Many indigenous and traditional farming (or campesino) communities are struggling to protect the land on which their livelihoods depend. Often living in conditions of extreme poverty, they rely on their land for food, shelter and cultural identity. In some cases, pollution from mining threatens to seep into the land and water. In others, communities have been forced from their land for development projects or monoculture plantations, condemning them to internal displacement and landlessness. Others campaign for sustainable land use, seeking to halt patterns of destruction for the benefit of future generations.
International declarations and mechanisms on indigenous rights enshrine the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples and recognise the importance of land rights for the original inhabitants of many countries now governed by the descendents of colonisers. These rights are often the focus of conflict as powerful interests wish to exploit the natural resources found within and beneath traditional territories. Defenders of land rights, culture and natural resources can find themselves facing powerful interests and brutal opposition. Some have approached PBI for protection after they have been attacked or their colleagues assassinated. Many others have been subjected to criminal prosecutions based on spurious charges.
In October 2011, PBI UK organised a conference to explore the human cost of defending land rights and the environment, and to address the need to defend those threated in the context of such work. More information and audio recordings of the conference are available here.
Accompanied defenders working on land rights, culture and natural resources
Berenice Celeyta, NOMADESC
Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP), Curbaradó region
The Judicial Liberty Corporation (CJL)
Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COS-PACC)
Organisation of the Indigenous Me’phaa People (OPIM)
Organisation of Women Ecologists of the Sierra de Petatlán (OMESP)
The Ecumenical and Social Coordination for the Defense of Life in Zacapa and Chiquimula in the Macizo del Merendón
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