IP rights at local level

The increased international recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the growing strength of the indigenous peoples’ movement, has also had a positive impact on the recognition of their rights, at both the local and national levels. Important achievements include:

  • On 17 December 2008 the government of Nicaragua gave the Awas Tingni – one of the many indigenous communities that populate the country’s Atlantic Coast region – the title to its ancestral territory, which consists of some 74,000 hectares of densely forested lands. This follows a historic August 2001 decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua.
  • On 26 November 2008 Greenland voted massively in favour of self-rule in a referendum that paves the way for independence from Denmark and gives it rights to potentially lucrative Arctic resources, as well as control over justice and police affairs and, to a certain extent, foreign affairs. The new status will take effect on June 21, 2009.
  • On 22 August 2008 the Peruvian Congress voted to repeal two decrees that opened up communally owned native lands to private investment. The decrees were adopted without respecting indigenous peoples’ rights to be consulted prior to any project on their land as established by ILO Convention 169, which has been ratified by Peru.
  • On 30 July 2008 the Australian High Court ruled that Aborigines control more than 80 per cent of the Northern Territory coast, ending a 30-year battle for indigenous rights to the sea. The decision gives indigenous people unprecedented control over the territory’s billion dollar fishing industry.
  • On 25 June 2008 Seven indigenous Maori tribes signed New Zealand's largest-ever settlement over grievances arising from 19th century losses of lands, forests and fisheries during European settlement of the country. The 420 million New Zealand dollar (Euro 210 million) Treelords agreement will transfer ownership of 435,000 acres of plantation forest and forest rents from the central government to the central North Island tribes.
  • On 11 June 2008 the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology for the federally financed programme of native residential schools. He recognized that this policy of assimilation was wrong and has caused great harm to native people. The Canadian government formalized a $1.9-billion compensation plan for victims and has also established a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the legacy of the residential schools.
  • On 6 June 2008 the Japanese parliament recognized for the first time that the Ainu "are an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture." It urges the government to "immediately" provide support for the Ainu.
  • On 13 February 2008 the Australian government apologized for years of "mistreatment" that inflicted "profound grief, suffering and loss" on the country's Aboriginal people. New policies would be introduced to provide better healthcare and education to Aborigines.
  • In November 2007 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that, regarding large-scale development or investment projects that would have a major impact within Saramaka territory, the State of Suriname has a duty, not only to consult with the Saramakas, but also to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, according to their customs and traditions.
  • In November 2007, by a decision of the Canadian British Columbia Supreme Court, the Xeni Gwet'in people succeeded in establishing their aboriginal title to a significant portion of their traditional territory.
  • In October 2007 an important Belize Supreme Court ruling supported Maya customary land tenure, in accordance with Maya customary law and usage.
  • In July 2007 the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia) reaffirmed native customary rights of indigenous peoples. The ruling is far-reaching and is expected to set a landmark authority over court cases involving claims to Native Customary Rights in Malaysia.
  • l The Recognition of Forest Rights Bill passed by the Indian parliament in December 2006 is considered a landmark law which could help end the suffering of India's forest peoples by giving them rights over forest land.
  • In December 2006, Bushmen forced out of the Kalahari desert by Botswana's government won a landmark legal victory as the High Court of Botswana ruled they had been illegally removed and should be allowed to return.
  • In September 2006 a Federal Court in Australia ruled that the Aboriginal people Nyoongar have the traditional right to hunt, fish and camp in large parts of the city Perth and its surroundings.

Several other examples could be given regarding the achievements by indigenous peoples at the local or national levels; these are just a few.

Despite some major successes at the national level, many serious violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples are ongoing today. These include conflicts over the tenure and collective ownership of land, access to natural resources such as water and forests and serious environmental problems such as pollution, deforestation, desertification and toxic waste, which adversely affect the lives of individuals and communities. Serious deficiencies in access to and provision of basic social services are reported as well as acts of discrimination and even of murders and extrajudicial executions, death threats against community authorities and the persecution of indigenous representatives and leaders. There are numerous obstacles to the full enjoyment of the right to education, including issues related to the use and protection of indigenous languages and cultures and frequent complaints about evictions and forced displacements of indigenous communities. The continuing practice of child labour by indigenous children, especially girls, as a response to poverty is a matter of considerable gravity. Especially vulnerable are indigenous and tribal girls and adolescents, who are often forced into human trafficking networks, prostitution rings or other forms of sexual exploitation at an early age. Such gross violations of indigenous peoples’ rights continue to take place, as is well documented by the United Nations and other independent human rights monitoring bodies.


About NCIV

Since 1969, NCIV is an NGO that supports the promotion, recognition and protection of indigenous peoples' rights. NCIV brings the issues and views of indigenous peoples to the attention of the Dutch government, civil society, business and science and works to encourage them to make a positive contribution to improving the situation of indigenous peoples at national and international levels.