted such
body established by OECD member states mechanisms. While the IFC’s revised
who adhere to the OECD Guidelines for performance standards on environmental and
Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines). social sustainability, which became effective on
NCPs investigate complaints of potential 1 January 2012 and are also incorporated into
breaches of guidelines. Once the complaint the Equator Principles, require borrowers to
is determined to be admissible by the NCP, create a complaints procedure, this only applies
mediation is normally instituted between the to new investments. Therefore, companies that
complainant and the company. But the NCP has already have loans in place with the IFC or a
limited investigative capacity and no enforcement bank subscribing to the Equator Principles are
powers. Thus, this process does not necessarily not required to create grievance mechanisms
guarantee a remedy of the violation, and the unless they obtain a new loan for a project.
procedure is heavily dependent upon the integrity In order to constitute a satisfactory option
and commitment of the individual NCPs. for the resolution of issues and problems raised
by minorities and indigenous peoples, the
Voluntary initiatives grievance procedure must be an effective one.
In the absence of sufficient means to ensure According to the Guiding Principles, this means
compliance, companies are largely left to self- that such a mechanism must be legitimate,
regulate. The Guiding Principles and the OECD accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent,
Guidelines establish a number of approaches for rights-compatible and a source of continuous
companies; the question is whether such self- learning. The key question is not only whether
regulation is sufficient. the procedure is ‘effective’ in procedural terms,
but also whether it serves to remedy the problem
Due diligence as well as prevent future violations of rights.
The Guiding Principles encourage companies to
establish due diligence processes that assess ‘actual Community engagement
and potential human rights impacts’. But while While for indigenous peoples, the right to
companies commonly conduct an environmental free, prior and informed consent to a project is
impact assessment, such assessments do not developing into a customary international law
generally consider past human rights violations standard, this principle has not yet been applied
which have affected minority or indigenous to minorities. Instead, the general principle of
communities, ongoing violations that should be ‘engagement’ by the company with the local
remedied, or the future potential harm to such community is becoming the principle relevant
communities as a result of the project. Nor does to minorities. The OECD Guidelines encourage
such due diligence usually consider the different companies to ‘[e]ngage with relevant stakeholders
risks faced by women and men. in order to provide meaningful opportunities for
their views to be taken into account in relation to
Grievance mechanisms planning and decision making for projects’. The
The Guiding Principles affirm that businesses EBRD, the IFC and consequently the Equator
‘should establish or participate in effective Principles also require borrowers to engage
operational-level grievance mechanisms for with persons affected by their projects. As the
individuals and communities who may be notion of ‘engagement’ is vague and there is no
adversely impacted’. Company grievance legally binding obligation to ‘engage’, in reality

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 47

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
minorities have little international legal basis to Companies’ engagement with minorities
influence corporate behaviour. and indigenous peoples is only the first step;
Nevertheless, there are strong arguments the essential issue is whether a company acts
in favour of companies taking the views of upon input from local communities. Where the
minorities seriously. Engaging local communities company has engaged with individuals at the
can lead to the company obtaining their support, local level who are affected by the project, but
that is, a ‘social licence’ for the company to then fails to respect the written agreement or its
operate. Poor community relations at any point oral promises, the company only fosters a climate
in the life of an extractive or development project of distrust, which can lead to demonstrations to
can lead to demonstrations, road blockages block the company’s operations and lawsuits. The
and other acts by the community that are people of Etiema, in the Niger Delta in Nigeria,
expressions of its frustration about unaddressed claim that Agip Oil Company made promises
concerns, such as the effects of the project on the – such as compensation payments for deaths of
natural environment or on their access to land. young people – that were never fulfilled, and
Companies’ continual disregard of such concerns have threatened a lawsuit against the company.
can even result in the suspension of their projects,
as has occurred with, for example, Vedanta’s Reporting
planned bauxite mine project in Odisha, India, The Guiding Principles state that companies
China Power Investment Corporation’s Myitsone should communicate externally as to ‘how
hydroelectric dam in Burma and Newmont they address their human rights impacts’ and
Mining’s Conga gold mine operation in Peru. formally report ‘where risks of severe human
Minorities and indigenous peoples are rarely rights impacts exist’. The number of companies
provided with information about the proposed reporting on their respect for human rights is
project and plans in their own languages. Mayan increasing. Such reporting is frequently contained
indigenous people in the Western Highlands in a social responsibility report that is issued
of Guatemala did not fully understand the separately from the company’s annual report.
implications of the proposed plans for Canada- According to international accounting and
based Goldcorp’s Marlin gold and silver advisory firm KPMG, while reporting is quite
mine project since the Environmental Impact high for the mining, oil and gas, forestry, and
Assessment was produced only in Spanish, pulp and paper sectors, and nearly 70 per cent
whereas the local indigenous Mayan communities of all publicly owned companies issue social
speak Mayan, and it was only made available to responsibility reports, the figure is less than 50
them by the Guatemalan government for one per cent for privately owned firms, which are
week. Therefore, language issues alone may block not subject to as much shareholder and media
meaningful participation in discussions with pressure.
companies. Some governments are adopting regulations
Similar issues arise when companies seek to that require annual reporting on corporate social
implement social projects but then fail to consult responsibility. For example, Denmark updated its
local communities properly. This generally law in 2008, and France did the same in 2010.
wastes funds and engenders frustration and The European Commission is also considering
resentment in communities. For example, in the legislation in this area.
Congo Basin in the DRC, the company Sodefor Companies do not always apply in practice
failed to consult with Buela on their needs, the express commitments that they make in their
and consequently provided unsuitable schools reports (see Box 4). Moreover, these reports
rather than urgently needed medical facilities. suffer from several significant weaknesses. First,
The company also coerced the community into there is no formal system to monitor the content
granting Sodefor the right to log forest areas of such reports at the national or international
used by the community (see Box 2), resulting in level, or an external body to evaluate the
tensions that could erupt into actions to block accuracy of reporting. Many companies express
Sodefor’s access to the forest. a commitment to respect human rights but do

48 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
not provide sufficiently detailed information to
Box 4 allow a determination as to whether they have
actually implemented such a commitment.
Second, minorities and indigenous peoples
Beware the also have difficulty verifying reports that may

‘bluewash’ use unintelligible business terminology and be

written in a language which the communities do
not understand.
The 2010 sustainability report of Third, while some companies report on their
Newmont Mining Company, the world’s impact on the rights of indigenous peoples, there
largest gold producer based in the United is generally very little information about the
States, states: rights of minorities, except with respect to labour
p ‘the safeguarding of human rights … rights. This suggests a lack of awareness within
guides our approach to working with our companies of the specific rights of minorities,
many stakeholder groups, including local but is also due to the fact that commonly used
communities and indigenous peoples’ performance indicators, such as those established
p ‘[W]e invest in understanding the by the Global Reporting Initiative, focus on
impacts of our operations from the indigenous rights but not minority rights. In any
perspective of indigenous peoples event, these performance indicators are more of
p Engage with these communities a quantitative accounting process rather than a
throughout the mine life cycle, building measure of compliance with human rights.
cross-cultural understanding in the process
p Design projects and seek agreement Conclusions
with these stakeholders on programs to While the principle of corporate responsibility
create net benefits in their communities.’ for human rights is gaining ground, the rights of
minorities and indigenous peoples have not been
However, in practice, Newmont contin- sufficiently articulated as part of this principle.
ues to push forward with its plans for the This is in part due to the fact that the impact
Conga gold and copper mine project in of human rights violations on minority and
the Peruvian Andes despite the opposition indigenous communities by companies in the
of indigenous communities in the region. development and extractive sectors is not yet
These communities are concerned widely or sufficiently understood.
about potential pollution from the mine Despite express commitments by many
and its effects on their water supply, companies to respect human rights, significant
particularly as it involves the destruction violations of the rights of minorities and
of four mountain lakes and is situated at indigenous peoples continue to occur in practice.
the headwaters of several river basins. The non-binding nature of the principle of
‘Getting rid of the lakes would be like corporate respect for human rights, coupled with
dynamiting the glaciers in the Andes, the lack of means of enforcement, means that
we’d be creating a problem that impacts many violations continue and victims are unable
the ecosystem’, Environment Minister to obtain redress or remedies for such violations.
Ricardo Giesecke said in November 2011. Companies are in the process of adopting an
Despite numerous demonstrations and array of approaches, drawing on international
the objections and concerns of the campes- initiatives such as the Guiding Principles and the
inos, Newmont pledges on its website that OECD Guidelines; these include due diligence,
it will ‘continue to advance the project in grievance mechanisms, community engagement
2012’, which suggests that there is a seri- and corporate reporting. However, these are
ous gap between the company’s express under the control of the companies themselves
commitment and its actual practice. p and cannot fill the void left by the lack of a
means of enforcement.

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 49

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
Thus, a great deal more needs to be done to for the free, prior and informed consent of
create awareness of the impact of development indigenous peoples regarding development that
and extractive projects on the rights of minorities will have an impact on them. States should also
and indigenous communities, to include recognize the customary land rights of minorities
protection for them in the emerging principles and indigenous peoples and seek to adopt any
and standards, and to ensure respect for their necessary enabling legislation. These customary
rights by companies and enforcement of such land rights should be respected in negotiations
rights. with companies in pursuit of development or
The following recommendations could be used extractive projects on minority or indigenous
to further corporate respect for human rights in lands.
practice. The UN Working Group on Business and
Human Rights and the Global Compact
Recommendations Governance Framework should consider
Creating greater awareness developing principles specifically on businesses
There is a need for greater awareness of violations and minority and indigenous peoples. Companies
of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and industry associations should also incorporate
by companies in the development and extractive human rights principles related to minorities and
sectors. This is especially true of their adverse indigenous peoples into their own policies and
impact on minority and indigenous women. guidelines.
The dearth of documentation as to the effects
of such projects on minorities is particularly Companies
notable. The UN Working Group on Business Companies should promote an understanding
and Human Rights should encourage further of minorities and indigenous peoples, including
research in this area, and coordinate with relevant women in these populations, and their rights
UN monitoring mechanisms, including the through training of management and employees.
Independent Expert on Minority Issues and the In addition, companies should commit to
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous respect their rights, including the principles
peoples. of effective consultation and of free, prior and
informed consent of indigenous peoples to
Empowering minorities and companies’ activities. Companies should provide
indigenous peoples appropriate grievance mechanisms and report
Minority and indigenous communities should on their commitments and implementation
consider drafting community protocols of respect for the rights of minorities and
that include statements as to the basis upon indigenous communities, including women in
which they will agree to projects that affect these populations, in their corporate reports.
the community, and outlining their cultural Companies should also engage in effective
traditions and the natural resources on which consultation with minorities and indigenous
they depend. Community leaders must ensure communities who are impacted by their
that all members – including women – can operations.
participate meaningfully in this process.
Civil society organizations should work Enforcement
towards greater inclusion of minorities and States should foster corporate respect for the
indigenous peoples in processes such as the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples
creation of legislative standards, industry through the enforcement of existing laws and
principles, reporting indicators, and judicial and regulations and the adoption of any necessary
non-judicial mechanisms related to corporate new legislation, including with respect to the
responsibility to respect human rights. extraterritorial activities of businesses domiciled
in their countries. States should also provide
Standards and principles accessible, transparent and effective legal
States should adopt legislation that provides mechanisms to which minorities and indigenous

50 Corporate responsibility State of the World’s Minorities

to respect rights and Indigenous Peoples 2012
peoples have access in case of violations of their
rights. States should divest from companies that
commit serious and systematic human rights
violations, including those of minorities and
indigenous peoples.

Encouraging corporate respect through

lending agreements
International, regional and national financial
institutions and private banks should include
provisions in their loan agreements that the
obligation to respect human rights, including
with respect to minority and indigenous rights,
is not only an initial condition to obtaining
the loan but also an ongoing undertaking.
These institutions and banks should establish
mechanisms to monitor the behaviour of
companies and alert company directors if they are
in serious breach of their loan agreements. Where
companies do not comply with such standards,
and do not rectify serious breaches despite
receiving warnings, the institutions and banks
should move to require repayment of the loan
provided to such entities. p

State of the World’s Minorities Corporate responsibility 51

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 to respect rights
Indigenous women’s
land rights: case
studies from Africa
Elisa Scalise
ndigenous communities’ rights to land society, the factors making land tenure insecure
and natural resources are vulnerable, and for some groups may not be the same for others:
seeking formal recognition of customary indigenous women may be more vulnerable
law and collective ownership to land is crucial to to threats to land tenure security than men.
protect these rights. However, greater autonomy Customs may reinforce social justifications for
or recognition for indigenous laws and culture inequitable land rights for men and women. For
does not necessarily result in enhanced rights for example, among Acholi in Uganda, husbands
women within the group. pay a bride price to their wives’ fathers, and
Indigenous women are often doubly this payment supports the traditional belief that
vulnerable, as their access to land and resources women are the ‘property’ of the husband, since a
is frequently mediated through customary law, payment was made for her. This belief underlies
which depends on their communities retaining the customary land tenure rule that prohibits
control over traditional territories. Often no women from having rights to land independent
one, male or female, has formal legal title to of their relationship with their father or husband.
land or communal claim to land, and whole Acholi men say, ‘Property can’t own property’,
communities are forcibly displaced to make way and the notion of women having independent
for conservation or development projects. Certain land rights is an anomaly to them.
communities, such as Batwa and Basongora Women may be excluded from decision-
in Uganda, and Samburu in Kenya have been making both within their community and the
rendered virtually landless. wider political systems of the state. Within
When communities are dispossessed of their pastoralist communities in East Africa, men
land, women are often disproportionately affected dominate politics and decision-making and are
because of their traditional role in procuring the heads of households and clans. Women
water, fuel or trading goods for their families. are left to play secondary supportive roles in
For example, Batwa communities displaced livestock production and are generally excluded
from their traditional forests in Uganda to from public life. In the past, women held a more
make way for a national park came into conflict equitable role in their communities, but with
over access to water holes with the Bakiga the recent commercialization of pastoralism and
community, whose territory they were forced government interventions, women have become
onto. Consequently, Batwa women had to travel increasingly marginalized from decision-making.
more than half a day to reach an alternative water Formal laws can also discriminate against
source. Iteso displaced by ongoing raids from indigenous women. For example, Rwanda’s land
Karamojong in Uganda were forced to move law gives equal rights to land for ‘husbands and
into internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps wives’, but only civilly married monogamous
for their own protection. Women and girls from couples are recognized as married under law
their community have suffered sexual assaults and many indigenous women, such as those
by security forces, and traditional structures belonging to the Twa community, are married by
to protect women have been eroded. Endorois customary or religious rites, effectively excluding
women report being assaulted and beaten by them from the provision of equal property
Kenyan government agents during their eviction rights. Women may also lack the education or
to make way for a game reserve. information necessary to allow them to exercise
When indigenous communities do have formal legal rights. Overall, unequal access to
traditional or customary land tenure, indigenous land can limit the economic independence
women’s rights are often more insecure than of indigenous women, making them more
those of men. Customary land tenure practices vulnerable to economic or social upheavals.
are complex and hugely varied; land governance More secure land tenure for indigenous
is tethered to social relationships and reflects peoples could help protect their communities
power structures, social norms, symbolic or against external threats to their lands and
cultural meaning, and sometimes systemic natural resources by providing a formal basis
inequities. This means that, within the same for these groups to assert their ownership rights.

State of the World’s Minorities Indigenous women’s land rights: 53

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 case studies from Africa
However, greater autonomy or recognition for
indigenous cultural rights does not necessarily
result in enhanced rights for women within the
group. Efforts to strengthen the property rights
of indigenous groups could increase women’s
vulnerability to being disenfranchised unless
differing needs, rights, norms and expectations
of women and men with respect to land are
Indigenous women with strong property rights
in land are less likely to become economically
vulnerable, and more likely to be protected from
extreme poverty. When faced with household permitted without sanction of the clan.
shocks, such as abandonment, sickness, divorce A woman’s right to property in Alcholiland
or widowhood, and depending on the land use is determined by her relationship to a man
culture of the community, indigenous women (usually husband or father), while a man’s right
can turn to land for self-employment and food to property is determined by his membership
production. Property rights can increase an in a clan by birth. When a woman marries, her
indigenous woman’s bargaining power within the husband pays a bride price to her family, and
household, and land rights can empower women she leaves her father’s household and moves to
to participate more effectively in their immediate her husband’s household. Women who live with
communities and in the larger civil and political a man in a consensual union that has not been
aspects of society. formalized by following the marriage traditions,
including bride price, are not considered married
Acholi, northern Uganda: potential by Acholi. Women’s rights are more insecure,
vulnerability of women within limited in length (only lasting as long as her
customary systems marriage) and limited in scope (she cannot
The Acholi land tenure system of northern conduct land transactions, but her husband can).
Uganda illustrates the complex dynamics at work Widows can be particularly vulnerable
within customary land tenure, and demonstrates members of the community. An Acholi widow
some of the challenges with regard to protecting who completed the customary marriage rites
women’s land rights within these systems. The becomes the de facto head of the household
Acholi are a Luo-speaking people, indigenous to upon the death of her husband. She then has
the Acholi sub-region of northern Uganda. In the responsibility of managing the household
Acholiland, land is held under customary tenure, land and allocating it to male children when
which is recognized by law, and is technically they become adults and get married. But
owned by all Acholi people, though different an Acholi widow who never completed the
clans govern different areas of the region. customary marriage rites, as was very common
Arable land is apportioned by the clan elders to during the long civil war in northern Uganda,
a household head – always a male – normally is often forced to leave the land she used in her
at the time of his marriage. The household husband’s household and take her children with
head is given responsibility for managing and her. Because her marriage was not sanctioned
protecting the land, while other members of the by custom (and bride price was not paid), her
family – the wife and children – must obtain the children are not considered part of the deceased
consent of the household head in order to gain husband’s clan, and so she must return to her
the right to use and access the land. When the birth household. This is an example of how
household head dies, his sons inherit his rights a woman’s land tenure security may be more
to the household land, and may also request vulnerable than a man’s within a customary
additional land from the clan elders when they system. But it is also an example of how, when
marry. Traditionally, transactions in land are not indigenous institutions are weakened due to

54 Indigenous women’s land rights: State of the World’s Minorities

case studies from Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: An Acholi cane-cutter in the sugar fields government is to succeed in meeting the relevant
at Kinyara sugar works, Masindi district, objectives of the National Land Policy – to
Uganda. She moved there from Acholiland protect customary land rights and women’s land
due to fighting. USAID Office of Transition rights – its interventions must look at where both
Initiatives/Will Boase. formal and customary systems intersect.

conflict or economic and political changes, Improving indigenous women’s land

women’s land security is often weakened further. tenure security
Customary leadership of the Acholi was severely There is evidence that customary laws can be
affected by the long conflict in northern Uganda, adapted to changing circumstances, provided
when many Acholi people lived in IDP camps that women and men can negotiate within
for as long as 20 years. During this time, people their communities to promote change, and that
were separated from their land for long periods, there is space for that negotiation within both
and many people disappeared or were killed. customary and formal legal frameworks. The
When the camps were disbanded and people following examples provide some strategies that
began to return to their land, customary rules for indigenous women have used to strengthen their
land tenure did not necessarily have the answers land rights, without undermining the customary
to some of the problems faced by Acholi people: systems of the group. These tactics can bring
men had lost their fathers from whom they about changes that benefit the indigenous
would be granted land; children did not know community as a whole.
where their clan land was; women were ‘married’
to men without following the customary rules Uganda: a vision for more secure
for marriage because of a lack of resources; and land rights for women in Kibaale
women were widowed and left with few options Kibaale district in western Uganda is a region
for survival. In such a context, the land rights of facing huge challenges in relation to land. During
those with the least power – widows, the disabled, the colonial era, large tracts of land and freehold
the elderly – were very insecure. titles were formally given to Baganda people
On the national stage, the Ugandan from Central Uganda, who were favoured by
government has recently drafted a new land the colonists at the expense of the indigenous
policy, one of the objectives of which is to population of the Bunyoro kingdom. Indigenous
strengthen customary land tenure systems Bunyoro continue to occupy their ancestral
throughout the country. At the same time, the land but, by law, are regarded as tenants. The
policy seeks to address the problem of traditions, government made provision in the 1998 Land Act
customs and practices which discriminate to purchase this land from the absentee landlords
against women in matters of access to, and use and then presumably re-distribute it back to the
and ownership of land. The example of the Bunyoro, but so far this has not happened.
Acholi people shows that strengthening the land In recent years, due to advocacy efforts of the
tenure of the Acholi people as a whole will not Bunyoro, much has been done to address these
necessarily strengthen it for all Acholi people, historical wrongs. These include the passage of
as illustrated in the situation of Acholi widows a law which prohibited evictions of ‘tenants’ (an
who do not choose who will inherit land. It also increasingly frequent occurrence in the Bunyoro
shows how, within customary tenure systems, kingdom as certain land became more valuable),
there may be a range of protections for women’s and the renewed support of the buy-back policy,
property rights, but those protections depend this time with budget support through a land
on different factors from those that determine fund, included in the draft National Land
men’s land rights. It is therefore far too simplistic Policy of Uganda presented to the cabinet in
to suggest that customary tenure does or does 2011. However, in the context of what appear
not protect women’s property rights, or that to be positive steps forward for the indigenous
progressive statutory law protects or does not Bunyoro people, Bunyoro women continued to
protect women’s property rights. If the Ugandan suffer from very insecure land tenure.

State of the World’s Minorities Indigenous women’s land rights: 55

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 case studies from Africa
56 Indigenous women’s land rights: State of the World’s Minorities
case studies from Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Maasai women in the Crater Highlands In the end, this method helped women to
region, along the East African rift in change their circumstances. Some Banyoro
Tanzania. Dieter Telemans/Panos. women identified land that was available for
sale, found ways to raise money to make the
Despite formal laws which provide for the purchase, and even ensured formal backing of
contrary, customary land tenure for Banyoro their rights to the acquired land by learning how
women is more insecure for the following to work with the land office, which could issue
reasons: (a) customs only grant women land titles. Other women went with their husbands to
rights through marriage; (b) the common practice the land office, identified the absentee landlord,
of polygamy complicates land holdings and the negotiated with the landlord for change, and
division of rights upon the death of a man who then had the change recorded at the land
had multiple wives; (c) patrilineal inheritance office. Women and men in the village not only
rules which prohibit daughters from inheriting improved women’s tenure security, they also
land from their fathers; and (d) widows being developed recommendations for the government
‘chased away’ by their in-laws from land they had to consider to help improve equitable land tenure
used while their husband was alive. In addition, security for women and men around the country.
women and men in the area have low levels of
literacy and lack information on the legal and Tanzania: Maasai women taking advantage of
institutional framework for land rights. Even favourable laws
when individuals have that information, land In Tanzania, Maasai women face discrimination
agencies and others who might assist them in both from the majority society and through
making their land rights more secure are cultural practices within their community.
located at great distances from many of the The latter include social traditions that restrict
remote villages. their rights to access or own land. Through
A local community-based organization, organization and negotiation, one group of
Ugandan Rural Development and Training, Maasai women were able to gain secure rights to
worked with the community to help improve the village land held under customary tenure. The
land tenure security of women while respecting women recognized that by acting as a group they
the indigenous culture of the Banyoro. It did were more likely to gain support than by acting
this by encouraging Banyoro women to focus on alone, taking advantage of positive provisions in
aspirations rather than the problem. Using this the Village Land Act 1999, which grants women
approach, the women articulated their vision and men equal rights to village land.
for their lives with regard to land, assessed their The Tanzanian Village Land Act recognizes
current situation and identified a gap between equal rights for men and women to access, own,
the two. This allowed women to consider broader control and dispose of land under the same
ways to address land-related challenges. By terms and conditions. The law protects women
focusing on identifying the problem – barrier from discriminatory customs and traditions
to land access (I cannot inherit land because I that restrict women’s access to ownership,
am a woman, and under custom women cannot occupation and use of land, and specifically
inherit) – and then seeking to solve it (change requires equal treatment of women and men
cultural practices so that women inherit land) when they apply for recognition of customary
the situation can seem overwhelming: how can right of occupancy of village land. The process
one woman change centuries of cultural practice? for being granted a customary right of occupancy
On the other hand, focusing on a vision for a is largely administrative, and must be granted by
desired outcome (I envision myself owning and the village council and approved by the village
cultivating 5 acres of land), leaves more room to assembly who issues a certification.
find a creative solution, which may incorporate Maasai are semi-nomadic people in northern
purchasing land, taking advantage of Tanzania. Maasai cultural practices tend to
government support schemes, or negotiating marginalize women in terms of decision-making,
with local leaders. and in terms of rights to access and control

State of the World’s Minorities Indigenous women’s land rights: 57

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 case studies from Africa
Below: A Dagomba woman who returned occupancy of village land for women in their
to her village to marry after working as a communities. MWEDO supported the women
Kayayo, or market porter, in the city of by providing training on legal rights, as well as
Accra, lifts firewood onto her head outside the administrative steps needed to help secure
Tampion, Northern Region, Ghana. land rights through official land certification. At
Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program. the beginning, the women’s committees faced
significant opposition from their communities,
over land. Women are largely unrepresented in but through perseverance, openness and making
land-related decision-making bodies, and those use of diverse negotiation tactics, over time the
few women who form part of those bodies are women gained community support. Importantly,
ineffective because they may lack the confidence because the process was defined and led by the
to speak up in front of men, have limited Maasai women’s committees and was focused on
literacy, or have little or no knowledge of land- dialogue and negotiation with men as leaders,
related laws, policies and processes. As a result, the whole community supported the results. The
the interests and needs of Maasai women have process was then documented and shared for use
largely been absent in village, ward and/or district by other Maasai communities seeking to improve
development land planning, and women rarely the tenure security of women.
benefit from land-related programmes in the area.
The Maasai Women’s Development Ghana’s Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation:
Organization (MWEDO) supported women in negotiating for customary lands
forming committees. These committees of Maasai Through sustained and collective negotiation, in
women then engaged in dialogue and negotiation which they emphasized the broader community-
with village officials and leaders, eventually wide benefits to be gained through secure land
gaining certificates for customary rights of rights for women, Dagomba women in the

58 Indigenous women’s land rights: State of the World’s Minorities

case studies from Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
northern region of Ghana gained secure rights to community. They made multiple visits to the
customary land, from which they were otherwise chief in his palace, persuaded his elders and
precluded. counsellors to support their effort, and invited
In northern Ghana, women are vulnerable the chief to visit the land site, convincing him
to extreme poverty and food insecurity. The that it would improve his image as leader if he
burden of planting, maintaining, harvesting and granted them rights to the land. The women
marketing crops most often rests on women, and worked together to gain funds to provide the
yet they are excluded from decision-making on necessary ‘drinks’ which are culturally required
land and natural resources. While under formal during such negotiations. In the end, the women
law women can own and inherit land, by custom persuaded the chief to give them 5 hectares of
women are not entitled to inherit land from their customary land for a market. The women have
family or their husbands, and have to rely on rights to that land for their life-times, and may
relationships with male relatives to gain access to bequeath it to their male and female children.
the land that they rely on for their survival. Even if the chief dies, the women’s rights to this
The Ghanaian Constitution recognizes both land are secured with the next chief because the
formal law and customary law. Recognizing grant of land was written in an official ledger,
customary law is positive for indigenous land demarcated, and all the elders witnessed it.
rights in Ghana, where an estimated 80 per cent
of land is governed under customary tenure. Conclusion
Yet, under customary law, gender and kinship Secure land tenure is an important goal for
relations play a central role in determining how indigenous groups, and it is an important goal
land rights are allocated. While both women for indigenous women. However, one does
and men can acquire certain rights through their not necessarily beget the other. Recognizing or
membership in a lineage, those rights normally supporting customary laws alongside formal
have to be exercised through some additional act, law is an important starting place for securing
such as clearing land or paying a customary tax, indigenous peoples’ land rights, but if those
burdens which can inadvertently exclude women. customary laws preclude rights for women then
In addition, in marriage, a woman is expected the benefits of the formal recognition may not
to work with her husband on his lineage land to be shared equally by all. Likewise, stronger land
provide for the family, leaving her little time to rights for women in formal law may do little
develop separate land. where dominant customary land tenure systems
The Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation works contradict these formal legal protections, or
with groups of women in northern Ghana to women find that they are unable to understand
strengthen their land tenure security through or access them. Successful strategies incorporate
a variety of means: developing alliances with a dual approach, which both formally recognizes
tribal chiefs, religious leaders, professionals, land customary land tenure regimes of indigenous
agencies and other groups in the community; peoples and also creates the space for negotiation
holding stakeholder forums; training women on and adaptation with that customary regime so as
their land, property and inheritance rights; and to benefit the entire community. p
holding community conversations to raise the
awareness of land and property issues among
traditional and religious leaders.
One group of women who were part of a
settler community in the northern region of
Ghana was able to negotiate for long-term rights
to customary land in their village by collectively
approaching the chief. They organized into
a group and explained to the chief that they
needed land for a market, which would benefit
the women individually but also the whole

State of the World’s Minorities Indigenous women’s land rights: 59

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 case studies from Africa

Western EGYPT










Rahnuma Hassan, Paige Jennings,
Mohamed Matovu, Ukoha Ukiwo
East and
including minorities and indigenous peoples, are
hit hardest when natural disasters strike, yet their
plight goes largely unnoticed by governments, aid

Horn of
agencies and the media.
Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists were those
worst affected by the drought. Reports from

MRG’s partners in the region showed that
pastoralists, who earn their livelihoods by
herding livestock, had been devastated by the
drought. Jane Meriwas, an activist working
Mohamed Matovu with the Samburu Women’s Network, a Maasai
community-based organization in Kenya, told

he year 2011 was a difficult one for MRG that pastoralist communities in Samburu,
the East and Horn of Africa. The Isiolo and Laikipia counties were hit hardest:
region had to contend with a host of ‘Many pastoralists lost income due to high death
challenges, including prolonged drought – which of cattle. In order not to lose out, many sold off
wreaked havoc – and the knock-on effects of their herds, which were fetching them less than the
the global economic downturn. Amid growing normal market price because most cattle looked
pressure on scarce resources, minority and sickly due to lack of water and pasture,’ she said.
indigenous groups across the region continued to In some regions, pastoralist and other children
struggle to gain control of and access to the land had to relocate with their families to escape the
and natural resources they depend upon for their drought. In drought-hit areas in Ethiopia, Kenya
livelihoods and culture. and Uganda, schools were abandoned and closed.
According to the World Food Programme, this
Regional drought was attributed to the depletion of supplies for
In 2011, parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, special school feeding programmes in areas like
Sudan and Uganda suffered the worst drought in Karamoja in Uganda.
decades, according to the Famine Early Warning The UN Office for the Coordination of
Systems Network (FEWS). Poor rains contrib- Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made grim
uted to water and pasture shortages, dramatically predictions that the region would see an increase
reducing food production. The impact of the in conflicts over control of natural resources
drought was unprecedented because it happened as communities – particularly pastoralists –
in the midst of the global economic crisis, when compete for diminishing water, pasture and food
food and commodity prices were very high and resources. Already, early 2011 saw an increase in
governments were unprepared. Local communi- resource conflicts, with some resulting in deaths,
ties’ resilience was also weakened by previous in northern Turkana in Kenya, South Sudan,
years’ poor harvests and unpredictable weather south-western Ethiopia, and the Karamoja and
patterns. Governments and international aid agen- Teso regions of Uganda. Benjamin Omunga, a
cies were relatively slow to respond, despite clear Programme Officer with Urafiki, a community-
warning signs in late 2010. Across the region, based organization in Teso region in Uganda
more than 13 million people were still affected in said:
January 2012 and an estimated 50,000–100,000
people have died, according to a report by Oxfam ‘Due to food scarcity, the neighbouring
and Save the Children. Food insecurity intensified communities of Ngikarimojong (who are
in areas affected by conflict, particularly in Soma- pastoralists) have intensified cattle raids and thefts
lia where governance is weakest. In Kenya, where of their neighbouring Teso communities (who are
the drought affected well over 5 million people, agro-pastoralists, livestock herders who also make a
the government declared a national disaster. living out of growing food) putting a strain on the
As with most crises of this nature and as MRG improving relationship between the once-warring
research has repeatedly shown, vulnerable groups, minority communities.’

62 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
have deserted their new villages and gone
Case study back to their old places. One village set their
new village on fire to give an excuse for going

back to their old place.
There are different levels of violence in the

displacement process. The first level begins
at the regional state level, among the top

and ‘villagization’
regional government officials, experts and
civil society representatives who were vocal

in Ethiopia
against this villagization programme. Many
high government officials and experts in
the region were forced to flee the country
for opposing the programme or for just
The Ethiopian government has forcibly openly criticizing the programme. Some
relocated 70,000 indigenous people from are also imprisoned or indirectly targeted.
the fertile Gambella region to free up At the village level, since the displacement
land for commercial agriculture. Local programme is accompanied by the military,
activist Ojulu talked to Corinne Lennox those who resist moving face beating and
about some of the effects of this so-called torture from the hands of the military. I
‘villagization’ policy. heard from more than five people that there
One year after the villagization programme are about 100,000 armed forces in the region
even those farmers who tried to do farming at the moment, although I could not confirm
in the new places were not able to produce it. Since the programme was launched I heard
enough for the whole year since the area is about over ten people who were beaten to
not a good one for the kind of traditional death by the military while they were going
farming they practise. I heard that the out to cut grass and trees for construction,
government is planning to start the safety net and hunting. The movement of farmers has
(food for work) programme in the region. been strictly limited.
Therefore, the villagization programme has
made the people of Gambella food insecure, What has been the impact on women in
like other food insecure areas in the northern the region?
part of the country. Women are particularly impacted by this
Second, the villagization programme has displacement in many ways. Due to different
also increased the tensions between different kinds of conflicts in the region and the fact
communities who used to live in different that the government has been targeting the
locations far away from one another but men in the region, also because of HIV/
who are now brought together to share small AIDS, there are many women-headed
pieces of land for farming. Particularly in households in the villages of Gambella.
the western part of the region, where the Traditionally women are responsible for
Nuer (pastoralists) and the Anywa (farmers) fetching water, collecting firewood and
used to live in separate far-away villages, the household work. In the new places women
villagization programme has grouped these have travelled miles in some villages in order
ethnic groups in very close villages. This to get to a place where they could collect
is already increasing the tensions between firewood. Since those investors take the
these two groups. Since this programme was surrounding forest and the woods are cut
launched, over 15 individuals from both sides down, women have to now travel longer
(these are the only ones I have heard about, distances to get firewood. Since different
it could be more in other villages) have been communities are also brought to close
killed in separate incidents. Some villagers villages, different communities have to

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 63

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued communities concerning land investment.
Second, the government should recognize
now share the remaining forests for collecting traditional land-holding systems and provide
firewood. This has made collecting firewood a land certificates to farmers, as it is already done
very dangerous activity for women. One woman in other parts of Ethiopia. Even though land
was raped and beaten to death by people from is state-owned in Ethiopia, if the farmers have
a different community as she went collecting certificates for their plots, then they will ask
firewood. for compensation when their plot is needed for
such projects.
What is your understanding of government Land for investment should be demarcated
motivations for this practice? and known by both the local communities and
The villagization is taking place where there the government. So far the practice of land
is already big number of investors and where identification is carried out randomly by local
the land is more convenient for large-scale government officials who only receive orders
investment. For example, the districts most from their superiors at the regional state level
affected by the villagization programme are and federal level. If they refuse to give land to
Abobo and Gog districts in the Gambella region. an investor then they would lose their position
Abobo and Gog are the most fertile districts in at best or be imprisoned at worst and branded
the region that had been supplying the region as anti-development.
with maize. The other villages in the whole
district are all now relocated to another place How have the people resisted these
due to big number of investors storming the practices?
districts. At the regional state level, there are those
who are openly criticizing the process of land
How do you think the government should do investment. At the local level, some villages are
things differently – for example, is there a way resisting the programme by not cooperating
to use the land for national development gains with the local governments and investors. In
without harming the minority groups? one village, when they heard that their land
There used to be informal consultation between is being given away to an Indian, they elected
various government departments whose mandates two representatives who came to the federal
were directly or indirectly involved with those government in Addis to discuss the matter
land investments. However, when land lease with the federal government … they were not
agreements were moved to the federal level, successful in stopping the investment … and
things dramatically changed and that is when the district government appointed other leaders
villagers were displaced. In short, there should be for the village who were sympathetic to the
effective and meaningful consultation with local government position. p

According to forecasts, the cumulative effect Ethiopia

of the drought and its impact on food security Southern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of
and human life will be severe in the long run. Ethiopia suffered from two consecutive seasons
Food prices continue to rise and pastoralists of very poor rains, crop failure, high livestock
continue to lose their herds due to chronic mortality and high cereal prices that left even the
water and pasture scarcity. Displacement and most resilient communities in crop-dependent
migration will also increase pressures, causing areas struggling to cope.
tension and potential violence between migrants Although a significant proportion of
and host communities. Conflicts in turn affect the population are food insecure, pastoral
crop production, thereby creating a vicious communities from Afar and Somali region,
cycle of poverty, as is already the case in the epicentre of recurrent droughts in 2011,
South Sudan. continued to be ‘the most acutely food insecure

64 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
in the country’, according to FEWS. Above: A member of the Afar people in the
The Ethiopian government continued Danakil area, Ethiopia. Eric Lafforgue.
to enforce restrictions on human rights
organizations and the media in 2011, using community leaders, especially those accused
the Charities and Societies Proclamation Act of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation
2009 (the NGO Law) to curb political dissent Front (ONLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front
and fundamental human rights and freedoms (OLF). In March, over 200 members of the
and control the populace, in the face of Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM)
recommendations of the UN Human Rights and the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) were
Council’s Universal Periodic Review to repeal the arbitrarily arrested, and at least 89 were charged
law. The wider crackdown on political activists with various offences.
and journalists continued to affect minority Between August and September 2011, Bekele

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 65

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Gerba and Olbana Lelisa, senior members of state-run sugar plantation. These projects have
OFDM and OPC parties respectively, Debebe resulted in forced resettlement and human rights
Eshetu, an actor, Andualem Aragie, a senior abuses of Mursi, Suri and Bodi agro-pastoralists
member of the Unity for Democracy and Justice at the hands of the Ethiopian army. According
(UDJ) opposition party, together with at least 20 to the Oakland Institute, the government has
ethnic Oromo were variously arrested. Journalists not assessed the impact of the projects on the
working for local and international media were environment and livelihoods of the 500,000
not spared. Journalists Woubshet Taye working indigenous people that rely on the waters and
for Awramba Times, Reeyot Alemu of Feteh, adjacent lands of the Omo River and Lake
and Elias Kifle, editor of the Ethiopian Review, Turkana. Villagers who do not show support for
were charged with various counts. Argaw Ashine, the development projects are reportedly beaten,
a correspondent of the Kenyan Daily Nation abused and intimidated. A UNESCO World
in Ethiopia, was forced to flee the country. Heritage Site, the Lower Omo Valley contains
Targeting journalists increases self-censorship, a two national parks and is home to approximately
likely reason why Human Rights Watch (HRW) 200,000 agro-pastoralists including the Kwegu,
and other organizations expressed concern that Bodi, Suri, Mursi, Nyangatom, Hamer, Karo and
independent reporting on the conflict-affected Daasanach.
areas of the Somali region had been severely Overall, the Ethiopian government has already
restricted. leased 3.6 million hectares of land (26 per cent of
The Ethiopian government was set to the country’s arable land) and an additional 2.1
relocate an estimated 70,000 indigenous Anuak million hectares is available through the federal
and Nuer people from the western Gambella government’s land bank for agriculture, according
region into new villages by the end of 2011. to the Oakland Institute.
The government argues that this ‘villagization’
scheme will enable them to provide basic social Kenya
and economic services closer to people in order The year 2011 was supposed to be the one in
to foster economic and cultural development. which many Kenyans would realize the fruits of
Relocations started in 2010 in Gambella. Once the new Constitution promulgated in August
indigenous peoples have been relocated, their 2010. Kenya’s new Constitution has been
land, normally held under trust or customary hailed as a progressive document that holds the
land rights, is regarded as empty or wasteland and potential to advance the rights of minorities and
can be leased to large companies. Compensation, indigenous peoples and a host of key legal and
when it has been provided, has been inadequate. institutional reforms. The reform process was
Communities are forcibly relocated into new held up by delays in appointing officials to fill
villages that lack adequate food, land for farming key judicial posts, due to political jostling. The
or health and education facilities. Pastoralists eventual appointment of Dr Willy Mutunga, a
are being forced to abandon their cattle-based staunch human rights defender, as the new Chief
livelihoods in favour of settled cultivation. Justice of the Republic of Kenya was celebrated
The government plans to develop big irrigation by civil society.
projects and agricultural development, thereby Although the Constitution includes numerous
ending the floods on which many people positive provisions for minorities and indigenous
depend for floodplain agriculture, and to create communities, these groups feel that constitutional
employment opportunities for pastoralists to gains may not translate into real positive
work on farms. These projects are part of wider developments. The increased ethnicization of
government plans to resettle 1.5 million people politics has deepened their exclusion. While the
by 2013 from Afar, Somali and Benishangul- new Constitution could address the problem
Gumuz as well as Gambella, according to HRW. of political participation, the lack of political
In Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, the will to address issues relating to minorities is
government has launched the controversial Gibe disturbing. Several court rulings in favour of
III hydro-electric project and a 245,000 hectare minority communities against the government

66 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
remain unimplemented to date. For instance, in Above: A Turkana woman at Daaba village,
2006, the Kenya Constitutional Court found that Isiolo district, Kenya. Emma Redfern.
the state had violated the right of the Ilchamus
people to political participation and must ensure exclusion. Nubians are not recognized as citizens
adequate representation of minority interests. in Kenya and have not been granted full property
The Kenyan government has also failed to rights, although they have occupied Kibera, an
restore ownership to the Endorois people of their expansive slum area outside Nairobi, for well
ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National over a hundred years. This situation has led to
Reserve, as recommended by the African violent conflict with majority groups and mass
Commission on Human and People’s Rights displacement, most recently in November 2001.
(ACHPR) two years ago. Having failed to secure citizenship through
The Nubian minority faces ongoing social the Kenyan courts, Nubians took their case to

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 67

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
the ACHPR in 2006. The case was declared confirmed charges against four senior Kenyans.
admissible in 2009, but no decision has so far The Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura
been taken. But in March 2011, the African and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta were
Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare charged in relation to killings, forced transfers
of the Child found Kenya in violation of the and rapes, allegedly committed in Nakuru and
rights of Nubian children to non-discrimination. Naivasha in January 2008 especially against
The government has ambitions to turn Kenya those perceived as supporters of the Orange
into an industrialized middle-income country. In Democratic Movement (ODM), in particular
order to achieve this goal, it has designed a series those belonging to the Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin
of flagship projects (known as Vision 2030), ethnic groups. Suspended Higher Education
that will transform parts of the country into Minister William Ruto and Head of Operations
modern cities at the expense of the livelihoods at Kass FM Joshua Arap Sang are charged
and cultures of minority and indigenous groups separately for crimes they allegedly committed
who live there. For instance, the government in the Rift Valley against supporters of President
is set to develop Lamu, the largest town on Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) in
Lamu Island and one of the oldest and best- 2007. The judges, however, refused to confirm
preserved settlements among Swahili towns in charges against Police Commissioner Hussein
East Africa, into a port, airport and a refinery. Ali and former Industrialization Minister Henry
This will have potentially harmful impacts on Kosgei, due to lack of adequate evidence.
the livelihoods and cultures of minority and In March, two activists from the Ogiek
indigenous communities in the area. Early in hunter-gatherer community in Ngongogeri in
2011, the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia Mau Forest, Rift Valley Province, including
signed an agreement to construct a railway line one woman, were attacked. The activists were
between Lamu Port and Addis Ababa. The protesting against attempts by land speculators to
proposed route will pass through northern Kenya, forcibly take over Ogiek land in Ngongogeri. The
affecting communities such as Bajuni, Boni and Mau Forest, home to an estimated 15,000 Ogiek,
pastoralists who reside in Isiolo area. is often the scene of inter-ethnic clashes between
On a positive note, the National Cohesion and the Ogiek, who are the indigenous owners of the
Integration Commission (NCIC) is currently land, and neighbouring majority communities.
formulating a policy on national cohesion that In 2009, Ogiek and other indigenous families
will have a significant impact on how minority were evicted by the government from the Mau
and majority groups relate, focusing on the need Forest without due consultation under the guise
for tolerance education. of protecting the environment. Currently, more
NCIC has also emphasized the need for than 25,000 people, including Ogiek, Kipsigis
inclusion in public sector appointments. Its and Maasai continue to live in camps around the
ethnic audit, released in April 2011, revealed forest. The Ogiek case is now pending before the
that 70 per cent of all jobs in the civil service are African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.
occupied by members of the Kikuyu, Kalenjin,
Luhya, Kamba and Luo communities. Somalia
The year 2011 saw the prosecution of six On 20 July 2011, the UN Country Team
senior political figures – known as the ‘Ocampo in Somalia announced that parts of southern
Six’ – before the International Criminal Court Somalia between the Juba and Shebelle rivers,
(ICC) in April. Although they are accused by where most minorities live, were experiencing
the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, of famine. The situation was exacerbated by the
bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes impact of continued fighting and restrictions
against humanity committed during the 2007/8 imposed on aid agencies by Islamist insurgent
Kenya post-election violence, Kenyans are split group al-Shabaab, which controls the region.
along political and ethnic lines regarding the By the end of July, there were about 1.5 million
ICC case. Supporters of those on trial view it internally displaced persons (IDPs), 6,900
as political intrigue. In January 2012, the ICC seeking asylum and 1,965 refugees in Somalia.

