Press Release

IACHR Urges Member States to Ensure Respect and Guarantee of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

August 10, 2012

Washington D.C. - On occasion of the recent commemoration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the OAS Member States to ensure the respect and guarantee of the human rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their rights to the protection of their territories that they have historically lived in and the natural resources in those territories, as well as their right to prior, free and informed consultation regarding the decisions that may affect them. In addition, the IACHR expresses its concern on the situation of poverty and extreme poverty that affects a high percentage of the regions' indigenous population, which is particularly evidenced in the chronic malnutrition of indigenous children.

The protection of the right to property of the indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands is a theme of special importance to the IACHR. This is due to the fact that the effective enjoyment of that right involves not only protection of an economic unit but also protection of the human rights of a collectivity whose economic, social, and cultural development is based on its relationship with the land.

The IACHR considers that for the effective enjoyment of the right to communal property by indigenous peoples over the lands they have traditionally used and occupied, it is fundamental that the States guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to prior, free and informed consultation in decisions regarding any measure that may affect them, and that this consultation must be carried out in accordance with their customs and traditions. As the IACHR explained in its Report Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Rights over their Ancestral Lands and Natural Resources, the right to consultation is linked with multiple individual and collective human rights, such as the right to participation and to cultural identity.

Furthermore, the IACHR observes with concern the multiple social conflicts that emerge because of interests of third parties in the natural resources located in indigenous territories. The IACHR notes that such situations, frequently expressed in acts of social protest, might be linked to the absence of adequate measures to enable that the rights of indigenous peoples be made effective.

The IACHR calls on the States of the Americas to enable legal and institutional mechanisms that allow to effectively protect the territories and natural resources historically occupied by indigenous peoples, through the recognition, demarcating, delimiting and granting title to the lands of their collective property. Moreover, the Commission urges to effectively comply with the standards of the inter-American system of human rights related to the right to prior, free and informed consultation regarding any decisions that may affect them, and to carry out these processes in accordance with their customs and traditions, taking into account their traditional methods for the adoption of decisions. The IACHR also urges the States to put an end to the scourge of malnutrition in indigenous children.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 103/12