Using international protections for indigenous peoples in Africa?

Our first month-long Land Protection Q&A comes from @rachaelknight (and @pablolindsay’s summer research on case law in Latin America):

How can advocates and activists leverage international protections for indigenous peoples in Africa? :earth_africa:

Advocates for Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and environment have had many victories at international, regional and national levels - including growing attention by the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, the effectiveness of international and regional protections is limited unless they are accompanied by supportive national legislation or court decisions. Particularly in Africa, the practical impacts of international and regional protections have fallen short.

Indigenous peoples in Africa continue to actively advocate for recognition, often going to court to challenge governments and corporate entities. But defending the land rights of indigenous peoples in court has been an uphill battle. Why?

  • What strategies are effective when defending indigenous rights in African courts or in national advocacy efforts?
  • What international instruments are relevant and effective to leverage in African contexts? Are there other global and regional mechanisms that can provide support?
  • What examples can we learn from for using international mechanisms to protect rights of African indigenous peoples?

Here are some additional thoughts to get us started:

International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA):

…indigenous peoples in Africa are generally understood as nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists and hunter/gatherers who live in situations of marginalization and discrimination. …Only few African countries have so far recognized the existence of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Peoples in Africa: The Forgotten Peoples? The African Commission’s work on indigenous peoples in Africa. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. 2006.

…indigenous peoples and communities in Africa suffer from a number of particular human rights violations that are often of a collective nature… the African Charter is an important instrument for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and communities …the preceding jurisprudence of the African Commission opens a path for indigenous peoples and communities to seek protection of their human rights. Finally, the term “indigenous peoples”, though contested, is valuable in an African context as it offers the victims of particular human rights abuses an important avenue by which to improve their situation.

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