68 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
During 2011, Somalis, regardless of ethnicity, including torture, beatings and beheadings.
religion or clan, experienced serious human Harsh restrictions are placed upon women,
rights violations in the country’s ongoing including their dress code, movement,
conflict, mainly located in south and central economic activities and proscriptions on their
Somalia, where the Transitional Federal associations with non-kin men of any kind,
Government (TFG), supported by African which places widows and single women at a
Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), are fighting severe disadvantage. Minority groups including
al-Shabaab. The TFG forces and affiliated the Bantu, Benadiri and Christian communities
military forces gained territory from insurgents are attacked for practising their religious beliefs.
in the capital, Mogadishu, and along the border There are reports that al-Shabaab has continued
with Kenya and Ethiopia, while al-Shabaab to forcibly recruit minorities to fight.
still controls more territory in south and HRW has documented human rights abuses
central Somalia. Indiscriminate attacks, killing in TFG-controlled areas against IDPs, including
and injuring civilians, were carried out by looting food aid in IDP camps, arbitrary arrests
all parties to the conflict during a string of and detentions and rapes. These violations are
military offensives in 2011. The World Health particularly severe for both women and members
Organization (WHO) treated 8,430 casualties of minority groups.
for weapon-related injuries between January Amid ongoing fighting in June 2011, Somalia’s
and September in Mogadishu, with a significant Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
proportion of civilian casualties being women of the TFG resigned, following a UN-backed
and children. deal that extended the mandates of President
Although it is difficult to find statistics on Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the speaker and the
how different ethnic groups have been affected deputies until August 2012, when elections
by the conflict, Somalia has repeatedly topped will be organized. Mohamed had only replaced
MRG’s ‘Peoples Under Threat’ ranking, which Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke
rates countries according to where civilian in September 2010; the latter resigned due to
populations are most at risk. Minority groups internal squabbles. Somalia has been without an
are estimated to constitute one-third of the total effective central government since 1991. The
Somalian population of approximately 3 million future stability of the country now depends on
people, according to MRG’s research. They how the TFG, the international community
include Bantu, who are the largest minority, and the African Union handle the election, and
occupational groups (comprising the Gaboye, whether the new Constitution is drafted in a
Madhiban and Musse Deriyo), Benadiri and way that encourages participation and inclusion
religious minorities. All these minority groups and promotes reconciliation, peace and stability.
are diminishing in size, as thousands move The final draft of the Somali Constitution is
to IDP camps in Somaliland and Puntland anticipated in April 2012, to allow for elections
and refugee camps in Kenya, where they face in August.
renewed discrimination In October, Kenya was drawn into Somalia’s
MRG research has shown that minority conflict after a spate of al-Shabaab bombings in
communities in Somalia fall outside the Nairobi and the kidnappings of several Western
traditional clan structure of the majority and tourists from Kenya’s coast. Since then, Kenyan
also therefore the protection afforded by such troops have pushed towards Kismayo, with help
systems. Because of social segregation, economic from TFG-affiliated militias from Ras Komboni
deprivation and political manipulation, and the newly-formed Azania state. There has
minorities are more vulnerable to rape, attack, been a significant rise in anti-Somali sentiment
abduction, property seizure and the consequences since the kidnappings in Kenya and Kenya’s
of drought. military intervention. This will likely affect
Al-Shabaab continues to administer a strict attitudes towards Somalis in Kenya, whether they
form of Sharia law in areas that it controls, are Kenyan or Somali nationals.
mostly in central and southern Somalia,

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 69

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Puntland and Somaliland focus of conflict because of its strategic natural
In May 2011, the self-declared Republic of resources – oil and water. The Comprehensive
Somaliland and the semi-autonomous state of Peace Agreement, which brought the north–
Puntland celebrated their twentieth anniversary south civil war to an end in 2005, provided
of self-rule. Although these regions remain for a referendum to allow the people of Abyei
largely peaceful compared to the south, there are to decide whether their region would become
continued tensions between majority clans and part of Sudan or South Sudan. But the two
minority groups. For instance, the long border sides could not agree on the territory the region
dispute between Somaliland and Puntland partly comprised. In 2009, the Permanent Court of
stems from political exclusion of Dhulbahante Arbitration in The Hague ruled that most of
from the Harti federation by the more populous the significant oilfields lay outside of Abyei and
Isaaq clan in Somaliland. In western Somaliland, firmly within areas currently controlled by Sudan
the Gadabuursi people declared an autonomous (other disputed border regions include the Heglig
Awdal state in protest against their treatment by oil fields in South Kordofan).
the Isaaq clan. This has reinforced perceptions It was hoped that this ruling would reduce the
that every clan in north Somalia has the right to likelihood of aggressive posturing over Abyei by
determine its own destiny. Khartoum. But a further issue was whether the
Puntland and Somaliland continued to host semi-nomadic Misseriya, who have traditionally
refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in 2011. crossed from Southern Kordofan (in Sudan) into
The UN refugee agency UNHCR stated that the more water-rich Abyei to graze their herds
there were frequent reports of xenophobia, during the dry season, would be allowed to vote.
hostility, exploitation and arbitrary detention. Historically, the pastoral Misseriya have been in
A minority woman interviewed by MRG conflict with Abyei’s settled residents, the Ngok
researchers in Ajuran IDP camp, Puntland, told Dinka. It is foreseen that the Misseriya would
of gender-based violence where armed gunmen vote for Abyei to be part of Sudan, while the
raid camps and forcibly drive women and girls Ngok Dinka would opt for incorporation into
out of shelter and rape them. South Sudan. These communities are important
constituencies for Khartoum and Juba respectively,
South Sudan having played key roles in the conflict.
Chris Chapman Although the Ngok Dinka promised the
On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the Misseriya that their grazing rights would
world’s newest independent state, after an be respected if Abyei joined South Sudan,
overwhelming 99 per cent of southerners voted a Misseriya chief warned that there would
in favour of seceding from the Republic of Sudan be ‘immediate war’ if this happened. The
in a January referendum. After 39 years of civil referendum has been postponed indefinitely due
war, an estimated 2 million deaths, and human to these increasing tensions. After an escalation
rights violations committed by the Khartoum of confrontations in the area in May 2011, the
government, including aerial bombing of civilian northern Sudan Armed Forces occupied Abyei.
populations, the result of the referendum was The UN deployed a peacekeeping force to the
greeted with scenes of jubilation across the area a month later, but tensions remain high, and
country. Unfortunately the birth of the new an agreement between Khartoum and Juba to
nation saw an increase in tensions with Sudan withdraw their forces, reached in September, had
over many issues, including oil resources, border not been implemented by early 2012. Misseriya
disputes, citizenship rights for South Sudanese are increasingly fearful about future access to
living in Sudan, and accusations by both grazing land, potentially compromising the
governments that the other is supporting militias sustainability of their livelihood and identity.
on its territory. Tensions between the two countries have
South Sudan’s independence has exacerbated continued over oil. When it became independent,
regional conflicts over natural resources. The South Sudan took with it 75 per cent of Sudan’s
disputed border region of Abyei has become the oil reserves, but, for lack of an alternative, it has

70 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
until recently piped all of its output to Sudan including the Murle. An MRG researcher who
for refining and export. Juba accuses Khartoum spoke to representatives of the Murle community
of charging excessive fees for this service and in Boma found that there was widespread
seizing its oil shipments, and in January 2012, ignorance about the deal, and its consequences
South Sudan shut down oil output through the for land-ownership and access. Facilities for the
pipeline. Oil revenues now make up about 98 per local community promised by Al Ain, including
cent of the South’s revenues – feeding calls for a schools, health services, boreholes, housing and
greater diversification of the economy. road infrastructure, have yet to materialize.
South Sudan’s independence also saw According to a study by the Oakland Institute,
worsening internal conflicts involving militias companies involved in land leases in South
contesting the central government, and between Sudan ‘rarely consult with residents in affected
ethnic groups. The most severe conflicts took communities, or conduct environmental and
place in Jonglei state, involving the Lou Nuer, social impact assessments, as required by the
Murle and Dinka Bor groups. Local officials 2009 Land Act’.
claimed that over 3,000 people were killed in In September 2011, President Salva Kiir
clashes in December 2011. On the surface, committed to a review of land lease agreements
conflicts revolve around cattle theft, amid a signed between 2005 and independence, but the
context of widespread gun ownership, and review has not yet been carried out.
increasingly incidents have spiralled into endless The Transitional Constitution of the Republic
revenge attacks. However, there are more deep- of South Sudan, made public in April 2011,
rooted conflict drivers at play. First, smaller contains recognition and protection of ‘lands
ethnic groups outside the main Dinka/Nuer traditionally and historically held or used by local
nexus at the heart of government in the country communities or their members’, and provides
feel divorced from decision-making. Second, the that, ‘Communities and persons enjoying rights
total absence of state presence in rural regions – in land shall be consulted in decisions that may
in terms of providing much-needed basic services, affect their rights in lands and resources.’ This
promoting economic development and playing reinforces the already extensive protections of
a peacekeeping role – has fed grievances among customary and communal land rights provided
smaller groups who feel excluded from power and for in the Land Act 2009. The Transitional
the economic benefits that are assumed to flow Constitution also protects the rights of ethnic
from it. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army communities to practise their traditions and
(SPLA), South Sudan’s military force, has even beliefs, and use their languages. But amid
stated that it fears to intervene in these conflicts escalating conflict and the complete governance
because it is likely to be accused of favouring vacuum in much of South Sudan, it is unlikely
one particular ethnic group, again reflecting the that such legislation will afford any real
perception that institutions are not representative protection to minority groups.
of the diversity of South Sudan.
Community rights to control their natural Uganda
resources and livelihoods have been further In February 2011 Ugandan’s incumbent
compromised by deals made by local or national President Yoweri Museveni won 68 per cent
government to lease large tracts of land to foreign of votes in the presidential election. This result
governments and companies. In 2008, Al Ain put him on course to become the longest-
Wildlife, a United Arab Emirates company, serving president in Uganda’s history. Kizza
signed a leasing agreement for 1.68 million Besigye, President Museveni’s closest opponent,
hectares of the Boma National Park in Jonglei rejected the result, on the grounds of rampant
state for a period of 30 years to set up a tourist election malpractices – a large number of voters
safari project. The agreement, signed by the were disenfranchised, harassed by police and
Ministry of Wildlife, does not allow for revenue bribed. The general elections in 2011 also saw
sharing with the local community. The area is 14 members of parliament (MPs) elected from
inhabited by a diverse range of ethnic groups, the Karamoja, home to the Karamajong, a

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 71

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
traditionally pastoralist ethnic group. Under a A final draft of the national land policy was
loose coalition – the Karamoja Parliamentary submitted before parliament in March 2011,
Group (KPG) – the MPs have drawn attention to but this process has stalled due to a cabinet
poor government policy and emergency response reshuffle. Overall, the draft land policy calls
to problems in their region. For example, in on government to enact laws that safeguard
August, the KPG criticized the government for vulnerable communities and protect minorities’
the delay in relocating victims of landslides in and indigenous peoples’ communal land-
Kaabong district that had killed and injured ownership and access to resources. In a departure
many people. In September 2011, the same from previous policy, the draft does recognize the
group urged the government to intervene and rights of pastoralists, but presents no framework
repair roads that had been cut by torrential rains. for their participation in decisions that will affect
In May 2011, parliament elected its first female them. Nonetheless, if adopted this policy could
speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, which was hailed as a reflect an important shift in the attitude of the
positive move by many women’s rights activists. Ugandan government.
Affirmative action and reserved seats have The discovery of rich oil deposits in the
boosted women’s representation in parliament to western Uganda districts of Buliisa and Hoima
35 per cent, the majority of whom belong to the continued to cause anxiety among local
ruling party. communities during 2011. In areas where oil was
Despite the launch of the ambitious five- discovered back in 2006, the livelihood systems
year National Development Plan (NDP) in of minorities and indigenous peoples have been
April 2010, minority and indigenous groups disrupted. Ethnic tensions have also erupted over
in Uganda remain deprived and excluded. The communally owned lands as different groups
US$ 21 billion NDP focuses on infrastructure jostle to secure ownership rights that would
projects and private sector development rather guarantee them hefty compensation from oil
than the needs of the country’s marginalized firms. For example, in the Waisoke and Bugana
groups. According to MRG research, Uganda’s villages of Buliisa district, where vast oil deposits
new development agenda contains glaring policy have been found, Bagungu, a fisher community,
gaps with regard to improving the situation have been prevented from fishing due to ongoing
of historically marginalized groups such as oil production, and are now embroiled in a
pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities. communal land dispute with migrant pastoralists.
The NDP fails to address major challenges Bagungu claim communal ownership and want
pastoralists face, such as securing land tenure, to cultivate cotton while the migrant pastoralists
improving livestock productivity, access to water claim to have bought the land, according to
resources, diversifying livelihoods and accessing media reports. Following a Court of Appeal order
markets to sell their products. Pastoralists that granted ownership rights to the Bagungu,
continue to feel excluded from the development the government evicted 600 pastoralist families
agenda because the NDP document refers with over 20,000 cattle in December 2010, using
to them as ‘livestock keepers’, rather than military and police. Although the government has
pastoralists, a clear sign that the government promised to resettle the pastoralists, no concrete
refuses to recognize pastoralism as a valuable plans have been made and some pastoralists
livelihood system. have temporarily settled in the neighbouring
The First Lady, Janet Museveni, who is also Hoima district. Pastoralists have challenged the
the Minister of Karamoja, advocates against government in court for failing to resettle them.
nomadism in favour of settled livestock- At a policy level, 2011 saw public tensions
keeping, which reflects a government policy of flare over disputes about oil production-sharing
sedentarization coming from the highest level. agreements. Senior officials were accused of
During 2011, activists continued to report that soliciting bribes in a rush to sign controversial
anti-pastoralist ordinances and policies at local agreements with oil companies, including with
level are being passed to condemn pastoralism UK-based Tullow Oil, in which Uganda was
and prevent free movement of cattle. projected to lose millions of dollars in revenue.

72 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
evict the Basongora from the park, drawing
Case study the attention of many human rights groups
and the government. Women and children

Land injustice:
were placed in camps in Nyakatonzi.
After claims that excessive force was used,

Basongora in
the government eventually offered Basongora
evicted from the DRC alternative land

western Uganda
outside the park. However this settlement
was also problematic; the government
ordered the Basongora pastoralists to
share land in Rwaihingo with Bakonjo
The Basongora are a pastoralist community cultivators. Local politicians in Kasese
that lived and occupied land in Kasese dis- district have stirred up ethnic tensions
trict, north of the Maramagambo forest in over land allocation in the district to delay
western Uganda. any meaningful dialogue on resettlement.
The Basongora rely on cattle-herding Ethnic tensions have led to clashes
for their livelihoods. Under colonial rule, between pastoralists and cultivators, often
Basongora lost 90 per cent of their land culminating in the death of animals and the
between 1900 and 1955 to establish the destruction of property and lives. Today, the
Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Basongora community number about 11,000
Basongora were evicted, their animals according to the national census (40,000 and
destroyed and huts torched, and no 50,000 according to community estimates);
alternative settlement was provided, all in the the area they occupy is less than 2 per cent
name of wildlife protection. of their original land and they are living in
Post-independence governments have done deplorable conditions.
little to address the social injustice suffered In April 2012, Uganda’s President Yoweri
by the community. Instead, more Basongora Museveni warned the Uganda Wildlife
land has been parcelled out for government Authority against arbitrarily evicting people
development projects and military use, from national parks, urging them to instead
without community consultation. These convince communities of the benefits that
actions have reduced the Basongora to a conserving national parks and tourism can
vulnerable landless group. bring. ‘There is no conflict between animals
In 1986, when the current government and humans … We need to bring out the
took power, it promised to address historical linkages, compatibilities and the symbiosis
injustices and return land to thousands of between the parks and the people,’ he said.
people displaced by development projects. With a final draft of the national land
In the 1990s, the Ugandan government policy – containing important recognition of
recognized the Basongora as a minority the rights of pastoralists – soon to be tabled
that had to be protected and provided with before parliament, maybe the Basongora will
alternative land. finally see a peaceful and equitable end to
Yet in 1999, large numbers of the their predicament. p
Basongora community began to cross the
border to the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) and settled in the Virunga National
Park. In 2006, the DRC authorities drove
the Basongora back into Uganda, where the
community tried to return to the Queen
Elizabeth National Park. Once again, the
Uganda Wildlife Authority tried to brutally

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 73

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
In October, parliament approved a motion to northern Uganda, is believed to be responsible
compel the government to delay the approval of for numerous indiscriminate killings, rapes and
Tullow Oil’s US$ 2.9 billion sale of its interests kidnappings in the region.
in the country to French company Total and

the China National Offshore Oil Company
(CNOOC), until the necessary national laws
were in place. But in February 2012 President

Museveni sidestepped parliament and signed a
new production-sharing agreement between the
government and Tullow Oil, which allowed the
sale to Total and CNOOC to go ahead, paving
the way for oil production by 2015 as well as an Rahnuma Hassan
estimated US$ 10 billion investment in a refinery Land rights and resource ownership are
and an oil export pipeline. In an address to controversial issues across the world. But given
parliament, President Museveni spoke about how the colonial legacy confronting countries in
Uganda stood to benefit, revealing details about Southern Africa, working towards equitable
such an agreement for the first time, but he failed resource distribution among ethnic groups
to mention how much revenue would go to the in the region is a particularly complex task.
local communities affected, some of whom are Already marginalized minority and indigenous
minorities and indigenous peoples. communities, such as San, who continue to
During 2011, there were increasing episodes practise traditional livelihoods and have close
of inter-community tensions, especially in Teso, ties to their land, are especially vulnerable to
Lango and Acholi regions in northern and discrimination and economic exploitation. In
eastern Uganda, fuelled by private companies’ South Africa and Zimbabwe, governments have
interest in communal land. In September, eight ignored the needs of at least some of these groups
clans claiming to own land in Abanga in Zombo in favour of redressing wider racial injustices
district northern Uganda accused a leading under former white rulers. Governments also
African manufacturing conglomerate, Mukwano grapple with pressures to use their resources
Group, of collaborating with the government for national development and from northern
and district leaders to take 1,285 hectares of countries and companies in an increasingly
community land to establish tea and pine competitive global economy, often choosing
plantations in 2008. However, Alykhan Karmali, economic gain over respecting the rights of
the Mukwano managing director, told the media minorities and indigenous peoples.
that the land title was given to Agricultural
Enterprise Limited in 1969, which was later Botswana
sold to the Mukwano Group. The clans claim In January 2011, the G/wi and G//ana
that Nebbi district officials did not consult with communities of the Basarwa indigenous group
them before selling their land to investors and finally won their right to access waterholes
demanded that the government intervene. inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
In October, US President Barack Obama (CKGR), where they have lived since its
announced that he was sending 100 combat- creation in 1961. The Appeals Court overruled
equipped troops to support Ugandan forces an August 2010 High Court judgment that
fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This prevented access to a water borehole on their
raised hopes of resolving security issues caused lands; the judgment was long overdue as the
by the rebels, who are accused of widespread community won the right to return to their
human rights abuses. The deployment followed lands in a landmark court ruling in 2006.
US legislation aimed at helping disarm the LRA The lack of access to water nearby has made
and bring its leader, Joseph Kony, to justice. it particularly hard for residents to survive. By
The LRA, said to have recruited children early 2012, only one water borehole had been
from minority and marginalized tribes from reopened by Gem Diamonds, the company now

74 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
developing a diamond mine within the reserve.
The Basarwa communities in the CKGR Case study
refused to participate in the 2011 population

Basarwa evicted
and housing census, stating that they did not
feel like citizens of the country. The protest was

over diamonds
motivated by official refusal to provide services
in the CKGR, including a polling station during
the 2009 elections. At the end of 2011, the
government announced that census results would
not be published until the autumn of 2012. While Botswana’s government has never
Recognition of minority languages continues officially admitted to forcibly relocating
to be a particular issue of contention between the G/wi and G//ana communities of the
the Botswanan government and minority and Basarwa indigenous group to make way for
indigenous rights organizations. Despite being diamond-mining operations in the Central
a multi-ethnic state, comprising 45 tribes, Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), critics have
Botswana’s laws and Constitution discriminate long suspected this to be the main motivation
in favour of those from the dominant Tswana- for the removals. When it became known in
speaking group. Reteng, a multicultural coalition late 2010 that Gem Diamonds would begin
group, continues to lobby the government mining operations in the CKGR, suspicions
about teaching minority languages in schools. seem to have been confirmed.
In February, the chairperson of Reteng, Doctor Basarwa were granted the rights to occupy
Ndana Ndana, said that a language policy that land within the CKGR, as a result of a court
recognizes all languages would be an important ruling in 2006, after years of attempted
first step, and that while the government argued
that there were insufficient funds to teach Below: A Basarwa boy in the Kalahari Desert,
minority languages in schools, this problem was Botswana, makes fire by rubbing sticks
not insurmountable. together. Dietmar Temps.
Minority rights groups also continued their
legal struggle for non-discriminatory access
for minority tribes to the House of Chiefs (an
influential body that advises parliament) in 2011.
Under the Constitution only the eight principal
Tswana-speaking tribes are admitted to the
House of Chiefs; there is no guarantee that the
chiefs of any of Botswana’s 37 non-Tswana tribes
will sit in the house. A 2001 High Court ruling
in a case brought by the Wayeyi tribe found that
the exclusion of the Wayeyi from the House was
discriminatory and unjustified. However, despite
the ruling, the government has failed to remedy
this discrimination. The case was lodged with the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’
Rights (ACHPR) by Reteng with support from
MRG, but the Commission declared the case
inadmissible in November, stating that domestic
remedies had not been exhausted. The decision is
currently pending approval by the African Union.

South Africa
South Africa is still grappling with its colonial

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 75

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued legacy, particularly with regard to land and
resource ownership. The government aims to
negotiations, struggle and litigation. redistribute a third of white-owned commercial
Unfortunately, the victory was bitter-sweet as farmland to black farmers by 2014. However,
the government interpreted the ruling in the progress has been slow; in early 2011 the
strictest way possible, only allowing the 189 Minister of Rural Development announced that
actual applicants to return to the reserve. only 5 per cent of land had been redistributed.
They also refused to provide services within The government released a Green Paper on
the park or to re-open the waterholes that Land Reform for public comment in 2011. The
had been closed since 2002. The justification paper aims to provide a framework for discussion
for this was that the Basarwa communities about land reform with different interest groups,
had already been adequately compensated and is underpinned by the desire to redress racial
through the provision of land and services in inequality in the rural economy, ensure that land
the form of settlements outside of the park. is fairly distributed across class, gender and race,
In its press releases about the opening and to ensure greater food security. However,
of its US$ 3 billion Gope mine, Gem critics argue that the document is too vague and
Diamonds made it clear that they would does not adequately address the shortcomings of
work with the CKGR residents to ensure the government’s past efforts at land reform. For
that the communities benefited from the example, the document does not discuss how to
mine. However, many of the promises made secure customary land rights for farmers living
by Gem Diamonds have yet to be delivered. in traditional leadership jurisdictions, such as in
In addition to promising to drill four KwaZulu-Natal. The document also does not
new waterholes for the communities, the address how to protect the rights of women in
company told representatives of Botswana new legislation. Currently, women living in rural
Khwedom Council (BKC), a local NGO, communities that follow customary law can be
that they would establish a community trust particularly vulnerable to discrimination, as some
so that communities could benefit from patriarchal land ownership practices undermine
the mining operations. The Gope mine the rights women have under the country’s
management also met with community Constitution. The document also fails to address
representatives and asked for advice the concerns of San indigenous communities,
regarding hiring members of the indigenous specific to their way of life and communal use of
group. As of early 2012, only one of the land, only explicitly mentioning them as part of
existing waterholes has been reopened, no the larger group of African people.
trust had been established, and it is unclear In early 2011, the government released the
whether members of the communities will most recent draft of the Muslim Marriages
be hired or not. Bill for public comment. The aim of the bill is
Furthermore, there is concern over to ensure that rights of women are protected,
monitoring and ensuring that the needs of while respecting marriage and divorce practices
the communities in the CKGR are met, as under Islamic law. For example, the bill makes
organizations such as the BKC are refused provisions to ensure that women have avenues
permission to enter the reserve and speak to seek divorce and receive adequate support and
to residents about the conditions they live financial compensation in the event of a divorce.
in. With the mine officially opening in The Women’s Legal Centre, an independent law
2013, it is uncertain when the communities centre based in Cape Town, has called for further
will begin to reap the benefits of diamond- additions to the bill: to set a minimum age to
mining on their land. In the meantime, they prevent forced child marriages; and to ensure that
continue to live in abject poverty, still cut off women are entitled to half of their husband’s
from government services. p property in the case of divorce. The Centre has
also called for access to divorce on equal grounds,
as the bill in its present form still favours

76 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
husbands over wives in divorce proceedings. In 2011, the Mthwakazi Liberation Front
Some Muslim organizations have rejected the (MLF), a nationalist Ndebele party, openly
bill, arguing that involvement of civil courts campaigned for the establishment of an
and non-Muslim arbitrators goes against Islamic independent Republic of Mthwakazi (RoM) in
principles. The four-year public discussion period Matabeleland for the Ndebele people. The call
was meant to end on 31 May 2011, but the was met with much contention and resulted
heated debates around the contents of the bill in the arrest of three MLF leaders in early
have made its future uncertain once more. March. The men were charged with treason for
reportedly handing out pamphlets that called
Zimbabwe for members of the national army to defect and
Unable to challenge the seizure of their land support the formation of the RoM. While the
in Zimbabwe, white farmers continued to seek accused were initially refused bail, they were
justice in neighbouring South Africa. In 2010, a eventually released. The original court date was
court ruling in South Africa, implementing a deci- set in November; the trial finally commenced in
sion by the Southern African Development Com- March 2012 but was subsequently adjourned.
munity tribunal, allowed the sale of Zimbabwean MLF’s desire for an independent state stems
government property in Cape Town to provide from wanting to redress the perceived socio-
compensation to farmers. In 2011, the courts economic discrimination towards Ndebele by
overturned an application by the Zimbabwean the Shona majority. Party leader Paul Siwela
government to prevent its assets from being sold maintains that their agenda is not tribalist. He has
on the grounds of diplomatic immunity. But pointed out that Shona and other non-Ndebele
despite the ruling in favour of the farmers, the people settled in the region will be allowed to
auction of the property has yet to be carried out. stay in RoM if they choose to. Siwela also assured
In 2000, land reforms in Zimbabwe began with the public, in a radio interview upon his release,
the forceful reacquisition of property from Zimba- that the MLF’s activities would continue to be
bwe’s 4,000 white farmers. The land was redistrib- peaceful unless the state initiated aggression. But
uted to a million black Zimbabweans, motivated concerns about violent outbreaks remain.
by the legacy of forced evictions under colonial Anglicans in Zimbabwe continue to face harass-
rule in favour of white settlers. Government sup- ment from the state-supported breakaway faction
porters argued that these reforms were integral to led by self-appointed bishop Nolbert Kunonga,
redressing colonial inequalities, but they have been and are unable to gather and worship freely. In
largely condemned by the wider international June 2011, Anglicans were denied access to the
community for their often violent nature. Further- official shrine of African martyr, Bernard Mizeki,
more, the exodus of white farmers from Zimba- for the second year running. In September,
bwe affected the economic stability of the country, leader of the mainstream Anglicans, Bishop Chad
throwing the agricultural sector into turmoil. Gandiya, reported that the seizure of church
Although the land reforms may have property with the cooperation of the police force
contributed to improving food security for at was intensifying; even an orphanage, home to
least some poor farmers, critics have pointed out more than 100 children was targeted for eviction.
that the reforms were not as inclusive as they In October, the Archbishop of Canterbury visited
claimed to be. In 2011, the Zimbabwe Women’s Zimbabwe and met with President Mugabe, who
Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) promised to speak to Kunonga. Shortly after the
asserted that land reform has done little to redress Archbishop’s visit, a High Court judge ruled that
the gender imbalance in land ownership. Women staff members of the Daramombe Mission School
continue to face discrimination under customary would be allowed to return to their posts immedi-
land ownership laws, and national legislation ately, after being served eviction notices the previ-
has inadequately addressed this inequality. ous month. Whether international scrutiny will
Furthermore, land distribution programmes have any lasting impact remains to be seen.
have reportedly discriminated against Ndebele,
Zimbabwe’s largest minority group.

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 77

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy
(APRD), were demobilized.
However, conflict and human rights abuses

against civilians are still rife, fuelled in part by
competition for access to the country’s mineral
resources. These include diamonds, which are
extracted primarily by informal artisanal mining,
Paige Jennings and gold.
Incumbent President François Bozizé, who
Central African Republic took power in a 2003 coup, won a second
Since independence in 1960, the Central African five-year term in January, in the first round
Republic (CAR) has been afflicted by chronic of elections, which while largely peaceful
internal instability, exacerbated by the spillover were denounced as fraudulent by opposition
of conflicts from neighbouring Democratic candidates. President Bozizé is a member of
Republic of Congo (DRC), Chad, Sudan and the Gbaya ethnic group and has been accused,
nearby Uganda. as have previous leaders, of using the
In 2011, the government made some progress country’s mineral wealth to empower his own
towards peace. In June, it signed a ceasefire group’s elite.
agreement with the last remaining rebel group, The year saw several armed confrontations
the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace between the Union of Democratic Forces for
(CPJP), which operates in the north and is Unity (UFDR) militia, dominated by the Gula
reported to be made up primarily of members ethnic group, and the Convention of Patriots for
of the Runga ethnic group. Several thousand Justice (CPJP), which is predominately Runga, as
combatants from another armed group, the mentioned above.

78 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Ba’Aka woman from the Central African of the agreement. However, the impact of the
Republic. Simon Umbreit. proposed initiative on traditional forest-dwelling
communities remains to be seen.
In September, near Bria, the country’s
diamond hub located in the east of the country, Democratic Republic of Congo
the UFDR and CPJP fought for control over a Ongoing conflict in the east
diamond mine, with 50 combatants and civilians Conflict continued during 2011, fuelled by
reportedly killed. In response, over 8,000 people competition for land and resources, and often
reportedly fled their homes. A ceasefire between manipulated by identity-based politics. A
the two groups was signed in October, but the reported 1.7 million people were displaced, the
situation remains volatile. At the height of the majority from the troubled North and South
tensions, reports indicated that fighters went Kivu regions. Continued insecurity contributed
house to house targeting persons belonging to to a slowdown in the rate of return in 2011; the
other ethnic groups. situation for those who did dare to return home
All in all, conflict forced more than 22,000 remained difficult, due in part to land tenure
people from their homes in 2011, bringing the issues. While all returnees face a precarious
total of internally displaced in the country to situation, Batwa or Bambuti have particular
nearly 170,000. Nearly 165,000 CAR nationals problems, reporting lack of access to targeted
are currently refugees in neighbouring countries. support.
Another major source of the upheaval was In North Kivu, the ethnic Hutu Democratic
the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), pushed out Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
of Uganda in 2008. It continued to terrorize continued to fight rival militias and the Armed
civilians across ethnic groups in the south- Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo
east, causing mass internal displacement into (FARDC); all sides have been accused of abuses
towns under control of CAR and/or Ugandan against the civilian population. But minorities,
security forces. One of the drivers of the LRA’s including Batwa or Bambuti, are particularly
continuing expansion into the interior of the vulnerable to attack. In one such incident,
CAR is reported to be access to its mines. soldiers of the FARDC were implicated in mass
Following calls for greater involvement from rapes in the villages of Bushani and Kalambahiro
international and regional human rights and civil on 1 January 2011.
society groups, in October the US government One person was arrested and charged in
announced that it would send 100 military connection with mass rapes by armed groups
advisers to help coordinate efforts against the in July and August 2010 in Walikale (see case
LRA. The UN peacekeeping Mission in Central study), where the army had refused to deploy
African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) after a dispute over control of local mining.
withdrew in late 2010, but a sub-regional In South Kivu, armed groups, as well as the
peacekeeping force remains in place. army itself, continued to attack civilians and
In the CAR’s south, logging continues to affect NGOs. Impunity contributed to all types of
the forest-dwelling Ba’Aka people, disrupting the violence against civilians, including incidents of
hunting and gathering activities that traditionally sexual violence affecting both women and men of
are the mainstay of their livelihoods. The CAR diverse ethnic groups.
is working towards ratification of a Voluntary Despite the February convictions in court of
Partnership Agreement agreed with the EU eight FARDC soldiers and their commanding
(European Union) in late 2010, under the officer for mass rapes carried out in Fizi on 1
EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and January 2011, soldiers defecting from the same
Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to combat illegal army unit in June carried out another series of
logging and associated trade. The ‘rights of mass rapes in nearby villages.
workers, local and indigenous communities’ are Attacks on civilians across ethnic groups by the
included among 10 principles for establishing the LRA intensified in the north-eastern Orientale
legality of timber to be traded under the terms province in the first half of 2011. Tens of

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 79

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Batwa boy wearing a home-made raincoat
with his mother on the outskirts of Kitshanga
village, DRC. Chris Keulen/Panos.

through the presidential and parliamentary

campaign to polling day and subsequent
conflict over results. Targeted killings and
‘disappearances’ of candidates and supporters
were reported, as well as shootings and arrests
of demonstrators. Journalists and human rights
defenders were attacked, detained or threatened.
At times, candidates or their supporters used
apparent ethnic hate speech to incite violence
against opponents, despite an agreed code
of conduct for political parties. Opposition
sympathizers and leaders, such as Kabila’s rival
for the presidency Etienne Tshisekedi, a Kasaian
of Luba origin, were reported to be the most
frequent targets.

Natural resources
The DRC is rich in minerals (see case study),
forest products and energy sources. Many of the
country’s indigenous Batwa or Bambuti peoples
depend in part on forest hunting and gathering,
and have seen their livelihoods threatened by
deforestation. The EU is the DRC’s largest
market for timber. To combat illegal logging,
the DRC is negotiating a Voluntary Partnership
Agreement under the EU FLEGT scheme. The
FLEGT framework includes a specific project to
ensure that civil society organizations, including
indigenous peoples’ organizations, are fully
aware of and encouraged to be involved in the
negotiation process. The DRC government
has also completed a Readiness Preparation
Plan under the UN-REDD (UN Collaborative
thousands were displaced. FARDC soldiers in the Programme on Reducing Emissions from
area were accused of violations, including against Deforestation and Forest Degradation in
the Mbororo, semi-nomadic Islamic pastoralists. Developing Countries) initiative, with several
pilot forestry projects under way.
Violence around parliamentary and As in other countries in the region, 2011 saw
presidential elections new agreements with international investors to
Flawed presidential elections in November significantly expand land under cultivation. One
2011 led to the re-inauguration of incumbent such deal, facilitated by the governor of Katanga
Joseph Kabila. Electoral violence, ranging from province in what he described as an effort to
widespread violations by state security forces increase food security and reduce the area’s
against opposition candidates and activists, to dependency on mining, opened up 14 million
violence between supporters of different political hectares of land to foreign development.
parties, began early in the year. It carried on

80 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
including children, work in harsh conditions in
Case study the mines, at times subject to forced labour or
debt bondage.

Mineral resources
While competition over the mines is obviously
not the root cause of conflict in the DRC –

in the DRC
complex issues of ethnic identity, regional rivalry,
economic interests, political power and access
to land all play a part – the trade has clearly
helped to sustain and perpetuate conflict. Armed
‘We no longer have to suffer this wealth men control some mines directly and also profit
as a curse’ by taxing transport of minerals through their
Over four days in July and August 2010, Following the Walikale findings, the DRC
rebel fighters cut off, encircled and attacked President Joseph Kabila attempted to impose
13 villages in the remote Walikale area of control by mandating the closure, without
North Kivu. At least 387 women, men and community consultation, of all artisanal
children were systematically subjected to production and trade in minerals and ordering
brutal rapes. According to local residents, the demilitarization of mining zones.
most of whom belong to the Nianga ethnic According to some reports, the measures were
group, the attacks were punishment for their not universally enforced throughout the vast
suspected pro-government sympathies. They and remote region, but were reported to have
told UN investigators that they believed rape seriously damaged the livelihoods of individual
was deliberately chosen as a weapon because miners and their families in areas where they
of the stigma traditionally attached to it in were. They were lifted in March 2011.
their culture. Official stakeholders in the mining
UN investigations revealed that the industry, including government officials and
attackers were from three different rebel representatives of artisanal miners, companies
groups that had joined forces so as to buying and trading minerals and concerned civil
force the government into negotiations by society groups, agreed a new code of conduct.
demonstrating their power to harm civilians. Critics pointed out that the code’s scope was
The groups were using the minerals trade in limited given that influential but unofficial actors
the resource-rich area to help finance their such as the army and other armed groups were
activities. Meanwhile, the army commanders not included.
responsible for protecting the villagers were Internationally, efforts focused on regulating
distracted from their duty by the same trade, trade. The Organisation for Economic
having ordered their units not to deploy to Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued
the new posting in Walikale because their old Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply
one was in a more lucrative zone. Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and
The findings caused the government and High-Risk Areas, endorsed by the International
its international partners to stop and take Conference of the Great Lakes Region in
stock of the role of minerals in sustaining December 2010. The UN Security Council
conflict in eastern DRC. The region, which is adopted a similar framework in its November
about the same area as the United Kingdom, resolution on DRC. The global mining industry
is rich in gold, as well as tantalum, tin and has also reportedly drawn up new internal rules
tungsten vital to the electronics industry. regarding ‘conflict minerals’.
Up to 90 per cent of its mining, according Due diligence principles became legally
to the United Nations Environmental binding under Section 1502 of the US Dodd-
Programme (UNEP), is ‘artisanal’, or small- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
scale and informal. Roughly 2 million people, Protection Act, which came into effect in April

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 81

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued Republic of Congo
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of
2011. It required companies listed with the indigenous peoples visited the Republic of
US Securities and Exchange Commission Congo in November 2010. His July 2011
(SEC) to investigate their supply chain report examined the situation of the country’s
and disclose annually for the public record indigenous population, including Ba’Aka, a
whether they used minerals from the DRC traditionally nomadic forest people. Together
or its nine neighbouring countries in their with groups such as Mbendjele, Mikaya, Gyeli,
products. The SEC was charged with Luma, Twa and Babongo, they are distinct from
drawing up implementing regulations, but as the majority Bantu ethnic groups that have held
of this writing they had not been published. political and economic power since independence
Critics of the Dodd-Frank law say that from France in 1960. In the absence of reliable
it has impoverished local miners and census data, these indigenous groups, some of
their communities by forcing companies which still live by hunting and gathering in the
to boycott DRC minerals altogether. In forests, are estimated to make up between 1.4 per
December, the UN Group of Experts on the cent and 10 per cent of the national population.
DRC indicated that in peaceful areas where Building on the National Action Plan on
guidance has been followed, production and the Improvement of the Quality of Life of
exports have increased; but in conflict areas, Indigenous Peoples (2009–13), in February the
few if any changes have been made and Republic of Congo adopted the continent’s first
output has indeed fallen. Moreover, a greater law on indigenous rights. Act No. 5-2011 on
proportion of trade has become criminalized, the Promotion and Protection of Indigenous
and the military and/or armed groups are Populations contains provisions on cultural
still involved. rights, education and collective and individual
Supporters of due diligence argue that rights to land; it explicitly prohibits any form of
time and help are needed to work out discrimination or forced assimilation.
implementation, and that short-term losses While passage of the law is laudable, its
will be more than offset by the long-term enforcement will pose challenges. In November,
benefits. A Walikale NGO, BEDEWA a local NGO, the Congolese Human Rights
(Bureau of Study, Observation, and Observatory, reported ongoing forced labour
Coordination of the Regional Development and debt servitude of some indigenous people by
of Walikale) has written to the SEC in members of the Bantu majority. The UN Special
support of Dodd-Frank. In a public Rapporteur drew attention to the same abuses in
statement in August, the group responded to his report.
critics of the measures: The law’s provisions on individual and
‘Come visit the territory of Walikale to assess collective rights to land and natural resources,
its population’s degree of vulnerability. Come and mandating consultation on any measures
see how this territory and local communities that may affect indigenous communities, may
have not benefited from these riches. Come also prove difficult to enforce. In the area of
see the displacement of populations fleeing agriculture, the Congolese government agreed
atrocities committed by belligerents seeking in March to grant long-term leases of 80,000
to control mining zones... Walikale local hectares of arable land to a South Africa-based
communities must now have a say and express company in an effort to boost productivity.
their views on the exploitation of their resources Indigenous peoples rarely hold formal titles to
and its generated profits sharing. It is necessary lands they have traditionally used, increasing the
to correct past mistakes. We no longer have to risk that their lands may be designated as vacant
suffer this wealth as a curse.’ p or unproductive. In such cases, the lands would
fall under state ownership and could potentially
be made available for lease or sale.
Timber has been the country’s second largest

82 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
export, after oil, and the resulting deforestation margins of mainstream society’.
has in places threatened the livelihoods of In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, in
indigenous communities. The Republic of which as many as 800,000 to 1 million people
Congo exports primarily to the EU and China; – a large part of the country’s minority Tutsi
it was the first Congo Basin nation to agree and population, along with Batwa and moderate
sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement against Hutus – were killed, the Rwandan government
illegal logging under the EU FLEGT Action undertook to promote reconciliation between
Plan. As part of the process, the government the ethnic groups by constitutionally outlawing
has reportedly committed to improvement in ethnic distinctions. However, experts noted
the areas of participation of civil society in the that the government’s refusal to recognize the
allocation of forest rights; inclusion of local existence of minority or indigenous groups
and indigenous people in forest management, has had a negative impact, contravening
including through a community-based approach; international standards by which ethnicity can
and enforcement of rules and agreements be recognized on the basis of self-identification
between companies and local communities. and undermining official efforts to address
The Congolese government also participates in inequalities.
the UN-REDD initiative, launched in 2008 to Specifically, CERD voiced concern at the
combat climate change by reducing deforestation weak impact of government measures to help
and forest degradation in developing countries. Batwa, who continue to suffer poverty and
It is negotiating a pilot project under the discrimination with regard to access to education,
programme. Some elements of the national housing, social services and employment; and
REDD+ strategy would reportedly take place in at the failure to replace lands expropriated
areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, and the from them for the creation of nature reserves,
process has highlighted the need to ensure that disrupting their traditional lifestyles.
they take part in and benefit from the activities. One area of controversy in late 2010 and 2011
In his report, the UN Special Rapporteur was the official ‘Bye Bye Nyakatsi’ programme
noted the potential impact of the REDD for replacing traditional thatched roof houses
programme on indigenous lands and resources, with iron-roofed ones. While the government
but drew attention to concerns expressed to him described the programme as an effort to ensure
about inadequate consultation and participation adequate housing for all, experts argued that it
of indigenous peoples in the REDD process, affected Batwa disproportionately due to their
as well as a perceived lack of detail regarding frequent use of traditional building methods, and
the rights of indigenous peoples to share in the that it had in the short-term appeared to leave
benefits of any government revenues from the many without shelter.
programme. In 2011, the Congolese government
announced a 1 million hectare reforestation Dealing with the legacy of the genocide
project (roughly 5 per cent of the national CERD, the Independent Expert and the UPR
territory). outcomes all expressed concern about vaguely
worded laws prohibiting ‘genocide ideology’ and
Rwanda ‘divisionism’. Though the authorities pledged
In 2011, a landmark visit by the UN Independent to review the laws, they continued to be used to
Expert on Minority Issues, as well as examinations prosecute government critics, including journalists
by the UN Committee for the Elimination of and opposition politicians, for what in many cases
Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Universal appeared to be the simple exercise of free speech.
Periodic Review (UPR) process, highlighted The International Criminal Tribunal for
key concerns about treatment of the Batwa Rwanda (ICTR) continued to prosecute those
community. The Batwa number around 33,000, responsible for genocide and other serious
or roughly 1 per cent of Rwanda’s population; violations of international humanitarian law
according to the Independent Expert, they live ‘in during 1994. At the end of 2011 there was one
conditions of great hardship and poverty on the person awaiting trial, three cases in progress, 44

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 83

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
completed cases, and nine accused still at large.
A female former government minister, four
senior military commanders and two leaders

of the dominant political party in 1994 were
among those found guilty and sentenced during
2011. For the first time, in 2011 three cases
were transferred from the ICTR to Rwandan
jurisdiction. Ukoha Ukiwo
The fragility of Mali, one of Africa’s landlocked
countries, was exposed with the resumption of

84 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: A Tuareg woman carries water through a
sandstorm at Lake Banzena, Gourma Region,
Mali. Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos.

Azawad (MNLA), a movement founded at the

end of 2011, spurred by the return of thousands
of Tuaregs from fighting for Muammar Gaddafi
in Libya.
The resumption of the conflict towards the end
of 2011 led to the displacement of pastoralists
in northern Mali to other parts of the country
and to neighbouring Niger Republic. Many of
the internally displaced (IDPs) and refugees had
to leave their livestock when fleeing, while those
who could salvage some livestock have difficulty
being admitted to IDP and refugee camps,
which are not designed to provide sanctuary for
During 2011, minorities also faced difficulties
arising from the commodification of natural
resources. For instance, Dogon people, who
live in the arid Mopti plateau region, faced
exploitation by water privatization programmes,
which have reduced their access to water,
excluded them from water management and
undermined Dogon culture, which is intimately
linked to water. In June 2011, the Mali
Committee for the Defence of Water wrote in a
report that these water privatization programmes
were in violation of a 2010 UN Resolution that
declared the right to water and sanitation as a
fundamental human right.
The Malian government has recently granted
about half a million hectares of land concessions
to large investors, according to a 2011 report by
the Oakland Institute. Thousands of hectares of
land were sold to mainly foreign buyers during
2011, by the government, which is desperate for
the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali following foreign investment, at a very low price, displacing
the revolution that toppled the Libyan dictator smallholder farmers and minority groups. The
Muammar Gaddafi. Nomadic Tauregs are one biggest buyers include Malibya from Libya
of Mali’s nine main ethnic groups. Mali has (100,000 hectares), China (17,000 hectares),
experienced a series of Tuareg uprisings since the West African Economic and Monetary
the 1960s, in which Tuaregs have demanded Union (14,000 hectares) and Tomota, a Malian
recognition of their identity and an independent company (100,000 hectares).
state in the north of the country. The latest Land deals include the right to extract water
uprising ended the fragile peace established for irrigation at very low prices, which is radically
between separatists and the government in 2009. reducing water available for indigenous groups
Insurgents organized themselves under the banner and farmers. For example, a lease granted to
of the National Movement for the Liberation of Moulin Moderne du Mali – a public–private

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 85

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
partnership with the Malian government – elected its first civilian president from a minority
involves a rent-free lease of 20,000 hectares on the ethnic group. Dr Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw
banks of the Niger River. This project has affected from the Niger Delta region, was sworn in
the Samana Dugu indigenous community in the as president following the death of President
Office du Niger, West Africa’s largest irrigated Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010. In the April 2011
zone. Samana Dugu who opposed the deal report general elections, Jonathan defeated General
serious threats to their livelihoods, with little or Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of
no consultation or compensation. The Secretary state and candidate of the opposition Congress
of State in charge of development in the Office du for Progressive Change (CPP), which drew most
Niger zone denies that the communities living on of its support from the Hausa and Fulani ethnic
the leased lands are indigenous and has stated that groups in the north.
such communities have ‘installed themselves’ on However, apart from its symbolism, the
the land without permission. Violent attacks on electoral victory of Jonathan has not changed the
indigenous groups and smallholder famers have fortunes of minorities in the country. Although
been reported. In June 2010, men, women and the amnesty for Niger Delta militants which
young people from the Samana Dugu community came into force in 2009 held for much of 2011,
protested against the work of bulldozers and Niger Delta minority communities – including
the cutting of hundreds of their trees. About 70 Etche, Ijaw, Kalibari and Ogoni – continued to
gendarmes were brought in to quell their protest. experience environmental devastation due to oil
Protesters were beaten and about 40 of them were spills and gas flares. Decades of oils spills from
arrested, among them 14 women. multinational oil company operations, sabotage
Despite Mali’s limited availability of arable of pipelines and widespread gas flaring have left
land and food scarcity, much of the land leased the Niger Delta heavily polluted. Oil spills from
is used to grow crops for bio-fuels or for water- dilapidated infrastructure were aggravated by
intensive rice cultivation. The land acquired spillage caused by the activities of oil thieves.
by the Libyan company in Segou, the most Throughout the year, authorities of the Nigerian
fertile region of the country, also includes a 40 National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
km canal. In November 2011, farmers and repeatedly acknowledged that 150,000 barrels
indigenous groups organized an International of oil were being lost to illegal oil bunkering
Conference of Peasant Farmers in Sélingué which every day.
aimed to stop the land and water grabs. A 2011 report published by United Nations
The livelihoods of minorities in Mali are Environmental Programme (UNEP) found that
also increasingly negatively impacted by gold- oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread and
mining. The growing presence of multinational severely affecting the environment. Cleaning up
companies involved in gold-mining across oil pollution in the Ogoniland region may require
western Mali is having an adverse impact on US$ 1 billion and take up to 30 years. The UN
pastoralists and agriculturalists. For example, report found that oil contamination had migrated
Fulani, Soninke and Bamana minority groups into the groundwater in at least eight spill sites
have been negatively impacted by cyanide that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell had claimed
poisoning caused by the Sadiola mine in the far they had cleaned up, according to Human Rights
west of the country. There are also 200 artisanal Watch (HRW). The Ogoni forced Shell to stop
mining sites, most of which operate outside the exploration and production activities in their land
government’s regulatory framework. Mining after the Nigerian government ordered Ogoni
methods are mostly substandard, involving use environmental rights activists, including Ken
of highly poisonous mercury and exploitation of Saro-Wiwa, to be killed in 1995. At the end of
child labour. February 2012, the US Supreme Court heard
whether or not corporations can be held liable
Nigeria for complicity in human rights abuses outside the
The year 2011 can be described as the ‘Year country. The case specifically concerns the alleged
of Minorities’ in Nigeria because the country involvement of Shell in the torture and killing of

86 Africa State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Ogoni activists.
In the north-central region of the country,
inhabited mostly by ethnic minorities, several
communities continued to witness violent clashes
between local farmers and migrant herders.
Clashes are linked to increasing desertification,
which has forced pastoralists to move southwards
in search of pasture for their cattle. Pressures
on land arising from an increase in population
and land grabbing by commercial farmers have
undermined existing regulations on resource
use as encroachment on pastoral corridors and
grazing reserves forces pastoralists to graze on
farmlands. Estimates of casualties vary. HRW
reported that 200 people were killed in Plateau
State between January and April 2011.
Between January and June 2011, 100 people
were killed in clashes between Tiv farmers and
Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, and over 20,000
persons displaced and scores of communities
destroyed. Towards the end of the year, another
5,000 people were displaced in Benue and
Nasarawa States as Fulani herdsmen clashed
with farmers. Up to 10 people were killed in the
attacks. The perennial tensions between herders
and farmers over land and water use have become
more complicated as the two occupational groups
are on opposite sides of the ethno-religious
faultlines. Attacks perpetrated by suspected
members of the Boko Haram Islamist group,
which launched several suicide attacks in Nigeria,
including the August bombing of the UN office
in Abuja, have increasingly targeted farming
communities in dispute with pastoralists. The
ethnic and religious dimensions of the conflict
appear to be overshadowing the underlying basis,
which is competition over natural resources.
The government has focused on so-called anti-
terrorism campaigns while failing to address
resource depletion and ethnic conflict in the
country, particularly between minority groups. p

State of the World’s Minorities Africa 87

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Alaska (US)






Hawaiian Islands (US) MEXICO
BELIZE Puerto Rico (US)

Guyane (Fr.)





Maurice Bryan
he resource-rich Americas region is populations tended to have only a limited effect.
socially and economically diverse, with In 2011, the consistent failure of most states
millions of indigenous and African in the Americas to comply with these norms
descendant populations as well as immigrants in good faith, often resulted in non-receipt of
of European, Asian-Pacific and Middle Eastern promised land titles, privatization of communal
ancestry. In 2011, the most disadvantaged and lands, forced removals and inadequate access to
vulnerable continued to be people of African and decision-making processes on the use of their
indigenous origin. This is due to the enduring territories, resources and the resulting revenues.
influence of cultural attitudes, economic policies A specific recurring factor, where large resource
and social patterns established during the earliest extraction and infrastructure projects are being
centuries of colonial expansion. These are still planned or implemented, was inadequate
reflected in contemporary issues such as disloca- compliance or complete circumvention of
tion from traditional lands for large-scale agricul- legally required free, prior and informed consent
ture and natural resource extraction. processes. Activists in countries such as Canada,
During 2011, the strong global competition Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru especially pointed
for diminishing primary resources – including by to the lack of standard national guidelines and
newly industrializing nations – contributed to an mandated procedures that can and ought to
increasing drive to exploit previously untouched be followed by national officials during such
lands, alternative energy sources and untapped consultation processes.
mineral deposits. Significantly, many of these are Added to this reality, indigenous and
located in the often remote areas traditionally African descendant communities in most
occupied by indigenous and African descendant Central and some South American states faced
communities. The result is that during 2011, constricted public investment, limited economic
indigenous peoples and African descendants in opportunities, poor access to social services,
most Central and South American countries high levels of public insecurity and the strong
continued to struggle against attempts to separate influence of organized criminal enterprises. All of
them from their ancestral lands, and in North these challenges were exaggerated by the generally
America fought against efforts to limit their right weak state presence in remote geographical zones,
to control the resources within their territories. as well as by fragile institutions, uneven justice
administration, politicized judicial systems,
Clearly seen but treated hard and continuing high levels of corruption and
In South American countries such as Bolivia, impunity – particularly in Central and South
Chile, Ecuador and Peru, indigenous peoples America. In Central American states especially,
who protested against government decisions to this was reflected in the ongoing militarization
use natural resources for revenue accumulation of civil society and the increasing use of private
were sometimes criminalized. Indigenous peoples paramilitary forces in the service of powerful
and rural African descendants who mobilized to special interest groups bent on the dispossession
defend their interests – in Argentina, Colombia of indigenous and African descendant
and Honduras – were often seen as ‘standing communal lands.
in the way of development’, resulting in their
being not only criminalized by the state but Partial to progress
also threatened, harassed, forcibly evicted and A key element in forcible land alienation during
sometimes even assassinated by non-state agents. 2011 was the continuing drive to expand large-
Constitutional allowances and international scale mono-crop bio-fuel plantations, as well
treaties such as the UN International Labour as the extensive region-wide efforts to increase
Organization Convention No. 169 (ILO 169) and hydrocarbon extraction, mining, and mega-
the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous projects such as dams and highways through
Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Inter-American traditionally held lands. All of these had a direct
Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) standards and also indirect – mostly negative – impact on
developed to safeguard the rights of these indigenous and African descendant communities

90 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
that were routinely excluded from key planning This contributed to conflicts between
and decision-making processes and denied indigenous communities and private resource
opportunities for meaningful prior consultation, extraction companies, which, in contrast to the
often prompting them to seek legal redress. As affected groups, are significantly facilitated by
a consequence, during 2011, some governments legal authorities and the judicial system.
that earlier enjoyed significant support from
indigenous groups and organizations, especially Natural gas explosion
in Bolivia and Ecuador, found such cooperation According to the US Department of Energy,
diminishing as original peoples sought to Argentina possesses the world’s third largest
safeguard or exercise their legally guaranteed potential reserves of unconventional gas – 774
rights. trillion cubic feet. Reports by Argentina’s
During 2011, the combination of these factors Neuquen Observatory on Indigenous Peoples’
coupled with unprecedented climate disasters Rights indicate that of the 59 Mapuche
– extensive floods and landslides – across all communities in southern Argentina, 19 are
of Central America as well as in many South affected by the hydrocarbon industry or live in
American countries, posed significant challenges areas being considered by companies looking to
to vulnerable indigenous and African descendant expand exploration.
communities. The overall result was a continuing In the Chubut province in Patagonia, an oil
constraint to their self-determination, general concession granted in June 2011 prompted
socio-economic stagnation and, in extreme cases, Mapuche Tehuelche communities to hold a
further degradation of the quality of their lives. trawun (parliament) in mid-October to evaluate
the impacts of the industry. In Chaco province,
Argentina 12 resource extraction blocks have been created.
According to the Additional Survey on Some affect indigenous Wichi, Qom and Moquit
Indigenous Populations, published by the lands, where the local Servicios Energéticos del
National Institute of Statistics and Censuses Chaco and the state-owned Argentina Energy
(INDEC), the indigenous population in Service began exploring for hydrocarbons in mid-
Argentina is about 600,000. A census was 2011.
conducted in 2010 but was criticized by minority This expansion is meeting with criticism.
and indigenous activists for lack of accuracy Members of the Mapuche community charge
and under-counting of Argentina’s African that the Argentine government’s aggressive
descendant population and the 19 indigenous push to increase energy supplies by allowing oil
peoples. These include Mapuche, Toba, Wichi/ company exploration on their lands will cause
Mataco, Guaraní/Mbyá, Chiriguano, Quechua irreversible social and environmental damage.
and Aymara. In November 2011, the Gelay Ko Mapuche
According to local MRG partner organization community in Neuquen province blocked gas-
Casa de la Cultura Indo-Afro-Americana, a well drilling work on their land by the US oil
major preoccupation of indigenous communities company Apache. Among their complaints was
during 2011 continued to be insecurity over that they had not been consulted about the
land-ownership and the many problems and project. They demanded that the provincial
delays they encounter when trying to obtain government create commissions to evaluate the
legal titles. Indigenous people such as the Toba, social and environmental impact as well as to
Wichi/Mataco and Mapuche continued to be monitor oil company activities.
especially concerned about the lack of dialogue During 2011, Salta province in northern
and participation prior to the start of resource Argentina was also the scene of conflict between
extraction and other economic projects on the extractive industry and indigenous groups.
their lands. In many instances, land traditionally In October and November, the Wichí Lewetes
occupied by indigenous groups was Kalehi and Lote 6 communities tried to stop
appropriated by the authorities, especially at seismic testing on their territory. They reported
the provincial level. being harassed by the police as well as by the

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 91

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Above: An indigenous woman walks near the acquiring a standard Spanish-language education.
village of Colchani, Bolivia, on Salar de Uyuni, Many indigenous communities retain their
the biggest salt lake in the world. The people of own languages, but illiteracy rates in the
the village make a living by mining the salt. country’s north-east, where many indigenous
Ivan Kashinsky/Panos. peoples live, is more than twice the 1.9 per cent
national average. Lack of access to bilingual
exploration company contracted by the Unión education is partly due to a shortage of trained
Transitoria de Empresas Maxipetrol. teachers; in part, this is caused by an absence of
Following an 11-day visit to Argentina in measures to facilitate university entry for eligible
2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights indigenous students.
of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, concluded
that the government must strengthen legal Bolivia
mechanisms securing indigenous land-ownership Bolivia is a landlocked country, extremely rich
and establish a meaningful dialogue with in natural resources but with a historically
communities in decisions which affect them. downtrodden indigenous majority (approximately
60 per cent of the population). Bolivia’s
Continuing marginalization first indigenous president Evo Morales, has
In addition to territorial issues, Argentina’s internationally championed the rights of
indigenous peoples in their often remote indigenous peoples and the environment.
locations remained concerned about the lack Nonetheless, the country relies heavily on
of access to adequate education. This includes resource extraction as the main source of the
bilingual instruction and inter-cultural exchanges revenue and foreign exchange used for national
to help keep indigenous languages alive while also development.

92 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
In Bolivia, resource extraction is also a Highway blues
cottage industry. There are about 650 mining One 300 km stretch of this 1,400 km route
cooperatives consisting of some 75,000 is slated to run between the departments
mostly indigenous members, which operate (provinces) of Beni and Cochabamba, crossing
in the mineral-rich but impoverished western the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous
highlands. The artisan miners extract tin, Territory (TIPNIS). The park land is collectively
tungsten, silver, zinc and gold. Hundreds of owned by some 15,000 people of the Moxeño,
women cooperative members work up to 14 Yuracaré and Chimane indigenous groups, who
hours a day in the freezing tunnels dug into were granted collective property rights in 2009.
the side of high-altitude mountains and deep Some organizations are opposed to any major
underground. Previously, women miners were road construction through TIPNIS, however
given the most menial tasks and were only the government argues that the road is needed
recently recognized as cooperative partners and to promote national integration and provide
shareholders; now there are some women-only services, such as health and education to remote
cooperatives. Still, women miners with little indigenous communities. Protests turned violent
schooling and limited financial experience during 2011.
remain at a particular disadvantage when selling Critics charge that the highway project runs
minerals to intermediary buyers. counter to the 2009 Bolivian Constitution, which
grants broad rights to indigenous communities,
Indigenous sceptics and to national laws that declare TIPNIS and
In April 2010, Bolivia hosted the ‘The First other collectively owned land the ‘inalienable and
World Conference of the People on Climate indivisible’ property of indigenous communities.
Change’. It included the drafting of a Universal Arguably the strongest accusations relate to
Declaration of Rights for ‘Mother Earth’, which Bolivia’s apparent non-compliance with ILO 169
assigns the earth value that is independent of regarding free, prior and informed participation
human interests – including the right to be with respect to projects affecting indigenous
respected and cared for. However, during 2011 a territories. Bolivia ratified the convention in
number of proposed development mega-projects 1989.
have caused some indigenous organizations to A coalition of dissenting groups – indigenous
question the government’s international stance, and environmental activists, spearheaded by
while their home-grown environmental and social CIDOB – began a 500 km march from Beni
concerns apparently go unaddressed. to La Paz in August, to protest against the
In 2011, organizations such as the 1 million- road. In September 2011, about 1,000 of the
member Confederation of Indigenous Peoples anti-highway protest marchers were stopped
of Bolivia (CIDOB) continued to complain by police. According to media reports, security
about slow progress in titling of indigenous forces used tear gas and truncheons to break up
ancestral lands and plans to establish settlements the gathering. Hundreds of activists were also
in forest reserves, including attempts by new detained but later released. Several high-profile
settlers to undermine indigenous territorial rights. government officials resigned over the violent
Indigenous groups are also concerned about crackdown.
plans for hydroelectric dams and the ongoing At the end of September 2011, President Evo
seismic testing, drilling and mining operations Morales suspended highway construction plans.
throughout the Amazon basin and south-eastern The government announced that local regions
Bolivia. CIDOB has accused the government of and indigenous peoples would be given a chance
using ‘dishonest and corrupt prior consultation to vote in a referendum, although it could take
methods’ to obtain approval from indigenous up to six months or more to organize one. And
communities for some projects. This includes in October, Bolivia’s lower house approved a bill
the construction of the US$ 415 million trans- formally suspending construction of the Beni–
Bolivian trade/export highway linking Brazil’s Cochabamba portion of the highway pending
Atlantic coast with Chile’s Pacific coast. a consultation with the affected indigenous

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 93

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
peoples. It also officially declared TIPNIS an (it uses 50,000 litres a day) open-pit mine that
ecological reserve that is of ‘fundamental interest threatens local soil and water quality. In April
to the nation’. However, the delay did not meet 2010, angry community protesters set fire to
with universal approval within indigenous circles. offices and overturned loaded railroad cars used
Towards the end of 2011, another organization, to export minerals.
the Indigenous Council of the South Artisanal mining has a long history in the
(CONISUR) which represents 20 member- area, and it was the Uyuni Regional Peasant
communities in the affected reserve, organized a Federation that initially proposed the industrial
march of their own – this time in support of the lithium mining project. Therefore, south-west
road project. Potosí’s indigenous communities in general
As Bolivia’s rights advocates pointed out, the welcome the new industry. Nonetheless, there
2011 highway controversy highlighted the need are unresolved issues related to land-ownership
for standard procedures that can be followed in and resource royalties. Potosí civic and union
prior consultations with indigenous communities. leaders believe the department is entitled
A draft bill on prior consultations had already to a greater part of the lithium benefits for
been introduced in the Bolivian Congress. It local development; in 2011, the government
outlines binding procedures and standard legisla- allocated just 5 per cent of lithium royalties to
tive and administrative guidelines for mining, the area.
logging, oil drilling or infrastructure projects. Additionally, some indigenous communities
However, at the end of 2011, as observers noted, are especially concerned about the potential for
given the current dispute over the TIPNIS high- a serious water crisis as a result of mining in an
way project, there could be a notable delay in the area already short of this resource for traditional
passage of this particular measure. agriculture and herding. Large quantities of toxic
chemicals will also be needed to process the
Lithium expansion lithium. Experience in neighbouring Chile points
In early 2011 Bolivia moved a step closer to to the possibility of chemical leaching, mountains
the goal of becoming a world leader in the of discarded salt, soil contamination and huge
production of lithium and its by-products – the canals filled with chemically polluted water. At
country has the largest reserves in the world. the end of 2011, indigenous communities in
Lithium is a key ingredient in the manufacture Potosí could only hope that the government’s
of the rechargeable batteries used in millions of US$ 30 million allocation for lithium waste-
mobile phones and laptop computers. Lithium management and other measures to reduce
reserves are located in the country’s Salar de environmental impact will be enough to avoid
Uyuni, a vast expanse of scenic lakes, marshes potential problems.
and salt flats in Bolivia’s mineral-rich south-
west Potosí province. Traditionally indigenous Brazil
communities in the area have relied on the Salar A century after thousands of mainly Anglophone
de Uyuni for salt harvesting, llama herding, the Afro-Caribbean workers moved into the
production of highly nutritious quinoa grains Brazilian Amazon to build the Madeira–
and, recently, for tourism. Mamoré ‘rubber boom’ railway, a new wave
With lithium sales expected to jump of Caribbean migrants is now arriving to join
from US$ 100 million to US$ 103 billion Brazil’s estimated 90 million African descendant
annually over the next 20 years, a number of population. Brazil has become an increasingly
international corporations and governments attractive destination for economic migrants
have been seeking deals with the Bolivian from Haiti, who find it difficult to get entry
government. Among these is the giant visas for their first choice countries – the US
Sumitomo Corporation, which already has a and France. Since the 2010 Port-au-Prince
stake in the controversial San Cristóbal silver, earthquake, around 4,000 Haitians have gone
zinc and lead mine also located in the Potosí to Brazil in search of economic opportunity;
region. San Cristóbal is a large water-intensive with some 85 per cent finding employment.

94 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
In January 2012, the Brazilian authorities
announced a one-off plan to grant residence visas Case study
to those Haitians already in the country while

Belo Monte Dam:

tightening border controls.

Drowning out
Murder of Guarani leader
Large infrastructure projects in Brazil such as

indigenous protests
dam and highway construction have played a
major role in promoting expansion into the

in the Brazilian
Amazon since the 1970s, bringing deforestation
and land-grabbing conflicts, including the

invasion of ancestral lands and massacres of
indigenous people.
According to Amnesty International, in early
November 2011 Nísio Gomes, a religious leader
and rights defender of the Guarani indigenous Belo Monte, which translates as ‘Beautiful
group in the south-western Brazilian state of Hill’, is located in the northern Pará state
Mato Grosso do Sul, was made to lie on the of Brazil. Ever since the federal government
ground by some 40 masked gunmen and then publicized its intention to construct a giant
executed in front of his son and community hydroelectric energy facility in the Amazo-
members. His body was taken and three children nian rainforests of Pará, a heated national
were abducted. It is the latest incident in the and international debate has arisen over the
decades-long land dispute between Guarani form, function and implications of the proj-
and local ranchers who – with impunity – ect – especially with respect to indigenous
employ hired gunmen in violent attacks against peoples and the overall environment. The
indigenous people attempting to reclaim ancestral Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project was
lands. The spiritual leader and up to 70 other first proposed back in 1987 by the Brazilian
Guarani had recently returned to their traditional power company Electrobras. Despite its mas-
lands after being evicted by cattle ranchers some sive size, it was intended to be just one unit
30 years ago. of a monumental six-dam Amazon mega-
Based on federal government estimates, there project; however the resulting outcry led to
are over 40,000 Guarani in Brazil. This makes the shelving of the other five plans. In 2005,
them the largest indigenous group in the country. the Belo Monte project was declared a prior-
However in 2011, their existence continued to ity by the administration of President Luiz
be threatened by the extensive patchwork of Inácio Lula da Silva. Dam construction was
cattle ranching, and soya and sugar cane bio- then fast-tracked by the Brazilian Congress
fuel plantations illegally established on their leading to increased overall momentum as
traditional lands. well as the related controversy.
Contention within the government
Uncontacted community itself led to the resignation in late 2009 of
In the Amazon state of Maranhão, Awá, one of two senior environmental agency officials.
the last nomadic hunter-gathering groups left in Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office
the Amazon, now face extinction according to also filed suit to stop the dam. It charged
Survival International. In the 1980s a railway was that the region’s indigenous peoples had not
built through Awá territory to extract massive been consulted as required by the Brazilian
iron ore deposits; loggers, settlers and cattle Constitution (Article 231) as well as by
ranchers soon followed. Survival International Brazil’s obligations under ILO 169 and other
estimates there are currently only about 350 international agreements.
surviving members, more than 100 of whom Upon taking office in 2009, Lula’s
have had no contact with the outside world.

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 95

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued km of pristine rainforest land, drowning trees and
wildlife and causing population dislocation.
successor, President Vilma Rousseff, continued to The National Indigenous Foundation
push for construction while criticism mounted. (FUNAI) – the government agency responsible
The government argued that the massive US$ for protecting the country’s indigenous
17 billion project is crucial for development and Amerindian population – has publicly
will create jobs, as well as provide electricity for claimed there will be no direct effects on any
millions of homes. indigenous group. However, this does not
Opponents of the Belo Monte dam charge that apply to indigenous peoples on lands that
the hydro-project offers little real benefit either are not demarcated as tribal territory. In fact,
to indigenous communities or to the majority of although the Brazilian government estimates
the national population. In addition to displacing that the dam will displace about 16,000 people,
thousands of indigenous people, they state that it environmental groups such as Amazon Watch
will produce publicly subsidized energy primarily put the figure at 40,000. They point out
for the large privately owned extractive industries that it will directly affect the livelihoods and
in the Amazon region. threaten the survival of the thousands of Arara,
The Belo Monte dam is expected to produce Juruna and Kayapó indigenous peoples who
around 11,200 megawatts of power and will be live downstream. Environmentalists warn that
the third largest in the world. When completed diverting some branches of the Xingu River will
in 2019, the 5 km wide dam will back up the cause abnormally low water levels during the dry
Xingu River, which is one of the main tributaries season. This will likely disrupt the reproductive
of the giant Amazon River, and flood 500 square cycles of some species of turtles and fish that have

96 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Below: Activists gather in Avinada Paulista, judge blocked dam construction citing
São Paulo, Brazil, to protest against the Belo 29 unmet environmental criteria. The
Monte Dam in June 2011. Pedro Ribeiro. government appealed the stop order. At the
end of March 2011, the IACHR also asked
traditionally provided food security for Amazon Brazil to stop the dam’s licensing process
indigenous communities. In addition, according until its developers consulted with indigenous
to electrical engineering experts, even under groups and environmentalists in the area.
optimum conditions the huge costly dam will The Brazilan government’s response
only function at 10 per cent of potential capacity was immediate, uncompromising and
during Brazil’s three- to five-month dry season. unprecedented. The country’s foreign
In the face of the apparent inevitability of ministry publicly rejected the IACHR
construction, a united opposition emerged, request, calling its move ‘unjustified’.
consisting of indigenous communities, the President Rousseff also decided to
Movement of People Affected by Dams – which immediately halt Brazil’s approximately US$
claims to represent 1 million people displaced 800,000 annual contribution to the IACHR.
from their lands by other dams – as well as several Furthermore, the government decided to
environmental organizations and scientists. In late withdraw from Brazil’s 2012 participation
2010, indigenous groups filed a complaint with in the IACHR itself. The country suspended
the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights the membership on the IACHR of Brazil’s
(IACHR). They claimed their right to free, prior candidate – a former Human Rights Minister
and informed consent had not been respected. under the previous administration. Shortly
During February 2011, a Brazil federal court thereafter, in June 2011, the Brazilian
environmental agency gave final approval to
the dam.
In November 2011, in response to
more suits filed by environmentalists and
indigenous groups, a federal court handed
down a ruling in favour of the project. While
one judge raised concerns, another noted that
while consultations with indigenous groups
were ‘informative’, they were not relevant to
the decisions made by the Brazilian Congress.
Judge Maria do Carmo Cardoso argued that
since the actual infrastructure of the Belo
Monte dam and its reservoirs would not
be physically located on indigenous lands,
she saw no need for consultation with the
indigenous groups. There was also special
concern about her statement that ‘indigenous
peoples should consider themselves
“privileged” to be consulted about large
projects that affect their livelihoods’.
The conflicting opinions of the judicial
panel as well as the fact that the case involves
a constitutional issue, all but ensures that the
legal turbulence caused by the Belo Monte
dam and its effect on indigenous populations
will continue to eddy all the way up to the
Supreme Federal Court of Brazil. p

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 97

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Chile Right: A Mapuche woman is detained by police
In 2011, the acute socio-economic divide persisted officers during a demonstration in support of
between the majority population and most of the four imprisoned Mapuche activists outside of
indigenous peoples of Chile, especially Mapuche Chile’s Supreme Court in Santiago, June 2011.
people in the south and Aymara in the north. AP Photo/Roberto Candia.
In southern Chile, discontent over the historical
loss of ancestral lands, waterways and forest total of 34 Mapuche prisoners staged a hunger
resources continued to smoulder during 2011. strike at several facilities in south-central Chile
In the mineral-rich arid north, many indigenous in protest against the law. This ended after 82
Aymara men and women joined a rural-to-urban days when the government agreed to amend the
exodus, aggravated by national policies that do Anti-Terrorist Law, and to stop using military
not recognize collective land rights. tribunals against Mapuche civilians.
Nevertheless the controversial anti-terrorism
Mapuche resistance 2011 legislation was used once again against the four
In late November 2011, Mapuche protesters prisoners charged in the 2008 convoy attack. The
in the southern region of Araucania once repeat use of the law was seen as a violation of
again clashed with Chilean police. They the 2010 accord and considered reason enough to
demonstrated against plans to build an airport on mount another hunger strike in 2011.
Mapuche land; police used tear gas against the
demonstrators, who were blocking the highway. Water resource ownership
In January, the Santiago Court of Appeals had Resource extraction and water rights affected
rejected the Mapuche claim and ruled that the Chile’s indigenous populations during 2011. In
airport project could go ahead. The decision was Chile, water is not a public good nor is it any
criticized for not adequately taking into account longer a resource tied to land-ownership – as it
the consultation requirements of ILO 169. The was up to the mid 1980s. Water privatization in
Chilean government has reportedly committed the 1980s gave priority to commodity production
to holding roundtable talks and set aside US$ 40 for international export – grapes and other fruits,
million for local development. cereals and vegetables – and favoured majority
Earlier, in June 2011, four Mapuche prisoners urban areas.
being held in Victoria prison in southern Chile Water management is regulated according
ended their 86-day hunger strike after Chile’s to the 1981 Water Code and, like the anti-
Supreme Court agreed to lower their sentences terrorism legislation used against the Mapuche,
from between 20 and 25 years to a maximum of it was developed by the Pinochet regime. It is
15 years. The four were charged with an October based on private sector development of water
2008 shotgun ambush on the police convoy of markets and infrastructure with tradeable water
a public prosecutor, who lost a limb. Roman permits. Regulatory agencies are meant to
Catholic Church mediators and human rights provide oversight, but critics have charged that
advocates pledged to convene a commission to Chile’s system for buying and selling water is
review the use of Chile’s anti-terrorism legislation exceptionally permissive, with little government
against indigenous activists. control or environmental safeguards. They also
Mapuche demonstrations and hunger strikes point to growing competition for water between
have been an almost annual occurrence since agro-industry operators, resource extraction
1984 when the state enacted the Anti-Terrorist industries and the nation’s cities in a situation
Law No. 19.027 during the military dictatorship of limited supply. A 2005 reform to the 1981
of General Augusto Pinochet. The law was aimed Water Code addressed some social equity and
at curbing Mapuche protests over the loss of their environmental protection concerns but did
lands and resources. Among other controversial little to alter the underlying structure. Private
features, the law allows for military trials and ownership of water resources is so concentrated
the use of anonymous witnesses who cannot be in some areas that a single electricity company
cross-examined by the defence. During 2010, a from Spain, Endesa, has bought up to 80 per

98 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
State of the World’s Minorities Americas 99
and Indigenous Peoples 2012
cent of the water rights in a large part of the life is centred around high water table marshes
Mapuche-claimed south, causing an outcry. known as the Bofedal, used for feeding llamas
While privatization may have encouraged and alpacas. The ecologically integrated bofedales
infrastructure investment, academic researchers need permanent water inundation to survive. If
and environmentalists argue that Chile’s system water is diverted or reduced, the sun burns the
is inherently unsustainable because it promotes plant roots causing permanent ruin. Nevertheless
speculation, endangers the environment in Chile, indigenous collective water rights have
and allows smaller interests like indigenous never been recognized by government agencies.
communities to be squeezed out by powerful Springs that accumulate in the mountains on
forces, like Chile’s giant mining industry. indigenous lands can be traded away leaving
Chile’s water originates in springs and glaciers parched bofedales that cannot be revived.
high in the Andes mountains. While it is a low University of Chile researchers reported that
emitter of greenhouse gases, it is the planet’s the rights to the highland spring in one of the
ninth most vulnerable country to climate indigenous communities of the Salado River
change. One result is that many of the glaciers tributary of the Loa River were given to the
are melting at an increasing rate, and the Fourth copper mining giant Codelco Chile. After 1985,
Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental this cut off the community water source and
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that caused permanent damage to fields used to feed
some glaciers could be gone over the next thousands of llamas and sheep. By 2011, the
decades. This would very likely increase the Saldo River community had become almost
competition for diminishing water rights and completely depopulated, with most of the former
sharpen the existing divide. residents now living in urban zones.
Chile has the largest reserves of copper on In Tarapaca, the national electric company of
the planet and is now the world’s number one Chile and the Department of Irrigation diverted
copper producer. Copper is primarily mined and the natural flow of the high plateau Lauca River
processed in Chile’s arid northern desert at sites for irrigation in the Azapa Valley and hydro-
owned by the state mining giant Codelco Chile. electricity for the city of Arica. The springs dried
Water is a key ingredient in the various stages of up and this affected the bofedales. Pastoralists had
copper extraction. The copper mines on average to reduce their herds or move to the city.
consume 11.5 cubic meters of water per second – At Chusmiza, a remote altiplano Andean village
in an extraordinarily dry ecological zone. rich in warm sulphur springs, Aymara engaged in
Discussion over water management in the a seven-year legal battle against a mineral water
northern copper-bearing desert is relatively bottling enterprise they claimed had illegally
recent. This zone is home to the historically deprived them of their land and water sources. In
marginalized and excluded Aymara and 2009, they won the right to suspend the bottling
Atacameño indigenous communities, who have business but failed to gain the water concession
attracted less media attention than indigenous itself.
groups in the south. According to researchers Indigenous residents claim that Quillagua was
at the University of Chile, the indigenous formerly a unique oasis in the Atacama desert,
populations and their livestock in the north fed by the Loa River, until mining companies
are having to leave their Andean slope villages bought up much of the water use rights.
because of acute water scarcity. According to the University of Chile, in 1987
Mineral extraction industries such as lithium the military government reduced the supply of
and copper mines, bottled water enterprises water to Quillagua by more than two-thirds.
and medium-sized northern cities such as Arica, Then, in 1997 and 2000, during the critical rainy
Iquique and Calama have appropriated the summer months, two episodes of contamination
available water rights. They siphon off rivers killed off the shrimp and ruined the river for crop
and tap scarce water supplies. This has left some irrigation or livestock. An initial study concluded
Atacama towns to dry out and wither. that the 1997 contamination – including heavy
Traditional Andean indigenous agricultural metals associated with mineral processing – had

100 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
probably come from a Codelco copper mine. Chile’s nationalism, which focuses on
Codelco denied any responsibility, and blamed promoting cultural homogeneity, ensured that
heavy rains for sweeping contaminants into the Arica’s large Aymara population – although
water. Chile’s regional Agriculture and Livestock officially recognized – also remained socially
Service refuted Codelco’s findings and attributed marginalized. Even more, in 2011 they continued
the contamination to human actions. According to be widely regarded as indigenous migrants
to the head of the Aymara indigenous group in from Peru or Bolivia – not as home-grown
Quillagua, without suitable water many residents descendants of the first peoples of northern
responded to outside offers to buy the town’s Chile, who have been dispossessed by the
water rights. They sold and left. The mining country’s water resource extraction policies.
company, Soliloquies (SQM) ended up buying
about 75 per cent of the rights in Quillagua. Colombia
By 2011, the once shrimp-filled Loa had been The efforts to reclaim or remain on ancestral
reduced to a polluted trickle running through lands and protect basic rights continued to be
the town. Just 150 residents were left in what a major focus of many indigenous peoples and
was once a settlement of over 800 people and African descendants in Colombia during 2011.
which for the past 37 years has appeared in the Along with what they see as systemic socio-
Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘driest place economic and political exclusion they continued
on earth’. to feel the worst effects of the long-running
With water sources diminishing and the internal armed conflict. Although arguably less
bofedales drying out, the carefully constructed pervasive than in previous years, the negative
terraces on the Andean slopes – that had sustained impact of the conflict on these populations
Aymara for thousands of years – continue to continued, along with the state’s unswerving
be abandoned and the rural-to-urban exodus policy of total eradication of insurgency groups.
accelerates. In 2011, dislocated indigenous Reports by Colombian think-tank Nuevo Arco
populations continued to migrate to northern Iris indicated a 10 per cent increase in attacks
cities such as Calama, Arica and Iquique. compared to 2010, as both sides struggled
to regain or retain strategic territory. Most
Arica of this occurred in rural zones with majority
Of the more than 100,000 Aymara in northern Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations.
Chile, the majority – approximately 60,000 – They continued to be targeted as suspected
now reside in Arica. The coastal city – a tax- and collaborators by both sides and to experience
duty-free zone – is Chile’s most northern city, assassinations, bombings and high displacement
located 19 km from the border with Peru, and levels during 2011 – especially in the northern
serves as the Pacific exit port for landlocked Cauca department.
Bolivia. Culturally diverse Arica is also home The Presidential Agency for Social Action
to a significant Afro-Chilean population of and International Cooperation (Acción Social)
approximately 8,000. Activists from the Afro- reported that between 2010 and 2011 some
Chilean Alliance have been increasing efforts to 86,312 people were displaced nation-wide.
achieve official recognition of Afro-Chileans as However, based on independent monitoring,
an ethnic group in a country where diversity has the Colombian NGO Consultancy on Human
never been a part of national policy. Rights and Displacement (CODHES) puts that
After almost four years of concerted figure at 280,000.
negotiations with the Chilean government – According to a CODHES report released
during which official promises were publicly in 2011, from 1985 to 2010 some 5.2 million
given and community hopes raised – in people (11.4 per cent of Colombia’s population)
September 2011, the state officially rejected the have been internally displaced – the highest rate
request to include questions about Afro-Chilean of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the
demographics in the 2012 census. Economic world.
reasons were cited for the exclusion. The ongoing counter-insurgency programme

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 101

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
was launched in 2007 during the presidency of mercenaries continue to be the most active land
Alvaro Uribe. It was described as an initiative disposessors.
to bolster investor confidence and help realize During 2011, rural farmers, Afro-Colombian
‘democratic security policies’. Half of the total and indigenous community groups indicated
number of Colombia’s IDPs fled their areas during that these paramilitary gangs, operating under
President Uribe’s eight years in office. Officially names such as ‘Black Eagles’, ‘Los Rastrojos’
called the ‘National Plan for the Consolidation (Field Stubble) and ‘Gaitainistas’ (The
of Territory’, it was implemented in 86 of Bagpipers) continued intimidating, displacing
Colombia’s 1,141 municipalities. According to and assassinating victims with impunity. This
CODHES, of the 86 municipalities involved in includes targeting those who work to improve
the programme, 44 had the highest rates of violent the living conditions or secure the rights of rural
land seizure, massacres and people killed. populations. In early 2011, a threatening leaflet
Moreover, CODHES reports that transnational signed by the self-styled ‘urban commandos’ of
mining industries are now active in 21 of those ‘Los Rastrojos’ was received by human rights
86 municipalities, and large-scale mono-crop defenders and UN agencies. Rights activists and
cultivation of oil palm, teak and rubber as well advocates have learned not to take such threats
as cattle-rearing is occurring on ‘consolidated lightly.
territory’ in 14 others. Much of this is fertile Apart from the general issues of Law 1448,
communally held land claimed by displaced perhaps the biggest initial surprise for indigenous
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and Afro-Colombian communities was the
most of whom are small-scale or traditional non-inclusion of reparation allowances for their
subsistence farmers. populations. This is despite their being among
the main victims of the conflict and being
The Victims’ Law repeatedly subjected to forced displacement,
After nearly five decades of armed conflict and killings, rapes and abduction.
millions of IDPs, in June 2011 the Colombian NGOs such as MRG partner CIMMARON
Congress passed the landmark Law 1448, entitled (Movimiento Nacional por los Derechos
the Victims and Land Restitution Law (Victims’ Humanos de las Comunidades Afrocolombianos)
Law). Government sources explained that Law estimate that nearly 30 per cent of all IDPs
1448 seeks to restore to rightful owners some – approximately 1.5 million – are of African
17 million acres of land stolen over the past descent. In addition, although indigenous
25 years and also to assist and compensate the Colombians constitute only about 3 per cent of
relatives of those killed. Observers cautioned that the estimated 45 million national population,
implementation could be an enormous challenge Acción Social indicates that indigenous people
and, according to the BBC, officials estimate it make up a disproportionate 15 per cent of the
could take up to a decade to realize and cost US$ IDP total.
20 billion (£12.3 billion). To address Afro-Colombian and indigenous
Although Law 1448 is seen as a step in the exclusion from the Victims’ Law, the government
right direction, critics point to the failure to introduced a separate provision granting special
compensate all of those affected. Reparations powers to President Juan Manuel Santos to enact
are being directed at those who were victimized an executive legal decree. It was to be shaped by
from 1 January 1985 onwards; however, there a six-month process of free, prior and informed
are concerns about coverage for victims of more consultation with the respective communities.
recent crimes committed by the so-called ‘neo- While a group of Afro-Colombian organizations
paramilitaries’ or ‘criminal gangs’. These are the established an informal consultative roundtable,
successor groups that arose following the 2005 the state opted to use its own Consultative
official demobilization of Colombia’s main Commission for Afro-Colombians and to run
paramilitary umbrella organization – the Self- consultative commissions at the departmental
defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). By many (provincial) levels. Afro-Colombian organizations
accounts, these outlaw bands of well-armed such as the Proceso de Comunidades Negras

102 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
en Colombia (PCN) and the Afro-Colombian the lands of people in the first place.
Solidarity Network (ACSN) argued that the Colombian rights defenders caution that
state’s commissions were mandated purely by attempts to return dispossessed lands could
government edict and not properly free. They initiate a new wave of violence and expulsions.
petitioned for direct local-level participation in Many of the armed groups have become quite
the consultation process, but this did not occur. wealthy by selling vacated lands to large agro-
As CIMMARON explained, Colombia’s African industry and mining transnationals.
descendant population numbers over 15 million, During 2011, several local leaders who
so their communities are by no means monolithic. campaigned for community land return were
killed. According to Reiniciar – an NGO that
Enter Law 4635 represents a group of victims in a case before the
Nonetheless in early December 2011, President IACtHR – over 19 human rights defenders were
Santos decreed Law 4635, thus creating a murdered in Colombia during 2011, bringing
mechanism for government compensation and this total to 104 over the past four years.
assistance to displaced Afro-Colombians and In June 2011, Ana Fabricia Cordoba, a noted
indigenous peoples. Members of the PCN and female Afro-Colombian leader of displaced
the ACSN – among others – once again charged communities and a member of the Ruta Pacífica
that Colombia’s black, Raizal and Palenque de las Mujeres (Women’s Peace Route), was
communities had been denied their constitutional assassinated on a Medellín city bus by a gunman.
right to prior consultation and informed consent. Local human rights organizations indicated
They especially pointed to the lack of any that she had accused the Medellín police of
preparatory meetings with the state to discuss supporting the local far-right paramilitary
draft texts and establish the overall consultation structure and had reported multiple death threats
methodology. but obtained no protection. Her husband and
In contrast to the Afro-Colombian experience, son had previously been killed.
according to the University of the Andes, Observers also note that even if people return
indigenous communities were able to establish a they are unlikely to find any of their former
national-level roundtable (Mesa Permanente de structures, infrastructure or even the landscapes
Concertación Indígena) which first met with the they once knew. The PCN cites the case of
government to agree on the basic methodology African descendant communities (Jiguamiando
to be used during the consultation process. The and Curvarado) in the Choco department, where
indigenous roundtable prepared its own draft in February 1997 4,000 people were forced to
decree with special provisions and negotiated leave their homes by the army and right-wing
with the government over reconciling their draft paramilitaries. Undaunted, the communities
with the government’s version. They also agreed decided to fight for their territorial rights.
on the modalities of the prior consultation. In late 1999, when the communities returned as
part of a process of restoring rural property, they
Issues of return found that their 35,000 hectares of communally
Nonetheless, with land rights being central to held lands had been acquired by bio-fuel investors
the Colombian conflict and military offensives and overrun with large palm oil plantations and
again on the rise, advocacy groups argue that other monoculture crops. The area had been
ensuring the safe return of Afro-Colombians clear-cut and the soil degraded. In March 2011
and indigenous people to their ancestral lands after nearly 14 years of death threats, leadership
ultimately will determine the usefulness of assassinations and community intimidation by
the new legislation. NGOs including Human both state agents and armed illegal groups, the
Rights Watch have highlighted the difficulty of government finally officially titled 25,000 hectares
protecting those attempting return while violence to these victims. However, the state offered no
and dispossession are still occurring and strong assistance for land clearance of the large palm trees
links remain between various political actors and or the re-establishment of the victims under safe
the paramilitary groups responsible for clearing physical conditions. PCN claims that persecution

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 103

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
by ‘neo-paramilitaries’ has continued, despite
complaints to local and national authorities, and at Case study
the end of 2011 the communities were still unable

to enjoy a peaceable return.

women defend
Ancestral mining
According to Afro-Colombian activists, the

their heritage
difficulties with inclusion in Law 1448, plus the
lack of social investment in their communities,
as well as ongoing land dispossessions are all
occurring in a developmental environment that
privileges large-scale export-oriented resource ‘I’m really proud of mining, of course. In this
extraction and agro-industries. This is at the region most women are miners, because that’s
expense of traditional economies of self-sufficient how we earn a living to raise our kids. For me
small-scale farming and artisan mining which it’s really unfair, because there are people who
are still practised by rural Afro-Colombian come from other places to occupy our mines.
communities – and in which women play a key I mean, they want to come and take over ter-
role. ritories where there’s mining. The mines should
The Colombian government’s policy of ‘modern be just for people from here, we make our living
efficiency’ is not only encouraging expropriation from mining, and if they come and take the
of community lands for industrial mining. It is fruits of our labour away from us, then what
also specially targeting small-scale low-impact will happen to us? We’d have to leave here, but
community artisan miners with proposed new I think the only way we would leave is in our
legislation to make such practices illegal. coffins.’ Jazmín Mina, an Afro-Colombian
The Colombian Network Against Large-scale woman miner.
Transnational Mining estimates that nearly 40 Afro-Colombians have been carrying out
per cent of Colombian territory is now given small-scale, ancestral mining in the Cauca
as concessions for industrial mining projects by region of Colombia since the days when their
large UK, Canadian and US-based transnationals. emancipated enslaved ancestors settled here in
In 2011, the Afro-Colombian La Toma gold 1637 to mine the gold found in the hillsides.
mining community of northern Cauca – which Today the miners’ descendants continue to
was established in 1637 – continued to resist chip away at the red earth in search of small
land loss and the inroads of giant transnational
industrial gold mining companies such as Below: Jazmín Mina, an Afro-Colombian
AngloGold Ashanti, whose mining practices, miner. MRG/Morris Producciones.
they argue, can cause significant environmental
According to the PCN, as a result of their fight
to protect their land rights, for the past three years
the Community Council leaders of La Toma have
been facing death threats from local paramilitary
gangs. Nevertheless, in mid-2011, on the grounds
that the Afro-Colombian communities were not
informed or consulted about the impact of the
government’s plan of action on their territories,
Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled against
the policy of trying to outlaw artisan mining in
favour of intensive industrial extraction. Local
community leaders remained doubtful, as such
big economic interests are at stake.

104 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
specks of gold, and see it not only as a means Ecuador
of earning a modest living, but also as an In early October 2011 in the Andean highlands
activity intrinsically linked to their culture of southern Ecuador, Canadian company
and ethnicity. Iamgold’s Quimsacocha extraction project was
One of the most important towns in voted down by a community referendum. It
the area with a large population of Afro- overwhelmingly rejected mining, with 92 per
Colombians was Salvajina. It was blessed cent of people voting against.
with plentiful natural resources, fertile According to the government, however,
farmland, abundant water sources and, the referendum is invalid because it was not
most importantly, huge reserves of minerals authorized by state institutions. In contrast,
beneath the soil. CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous
In 1985 the Colombian government Nationalities of Ecuador) – the country’s most
decided to build a vast hydroelectric plant powerful and influential indigenous umbrella
on the Cauca River. The subsequent organization – not only actively supported
flooding of the surrounding area meant that the referendum, but also strongly advocated it
around 1,300 Afro-descendant families were should be replicated wherever communities are
displaced to the nearby town of La Toma, affected by mining. During 2011, other local
where, as compensation for the upheaval they governments also called for a total ban of mining
had experienced, the government promised activities in jurisdictions where such projects are
them electricity, running water, health care located.
and schools. In 2011 the Afro-Colombian The Andean community referendum – the
residents of La Toma were still waiting for first of its kind in Ecuador – raised basic
those promises to be honoured. constitutional questions regarding autonomy,
Between 2002 and 2010, while gold the extent of state powers and the rights of local
prices soared on world markets, Colombia’s governments to control land use and regulate
government gave out 7,500 mining industries.
exploration titles to national and foreign Since 2008, indigenous organizations in
mining companies, such as AngloGold Ecuador have become increasingly critical
Ashanti, eager to exploit the precious of government policies on water rights and
resource. In La Toma, many of these exploitation of natural resources. They complain
concessions overlapped with areas where that the government has been attempting to
Afro-Colombians have practised ancestral, divide the indigenous movement over these
family-run mining operations for generations. issues. According to the CONAIE, there are
Afro-descendants and indigenous currently 189 indigenous Ecuadoreans charged
communities in Colombia have the with terrorism, sabotage and other public safety-
constitutional right to be consulted prior related crimes and for protesting against the
to resource extraction projects in the areas privatization of natural resources. These include
where they live. But La Toma residents, the president of the CONAIE and three other
who were never consulted before mining prominent indigenous leaders who have been
titles were granted, decided to take the protesting against state control of access to
matter to Colombia’s Constitutional Court. water. Meanwhile, President Rafael Correa has
In April 2011, the court made a decision accused protesters of ‘standing in the way of
to suspend all further mining titles in the development’ and argues that resource extraction
area – requiring that title-holders carry out revenues can be used to develop other economic
‘adequate consultation’ before proceeding sectors such as agriculture.
with further mining plans. The decision is
a victory for La Toma, but only time will Words or deeds?
tell if it will be effective in halting powerful The conflict is all the more pertinent given
multinational mining interests. p that, after his 2009 second term re-election,
President Correa has spoken out vigorously

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 105

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
on environmental justice. As in Bolivia, his indigenous and mestizo (mixed) members of
administration pioneered the granting of some 80 rainforest communities who demanded
special rights to ‘Mother Nature’ in the 2008 the company clean up the pollution and pay
Constitution and has made public gestures reparations for the health damages. The trial
towards ending the extraction economy. Ecuador opened in November 1993 in the US Federal
is South America’s second largest oil exporter Court, but after nine years of hearings was
to the United States. Oil revenues account for then moved to Ecuador in October 2003 – at
more than half of the national budget; there are Chevron’s request. During the trial, Chevron
an estimated 1 billion barrels of heavy crude admitted that Texaco had deliberately discharged
in the Amazon bordering Peru. At the UN in 68 billion litres of toxic ‘production water’
May 2007, President Correa made an innovative directly into the environment. Texaco also
offer to leave Ecuador’s largest oil reserves created and abandoned more than 900 unlined
underground in the Amazon. The country waste pits that seeped pollution into the earth,
was willing to forego an estimated US$ 9.2 spilled more than 17 million gallons of pure
billion in revenues in exchange for international crude oil into the rivers and streams and
community compensation and debt cancellation continually ‘flared’ contaminants without any
for conserving the biosphere. However, by early environmental controls. However, Chevron
2011 there were plenty of promises but very little argued that Texaco spent US$ 40 million
real cash. Some countries, such as Germany, that cleaning up the area during the 1990s and
initially made financial commitments to the fund also signed an agreement with Ecuador in
had actually withdrawn their offers. 1998 absolving it of any further responsibility.
At the end of 2011, this seems to have left Nonetheless, environmental activists visiting
the government little choice but to proceed with the Amazon site in 2009 wrote about finding a
exploration plans in an area of pristine Amazon tangled jungle landscape with oil slicks, festering
rainforest which is home to the nomadic Tagaeri sludge and rusted pipelines.
and Taromenane – indigenous groups who The plaintiffs accused Chevron of trying to
voluntarily reject contact with the outside world. hide the extent of its environmental crimes
This will not only elevate the risk to indigenous and cited ailments such as leukaemia, cancers,
communities of more environmental disasters liver failure and respiratory and skin problems.
like the Chevron-Texaco oil spills in the Amazon Eventually, in February 2011, after nearly 18
but also increase chances of the extended years of legal struggle they won the historic US$
litigation that seems to be required in trying to 8.6 billion verdict, which was more than
obtain redress. doubled after the company failed to make
a public apology. The judgment was also
Chevron enforceable in the US, based on the 2003 trial
In February 2011 – after nearly two decades relocation agreement.
of litigation – an Ecuadorean court found the The Ecuadorean court also found that Chevron
American oil giant Chevron liable for US$ 18 repeatedly tried to delay the proceedings as well
billion in damages stemming from contamination as threatened judges in efforts to evade liability.
caused by Texaco. Between 1964 and 1990, Chevron appealed the sentence, and then sued
Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – the indigenous plaintiffs in the US, citing
drilled roughly 350 wells across 7,000 square km Ecuador’s violations of the US–Ecuador Bilateral
of Amazon rainforest. The company made some Investment Treaty and international law. The
US$ 30 billion in profits. oil giant also took its case to the International
In 1993, Texaco was accused by Amazon Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague,
indigenous communities of dumping 68 billion which, in February 2011, ordered Ecuador ‘to
litres of toxic materials into Amazon streams suspend any judgment against’ Chevron. In
and rivers that people used for fishing, bathing, September 2011, a US appeals court overturned
swimming and drinking water. a decision to block the fine collection and at the
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 30,000 end of 2011, an Ecuadorean appeals court upheld

106 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
the 14 February 2011 ruling in all its parts.
The Amazon petroleum contamination by Case study
Texaco is considered by many to be the worst

oil-related disaster on record, surpassing the
1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill on the coast

of Alaska as well as the 2010 BP deepwater
rig explosion oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

plantations feed
However, in a further example of the long
uphill battle indigenous litigants can face against

land dispossession
powerful resource extraction companies, Chevron
challenged the fine, arguing that lawyers and
supporters of the indigenous groups conspired to
fabricate evidence.
Ever since the Spanish Crown granted colo-
Guatemala nial land titles for what were ancient tradi-
As in other countries in the region, resource tional Maya lands, indigenous communities
extraction also had an impact on indigenous in Guatemala have been involved in a con-
peoples and minorities in Guatemala during tinuous struggle for land rights.
2011. In late December 2011, the Inter- In mid-March 2011, hundreds of
American Commission on Human Rights Guatemalan army and police anti-riot
(IACHR) withdrew an earlier recommendation personnel using live ammunition and tear
to suspend operations at the controversial gas, evicted thousands of residents of 14
Goldcorp Marlin gold mine in the Guatemalan small Maya Q’eqchi’ villages located in the
province of San Marcos. municipality of Panzos, Alta Verapaz, in the
The facility, located near the border with fertile Polochic River Valley. According to
Mexico, has been the subject of an ongoing series the Guatemala Solidarity Project (GSP), the
of human rights-related complaints by indigenous affected Maya Q’eqchi’ – who were regarded
communities. In addition to the IACHR, the as ‘land invaders’ – were given an hour to
ILO’s Committee of Experts and the UN Special gather all their possessions and were not
Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people allowed to salvage their crops, which were
had also recommended operation suspension close to harvest. Following the government
until local communities are adequately consulted. security crackdown, masked paramilitaries
Moreover, the Canadian mining company’s hired by a privately owned sugar cane
own human rights assessment had also advised company reportedly dismantled and burnt
the company to halt land acquisition and mine hundreds of homes and destroyed crops.
expansion pending community consultations. With nowhere to go, some 800 Maya
According to the NGO Mining Watch Q’eqchi’ families – including thousands of
Canada, just prior to the IACHR ruling reversal, children – were left to camp out in the rain
the Guatemalan government, in conjunction with no shelter or food; many on the sides
with a company-sponsored water committee, of roads. According to local leaders, the
released a hydro-geological study that apparently raids came just one day after a community
contradicted the perceptions of local Mam delegation had met with the big land-owners
Maya communities that the Marlin mine is in a government-negotiated meeting. The
contaminating their local water supply and impending eviction was never discussed.
should be closed. While this can be seen as another clash
Although the report’s lack of impartiality was in the long-running post-colonial struggle
questioned, it seemed enough to prompt the between the indigenous people of the area
IACHR to rescind its decision. In Guatemala, and settler families of European origin, there
environmental impact studies cited by the is now a bio-fuel element involved. At issue is
government are usually financed and contracted

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 107

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued According to local media, in 2009 the sugar-
cane planting initiative went bankrupt and the
access to traditional Maya Q’eqchi’ ancestral lands were left abandoned. This encouraged the
land in one of Guatemala’s most fertile river historically dispossessed Mayan Q’eqchi’ to begin
valleys. During the 36-year Guatemalan civil war, moving back down from their refuge in the near-
the Maya Q’eqchi’ of Panzo – like many other by mountains. They re-established settlements on
indigenous communities – experienced massacres the lands they formerly occupied before the con-
and were driven off ancestral lands into the Sierra solidation process and began sowing subsistence
de las Minas mountains. The subsequent post- crops. In a region with high rates of malnutrition,
conflict peace accord allowed for return and the this cultivation is vital to ensure that the impov-
promise of territorial security. By 2000, with credit erished families barely avoid starvation.
available to allow rural communities to buy land, However, in late 2010 a solution was
dozens of Maya Q’eqchi’ communities believed developed for the bankrupt sugar company
they were close to finally gaining land deeds. involving recapitalization with investment by
However, the bio-fuel boom was about to change the largest exporters of sugarcane-produced
all that. ethanol in Central America – who have also
This came in the form of Guatemalan sugar- expanded into palm oil cultivation. As a result, in
cane refining interests, reportedly with strong February 2011 local radio stations began running
links to the sitting government. They were able to advertisements reportedly paid for by the sugar
secure large loans of up to US$ 31 million from company calling on former cane workers to
regional and multilateral development banks, evict the indigenous families from the plantation
which enabled the company to move sugar and lands. A few weeks later, in mid-March 2011, the
ethanol refining operations away from traditional armed government security forces and plantation
cane-producing zones on Guatemala’s south-west paramilitaries moved in to get the job done.
coast and relocate them across the country in the Between March and August 2011, private
Polochic Valley. Meanwhile, between 1998 and helicopters were used to drop grenades on the
2006, palm oil production was introduced into the cornfields that survived destruction, aimed at
valley. According to estimates by the Guatemalan intimidating the families trying to harvest the
National Institute for Agrarian and Rural Studies, crop. Community land rights defenders were also
between 2005 and 2010 the area of the country threatened and murdered and families attacked at
given over to oil palm plantations increased by 146 night by masked paramilitary forces.
per cent. In June 2011, the Guatemalan Human
In the Polochic Valley, both palm oil Rights Commission and a coalition of local
producers and the newly arrived sugar ethanol and international organizations petitioned the
interests began a systematic land assembly IACHR which approved precautionary protective
process. According to Oxfam, this often involved measures for the 14 communities. It called on the
negotiating sales or rental of small farms Guatemalan government to take concrete steps
accompanied by thinly veiled death threats to to ‘prevent irreparable harm’ to the communities
discourage refusals. The agrofuel producers and persons at risk.
then appropriated the farms and evicted the In addition to questioning the social disruption
indigenous residents to create the large sugarcane of indigenous people in the Polochic Valley,
and palm oil plantations. Along with the critics have accused Guatemalan bio-fuel
displacement of thousands of indigenous peasant producers of being more interested in profiting
families, the need for large amounts of irrigation from climate change subsidies than in meeting
water has prompted diversion of the Polochic climate change goals. These subsidies include
River. Environmentalists claim this has destroyed the UN Framework Convention on Climate
wetlands and ruined surrounding farms, when Change’s ‘Clean Development Mechanism’
unprecedented annual floods result as the river (CDM). Since 2008 almost all the palm oil
tries to regain its channel. extraction companies in Guatemala have received

108 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
CDM certification, allowing access to the by the mining companies themselves.
available financial credits and making it Critics, including the Guatemalan
possible to expand their activities. Constitutional Court, have noted the permissive
With recognition that bio-fuel production mining climate encouraged by the Guatemalan
was actually devastating environments and government and, in 2008, even deemed some
communities around the world, the World practices unconstitutional. These include Articles
Bank and the Inter-American Development 19 and 20 of the country’s Mining Law, which
Bank placed a freeze on bio-fuel loans while lets extraction begin while the relevant paperwork
they prepared so-called ‘sector strategies’. One is still being processed, and Article 75, which
of these strategy mechanisms – the Round allows mining companies to discharge tailings
Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – is pond effluents directly into surface water.
supposed to help identify ‘environmentally Despite the ruling reversal, the IACHR did
friendly’ palm oil producers. Two of the large retain some precautionary measures. It ordered
Polochic Valley producers have received RSPO that Guatemala now has an ongoing obligation to
certification. This allows them access to addi- ensure that community water quality is suitable
tional financing, thus making it potentially pos- for domestic and irrigation uses. It also requested
sible to expand production even more – onto the government to advise the IACHR on how
land claimed by indigenous people. Even less this duty is being fulfilled.
favourable for the displaced in the Polochic The Center for International Environmental
Valley is that the new version of the pro- Law (CIEL) and Mining Watch Canada
gramme for Reducing Emissions from Defor- cautioned that the IACHR decision represented
estation and Forest Degradation in Developing an alarming trend in the Americas, that regional
Countries (REDD+) allows palm oil planta- member states now seem to be able to force and
tions to be considered as green ‘forested’ areas even threaten the organization into weakening
and earn carbon capture credits. It therefore its human rights decisions. As further evidence,
also provides an additional incentive for Guate- they cited the earlier 2011 ruling reversal, when
mala growers to keep expanding sugarcane and the IACHR backed away from its order to the
palm oil acreages under cultivation. Brazil government to halt construction of the
Meanwhile, in the Polochic Valley at the controversial Belo Monte dam.
end of October 2011, the intimidation,
sporadic attacks and displacement were Honduras
still continuing, and the Commission Two years after the June 2009 coup d’état in
of Petitioners for Preventative Measures Honduras, African descendant Garifuna as well
was forced to denounce the failure of the as indigenous peoples have been attempting to
Guatemalan government to comply with the regroup and recover lost socio-economic and
precautionary measures recommended by political gains, including the ability to teach the
the IACHR. No aid had reached the affected Garifuna language in schools and to be informed
families, and nothing had been done by the of and included in land negotiations.
government to resolve the land conflict. In 2011, a Constitutional Assembly of Afro-
By year’s end, as Guatemalan bio-fuel Honduran and Indigenous Women was held
enterprises continued to position themselves in the town of Copán Ruinas. According to the
to benefit from multi-million dollar female Garifuna leader and coordinator of the
international climate change reduction Fraternal Organization of Black Hondurans
payouts, the evicted indigenous Mayan (OFRANEH), the major objectives of the 300
Q’eqchi’ of the Polochic Valley were left women – representing Lenca, Maya Chortí,
landless, homeless and at the mercy of Garifuna, Tawaka, Miskito, Pech and Tolopan
whatever charitable handouts they may indigenous groups – was to strengthen alliances
happen to receive from those sympathetic to to ensure greater inclusion of female voices and
their plight. p experiences at both community and national
decision-making levels. They also sought to

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 109

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
examine a number of their specific gender lines, so land dispossession has dealt a particularly
concerns such as ethno-cultural and institutional strong and direct blow to women.
invisibility, which they argue go mostly Adding to the land loss, during 2011 the
unaddressed within the international women’s Honduran National Congress approved plans
rights movement. Of special overall concern were to establish separate development regions with
issues related to community autonomy, resource model ‘charter’ cities on Garifuna communal
extraction and territorial loss. The dispossession lands. These special new zones would in effect
of communal lands of African descendant be an independent territory – virtual city-
Garifuna, Miskitu and indigenous peoples – to states within the country, each with its own
establish tourist enclaves and especially to enlarge governor, its own laws courts, private security
palm oil plantations – has advanced very rapidly forces, independent international trade relations,
over the past decade. These groups have not authorized inhabitants and manufacturing
only been deprived of territory but also excluded complexes under the complete control of foreign
from any benefits. Garifuna have been killed, corporations.
threatened and economically pressured to give up Garifuna have resisted through highly visible
their territory according to OFRANEH. pre- and post-coup political demonstrations and
Only 20 per cent of Honduras land area is protests, as well as via their bilingual community
arable. Approximately half of that is located in radio station Faluma Bimetu, which suffered
the Caribbean Coast departments of Atlántida an arson attack in 2010. This and other radio
and Colón – an area where Afro-indigenous stations created the Honduran Community
Garifuna have traditionally established Radio Network in 2010, to enhance their
communities and farmed on communally activities. The fact that their broadcasts regularly
held territory dating back to 1797. Garifuna denounce the seizure of ancestral lands, and
organizations point out that approximately 95 the related harassment and murders by armed
per cent of the 300,000 Garifuna who reside paramilitary groups puts them at special risk.
in Honduras live in the communities within And in 2011, Congress considered suspending
these two departments. Wealthy and powerful the granting of frequency permits and licences
commercial and political elites in Honduras for low-power stations – citing airwave over-
now desire this coastal property and are aided saturation.
considerably by policies of international financing Meanwhile, those involved in palm oil
institutions and global investors. production in Honduras face weak oversight
Since passage of the 1992 Agricultural mechanisms. In July 2011, the UN Clean
Modernization Law which prioritized Development Mechanism Board (CDM)
profitability, the Honduran government has approved a palm oil biogas project of the
supported the removal of ‘backward’ Garifuna Honduran company Grupo Dinant. This
and small farmers from what are deemed company has been involved in land conflicts
‘unproductive’ lands to install capital-intensive in the Aguan Valley, which indigenous and
export-oriented oil palm plantations and other activists have linked to serious human
also tourism projects. The US Department rights abuses, including some 50 killings. In
of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service August 2011, one month after the CDM Board
(USDA-FAS) reported in 2009 that 1,150 square decision, reported that 12 more
km – half the cultivable land in Honduras – is people were killed in land disputes in the Aguan
devoted to oil palm. area. Six of the murders reportedly took place
Consequently in 2011, Garifuna in Honduras on oil palm plantations. Over 900 Honduran
continued to see the major portion of their Armed Forces personnel were sent to guard the
lands overwhelmed by vast mono-crop oil palm plantation zone, where heavily armed palm oil
plantations, further limiting their access to company security forces were already deployed.
productive soil and fishing sites. In Garifuna Consequently, at the end of 2011, affected
society, women are the main cultivators and indigenous and Afro-Honduran populations
traditionally land is passed along matrilineal found little reason for optimism. Given the long-

110 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
standing land-based nature of their societies, activities.
continued massive land loss will create enormous Their protests occurred within a new legal
challenges to the ability of Garifuna communities climate in Peru. In August 2011, the new
to retain their distinctive way of life and culture, Peruvian Congress unanimously passed the
which UNESCO has listed as one of the World’s groundbreaking Consultation with Indigenous
Intangible Cultural Heritages. Peoples Law. It will now be mandatory in Peru
to seek indigenous peoples’ consent before
Peru development projects are allowed to proceed on
In June 2011, former army officer Ollanta their lands. It is one of the first instances in the
Humala won the presidency of Peru. In a Americas where a binding legal framework has
precedent-setting move, he chose Afro-Peruvian been developed to implement ILO 169 and the
Susana Baca as culture minister, making her the UNDRIP, both of which Peru has backed. The
first African-descendant government minister new law also mandates that indigenous peoples
in the history of the Peruvian state. Baca, aged be consulted before Congress can approve any
67, is an internationally renowned singer of the proposed law that could affect their rights.
rich Afro-Peruvian musical cultural tradition and However, despite the new legislation, engaging
winner of a 2002 Latin Grammy. in prior consultations with Peruvian indigenous
Before his election, Humala – who campaigned groups that have chosen to remain in voluntary
as a populist – sought to assure companies they isolation may pose a practical as well as a legal
could proceed with existing and new multi- challenge. Based on sightings by neighbouring
million dollar resource extraction projects. At the indigenous communities, loggers and other
same time, to help ease community concerns over outsiders, it is estimated that more than a dozen
mining and oil drilling, he promised that Peru’s autonomous nomadic indigenous groups live in
natural resources would be used to improve the voluntary isolation in the country’s Amazonian
lives of the mostly poor indigenous and Afro- regions. Many inhabit the remote forests near
Peruvian people in the country. Nevertheless, the Brazilian border, relying on their territory
during 2011, increasing social conflict over for subsistence. They remain highly vulnerable
mining in both the indigenous Andean highlands to easily transmitted common diseases and reject
and lowland Amazon rainforest threatened the contact with the outside world, which is both
implementation of large-scale mining and oil the source of infections and of intrusion into
extraction projects. The result was an increase their territories. Their mortality rate first spiked
in mining protests involving as many as 200 in the 1980s when oil exploration was initiated
disputes nation-wide. in the area. By the year 2000, five reserves
had been established in the Peruvian Amazon
Amazon protest basin to protect isolated indigenous peoples. In
In October 2011, some 500 indigenous Shuar addition to existing protected areas, indigenous
men and women from Peru’s northern Amazon organizations have filed petitions for five more
blocked the Morna River to stop Canadian reserves.
energy company Talisman carrying out oil
exploration on their ancestral lands. The area New mining regulations
traverses land inhabited by Achuar, Shapra, During October 2011, however, the Peruvian
Shuar and Kandoshi indigenous groups. It also state proposed new regulations governing oil
crosses the internationally protected Pastaza drilling, mining and forestry operations in these
River Wetland Complex, the largest wetland remote rainforest reserves.
area in the Peruvian Amazon. Indigenous Critics, such as Peru’s largest Amazonian
groups are particularly concerned about the indigenous organization AIDESEP, the Inter-
risk of contamination of ancestral hunting and Ethnic Association for the Development of the
fishing grounds. Traditional hunting practices Peruvian Amazon (Asociación Interétnica del
help guarantee food security and supplement Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana) charged that the
any income gained from wage labour or other new regulations threaten nomadic indigenous

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 111

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
groups and are designed to help expand the establishment of reserves to protect the
exploration and extraction into already designated territory used by indigenous or original peoples
indigenous reserves. Under the proposed in isolation; that is until they decide to settle in
regulations, extractive activities can be carried communities and seek legal title.
out in indigenous reserves deemed ‘untouchable’ Critics question whether this is just a
under Peruvian law, provided there is a real public conciliatory initial step on the way to eventual
need and the state guarantees the use of methods assimilation. They also note that the regulation
that ‘respect these peoples’ rights.’ The new rules comes just as the consortium operating the
call for the establishment of a ‘comprehensive Camisea gas field in the Peru’s southern Amazon
protection committee’ for each reserve, which will basin plans to expand operations into a block
consist of government officials, representatives of which overlaps the Nahua-Kugapakori (nomadic)
neighbouring indigenous communities and an Indigenous Reserve. AIDESEP points out that
anthropologist. There is to be a coordinator for oil or gas leases already overlap several indigenous
each reserve, as well as a strategic plan and a series reserves in Peru and the organization has so far
of monitoring mechanisms. tried without success to have the government
At the root of the Amazon conflict redraw extraction leases to eliminate such
are contradictory provisions of the 2006 overlapping to avoid the shrinkage of indigenous
indigenous protection law. This provides for territories. In October, the newly constituted

112 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Andean people protest against Newmont Newmont Mining has been operating in Peru
Mining’s Conga gold project during a march for over two decades. To some extent, the 2011
near the Cortada lagoon in Peru’s region of protests represent the latest manifestations of
Cajamarca in November 2011. ongoing community dissatisfaction with the
Reuters/Enrique Castro-Mendivil. mining company’s presence in their region. The
US company already operates the Yanacocha gold
Peruvian government retreated from the planned mine located near to the proposed Conga mine
regulations. site. In 2000, there was a mercury spill at the
Yanacocha mine, which produced lasting anger in
Cajamarca protests the community. Consequently, four years later,
Although before elections Humala pledged to in 2004, when the company sought to expand
use resource extraction revenues as a means of the Yanacocha mine onto the nearby Cerro
improving the lives of Peru’s most disadvantaged, Quilish mountain, the resulting protests brought
after taking office in July 2011 anti-mining exploration to a halt. Then as now, the issue
opposition often tested his government’s resolve involved pollution and reduction of water supply
to realize this. Most extraction projects in to communities that have traditionally regarded
Peru are located in rural highland and lowland natural sources of water in both a practical and a
zones with majority indigenous populations, spiritual light.
consequently it is they who are most negatively The mining company now runs extensive
affected by mining. community development programmes in the
In November 2011, thousands of indigenous area, but these have failed to diminish concerns
men and women in the city of Cajamarca in over the potential dangers of mining. It has
northern Peru began a protest against plans by certainly not stopped residents from wanting to
the US-based Newmont Mining Corporation halt expansion – or, even more – from trying to
to open a goldmine in the high Andes. The stop mining in Cajamarca altogether.
resistance included an 11-day general strike that Faced with daily street demonstrations, a
closed schools, hospitals and businesses and general strike that paralysed the region for 11
stopped buses from running in the region. days and a multi-billion dollar project stuck in
The US$ 4.8 billion Conga Mine Project is the its tracks, the President tried to negotiate with
biggest mining investment in Peruvian history the protest leaders in Cajamarca. But after failing
and is located at 13,800 feet (4,200 metres) in to reach any agreement, Humala felt forced to
the Andean mountains. The gold reserves are declare a one-week state of emergency.
worth about US$ 15 billion at current prices. The state of emergency suspended freedom
The Conga project is jointly owned by Peruvian of assembly and allowed the army to help
precious metals mining company Buenaventura, police end the protest marches and rallies.
and the multi-billion dollar project had been Security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas
approved by President Humala on the grounds against demonstrators, and fired live rounds
that it would be a major source of government after some demonstrators began vandalizing
revenue and generate thousands of jobs. mining company property. Up to 30 people
Newmont Mining had promised to provide a were reportedly injured. Newmont Mining
series of specially constructed reservoirs to replace then suspended work on the mine, after the
natural glacier-fed mountain lakes that would government requested help in calming the
be eliminated by the mine. In addition, the situation and asked for more dialogue with the
company claimed their project plans had been highly sceptical local community.
drawn up in consultation with local communities In early December 2011, the head of the
following ‘exhaustive’ environmental studies. civic association as well as the leader of the
Nevertheless, the protesters maintained the Environment Defense Front of Cajamarca
proposed new mine would destroy their natural (EDFC) were detained briefly after addressing
water supplies, cause pollution and create health a congressional panel. The EDFC leader
problems. indicated the organization’s intent to file a legal

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 113

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
stages of development. Among existing sites is
Case study the enormous Syncrude-operated mine, which
is the largest open-pit mine (by area) on the

Athabasca tar sands:

globe. Even so, according to the provincial
government of Alberta, only 3 per cent of the

Heavy repercussions
estimated bitumen reserves have been mined to
date. At the projected 2015 production rate of 3

for indigenous
million barrels of oil per day, experts expect the
Athabasca tar sands to keep producing oil for

the next 170 years. This has caused indigenous
communities and environmentalists on both sides
of the Canada–US border to realize the extent
of the challenge that may lie ahead in efforts to
The Athabasca tar sands extraction programme safeguard their rights and continued existence.
in western Canada is the largest industrial proj- Currently, the tar sands produce about 1.5
ect on earth. However, indigenous communities million barrels of crude oil daily. The bulk (97
downstream from its multi-billion dollar opera- per cent) is exported to the US. This has made
tions have called it ‘a slow industrial genocide’. Canada the largest supplier of oil and refined
Currently, indigenous communities in Alberta products to the US, ahead of Saudi Arabia and
and throughout North America are battling Mexico. It has also led to increased interest in
to safeguard their lands, cultures, heritage and the tar sands project among US Native American
health against the hyper-project and its proposed activists and organizations.
transcontinental delivery pipelines. Extraction is costly and destructive. Large-
The tar sands are a mixture of sand, clay and scale strip mining removes the entire surface
heavy crude oil (bitumen) lying under 140,000 layer ecosystem, consisting of old-growth forests,
square km of ancient northland old-growth forest peat marsh and other habitat of importance to
and peat bogs in north-eastern Alberta, Canada. local fauna. This affects animals such as moose
Historically, the tar-like bitumen was used by the and caribou traditionally hunted by indigenous
indigenous Cree and Dene communities to water- communities. According to the Indigenous
proof their canoes. Today the extensive bitumen Environmental Network, the Beaver Lake Cree
deposits are regarded by experts as the second larg- First Nation has experienced a 74 per cent
est source of oil on the planet after Saudi Arabia. decline of the Cold Lake herd since 1998 and a
This has implications for several indigenous com- 71 per cent decline of the Athabasca River herd
munities in the area since the tar sands are located since 1996. Today, just 175–275 caribou remain.
within the traditional indigenous territorial bound- Tar sands extraction also burns huge amounts
aries of Treaty Eight (1899). Besides land tenure, of natural gas. Carcinogenic emissions are
the treaty guarantees local indigenous peoples the released into the air and enter the food chain in
cultural right to hunt fish and trap. an area where hunting and fishing have long been
Once a sparsely populated area of pristine traditional survival activities. The extraction also
northland forest, clean rivers and fish-filled deeply affects the strong cultural identification
lakes, over the past decade the Athabasca delta and spiritual connection which indigenous
– a UNESCO heritage site – has become a communities feel with the earth.
devastated and bare semi-desert of enormous
open-pit mines and huge contaminated tailings Processing
ponds that can be seen in views of the earth from There are issues related to processing as well.
space – not to mention also on the ground by Transforming the extracted bitumen into the
indigenous communities in their vicinity. synthetic crude oil piped to refineries in the US
Four huge oil sands mines are currently and Canada requires large-scale upgrade facilities
in operation and two more are in the initial that also use large amounts of water and energy,

114 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
with smoke stacks billowing pollutants into the well. In 2006, according to the Indigenous
air. According to the Indigenous Environmental Environmental Network, an unusually high rate
Network, each barrel of oil produced from the of rare cancers was reported in the community
tar sands takes from 110 to 350 gallons (or 2–6 of Fort Chipewyan. In 2008, the Alberta Health
barrels) of water. And Greenpeace reports that Ministry confirmed a 30 per cent rise in the
tar sands operations leak millions of litres of number of cancers between 1995 and 2006.
toxic waste into the Athabasca River and the However, the study was preliminary and many
groundwater. residents consider it to be a conservative estimate.

Impact on indigenous health Oil pipeline distribution

The scale of the operations has prompted Besides the impact of the tar sands, there are also
real concern for the well-being of indigenous legal and environmental concerns about pipeline
populations. Heavy metals, including cobalt, delivery systems and refineries which threaten
lead, mercury and arsenic, are naturally present communities and landscapes throughout North
in oil sands, so consequently extremely large America – especially in indigenous, rural and
quantities of toxic chemicals are discharged. poor settlements. Two major pipeline projects
These end up in the Athabasca River and its are under consideration. One is Keystone XL,
tributaries, then flow northward (downstream) a pipeline that is intended to run from Alberta
further into indigenous territories. Although in western Canada across the North American
impact assessments were among the conditions of continent to refineries on the US coast of
existing agreements signed between indigenous the Gulf of Mexico. The other is the North
and extraction companies, the bulk of the Gateway project from the tar sands in Alberta to
research defending tar sands development is done tanker ports in Kitimat, British Columbia. An
by monitoring programmes affiliated with the oil agreement has been signed between the Enbridge
industry. But independent studies have shown Pipeline System and PetroChina to build two
high deformity rates in fish caught downstream parallel 1,200 km pipelines from Alberta to the
and that other wildlife food sources have been west coast port. Critics such as the Indigenous
negatively affected as well.
Since toxic tar sands waste has been entering Below: The Suncor oil sands plant north
the river, groundwater and the food chain, of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.
ultimately it may be entering humans as Dan Woynillowicz/The Pembina Institute.

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 115

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued suit against the Alberta government and Royal
Dutch Shell over inadequate consultation about
Environmental Network claim the project in situ mine expansion. In 2008, the ACFN
would cross 785 waterways, fragmenting wildlife filed a suit against the provincial government
habitats and affect fragile salmon fisheries. of Alberta over lack of consultation. Agreed-
Indigenous environmental activists note that upon meetings and discussions were not held;
between 1999 and 2008, the Enbridge pipeline nonetheless the court of appeal ruled that an
company was responsible for 610 spills. Moreover Alberta government webpage entry constituted
in 2010, it was responsible for a 1 million gallon consultation. The decision is contested, as it
spill of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo ignores both the internet technological divide
River in Michigan; the second largest spill in and good faith negotiations on behalf of the
US history. As well as environmental concerns, Canadian government. It will likely end up in the
indigenous groups also claim the pipeline Supreme Court of Canada. In 2008, the Prairie
developments are in violation of commitments Chipewyan First Nation also launched a lack of
– particularly regarding prior consultation and consultation lawsuit against the Government of
consent – made through various treaties and the Alberta regarding the mining project approved
UNDRIP, which Canada initially voted against on their territory. In 2008, the Beaver Lake
but then signed in 2010. Cree First Nation filed a lawsuit based on
Nevertheless major oil companies, banks and 20,000 infringements of their treaty rights.
investors are pouring billions of dollars into The Cree are specifically concerned that Total’s
Alberta tar sands development; there are currently planned Surmont in situ project will further
64 companies operating several hundred projects, decimate caribou populations through habitat
including major European-based multinationals. fragmentation. In 2010, the Duncan and Horse
First Nations were granted a Supreme Court
Indigenous resistance of Canada hearing regarding consultations over
In Canada, the provincial governments are impacts on the Peace River complex, which is
responsible for setting environmental and located in traditional territory. The community
natural resource development policies, however reports massive losses of wildlife and habitat
responsibility for prior consultations and fragmentation.
accommodation of indigenous concerns rests
at the federal level. So far, Canadian courts Pipeline protests
have failed to define clearly what consultation In addition, there are also suits and protests
means, and this is further complicated by specifically related to the pipelines that threaten
jurisdictional issues between the provincial and First Nations communities not only in Canada
federal levels. In late November 2011, the Chief but also Native American communities
and Council of the Athabasca Chipewyan First throughout the US. The traditional territories
Nation (ACFN) rallied outside of Shell Canada of the five indigenous communities of the Yinka
corporate headquarters in downtown Calgary, Dene Alliance cover approximately one-quarter
Alberta. They stated that Shell’s failure to take of the proposed Northern Gateway route. In
agreed-upon measures to lessen the project’s February 2011, they rejected the company’s
impact has harmed ACFN’s constitutionally revenue-sharing offer, citing the risk of oil spills
protected rights and culture. Moreover, Shell’s and accusing the company of lack of respect for
proposed massive expansion and new projects their rights. According to indigenous leaders, over
are in an area that is very important to ACFN’s 80 indigenous communities in British Columbia
traditional way of life. (BC) located along more than half of the Alberta
To date, there have been five tar sands-related to BC pipeline and tanker route have indicated
legal proceedings brought before Canadian that the project is against their laws and will
courts by indigenous communities. In 2007, the harm both themselves and fellow indigenous
Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) filed a nations living near the extraction zones.

116 Americas State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Indigenous peoples from the headwaters complaint against the government. The Conga
of the Fraser River watershed to the Pacific mine controversy also led to the resignation of
coast have united under the ‘Save the Fraser the Vice Minister for the Environment, who
Declaration’ and are working to ban the had previously headed an anti-mining NGO.
pipeline altogether. Company offers to have He cited a leaked ministry memo that indicated
indigenous communities borrow money to the Conga mine would indeed hurt the local
purchase a small fraction of the pipeline ecosystem despite company claims to the
met an unfavourable response. Indigenous contrary.
leaders indicate they are not willing to At the end of 2011, the anti-mining protest
compromise the well-being of future marches in the Peruvian highlands were still
generations in return for cash. In solidarity occurring, along with continued demands by the
with indigenous communities from Canada, indigenous communities to cancel the project. By
US-based indigenous communities have also all appearances, the gold that drove the destiny
sworn to stop the pipeline project. In early of the old Inca empire will continue to propel
November 2011, thousands of protesters the protests of Peru’s contemporary indigenous
circled the White House in Washington populations in 2012. p
to demonstrate against the controversial
Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and to
press President Barack Obama and the US
State Department to deny the permit. In
January 2012, President Obama rejected the
proposal, although the project looked set to
be an election-year issue.
Given its 34 million population size,
Canada is a relatively large emitter of
greenhouse gases. According to the Kyoto
Protocol, Canada was meant to have cut
its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 per cent
from its 1990 level by 2020. Rather, it is
heading towards a 16 per cent increase, or
more like 30 per cent if forestry is included.
In June 2011, Canada was criticized for
under-reporting the contribution of the tar
sands project to its overall emissions. The
government states that the tar sands project
contributes about 5 per cent, but researchers
believe the figure is closer to 10 per cent.
In December 2011, Canadian Minister of
the Environment Peter Kent indicated that
Canada will be formally withdrawing from
the Kyoto Protocol, thus becoming the first
country to pull out of the global treaty.
He argued that withdrawal allows Canada
to continue generating jobs and economic
growth. Canada’s indigenous communities,
who live near the booming tar sands project,
are already aware of what such growth means
for them. p

State of the World’s Minorities Americas 117

and Indigenous Peoples 2012

Jammu and



Nicobar BRUNEI
SRI LANKA Islands Bougainville
SINGAPORE Borneo Sulawesi Wallis and
Futuna (FR.)
New Caledonia (FR.)

Asia and
Nicole Girard, Irwin Loy,
Marusca Perazzi, Jacqui Zalcberg
the country. However, this doctrine is opposed
by nationalist groups, who interpret it as an
attack on ethnic Kazakh identity, language and

Language policy is part of this debate. The
government has a long-term strategy to gradually
increase the use of Kazakh language at the expense
Matthew Naumann of Russian, the other official language, particularly
in public settings. While use of Kazakh is steadily

entral Asia was more peaceful in 2011, increasing in the public sector, Russian is still
with no repeats of the large-scale widely used by Russians, other ethnic minorities
violence that occurred in Kyrgyzstan and many urban Kazakhs. Ninety-four per cent
during the previous year. Nevertheless, minor- of the population speak Russian, while only 64
ity groups in the region continue to face various per cent speak Kazakh. In September, the Chair
forms of discrimination. In Kazakhstan, new of the Kazakhstan Association of Teachers at
laws have been introduced restricting the rights Russian-language Schools reportedly stated in
of religious minorities. Kyrgyzstan has seen a a roundtable discussion that now 56 per cent
continuation of harassment of ethnic Uzbeks in of schoolchildren study in Kazakh, 33 per cent
the south of the country, and pressure over land in Russian, and the rest in smaller minority
owned by minority ethnic groups. In Tajikistan, languages. In higher education, a slight majority
ethnic Uzbeks have also reportedly come under study in Kazakh and just under half use Russian.
increased pressure from the authorities, often for The number of students enrolled in university
alleged membership of banned Islamist groups. courses taught in Kazakh has quadrupled
Meanwhile, Chinese nationals in Tajikistan have since the early 1990s. However, in September,
reportedly been targeted by new legislation tight- discontent with the speed of language reform led
ening rules on marriage with foreigners, following to a group of intellectuals and opposition leaders
public disquiet over the alleged acquisition of writing an open letter to the President, the Prime
land by China in the country. In Turkmenistan Minister and parliamentary leaders, calling for
the ‘Turkmenization’ policy continues, with removal of Article 7 of the Constitution, which
school children now reportedly required to pro- guarantees that Russian can be used as well as
vide evidence of their ethnic origin for unclear Kazakh in official communications. President
reasons. Finally, in Uzbekistan the challenging Nazarbaev is reported to be categorically opposed
human rights situation continues to affect all eth- to such a change.
nic groups, while the increasing shortfalls in flow A snap election in April saw Nazarbaev
of the Amu Darya River disproportionately blight re-elected with 95.5 per cent of the vote. Two
the ethnic Karakalpak population, who live in its prominent opposition politicians did not take
delta area. part because they failed to pass the required
Kazakh language test. In elections for the
Kazakhstan Majilis, the lower house of parliament, held
President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan on 15 January 2012, about a quarter of the 98
has consistently voiced a desire for inter-ethnic candidates elected by party list appeared to be
accord and tolerance in the country. However, from Russian-speaking ethnic minorities (of
his government continues to tighten its control whom almost half were women). This represents
over religious minorities. Since October 2009, a substantial increase on the previous parliament.
President Nazarbaev has promoted a National A further eight out of the nine representatives
Unity Doctrine put together by the Assembly of appointed by the Assembly of the People of
the People of Kazakhstan – an umbrella body that Kazakhstan were from minority ethnic groups.
represents the interests of minority ethnic groups – Two Assembly-nominated deputies were women,
which stresses the consolidation of a Kazakhstani representing the Slavic and the Tatar-Bashkir
identity drawing on the multi-ethnic nature of communities.

120 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
Over the past 20 years, about a million ethnic crackdown on these statements of religious faith
Kazakhs have returned or migrated to Kazakhstan in some areas.
under the state-run Oralman scheme (named
after the ethnic Kazakh diaspora) – settling Kyrgyzstan
largely in Mangistau, South Kazakhstan and Following the turbulence of the overthrow of
Almaty provinces, and the cities of Almaty President Kurmanbek Bakiev and the clashes
and Astana. They have come primarily from between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz groups
Mongolia, China, Afghanistan, Iraq and in 2010, during which over 400 people died
Turkey, as well as Russia and other Central and many more were wounded and displaced,
Asian republics. Reportedly these immigrants Kyrgyzstan had a quieter year in 2011. Elections
have faced problems with land allotments, on 30 November saw the peaceful transfer of
employment, and access to Kazakh- and Russian- power to Almazbek Atambaev, who had been
language training. Another concern is the prime minister under interim President Roza
acquisition of citizenship, though there have been Otunbayeva. Atambaev drew most of his support
some measures taken to simplify this in 2011. from his native north of the country. Those
Some politicians claim that failures in migration who voted among minority ethnic groups in the
policy were partly responsible for strikes by oil south also tended to support Atambaev, whose
workers in Mangistau and Aktau provinces in appeals to inter-ethnic unity reassured them more
December that saw 16 deaths; and that ethnic than the nationalist rhetoric of the candidates
Kazakh immigrants are linked to the new Islamist who came second and third. Though two ethnic
groups purportedly responsible for bombings and Russians and one ethnic Kazakh were among the
attacks on the police in 2011. initial 83 candidates, by the time of the vote,
The upsurge in Islamist activity in 2011 only ethnic Kyrgyz were standing. Overall, the
has caused concern among authorities. On 22 election campaigns were marked by an increased
July, President Nazarbaev reportedly called for use of nationalist rhetoric by politicians and the
increased surveillance of religious communities media, which implicitly scapegoated Uzbeks for
and for unspecified ‘extremist religious ideology’ the 2010 violence and broader problems.
to be ‘strictly suppressed’. A new Religion Law, Back in March, the grief of some ethnic Kyrgyz
which came into force on 26 October, restricts – who lost relatives during the 2010 violence
the rights of religious minorities in contravention and created the ‘Osh Martyrs’ movement – was
of Kazakhstan’s human rights commitments. The channelled into demonstrations in Osh and
new law imposes a complex tiered registration Bishkek against Atambaev, other members
system, bans unregistered religious activity, of the 2010 interim government, and Uzbek
imposes religious censorship and requires both community leaders, whom the group considers to
central and local government approval to build be jointly responsible for the violence.
or open new places of worship. The new law A new coalition agreement, formed after
could mean that only the Muslim Board, which Atambaev’s victory, led to the exclusion of the
is the state-backed religious authority for Sunni more nationalist Ata Jurt party from power, with
Muslims, and the Russian Orthodox Church are the other four parliamentary parties agreeing
recognized as top-tier religious organizations. the composition of a new government. Under
Further plans are under discussion to build the new government formed in December
on this law by banning all independent and 2011, Ravshan Sabirov, who in 2010 had
ethnically based mosques (such as Uighur, Tatar become the first ethnic Tajik parliamentarian in
or Chechen), taking over all formal Islamic Kyrgyzstan, became its first ethnic Tajik minister,
education, and using the state-controlled Muslim responsible for social welfare. There are no other
Board to control and report on all permitted representatives of minority ethnic groups in the
Islamic activity. While there is no prohibition on new government.
men wearing beards and women wearing hijab President Atambaev is likely to follow the
in the new legislation, the introduction of the principles of the Concept of Ethnic Development
new law appears to have been accompanied by a and Consolidation in the Kyrgyz Republic, drawn

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 121

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
Above: Children in a damaged mahalla or cultural and language policies focusing on Kyrgyz
Uzbek neighbourhood in southern Kyrgyzstan – identity. Approval of this document shows that
an area affected by the inter-ethnic violence nationalist ideas have broader support in parliament
in the summer of 2010. Sofia Skrypnyk/ than just within Ata Jurt. One contentious
Nonviolent Peaceforce. issue, for example, is the current provision that
internal passports state a person’s ethnicity. In his
up under Otunbayeva to increase levels of trust inauguration speech, Atambaev spoke of his desire
between different ethnic groups. The principles to see this provision removed, in order to promote
call for the rule of law, respect for human rights civic rather than ethnic nationalism, while senior Ata
and cultural diversity, preservation of the identity Jurt figures wish to see it maintained as a symbol
of ethnic groups and non-discrimination, ensuring of identity. There are ongoing efforts to reconcile
equal opportunities for political participation and these two approaches, and the results of this policy
transition from ethnic identity to civil identity. debate will be crucial for peace-building efforts in
The concept also calls for an education system in Kyrgyzstan in the coming years, and will have major
which young people from all minority groups learn repercussions on ethnic relations.
to speak Kyrgyz, the state language, rather than The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan remains
continuing to rely solely on Russian for inter-ethnic strained. While inter-ethnic violence has largely
communication. The draft concept was adopted abated, and many houses have been built with
by the Assembly of the Peoples of Kyrgyzstan, an international support to replace most of those
umbrella body for minority ethnic groups, on 17 destroyed in the violence, widespread economic,
June 2011. social and legal harassment of the Uzbek community
However, in the same month, parliament voted continues. Local newspapers in the city continue
to approve a document developed by the Ata Jurt to publish derogatory and inflammatory articles
party, which proposed another approach to ethnic targeting the ethnic Uzbek population.
policy, founded on the notion of Kyrgyz ethnicity Human rights organizations continue to
as the central element of nationhood, and set out document arbitrary detention and torture in

122 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
police custody, predominantly of ethnic Uzbeks.
Between July and September, Human Rights Case study
Watch (HRW) recorded 10 cases of arbitrary

Land scarcity fuels

arrest and torture of ethnic Uzbeks; two died as a
result of torture. Trials stemming from the June

ethnic conflict in
violence in southern Kyrgyzstan have also been
marred by physical attacks on lawyers and ethnic

Uzbek defendants. Police and other officials have
refused to intervene, and only one investigation
into these attacks has so far gone to court.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the
crimes committed during the violence, Several violent incidents revived fears of
disproportionately those targeting ethnic ethnic conflict in December 2011. Such
Uzbeks, remain unsolved. Women who have disturbances in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan
been victims of gender-based violence and are caused by a complex range of factors,
often now face serious psychological and health including migratory pressure driven by
problems, feel unable to approach the authorities poverty, and perceived injustice caused by
for support because of their community’s historical disparities between ethnic groups.
conservative traditions, and the hostility of This case study seeks to shed light on these
the overwhelmingly ethnically Kyrgyz police. ongoing tensions.
Prolonged detention of Uzbek men, and When two brawls broke out between
increased outflow of migrant workers to Russia teenagers of Kyrgyz and north Caucasian
from already high levels have led to a rise in ethnicity in the northern Chuy Valley
female-headed households in the city. in December 2011 and January 2012,
Prominent government figures have alleged analysts feared these had the potential to
that support for militant Islamist groups has provoke wide-scale inter-ethnic conflict.
increased among ethnic Uzbeks. However, some There have been various sizeable minority
analysts see the reports as merely a pretext to farming communities that have had
justify further discrimination and persecution relatively good relations with local Kyrgyz
against the minority. neighbours in the Chuy Valley since the
Official approval of some houses that have 1930s. However, the lack of economic
been rebuilt in ethnic Uzbek areas of central viability in remote mountainous areas
Osh remains unclear, as the local government following independence, coupled with
continues to press for implementation of a master a rise in ethnic nationalism, has meant
plan which would see these areas replaced by that Kyrgyz internal migrants from
high-rise buildings. The more inclusive inter- impoverished areas have increasingly
ethnic policies of successive national governments begun to lay claim to such farmland.
have had little sway in recent years in Osh, where Meanwhile, both a parliamentary and a
Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov continues to play to his government commission were established
nationalist powerbase, musing on an independent in January 2012 to investigate clashes
police force for the city and building massive that broke out on 28 December between
monuments to Kyrgyz folk heroes. ethnic Kyrgyz and Tajik in the far south-
The trend of transition from Uzbek- to Kyrgyz- west of the country, which resulted in
language schooling is continuing for many children the looting of Tajik-owned shops and
in southern Kyrgyzstan. This is partly because of the burning of houses. This area has seen
concerns about the quality of Uzbek-language complex migratory patterns in recent years,
education, particularly given the acute shortage of with ethnic Kyrgyz moving away in large
modern textbooks in the language. There are also numbers to find work abroad or in the
few prospects for higher education in Uzbek, after capital, while ethnic Tajiks from across the
the two universities in Kyrgyzstan that taught in

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 123

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
Case study continued Caucasian ethnicities and Meskhetian
Turks, were deported there en masse before
border have bought up land and property in and during the Second World War. While
their place. In an area where the international some of these immigrants moved to cities,
boundaries are not yet clearly defined, this others joined collective farms in the valleys,
trend is of concern to some of the ethnic many of which were ethnically based.
Kyrgyz population. As the Soviet economy and its subsidies
Almost a third of Kyrgyzstani adults, collapsed in the 1980s, many Kyrgyz
including Kyrgyz and other ethnic groups, found themselves unable to survive in the
work as migrant labourers in Russia and mountains and massive internal migration
Kazakhstan, and in recent years many from began to the cities and farmland in the
the countryside have moved to Bishkek valleys. Riots occurred in the south in
for work. Until poverty and disparities 1990 when ethnic Kyrgyz, who had been
between regions are addressed, grievance forced by poverty to leave their mountain
over land ownership fuelled by a sense of villages, demanded land in the grounds
ethnic entitlements has the potential to lead of a primarily Uzbek collective farm. The
to further outbreaks of violence in both the total number of deaths in the violence is
north and south of Kyrgyzstan. unknown, but 171 deaths were officially
Ethnic tensions over land have a long reported.
history in Kyrgyzstan. Until the 1930s, the Soon after, Askar Akaev became
ancestors of today’s ethnic Kyrgyz were President. After independence in 1991, he
primarily nomadic, taking livestock high sought to maintain Kyrgyzstan as a multi-
into mountain pastures in the summer and ethnic state with international support.
returning to lowland for the winter. Kyrgyz When nationalists in parliament passed
pastoralists were forced out of the fertile legislation that favoured ethnic Kyrgyz in
valleys of what is now the Kyrgyz Republic land ownership and use, President Askar
when other ethnic groups settled there Akaev vetoed it three times, before a
under the Russian Empire in the nineteenth less discriminatory land privatization act
century, with Turkic-speaking sedentary was passed in 1997. In the first years of
relatives of the Kyrgyz living in the southern independence, much of the demand for
Fergana Valley, and European ethnic groups good farmland among ethnic Kyrgyz was
moving into the northern Chuy Valley. met in northern Kyrgyzstan from land left
After the Russian Revolution, in the by the thousands of Russians, Ukrainians,
1920s, the borders of the Kyrgyz Republic Germans and others who left the country
were defined, and all citizens were ascribed for their historical homelands. However,
ethnicities – most of the Turkic-speakers in people from many other ethnic groups,
the Fergana Valley were recorded as Uzbeks, including Dungans (ethnic Chinese
while the vast majority of pastoralists were Muslims), Meskhetian Turks and ethnic
now officially Kyrgyz. In the 1930s, these groups originating from the North Caucasus
ethnic Kyrgyz were forced to give up private continued to farm the land that their
ownership of their livestock and end their families had tilled for decades or centuries.
nomadic lifestyles, often to live in demanding Meanwhile, in the south, the Uzbek
mountainous areas. These mountain community continued to farm much of the
communities received massive subsidies from fertile land in the Fergana Valley.
central government as compensation. At In 2005, Akaev was overthrown in
the same time, further waves of European the face of widespread allegations of
migrants were encouraged to move to the corruption and growing authoritarianism.
Republic during much of the Soviet period, The protesters were predominantly rural
while other ethnic groups, such as north Kyrgyz, and many reported that they had

124 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
been promised land in the Chuy Valley. the language were closed in 2010. Ethnic Uzbek
An ethnic Turkish community faced parents around southern Kyrgyzstan have elected
severe threats in 2005, and a largely ethnic to send their children to Kyrgyz-language classes.
Dungan village experienced wide-scale There has also been active support for the move
damage to its buildings in 2006. There to Kyrgyz-language teaching among prominent
are reports that this violence was in part members of Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic Uzbek
caused by resentment among ethnic Kyrgyz community, who see this as a way to improve
internal migrants that they were renting ethnic relations.
fields from non-Kyrgyz. The situation of religious minorities
In June 2010, larger-scale inter-ethnic is relatively better in Kyrgyzstan than in
violence occurred in southern Kyrgyzstan neighbouring countries. However, problems still
between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, with remain. For instance, two Jehovah’s Witnesses,
at least 475 fatalities. Although the direct arrested in May 2011 for possession of Hizb-ut
impact was primarily in urban areas, rural Tahrir Islamist literature which they maintain
families displaced by the violence in the was planted by police, were released on appeal in
south were among the most severely affected July. Human rights groups have also expressed
as they returned to find houses fully or concerns that many parliamentarians appear to
partially destroyed, farming machinery and want to erode the secularism enshrined in the
tools looted or burned, and livestock stolen country’s constitution by providing extended
or dead. Meanwhile, many of the ethnic breaks for prayers on Fridays and opening a
Kyrgyz participants in the conflict had come Muslim prayer room in the parliament building.
from impoverished remote mountainous
districts with pastoralist traditions such as Tajikistan
Alay and Karakulja. Tajiks comprise the largest ethnic group in the
In the aftermath of the rioting, Kyrgyz- country, accounting for 79.9 per cent of the
language media outlets tacitly repeated the population. Other groups include Uzbeks (15.3
assertions of certain prominent politicians per cent), Russians (1.1 per cent) and Kyrgyz (1.1
that land in Kyrgyzstan belonged to ethnic per cent). Only two of the 63 parliamentarians
Kyrgyz and that Uzbeks should be regarded in Tajikistan are ethnic Uzbeks. Uzbeks
as mere tenants. On 7 November 2010, a primarily live in the west of the country, near
group of about 1,000 Kyrgyz attempted to the border with Uzbekistan. Tajikistan’s plans
seize about 70 hectares of land from Uzbeks to build a major hydroelectric dam at Rogun
near Osh. The authorities took action to have aggravated relations with neighbouring
disperse the squatters, with promises to look Uzbekistan and have reportedly led to the Uzbek
at their requests for land in 2011. In April, minority facing increasing pressure inside the
it was reported that the government was country.
planning to allocate 31,200 plots of unused One barrier to political empowerment for the
land around Osh city, but that the number Uzbek community is the government’s language
of registered applicants for land was twice policy. Though the Constitution guarantees
that and rising. While this has alleviated linguistic plurality, media reports reveal that
pressure on livelihoods, the fact remains in practice the use of anything besides Tajik in
that good agricultural land in the country’s public discourse is discouraged, and few radio or
fertile valleys is at a premium. As the television broadcasts are in Uzbek. In addition,
incidents in 2010 and 2011 show, tension civil servants are required to speak Tajik. Language
remains high among communities in both policy also inhibits upward mobility for Uzbeks.
the north and south of the country. p University applicants must be fluent in Tajik.
Although schoolchildren study the Tajik language
for two hours a day, for many rural Uzbeks this is
not enough to master reading and writing.
Non-nationals of Tajikistan wanting to marry

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 125

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
Above: Soldiers at a checkpoint on the road to Tajikistan to lease 2,000 hectares of land to
the site of the Rogun dam, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in
Carolyn Drake/Panos. January 2011.
Ethnic Kyrgyz women in Tajikistan are
local citizens have been hit by new legislation increasingly falling victim to bride kidnapping,
passed in January, which requires foreigners which is widespread in Kyrgyzstan. Media
to have lived in the country for a year before reports suggest that some of their ethnic Tajik
they can marry locals and to sign pre-nuptial neighbours in the north-eastern Jyrgatal district
agreements committing them to providing have begun to copy the practice.
housing for their spouse. Reportedly, the changes In March, Forum 18 reported that all religious
target two specific groups – male Afghan citizens activity independent of state control, by Muslims,
and ethnic Uighurs from China – some of whom Christians, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other
are suspected to enter into marriage with local religious believers, has continued to be targeted
women to secure residence rights and accelerate by the state. Violations perpetrated by the
acquisition of citizenship. There are fears within government include: demolitions and closures
Tajikistan that immigrants from China will fill of mosques, churches and the country’s only
the vacuum caused by the mass migration of synagogue; a ban on all religious activity without
Tajik citizens seeking employment in the Russian state permission; arbitrary jailing of Muslims and
Federation. Fears of an influx from China were criminal charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses;
raised in the media following the decision of limitations on the right to share beliefs; and tight

126 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
government censorship. The government justifies Turkmen, and all 14 candidates for the 2012
the imposition of these controls by the impact of elections were ethnic Turkmen.
extremism and Islamization on national security. Marking a new development in the
In 2011, it continued to carry out military raids Turkmenization strategy, in September it
against alleged Islamist militants who had been was reported that, for the first time, school
hiding in areas that were opposition strongholds children were being required to give personal
during the civil war in the 1990s, particularly the information on immediate family members
Rasht Valley, home of the Garmi community. going back three generations. Authorities gave
In a visit to Tajikistan in October, US no explanation for this new requirement, which
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested resembles previous policies for those applying for
that recent steps to control faith could drive public employment and higher education that
‘legitimate religious expression underground’ and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and
fuel extremism. Cultural Rights also expressed concern about
A law passed in August to ban children under in November. Meanwhile, in spite of specific
18 who are not receiving state-approved religious legislative provisions, the possibilities for ethnic
education from places of worship, appeared in minorities to study in their mother tongues are
October to be targeting mainly independent limited. It is reported that the country’s few
Muslims. Members of other religious groups remaining Russian-language schools are in great
continued to face legal problems, including a demand, with parents paying large bribes to
Jehovah’s Witness with Uzbekistan citizenship, administrations or local education authorities for
who was deported to Uzbekistan in September admission.
despite having a legal right of residence in In January, new travel restrictions were
Tajikistan. reported for those planning to enter or exit
the country. This is likely to have particular
Turkmenistan repercussions for those with dual Turkmen-
It remains difficult to access information about Russian citizenship, which has been made
minority issues in Turkmenistan because of invalid in recent years by the authorities in
the lack of press freedom and restrictions on Turkmenistan.
civil society. There is no disaggregated national In more positive news, Turkmenistan has
data available on the demographic composition made progress in combatting statelessness. Several
of the population and the enjoyment of thousand persons were registered as stateless, and
rights. Extrapolating from a mid-1990s 3,000 received citizenship in 2011. In December,
census, the country has Uzbek, Russian and the country acceded to the UN Convention
Kazakh and other minority communities. It relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
is clear that minority groups continue to be Most of these people were left stateless at the
sidelined from many educational, training, break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, having
employment and political opportunities as a moved to Turkmenistan originally from former
result of the government’s continuing policy of Soviet republics such as Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Turkmenization, which sets out preference for Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and
persons of Turkmen origin, especially in the field Uzbekistan.
of education and employment. The authorities The Kazakh minority in Turkmenistan
have not undertaken measures to prevent these numbered around 90,000 in 1995, but many
practices, or to improve the situation. have taken advantage of Kazakhstan’s Oralman
There are no ministers or deputy ministers scheme, which supports ethnic Kazakhs abroad
from minority ethnic communities in voluntarily repatriating to the country. In
Turkmenistan. Heads of regional and district May, a court in Turkmenistan announced it
administrations are likewise all ethnic Turkmen. had conditionally freed Bisengul Begdesinov,
Even in predominantly national minority areas, a prominent ethnic Kazakh, following a fraud
persons from these minorities only occupy low- and bribery trial. Among his activities within
ranking posts. The President is required to speak the community, Begdesinov helped ethnic

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 127

and Indigenous Peoples 2011
Kazakhs to privatize property and relocate to violence of 2010 and ongoing discrimination
Kazakhstan under the Oralman scheme. Despite faced by ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. A small
being freed, Begdesinov was refused an exit visa demonstration held by a local human rights
to leave Turkmenistan in December, leading to group in Tashkent to mark the anniversary of the
speculation that this was an attempt to intimidate ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan and protest
Kazakhs residing in Turkmenistan to discourage the continuing discrimination faced by Uzbeks
them from privatizing their apartments. resulted in 15 activists being briefly detained in
Religious minorities in Turkmenistan June. Nevertheless, there have been reports of
continue to suffer discrimination. Plans to ethnic Kyrgyz leaving Uzbekistan for Kyrgyzstan
revise the Law on Religion, after a December in 2011, particularly the Fergana Valley provinces
2010 report by the Organization for Security of Jalalabad and Osh, in fear of retaliation.
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) criticized Uzbekistan’s already strained relationship with
many of its provisions for violating international Tajikistan has deteriorated in recent years, partly
human rights standards, have been shelved until due to the belief that a new hydroelectric dam
2012. The OSCE recommendations included being built upstream in Tajikistan would reduce
an end to the ban on unregistered religious Uzbekistan’s water supplies. This has reportedly
activity and on the private teaching of religion. led to the Uzbek minority facing increasing
The law also has no provision for conscientious pressure inside the country.
objection to military service. Two Jehovah’s This year has seen ethnic Tajik nationals of
Witnesses were imprisoned in the summer Tajikistan working in Uzbekistan coming under
for their conscientious objection. While one suspicion. A former metallurgist was sentenced
was amnestied in August 2011, the other was by a military court in August to 12 years in
sentenced to two years in a labour camp, after prison for espionage. His lawyer denied the
which he may be sent to another labour camp, accusations. In September, another ethnic Tajik
where seven other Jehovah’s Witnesses and was reportedly deported for inciting ethnic
one Protestant pastor are known to be held. hatred; the man denied having been involved in
Meanwhile, there have been further reports of Tajik–Uzbek issues.
harassment of Protestants by the police and The situation of religious minorities remains
religious authorities. difficult in Uzbekistan due to tight state control
of religion. According to Forum 18, followers of
Uzbekistan all faiths are subject to National Security Service
Given the restrictions placed on the media, civil surveillance, which can often be highly intrusive,
society and human rights work in Uzbekistan, as well as the use of informers inside religious
it is hard to get a clear picture of the situation communities. Muslims who wear atypical
of minorities within the country. HRW clothing or longer beards, and Protestants, appear
reported in 2011 that in recent years, arrests particularly vulnerable. In 2011, Protestants had
and persecution of political and human rights religious literature seized and destroyed, were
activists have increased, and credible reports fined, and prevented from leaving the country
of arbitrary detention and torture of detainees, after importing religious literature. Meanwhile,
including several suspicious deaths in custody, a scheduled visit by the Russian Orthodox
have continued. HRW itself was forced to close patriarch in November was postponed, reportedly
its office in Uzbekistan in June. However, the because the government disagreed with the
country’s continued strategic importance as an appointment of a bishop for the country. As of
entry point to Afghanistan appears to have meant spring 2012, there was no indication when the
that NATO countries feel obliged to tone down visit might take place. Many religious groups
their criticism of the country’s human rights remain unable or unwilling to officially register,
situation. while those that do operate legally continue to be
Tight state control continues to curb any pressurized to prevent children attending worship
potential retaliatory action against Uzbekistan’s and not to proselytize.
ethnic Kyrgyz minority following the ethnic

128 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
delta of the Amu Darya River and the Aral Sea
Case study area for several hundred years. Their traditional
lifestyle revolved around cattle breeding, fishing

A sea that fled

and irrigated agriculture.
However, these sources of livelihood have

its shores
become increasingly unviable since the 1950s,
when the Soviet Union developed a massive
system of dams, canals and water pumping
stations in Central Asia. Major rivers were
With the retreat of the Aral Sea, thousands diverted to irrigate cotton and other water-
of Karakalpaks have lost their livelihoods and intensive crops in arid areas and deserts. Irrigated
are being forced off their land. land expanded by 150 per cent in the Amu
The shrinking of the Aral Sea by 90 per Darya Basin (primarily in Uzbekistan and
cent and desertification of most of its terri- Turkmenistan) in this period. At this time, most
tory is one of the most visible environmen- ethnic Karakalpaks became farmers, producing
tal disasters in the world over the last fifty cotton, rice and other crops, primarily on
years. While improved water management collective farms.
has led to modest growth in the volume of Since independence, Uzbekistan has made some
Kazakhstan’s northern portion of the sea in efforts to move away from cotton monoculture.
recent years, there is little prospect of similar But the volume of water reaching the sea has
changes in the southern section, which is continued to shrink, as industrial and domestic
surrounded by the Autonomous Republic of use of water also increases. UNEP reports that
Karakalpakstan, a part of Uzbekistan. more than 50 per cent of Amu Darya irrigation
This environmental disaster has had serious water is lost due to lack of canal lining, excessive
economic, social and health consequences for filtration, evaporation and other reasons.
the ethnic Karakalpak population, which is The Aral Sea disaster has destroyed the region’s
native to the region immediately around the fishing industry. In addition, desertification
sea. A 2011 report by the United Nations is under way in much of the surrounding
Environment Programme (UNEP) on the agricultural land. Local climate change, especially
Amu Darya River shed further light on the falling rainfall, is also affecting farmers further
serious social, economic and health impacts afield. A local farmer told RFE/RL in July that the
of the Aral Sea crisis on the Karakalpak situation in the Amu Darya delta is worsening:
population. They have lost their traditional
livelihoods and are being forced to move ‘This is the third time during the last 10 years that
away from the sea to find work and healthier the flow of water has been this low in the Amu
environmental conditions. Darya,’ he said. ‘Things are only getting worse here,
The three largest ethnic groups in and because of this people are abandoning
Karakalpakstan by population size are the village.’
Uzbeks, Karakalpaks and Kazakhs. There
has been no census in Uzbekistan since In addition to the drop in water flow,
1989, but it is believed that the Karakalpak the quality of drinking water in the area is
population is about 500,000–700,000, of deteriorating because of the toxic residues of past
whom the vast majority grew up in this area. over-use of pesticides and defoliants. Exacerbated
Karakalpakstan is one of the two poorest by grossly inadequate levels of health care, this
regions of Uzbekistan, and the Karakalpak has led to rises in kidney, thyroid and liver
population suffers higher levels of poverty, diseases and anaemia caused by reduced iron
unemployment and sickness than their Uzbek absorption, as well as tuberculosis and cancer.
neighbours. Ethnic Karakalpaks, who are Resolution of the Aral Sea problem is
culturally close to Kazakhs, have lived in the complicated by interstate disputes over water use.

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 129

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued opportunities. Less than 9 per cent of
the workforce is involved in industrial
Uzbekistan’s government is alarmed about production, and there is limited access to
the building of large hydroelectric dams in credit to develop new businesses. Others
upstream countries, particularly the Rogun have moved to Uzbekistan proper or
Dam in Tajikistan. There are also concerns migrated to work in the stronger economy
about the long-term effects of glacial retreat of Kazakhstan, where they often face
on river flow, and of increased demand for discrimination. Unofficial estimates suggest
water in Afghanistan, another upstream state. that 50,000–200,000 Karakalpaks have
In order to mitigate the current and future made the move to Kazakhstan. Karakalpaks
water quantity and quality problems of the remain one of the most threatened
Aral Sea Basin, collective solutions will need minorities in Uzbekistan because of the
to be found to improve water sharing and ecological catastrophe. Their position will
cooperation throughout the Basin. not improve without significant external
Meanwhile, in the face of the loss of intervention to tackle the problems of the
livelihood opportunities and health concerns, southern Aral Sea. p
the Karakalpak population is faced with
difficult decisions. While the mainstay of Below: A Karakalpak man stands in front
the region’s economy remains agriculture, of old discarded fishing boats that once
many have moved south to the region’s worked on the Aral Sea, in Karakalpakstan,
capital Nukus, where there are few work Uzbekistan. Jason Larkin/Panos.

130 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
substantial number of civilians who were killed
during NATO-led night raids.
Afghan Local Police (ALP) will in part step

in to replace international troops, particularly in
rural areas. But in a September report, Human
Rights Watch (HRW) warned that such a civilian
defence force could ratchet up ethnic tensions
Irwin Loy if authorities fail to prevent ethnic or political
interest groups from commandeering the process.
The quest to develop natural resources was a A year after US officials announced the
burgeoning issue in many South Asian countries discovery of US$ 1 trillion worth of untapped
during 2011. Authorities face a dilemma when mineral deposits in the country, Afghanistan
pursuing such development: taking advantage made significant moves to profit from its
of natural resources can be a vehicle used to resources. In late December, authorities
pull populations out of poverty, yet in doing so announced they had inked a deal with China
the needs and livelihoods of local populations National Petroleum Corporation to explore for
are often ignored. Across the region, minorities oil in the northern Amu Darya Basin.
and indigenous peoples continued to experience In November, Afghanistan awarded contracts
ongoing conflict throughout the year, in many to Indian and Canadian companies to develop
cases related to land rights and unfettered natural the potentially lucrative Hajigak iron ore deposit
resource extraction. in Bamyan province, home to ethnic Hazara.
But watchdog groups were quick to warn of the
Afghanistan dangers associated with resource development. A
The start of 2011 ushered in a political crisis local civil society organization, Integrity Watch
in Afghanistan, which saw President Hamid Afghanistan said: ‘In the peaks of opportunity,
Karzai locked in a stalemate with the country’s Hajigak Mine can be a source of revenue,
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) over employment and development, or a curse if not
the results of the disputed 2010 parliamentary [dealt with] properly.’ Afghanistan is a candidate
elections, raising questions about his legitimacy. country for the Extractive Industries Transparency
Ultimately, in August Karzai announced that the Initiative (EITI), and its government has
final authority on election results indeed rested committed itself to EITI’s internationally
with the IEC. recognized transparency principles.
The year marked the start of significant troop Religious and ethnic tensions continued to
withdrawals of NATO forces from Afghanistan. simmer throughout 2011. There were reports
In June, United States President Barack Obama that children from Hindu and Sikh communities
ordered his country’s military to withdraw were forced to drop out of school because of
10,000 troops by the end of the year, with a bullying.
more significant pull-out to occur by mid-2012. In December, a suicide bomber killed at
Other NATO countries made similar plans. least 19 people at a funeral procession. The
But with the reduction of foreign troops, blast went off in Uzbek and Tajik-dominated
there are significant question marks over how Takhar province, where Taliban attacks had been
Afghan forces will perform on their own. Civilian relatively rare until recent years.
casualties in the country continued to soar. Also in December, at least 60 died and another
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 200 were injured when a suicide bomber struck
(UNAMA) documented 3,021 civilian deaths an important Shi’a shrine in Kabul, in an attack
in 2011, an increase of 8 per cent compared blamed on Pakistani militants. On the same day,
with 2010 and a 25 per cent increase from a bomb detonated near a Shi’a mosque in the
2009. Seventy-seven per cent of the deaths were northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing four. The
attributed to anti-government forces, although attacks coincided with the major Shi’a festival of
critics noted that the tally appeared to exclude a Ashura.

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 131

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Above: Hazara girls tending crops in Bamiyan 2009, in exchange for political support from
province, Afghanistan. Iva Zimova/Panos. fundamentalist elements within the Shi’a
community. The highly criticized legislation
The year also saw much debate over the US allows husbands to withhold food from their
and the Afghan governments’ stated plans to wives for not having sex, hands custody of
involve the Taliban in peace talks. Considering children to fathers in divorce proceedings and
the Taliban’s history in Afghanistan, the forces women to seek permission from their
situation for minorities – particularly women husbands in order to work.
from minority communities – remains a crucial The Karzai-appointed High Peace Council,
concern. Some members of a coalition of ethnic which is tasked with seeking peace talks with the
minorities, made up of prominent opposition Taliban, also includes former warlords, critics say.
leaders who were members of the former A deputy chair of the council told the Institute
Northern Alliance that fought against the Taliban for War & Peace Reporting that women should
in the 1990s, have said they support peace talks, not fear a reconciliation agreement with the
but minority communities must be a part of the Taliban. But he also said women should not
discussion if they are to be successful. expect ‘unconditional freedom in areas where
Advocates say women’s rights in the country Islamic rules and Afghan values were dominant’.
are already under threat, despite the previous In any event, the future of the peace talks is far
10 years of relative progress. An Oxfam briefing from certain. In September, a suicide bomber
issued in October said: ‘The Afghan government assassinated Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic
has already demonstrated its willingness to Tajik who had headed the High Peace Council,
sacrifice women’s rights for political ends.’ dealing an early blow to the process itself.
The paper referred to the Shi’a Personal The year also ended in controversy after Karzai
Status Law that President Karzai approved in replaced three members of the Afghanistan

132 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Independent Human Rights Commission ‘Indigenous peoples have lost and are continuing
(AIHRC). Authorities said the commissioners to lose their ancestral lands at an alarming rate
had finished their terms on the independent as a consequence of forceful eviction from and
body, but rights groups questioned whether the expropriation of their lands through development
move was in response to the AIHRC’s planned projects and occupation by the military.’
release of a report covering war crimes in the
country, which was scheduled to be released In the meantime, the violence continued in the
during 2012. CHT area throughout 2011, often pitting local
indigenous populations against Bengali settlers.
Bangladesh In April, indigenous villagers allegedly killed
In Bangladesh, the issues of ethnic identity and three Bengali settlers; in retaliation, settlers
land rights were closely intertwined in 2011. This allegedly attacked nearby villages and set fire to at
was underscored by the government’s failure to least 60 homes. Local rights groups say similar
resolve tensions in the Chittagong Hill Tracts violent disputes over land were common
(CHT) area of south-eastern Bangladesh, home throughout 2011. According to the NGO
to at least 600,000 indigenous people. Not Kapaeeng Foundation, which campaigns for the
only did the authorities again fail to implement rights of indigenous peoples, violence in the area
the long-delayed peace accords meant to bring saw more than 130 homes of indigenous people
stability to the region, but also Bangladeshi burned to the ground. Indigenous women also
officials in effect denied the existence of bore the brunt of the violence. The group
indigenous people in the country, much to the recorded 16 rapes of indigenous women
surprise of the communities themselves and of nationwide, including five who were
a UN Special Rapporteur tasked with assessing also murdered.
the situation. The prolonged tensions mean that indigenous
During the year, Bangladesh passed children in the area are among the country’s least
amendments to its Constitution that struck educated. Literacy rates among ethnic minority
the term ‘Adivasi’, or indigenous, from the children from the CHT are far lower than the
documents and replaced it with ‘small ethnic national average. Medical authorities said hospital
groups’. Some communities in the CHT said the facilities in the area are also dangerously under-
government refusal to recognize non-Bengalis in staffed, a key problem which is contributing to
the area as indigenous will only come as a further high infant mortality rates in the district, namely
threat to livelihoods, culture and language. 63 deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared
Bangladeshi officials contended that allowing with the national average of 49.
special treatment for any population would not Elsewhere, worries over the proposed Phulbari
be in the country’s best interests and proceeded Coal Mine project in north-west Bangladesh
to press the case with foreign diplomats and UN were a dominant issue for environmentalists. The
agencies, according to local media. project would involve an open pit coal mine,
In May, the UN Special Rapporteur urged which critics say would devastate almost 6,000
Bangladesh to set a timeline to implement the hectares of farmland and uproot nearly 130,000
CHT peace accord, which has largely languished indigenous people who rely on farmland.
since it was signed in 1997. For years, the CHT Peaceful protesters, who opposed the Phulbari
has been the site of conflict between indigenous project, were also subject to violence. In
people and Bangladeshi authorities. In addition May, advocates accused ‘thugs’ linked to the
to heavy militarization, the government has government of assaulting protesters during a rally.
also exacerbated the conflict by encouraging In December, riot police used batons and tear gas
Bengali settlers to move into CHT areas, a policy to break up another demonstration against the
which has had consequences that play out in the Phulbari project.
form of present-day land disputes. The Special Religious discrimination is prohibited under
Rapporteur, Lars-Anders Baer, said land was the the Bangladeshi Constitution, yet NGO Odhikar
crucial issue in the CHT: nonetheless recorded multiple rights violations

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 133

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
against religious minorities in the Muslim-
majority country. These included more than 100 Case study By Oliver Scanlan
reported injuries to religious minorities as well

A year of broken
as 25 attacks on places of worship. In one April
incident recorded by Odhikar, supporters linked

to a parliamentarian with the ruling Awami
League party allegedly attacked a Hindu temple
and several homes in central Bangladesh. The
supporters then reportedly attacked local reporters
who had arrived to cover the violence. In ‘My grandfather used to tell me not to go in
February, the Asian Human Rights Commission there,’ the old man points to a wide expanse
said officials in Gazipur District disrupted an of grass where Bengali children are playing
annual convention of Ahmadiyya, even though football, ‘because of the tigers in the forest’.
prior permission had already been granted. He is a member of the Garo community; one
The NGO Bangladesh Minority Watch of Bangladesh’s estimated 46 indigenous or
(BDMW) also recorded several alarming instances Adivasi peoples. He is an activist fighting for
of violence against Hindus, in which girls and his people’s ancestral forests in Modhupur, in
women were targeted. In October, a 15-year-old north-central Bangladesh. And he is losing.
Hindu girl was gang raped and killed. In August, When the Awami League swept to power
BDMW said another Hindu girl was abducted in 2008, their election manifesto included
and then forcibly converted to Islam. unparalleled commitments to Adivasi com-
Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugees continued to munities of Bangladesh, both in the restive
face problems throughout the year. The NGO CHT region in the south-east and in the
Refugees International warned that the Rohingya, ‘plain-lands’. The League promised to imple-
an ethnic minority from neighbouring Arakan ment the 1997 Chittagong peace accord that
(or Rakhine) State in Burma, enjoy few rights brought the 30-year insurgency to an end,
in Bangladesh and are subject to abuse. It is and to secure the plain-lands Adivasis access
believed that more than 200,000 Rohingyas live to their forests and lands. But in 2011, when
in Bangladesh, though most of them are not Bangladesh passed amendments to the Consti-
officially recognized as refugees. The situation is tution that denied Adivasis their right to iden-
particularly troubling for women. The NGO says tity, these promises were severely undermined.
reports of sexual violence against unregistered Communities that live in the CHT and
refugees have increased over the last year. those that live in the plain-lands face distinct
The government has long viewed the Rohingya problems, according to recent research
as illegal migrants. Throughout 2011, Burma by Bangladeshi scholars. The CHT, still
made international headlines as it incrementally under military control, has seen enormous
allows greater freedoms for its citizens. Yet demographic changes over the past 60
Rohingya in Bangladesh remain wary of the years. Following a massive influx of Bengali
reforms and are unlikely to return there soon. settlers as part of a government-sponsored
Women from minority communities were also programme, today Adivasis are a minority
the subjects of deep concern throughout the year in their own land. Over the past 30 years,
in Bangladesh. During a February session, the UN collectively managed land in the CHT shrank
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination from 76 per cent of the total to 26 per cent.
Against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern Adivasis have lost their land, through forced
about the prevalence of violence against women, eviction and expropriation, to Bengali settlers,
including rape and acid attacks. The CEDAW the forests department and the military.
Committee said minority women often suffer The plain-lands, while not subject to the
many forms of discrimination, yet Bangladesh same degree of military control, constitute
has only limited information or statistics about a far larger area, and indigenous groups are
disadvantaged women and girls.

134 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
more numerous but more diffuse. There are at recognized and enforced by the government if
least 34 plain-lands communities spread over their communities are to survive.
90 per cent of Bangladesh’s territory compared The 15th Amendment of the Constitution
with 11 groups inhabiting the 10 per cent that had the potential to address the identity issue
comprises the CHT. as an essential precursor to resolving land and
In the plains, indigenous groups are nominally forest disputes. By enshrining the term ‘Adi-
governed by the same laws and protections as vasi’ in law, as opposed to the pejorative term
other Bangladeshis. However, because of far ‘upajati’, the government could have signalled
lower literacy rates and discrimination, they are its acceptance of a multicultural state.
overwhelmingly more vulnerable to land theft, Instead, on 30 June 2011, the amendment
largely through the non-existent implementation passed with provisions that excluded the term
of Bangladesh’s principal land act, which ‘Adivasi’, and replaced it with ‘small ethnic
prohibits the transfer of land from ‘aboriginal’ groups’ to refer to Bangladesh’s indigenous
to ‘non-aboriginal’ tenants without the written peoples. It also upheld the legal recognition
permission of local government officers. The of the pejorative term ‘upajati’. The people
results have been similarly disastrous. of Bangladesh, according to the new law,
A recent survey of ten plain-lands groups found are now to be know universally as ‘Bengalis’,
that all of them had suffered land deprivation to completely denying the rights of Bangladesh’s
some extent in the last 30 years. The hardest hit minorities to self-identification.
communities include the Patro of the north-east, So the Garos of Modhupur continue to
where 68 per cent of households reported land hold rallies; the national Adivasi activist
expropriation, Santals in Rajshahi district (65 organizations continue to hold roundtables in
per cent) and Rakhain of Patuakhali in southern Dhaka. But the climate is gradually worsening
Bangladesh (45 per cent). as the high expectations that accompanied the
As a result, certain communities are now on Awami League’s election to power in 2008
the brink of extinction in Bangladesh; only a few have dissipated. State-sanctioned violence
hundred Lushai remain in Bandarban district in against indigenous groups, often related to
the CHT; and fewer than 3,000 Patro in north- land disputes, also continues unabated.
east Sylhet. Adivasi activists are adamant that By choosing to continue the mono-cultural
both substantive rights regarding their identity, nation-building project inherited from its
as well as rights to lands and forests, must be predecessors, and eschewing efforts to address
land issues and human rights abuses, 2011 was
Below: A Garo woman in the Madhupur the year that the government of Bangladesh
forest, Bangladesh. G.M.B.Akash/Panos broke faith with its indigenous citizens. p

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 135

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
As elsewhere in South Asia, the pursuit of
natural resource development without full
consultation with predominantly indigenous local
communities continued to exacerbate tensions
in India. In one prominent project in India’s
Odisha state (formerly known as Orissa), which
is home to more than 100 indigenous groups,
South Korean steel giant POSCO has been
granted rights to a US$12 billion steel project in
the area.
Opponents were bolstered after Tribal
Affairs Minister Vyricherla Kishore Chandra
Deo publicly denounced the project, saying it
would come at the expense of tribal peoples’
rights. Still, tensions simmered throughout the
year as authorities moved in to acquire land
for the controversial steel plant. In December
2011, rights groups said non-violent protesters
demonstrating against the POSCO project were
injured after a private force confronted them.
By the end of the year, Abhay Sahoo, a local
political leader who had rallied farmers against
forcible land acquisition in Odisha, had been
arrested. Amnesty International claimed that the
authorities falsely charged him in a bid to silence
his campaign. Increasingly large demonstrations
calling for his release continued into the new year.
The POSCO project was one of many
controversial development plans throughout
the country. Many of these proposed projects UK’s Vedanta Resources to build a bauxite mine
are putting local indigenous groups up against in Odisha province. But that decision is under
corporations. In Arunachal Pradesh province appeal and was scheduled to be revisited in mid-
alone, authorities are planning for a network of 2012. 
168 individual hydroelectric projects, according In August 2011, Shehla Masood, an
to media reports. The rush to develop the environmentalist who campaigned for the rights
province’s hydro potential has drawn criticism of indigenous people, was shot dead at her home
from advocates for indigenous people as well as in Madhya Pradesh state. Her murder remains
authorities in downstream districts. unsolved. Local media have questioned whether
Yet, as the year progressed, Indian authorities her death was linked to her advocacy against
pushed forward with new plans for further diamond mining in her state, involving the
development. In March 2011, the Asian Human world’s second largest mining company,
Rights Commission (AHRC) deplored plans for Rio Tinto.
a power plant project in Madhya Pradesh. The In 2011, the government’s response to the
proposed project, the AHRC warned, would ongoing conflict with the Maoist movement,
deprive local indigenous communities of vital known as the Naxalites, continued to be a
access to food and water supplies. Indigenous major human rights issue. By the end of the
people had earned a hard-fought victory in 2010 year, the government claimed an ‘historic low’
when the Dongria Kondh tribe managed to in Maoist-related violence. Officials said the
convince Indian authorities to block plans by the number of civilians who died as a result of the

136 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: An Adivasi woman carrying a pot of water
on her head in front of a Vedanta aluminium Case study By Satbir Singh
refinery in Lanjigarh, Odisha state, India.

conflict was at its lowest level in two decades. ‘This land is our
land’ – mining,
Yet violence continued to blight 2011. In May,
rebels killed and dismembered the bodies of

conflict and India’s

10 policemen. In July, Maoists in central India
blew up a bridge, resulting in the deaths of four

people. At the same time, government forces
also bear responsibility for deadly violence. In
March, security forces in Chhattisgarh state were
accused of killing three indigenous people in
a week of violence that saw almost 300 homes Numbering 85 million, India’s 600
burned, according to Amnesty International. Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis (‘original
Three women were sexually assaulted and 300 people’) are kaleidoscopically diverse and
homes were destroyed and looted. Amnesty make up nearly a quarter of the world’s
also deplored the killings of 25 Maoist suspects, indigenous peoples. Concentrated in an
including 10 indigenous people, in Odisha area of central and eastern India that
during the early part of the year. Police have stretches from Maharashtra to West Bengal,
claimed the suspects were armed combatants, many tribal groups share their homelands
though rights activists dispute this. with some of the most significant mineral
The government’s handling of the Maoist deposits in the world – resources which have
insurgency is critical to minority rights. While attracted increasing interest in recent years,
the rebels claim to represent some of India’s most precipitating mass displacement, worsening
marginalized, including Dalits and indigenous poverty and fuelling one of the world’s
people, it is often these communities that get longest-running conflicts.
caught up in the violence. A positive move came Adivasis are by far the most vulnerable
in 2011, when the Supreme Court declared that and marginalized socio-economic group in
the Chhattisgarh state authorities should disarm India; gaps in poverty, literacy and mortality
and disband the notorious Special Police Officers between tribal and non-tribal groups are
(SPOs), also known as ‘Salwa Judum’ or ‘Koya widening, despite the economic changes
Commandos’. The poorly trained militias are sweeping India. These challenges have been
alleged to have committed serious human rights compounded in recent years by the arrival of
violations. global mining giants, for whom governments
Across the north-east, including Assam have used the colonial Land Acquisition
and Meghalaya States, a worrying scarcity of Act of 1894 to forcibly displace millions
communal land in the area is one of the drivers from their ancestral lands. This deepening
of what has become a rarely reported ethnic poverty and alienation have fuelled the
conflict. According to a report by the Internal decades-old Maoist-Naxalite insurgency, with
Displacement Monitoring Centre and the the 100,000-strong militia consolidating
Norwegian Refugee Council, almost 50,000 its grip in areas of weak government, high
people were displaced during violent clashes malnutrition and mass displacement. The
between the Rabha and Garo peoples as the year government’s security response has in turn
began. Monitors say at least 76,000 remained brought an influx of personnel and weapons
homeless as of November 2011. into the region. With poor accountability
Dalits and indigenous people continue to suffer and an often blurred boundary between the
from the poorest health statistics in the country, counter-insurgency mandate and broader
caused by poor sanitation and inadequate access economic imperatives, civilian populations
to safe drinking water and health care facilities,

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 137

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued has been initiated and the Dantewada police
chief Ankit Garg, an officer named by Sori as
are often caught in the crossfire and fall victim to being involved in her torture, was awarded a
atrocities on both sides of the conflict. medal for gallantry by the President of India in
Child soldiers are routinely recruited on January 2012.
both sides of the conflict. In addition to the Such disregard for serious allegations is
50,000-strong security force deployed under commonplace and, along with the intimidation,
‘Operation Green Hunt’, up to 7,000 youths – disappearance and persecution of opposing
many Adivasis themselves – have been armed by voices, it has contributed to a culture of
the Chhattisgarh state government as ‘Special impunity within the security forces in the region.
Police Officers’ with the Salwa Judum or Political and mining interests have become fused
‘purification hunt’. In July 2011, the Supreme through a complex web of campaign financing
Court ordered the Chhattisgarh state government and corruption, which has led to security forces
to dismantle the Salwa Judum and investigate all frequently straying from their mandates. Some
allegations of human rights violations, including individual units of both state and rebel forces
the recruitment of child soldiers. Chhattisgarh have independently formed relations with
Chief Minister Raman Singh responded that his private bodies. In 2011, a general manager of
government is not inclined to disarm its Special Indian multinational Essar Group was arrested
Police Officers and has not yet taken any steps for paying Maoist rebels to secure 267 km of
toward investigating atrocities. pipeline through Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
In January 2011, in the state of Odisha, the For their part, mining giants responded
central Ministry of Environment and Forests gave to growing hostility in 2011 with aggressive
final clearance to Korean steel giant POSCO for public relations campaigns. Vedanta Resources
a US$ 12 billion refinery and captive port. A launched a short film, ‘Creating Happiness’,
number of panchayats (village councils) who have broadcast daily across television networks.
expressed their opposition to the acquisition of It trumpets the philanthropic efforts of the
their lands have seen their constitutional right company, whose bauxite projects in Odisha
to consultation undermined by the deployment have attracted international condemnation
of state security forces. In the village of Dhinkia, for destroying the sacred Niyamgiri hills and
state officials described the panchayat leaders as driving the Dongria Kondh tribe to near-
‘encroachers’, calling in state troopers and threat- extinction. Tata Steel similarly launched
ening to ‘use force if necessary’. Abhay Sahu, lead- an advertising campaign highlighting the
er of the anti-POSCO movement in Odisha, was employment generated by mining. Their new
arrested in November and journalists, activists and tag-line, ‘Values stronger than steel’ does little
academics are now unable to enter the proposed for the 12 Adivasis shot dead in 2006 by police
displacement zone. in Kalinganagar for protesting against the
Elsewhere in India, opposition to mining- construction of the Tata steel plant.
related displacement continued to be a dangerous Though they do not provide redress, these
undertaking throughout 2011. In August, campaigns are proving remarkably successful
38-year-old activist Shehla Masood was shot in shifting public opinion outside the region
dead after calling for an investigation into in favour of big mining and driving a wedge
allegations of illegal mining by Rio Tinto. In between tribal and non-tribal communities.
Chhattisgarh, Soni Sori was arrested for alleged In this state of exception, corporate criminals
involvement in a Maoist protection racket. become ‘national champions’, displacement
The Adivasi schoolteacher and human rights becomes ‘creating a good investment
activist was stripped, beaten, repeatedly raped environment’ and any opposition to the
and electrocuted, and remains in custody despite violation of domestic and international law
demands from domestic and international human becomes an act of terrorism, never to be
rights groups for her release. No investigation spoken of out loud. p

138 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
according to a report published by an NGO through land occupied by the endangered
coalition in December 2011. The survey report Jarawa tribe. Tourism in the area, critics warn,
found that nutritional indicators for Dalits and amounts to little more than a ‘human safari’. A
some indigenous groups dropped below the video showing a local police officer commanding
general population as children grew up. Girls, Jarawa girls to dance for tourists later sparked
too, were more likely to have stunted growth or outrage.
be underweight, the report stated. Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh called child malnutrition ‘a Nepal
national shame’. Nepal courted a constitutional crisis throughout
In a positive move, however, the state of much of 2011, as it continued its uneasy
Madhya Pradesh in July became the first in the transition from a Hindu monarchy to fledgling
country to set up a specialized court tasked with democracy. The country failed to hammer out
prosecuting crimes against scheduled castes and a constitution by what had been a May 2011
tribes. But, in an example that illustrates the deadline. By the end of the year, officials were
problem of unaccountability for perpetrators saying that they would cement a new constitution
of such crimes nationwide, it was reported that by mid-2012, but at the time of publication yet
Andhra Pradesh state has a backlog of as many as another deadline was missed.
1,600 cases. In one sense, these delays present an
In July, more than 20 people were killed in opportunity for some of the country’s most
a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai. Another marginalized – including indigenous people,
bombing at the Delhi High Court in September Dalits and women from minority communities
killed 17 people and injured more than 90 – to have a greater say in the drafting of such
others. But right groups are also warning an important document. Prominent advocates
that authorities’ pursuit of terrorism suspects are demanding that women be guaranteed
is snaring innocent civilians from religious proper representation in state institutions. Other
minorities, particularly Muslims. An HRW advocates have expressed fear that women have
report documented the alleged use of torture and been left out of the process altogether.
coerced confessions of terrorism suspects. Indigenous people, too, have not been fully
In a related example, authorities released represented in the discussions. A July submission
seven Muslim youths in November, who had by local advocacy organizations to the CEDAW
been convicted of bombing a mosque in 2006. Committee noted that indigenous people
The case had become an embarrassment for have been unable to freely choose their own
investigators, who now blame Hindu extremists representatives in the process to draft the new
for the attack. In November, an Indian court constitution. Rather, the process demands that
sentenced 31 people to life in prison for their participants come from political parties. In a joint
roles in the deaths of 33 Muslims who were submission, the National Indigenous Women’s
burned alive during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Federation (NIWF) and the Lawyers’ Association
In August, the State Human Rights for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous
Commission of Jammu and Kashmir State People (LAHURNIP) said: ‘Because the political
revealed the discovery of more than 2,000 manifestos do not promote indigenous peoples
unidentified bodies found in mass graves or indigenous women’s rights, it is difficult to
in northern Kashmir. HRW urged India to achieve effective collective representation.’
investigate the long-standing claims of enforced Just as concerns over the wording of the
disappearances in Indian-administered Kashmir. constitution persisted in 2011, so too did the
During 2011, questions were raised over aftermath of Nepal’s civil war. Five years after
exploitative tourism practices in indigenous the end of combat, roughly 100,000 people
communities in parts of India. Survival displaced by the fighting have still been unable
International called for the closure of a main to return home. Often, it is women who face
highway in the Andaman Islands, which passed the most trouble reintegrating. Former female-

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 139

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
combatants, widows of fighters and rape victims NIWF and LAHURNIP specifically highlighted
have difficulty finding acceptance in their old a growing problem facing indigenous women
communities. due to the rapid expansion of Kathmandu, the
Many Dalits were also drawn to the Maoist capital city. Since title deeds are usually held by
insurgency. Some joined voluntarily, attracted to men, indigenous women are being left out of the
an ethos that once preached equality, while others decision-making process.
were swept up in the violence between both sides. The year 2011 also saw incidents of religious
But, post-conflict, they are returning to a society discrimination in Nepal. In June, a Buddhist
in which caste discrimination still persists, despite nun was attacked and gang-raped in eastern
the government’s stated efforts to eradicate it. Nepal. But the problem was compounded when
Rights groups say that Nepal’s government the woman was later expelled by the Nepal
has gained little ground in reducing economic Buddhist Federation because she was judged to
inequality in many parts of the country. In the have lost her celibacy. The decision was later
Terai region, economic disparity continues to be reversed following a public outcry. Rights groups
a driving force of ethnic tension. The UN Office say that poverty among the Tamang indigenous
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights community to which the woman belongs causes
said that the activities of ‘armed criminal groups’ families to send younger siblings off to become
in southern Terai districts continue to hamper monks or nuns.
development, and again raised concerns over Nepal’s Tibetan community continued to bear
previous ‘credible allegations’ of extra-judicial the consequences of the country’s increasingly
killings in Terai at the hands of security forces. close relationship with China. In March,
Multiple cases of caste discrimination were police attacked Tibetan protesters who were
reported during 2011. In August, a Dalit man demonstrating against Chinese rule in Tibet.
was stabbed to death after his son married a Tibetans in Nepal were also barred for voting
woman from another caste. Witnesses claimed for their government-in-exile, according to
the woman’s family was incensed by the inter- media reports, even though India made no such
caste union, according to the Nepal National moves towards its Tibetan exile community.
Dalit Social Welfare Organization. Later that month, a Chinese delegation signed
Kyung-wha Kang, the UN’s Deputy High a US$ 20 million military aid deal with the
Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced Nepalese government.
concern over caste discrimination following an
April visit. She acknowledged the government’s Pakistan
adoption of anti-discrimination legislation, but Pakistan remained a volatile place for religious
stressed that more must be done to ensure the and ethnic minorities during 2011. This was
laws are implemented and enforced. highlighted by the murders of two prominent
Rights groups also warned during 2011 politicians who spoke out against the country’s
that indigenous women are likely to be controversial anti-blasphemy laws. Critics say the
disproportionately affected by the government’s legislation, which levies penalties including life in
activities on indigenous land, including prison and death, have unfairly targeted religious
hydropower construction and the expansion of minorities such as Christians and Ahmadis, but
conservation areas. Current potential ventures, also mainstream Muslims themselves.
including the Melamchi Water Supply Project in The January assassination of Punjab governor
central Nepal and the Arun Valley hydropower Salman Taseer marked a troubling start to the
project in eastern Nepal, risk being implemented year. The governor had earlier publicly supported
without the support or consultation of local a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced
indigenous populations. to death for blasphemy. Then in March, Shabhaz
In their CEDAW submission, local advocates Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs
NIWF and LAHURNIP said indigenous men are and the only Christian member of the cabinet,
often assumed to be the heads of the household, was gunned down while on his way to work. The
with formal land titles issued in the man’s name. UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues,

140 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Gay McDougall, called Bhatti’s death ‘an attack than 80 people. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, often
on the rights of all religious minorities and on referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed
human rights in Pakistan’. responsibility. Though it was initially described
The consequences of Taseer’s death continued as a ‘revenge attack’ for the death of al-Qaeda
to reverberate through the year. In the aftermath leader Osama bin Laden, killed in Pakistan by
of the January killing, the ruling Pakistan US forces two weeks earlier, local police told
People’s Party backed away from proposed media the attack was more likely the latest in a
reforms to the legislation. This drew criticism long-standing battle between the Pakistani army
from one prominent member of the party, who and Taliban forces. In August, a suicide bomber
warned that the ‘appeasement of extremists will killed 48 people at a mosque in Jamrud.
have a blow-back effect’. Also in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, The
In October, Taseer’s former bodyguard was Guardian newspaper reported on the increasing
sentenced to death for his murder; sympathizers militarization of the Kalash valley – a develop-
demonstrated in support of the accused before ment that could pose a threat to the Kalash peo-
court appearances. ple. The Pakistani military has been deployed to
In April, human rights monitors say more than the Kalash valley for the first time, it was report-
two dozen residents of a Christian community ed, though locals feared they would be caught in
in Gurjanwala, in north-east Punjab province, the crossfire between the army and the Taliban.
were hurt after they were attacked by a mob, Either way, the continued strength of the
comprising more than 2,000 Muslims. A local Pakistani Taliban remains a serious concern for
NGO, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) religious minorities – particularly women. In
says the mob attacked homes, schools and December, religious extremists destroyed two
churches in the community. The assailants had important Sufi shrines in the Khyber Agency, a
accused a member of the Christian community of region where Pakistani Taliban forces have been
burning a Qur’an. active in the past. They have been blamed for
The next month, HRFP reported that two at least 25 similar attacks on religious sites in
Christian women were forcibly converted to recent years.
Islam. Local police subsequently refused to In a 2011 report, the NGO Human Rights
investigate the matter – a common occurrence Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), predicted that
that is rendering women from minority religious the situation can only worsen for the country’s
communities, including Hindus and Christians, minorities, citing a ‘direct link between the rise of
particularly vulnerable. the Taliban and the suppression and oppression
Minorities within the Muslim faith also faced of the minorities and all of those whose beliefs
persecution throughout the year. In one example, differed with those of the extremists’. Women in
assailants shot and killed a 55-year-old Ahmadi tribal areas of north-west Pakistan are particularly
man in Punjab province in what was a suspected threatened by the Taliban. The Taliban continue
hate crime. In May, Ahmadis in Lahore marked to oppose education for girls, setting back
the one-year anniversary of one of the deadliest education targets for minority women in areas
attacks on the community in Pakistan. In 2010, where the Taliban hold sway. Maryum Bibi, an
88 Ahmadis were killed when assailants attacked official with Peshawar-based NGO Khwendo
Ahmadi places of worship. Relatives of the dead Kor, told media that women remain fearful:
bemoaned the sluggish pace of the resulting police ‘Despite the official stance that the Taliban
investigation. HRW also recorded 18 separate have been defeated, they remain present in
attacks on Shi’a Muslims during the year. remote areas.’
The wider regional conflict continued to affect Throughout the year, Pakistan’s development
the Pushtun community in Pakistan. Large-scale of natural resources fuelled conflict in resource-
bomb attacks occurred near Peshawar, the pro- rich areas where minority communities live,
vincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. such as Sindh and Balochistan provinces. In
For example, a pair of suicide bombers attacked a April, several campaigners with a Sindh group
paramilitary training centre in May, killing more that advocates for greater local autonomy over

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 141

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
natural resource exploitation were abducted. in Sindh province through September, rights
The AHRC pointed a finger at law enforcement groups reported to MRG that Dalits were being
and state intelligence agencies, charging that the discriminated against because of their caste.
abductions are part of a long line of ‘enforced Advocates said Dalit families had been turned
disappearances’ at the hands of state actors. away from government relief camps and been
Balochistan remained a severe and under- given unequal access to relief supplies.
reported example of how the development of
natural resources without the full consultation of Sri Lanka
local communities can drive conflict. The south- As Sri Lanka marked another year since the end
western province, one of the country’s most of its bloody civil war in 2009, the problem of
ethnically diverse, boasts a wealth of resources, how to ensure justice for wartime atrocities and
including potentially lucrative mineral deposits reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese
and rich natural gas reserves. Yet control over and the Tamil minority remained unresolved.
such resources has stoked tensions and given In 2011, the government and the military issued
rise to a nationalist Baloch movement that has a pair of reports that sought to address some of
clashed with government forces. Added to a the violations, yet ultimately they proved to be
mix that includes foreign interest in resource a disappointment to rights groups hoping for
extraction and the province’s prime location significant signs of progress.
on the borders with Iran and Afghanistan, the The government established the Lessons Learnt
resulting conflict has had violent and deadly and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in 2010
consequences for civilians. under a storm of protest from rights groups, who
State actors play a central role in the violence, questioned its independence and mandate. The
targeting ethnic Baloch suspected of engaging in resulting report, released in December 2011,
nationalist activities. HRW recorded the killing contained some positive measures. MRG, for
of at least 200 Baloch nationalist activists and example, praised the report’s acknowledgement of
dozens of disappearances in 2011. In its 2012 the impact felt by Sri Lanka’s minority Muslim
World Report, the organization concluded that community. But MRG was also concerned that
conditions had ‘markedly deteriorated’ during the the LLRC report did not sufficiently investigate
course of 2011. Prominent cases included that serious allegations of war crimes and crimes
of Abdul Ghaffar Lando, a Baloch nationalist against humanity during the final days of the
activist who had been abducted in 2009 and war. The report, MRG noted: ‘exonerates the
whose body was found in 2011. When the family government for the manner in which the military
had gone to the police to register the abduction, campaign was conducted during the period’.
the police stated that Lando was being held in Earlier in the year, a Sri Lanka defence ministry
detention. In a July report, HRW recorded the report made a rare concession by acknowledging
cases of 45 recent alleged disappearances; three of that civilians were killed in the government’s final
the victims were children, the youngest of whom assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
was 12 years old when he was abducted. Human (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.
rights activists and academics were also targeted. However, this report also contended that soldiers
The local coordinator for the HRCP, Siddique used only ‘necessary force’ and was seen by critics
Eido, was killed in 2011. The situation led The as presenting a one-sided account.
Guardian newspaper to label the secretive conflict A UN report released in April was far more
as Pakistan’s ‘dirty little war’. critical. The panel stated that it had found
Nationalist militants have targeted non- ‘credible allegations’ of war crimes and crimes
Baloch minority groups perceived to be against against humanity by both the Sri Lankan
the movement. Sunni and Shi’a militants have government and the LTTE. Many of these
also been active. In May, an extremist Wahhabi allegations focused on the final stages of the war
organization claimed responsibility for the in 2009, when Sri Lanka’s army pushed into
murders of 13 Hazara Shi’a Muslims. Tamil areas of the north, trapping hundreds
As Pakistan battled with severe flooding of thousands of civilians in the crossfire. It is

142 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
believed that tens of thousands of people lost time, estimates suggest that unemployment in
their lives in the war’s final five months. ‘The the north could be quadruple that of the national
panel’s determination of credible allegations average.
reveals a very different version of the final stages In the aftermath of the civil war, its effect
of the war than that maintained to this day on Muslims has been largely ignored. The
by the Government of Sri Lanka,’ the report Tamil Tigers forced out much of the Muslim
stated. The report called on Sri Lanka to begin population from the north. Failure to implement
credible investigations into alleged violations proper reintegration and reconciliation measures
of human rights law; it also urged the UN in the region will only serve to exacerbate
Secretary-General to establish an independent tensions between Muslims and Tamils.
international mechanism capable of conducting The report from the UN Secretary-General’s
its own investigations. Neither the government of panel on accountability warns that recent
President Mahinda Rajapaksa nor the UN made government policies – requiring the national
such moves during 2011. anthem to be sung only in Sinhala, for example
In the meantime, human rights groups – will alienate Tamil-speakers. Tamil groups also
continue to raise concern over recent complained of destructive sand-dredging activities
disappearances. In December, two local human in Batticaloa district. In December, Tamil groups
rights advocates disappeared while they were claimed that two activists, who were former
preparing for a press conference in Jaffna. The Tamil Tiger members, were arrested after they
AHRC also reported on two other cases involving protested against sand-dredging in the area.
missing men who were later found murdered. During 2011, advocates raised concern over
Critics say the government has taken little action a tourism development in the Kalpitiya region
on these and other forced disappearances. of western Sri Lanka. They said up to 10,000
In November, a UK-based charity, Freedom people, mostly Sinhalese Muslims, could be
from Torture, said it had compiled evidence that displaced or otherwise affected by a complex
torture persists in Sri Lanka, despite the end of of hotels planned for the area. This project has
the war in 2009. The group’s physicians assess raised concern that similar projects in other parts
Sri Lankan asylum-seekers and refugees, mostly of the country, particularly in the north and
ethnic Tamils, often for use in asylum claims. north-east, where post-war tensions still run high,
They had found at least one case showing that could undermine human rights for minority
torture had continued during 2011. communities. In its annual report released in
Problems of reintegration for those displaced December, the AHRC raised concerns that the
by the conflict continued throughout the year. Sri Lankan government’s concept of development
Women in particular faced unique hardships ‘does not include the guaranteeing of human
upon return. Increasingly, women are bearing rights’.
the burden of restarting their families’ lives. A

government report released last year found that
nearly one-third of families returning to the
Tamil north are headed by women. One Jaffna-

East Asia
based organization, the Center for Women and
Development, estimated there were now 40,000
widowed female-headed households in the area –
a figure that excludes women whose husbands are
missing or detained by the government. Nicole Girard
This has resulted in a precarious situation
for Tamil women. In a December briefing, the Across South East Asia, minorities and
International Crisis Group said there has been an indigenous peoples are struggling to protect
alarming increase in gender-based violence within their lands, livelihoods and way of life. In
the community. Women have been forced into Mindanao in the Philippines, Indonesia’s Papua,
prostitution or trafficked abroad. At the same and ethnic minority regions of Burma, control

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 143

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
over natural resources is central to a number of country, or violate the 2008 Constitution.
long-running armed conflicts. In Cambodia, Tensions between the junta and armed ethnic
indigenous Kuy are fighting to protect their groups in the run-up to the November 2010
traditional way of life in Prey Lang forest. In election broke out into renewed fighting in 2011.
Vietnam and Laos, minority populations have The military broke a 22-year ceasefire with the
been subject to resettlement as a result of dams Shan State Army-North in March, mobilizing
and other development projects, largely without an additional 3,500 troops. By June, the 17-year
consultation. In Burma, dams in Kachin State ceasefire with Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
threaten the livelihood of thousands of minority was breached. By December, an estimated 34,000
and indigenous peoples, and in 2011 led to people were in displacement camps along the
fighting that broke ceasefires with two major border with China from this recent outbreak;
armed ethnic groups. the government was not allowing access to
The construction of two major dams, the international relief organizations. Increasing
Myitsone in Burma and the Xayaburi in Laos, militarization in Kachin State led to an increase
was delayed in 2011. This was welcomed by in human rights violations. In their 2011 report,
environmental and indigenous peoples’ groups, the Kachin Women’s Organization documented
but worry remains over whether construction on the rape by soldiers of 34 women and girls, 15
Myitsone has actually been halted and how long of whom were subsequently killed. The Burma
plans for Xayaburi will be suspended. military’s use of rape as a weapon of war has been
Debate on how best to address ethnic conflicts well documented and continues under the new
continued in the region in 2011. Thailand made government.
some efforts to increase accountability for human The fighting in Kachin State broke out at the
rights violations in the southern Malay-Muslim location of a Chinese-operated hydroelectric
majority provinces. In the Philippines, peace talks dam project at Daepin. Earlier, the Kachin
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were Independence Organization (KIO) sent an open
initiated. The government of Burma secured letter to the Chinese government, warning that
ceasefires with major armed ethnic groups by the if it continued with construction of the 6,000
end of the year, making offers of reconciliation megawatt Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River,
not seen in decades of conflict. Some ceasefires, armed conflict would likely ensue. To the surprise
however, had yet to be enacted on the ground. of many, in September the Burmese government
temporarily halted the Myitsone, citing public
Burma opposition. However, local Kachin groups report
Burma convened its first parliament in over that construction at the dam site has continued,
22 years in January 2011, after elections in and the approximately 1,000 displaced Kachin
November 2010. In March, Thein Sein was have not been permitted to return to their homes.
sworn in as President, officially dissolving The US$ 3.6 billion Myitsone dam is one of
military rule. The government has eased eight dams planned on the Irrawaddy River, and
restrictions on media, permitted the creation of is being developed by China Power Investment
trade unions, and passed a law to allow peaceful Corporation (CPI) and Asia World Company of
assembly and protest. It has also reached out to Burma. Ninety per cent of the power is expected
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released to be sold to China. There are serious concerns
significant numbers of political prisoners and about the quality and independence of the
pledged to prioritize minority issues. But environmental impact assessment, funded by CPI;
whether reforms translate into genuine progress a social impact assessment was not carried out (see
remains to be seen. While 17 out of the 22 case study below).
ethnic political parties won at least one seat in Resource extraction in minority and indigenous
the election (15.7 per cent of available seats), peoples’ areas has fuelled army land confiscation,
the conduct of parliamentarians is governed by property destruction, designation of ‘out-of-
laws criminalizing comments that are considered bounds’ high-security areas, militarization and
a threat to national security or the unity of the destruction of livelihoods. Both the Burmese army

144 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
was exacerbated by tensions over Chinese
Case study companies surveying future dam sites.
Ninety per cent of the power from these

Dams feed ethnic

dam projects will be exported to Burma’s
neighbours. Chinese companies are involved

conflict in Burma
in many of the projects, but Burma has also
signed agreements with Thailand, Bangladesh
and India. The dams are expected to bring
revenues of US$ 4 billion for the Burmese
‘The soldiers came to my house and said, government. But according to Sai Sai of the
“Starting now you cannot grow on the Burma Rivers Network, the dams will not
farms near the river,” and I asked him improve the lives of Burma’s ethnic nationals:
back: “Why?” He gave the reason that ‘These mega-dams are fuelling further conflict,
they will build the dam in that area. not benefiting the people of Burma,’ he said.
They confiscated the land from my farm,
it was about 18 acres.’ Loss of land, loss of life
The dams are proceeding without any proper
On 30 September 2011, President Thein consultation with ethnic minorities and
Sein announced an indefinite halt to indigenous peoples, and, for the indigenous
construction of the 6000-megawatt communities, without their free, prior and
Myitsone dam, on the Irrawaddy River informed consent. Compensation for their loss
in Kachin State, saying that public of land and livelihoods has been inadequate.
opposition to the Chinese-funded dam In Karenni State, power plant-related
was overwhelming. development and militarization of the area saw
Perhaps the game has changed since the 114 villages flooded; 12,000 people displaced;
military rulers stepped into their civilian an estimated 18,000 landmines planted; local
roles. But many remain sceptical. ‘We do communities subjected to forced labour,
not trust what the President has said about sexual violence and extra-judicial killings;
suspending the Myitsone dam,’ said a and prioritized water scheduling leading to
local affected by the dam, ‘we can see the crop destruction. Eighty per cent of the local
workers and dam construction machines population still has no access to electricity.
still at the site.’ For local communities, For years, the Burmese government has
the stakes are high. The dam will displace used anti-insurgency military operations to
around 15,000 people, mainly ethnic clear areas for dam projects. In 1996, for
Kachin who revere Myitsone as the example, fighting in central Shan State led
birthplace of their culture. to the displacement of nearly 60,000 people,
Currently, the Myitsone dam has only clearing the area for the Tasang dam on the
been halted until 2016, when Thein Salween River. Since 2005, some 25,000
Sein’s term in office ends. But even if it people in Karenni State have been forced by
is permanently shelved, it is only one of military offensives away from the Weigyi and
48 dams currently in various stages of Hatgyi dam sites. More recently, in the case
development in Burma. Twenty-five of of the Shweli dams in Karenni State, villagers
these are ‘mega-dams’, with a capacity were ordered off their land by the military
comparable to the Myitsone. and given a three-year ‘grace’ period, with
Most of the large dams are located in some small compensation. ‘The Government
ethnic minority areas and many are in said it will give half the worth of land and
conflict zones. The fighting that broke property as compensation, but I absolutely do
a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin not believe that they will,’ one man from the
Independence Army (KIA) in June Molo village said.

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 145

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued contributing to rising migration. Local people
are able to secure only low-wage, temporary and
The very existence of some communities unsafe jobs on the project, and are reportedly
is under threat. The Weigyi dam on the unable to complain about working conditions or
Salween River will submerge the ancestral wages without retribution.
lands, cultural sites and means of livelihood A draft land law was proposed in parliament in
of Yin Ta Lai people, of whom only 1,000 2011, but according to the Asian Human Rights
remain. Commission (AHRC), under the law farmers
If the new Burma government is serious could be evicted to make way for whatever
about heeding the voice of the people, it government officials claim to be in ‘the national
should halt all dam projects in conflict zones. interest’. The law was reportedly drafted without
Consultations prioritizing the protection consultation with key stakeholders or land law
of minority and indigenous peoples’ experts.
rights, coupled with the development and The Myanmar National Human Rights
implementation of environmental policy Commission was established in 2011, mandated
and law (including land policy) based on to investigate complaints on human rights
international standards, is the only way any violations. But critics questioned whether it is
of these dams should proceed. Otherwise in line with the Principles relating to the Status
the dams could spell disaster for the affected of National Institutions for the Promotion and
communities. Protection of Human Rights (Paris Principles),
if its members – many of whom were generals
‘I have grown up in this village since I was under the previous military regime – are hand-
born by drinking the water from the Shweli picked by the state.
River. My livelihood is fishing which is related The elections did not improve the situation of
directly to this river. After we leave we do not Rohingya Muslims from Arakan State, denied
know what we will do for our livelihoods or citizenship on the assumption that most are
how to earn money to survive.’ Molo villager not from Burma but come from Bangladesh.
facing eviction p Thousands flee every year the harsh restrictions
and persecution from Burma’s government,
ending up as asylum-seekers throughout Asia. In
and armed ethnic groups have relied on natural December, the government agreed to repatriate
resources for funds, drawing heavily on logging 2,500 refugees from Bangladesh on condition
and mining, including gemstone mining. Burma that they already have citizenship in Burma,
is the biggest producer of jade in the world and effectively excluding many ethnic Rohingya.
the most significant jade mine is in Kachin State, While serious clashes continue in Kachin State
with little of its wealth reaching the people. and parts of Shan State, late in the year some
The Shwe oil and gas pipeline project is being positive progress was made in peace talks between
advanced by the China National Petroleum the government and armed ethnic groups. A
Corporation along with companies from Korea new Internal Peace Building Committee was
and Burma and is slated for completion in 2013. created by the government, which has offered
Started in 2010, the 2,800 km pipeline will bring joint political talks with all such groups, an offer
gas to China from Burma’s western coast. Over not seen during the 60 years of conflict. By mid-
800 km runs across Burma through territory December, two major armed ethnic groups had
occupied by armed ethnic groups, in Shan reached ceasefire agreements. For Burma’s ethnic
State in particular. The pipeline is set to ignite minorities, this offered some hope for their future.
conflict in minority regions, as Chinese workers
are brought in to construct it and the Burma Cambodia
military is used to protect it. Widespread land In 2011, four top former leaders of the Khmer
confiscation for the pipeline corridor is leaving Rouge faced proceedings in the Extraordinary
farmers jobless and fishing grounds off-limits, Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),

146 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
set up to try those charged with crimes
committed during the Khmer Rouge regime Case study By Mao Chanthoeun
(1975–9). The ruling Cambodian People’s Party

Cambodia’s Kuy
(CPP) under Prime Minister Hun Sen has been
accused of interfering with the proceedings and

people rally to save

the trials have been plagued by controversy.
Bringing the leaders of the Khmer Rouge

‘our forest’
to justice will be an important step for the
Cambodian judiciary to prove its effectiveness
in addressing a grave historical wrong. It could
also be significant for minorities, including the
ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims, whose I am Mao Chanthoeun, a Kuy, from Chaom
persecution as part of the larger aims of the Svay Village near Prey Lang forest in
Khmer Rouge could in itself constitute genocide. Kampong Thom, Cambodia.
Civil society faced direct attacks, including new I was born here about 30 years ago. My
laws which were introduced or drafted during parents and grandparents were also born here.
2011, according to a report published by the We’ve always been dependent on Prey Lang,
Cambodia League for the Promotion and Defense which in Kuy means ‘our forest’.
of Human Rights (LICADO). These included When I was young, the forest was large and
an anti-corruption law, a draft trade union law, thick. Prey Lang gave us food, medicines, and
and a draft law on associations and NGOs. housing materials. We collected resin for sale.
Individuals working to defend the rights of Since resin trees can be tapped for generations,
indigenous peoples continued to be threatened by this was sustainable. We lived happily.
the Cambodian government in 2011, in particular In 2002, we learned that Cambodia’s
those combating land-grabbing by corrupt forests were being destroyed. Our forest was
officials. By the end of the year, Human Rights threatened. We fought back. With hundreds
Watch (HRW) estimated that at least 60 people of other Cambodians, we protested against
were imprisoned or awaiting trial for protesting logging concessions and they were suspended.
against forced evictions and land-grabbing. We had a time of peace. Our communities
The government continues to grant large agreed rules to preserve the forest. This
economic land concessions (ELCs) for hydro- became harder over the years. Poaching and
electric projects, mining and agricultural illegal logging took their toll.
plantations. Land concessions are granted, often In 2009, rubber companies came, first to
in an illegal way, over community land, and build roads and then make plantations. We
with no regard to national laws that require don’t know why they would grow rubber
public consultations and environmental impact here; the soil is not good. We think they
assessments, or laws that stipulate that state want to profit from logging.
concessions cannot be granted in forested areas. We began organizing our Network in 2007.
Prey Lang forest, home to Kuy indigenous The Prey Lang Community Network has
people, who depend upon it for their sustenance members in all four provinces straddled by the
and livelihoods, is a case in point. Peaceful forest. I’ve been a community representative
community and civil society efforts to protect for six years. We’ve petitioned the government
it have been curtailed by the authorities in a to protect Prey Lang, cancel agro-business and
conflict that escalated throughout the year. mining concessions, and rehabilitate cleared
Government officials have recognized this areas. We also want the government to recog-
large primeval forest as an important area for nize us as Prey Lang’s co-managers.
conservation, but according to the Prey Lang We conduct local patrols to try to stop
Network, a local activist group, more than illegal activities. We also went to the capital
40,000 hectares of the forest have been granted city to call on the country to help us. To get
for rubber plantations, while 27 exploration

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 147

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued I feared my baby had died inside me. But I
had to go on for the sake of all children. Life
attention, we dressed like the ‘avatars’ we saw in is not worth living if we lose our forests.
a movie. When we put on blue faces, people paid My husband left me while I was pregnant.
attention to us. Now four months later, I am alone with
In my community, we confronted someone my baby boy. It’s not easy for me to live.
who illegally cleared forest. When a group of us, Whenever I go out, others must accompany
including the village chief, uprooted his cassava, me; illegal loggers are angry with me for
he brought legal complaints against us. Those are challenging them.
still pending. Today, in the village, a local businessman
Now we are suffering. Thousands of resin trees announced on a loudspeaker that everyone
have been cut; many families have no income. must shun me or face consequences. He
Even our rice paddy is not good since we have claims I’m ‘inciting’ people because I tell
lost water. them their rights and encourage them to
In November, when I was six months pregnant, protect the forest.
I joined hundreds of other Network members in My community and our Network are
laying claim to the forest. For almost two weeks strong. We have good cooperation. We work
we walked from all directions across the forest to together to solve our problems peaceably.
stop illegal activities and to confront plantation Now my neighbours are circulating a petition
companies. The walk was difficult. We had little to support me.
food and water. We were often cold in the rain. I try not to lose hope. But it is difficult
when one confiscated chainsaw is replaced by
Below: A woman at a protest in Phnom Penh, two others.
Cambodia, in May 2011. Around 100 local We ask the world to join us in saving
activists attended a demonstration appealing to Prey Lang. ‘Our forest’ belongs to everyone.
the government to save the Prey Lang forest. Case study provided by the East-West
REUTERS/Samrang Pring. Management Institute / Prey Lang Network. p

148 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
licences and related concessions have been Ahmadis were killed in February in West Java,
handed to mining companies. Logging continues after a group of 1,500 people attacked 21 of
although the government stopped granting them, in order to expel them from the village.
logging concessions in 2002, and the creation of Police did little to intervene. Twelve men were
logging roads has taken an environmental toll as tried, and received sentences of between only
well as opening up the forest to new migrants. three and six months, on a variety of charges but
According to the Cambodian Center for not for manslaughter.
Human Rights (CCHR), authorities detained By September, 26 regencies and municipalities
over 100 peaceful protesters in August, many across the country had issued decrees banning
from the Kuy community, for distributing or restricting Ahmadiyya religious practice,
pamphlets about the issue; in December, local stemming from a 2008 ministerial decree
authorities filed complaints against members of preventing public propagation of the Ahmadiyya
CCHR on charges of ‘incitement’ for holding faith. The decree contradicts President Susilo
training seminars for locals. Soldiers hired by a Bambang Yudhoyono’s continual assertion of
mining company that has been illegally granted Indonesian ‘tolerance’, and is justified on the
an ELC in Prey Lang have prevented Kuy women logic that restricting the religious expression of
from gathering tree resin, according to a 2011 minorities serves to protect them from violence.
Amnesty International report. The government continues to push the
Cambodia does have laws that recognize and Religious Tolerance Bill, but rights groups have
protect indigenous peoples’ access to land. But denounced the draft bill, completed in October,
they are often not implemented, or are flagrantly for limiting certain activities in the name of
violated. Those who defend their legal rights tolerance. For example, the bill attempts to
risk intimidation, violence and imprisonment. regulate proselytizing, celebration of religious
Despite some actions, Prime Minister Hun Sen holidays, construction of houses of worship,
appears unwilling to seriously address these issues. holding of funerals and organization of religious
Indigenous peoples and Cham Muslims are education. The bill continues to define and
recognized under Cambodia’s Constitution, punish blasphemy; existing laws on blasphemy
but other ethnic minorities, such as ethnic have already served to discriminate against and
Vietnamese and Khmer Krom, are denied harass religious minorities.
citizenship, are therefore unable to access Indigenous peoples have long struggled
health care and education, and endure social to realize their rights in the Indonesia state,
discrimination. Lack of citizenship combined especially the right to land and free, prior
with endemic poverty makes ethnic Vietnamese and informed consent. In May, as part of the
women vulnerable to trafficking, mostly within government’s agreement with Norway over the
Cambodia, and forced prostitution. ‘One third of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and
girls and young women of Vietnamese origin are Forest Degradation (REDD+) project – a US$
reported to be sold into prostitution,’ according 1 billion project to protect forests and reduce
to a 2011 report by the UN Committee on the carbon emissions while fostering economic
Rights of the Child. development – President Yudhoyono, declared
a two-year moratorium on new concessions
Indonesia in primary forest and peat lands. But this
Discrimination, harassment and violence against was flouted: ongoing illegal clearing of these
religious minorities in Indonesia increased in protected lands in Central Kalimantan by a
2011. The Setara Institute, an Indonesia religious Malaysian company was reported by Indonesian
rights monitoring organization, recorded 244 NGOs.
such incidents, up from around 200 the previous In December, the Indonesian parliament
year; government officials, military and police passed a new bill which will allow the
were responsible for many of the incidents. government to acquire land from citizens in the
Ahmadiyya Muslims continued to be one of name of a vaguely defined ‘public interest’. The
the main targets for violence and abuse. Three legislation is intended to settle disagreements over

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 149

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
evictions and speed up infrastructure projects.
Those affected do not have the right to appeal Case study
and compensation is only provided upon proof of

The campaign
certification of land-ownership, often lacking in
the case of indigenous communities. A coalition

of Indonesian NGOs says the bill is a direct
threat to the rights of indigenous peoples and is

destructive palm
likely to increase conflict over land.
Indigenous communities struggling to

oil plantations
secure their right to land won a small victory
in September, as two articles of the 2004
Plantation Act were dropped after being declared
unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court for
discriminating against indigenous farmers. The The rapid expansion of palm oil
articles, which prohibited damaging plantation plantations in South East Asia is being
land or equipment, or preventing plantation driven by rising global demand for
business have been used to imprison and fine edible oils and bio-fuels. Thailand and
hundreds of people who have protested against the Philippines have a burgeoning palm
corporate grabs of ancestral lands, especially by oil industry, plantations have been
palm oil companies. established in Cambodia, and Vietnam is
However, in October, the Indonesian exploring the possibility of cashing in on
government curtailed the legitimate activities this crop.
of rights defenders by passing the long-debated Malaysia and Indonesia are the top
Intelligence Bill – giving law enforcement power producers of palm oil in the world, and
to spy on civilians to protect ‘national security’. in these countries the industry fuels land
Military documents exposed by HRW in 2011 dispossession and loss of livelihoods for
suggest that unlawful military spying on peaceful indigenous peoples. Global consumption
activists in Papua is commonplace. of processed palm oil more than doubled
In Papua, the government failed to make any over the last ten years, with demand
progress towards implementing the rights granted increasing mostly in China, India and
to the province under the Special Autonomy Eastern Europe. Large-scale production
Law of 2001. At least three people were killed in in Malaysia and Indonesia started in the
October by security forces during the Third Pap- late 1980s and rapid expansion between
uan People’s Congress, a peaceful gathering of 2007 and 2010 has devastated bio-diverse
indigenous Papuans demanding a referendum on rainforests, replacing them with mono-
independence from the Indonesian state. Security crop ‘green wastelands’.
forces have yet to be held accountable. Six indig- Millions of hectares of land have
enous Papuan men were charged with treason, been swallowed by these plantations:
adding to the approximately 40 existing Papuan an estimated 4.6. million hectares in
political prisoners, according to the AHRC. Malaysia, and 9.4 million in Indonesia.
Cases of torture, arbitrary detention and military Both countries intend to continue
operations continued to be reported during 2011 increasing the amount of land dedicated
in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. to palm oil. In Malaysia’s Sarawak state,
Indonesian military and special police forces the government plans to double the area
conducted massive counter-insurgency ‘sweeping’ devoted to palm oil while Indonesia plans
operations aimed at suspected Free Papua to double its palm oil production to 20
Organization (OPM) separatists in the central million hectares by 2020. This expansion
highland area of Panai, West Papua. The Jakarta will continue to be driven by large estates,
Post reported that at least 500 people had fled rather than independent smallholders.
from Dagouto village since raids in November.

150 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
To achieve this expansion, the governments and helped shape the RSPO’s criteria
of Malaysia and Indonesia have handed over for certification. The standard affirms
indigenous peoples’ lands for palm oil, despite the rights of indigenous peoples to their
their customary land claims. In Sarawak, customary lands, requires adequate
Malaysia, and in Sumatra, Indonesia, oil compensation, and insists that no lands
plantations have polluted rivers, destroyed can be taken from indigenous peoples and
wildlife that once supported indigenous local communities without their free, prior
peoples’ livelihoods, and led to communities and informed consent. The standard also
being evicted from their lands. Many of the requires the fair treatment of smallholders
land conflicts in these countries are directly and prohibits discriminatory practices
related to the expansion of palm oil. against women.
Indigenous peoples’ opposition to palm oil One of the biggest players in palm oil
expansion has become increasingly violent. In – Singapore-based Wilmar International,
November 2011, indigenous Dayak Benuaq a leading agribusiness group in Asia – is
peoples in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan a member of the RSPO and has made
province protested against the conversion of various commitments to sustainable palm
their lands into palm oil plantations. But the oil production. In November, however, the
Malaysia-based PT Munte Waniq Jaya Perkasa Forest People’s Programme in partnership
company has continued to clear the land and with Sawit Watch released a report
evict the community, supported by the police documenting continued land confiscation,
and other security personnel, according to evictions and intimidation by the
reports from local NGO Telapak. Indonesian police on behalf of Wilmar’s
Communities like Dayak Benuaq, who suppliers against an indigenous community
struggle against palm oil plantations, meet in Jambi. Director of Sawit Watch
violent reprisals. According to the Borneo Abetnego Tarigan commented: ‘Frankly we
Resource Institute, in February an indigenous are very disappointed. We expect leading
community in Rumah Ranggon, Sarawak, members of the RSPO to scrupulously
Malaysia, were intimidated by a hundred adhere to the agreed standard.’
armed men, allegedly hired by the palm While the RSPO has developed strong
oil company to force residents to halt their standards through consultative processes,
blockade protecting their forests. Police later further efforts are needed to ensure that
arrested the leader of the armed group. these standards are implemented. But
A flood of these incidents has led to in September, the Indonesian Palm Oil
increased pressure on palm oil companies Association withdrew from the RSPO,
to prevent abusive and destructive practices. and the Indonesian government says
The industry formed a Roundtable on it will now implement it own ‘green’
Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004, to standards for sustainable palm oil. The
promote sustainable palm oil practices and Malaysian government is also starting its
raise the environmental profile of the industry. own certification process for ‘sustainable’
Comprising oil palm producers, manufacturers, palm oil. This has drawn accusations
investors and social and environmental NGOs, that these versions of sustainable palm
the RSPO has created a process to have oil are ‘greenwash’ and a watering down
plantations certified as sustainable. of the RSPO’s criteria. The international
Some NGOs have refused to join the community must continue to demand
RSPO, arguing that its standards have not palm oil that follows the sustainability
done enough to address land disputes and model provided by the RSPO, along with
environmental issues. But others, such as Sawit implementation that protects the rights of
Watch, Indonesia’s leading watchdog NGO affected communities. p
on the palm oil industry, have participated

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 151

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Local media estimate the military operation has Laos
forced about 10,000 people to flee their villages, The ninth Party Congress of Laos People’s
and that 20 villagers had been shot. The raids Revolutionary Party (LPRP) was held in 2011.
had been escalating since April. Indonesia’s But there were few new faces to be seen.
National Commission on Human Rights Elections for the National Assembly were held
(Komnas HAM) called on the National Police shortly after, with the LPRP winning all but four
chief to withdraw all troops from the area. of the 132 seats in this one-party state. Ethnic
In 2011, police admitted to receiving pay- minority parliamentarians won 38.6 per cent of
offs from the US-owned Freeport-McMoRan the seats in the National Assembly. However,
to protect their Grasberg gold and copper mine party members secured their positions through
in Papua, the largest gold mine and third larg- patronage, rather than by campaigning for the
est copper mine in the world. This mine project rights of minority communities.
has long been criticized for violating the rights of There are at least 240 ethnic groups in
indigenous Papuans through land confiscation, the country, but the Lao government only
environmental destruction and militarization. officially recognizes 49. Most minorities live
Indonesian military forces who ‘protect’ the mine in the mountainous highland areas, whereas
have reportedly raped Papuan indigenous women. the Lao majority has traditionally been in the
Papua has consistently had the highest rate lowlands, dominating political and economic
of HIV infection in Indonesia, at 15 times the life. Ethnic minority villages have been subjected
national average. In May, the head of the Papuan to government relocation programmes since
AIDS Prevention Commission reported that the 1970s, increasing in scope in the 1990s,
the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in ostensibly aimed at ending swidden agriculture
Papua jumped by 30 per cent in four months, and opium production.
to over 17,000. Mimika, the district of Freeport The Lao government aims to transform the
McMoRan’s mine, had the highest increase and country into the ‘battery of South East Asia’ by
overall number of HIV/AIDS-infected people, exporting the power generated by numerous
with associated high numbers of prostitutes hydroelectric projects. In June, the National
and brothels. While these numbers do not Assembly announced plans to complete ten large-
differentiate, past studies have suggested that scale dam projects between 2011 and 2015; five
prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Papuans is twice are already under construction. The proposed
as high as among non-Papuans. 1,200-megawatt Xayaburi dam on the Mekong
The rights of indigenous Papuans to their River has attracted the most controversy. It will
ancestral lands also continued to be threatened displace an estimated 2,100 people, the majority
by the Merauke Integration Food and Energy of whom are ethnic minorities (including
Project (MIFEE), a mega-agro initiative Khmu, Leu and Hmong), and threaten the
launched in 2010, which involves the conversion livelihoods and food security of another 200,000
of a vast area of land, including forests, into people. The Xayaburi project is backed by Thai
plantations. In a report submitted to various UN companies, and Thailand is expected to be one of
mechanisms in 2011, an NGO coalition claims the main beneficiaries of the power generated.
that MIFEE has proceeded without regard The Mekong Rivers Commission, a regional
for the principles of free, prior and informed river basin organization, twice delayed a decision
consent, and has forcibly acquired around on whether to approve the Xayaburi dam
2 million hectares of traditional lands. The in 2011, under strong pressure from Laos’s
military has also reportedly been harassing those neighbours, pending further environmental
resisting the project. In October 2011, President studies. However, with the tacit approval from
Yudhoyono set up the Unit for the Acceleration Lao authorities, the Thai dam building-company
of Development in Papua and West Papau is proceeding with construction work, without
(UP4B) to stimulate economic development. consulting affected minorities.
Little attention has been given to Papuans’ right In 2011, a national survey carried out by
to autonomy and self-governance, however. the Lao government estimated that 5 million

152 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
hectares – about 21 per cent of the country’s animism/ancestor worship or have converted to
total territory – has been granted as concessions Christianity. In 2011, rights groups continued
to either domestic or foreign parties, mainly for to report incidents of local authorities harassing
mining exploration (85 per cent). Many land and illegally detaining members of Christian
concessions in Laos have also been granted to communities.
foreign companies from Vietnam, Thailand and In 2011, the group of over 4,000 Hmong that
China, for large-scale agribusiness plantations, were forcibly repatriated to Laos from Thailand
such as bio-fuels, rubber and eucalyptus, as well in 2009 are reportedly still facing ‘severe
as mining and hydro-electric projects. restrictions’ on their freedom of movement and
Though all land is state-owned in Laos, are unable to make a living.
communal land use rights are recognized
under the Constitution and various national Malaysia
laws. But land and forest concessions have Civil society in Malaysia, including those organi-
been granted without proper documentation zations struggling to secure the rights of minori-
or implementation of legal processes, leaving ties, continued to experience restrictions on the
local livelihoods unprotected, according to a right to assembly. In September 2011, Prime
2011 report by the NGO Forest Trends. Such Minister Najib Razak pledged to repeal the Inter-
concessions are often facilitated through bribe- nal Security Act (ISA), which allows the authori-
taking by local and central officials. Affected ties to detain people indefinitely without charge
groups are left without access to their traditional or trial. The move was welcomed by a broad
livelihoods or adequate compensation, despite a range of civil society organizations, but Razak’s
government decree guaranteeing it. commitment was questioned as authorities con-
Displacement and government attempts tinued to arrest people under the ISA.
to eliminate swidden agriculture have had Razak proposed two other pieces of legislation.
a disproportionate impact on minority and The Race Relations Bill was set to be debated in
indigenous women from communities such as parliament in 2012 but Malaysian human rights
the Khmou and Phone, where their status derives organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
from their role in such agricultural activities. argued that the draft law would not adequately
In November 2011, the Laos government protect minorities from hate crimes. At the time
issued its first set of communal forest land titles, of writing, it appeared that the government was
acknowledging the community rights of four going to drop the initiative.
villages to bamboo forests in Sangthong district In December, the senate passed the
near Vientiane. It is hoped that communal titles controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill, despite
will now be issued in other areas of the country widespread opposition from local civil society
where minority and indigenous groups are at a and international NGOs. The law bans street
high risk of being displaced from their land. protests, prohibits those under 21 years old from
In one positive development, the Lao Ministry assembling peacefully, and provides a wide range
of Energy and Mines proposed amendments to of powers to the police.
the Minerals Law in 2011 in order to address The new legislation comes after crackdowns
loopholes that were thought to be giving free rein on protests throughout 2011, including protests
to mining companies, for example to use sites by religious minority organizations. In February,
for purposes for which they were not granted, authorities denied a request by the Hindu Rights
such as logging and plantations. Other proposed Action Force (HRAF) to conduct a peaceful anti-
changes include stricter environmental standards discrimination march. HRAF was banned after
and increased compensation for affected a peaceful demonstration in 2007 for the rights
communities. of religious minorities in Malaysia. Authorities
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the arrested at least 59 members of HRAF and the
Lao Constitution, but in practice some laws Hindu Rights Party (HRP) hours before the rally
are used to suppress unsanctioned religious began. All were released on bail, charged with
activities. Many ethnic minorities in Laos practice being part of an ‘illegal association’.

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 153

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Above: A Penan family at a temporary shelter in attempting to convert Muslims at a charity event,
Malaysian Borneo. Sofia Yu. an accusation the group denied. Soon after, rallies
against alleged Christian proselytizing were held
The HRAF protest was in part sparked by across the country, organized by Himpun, an
controversy over the novel Interlok, compulsory ad hoc coalition of Muslim groups pushing for a
reading for students in secondary school, that conservative, pro-Muslim Malay agenda.
includes racial stereotyping of Indian and In April, Abdul Taib Mahmud was reelected
Chinese communities. On 15 January, the novel as Chief Minister of Sarawak – a forested
was removed from the syllabus, but the decision state on the island of Borneo – continuing
was reversed on 28 January. It remains on the his 30-year reign over a state where 50 per
syllabus, but sensitive words will be removed. cent of the population are indigenous people,
Many in the Indian community and others think collectively referred to as Dayak or Orang Ulu.
the book generates inter-racial conflict. Elections were marred by reports of vote-buying
Shi’a Muslims, listed as a ‘deviant’ sect by and intimidation of indigenous communities.
Malaysia’s Islamic law in this majority Sunni International observers as well as local election
Muslim state, also continued to face difficulties. monitors were reportedly not allowed into the
In May, in the central state of Selangor, state, and some indigenous people were not
authorities broke up a gathering of Shi’a who registered to vote because they had been denied
were celebrating the birthday of a daughter of the national identity cards. At least 480,000 people
Prophet, on accusations of proselytizing. Four (one-third of eligible voters), largely from rural
people were reportedly detained. areas affected by land-grabbing, are not registered
In August, police raided a Methodist-Christian to vote. Members of the Penan community say
Church in Selangor, accusing members of they have repeatedly sought identity cards but

154 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
their applications are never processed. Forestry Department had issued illegal logging
In 2011, accusations of corruption against licences for land covered by native customary
the Chief Minister gained momentum: the UK rights of the Krian people. It is hoped that this
government announced it would investigate ruling will have positive implications for land
accusations of money-laundering against him. rights cases pending in lower courts against
Taib has notoriously provided business contracts state confiscation of indigenous ancestral lands;
to his family and associates for logging, hydro- estimates of the number of cases vary from
electric projects and palm oil plantations in around 200 to over 300.
Sarawak. Three Chinese state-owned companies
are helping to build a network of as many as Philippines
51 controversial dams to spur rapid industrial Conflict and displacement affecting Philippines’
development. Many of these concessions minority groups continued during the first year
have been granted in territories contested by and a half of Benigno Aquino III’s presidency,
indigenous peoples, whose rights are recognized both as a result of militarization and natural
under Malaysian law. Less than 10 per cent of disaster. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Sarawak’s forest is reportedly left intact, a figure (MILF), a major armed Islamic group, is
hotly contested by the Chief Minister. currently engaged in peace negotiations with
In June, the Malaysian national human rights the government. The Mindanao region, home
institution, Suhakam, announced its National to a significant number of Muslim Moro or
Inquiry into the land rights of indigenous Bangasmoro, has seen a long-running struggle
peoples, and has so far received almost 900 land with armed insurgency groups seeking autonomy
rights complaints. Suhakam plans to conduct a in the majority Christian Philippine state.
series of consultations in affected areas and release Negotiations resumed in February 2011. While
its report by June 2012. an agreement was reached in December to create
Indigenous community attempts to enforce a functioning autonomous government for the
their traditional land rights in Malaysian courts Moros, negotiations are ongoing and will have
have had mixed results. In September, members to address the rights of minorities within Moro
of indigenous groups lost their decade-long fight territory, a major cause of the breakdown in talks
against state confiscation of land to construct in 2008.
the controversial 2,400-megawatt Bakun dam in Mindanao is also the ancestral territory of
Sarawak. The Federal Court ruled that the state indigenous groups, collectively known as Lumad.
had not violated their native customary rights. In northern Cordillera, in the Luzon region,
However, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak a variety of heterogeneous indigenous groups
expressed concern that provisions in the land are collectively referred to as Igorot. Indigenous
code seem to give wide powers to ministers to groups in the Mindoro region of the Vasayas are
override customary land rights. In October, with collectively called Manygyan. Many indigenous
the help of Sinohydro and China Export Import communities across the country have been drawn
Bank, the dam became operational after nearly into the conflict between the central government
five decades of delays. and the New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed
Indigenous groups won a victory in September, wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines
when the state government postponed the (CPP) that has been fighting for over four
construction of the Baram dam, set to displace decades for a communist take-over. Communities
20,000 people. Strong resistance from affected have been accused of supporting the NPA and
Kayan, Kenyah and Penan groups is thought targeted by anti-insurgency operations of the
to have been the impetus behind the decision. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In
However, the dam will only be delayed for February, the government resumed negotiations
further social impact assessments and until the with the CCP-NPA in Oslo for the first time in
Baleh dam is complete, a project that will resettle six years. But talks stalled later in the year.
fewer communities. Also in September, the Both human rights defenders from indigenous
High Court in Sabah and Sarawak ruled that the communities and those supporting their rights

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 155

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
have been targeted for extra-judicial killings, of the Koronadal Indigenous Peoples Women
threatened and harassed throughout the Gathering, an indigenous women’s coalition,
Philippines. During Aquino’s first 18 months said: ‘This sounds like a blanket call to intensify
in office, the National Alliance of Indigenous attacks against us.’ According to KAMP, 60
Peoples in the Philippines (KAMP) recorded per cent of the total land area of the Cordilleras
13 indigenous rights activists killed, at least has been approved for mining applications
4 of whom were resisting mining in their and operations. Indigenous communities in
communities. Pampanga and Cagayan Valley also contend with
The AFP has long been implicated in these the massive influx of large-scale mines.
and other politically motivated killings over the In November, the Internal Displacement
last decade. Rudy Dejos, a B’laan indigenous Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that
community leader in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur, 34,000 people remained displaced following
was killed in February 2011 along with his adult separate instances of heavy fighting between the
son. According to HRW, Dejos’ body showed AFP and MILF, as well as suspected renegade
signs of being tortured. He had previously been MILF groups, in October in Basilan and
threatened by the AFP; the police blame the Zambonga Sibugay provinces. Drawing on UN
NPA, but his family is not convinced. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Conflicts relating to mining concessions in Affairs (OCHA) findings, the IDMC reported a
Moro and indigenous peoples’ lands continued total of 46,000 displaced at that time.
throughout 2011. The Xstrata-controlled On 17 December, tropical storm Washi hit
Sagittarius Mines-proposed open-pit gold and northern and south-western parts of Mindanao.
copper mine in Tampakan, South Cotabato drew By January 2012, over 1,200 had died in the
particular controversy. The company intends to flash floods. The devastation was exacerbated by
push forward its application despite evidence of deforestation, leading the Autonomous Region
lack of free, prior and informed consent on the of Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) recently
part of affected B’laan communities, as well as a appointed governor Mujiv Hataman to declare
province-wide ban on open-pit mining that was a logging ban in ARMM, at the behest of the
declared in 2010. The company claims it has central government.
the backing of local communities, while activists
question whether those who support the project Thailand
understand its environmental consequences. The In July, Thailand elected its first female Prime
mine will straddle the territory of four ancestral Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai
domains of the B’laan indigenous people. The party, younger sister of ousted Prime Minister
project has led to a string of violent incidents Thaksin Shinawatra. Her supporters, mainly
in 2011, including the murder in February of a rural poor from the north, had previously filled
S’bangken indigenous leader who supported it. the streets of Bangkok with their protests. Her
The NPA has attacked the mine in the past and leadership has since been tested by flooding in
warned of further violence if the project proceeds. the central provinces and increasing violence in
In January, Aquino instituted a counter- the south.
insurgency programme, the Oplan Bayanihan Conflict continued to plague Thailand’s four
(OB), ostensibly to foster peaceful relations southern-most provinces, where Malay-Muslims
between conflict-affected communities and the are a majority in this majority Buddhist state.
military. KAMP has argued that it only increases Since 2004, these provinces have endured a
militarization in indigenous areas. In October, violent separatist insurgency. Insurgents target
the NPA attacked three mining operations in civilians for extra-judicial killings and regularly
Surigao del Norte, killing three private security detonate explosives in public areas. From 2004 to
guards and damaging equipment. In response, the end of 2011, nearly 5,000 people have been
the government agreed to allow mining killed in the conflict. Thai military and security
companies to hire militias to protect their sites. forces have been accused of arbitrary arrests,
A statement released by the Special Committee detention without charge and torture of Malay-

156 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Muslim suspects, under the Emergency Decree to health and education services, face restrictions
and martial law. on their movement and endure harassment by
Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai party state authorities.
won no seats in the south, but her campaign For decades, indigenous peoples have been
promises included increasing the number of forcibly evicted and relocated from their lands
Muslims permitted to attend the hajj and more on grounds of national security, development
public input into decision-making processes. and resource conservation. In the north, smaller
According to Deep South Watch, a local conflict- mountain-dwelling ethnic groups, including
monitoring organization, violence spiked in the Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Mein,
month after Yingluck Shinawatra’s appointment. struggle to survive economically and culturally in
In December 2010, then Prime Minister the face of development projects, land-ownership
Abhisit Vejjajiva attempted to quell the unrest issues and the influx of ethnic Thais.
through changes to the recently revived South- In July, officials at Kaeng Krachan National
ern Border Provinces Administrative Centre Park, Phetchaburi province, stormed and burned
(SBPAC), a civilian body that oversees develop- a total of 90 homes and rice barns in a Karen
ment and policy-creation. It can now receive village. Officials justified this as a means to
complaints on mistreatment by security forces prevent forest destruction, even though it is
and has the power to discipline or remove offi- the constitutional right of these Karen to reside
cials or police officers. But by October Yingluck in the forests, as they have been on the land
Shinawatra’s Cabinet had replaced the admin- for generations. Many of the families remain
istrative head of the SBPAC, to the disappoint- displaced, some reportedly hiding in the forest
ment of southern Muslims who saw this as a without sufficient food or shelter.
political appointment that did not reflect their On 3 September, Tatkamol Ob-om, a Karen
interests. In December, the Cabinet extended the community activist brought the case to the
Emergency Decree for another three months. National Human Rights Commission. He was
Human rights defenders working to achieve shot and killed on 10 September. A warrant was
justice for victims in the southern provinces issued for the arrest of the park director Chaiwat
continue to face threats. In April, the AHRC Limlikitauksorn, who later turned himself into
reported that Yaena Salaemae was being harassed police, denying the charges. He has since been
by security forces for her work to achieve justice released on bail and has retained his role as park
for the seven Muslims shot by security forces head, still justifying his violent evictions of the
while peacefully protesting in 2004. A further Karen village.
78 protesters had died after the group had been Forest officials have blamed Karen traditional
herded into trucks to be taken into detention. swidden agriculture – pejoratively known as
In the case of the 2004 disappearance of lawyer ‘slash and burn’ – for contributing to forest
Somchai Neelapaijit, who had also fought for the degradation and global warming. From 2005 to
rights of Muslims, the defendants were acquitted 2011, 38 cases of ‘global warming’ were brought
in March on technical grounds. against Thailand’s indigenous forest-dwelling
Thailand’s diverse indigenous peoples peoples, nine of which have been settled resulting
have also been engaged in a long struggle to in fines of over 18 million baht. Marine park
defend their rights. Hundreds of thousands conservation has also pushed indigenous Moken
of indigenous people have been denied Thai and other sea nomads off their territory, making
citizenship, stemming from state neglect, it illegal to fish in protected waters. These and
corruption or rejections on the basis that many other such cases criminalize indigenous groups
have migrated from Burma. In cooperation with for practising their traditional livelihoods and
NGOs and UN agencies, the government has residing in areas to which they have ancestral
enabled some to receive Thai citizenship, but land rights claims.
in 2011 approximately 30 per cent or 296,000
of Thailand’s indigenous peoples still lack Vietnam
citizenship. They are consequently denied access January 2011 saw the reappointment of Prime

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 157

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for a second
five-year term in the Politburo of Vietnam’s Case study
Communist Party (CPV), the ruling party in this

Asia’s Commission
tightly controlled one-party state.
Vietnam officially recognizes 54 ethnic

on Human Rights
groups, among whom the majority ethnic Kinh
make up 86 per cent of the population. Ethnic
minority and indigenous groups have significant
populations in the northern highlands, central
highlands and the Mekong delta region – The establishment of the ASEAN Inter-
including Hmong, Khmer, Muong, Tay and governmental Commission on Human
Thai. In the central highlands, in Gia Lai and Rights (AICHR) on 23 October 2009
Dak Lak provinces in particular, about two dozen marked a momentous achievement for
indigenous groups collectively self-identify as human rights in the region. But there is no
Montagnards, many of whom are also Protestant explicit mention of the rights of indigenous
Christians. peoples and minorities in its mandate and
Vietnam’s central highlands are rich in natural civil society organizations continued to
resources, including bauxite. In September, a push to include these rights in the draft
Chinese-backed bauxite mine in Lam Dong ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights.
province began operations, despite unusually high The AICHR has been criticized for
levels of public criticism about environmental getting tied up in procedural issues, failing
consequences and Chinese involvement. Bauxite to consult with civil society and for being
is a mineral used to produce aluminum, and, unable to receive information officially
with the third largest reserve of bauxite in the from civil society groups about severe
world, the government has shown little regard human rights violations. There is also
for the concerns of central highland peoples, concern about the independence of the
including over potential contamination of water commissioners, inadequate resources and an
resources as well as adverse impact on crops. unclear protection mandate.
Land in Vietnam is state-owned – with There is no specific mechanism for the
individual land use rights – and can be protection and promotion of minority
re-appropriated for state interests. With or indigenous peoples’ rights within the
forests and mineral-rich lands in minority and AICHR. Civil society groups created an
indigenous areas, state land confiscation can Indigenous Peoples Task Force in order
have a devastating effect on these communities. to lobby and inform ASEAN and its
In her January 2011 report on her official visit relevant bodies, particularly to establish a
to Vietnam in 2010, the Independent Expert focal person for indigenous issues and to
on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, noted establish an ASEAN Working Group on
the massive resettlement caused by the Son indigenous issues.
La hydropower plant, where 91,000 people The team drafting the Declaration on
belonging to ethnic minorities were relocated Human Rights was formed by the AICHR
by 2010 – the largest resettlement programme and was expected to present its first draft
in Vietnam’s history. Ten different groups have in January 2012. The drafting process has
been affected, the majority being ethnic Thai. been held largely behind closed doors and
The Vietnam Union of Science and Technology the terms of reference have not been made
Associations reported: ‘[R]elocation is breaking public. p
down existing social structures and community
relationships and creating trauma for minority
groups … Most are left without any agricultural
In May, seven land rights defenders, some of

158 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
whom also struggle for religious freedom, were of faith and declarations of allegiance to the
tried for ‘subversion’ in the Ben Tre People’s state, against indigenous Montagnards. HRW
Court; all received prison sentences ranging further reported that since 2001, more than 350
from two to eight years. Pastor Duong Kim Montagnards have been imprisoned for public
Khai was one of those found guilty. A leader of protests, attending unregistered house churches
the Mennonite ‘Cattle Shed’ religious group – or trying to flee to seek asylum in Cambodia.
so-called because their church was confiscated Vietnam has, however, demonstrated a
by authorities and they began using a shed for sustained effort to collect disaggregated data
worship – has assisted people in the Mekong on its ethnic minority populations in order to
delta with land rights claims. implement more effective development projects.
The government maintains strict controls In 2011 a recent study by the government in
on freedom of religion, permitting only state- conjunction with UN agencies reaffirmed that
sanctioned religions, and using complex ethnic minorities in Vietnam have worse health
registration requirements, surveillance and indicators, particularly for minority women, who
intimidation to control the practice of faith. had less access to reproductive health care than
Religious activists and those practising their majority counterparts.
‘unauthorized’ religions are targeted by the

East Asia
government. In July, police arrested three
Catholic activists as they returned from a
conference abroad. Twelve more religious
activists were arrested by the end of September,
the majority of whom were later charged with Marusca Perazzi
‘subversion’. In December, Nguyen Van Lia,
a 71-year-old who has raised international China
awareness about the situation faced by fellow- The year 2011 revealed unmistakable signs of
members of the Hoa Hao Buddhists, was ferment and frustration in Chinese society.
sentenced to five years in prison for distributing Unsettled by the pro-democracy Arab Spring
‘anti-government’ propaganda. uprisings and the country’s scheduled leadership
Vietnamese authorities continued to use transition in October 2012, the government
violence and intimidation in the central launched the largest crackdown on human
highlands and north-west provinces, especially rights lawyers, activists and critics in a decade.
against Protestant ethnic minorities and others This resulted in tightened internet censorship,
conducting ‘unsanctioned’ religious practices. persecution of high-profile critics, and an
Since the state restricts foreign media in these increasing number of forced disappearances and
areas, it is difficult to get a clear picture. HRW, arbitrary detentions.
however, reported that thousands of Hmong During 2011, the Chinese government
Christians began protesting in the north-west continued to limit religious practice to officially
province of Dien Bien at the end of April. approved religious institutions. There was a
This was met by a violent response from the continued crackdown on unregistered religious
military, with unconfirmed reports of numerous organizations, including underground Christian
deaths and injuries. According to the BBC, the groups. In April, the government pressured a
protesters demanded more religious freedom, Beijing landlord to evict the Shouwang ‘house
secure land rights and greater autonomy. church’ with 1,000 congregants from its location
Unrest over land rights and the struggle for in his restaurant. Consequently, services were
religious freedom in the central highlands during held outdoors attracting police attention and
the last decade has made the area a security resulting in the temporary detention of more
concern for the government. In a 2011 report, than 100 of its members. Thousands of Falun
HRW detailed how security forces have used Gong spiritual practitioners, members of a
violence, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and group targeted by the authorities, continued to
torture, as well as forced public renunciations face intimidation, harassment and arrest. The

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 159

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
government continued to heavily restrict religious the country’s east coast.
activities in the name of security in minority During 2011, the Chinese government
areas, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang. called for accelerated development in minority
While ethnic minorities in China constitute areas under its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–15).
only 8 per cent of the overall population, they Also in 2011, the US Congressional Executive
inhabit large areas rich in natural resources, Commission on China (CECC) reported that in
especially energy and minerals, in some of the ethnic minority autonomous regions the Chinese
most impoverished regions of the country. For government continued to implement top-down
example, Inner Mongolia has rich coal deposits; development policies that have undercut the
Xinjiang is known to have China’s largest oil and promotion of regional autonomy and limited
gas reserves; Tibet has massive deposits of gold, the rights of minorities to maintain their unique
copper and rare earths, as well as much of the cultures, languages and livelihoods, while
country’s water resources. bringing a degree of economic improvement. The
Over the past decade, these areas have been the government push on development also meant an
target of the government’s ‘Go West’ campaign. intensification of the long-standing majority Han
Ostensibly, the government’s goal has been to migration into minority areas. These new arrivals
reduce regional disparities and bring economic have disproportionately benefited from economic
development to the western provinces and opportunities, which has caused resentment
autonomous regions (Ningxia, Tibet, Inner among ethnic minorities. Also, the environmental
Mongolia, Guangxi and Xinjiang); critics have degradation that accompanies natural resource
defined the campaign as ‘internal colonization’, exploitation continues to exacerbate tensions.
aimed at bringing large areas in minority regions
under control so as to exploit their natural Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
resources to support further development along The Chinese authorities have continued to

160 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: A Tibetan monk sits in his room with a end of 2011, and many Uighurs have been
photo of the Dalai Lama and Karamapa on the forcibly evicted and relocated to make way
wall at a monastery in Sichuan province, China. for a new city centre, dominated by the Han
Photos of the Dalai Lama are prohibited in population. Forced evictions have become a
China but many monks carry one secretly. routine part of life in China amid rampant
Shiho Fukada/Panos. development. But rural land grab disputes hit
new highs in 2011 and are spreading further into
implement a repressive security regime in undeveloped regions of western China, according
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, since to an October report by Xinhua’s magazine,
violent riots broke out in July 2009 – the Outlook Weekly.
worst ethnic conflict in recent Chinese history.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
government has still not accounted for hundreds Violence also broke out in the Ningxia Hui
of people detained after the riots and continues Autonomous Region in north-west China. On
to target human rights activists. 30 December 2011, police clashed with ethnic
Tensions in the region have been exacerbated Hui Muslims in Taoshan village. According to
by increasingly tight controls over religious the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for
practice and use of minority languages. Human Rights and Democracy, 50 people were
Government-led development projects have injured and two people killed after authorities
undermined the rights of Uighurs and other non- declared a newly refurbished mosque illegal and
Han communities. Employment practices in both the police tried to demolish it.
the private and public sectors have also continued
to discriminate against Uighurs and other non- Grassland policies
Han groups, who together comprise roughly 60 At a State Council meeting in April 2011,
per cent of Xinjiang’s population. authorities called for ‘more forceful policy
During the summer of 2011, the region was measures’ for ‘speeding up development of
the scene of several violent incidents. In July, at pastoral areas, ensuring the state’s ecological
least 18 people were killed when rioters, some security, and promoting ethnic unity and border
armed with homemade explosives, attacked a stability’. This strengthened ongoing grassland
police station in the city of Hotan. And on 30 policies that impose grazing bans, and resettle
and 31 July, at least 13 people were killed and herders, forcing them to give up their pastoralist
44 injured in two episodes in Kashgar, the state lifestyle, which affects Mongols, Tibetans,
news agency Xinhua reported. Following these Kazakhs and other minorities. Critics have
incidents, the authorities launched an anti- questioned the effectiveness of such policies in
terrorism campaign in August, targeting illegal meeting the declared goal of restoring degraded
religious activity and implementing patriotic grassland, while affected communities report
education campaigns. forced resettlement, inadequate compensation
In October, Xinhua reported that the and loss of traditional livelihoods and culture.
government was considering new stricter anti-
terrorism legislation, claiming that the country Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region
faced serious threats from Islamist groups. In During the year, rising ethnic tensions in
December, police killed seven Uighurs accused the usually relatively calm Inner Mongolian
of being terrorists in Pishan County, a Uighur- Autonomous Region rattled the Chinese
majority area near the Pakistan border. However, authorities. In May, a Mongolian herder
overseas Uighur groups said they doubted the protesting against the destruction of traditional
official account of events. grazing land was killed by a Han driver
Land seizures in the ancient Uighur city of transporting coal in Uxin County. The incident
Kashgar also stirred up resentment. Eighty per sparked the worst demonstrations in two
cent of traditional Uighur neighbourhoods in decades in Inner Mongolia. Protesters called
Kashgar were scheduled for demolition by the for the government to respect herders’ rights

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 161

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
and condemned the exploitation of grasslands.
While the government executed the truck driver Case study By Gabriel Lafitte
responsible, the mining project that caused the

Mining Tibet
protest continued.
Further protests broke out when another
herder was killed by an oil truck in a similar
incident in October. This prompted the
government to tighten security and cut off Gold
internet and mobile-phone access to large parts of Tibetans call the Plateau of Tibet ‘the land
the region, according to the Southern Mongolian surrounded by mountains’. Among the massive
Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). mountain chains, a few peaks are especially
Mongolian herders continue to complain that sacred, attracting pilgrims from afar. In rugged
their traditional grazing lands have been ruined eastern Tibet, nowhere is as sacred as the hidden
by mining, that widespread desertification is land of Kawa Kharpo.
turning the grassland to dust, and that the The sacred Kawagebo mountain sits on
government has forcibly relocated them into the border between the Tibetan Autonomous
settled houses. Region and China’s Yunnan Province; its
eastern side is part of the Three Parallel Rivers
Tibetan autonomous areas area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In
The situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region, February 2011, a small gold-mining operation
and other Tibetan autonomous areas of Qinghai, started near the village of Abin, which is on
Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces grew the western side of Kawagebo, along the path
increasingly tense throughout 2011. Since the of an 800-year-old pilgrimage route that circles
brutal crackdown on protests that swept the the mountain, attracting tens of thousands of
plateau in 2008, Chinese security forces have Tibetans annually.
maintained a heavy presence. Large numbers In 2012, Tibetan villagers, acting out of
of Tibetans, including intellectuals, monks and reverence for the holy peak, attempted to stop
farmers, have been imprisoned, and monasteries, the operations of a Chinese mining company.
seen by the Chinese government as the focus of The response was threats and violence from
dissent, have been subject to intensified controls company representatives, then harassment and
and political pressure. Tibetans are increasingly arrests by local police. On two occasions, men
economically marginalized, as development has armed with wooden sticks with nails reportedly
brought an influx of majority Han Chinese into attacked villagers, injuring more than a dozen.
Tibetan regions; the newcomers dominate the job After efforts to negotiate with the local
market, and local businesses as well as culture. government failed, villagers pushed US$
During the second half of the year, there was 300,000 worth of mining equipment into the
a wave of self-immolations mainly involving Nu River. A leader of the group was arrested,
Buddhist monks and nuns across eastern Tibet. but later released when 100 villagers surrounded
In March, a monk from the Kirti monastery in the local police station where he was being held.
the Tibetan Ngaba region of Sichuan province A few months later, however, mining resumed
set fire to himself in protest against Chinese rule and tensions grew. Harassment, death threats
and the ongoing repression of Tibetan religious and attacks on villagers increased, and some
and cultural identity. In August, local authorities women and children fled to other villages to
imposed heavy prison sentences on three Tibetan escape the violence.
monks who had assisted him. Ten more Tibetan On 20 January 2012, a village leader who
monks and one nun had self-immolated by mid- had tried to confront the mining company was
November, all expressing their desperation in arrested by local police. Some 200 community
the face of ongoing repression. By March 2012, members surrounded the police station,
a reported 30 Tibetans had set themselves on resulting in violence and injuries on both sides,
fire in Tibetan areas of China to protest against

162 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
with at least one villager hospitalized with Along the Nu River (known as the Salween
serious injuries. Hundreds more villagers from once it reaches Burma), the longest free-flowing
the surrounding area joined in. On 23 January, river in mainland south-east Asia, a 13-dam
with tensions mounting, a local government cascade has been proposed. The scheme
leader ordered the mine closed and the includes several dams in or very close to the
equipment trucked out of the village. World Heritage Site mentioned above; these
This story represents a rare victory in would wipe out portions of the pilgrimage
the struggle against the despoiling of the route around Kawagebo and displace numerous
landscape of Tibet. All too often, local Tibetan communities along the river valley. Although
communities are powerless, knowing that any the project was put on hold in 2004 in the
protest will be quickly labelled as ‘splittist’ and wake of widespread protest, it is certainly not
a challenge to China’s rule, invoking a massive dead.
security presence to quell dissent. The Kawa Last year, the World Heritage Committee
Kharpo episode is remarkable, both because issued a statement expressing concern over
the villagers won and because the world got to reports of unapproved construction under way
hear about it, due to a brave conservationist at one dam site on the Nu River, and surveying
from the Chinese environmental NGO Green work – including road-building and drilling
Earth Volunteers, who witnessed the protest – at three others. But in February, Chinese
and reported it. Usually, such protests are not officials revealed plans to resume the Nu River
only swiftly curbed but all mention of them is dams as part of China’s ambitious hydropower
repressed. plans to meet its renewable energy targets. The
Mining is widespread in hundreds of project will displace 50,000 people belonging
locations across Tibet, despite official bans on to ethnic minorities, including Lisu, Nu and
small-scale gold mining in 2005 and 2007. Tibetan people.
The soaring price of gold, and the even faster Nearly all the dams scheduled for
rise in Chinese domestic demand for gold, has construction in China by 2020 are in Kham,
made Tibet a magnet for gold-seekers. The one of the three provinces of Tibet, which
environmental cost of gold mining is extremely is now administratively fragmented into
high, with cyanide and mercury being used in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan,
the processing, despite their toxic effects on Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region. Kham
those living downstream. The most systematic is not only a historically coherent province of
way of extracting gold in a river is to assemble a Tibet, all of its counties and prefectures are
dredge, a house-sized machine on tracks, which officially designated as areas of governance by
crawls along, chewing up everything whilst and for the Tibetans as a people. But west-to-
gathering the specks of gold. These methods east transmission networks will increasingly
are highly destructive, yet Tibetans have supply coastal China with electricity from
been unable to form their own community Tibet, triggering serious questions as to
associations, speak up, articulate their concerns whether Tibetans will benefit in any way.
and let the world know. The Kham hydroelectric dam cascade is not for
rural electrification, to provide light for nomad
Hydroelectric power children to study by night and improve their
Unfortunately, Abin is but one of many school grades. It is not for Tibetan farmers
Tibetan villages threatened by economic forces. to buy electric threshing machines for their
There is a greater overarching threat to the barley crops, or for village millers to roast and
region, namely hydroelectric dam development. grind the dried barley seeds to make tsampa,
The government is increasingly turning to the staple of the Tibetan diet. The ultra high
Tibet to solve China’s impending water and voltage lines will pass them by, en route to
energy crisis. factories in Shanghai and Guangzhou. p

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 163

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
government policies the Yellow River.
The self-immolations have raised the level of The government is ramping up its hydropower
tension and distress in Tibet to new heights. ambitions in a bid to meet renewable energy
Security forces have used violence when targets, resurrecting projects previously
raiding monasteries, searching for signs of shelved for environmental reasons. The NGO
allegiance to Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the International Rivers has reported that China
Dalai Lama, and arbitrarily detaining monks. has begun to build a series of dams in ethnic
Demonstrations, vigils and expressions of moral minority regions of south-west China, including
support for protesters seen as martyrs by the the Jinsha (upper Yangtze), Lancang (Mekong)
wider population have been met with ever and the Nu (Salween) Rivers.
tighter security clampdown. The wave of self-
immolations has caused the central authorities Japan
considerable embarrassment but has resulted in The year 2011 was a very challenging one for
no change in their repressive policies. Japan as it struggled to cope with the economic,
The recent acceleration in natural resource social and political aftershocks of the most
development has led to increasing conflict and devastating earthquake and tsunami in 140 years,
protests in the region. The completion of the which struck the country in March. The disaster
Qinghai–Tibetan railway in 2005 and new left 20,000 dead and many more homeless, and
highways is spurring an economic boom in Tibet, triggered the meltdown of three reactors at the
including hydropower and mining (see case study Fukushima nuclear plant.
on page 162). For example, Tibetans protested Although Japan promotes itself as a
against the Gyama mine project, controlled homogeneous society, the country has significant
by Vancouver-based China Gold and located numbers of minority and indigenous groups,
just upstream of Lhasa in 2010. The mining including Burakumin, and indigenous Ainu
operation has reportedly dried up spring waters, and Okinawans. Korean and Chinese minorities
poisoned drinking water, killed animals and have had a long-standing presence, along with
destroyed flora and fauna in the region. Despite newer arrivals from South America and Asia, who
this, in August 2011, China Gold announced continue to appear vulnerable to exploitation,
that it will proceed with a major expansion of the prejudice and discrimination.
project. The estimated 200,000 Burakumin belong
Across Tibet, nomads are being systematically to a social minority of the same ethnicity as
and often forcibly relocated into settled other Japanese but are nevertheless victims
communities as part of a policy known as of deep-seated caste-based discrimination.
‘ecological migration’. For example, since 2005, Modern reforms, including regarding access to
50,000 Tibetan nomads have been relocated from housing and employment, have improved social
the Sanjiangyuan National Reserve in Qinghai conditions to some extent, but the root causes of
province on the Tibetan Plateau into unfamiliar their marginalization – social discrimination and
urban areas where there are few economic prejudice – have not been adequately addressed
opportunities. Some experts have pointed out by the government.
that the locations of the recent self-immolations Ainu were officially recognized by the
correspond, ‘with a few exceptions’, to areas of government as indigenous settlers of northern
intensive resettlement. Social problems – such as Japan in 2008 but, to the disappointment
high levels of unemployment and crime – have of many activists, this recognition has failed
quickly emerged in these areas. The government’s to address problems of social and economic
ostensible goal is to preserve fragile ecosystems marginalization. Amid growing frustrations over
and to counteract the negative impact of over- the lack of tangible progress securing their rights,
grazing. But during 2011, the boundaries of at the end of October, Ainu representatives
the reserve have quietly been redrawn to allow formed their own political party. There are
for large-scale gold mining by Inter-Citic, a an estimated 30,000–50,000 Ainu in Japan.
Canadian mining company, near the source of Research carried out in 2006 indicated that

164 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
the number of Ainu living on welfare was over again failed to respond to requests by the
three times the national average, and that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial
proportion of Ainu receiving higher education Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Committee
was one-third the national average. on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Over the centuries, Ainu have been stripped of Women (CEDAW) to provide economic and
their land, resources and traditional livelihoods. social data reflecting the situation of minorities,
More recently, Ainu people have been caught up and data to expose the extent of violence against
in a struggle to control their ancestral waterways. minority women. CEDAW has also requested
A government plan to build a second dam on the data on the education, employment, social
Saru River in the Hidaka Region of Hokkaido welfare and health status of minority women.
has raised concerns about the rights of the Ainu
people. The first Nibutani dam on the Saru Taiwan
River, the most important river for local Ainu, The 14 officially recognized indigenous groups
was completed in the 1990s. In a landmark in Taiwan make up about 2 per cent of the
decision in 1997, a district court judge ruled that island’s population (collectively referred to as
the government had illegally expropriated land ‘yuanzhumin’) and mostly inhabit the central
owned by Ainu farmers to construct the dam mountains and the eastern coastal region. Ami
and recognized Ainu’s cultural rights. The ruling constitute the largest group, and they along
did not reverse the all-but-completed dam, but with the Paiwan and the Saisiat communities
the case set a precedent and, as a result, work are able to maintain a visible traditional cultural
on the second Biratori dam further upstream life. Other smaller groups (known as ‘pingpu’ or
was delayed until 2010. And now, as it is going lowland tribes) are still fighting for recognition.
ahead, the Ainu community has become engaged Other communities on the island include the
in the construction process of the dam, aiming to majority Hokkien/ Minanese (69 per cent),
ensure preservation of local Ainu culture. Hakka (13 per cent) and more recent immigrants
But in other cases, the government has from mainland China and elsewhere.
failed to uphold Ainu rights. In a collective While historically Taiwan’s indigenous
statement made at the UN Permanent Forum peoples have been discriminated against and
on Indigenous Issues in May, the NGO Asia deprived of fundamental freedoms including
Indigenous People’s Pact along with other their land rights, in recent years the government
civil society organizations accused the Japanese has invested more funds to support indigenous
government of failing to fully implement peoples’ culture. The Taiwanese government has
indigenous rights. According to the statement, also adopted a number of laws and regulations
the Mombetsu city government in Hokkaido to protect indigenous peoples’ rights, including
prefecture authorized plans to build an industrial with regard to political participation, culture and
waste dumping site near the Mobetsu River language. However, serious inconsistencies and
in February 2010, a sacred salmon spawning contradictions in legislation alongside partial
site for Ainu, without obtaining their free, implementation of laws guaranteeing the rights of
prior and informed consent. The statement indigenous peoples have partly thwarted progress
also condemned the heavy presence of US towards self-governance.
military bases in Okinawa territory as a form of The government has pursued a policy of
discrimination against the Okinawan people. economic development which, according to
A new base is under construction at Henoko/ local indigenous activists, has negatively affected
Oura Bay, plus six helipads elsewhere, despite indigenous peoples’ traditional lands. Forested
long-standing opposition from local indigenous areas and land with mining potential have been
communities. In response to their protests, claimed as national property; areas of natural
the authorities have filed a lawsuit forbidding beauty have been designated national parks for
local indigenous members to stage sit-ins at the tourism; and the government has reportedly
heliport construction site. also taken large tracts of land from indigenous
In 2011, the Japanese government yet communities living in mountainous areas under

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 165

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
the pretext of national security. At the end the Act does not define or grant them rights to
of January, members of the Ami indigenous indigenous lands, and that if it is passed, they
group protested against the government’s would lose much of their input into decision-
occupation of their traditional land. Subsequent making. This prompted activists to criticize
discussions with officials failed to make any the government in December for failing to
progress. In June, about 300 Paiwan leaders and implement the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law,
representatives from other indigenous groups as already passed by Taiwan’s highest legislative
demonstrated in Nantien village in Taitung assembly in 2005.
County against government plans to build Ongoing protests are evidence that a number of
nuclear waste facilities. Also in 2011, academics indigenous communities have not benefited from
and civil society and indigenous groups Taiwan’s economic boom, partly due to economic
successfully managed to stop the construction of disparities and lack of proper access to education
a section of coastal highway that would overlap in their areas. Education is still a key issue, with
with the ancient Alangyi Trail in south-west endangered indigenous languages put at great risk
Taiwan and pass through previously untouched of extinction, despite constitutional guarantees
coastal forest used by indigenous people for and the National Language Development Act.
hunting. On a positive note, in 2011 Taiwan’s
In June, indigenous groups rejected the draft legislature adopted a law to implement the UN
Indigenous Autonomy Act, which sets out the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
legal framework and process for establishing Discrimination Against Women, and followed
autonomous regions for indigenous peoples, up by establishing a national Department of
saying it was disrespectful, unconstitutional Gender Equality in 2012, both key steps to
and violated the Indigenous Peoples Basic combat gender discrimination. Much remains to
Law. Indigenous groups are concerned that be done, since trafficking and child prostitution

166 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Taiwanese indigenous activists shout companies to extract resources, principally
slogans during a protest outside the Executive timber, fisheries and in some cases minerals,
Yuan in Taipei in January 2009. Hundreds with little benefit for their own peoples. This
gathered to protest against what they said was exploitation is causing loss of wildlife habitat
a lack of protection for historic land rights. and pollution of environments, which have
REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN). an enormous impact on local peoples and
communities. Moreover, as many indigenous
remain significant issues. To combat such illegal communities throughout the region attach
practices, the Taiwanese authorities announced spiritual values to their surrounding ecosystems,
that they will adopt a zero tolerance gender the development of these projects impacts
violence policy, as well as judicial measures to significantly on their cultural practices.
strengthen protection mechanisms and improve Other social ills plague the indigenous peoples
law and order. of the region, most notably the extreme rates of
violence against women and the exploitation of

girls, with rates of abuse and rape in the Pacific
among the highest in the world.

Jacqui Zalcberg Fiji has suffered four coups and a military
mutiny since 1987, mainly as a result of
Oceania is made up of some of the most tension between the majority indigenous Fijian
ethnically diverse populations in the world. population and an economically powerful
While Oceania is not often associated with large- Indian minority. Over five years have passed
scale resource extraction, the region is gaining since the most recent 2006 coup d’état by
increasing attention for its natural resources. For Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, who
the small island states of Oceania, the sea remains has since assumed the post of prime minister.
a key resource, and many of the subsistence During this time, Fiji’s military government has
needs of the peoples of the region, including been heavily criticized for its infringement of
food security and livelihoods, are underpinned rights to free speech, press, peaceful assembly,
by marine resources. The explosive growth of and association. However, Bainimarama lifted
Asian fish markets has put increasing pressure on martial law in January 2012 and indicated that
Pacific marine resources and is affecting people’s consultations on a new constitution would
livelihoods. This has been compounded by the begin shortly thereafter, with a promised return
impact of climate change, where higher sea to democratic elections within the next two
temperatures have led to loss of marine habitats years. He has stated that it was a priority to
which also impact on the fish and shellfish that end ethnic tensions, and to put an end to a
support many coastal communities in the region. system that classifies Fijians based on ethnicity.
Moreover, the rise of China as an economic Regulations introduced when martial law was
power coupled with the high global demand lifted raised fears that government critics could
for mineral resources has contributed to the still be silenced.
accelerated pace of exploitation of previously
untouched natural resources in the region. For Papua New Guinea
example, a Chinese corporation is building its With more than 800 indigenous tribes and
first large nickel mine in Papua New Guinea. languages, Papua New Guinea has the most
However, in many instances the economic diverse indigenous population in the world.
benefits of these large-scale extraction projects Papua New Guinea is also one of the poorest
have not properly benefited the indigenous countries not only in Oceania, but in the world.
peoples in whose lands, waters and territories The country faces some serious obstacles to
these resources are found. Typically, weak development, with some of the worst health and
Pacific island governments have allowed foreign education outcomes in the region, driven by high

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 167

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
levels of poverty and a largely rural population, indigenous community leaders challenged the
often living in remote locations. validity of the mine’s environmental permit,
Geologically, Papua New Guinea contains which was issued by the government against the
many natural resources, including copper, gold, advice of its own experts. In December 2011,
oil and natural gas. The government hopes however, the Supreme Court dismissed the
that greater exploitation of the mineral wealth appeal, ruling that the company can proceed with
of the country will provide an opportunity to its activities.
increase wealth and result in significant social The Barrick Porgera mine continues to be the
and economic change. For example, the PNG subject of ongoing tension, particularly regarding
LNG (Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural the severe environmental impact and human
Gas) Project operated by ExxonMobil subsidiary rights abuses associated with mining. Human
Esso Highlands, is the country’s largest gas Rights Watch (HRW) published a report in 2011
development project and is predicted to double detailing serious violations, including gang rape,
Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product. committed by security guards against members
Yet the case of the PNG LNG Project of the local community. The company, Barrick
highlights the tensions generated by many such Gold, conducted an internal investigation, but
development projects in Papua New Guinea. For HRW pointed out that it should have acted before
example, the land upon which the project will being prompted to do so. In 2011 a ‘Request
take place is registered as state land and has been for Review’ of the project was filed by two
leased by the government of Papua New Guinea community groups and Mining Watch Canada
to Esso Highlands. However, local communities against Barrick Gold under the Organization
have filed a legal claim, citing their customary for Economic Co-operation and Development
land rights. Moreover, in 2011, after a local boy (OECD) Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises,
died due to toxic poisoning from a project site, alleging breaches of the guidelines regarding
landowners forced the temporary closure of the sustainable development, human rights and the
Hides gas conditioning plant. A landslide in environment. The Canadian OECD National
early 2012 destroyed communities living below Contact Point has jurisdiction over the matter
a quarry used by the PNG LNG Project and was as Barrick Gold is a Toronto-based gold mining
believed to have killed at least 25 people; the company and owns 95 per cent of the Porgera
Red Cross feared that the final figure could be mine through subsidiaries.
closer to 60 fatalities. Locals are demanding a full
investigation into the connection between the Australia
quarry and the landslide, as a preliminary report Indigenous Australia
failed to even make mention of the mine. There The year 2011 has been a significant one for
are fears that the increasing tensions between indigenous peoples in Australia. A referendum
indigenous local communities and the company to recognize indigenous Australians and
could lead to civil unrest in the region. remove racially discriminatory provisions in
Other large-scale mining projects in Papua the Constitution now seems likely, following a
New Guinea are also being contested by local recently released expert report which received
communities. Communities at Krumbukari in bipartisan support. The report recommended,
Madang Province are opposed to the development among other things, the constitutional
of the Ramu nickel mine. Arguably one of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
the richest nickel deposits in the southern Islander peoples, and the insertion of a
hemisphere, the project, which is being run by prohibition on racial discrimination.
a company jointly owned by the Chinese state Another important national initiative to
company China Metallurgical Group Corporation recognize the fundamental place of indigenous
(MCC) and the Australian-based Highlands peoples in Australia is the National Congress of
Pacific, will result in the dumping of over 100 Australia’s First Peoples, whose first board took
million tonnes of slurry waste at sea – a practice office in July 2011. Established with the support
banned in both China and Australia. In 2010, of the Australian government, the Congress is

168 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
a national representative body for Aboriginal Above: The late Aboriginal elder Ned Cheedy,
and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which who worked to preserve the law and culture
has been notably lacking since the abolition of the Yindjibarndi people in the Pilbara of
of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Western Australia. Juluwarlu Group Aboriginal
Commission (ATSIC) in 2005. The Congress is Corporation/Alan Thomson.
independent and will provide a formal national
mechanism with which the government, the Territory Bill 2011. Yet a Senate Committee
private sector and community groups can partner inquiry has already received criticism of the
with indigenous and Torres Strait Islander proposed legislation, namely that it extends many
peoples on reform initiatives. aspects of the measures introduced in 2007 as
Much attention in previous years was paid part of the NTER and continues to raise serious
to the Northern Territory Emergency Response human rights concerns.
(NTER) laws, which put in place a number of Statistically, indigenous Australians still con-
extraordinary measures, including an income tinue to occupy the bottom rung across the full
management regime, imposition of compulsory range of development indicators. Education,
leases, and community-wide bans on alcohol health and life expectancy indicators fall signifi-
consumption and pornography, purportedly to cantly below non-indigenous averages. Moreover,
protect indigenous children and communities. indigenous peoples are highly over-represented in
These measures were internationally criticized the criminal justice system: according to figures
as discriminatory and in breach of Australia’s released in 2011, the imprisonment rate increased
international human rights obligations. The by 59 per cent for indigenous women and by 35
federal government recently announced a new per cent for indigenous men between 2000 and
legislative framework intended to replace the 2010. Indigenous people are 14 times more likely
NTER, the Stronger Futures in the Northern to be sent to jail than non-indigenous people.

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 169

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Indigenous minors are particularly at risk; indig- Kimberley coast at James Price Point, Western
enous girls and boys are 23 times more likely to Australia. A deal was struck between some of
be imprisoned than their non-indigenous coun- the indigenous traditional landowners of the
terparts. The situation of extreme indigenous region, Woodside Petroleum and the State of
disadvantage has been addressed by a number of Western Australia. The agreement included
targeted nation-wide policies, most notably the a generous benefits package; foresaw high-
‘Closing the Gap’ strategy, launched in 2006 level cultural and economic engagement from
that has set clear targets to improve the lives of traditional landowners in the proposed project;
indigenous Australians. However, recent analysis and gave traditional landowners rights to oppose
indicates that the government is on track to meet the development on environmental grounds, in
only two of its six targets under this initiative. return for foregoing native title claims over that
While Australia has been found to contain a land. The deal caused a lot of tension within
plethora of high-demand natural resources, the the community. Opponents of the project
mining sector does not appear to have benefited claimed that not all traditional landowners
indigenous peoples, upon whose lands these were consulted, that the project would destroy
resources are often found. To the contrary, ancient Aboriginal sacred sites, and that it was
it appears that many traditional owners have pushed through under the threat of compulsory
not been properly consulted regarding the acquisition. In December 2011, the Western
development of such projects on their lands, and Australian Supreme Court ruled the notices
many are outright opposed to their development. of compulsory acquisition invalid, but state
For example, the Yindijbarndi people have authorities and the company insisted that the
been challenging a proposed project by Fortescue decision would not stop the project.
Metals Group to develop the Soloman Hub Indigenous peoples also fought the proposal
iron deposit in the Pilbara region. The land on to build the Limmen Bight iron ore mine inside
which the iron ore is found is subject to a long- Limmen National Park in 2011. The project
standing native title claim by the Yindijbarndi would involve the construction of a pipeline
people, who have requested that emergency out to Maria Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria,
powers be invoked to stop the development. Yet which would impact on the land and waters of
in December 2011, the Minister for Indigenous the Marra people, for whom the island is a deeply
Affairs of Western Australia removed or amended sacred site. The community are not opposed to
previously imposed conditions requiring the the mining project per se, but they have objected
company to identify and protect Yindjibarndi to the transport of the ore via pipelines through
heritage, allowing the project to proceed without traditional sacred areas.
key safeguards for the more than 200 sites of To mitigate some of the concerns around the
cultural significance contained on the proposed dominance of the resource industry, including
project site. environmental issues, and to ensure that the
The Anindilyakwa traditional owners of the Australian society as a whole benefits from the
region near Groote Eylandt, off the Northern resource boom, an important national discussion
Territory coast of Arnhem Land, are also deeply evolved around a government proposal to
opposed to the development of a project to introduce a controversial 30 per cent minerals
undertake open-cut mining of manganese on the resource rent tax (MRRT or mining tax) on big
sea bed. The area has very important cultural mining companies. After much discussion, the
significance for both the Waunindilyakwan, and tax cleared the first major hurdle, passing through
the Nunnggubuyu peoples who inhabit the area; parliament’s lower house and will go to the senate
communities carry out burial rites and believe the in early 2012, with predictions that it will enter
sea is where reincarnation takes place. It is also a into force later in the year.
key source of subsistence and economic resources
for the communities. Minorities and migration
Another highly controversial project is the Topics of migration and asylum-seekers
processing plant for an offshore gas hub off the continued to capture Australian national

170 Asia and Oceania State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
attention. In 2011, a number of boats study on infectious diseases has illustrated
transporting migrants ran aground or sank in that Maori and Pacific Islanders suffer from
Australian waters, leaving many people dead, higher rates of disease and are twice as likely
including women and children. Nevertheless, to be hospitalized as those New Zealanders of
the Australian government maintained bipartisan European heritage. Asians are the minority group
support for its mandatory detention policy most often perceived to be discriminated against.
for all refugees and asylum-seekers. While the Maori have long been seeking more secure
government has indicated a shift in policy to protection of their treaty rights through
release all children from detention, there still constitutional provisions. The government
appear to be numerous minors mandatorily recently announced that it is planning to
detained for extended periods. A government undertake a constitutional review process, which
proposal to send 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia will include a review of Maori representation,
in return for 4,000 processed refugees, the the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and other
so-called Malaysia Solution, was declared constitutional issues.
unlawful by the High Court of Australia. The Regarding mining, New Zealand has a wealth
government has declared that it will pursue the of as yet untapped natural resources. The current
initiative through legislative amendments. government has put economic growth at the top
Strong political desire to criminalize and of its agenda and is keen to emulate Australia’s
prosecute all aspects of illegal migration led to mining success. One proposal tabled was to open
the passing of anti-people-smuggling laws with mines in national parks and other protected
mandatory minimum sentences in 2011. The lands. The strength of the public backlash led to
laws have resulted in the arrests of over 493 the proposal being abandoned in 2010; however,
people, however criticism of the scheme has been the government is now working with community
strong. In particular, of those charged under these leaders on the possibilities of mining on Maori-
offences, only six people were actual organizers owned land.
or facilitators of the smuggling operations. The The controversial Marine and Coastal Area
rest are reportedly deceived into working on these Bill, which replaces the much-debated Foreshore
ships as crew members, and thus may themselves and Seabed Act 2004, was passed in 2011 in
have been victims. Moreover, some of the parliament. The original act vested the ownership
detained crew members claim to be children, of the public foreshore and seabed in the
yet the processes used to determine their age are government, thereby extinguishing any Maori
such that, to date, all are nonetheless held in customary title over that area, while private
adult prisons. title over the foreshore and seabed remained
unaffected. The act was strongly criticized as
New Zealand being highly discriminatory against the Maori
New Zealand’s general election, held in community, by both Maori themselves and
November 2011, saw the incumbent Prime international actors, including the UN Special
Minister, John Key of the National Party, retain Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,
his position. The Maori Party won three seats, and the UN Committee on the Elimination of
down two from the previous election, and has Racial Discrimination. The new bill purportedly
formed a coalition government with the National restores the customary interests extinguished by
Party. the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Yet in order to
The Maori enjoy a relatively strong position obtain customary marine title under the new law,
in society compared to other indigenous peoples a Maori group must prove that it has used and
around the world, thanks to the Treaty of occupied the area claimed according to custom
Waitangi. New Zealand also has a very sizeable (tikanga) without substantial interruption from
minority population of Pacific Islanders, and 1840 to the present day, and to the exclusion of
an Asian minority community. Both Maori and others, which is an extremely high threshold. p
minority groups are often, however, in situations
of economic and social disadvantage. A recent

State of the World’s Minorities Asia and Oceania 171

and Indigenous Peoples 2012









Katalin Halász
he year 2011 marked the tenth anniver- Right: Migrants from Libya, being transported
sary of the 11 September 2001 attacks to Lampedusa, Italy. These people were among
on the United States. These al-Qaeda almost 500 people rescued from a skiff in the
attacks and subsequent incidents in European Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR/F. Noy
cities, with bombings in Madrid in 2004 and
London in 2005, fuelled fears that immigrants from wearing the garment. These measures not
and ethnic, religious and linguistic minori- only stigmatize minority women but also risk
ties could present a security threat in Europe. effectively excluding them from access to essential
European policy-makers responded by tightening social services.
immigration laws and imposing stricter controls An event shook the continent on 22 July,
over newcomers. New or strengthened when two attacks – in the Norwegian capital
anti-terrorism laws have had profound implica- of Oslo and on the nearby tiny island of Utøya
tions for migrant and minority communities. – claimed the lives of 77 people. As it emerged
The events of September 2001 also served that the perpetrator of the gruesome massacre,
to compound existing Islamophobia. Right- Anders Behring Breivik, had links to extreme
wing commentators have ramped up fears in right-wing groups, the European Union’s
recent years, amid growing economic and social (EU’s) Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and
problems caused by the global recession. The EU politicians warned against xenophobia and
European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and growing intolerance in Europe.
other human rights groups used the anniversary The far right continues to grow across Europe,
to appeal to European countries to move away espousing an ideology that openly embraces hard-
from the politics of fear and acknowledge line nationalist, anti-immigrant and xenophobic
human rights abuses committed during the rhetoric. In some EU countries – such as
so-called ‘global war on terror’. In May, Council Sweden, Finland, Hungary and the Netherlands
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – far-right parties have experienced sudden
Thomas Hammarberg voiced his concern that the electoral successes in recent years. However, in
official responses to the attacks have undermined other countries, such as France, Italy, Austria,
human rights in Europe, while at the same time Denmark and Switzerland, where they are an
he called for respect to be paid to those who established part of the political architecture, far-
lost their families and friends. Islamophobia right parties have experienced varying degrees of
continues to rise. According to figures released by electoral support in 2011.
the French Interior Ministry, 115 cases of attacks In France, Marine Le Pen, the daughter of
and harassment against Muslims were reported to Jean-Marie Le Pen took control of the 38-year-
police in France in the first nine months of 2011; old National Front party in January 2011 and
the Muslim umbrella group, Conseil Français recorded increased support in the first round of
du Culte Musulman (CFCM) commented that the 2012 presidential election. Swiss and Danish
the figure was probably a gross underestimate far-right parties lost ground in the 2011 national
since many cases go unreported. CFCM feared elections, showing a positive shift away from their
that these figures will increase ahead of the 2012 decades-long influence on mainstream politics.
general election, as the main political parties But in Germany and in the Czech Republic,
remain divided in an ongoing national debate extremists and neo-Nazi groups took to the
on secularism and the place of Islam in French streets. In May 2011 around 150 neo-Nazis
society. tried to march through the mainly alternative
In April 2011, France became the first country district of Kreuzberg in Berlin. Participants in
in Europe to ban wearing a full-face veil, the march chanted ‘Wahrheit macht frei’ (‘The
burqa or niqab, in public, which some Muslim truth makes one free’) – a slogan resembling the
women regard as a religious duty. In July, a law one at the gates to several Nazi concentration
banning the full-face veil also came into force in camps, such as Auschwitz and Dachau, ‘Arbeit
Belgium; and in February the central German macht frei’ (‘Work makes one free’). In Dresden
state of Hesse forbade public sector employees 17,500 protested against the annual neo-Nazi

174 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
march to mark the anniversary of the bombing call for help with funds and accommodating
of the city during the Second World War. migrants, criticizing the country for raising false
Neo-Nazi gatherings and marches took place alarms. In fact, according to UNHCR, over
in other towns and cities across the country, 55,000 boat migrants, including at least 3,700
which is fighting a hard battle against extremism. unaccompanied children, reached Lampedusa
Far-right supporters also faced opponents in from North Africa in the first seven months of
the Czech city of Brno in May, when eight the year. By September, the Italian authorities
extremists were detained, including one German. declared the island an unsafe port. The decision
In Italy, a member of an extremist group killed was taken in the wake of violent disturbances
two Senegalese traders and injured others in which saw Tunisian migrants damage the island’s
December in an attack that was condemned by reception centre and other buildings.
Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano as a ‘blind Amid fears of a flood of North African
explosion of hatred’. migrants, European countries’ first reaction
The popular protests and ensuing unrest was to close their borders and to press for
in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 re-admission accords with governments in the
brought thousands of migrants and asylum- Middle East and North Africa. Italy and France
seekers to European shores. proposed a radical revision of the Schengen
The UN estimated that at least 1,400 people Agreement – the regime of passport-free travel
died crossing the Mediterranean in the first within the EU’s borders – in order to allow
seven months of 2011, most as they tried to flee member states to restore border controls.
Libya. The UN refugee agency UNHCR urged The agreement covers more than 400 million
European states to improve their mechanisms people in 22 EU countries, as well as Norway,
for rescue at sea. In May, a delegation of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Germany,
the Committee on Migration, Refugees and the Netherlands, Greece and Malta also
Population of the Parliamentary Assembly of the supported the move to curb freedom of travel,
Council of Europe (PACE) visited Lampedusa, one of the cornerstones of an integrated Europe,
a tiny Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, while still underlining the importance of an
where large numbers of those fleeing North ‘open Europe’.
Africa were arriving, and called for rapid action. This policy shift followed the Danish
But prior to the visit, the EU rejected Italy’s government’s decision to reintroduce security

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 175

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
checks at the country’s borders with Sweden and Right: Roma children at the village of Cetăţeni,
Germany. But after the European Commission Romania. Cinty Ionescu.
criticized the ‘unjustified’ new border controls,
the new centre-left Danish government agreed confirm the high degree of discrimination faced
to roll back the controversial policy. However, at by many minorities in Europe. The Macedonian
an emergency meeting on immigration and the Centre for International Cooperation found that
Schengen Agreement in June, EU leaders agreed 67.7 per cent of the interviewees believe people
to establish a ‘safeguard mechanism’ allowing the suffer from discrimination on an ethnic basis.
reintroduction of internal borders in exceptional An opinion poll carried out by the Centre for
circumstances. The European Council President Democracy and Human Rights in Montenegro
Herman Van Rompuy insisted this did not revealed that one-fifth of the respondents did not
weaken the basic principle of free movement want an ethnic Albanian neighbour.
of persons, stating that ‘the mechanism now The 2011 European Commission on Racism
allows “as a very last resort” the exceptional and Intolerance reports on Azerbaijan, Cyprus
reintroduction of internal border controls in a and Serbia also highlight concerns regarding
truly critical situation’. But the move to reinstate the institutional and legislative frameworks to
internal border checks in the EU’s Schengen combat racial and religious discrimination. The
zone was sharply criticized by Commissioner Council of Europe Advisory Committee on
Hammarberg: ‘It is proof that Europe is not the Framework Convention for the Protection
living up to its own declarations about human of National Minorities welcomed a number
rights’, he said. of measures Armenia has taken to further the
In its annual review of the application of the implementation of the Framework Convention
EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, the FRA but, in a report issued in April, pointed to
underlined three major concerns: member states’ the lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination
poor treatment of asylum-seekers; continuing legislation, as well as the urgent need to take
social exclusion of the Roma; and poor personal action to protect minorities from racially
data protection. The FRA also provided motivated violence, and promote minority
evidence on the persistent discrimination against cultural, media and linguistic rights.
minorities in many areas of life, including
employment, education, housing and health care. Roma
Both the FRA and the European Parliament Europe’s 10–12 million Roma continue to face
repeated calls for the adoption by EU member a climate of increasing violence, harassment
states of the draft anti-discrimination directive, and intimidation across the continent. Roma
which was proposed in 2008. But Germany communities, who live dispersed across Europe,
and other member states halted any dialogue on were targeted for mass expulsions and evictions
the draft, which would add to the existing EU throughout 2011. The French government’s
anti-discrimination legislation by forbidding campaign to evict and deport Roma, which
discrimination based on religion or belief, attracted strong international criticism in
disability, age or sexual orientation in access to 2010, continued aggressively in 2011. In June,
goods and services, education and social benefits. the French Interior Minister Claude Guéant
Recent surveys show that discrimination announced plans to return as many as 28,000
is rife in Europe – both within EU member allegedly illegal immigrants in 2011.
states and beyond EU borders. In February, the Roma continued to be targeted for ongoing
FRA published its first ever EU-wide survey on evictions in other countries in Europe. According
multiple discrimination. The survey showed to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC),
that people belonging to ‘visible’ minorities, evictions were carried out during 2011 by
such as people of African origin and Roma, are Albania, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Macedonia,
more likely to be discriminated against on more Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and the UK. Between
than one ground compared to other minorities. April and October, 46 evictions affecting 5,753
Surveys on discrimination outside the EU people were recorded by the organization in

176 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
France. Between June and August, at least 500 (including children, pregnant women and elderly
Roma were evicted from camps in Marseille. The people) in February. After an intervention by
Italian authorities have also been aggressive in ERRC, the authorities restored the water supply,
pursuing a policy of evictions, affecting thousands but the reconnection was not made known to
of Roma in both Milan and Rome in recent residents and living conditions remain deplorable.
years. Between April and December, ERRC In Serbia in June, Police Minister Ivica Dacic
monitored 131 evictions (usually affecting many issued an official apology to a Roma family, four
households at a time) in Italy. Roma support years after their son was brutally beaten by police
groups reported evictions taking place during the in the eastern city of Vrsac. Police brutality is
spring of the Roma community in the Magliana widespread in the country according to human
aqueduct area of Rome, several families in the rights groups. ERRC also raised concerns about
Piazza Lugano settlement in Milan and a family disproportionate use of police force in Lviv
in Prato. With no alternative accommodation city in western Ukraine, and urged authorities
being provided, these clearances had disastrous to investigate unlawful discriminatory identity
consequences for the affected families. checks of Roma youth, including fingerprinting
In northern Romania, the local authorities of and document verification without any allegation
Baia-Mare erected a concrete wall to separate a of involvement in criminal activities.
Roma community from the rest of the town. In In Hungary, Roma were targeted by a far-
response to criticisms of institutionalized racism right vigilante paramilitary group – ‘For a
and ghettoization, the mayor of the town Better Future’. The group deployed patrols
claimed that the wall was to protect citizens in the northern village of Gyöngyöspata. The
against car crashes. intimidation reached its peak in March, when
In Portugal, the municipality of Vidigueira 1,000 black-uniformed neo-Nazis marched
destroyed the water supply of 67 Roma through the village with dogs and armed with

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 177

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
whips and chains. These incidents prompted
the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Githu Case study
Mujgaj, to visit the village in May and meet with

Corporate abuse
representatives of the Roma community, local
politicians and police authorities. He said that

flows along the

the country had yet to effectively tackle racism,
xenophobia and related intolerance.

Forced sterilization of Roma women remains
an unresolved issue in some countries. Roma

Ceyhan oil pipeline

women in the Czech Republic are still waiting
for adequate redress for irreparable injuries
two years after the Czech government under
Prime Minister Jan Fischer expressed regret for
individual sterilizations. However, a 20-year-old Early in 2011, the UK government ruled that
woman won her human rights appeal against a BP-led oil consortium was not carrying out
Slovakia before the European Court of Human the human rights responsibilities of multi-
Rights (ECtHR) in November. In its first national companies in its operations on the
judgement on sterilization, the Strasbourg court controversial Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) oil
ordered Slovakia to pay €43,000 in damages for pipeline. The 1,770 km pipeline runs from
violating the human rights of a woman who was offshore oil fields in the Caspian Sea near
sterilized without her informed consent. Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, to Tbilisi, the capital
Amid growing controversy, the European of Georgia, and on to the port of Ceyhan on
Commission adopted the EU Framework for the southern shores of Turkey in the Mediter-
National Roma Integration Strategies in June. ranean Sea. Construction of the BP flagship
This was welcomed as a step forward and will project started in 1993 and was completed in
enable the EU to take steps to fight anti-Roma 2006. BP has consistently promoted the BTC
discrimination and racism. But MRG has pipeline project as exemplary in its approach to
pointed out that the Framework, by narrowly human rights.
focusing on the social and economic situation The ruling followed a complaint lodged in
of Roma, falls far short of fully tackling the 2003 by a group of six NGOs and human
challenges of Roma exclusion. It remains to be rights organizations under the Organization for
seen how well the European Commission and Economic Co-operation and Development’s
the member states convert the Framework’s (OECD’s) Guidelines for Multinational Enter-
human rights commitments into tangible and prises. The BTC pipeline passes through areas
ambitious national strategies that are effectively with significant ethnic and religious minorities;
implemented. Sadly, only 15 out of 27 EU Kurdish villagers living in north-eastern Turkey
member states had met the end of 2011 have struggled to hold the consortium account-
deadline for submitting national integration able for alleged human rights abuses associated
strategy reports. with its development. Between 2003 and 2005,
the NGO coalition conducted annual fact-
Bulgaria finding missions to areas along the route of the
Issues concerning ethnic and religious BTC pipeline in the three countries.
discrimination featured prominently in public The coalition found that the BTC
debates in Bulgaria in 2011. The mistreatment consortium had failed to ensure that the
of the Roma community – who make up more project complied with OECD guidelines and
than 10 per cent of the country’s population the Voluntary Principles on Security and
and are the country’s second largest ethnic Human Rights, which say that:
minority after ethnic Turks – continued to ‘[C]ompanies should record and report any
remain a grave concern. Gay McDougall, credible allegations of human rights abuses by
UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues,

178 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
public security … Where appropriate, companies minorities in relation to employment practices
should urge investigation and that action be taken and in the carrying out of development pro-
to prevent any recurrence.’ Since the inception grammes.
of the project, human rights campaigners in In Georgia, concerns were raised about
Turkey and the UK have been alarmed that expropriation of land, poor environmental
Kurds and members of other local communities standards, lack of consultation or compensa-
have faced intimidation and interrogation by tion for damage caused, unacceptable use of
security forces when they have raised objections untested materials during construction and
to the pipeline. Ferhat Kaya, a local human rights labour violations. In Azerbaijan, serious con-
defender, was reported to have been detained and cerns were raised over compensation for land,
tortured by the paramilitary police for insisting corruption and restrictions on local press and
on fair compensation. The coalition argued affected communities regarding criticism of
that intimidation deterred local people from the project. But the most serious issues relat-
participating in BP’s consultations about the BTC ing to minorities were raised in Turkey. The
pipeline’s route and from seeking compensation UK government ruled that, despite widespread
for loss of their land and livelihoods. awareness of the heightened risk of intimida-
The group also found that, in Turkey, the BTC tion, BP failed adequately to respond or to
project has contributed to displacement of the investigate allegations brought to its attention
Kurdish minority, who have been subject to state of cases of abuse by state security forces in
repression for decades. In north-eastern Turkey, Turkey guarding the pipeline.
where Kurds constitute 30–40 per cent of the local The ruling could set a new precedent for
population, displacement has been less a result multinationals to implement more robust
of direct military action against the supporters of human rights impact assessments. Rachel
the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – which was Bernu of the Kurdish Human Rights Project
more the case in other parts of the country – but reflected on the ruling, saying that:
was due to gradual economic pressure and state ‘It has taken eight years for the claims of villag-
harassment. Affected villagers described the BTC ers facing repression in this isolated area of Tur-
pipeline as an added pressure on them to leave; it key to be recognized. We hope this ruling marks a
disrupted their subsistence agricultural production turning point for the governments and companies
without providing any compensation or alterna- involved so that villagers receive just compensa-
tive source of income. There were also allegations tion, and human rights are not only respected but
that the BTC project discriminated against ethnic also promoted through investment in future.’ p

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 179

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
visited the country in July in order to assess Roma and to conduct a full investigation and
the situation of minorities – particularly Roma, prosecution of all responsible perpetrators.
Turks and other Muslim minorities. She The UN also voiced deep concern about the
concluded that government measures to address anti-Roma rallies and accompanying hate
the deep-rooted discrimination, exclusion and speech. Although incitement to racial hatred
poverty faced by Roma have been superficial and discriminatory public communication are
and inadequate. Bulgarian government prohibited under Bulgarian law, these provisions
commitment to Roma equality remains weak: are rarely enforced. MRG has stated its alarm
Roma unemployment rates are peaking at 80 that non-enforcement of the law creates a sense
per cent; in the capital, Sofia, 70 per cent of of impunity and erodes what little mutual
the Roma population lives in dwellings without trust remains between Roma and non-Roma
access to basic infrastructure such as running communities.
water, sewerage, paved streets, waste collection These events stirred up panic among other
or street lights. The current financial crisis has minority communities as well. Turkey’s Hürriyet
put a strain on resources, but, as highlighted newspaper reported that the Turkish community
by the Independent Expert, the government’s in Bulgaria feared a nationalist backlash in the
current inconsistent pilot project-based wake of the anti-Roma rallies. And on 20 May,
approach will never be sufficient to address Ataka provoked clashes with Muslims gathered
these socio-economic challenges. for Friday prayer at the Banya Bashi mosque in
Roma have also been the victims of forced Sofia, protesting against the use of loudspeakers
evictions. Although the government, in its to issue the call to prayer. Bulgarian politicians
third periodic report on the implementation condemned the ensuing violence and desecration
of the International Covenant on Civil and of religious symbols.
Political Rights, stated that Roma were Shortly after, the ruling political party
only evicted after extensive legal procedures GERB distanced itself from the far-right Ataka
were carried out, giving Roma time to find by proposing a declaration adopted by the
alternative accommodation, reports by the parliament which condemned the attack on
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, ENAR Bulgaria the mosque. The secretary of the Chief Mufti’s
and Justice 21, a Bulgarian human rights Office, Husein Hafazov, provided a detailed
organization, do not support this view. The account of numerous cases of harassment of
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee pointed to large- Muslims in Bulgaria, including: threats against
scale house demolitions in Sofia and Burgas in Muslim women wearing headscarves, setting
2009, and in Yambol and Maksuda in 2010, dogs on them and spitting, painting the walls
noting that few if any alternatives were provided of religious schools and mosques with anti-
and that the evictions were often accompanied Islamic slogans, destroying mosques and religious
by excessive use of force. property, and physical attacks.
In September, an incident in Katunitza, in Other religious minorities also suffered from
which a Bulgarian teenager was killed by a Roma harassment, physical attacks and damage to
driver allegedly linked to a notorious crime-boss, property in 2011. The Jewish community has
the self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy Tsar’ Kiril Rashkov, long suffered from anti-Semitic attacks. In
sparked violent clashes in the village. Anti- 2011, a Jewish organization, Shalom, published
Roma protests spread across the country. The its first bulletin on ‘Anti-Semitic actions in
right-wing party Ataka held demonstrations and Bulgaria in 2009–2010’, which includes a long
demanded tough action from the government, list of acts of religious desecration and damage
even calling for the death penalty to be reinstated to religious buildings. In April, the House of
in the country. Prayer of Jehovah Witnesses, a legally registered
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov came under religion in Bulgaria since 2003, was violently
criticism for not reacting quickly enough to the attacked in a rally organized by VMRO
unrest. The ERRC and Amnesty International (the International Macedonian Voluntary
urged the Bulgarian authorities to protect Organization) in Burgas.

180 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Greece new asylum service that will deal with a backlog
On 3 January 2011, the Minister for Citizen of applications. The law also puts in place a
Protection, Christos Papoutsis, announced plans procedure for appeal following the rejection of an
to build a 12.5 km fence along its border with asylum request. The move comes after repeated
Turkey, to prevent undocumented migrants delays. In 2011, the largest groups of people
entering the country. The minister stated that came from Afghanistan (with 44 per cent), as
some 128,000 migrants and asylum-seekers well as Algeria (16 per cent), with other smaller
reached Greece in 2010, more than 40,000 of groups arriving from Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq.
them crossing the border from Turkey at the In September 2011, Human Rights Watch
Evros border post. Greece’s land border with (HRW) raised grave concerns regarding the
Turkey is more than 200 km long, running conditions of migrants and asylum-seekers kept
mostly along the Evros River, and is increasingly in detention. Unaccompanied children, single
used by Asian and African migrants to enter the women and mothers with children are housed
country since traditional routes across the central with unrelated adult men in overcrowded
and western Mediterranean have been blocked by conditions. HRW accused the EU and its
strengthened maritime surveillance and bilateral member states of becoming ‘complicit in Greece’s
repatriation deals between Italy and Spain with shameful conduct’ when a multinational team
various African countries. But it is unlikely that a of FRONTEX (the EU border agency) border
12.5 km fence will prevent waves of immigrants guards were deployed along the Turkish border
from flowing into the country. and helped Greece apprehend and detain
Various agencies, including the European undocumented migrants. At the same time, the
Commission, UNHCR and the International ECtHR fined the Belgian and Greek authorities
Organization for Migration, expressed concern after Belgium had sent an Afghan back to
that the fence would simply make migrants more Greece. In December, the European Court of
dependent on people-smugglers and therefore Justice advised courts in the UK and Ireland
more vulnerable. Fears that many more would that transfers of asylum-seekers to Greece should
drown in the river at the hands of smugglers not take place if their human rights would be
are compounded by serious shortcomings of the jeopardized. By the end of the year, Germany, the
Greek asylum system, which has been described UK, Sweden, Norway and Iceland had suspended
as ‘dysfunctional’ by the UNHCR. The FRA transfers of asylum-seekers to Greece because of
carried out a field research mission in the the poor conditions awaiting them there.
Evros region in January and concluded that the The impact of the worst economic and social
humanitarian situation of asylum-seekers and crisis in Greece’s recent history has been felt
migrants, particularly those held in detention among the country’s minority and migrant
centres, was extremely worrying. populations. The Turkish minority in Western
Despite the international outcry, the Greek Thrace has been severely affected economically,
government moved ahead with plans to build according to the Anatolia News Agency, as a
the fence. ‘We have unemployment and result of the collapse of the local tobacco industry
serious problems’, commented Papoutsis, who and small businesses that were their primary
denounced the ‘hypocrisy of those who criticize’. source of income. Government restrictions on
Just days after the announcement of plans to tobacco-growing had affected the local Turkish
build a fence, Papoutsis put forward a plan to community even before the economic crisis, and
use floating prisons and old army bases to house the small number of factories left in the region
undocumented migrants. Greece’s administrative have gradually closed.
court subsequently approved the plans to build a The economic crisis has weakened migrant
fence, and construction began in February 2012, workers’ labour rights, rendering this group
despite the EU’s refusal to fund the project. increasingly vulnerable. On 25 January, 250
Also in January 2011, the Greek parliament migrants in Athens and 50 in Thessaloniki began
passed a new law to remove control of asylum- a hunger strike to protest against their living
seekers from the police and hand it over to a conditions and insecure legal status. The strike

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 181

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
ended after six weeks when the government
offered a deal for them to obtain residence Case study
permits, which ensure continuous employment

Sami rights to
and social insurance payments.
The legal requirements for acquiring Greek

culture and
citizenship have changed to allow second-
generation migrants who were born in the country

natural resources
or have studied in Greece for six years to apply
for Greek citizenship. Further legislative changes
have made it easier for long-term residents
to vote and stand in local elections. Another
initiative established local integration councils In January 2011, James Anaya, the UN Spe-
that act as consultative bodies for migrants. As cial Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous
the Greece Section of ENAR has commented, peoples, issued his report on the human
these developments were positively received by rights situation of the Sami indigenous peo-
civil society and migrant communities, but there ple living in the Sápmi region of Norway,
is still concern over whether these reforms will be Sweden, Finland and Russia. A semi-nomadic
implemented effectively. people, who rely on reindeer herding, hunt-
Social tensions increased between the ing, gathering and fishing, the Sami are
majority population and minority and migrant united by a common identity and linguistic
communities throughout 2011, according to and cultural bonds.
ENAR-Greece and HRW. The number of racist Reviewing the situation of Sami in the
incidents and hate crimes against minorities Nordic countries, the Special Rapporteur
and migrants has increased with the rise in the concluded that they do not have to deal with
number of migrants and asylum-seekers over past many of the socio-economic concerns that
decades. The economic crisis has exacerbated commonly face indigenous peoples throughout
already existing xenophobia, Islamophobia and the world, such as serious health problems,
anti-Semitism in Greece. Local media often extreme poverty or hunger. In particular, the
associate migrants – and especially Muslims of governments of Norway, Sweden and Finland
different ethnic backgrounds – with crime and each pay a relatively high level of attention to
criminality, ENAR-Greece pointed out. Far-right indigenous issues, at least in comparison to
groups, such as Golden Dawn, with xenophobic, other countries. However, more remains to be
nationalist and anti-immigrant agendas are done to ensure that Sami people can pursue
gaining popularity. their right to self-determination and their right
On 6 December 2011, the government to natural resources.
proposed a draft measure to tighten Greek laws The Sami population is estimated to be
on speech that incites hatred, discrimination or between 70,000 and 100,000 in northern
violence, in line with EU rules on hate speech. Europe, with about 2,000 living in the
In the same month, HRW issued a report on Russian Kola Peninsula. Of the three Nordic
increased racist violence in Greece, welcoming countries, Finland hosts the smallest Sami
the trial of three people who assaulted an Afghan population of about 9,000. The first elected
asylum seeker in Athens in September 2011. Sami body within any of the Nordic states
This was the first trial of its kind since 1999, was the Sami Delegation (Sámi Parlamenta)
even though racist violence in the capital has in Finland, established in 1972, and now
increased in recent years, reaching alarming replaced by the Finnish Sami Parliament
proportions in 2011. As HRW stated, this case (Sámediggi). There are now Sami parliaments
is just the tip of the iceberg in the crisis-torn in all three Nordic countries, with varying
country, where the police and state authorities degrees of authority, as well as the regional
remain tardy and ineffective in responding Sami Parliamentary Council.
properly to racist violence.

182 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Finland Sweden
Sami are recognized as indigenous people by the On 1 January 2011, the Swedish Constitution
Constitution of Finland, which also stipulates was amended to explicitly recognize Sami as a
their right to cultural autonomy within their people. This was pursuant to a long-standing
homeland, noting that ‘in their native region, request of Sami to be distinguished from other
the Sami have linguistic and cultural self- minority groups in Sweden. Nonetheless, the
government’. However, large-scale natural UN Special Rapporteur heavily criticized Sweden
resource exploitation and development projects in his 2011 report for its failure to tackle the
threaten the traditional way of living for the most pressing issues for Sami, in particular those
reindeer-herding community. In February 2011, related to land and resource rights. Like Finland,
the world’s fourth largest mining company, Sweden has not yet ratified the ILO 169.
Anglo-American, conducted exploratory drilling The Swedish Sami Parliament’s powers are
in a Sami reindeer-herding area, and found limited to monitoring the issues related to Sami
large deposits of nickel, copper and gold. The culture. It has limited opportunity to participate
Canadian mining company First Quantum is also in decision-making processes when it comes
conducting exploratory drilling in the region. to issues about land and natural resources. In
The expansion of mining activities could make Sweden, 3,000 Sami practise reindeer herding,
reindeer herding increasingly difficult in Finland. managing approximately 250,000 reindeer in
Relevant legislation does not acknowledge or grant areas scattered across the northern 40 per cent
any special land rights to the Sami community of the country. The 1971 Reindeer Grazing Act
or acknowledge any exclusive rights for Sami allows Sami to use land and water for themselves
people to pursue their traditional livelihoods. and for their stock, but only within certain
Furthermore, unlike in Norway and Sweden, geographic areas defined by the law. Reindeer-
reindeer husbandry is not reserved for Sami in herding rights in Sweden are exclusive and
Finland, but is open to any citizen of the EU. limited to those Sami who live within designated
The Finnish Sami Parliament lacks specific communities, called samebyar, and practise
decision-making powers regarding the use of reindeer herding as their principal livelihood.
lands or access to water and natural resources But specific reindeer-grazing areas have not been
in Sami territory. The state is the legal owner demarcated and Swedish courts put the burden
of 90 per cent of the land designated as Sami of proof on Sami to demonstrate land use. Sami
homeland. There is at least a measure of are required to prove long-term use of the area
protection, however. The Finnish Reindeer claimed, despite the fact Sami leave few if any
Husbandry Act of 1990 affirms that state physical marks on the land they use.
authorities should consult with representatives ‘It is remarkable that still in 2011, a colonizing
of Sami reindeer-herding cooperatives when power tells the indigenous population that it
planning measures on state land that will have a must prove its right to exist on its traditional land
substantial effect on reindeer herding. before the courts of the colonizer’, said Mattias
Finland has ratified all major UN human rights Åhrén, head of the Sami Council’s human rights
treaties, including the Framework Convention for unit, commenting on a case in which three Sami
the Protection of National Minorities, and voted reindeer-herding communities in the Härjedalen
in favour of adoption of the UN Declaration on region were being pushed by the state to sign
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, the a tenancy fee agreement, forcing them to pay
country has not ratified the International Labour grazing fees to local land-owners. This follows a
Organization Indigenous and Tribal Peoples lawsuit in 2004, when majority land-owners in
Convention No. 169 (ILO 169), which would Härjedalen successfully claimed that no grazing
grant Sami stronger land rights as it recognizes rights existed for Sami on land to which they
the rights of indigenous peoples to land and hold title. In a positive development during
natural resources as central to their material and April 2011, however, Sweden’s Supreme Court
cultural survival. ruled that customary land use, showing due

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 183

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Case study continued including the prohibition of their languages
under the ‘Norwegianization’ policies enforced in
consideration to reindeer-herding practices, the past.
as opposed to Swedish property law, should The Finnmark Act of 2005 was an important
determine access. step forward for Norwegian Sami’s right to self-
The development of renewable resources, determination and control over natural resources.
such as wind turbines and hydroelectric Although the legislation was a compromise
dams, is also increasingly encroaching on between Sami and majority interests, and has
reindeer-grazing lands in Sweden. Over 2,000 therefore met with some criticism, it recognizes
wind turbines have been planned in reindeer- that Sami and others have acquired rights to land
herding areas. In March, Lars-Anders Baer, and resources through long-term customary use.
a reindeer herder and a former president of The Act transferred 95 per cent of the land in
the Swedish Sami Parliament, called recent the Finnmark region to the Finnmark Estate,
developments ‘windmill colonialism’. He the board of which comprises local government
was specifically reacting to the Markbygden officials and Norwegian Sami Parliament
wind farm project, which the Swedish Sami representatives. Concern has been expressed
Parliament has criticized regarding the lack that the Act does not go far enough to protect
of proper consultation, disrespect of their the rights of particularly vulnerable indigenous
rights and the fact that they were not offered communities, such as the East Sami people.
fair compensation for the loss of land and The right of access to marine resources is a
livelihoods. With more than 1,100 wind particular worry for Norwegian Sami, due in part
turbines planned, Markbygden will be to the industrialization of Norwegian fisheries.
Europe’s largest land-based wind-power park This has led to diminished local control as well as
and will be built in the municipality of Piteå, environmental problems. Also, regulation of stock
where the Sami community of Östra Kikkejaur is decided centrally, without taking into account
has its winter reindeer-herding pastures. customary decision-making or local knowledge.
Sami in Sweden are also not protected The Norwegian Mineral Act requires that
from expanding mining projects, as existing the Sami way of life be safeguarded and that
mining laws do not contain provisions to the Norwegian Sami Parliament should have an
safeguard the rights of Sami people. In opportunity to comment when permits are being
Kiruna town, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB considered. However, Sami representatives have
company has plans to relocate half the town criticized the limited scope of the consultation
in order to accommodate the expansion of an process as well as the fact that it is limited to
existing iron ore mine into reindeer-herding Finnmark and does not extend to traditional
lands and vital reindeer migration paths, lands elsewhere.
without consulting the Sami community.
Norway In Russia, the Sami language is endangered,
The Sami National Day on 6 February, partly due to the comparatively small size of the
commemorating the first Sami congress held community. Sami arrived at the Kola Peninsula
in Trondheim, Norway in 1917, is celebrated some 5,000 years ago, but the traditional way of
in all four countries where Sami live today. life for the Sami in Russia has been slowly fading
Norway was the first Nordic country to away, as they have been pushed back from tundra
ratify the ILO 169 and voted in favour of grazing lands by a steady expansion of industry,
the adoption of the UN Declaration on forestry and mining, and by urbanization.
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. During the Cold War, Sami reindeer herders
Norway has also recognized and apologized were pushed back from a 200-mile exclusion
for the discrimination and imposed zone along the border, and Sami fishermen were
assimilation that Sami people suffered, forced away from the shore of the Barents Sea, as

184 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Above: A Sami reindeer herder in Russia. extract gas from the sea and transport some
Alexander Stepanenko. to Murmansk; but, from 2016, the majority
of the gas will be piped to Europe across
the Soviet military built a network of secret navy the Baltic Sea via the Nord Stream pipeline.
installations there. Further threats have emerged Shtokman Development AG is a joint project
as the mineral riches of the Kola Peninsula and of Gazprom, Total SA and Statoil ASA.
its geographical location on the shores of the According to the Shtokman company, gas
Barents Sea have made it attractive to the oil and supply in the Barents Sea is enough to meet
gas, and other extractive industries. Sami also global demand for a year. A civil society
complain that tourism companies keep them expert group organized by the World Wildlife
from practising their traditional fishing by the Fund (WWF) conducted an investigation
Voronya River and Lovozero Lake. into the Shtokman project and in February
The Shtokman oil field is one controversial 2011 concluded that environmental damage
project under development that will potentially could be great should development of the
have a grave impact, not just on the Sami but on field proceed. While large-scale investment
other communities living on the Kola Peninsula. in the Shtokman project could improve
One of the largest explored natural gas fields in conditions in Teriberka town, where
the world, the shelf deposit lies in the Russian unemployment is high and living standards
part of the Barents Sea, some 600 km from are desperately low, experts warn that its
Murmansk town, a large regional centre on the environmental impact could have tragic
Kola Peninsula where the Russian part of the consequences for natural ecosystems in the
Sápmi region lies. region and further curtail the traditional way
The Shtokman Development AG has plans to of living of the Sami. p

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 185

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Turkey the European Convention on Human Rights
Electra Babouri (ECHR), with 159 cases.
Despite the government’s announcement of Following the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)
its ‘democratic opening’ programme in the ceasefire declaration and subsequent decrease of
summer of 2009, aimed at bringing about a clashes between the PKK and the security forces
peaceful solution to the Kurdish situation and in 2010, violence escalated again significantly in
upholding the rights of all groups in the society, 2011 with fatalities on both sides. There were
little progress was made in 2010. However in also significant Kurdish civilian fatalities as a
2011, Turkey witnessed some potentially positive result of the attacks, and upheaval within these
developments. communities continued, particularly in the south-
At the general election in June 2011, the east of the country and near the Iraq border.
Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a During an air raid in December 2011 near the
third term in office with 50 per cent of the vote. Turkey–Iraq border, 35 Kurdish civilians were
The election brought Kurdish success too as 36 killed. The government stated that the attacks
independents fielded by the pro-Kurdish Peace were targeting armed PKK forces and passed on
and Democracy Party (BDP) won seats (rising official condolences to the bereaved families.
from 24 in the 2007 election). Seventy-eight In addition, Kurdish officials and activists,
women, one of whom is Kurdish, won seats in most of them allegedly associated with the Union
the 550-seat parliament (rising from 50 in the of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) and the PKK,
2007 election). continued to be arrested. In August 2011, 98
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan former mayors and eight other politicians were
promised that the process to fully revise arrested because they had demanded better
Turkey’s Constitution would commence: conditions for Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned
‘through consensus and negotiation … with the ex-PKK leader. An estimated 9,000 individuals
opposition, parties outside of parliament, the have been arrested since 2009 for alleged links to
media, NGOs, with academics, with anyone the KCK. In spring 2011, trials of another 153
who has something to say’. Changes to the Kurds in custody resumed. The defendants in the
Constitution are crucial for Turkey’s minorities, Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court asked to conduct
since only three minority groups are currently their defence in Kurdish, but this was denied by
recognized, namely Armenians, Greeks and the court.
Jews; others, including Alevis, Kurds and Roma, It remains illegal for Kurdish to be spoken and
remain excluded. Even recognized minorities taught in schools, thus Kurdish pupils continue
continue to face discrimination. The Parliament to face disadvantage, sometimes taking years
Conciliation Commission has been set up to longer to learn to read and write compared
work on revising the Constitution, with draft to their Turkish classmates. Moreover, it is
expected in 2012. Representatives of minority prohibited for official signs to appear in Kurdish
groups have begun to push for their cultural, alongside Turkish. Recently, though, there have
linguistic and civil and political rights to be been a few positive developments as Kurdish-
incorporated in the new Constitution, and to be speaking radio and television have been allowed,
recognized as equal citizens. and in October the first Turkish University
In August, the Ministry of Justice established (Artuklu University in the south-east) began
a Human Rights Directorate to help harmonize teaching a degree course in Kurdish.
Turkey’s judicial practices with those of the EU. Other minorities in Turkey face similar
This will hopefully push forward implementation discrimination. Assyrians who have adopted
of rulings from the ECtHR. Turkey ranks second Turkish surnames because of prior legislation
after Russia in terms of the number of cases now want to go back to using their original
taken to the ECtHR, with nearly half of them surnames, but a Constitutional Court ruling
on violations of fundamental human rights. In in 2011 said that the law did not permit this.
2011, Turkey topped the list of countries that Many Assyrians felt increasingly frustrated
had been found by the ECtHR to have violated and under attack in 2011 as the trial involving

186 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
their most sacred site, the 1,700-year-old Mor communities as, due to the conflict over the
Gabriel monastery, continues. The monastery decades between PKK and Turkey, many have
is located in Mardin province in south-east been displaced from their land.
Turkey. In 2008, the inhabitants of the villages The government took some steps in 2011
of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence filed a suit towards safeguarding women’s rights. In May,
against the monastery, claiming that the land Turkey was the first signatory to the Council of
on which it is situated does not belong to the Europe Convention Against Domestic Violence
monastery. Simultaneously, some government and Violence again Women. However the
authorities filed similar land-related suits against situation remains grave. According to a report
the monastery. Assyrian representatives rebut based on a national survey by a consortium of
these claims and have brought their case to the Turkish academic institutions, in the south-
ECtHR. The first hearing has yet to take place. east of the country, one in two women have
Alevis, whose belief system combines experienced violence, which is above the national
elements of Shi’a Islam and pre-Islamic folk average. A report by Roj Women’s Association,
customs, make up 10–30 per cent of Turkey’s which works on Kurdish and Turkish women’s
population according to unofficial estimates. In rights, states that: ‘[I]n 80 per cent of cases,
school they have to take compulsory religious victims of custodial rape were Kurdish women,
education classes that exclude their own belief and in 90 per cent of cases women cited political
system. Alevis, whose places of worship are or war-related reason as causes for their arrest.’
not recognized, have requested that they be Despite there being legislation and relevant
exempt from these compulsory classes and protections in place to help protect women,
some have taken the issue to court. Despite an such as emergency shelters, these laws exclude
ECtHR ruling in 2007 that such exemption unmarried and divorced women and those
should be permitted, Turkey’s Department married according to unrecognized religions.
of Education has not yet complied with the The gaps in the law, coupled with the lack of
verdict. In December 2011, Education Minister enforcement, perpetuates the cycle of incidents
Ömer Dinçer pledged that passages in Turkish not being reported, perpetrators not being
history textbooks that are antagonistic towards penalized and women not being able to escape
Armenians and Assyrians would be amended. their violent environments.
In 2011, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and
others continued to demand that Turkey allow Economic development
the Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada Turkey’s continued economic growth has often
to be reopened. The seminary trained generations affected its minority communities negatively. As
of patriarchs and was shut in 1971. Turkish many of these groups may be socio-economically
courts have ruled that an old orphanage should vulnerable and reside within areas earmarked for
be handed back to the Patriarchate, and in development, they have been unable to assert
August the government signed a historic decree their rights or benefit from these projects. For
to return property seized 75 years ago from example, in 2008 several thousand Roma were
minority foundations, including schools, stores evicted from the Sulukule area (one of the oldest
and houses. permanent Roma settlements in the world)
Since Turkey collects no disaggregated data on in Istanbul. The Roma in Sulukule ended up
minorities, it is difficult to gain a clear picture having to sell their homes to private investors
of how the situation looks for minority women and the Fatih municipality and moved to a new
in the country. But at the fourth UN Forum on district, Tasogluk. But costs of this alternative
Minority Issues in November, a Turkish NGO, accommodation proved to be too high, and
Association for Social Change, highlighted the Sulukule residents have subsequently had to
acute levels of discrimination faced by Kurdish move again to find affordable housing.
women as a result of customs regarding women In 2011, other minority families, including
and girls, sexual violence, employment and Roma, Kurds and Greeks, have been threatened
poverty. The latter is more acute within these with eviction and some have been forced to

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 187

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
leave Tarlabaşı, a small area in the middle of the serious problems and strong opposition. But
city. Some of the Kurds living in Tarlabaşı had campaigners fear the government will push ahead
settled there after they had been displaced from with the project. Ilisu is only one of a series
south-eastern Turkey during the 1990s, when of dams planned as part of the US$ 32 billion
the conflict between the Turkish government Southeastern Anatolian Project (Güneydoğu
and the PKK was particularly violent. Residents Anadolu Projesi) in the Euphrates and Tigris
were intimidated and threatened by the local basins that envisions the construction of 22 dams
municipality and law enforcement officials, and 19 hydroelectric plants. The US$ 4 billion
according to an Amnesty International Beyhan project on the Euphrates is causing great
report. Residents facing eviction had not been concern that the local population will face forced
consulted, given adequate notice, access to legal evacuation. At another project in the Senoz
remedies, or given adequate alternative housing valley on the Black Sea, dam work continues
or compensation. Some officials reportedly despite court rulings. Large forest sections above
forced residents to sign eviction notices without the valley have been cleared, causing landslides
permitting them to read them. and soil erosion, and the water is being polluted
These problems are not restricted to urban adversely affecting the local community and
redevelopment. In March 2011, a report killing thousands of fish.
launched by Turkish and German civil society
organizations highlighted how Turkish dam Ukraine
construction projects have caused severe The twentieth anniversary of a referendum that
human rights violations. Dams are developed restored the Crimean Peninsula’s autonomous
without meaningful consultation with the status was marked in Ukraine on 20 January
affected communities, and without sufficient 2011. The referendum, approved by 93 per cent
compensation or the provision of alternative of voters shortly before the dissolution of the
income sources for those affected. The report Soviet Union, continues to cause divisions on the
highlighted the particularly vulnerable Sarıkeçili Peninsula. The pro-Russian Sevastopol–Crimea–
Yuruks, who are Turkish nomads who have Russia National Front held a protest on the
lived in Anatolia for 900 years and now consist anniversary, claiming that the 1991 referendum
of approximately 200 families. Nomads remain was really about the Republic of Crimea
completely dependent on river valleys and becoming a union republic within the Soviet
pastures to support their subsistence life based on Union (USSR), not within Ukraine, as the USSR
herding. still existed when the referendum was held.
In the Göksu-Ergene basin in southern Turkey, Many Crimean Tatars, who are indigenous
many small dams and hydroelectric plants are to the Crimean Peninsula, boycotted the
being built. Construction work is closing many referendum. According to Refat Chubarov, a
of the traditional routes that nomads use to move Crimean Tatar community leader quoted by the
between winter and summer pastures, leaving media outlet Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty
many families without water and food. (RFE/RL) Ukrainian service, the Crimea’s
Development of hydroelectric dams continues, current autonomous status does not guarantee
despite the negative impact on humans and the the protection of cultural, social or economic
environment. The Turkish government intends rights of the Crimean Tatars.
to build over 1,700 dams and hydroelectric On 18 May, more than 15,000 Crimean
power plants within the next 12 years. Tatars gathered in the centre of Simferopol, the
Some of Turkey’s larger proposed dam projects capital of Crimea, to mark the anniversary of
in the Kurdish south-east have sparked fierce the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars by
opposition. For example, the construction of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944, when the
the 1,200 megawatt Ilisu dam on the Tigris entire Crimean Tatar population was deported
River in south-east Turkey will displace as to Central Asia and the Siberian region of Russia
many as 55,000–65,000 Kurds. European for alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany. As
backers withdrew funding in 2009 because of reported by RFE/RL, the demonstrators carried

188 Europe State of the World’s Minorities

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar national flags and where Crimean is taught. In April 2011, the
banners with slogans such as ‘The deportation of Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic
1944 should be recognized as genocide against of Crimea announced that adopting a draft
the Crimean Tatars!’ The Crimea was officially law on languages in Ukraine was an issue
transferred from Russia to the Ukrainian Soviet ‘of extreme urgency’. In February 2012, the
Socialist Republic in 1954. Crimean Tatars Crimean parliament appealed to the Ukrainian
started returning en masse to Crimea from parliament to adopt draft legislation that would
Central Asia in the late 1980s and 1990s, and ensure the use of minority languages in culture
demanded their land and property back. They and education. The Council of Europe’s Venice
currently account for about 13 per cent of the Commission recommended passage of the
Peninsula’s 2 million population, 60 per cent of draft law in December 2011. The law was also
whom are Russians. supported by 16 higher educational institutions
In February 2011, the Kyiv Post reported on and the representatives of 36 national
the long struggle of the repatriated Crimean minorities.
Tatars to reclaim their land. Allegedly a total of
1,400 hectares of land are occupied by 15,000 United Kingdom
Crimean Tatars who have been unable to buy The UK prime minister’s condemnation of ‘state
land legally on their return to Crimea. Some are multiculturalism’ and call for a stronger ‘shared
now squatting illegally on plots of land without national identity’ stirred up heated reactions in
basic infrastructure, running water and electricity. Europe. David Cameron, addressing a security
Crimean Tatars and the authorities contest the conference in Munich on 5 February 2011,
requirements for obtaining land. Prime Minister argued that previous policies dealing with ethnic
Vasyl Dzharty reportedly stated that Tatars do and cultural diversity had encouraged different
not face discrimination in obtaining land, while cultures to live separate lives and ‘even tolerated
according to the newspaper source more than 60 these segregated communities behaving in ways
per cent of the Tatars have never received any that run counter to our values’. Cameron’s
land and have no place to live. speech came after the German Chancellor
In its 2011 report, CERD noted that the Angela Merkel remarked on the ‘utter failure’
question of ‘restitution and compensation for of Germany to create a multicultural society in
the loss of over 80,000 private dwellings and October 2010. Stating terrorism as the biggest
approximately 34,000 hectares of farmland threat to his country, Cameron was careful to
upon deportation remains unresolved’. This is differentiate between Islam as a religion and
a particularly crucial issue since 86 per cent of Islamic extremism as a political ideology. His
the Crimean Tatars living in rural areas did not speech was nonetheless condemned by the
have the right to participate in the process of opposition Labour Party, who accused him
agricultural land restitution because they had not of ‘inflaming racial tensions’, and by human
worked for state enterprises. CERD called for the rights and Muslim community groups. ENAR
government to restore the political, social and argued that Cameron’s statement reinforced
economic right of the Tatars in Crimea. ‘prejudice and discriminatory perceptions against
At the UN Forum on Minority Issues in immigrants, and more generally against British
2011, Nara Narimanova of the Crimean Tatar Muslims largely perceived as foreigners’.
Youth Council, gave evidence on the situation of Policing was also a key concern in 2011. The
Crimean Tatar women in Ukraine. High levels fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by the police in
of unemployment, poor living conditions and Tottenham, north London, on 4 August sparked
discrimination have put Crimean Tatar women off violence after years of simmering tensions
in a particularly vulnerable situation, according to between locals and the police; riots quickly
Narimanova. spread across other neighbourhoods in London
A major issue is the lack of opportunity for and cities in England. David Cameron cut
Crimean Tatars to educate children in their short investigations into the underlying causes,
mother tongue; there are only two universities asserting that the riots were ‘criminality pure

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 189

and Indigenous Peoples 2012
190 Europe State of the World’s Minorities
and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: A caravan burns as police and bailiffs in of Dale Farm in Essex made major headlines
Basildon, UK, begin the eviction of Travellers in 2011, galvanizing civic action against their
living at Dale Farm on 19 October 2011. planned eviction from a site between the towns
Mary Turner/Peace Fellow of The Advocacy of Billericay and Basildon. In March, Basildon
Project 2011. Council cut short a decade-long legal battle with
the residents, and voted to take direct action and
and simple’ and that the ‘broken society’ must evict 400 residents from Dale Farm, with only a
be replaced by a stronger sense of morality and 28-day notice period and a budget of £18 million
responsibility. But human rights groups urged put aside for the operation after the High Court
the UK government to conduct a serious public ruled that the eviction could go ahead. CERD
inquiry into the multi-faceted causes of the riots: called on the UK government to suspend the
public policy; social and racial inequality; high planned eviction of Dale Farm residents and
unemployment; and cuts in public services and to ensure ‘a peaceful and appropriate solution,
economic collapse. Questions were raised over including identifying culturally appropriate
police responses, especially their stop-and-search accommodation, with full respect for the rights
policies, for singling out particular minorities and of the families involved’. The eviction affected 90
hindering the promotion of equality. families, including older residents, women and
Issues concerning policing are not without 150 children. Representatives from the Council
precedent in the country. In January 2012, two of Europe also visited the site and petitions
men were finally convicted of murdering Stephen were signed to stop the largest ever eviction of
Lawrence in April 1993. Stephen Lawrence Travellers in the UK.
was a black British youth who was murdered UK jurisprudence recognizes Irish Travellers
while waiting at a bus stop by a gang of young and Romany Gypsies as separate ethnic
white people chanting racist slogans. A public minorities. At Dale Farm, the residents were
inquiry was held in 1998 to examine the initial mainly Irish Travellers. After a short delay
Metropolitan Police Service investigation, led granted in September restraining Basildon
by High Court judge Sir William Macpherson. council from clearing structures until the case had
The inquiry concluded that the police force been heard in the High Court, the Court finally
was ‘institutionally racist’, and acknowledged ruled that the eviction could go ahead. According
professional incompetence as well as a failure of to the ruling, the Travellers delayed too long in
leadership in the capital’s police force. challenging Basildon’s decision, and the council’s
The UK government has not developed a race actions were not deemed to be disproportionate.
equality strategy. This was a key issue outlined in But hours after the eviction operation started
the UK NGOs Against Racism submission, led on 19 October, violence erupted. Bricks and
by the Runnymede Trust, to the UN Committee debris were thrown at police, as officers used
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination taser electro-shock weapons at close range. The
(CERD) in August 2011. CERD raised concerns operation to remove caravans and chalets from 51
about the government’s response to the August unauthorized plots finished at the beginning of
riots; the reported increase in negative portrayals November, but despite the injunction obtained
of ethnic minorities, immigrants, asylum- by Basildon council to prevent reoccupation of
seekers and refugees by the media, especially the site, some Travellers attempted to return and
pointing to the depiction of minority women continue to live there. p
as unempowered; and the impact of austerity
measures adopted in response to the current
economic downturn.
There are an estimated 90,000–120,000
nomadic Travellers and Gypsies in the UK and a
further 200,000 who live in housing, according
to the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform
Coalition. The Gypsy and Traveller community

State of the World’s Minorities Europe 191

and Indigenous Peoples 2012

Palestinian Authority







U.A.E .


East and
Doreen Khoury
ery few seasoned observers of the Right: A crowd of Coptic women leaving a
Middle East and North Africa could church service in Egypt during a Coptic Moulid
have predicted the wave of uprisings of Mari Girgis, a religious festival celebrating the
that spread throughout the region in 2011. life of Saint George. James Morris/Panos.
The self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor
Mohamad Bouazzizi on 17 December 2010, the of 2011 had entered its ninth month, was,
event which triggered the Arab Spring, was a according to some observers, in danger of
desperate cry for dignity in a repressive state and erupting into a sectarian civil war between the
symbolized the plight of many citizens in the regime, led by the Alawite Assad family, and the
region. Young people in particular, who led the Sunni-led opposition.
revolutions, felt disenfranchised and disconnected The situation of minorities in other Arab
from the decades-old obsolete state ideologies countries did not improve in 2011. In Saudi
which had failed abysmally to provide employ- Arabia, persecution of the Shi’a minority
ment, social mobility and prosperity. escalated, as the kingdom feared that shockwaves
Future prospects for minorities in the region from demonstrations in Bahrain would spill over
became a much discussed topic, especially onto its own soil. Iran’s numerous minorities,
following the tragic outcome of the Maspero despite inhabiting regions rich with natural
demonstrations in Cairo on 9 October 2011, resources, continued to experience high rates of
during which Coptic Christians, who were unemployment, poverty and health problems
protesting against the destruction of a church in because of weak infrastructure and poor
Aswan, were attacked by the Egyptian army, with government investment in their regions.
up to 27 protesters killed. Maspero symbolized Across the region, minorities have suffered
the current predicament of minorities after the from the confiscation of their land and property,
Arab Spring: will the prejudices and identities of and the degradation of their surrounding
the old order continue to dominate or will public environment due to development projects,
space open to allow minorities to express their irresponsible agricultural methods as well as a
culture and enjoy full political participation? general lack of government response to climate
As 2011 drew to a close, the prospects did not change. Minorities whose livelihoods have been
look particularly promising. In Egypt, Coptic negatively affected by these problems have
Christians continued to suffer violent attacks on received little or no help from their governments,
their property and churches by Islamists while the as this chapter will show.
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) The Arab Spring is an ongoing process, where
that replaced ousted President Hosni Mubarak the relationship between citizens and the state is
repeatedly failed to hold perpetrators to justice. still being redrawn and negotiated. While the old
The victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab nationalism may be waning, more inclusive
Egyptian elections has also caused concerns national identities in the region – one more
that non-Sunni minorities will face further accommodating to minorities and not defined by
discrimination and repression of their religious a dominant religion, ethnicity or language – has
and cultural rights. yet to form. The full political, social and cultural
In Libya, the effect on minorities of the six- integration of minorities in Arab countries will
month conflict by the Libyan rebels to unseat be a major litmus test of the success of the Arab
Muammar Gaddafi has been mixed. While Spring.
Libya’s Amazigh minority, also known as Berbers,
liberated their lands from Gaddafi’s hold and are Egypt
enjoying freer cultural and linguistic expression, The Egyptian revolution began on 25 January
sub-Saharan Africans and Libyan Tawerghans 2011 when protests erupted throughout Egypt,
have suffered severe discrimination and violence focusing on the symbolic Tahrir Square in Cairo,
at the hands of the former rebels and many and eventually led to the resignation of President
continue to be detained. Hosni Mubarak after 20 years of authoritarian
The Syrian revolution, which by the end rule. And at the end of 2011, the revolution was

194 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
arguably still ongoing, as opposition strengthened in attacks against minorities, either by ignoring
against the SCAF, which assumed power after cases of sectarian violence, failing to investigate
Mubarak’s departure. The SCAF has continued them or actively engaging in violence alongside
to use the repressive practices of the Mubarak extremists. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
era, including bringing its critics before closed found that public prosecutors often encouraged
military trials. In terms of women’s rights, the extra-legal settlements, thus reducing sectarian
most prominent violation was the so-called attacks to personal disputes. This has fostered a
‘virginity tests’ on female protesters arrested by climate of impunity, allowing extremists to target
army soldiers; the practice reportedly continued minorities without fear of punishment.
into 2012, despite widespread protest. The year 2011 was a grim one for Coptic
While the Egyptian revolution created an Christians, who represent between 6 and 9 per
atmosphere of national solidarity as Egyptian cent of the population. Over 10 major attacks
Muslims and non-Muslims united to topple the occurred against Copts, most of them involving
Mubarak regime, religious and ethnic minorities disputes about whether they had permission to
continued to face discrimination and sectarian build or renovate a church. Under existing laws,
attacks. Muslim fundamentalists have been Copts must obtain an official endorsement and
responsible for a number of sectarian attacks on permission from the local Muslim community to
minorities. The SCAF has also been complicit build or renovate a church.

State of the World’s Minorities Middle East and 195

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 North Africa
On 1 January, a bombing occurred at a allegedly also instrumental in inciting sectarian
church in Alexandria during the New Year’s unrest. The SCAF was criticized, as generals
prayer service, in which at least 21 people denied the use of live ammunition despite video
were killed and over 70 injured. In March, a evidence, and the inquiry set up to investigate the
crowd burned down a church in the town of incident was headed by a military prosecutor.
Atfih, south of Cairo. Lawyers representing the In June 2011, a draft law on the construction
church told HRW that they had presented the of religious buildings was issued by the
names of 100 suspects alongside video evidence government to replace the previous Hamayouni
of the arson attack to the local prosecutor, Decree, dating back to the Ottoman era, which
but none of the suspects were prosecuted. In regulated church construction but did not apply
protest, Copts held demonstrations in Cairo, to mosques. The law sought to promote religious
during which at least 13 people were killed equality by applying equal regulations to mosques
and nearly 150 injured in clashes. A crowd and churches, but was opposed by the Muslim
attacked the demonstrators, while the Egyptian Brotherhood for not abiding by ‘measures of
military apparently stood by for hours without justice that are espoused by Islamic sharia [law]’.
intervening. Also in March, a group of men, Coptic Christians also expressed dissatisfaction
alleged to be members of the Salafi movement, with the draft law, since they still had to receive
adherents of an interpretation of Islam that permission from governors to build places of
seeks to restore Islamic practice to the way it worship.
existed at the time of the prophet Mohammad, In 2011, Sufi Muslims, who adhere to the
set fire to a flat in Qena owned by a Coptic esoteric, mystical dimension of Islam, faced
Christian. The authorities made no efforts to attacks and harassment from Salafists who
arrest the perpetrators. consider them to be heretics. Salafists attacked 16
In May, Salafists attacked and badly damaged historic Sufi mosques in Alexandria where half a
two churches in Cairo’s Imbaba district, acting million Sufis live and which has 40 Sufi mosques.
on rumours that a female convert to Islam was Aggression against the Sufis in Egypt included
being held in a church. The government later a raid on a mosque named after and containing
reported that 12 people had died in the violence. the tomb of the thirteenth-century Sufi al-Mursi
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said Abu’l Abbas. Another target was the Qaed
that security forces knew in advance that Salafists Ibrahim mosque, where mass protests were
were gathered outside the churches, and failed to organized during the revolution. Sufi residents
take any preventive measures. Christian houses of the Egyptian governorates of al-Minufyia and
and businesses were also vandalized. Aswan have also demanded state protection of
On 30 September, a group of local residents Sufi institutions and buildings.
in Al-Marinab village, Edfu Province, set fire Bahá’ís in Egypt have historically suffered from
to Saint George’s church as it was undergoing state-sanctioned discrimination and persecution.
reconstruction, because they believed that the Most Egyptian Bahá’ís do not have official
congregation did not have a permit and objected identity cards which are necessary for access to
to the height of the steeple that bore a cross. education, employment, opening bank accounts,
Authorities confirmed that the church did have receiving pensions and carrying out business
a permit. Copts were angered by the governor of transactions. In addition, they have been barred
Aswan who appeared to justify the attack. from holding government jobs. Bahá’í marriages
In October, thousands of Copts demonstrated are still not recognized in Egypt. While the
outside the Maspero government building Supreme Administrative Court ruled that Bahá’ís
in Cairo, to protest the authorities’ failure to could obtain official identity cards back in 2008,
punish attacks on Christians. They were met the implementation of this ruling has moved
with armoured personnel carriers and hundreds slowly. Bahá’ís are still banned from forming
of riot police who opened fire on the crowd. An spiritual assemblies in Egypt.
estimated 24 people were killed, mostly Copts, The Egyptian paper Youm al Sabe’ reported
and about 250 injured. The state media was that on 23 February two homes of Bahá’ís were

196 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
set on fire and burgled in Shuraniya village, 2011 by the state. Several women are currently
in the Sohag governorate. According to the detained or serving prison terms for their
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights there was activities, and many have been held in solitary
strong evidence that state security officers incited confinement or have limited contact with their
the attack. families and lawyers.
Following the 2011 revolution, ethnic In 2011, Iran did not permit Ahmed Shaheed,
Nubians began to demand their right to return the UN Special Rapporteur assigned with
to their homeland around Lake Nasser. Egyptian investigating its human rights record, to enter
Nubians are an ethnic group with a distinct the country. Widespread discrimination against
culture and language, and live mostly in the Iranian minorities in both law and practice
Upper Nile region. Developmental projects in continued during 2011, according to an Amnesty
their ancestral lands have led to the loss of their International report that noted that minorities
livelihoods which are dependent on farming. In face land and property confiscations, denial
the 1960s, during the construction of the Aswan of employment and restrictions on cultural,
High Dam, when the surrounding region was linguistic and religious rights. In February 2011,
flooded to create Lake Nasser, 50,000 Nubians MRG published a briefing which noted that
were relocated to less fertile government lands in the traditional lands of many Iranian minorities
Upper Egypt. But Lake Nasser has receded over (namely Ahwazi Arabs, Azeris, Kurds and Baluch)
the past decade, making fertile land available are rich with natural resources and provide large
again. Nubians were subject to repression under sources of wealth for the Iranian government,
Mubarak’s regime because of the strategic but local communities experience high rates of
location of ancient Nubia on the site of the unemployment, poverty and disease because
Aswan Dam and have also seen Egyptian Arab of weak infrastructure and poor government
communities settled by the government on the investment.
land they claim as their homeland. The Iranian government continued to
In early September, about 2,000 Nubians persecute Kurdish activists in 2011, convicting
protested in Aswan City against their them on vague charges such as ‘acting against
marginalization and the elimination of their national security’ and ‘waging war against God’.
traditional rights to the land. Protesters set fire to Fifteen imprisoned Kurdish activists are believed
the Aswan governorate headquarters. to be on death row. Death sentences against
Zainar and Loghman Moradi, and Habibollah
Iran Latifi, were upheld in 2011 following failed
Large-scale protests by government critics and appeals. Another Kurdish activist, Sherko
opposition members were held in Iran in 2011, Moarefi, was also at risk of imminent execution.
but were met with a heavy crackdown by security In terms of land rights, there are high levels
forces. On 14 February, opposition groups of property confiscation and governmental
staged a ‘Day of Rage’ protest in Tehran and neglect in the Kurdish region of north-west
other cities, during which thousands gathered in Iran – Iranian Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Ilam
solidarity with protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, provinces. The Kurdish region has abundant
despite the large number of security forces. Police water resources. Dams have been built by the
fired tear gas on protesters, killing two people. government to facilitate water irrigation and
In April, the Iranian parliament passed for hydroelectric power generation, but Kurds
regulations severely limiting the independence are generally excluded from the benefits of this
of civil society organizations, and created a investment. They experience poor housing and
Supreme Committee Supervising NGO Activities living conditions because of forced resettlement,
chaired by ministry officials and made up of and the expropriation of rural land for large-scale
members from the security forces. Activists agricultural plantations and petrochemical plants
from the One Million Signatures campaign, a which pollute the surrounding environment.
women’s grassroots movement aimed at ending The Bahá’í faith, with over 300,000 followers
discrimination against women, were targeted in in Iran, has long been the target of persecution.

State of the World’s Minorities Middle East and 197

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 North Africa
Hundreds of Bahá’ís have been executed, religious practices, including harassment and
tortured and imprisoned, and many others have imprisonment of prominent Sufi leaders and
been denied livelihoods, education and the right destruction of prayer centres. In January, three
to inherit property. In January 2011, Navid lawyers who had defended Sufi members were
Khanjani, who began advocating for Bahá’í rights put on trial. They were reportedly sentenced to
after he was denied access to higher education, 6–7 months’ imprisonment for ‘propagating lies
was sentenced to 12 years in prison. At the and creating public anxiety’. Over 60 people,
beginning of 2012, the case was pending appeal. mostly dervishes (members of a Sufi religious
In March, six Bahá’ís were arrested in Kerman, order), were arrested in September. In the
at least four of them for providing education same crackdown, a member of the Nematollahi
for young children. The high-profile case of the Gonabadi Sufi order was reportedly killed. By
seven Bahá’í leaders attracted renewed attention 2012, at least 11 remained in detention. Also in
and criticism during 2011. Their 20-year prison September, four lawyers who were representing
sentences had been reduced to 10 years in the detainees were also arrested; they were
September 2010; however, they were told in charged in December for spreading lies and
March 2011 that the longer sentences had been membership in a ‘deviant group’.
reinstated. They maintain that the charges against Most of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab community lives
them are without foundation; their lawyers have in the south-western province of Khuzestan,
had very limited access to them. In May, security which borders Iraq and contains 90 per cent of
forces arrested at least 30 Bahá’ís affiliated Iran’s oil wells. Ahwazis are marginalized and
with the outlawed Bahá’í Institute for Higher subject to discrimination in access to education,
Education, a correspondence university. employment, adequate housing and political
Several of the country’s ethnic minorities – participation. In April 2011, HRW reported
Arabs, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen – practise that several dozen Ahwazi protesters were killed
Sunni Islam. These groups are doubly affected by by security forces during demonstrations over
discriminatory policies based on both their ethnic the Ahwazi minority’s grievances over state
identity and their faith. Sunni Muslim religious discrimination and denial of economic and
leaders are regularly intimidated and harassed cultural rights. Authorities arrested hundreds,
by security services and report widespread prosecuted them during flawed trials where
official discrimination. In 2011, Sunni Muslims they had limited or no access to lawyers, and
in Tehran were banned from congregating at executed several.
prayers marking Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday
that signals the end of the month of Ramadan. Sistan-Baluchistan
Christian converts regularly face state The Baluch region is rich in energy and
harassment and arrest. Many belong to mineral resources, but activists claim the
evangelical protestant groups, and are regularly government has deliberately pursued a policy of
charged with ‘insulting Islamic sanctities’ underdevelopment. Baluchistan has the lowest
and apostasy. One of the main targets is the per capita income in Iran, a high infant mortality
Church of Iran, an evangelical congregation rate, and the average life expectancy is at least
with members throughout the country. In eight years below the national average. As Sunni
January 2011, the governor of Tehran, Morteza Muslims, Baluchis have also come under pressure
Tamaddon, publicly referred to detained from the government to convert to Shi’a Islam
Christians as deviant and corrupt. Pastor Yousef if they want to find employment and access
Nadarkhani, who converted to Christianity, has education.
been a frequent target of the Iranian authorities. Sakhi Rigi, an ethnic Baluch blogger and
He was arrested in October 2009; the Supreme former member of opposition leader Mir-Hossein
Court upheld his apostasy conviction and death Mousavi’s campaign staff, was sentenced in June
sentence in September 2011. to a 20-year prison term on charges of ‘acting
Sufi Muslims have faced growing government against national security’ and ‘propagating against
repression of their communities and the regime.’ He was first arrested in 2009.

198 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
be covered by layers of salt, eventually displacing
Case study up to 1.3 million people. The lake also plays an
important role regulating regional weather systems,

Between a lake and

and its disappearance will lead to damaging shifts
to seasonal weather patterns

a river: government
Thousands of Azeris in the cities of Tabriz and
Urmia depend on the lake for their livelihoods,

neglect in Iran
especially for ecotourism, irrigation and salt pro-
duction. The shrinking of the lake has already
affected tourism and regional investment has
dropped significantly. Proposals made by the Irani-
Azeris, Lake Urmia an government to save the lake have been dismissed
Azeris in Iran have joined together to protest by activists and experts as short-term measures. For
against dam construction on Lake Urmia’s example, rather than launching a cloud-seeding
tributaries that is destroying the region’s programme to increase rainfall and supply the lake
ecological and economic resources. with remote sources of water as the government
Lake Urmia, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, proposes, activists argue that releasing the water
is situated between the East and West Azerbai- held behind dams would be far more effective in
jan provinces and is one of the largest salt lakes the long run. But for years, the Iranian government
in the world. But over the past 15 years it has has chosen to ignore the problem and shirk respon-
shrunk by 60 per cent due to the construction sibility, instead blaming global warming.
of 36 dams on the lake’s tributaries, prolonged
drought, and the construction of a major Ahwazi Arabs and the Karoun River
highway bisecting the lake to connect the cities In 2011, the World Health Organization declared
of Urmia and Tabriz. The region now faces a that Ahwaz City, the capital of the Khuzestan
growing ecological disaster, with serious nega- governorate, was the most polluted city in the
tive consequences on Azeri communities whose world, with high asthma levels among children and
livelihoods depend upon the lake. teenagers due to industrial waste and emissions.
In April 2011, Azeris gathered to protest in Industrial pollution has damaged the natural
Urmia and Tabriz, calling on the government environment, and marshland biodiversity is so
to save the lake. According to Amnesty seriously threatened that migratory birds have
International, 70 people were arrested in
Tabriz and 20 in Urmia for protesting illegally.
During the summer, Azeri activists escalated
their protests after the Iranian government
dropped plans aimed at reviving the lake. On
24 August, 30 Azeris were arrested at a private
gathering, and on 27 August, thousands of
protesters in Urmia clashed with riot police,
resulting in 300 arrests, according to HRW.
Police shot tear gas at protesters and beat them
with batons. At another environmental rally
in early September, security forces resorted yet
again to violence and arrested 60 people.
As the lake recedes, its salt content is
gradually dispersed into the local environment,
causing increased soil salinity in surrounding
farmland. Experts estimate that if the lake Above: An Azeri man in Kandovan, Iran, near
dries up completely, the surrounding cities will Lake Urmia. Piotr Bystranowski.

State of the World’s Minorities Middle East and 199

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 North Africa
Case study continued Iranian security forces were reported to
have arrested or killed several members of the
left the area. The Bandar Iman petrochemical pro-Baluch armed group People’s Resistance
complex is a major pollutant, and has created Movement of Iran (PRMI), also known as
environmental devastation and low fish stocks, Jundallah, which was created in 2003 and is
directly impacting the livelihoods of the Ahwazis. considered by both the United States and Iran
Despite or more likely because of their region’s to be a terrorist organization. In May 2011,
strategic importance – most of Iran’s oil wells are nine members of Jundallah were arrested and
there – many Ahwazi Arabs have been forced to in July two Jundallah commanders were killed
migrate. The Iranian government has pursued in Baluchistan by security forces. In late August
a policy of encouraging ethnic Persians to move 2011, four members were arrested on suspicion
in from other provinces. The confiscation of planning an armed attack in Baluchistan.
of Ahwazi land has been so widespread that
it has amounted to a government policy of Iraq
dispossession. The creation of the Arvan Free Chris Chapman
Zone in 2005 involved the mass expulsion of In the run-up to the pull-out of US combat
Ahwazis and the destruction of their villages. troops at the end of 2011, many observers
Iranian authorities have also followed a policy of predicted a significant worsening in the security
ethnic segregation in Khuzestan, by constructing situation. Certainly the US had played a role
walls that separate Ahwazis from non-Arab in patrolling areas such as the Nineveh Plains
districts and neighbourhoods. In urban areas, and the city of Kirkuk, which have significant
many Ahwazis live in shanty towns which lack minority populations. In fact, while January 2012
plumbing, sewerage and safe drinking water. saw the highest monthly death toll since August
In recent years, the Iranian government’s deci- 2010, the number of civilians killed then fell
sion to divert the Karoun River in Khuzestan to back to levels comparable with the previous year.
other drier regions has had further serious impli- Kirkuk city was a centre of much violence
cations on the livelihood of Ahwazis. In May throughout 2011, particularly targeting the Turk-
2011, the director of the Ahwaz Human Rights men community, notably through killings of
Organization claimed that the diversion of waters prominent individuals such as police officers and
from the Karoon and Karkhe rivers from Arab business leaders. This prompted the setting up of
lands to ethnically Persian provinces of Isfahan, a parliamentary committee of enquiry, which at
Yazd and Kerman represented a further erosion the time of writing has still not reported. No-one
of Ahwazi farmers’ economic security. The river has claimed responsibility for the deaths but they
is essential for agriculture and fishing, and is the are likely to be linked to tensions between Kurds,
largest source of income for them. The disruption Turkmen and Arabs over political control, access
of water sources will lead to a lack of safe drink- to resources and jobs, and the long overdue refer-
ing water, diseased fish and a decline in fish stock. endum over the future status of Kirkuk. Christian
River diversion erodes farmer’s economic security. churches have also been targeted in the city.
The United Nations Environmental Programme Dohuk governorate, in the Kurdistan region,
(UNEP) has repeatedly warned the Iranian gov- normally a relative haven of peace, was struck
ernment of the disastrous environmental impact by a series of arson attacks on 37 Christian and
of diverting the Karoun River, but the Iranian Yezidi businesses in December 2011.
government has rejected concerns. The governors According to a survey conducted among 11
of Khuzestan, Chahar Mahaal va Bakhtiari and minority communities for a 2011 MRG report,
Lorestan provinces have also reportedly expressed minorities in Iraq face considerable problems
their opposition to the diversion project. The in gaining proper access to employment, health
project was due to start in 2011, but as a result of care or education. Only 47 per cent of members
the protests the project was postponed. p of religious minorities felt safe visiting places of
worship. Those surveyed described how they fear
wearing religious symbols publicly, especially

200 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
minority women, who often need to protect Arab citizens in Israel, comprising 20 per cent of
themselves from harassment by hiding their the total population. Of these, 82 per cent are
religious affiliation. Muslim, while the remainder are roughly split
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) between Christians and Druze. There is deep
has signed an exploration and production deal institutional discrimination against Palestinian
with the international oil giant Exxon Mobil for Arabs in employment, education and property
six blocks, including three in disputed territories ownership. Palestinian women face further
bordering the official KRG region. Although the discrimination, both as women and as members
KRG controls these regions de facto through the of a minority. Though Israel’s Knesset has passed
presence of its security forces, its sovereignty over highly progressive laws on anti-discrimination
them is not recognized in the Constitution; the and legal protection for women and disabled
federal government has protested against the deal. persons, such legislation does not cover
The blocks include areas of Nineveh and Kirkuk discrimination against the Arab minority on the
provinces of significant ethnic and religious basis of ethnicity. According to various UN and
diversity, in particular a block to the north-east of local statistics, over half of Palestinian families are
Mosul, in Nineveh Province, which is inhabited poor.
by a patchwork of Shabak, Christian, Yezidi and Palestinian citizens of Israel are deprived of
Kaka’i communities, as well as Kurds and Arabs. access to and use of their land under laws aimed
The deal is also controversial because Iraq at confirming state ownership of land confiscated
has still not passed a law on hydrocarbons, from Palestinians. In 2011 Adalah, an NGO and
defining procedures for awarding oil concessions, legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel,
the respective rights of the KRG and federal published a report that points to the lack of
governments to sign deals, the role of foreign development and investment in Arab towns and
companies and export modalities, a draft of villages. Palestinian Arab towns and villages in
which was presented to parliament in 2007. Israel suffer from severe overcrowding, with Arab
However, the federal government has itself signed municipalities representing only 2.5 per cent of
exploration deals with multinationals covering the total area of the country. Since 1948, 600
fields in the south of Iraq. new Jewish municipalities have been established,
Both the federal and Kurdish governments whereas no new Arab village, town or city has
accuse each other of smuggling oil out of the ever been authorized.
country to bypass revenue-sharing agreements. In March 2011, HRW reported that the
The KRG has since closed down oil production in Knesset passed a law authorizing ‘admissions
protest at the federal government’s alleged failure committees’ in small rural communities to
to pay sums owing from a revenue-sharing deal. filter out applicants on the basis of vague
In February 2012, an Iraqi court of appeal ‘social suitability’ criteria. HRW estimated
confirmed death sentences for three people who that approximately 300 Jewish-majority
were convicted of the attack on the Our Lady of communities will fall within the law’s definition,
Salvation Church in Baghdad in October 2010, although the practice is already common in
in which 44 worshippers, 2 priests and 7 security many others. While the law’s sponsors added
force personnel were killed. An accomplice was a non-discrimination clause, statements made
sentenced to 20 years in prison. While the use at the time indicated their intention to target
of the death penalty is deplorable, it should be Arab Israeli citizens. HRW foresaw that other
noted that the sentences break with a tradition of marginalized groups, such as Jews of non-
almost complete impunity for large-scale attacks European origin, will be affected.
on Iraqi minority communities. About 200,000 Bedouin live in the Negev
Desert, where they are an indigenous people
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian – a fact which is not recognized by the Israeli
Territory government. Since 1948, Israel has built dozens
Israel of Jewish towns, villages and farms, confiscated
There are approximately 1.2 million Palestinian Bedouin lands and attempted to move them into

State of the World’s Minorities Middle East and 201

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 North Africa
specific planned townships. Israeli governments has been drawn up without any consultation
have recognized only a few Arab villages in the with Bedouin communities and will in effect
Negev, even though many were established extinguish Bedouin land claims without adequate
before the state of Israel. Israel does not recognize compensation. An MRG report published in
Bedouin ownership rights. On 11 September December condemned the government’s policy
2011, the Israeli cabinet decided to go ahead towards Bedouin not only as discriminatory but
with the controversial ‘Prawer Plan’ which will also as a violation of international human rights
result in the demolition of thousands of houses law. At year’s end, the Knesset was expected to
in the Negev and force 30,000 Bedouin from consider the enabling legislation soon.
their ancestral lands and into townships. The During 2011, the Knesset passed other
Israeli government sees the plan as an attempt legislation adversely affecting Palestinian citizens
to end the long-standing dispute between the of Israel. One law will lead to fines being
state and its Bedouin population. But the plan imposed on any government-funded institution,

202 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Left: Sabah Ismail, a Bedouin woman, speaks (UNRWA) reported that as a result of escalated
to MRG in 2011 of the horror her family went demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the West
through when the Israeli government demolished Bank, over 4,000 people were either displaced
her entire village, Al Arakib, the previous year. or otherwise severely affected by demolitions
Her family now live in a tent in the cemetery in Al during 2011. The vast majority of demolitions
Arakib. Farah Mihlar/MRG. were carried out in Area C. In February 2011,
for example, Israeli forces destroyed 6 homes
including municipalities, that commemorates and 21 animal pens in Khirbet Tana near
the ‘Naqba’, the Arabic term for the destruction Nablus, displacing about 6 families and affecting
of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of their over 100 people who rely on agriculture for
residents following Israel’s independence, and their livelihoods. It was the third time since
any expression deemed to ‘negate the existence January 2010 and the fourth since 2005 that
of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state’. While the community had experienced large-scale
the law will most clearly affect municipalities, demolitions.
it could also harm attempts by arts groups and The Israeli authorities continued to revoke
other cultural organizations to build bridges residency permits of Palestinians living in East
between communities through educational Jerusalem, and in August 2011 the Israeli
programmes. government approved the construction of 1,600
During January 2012, the Israeli Supreme new Israeli settler homes there. The decision
Court upheld the country’s controversial should be viewed against a diplomatic backdrop;
Citizenship Law. According to the legislation, it came just weeks before the Palestinian
which began as a temporary order in 2002, Authority moved to have the Palestinian state
Palestinians who live in the Occupied Palestinian recognized at the UN.
Territory (OPT) or citizens of Arab countries In recent years, opposition to the eviction of
that are considered ‘enemy states’ are not eligible Palestinians from East Jerusalem has coalesced
for Israeli residency or citizenship if they marry around the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, located
Israeli citizens. Thousands of Palestinian families to the north of the Old City. Approximately
are thus forced to live apart, move abroad or live 60 people have so far been evicted, often with
illegally in Israel. minimal notice, and 500 others remain at risk of
displacement. In May, the NGO Avocats sans
The West Bank Frontières issued a report in which it highlighted
Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, the West a key issue, namely the expansion of Jerusalem’s
Bank was divided into three administrative municipal boundaries into areas considered by
divisions. Area C, comprising 60 per cent of Palestinians as well as the UN to be occupied
the West Bank, is the Israeli-controlled and territory. Thus, the evictions violate the Fourth
administered area. Around 150,000 Palestinians Geneva Convention which prohibits occupying
live in this area, alongside approximately 500,000 powers from displacing civilians or transferring
Israeli settlers. Minority groups include Bedouin groups belonging to its own population into
who number around 25,000 people in Area C occupied territory.
and 40,000 in the whole of the West Bank. The The Israeli authorities are developing plans
Israeli government has put aside 70 per cent of to forcibly relocate Bedouin from Area C in
the land in Area C for settlements, firing zones, 2012. Initially, 2,300 people will be relocated
the separation barrier, checkpoints and nature to a site bordering Jerusalem’s biggest rubbish
reserves, and this land is therefore ‘off-limits’ to dump. It should be noted that attacks by Israeli
Palestinians. settlers can also cause displacement. UNRWA
In 2011, the Israeli authorities continued noted for example that 19 Bedouin families
its practice of house demolitions and forced – 127 people – decided in July 2011 to move
evictions in Area C and East Jerusalem, violating from their Area C homes under fear of further
its obligation to respect the right to adequate settler attacks, citing lack of adequate protection.
housing. The UN Relief and Works Agency The forced displacement undermines Bedouin

State of the World’s Minorities Middle East and 203

and Indigenous Peoples 2012 North Africa
livelihoods as well as their tribal identity. EU Palestinian farmers access to their olive groves
country ambassadors noted in a joint report that in the Seam Zone either due to security reasons
settler attacks have increased dramatically from or an inability to prove ownership of land. The
266 reported incidents in 2010 to 411 assaults in Israeli authorities have also reportedly been
2011. destroying Palestinian crops. The situation has
Under a planning system condemned as increased food insecurity and impoverished
discriminatory by the UN, Israeli authorities herder communities who have lost access to
have allocated only 1 per cent of Area C for water, according to the UN Special Rapporteur
Palestinian development. It is virtually impossible on the right to food, Olivier de Shuetter.
for Palestinians to obtain construction permits,
while Israeli settlements receive preferential Lebanon
treatment in the allocation of water and land, Lebanon has enjoyed greater freedom of speech
and approval of development plans. Settlements than many other Arab countries, and largely
built on privately owned Palestinian land and avoided the Arab uprisings. But the country
which do not have building permits rarely face continued to be gripped by political paralysis.
demolition. The national unity government led by Saad
Several human rights agencies have highlighted Hariri collapsed in January 2011, because of
the lack of access to safe drinking water. In a disagreement over the Special Tribunal for
report published in December, the UN’s Com- Lebanon on the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
mittee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Competing regional affiliations also played a
(CESCR) noted the continuing destruction of big part in the government’s demise. It took
local civilians’ wells, roof water tanks, and other Hariri’s successor, billionaire Najib Mikati who
water and irrigation facilities, which forces many was named prime minister in January 2011, six
civilian to leave their home areas. months to form a government. Despite being
The CESCR also reported on Israel’s a coalition of supposedly like-minded parties,
continued gross violations of housing and land including Hezbollah and the Christian Free
rights, in particular noting that the Israeli- Patriotic Movement, the new government has
controlled separation barrier along and within also struggled to reach consensus on many local
the West Bank has prevented Palestinian farmers and regional issues. The situation of minorities,
from accessing their land and natural resources, both ethnic minority groups and those who
affecting their right to work. In 2011, the UN do not have citizenship in Lebanon, remained
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian relatively unchanged in Lebanon, except for the
Affairs (OCHA) produced a report on the impact influx of Syrian refugees across the border, fleeing
of the barrier on Palestinian communities which the violence there.
has cut off land and natural resources required There are approximately 455,000 Palestinian
for agriculture, negatively impacting rural refugees in Lebanon registered with UNRWA
livelihoods. Of particular note is the so-called (comprising 10 per cent of the country’s
Seam Zone or area between the Green Line population), around half of whom live in 12
(the pre-1967 boundary between Israel and recognized refugee camps. Palestinian refugees are
the West Bank) and the barrier. Access to the denied citizenship and so have few basic rights, or
Seam Zone by Palestinian farmers is through access to state services. Most Palestinian refugees
designated gates and depends on a cumbersome can only find low-paid temporary employment
‘prior coordination’ system. In the Biddu area, and cannot work in over 30 professions, such
for example, some Palestinian communities as medicine, law and engineering; women are
have been cut off from almost 50 per cent of significantly more likely to be unemployed than
their agricultural land in the Seam Zone near men and some families rely on child labour for
the Giv’at Ze’ev settlement. One essential income. As UNRWA only provides them with
agricultural activity that has suffered is the olive basic health services, many cannot access long-term
harvest. In October, OCHA reported that the health care. They also face restrictions on their
Israeli authorities were denying thousands of movement, requiring permits to leave their camps.

204 Middle East and State of the World’s Minorities

North Africa and Indigenous Peoples 2012
In February 2011, UK-based Palestinian 42-year rule had transformed into an armed
NGOs the Palestinian Refugee Centre and the struggle that spread across the country. The
Council for European Palestinian Refugees opposition formed the National Transitional
reported on the desperate situation in the refugee Council (NTC) in Benghazi. On 17 March,
camps that are prohibited from expanding and the UN Security Council passed resolution
therefore suffering from increasingly overcrowded 1973, which paved the way for the imposition
living space. Prime Minister Mikati promised of a no-fly-zone against Gaddafi’s forces, led by
to grant Palestinian refugees work permits and NATO. The Libyan capital, Tripoli, eventually
to grant civil and human rights, but ongoing fell to rebel forces in late August 2011, and
Lebanese political dysfunction makes it virtually Gaddafi was captured and killed on 20 October
impossible to imagine this happening in the 2011 in the city of Sirte. On 16 September, the
foreseeable future. UN General Assembly recognized the NTC as
By the end of 2011, 4,840 Syrian refugees the legitimate representative of Libya.
were registered with the UNHCR and the In November 2011, a report by UN Secretary-
Lebanese High Relief Committee, the majority General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concerns
of whom had fled from Syria’s Homs province. over alleged war crimes committed by rebels,
Many are residing with host families in north particularly against black Libyans and Sub-
Lebanon, waiting for the situation at home to Saharan Africans. The report said many of the
stabilize before they return. Their legal status 7,000 African detainees, including women, had
is ambiguous, and they also face the threat of been beaten and tortured.
Syrian troop incursions and kidnappings by According to rights groups, rebel fighters
Syrian agents in Lebanon. Syrian refugees have killed and detained black Libyans and sub-
complained that their movements are restricted Saharan African migrant workers, claiming
by the Lebanese army, since they do not have they were pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. However,
exit stamps on their passports or identity cards, allegations that Gaddafi employed many
and that little has been done to ensure their Africans from neighbouring countries such
security. as Chad, Nigeria and Sudan as mercenaries
There are about 150,000 Arab Bedouin in appeared to be heavily exaggerated. Many
Lebanon, who lived in what is now Lebanon Africans worked in civilian jobs. There have
before the country was created. Originally self- been reports of harassment and violence towards
sufficient, years of urbanization and drought have sub-Saharan African migrant workers from
impoverished them, weakening their customs rebel fighters and civilians alike, and security
and traditional pastoral livelihoods. Bedouin in missions have allegedly turned into persecution
Lebanon have fought for years to be recognized of Africans based on their skin colour. During
as Lebanese citizens. During Lebanon’s only a field mission