Earth, Exploitation and Survival - Redress the Threats Posed to Indigenous Peoples (Phase IV)

Project location: VARIOUS COUNTRIES
Project start date: September 2016 - Project end date: October 2018
Project number: 2016-027
Beneficiary: UNPO


Indigenous peoples around the world suffer from oppressive intrusion on their freedom of religion, culture, language, expression and association as well as restrictions on land ownership and education. Many times this problem goes unaddressed due to a lack of awareness on part of the affected communities of their human and indigenous rights as outlined in national, regional and international law, and/or due to a lack of knowledge on how to use various legal instruments to successfully claim these rights.

Earth, Exploitation and Survival - Redress the threats posed to indigenous peoples (Phase IV) is a project that targets and seeks to address this very problem, by redressing the threats posed to indigenous peoples’ natural environments, languages, traditional livelihoods and community cohesion, which when combined, form the core essence of identity for indigenous people. The project will focus its action on the following indigenous peoples:

• The Khmer Krom, the indigenous population of Kampuchea Krom (Vietnam)
• The Awá and other threatened indigenous tribes in Brazil
• The Batwa, also known as the pygmies of Rwanda
• The Haratin, who constitute the largest marginalised group in Mauritania

These indigenous groups from Asia, the Americas and Africa confront similar obstacles on a daily basis despite their geographical dispersion. Threats to their land, resources and traditional cultures have also made an assault on their community cohesion. These commonalities can be addressed through positive action that assists their adaptation, builds community and youth capacity, reconstructs histories, preserves and promotes identity and protects natural resources. Inter-cultural dialogue both between different indigenous groups and with non-indigenous groups is also paramount to creating greater harmony in societies in which different cultures must coexist.

This project received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation. Below is a project description, divided into four sections, each of which outlines the issues at stake for the indigenous group in question, as well as the objectives, activities and outcomes. Together these four sections contribute to the overall objective of the project, i.e. to redress the threats posed to indigenous peoples.

Khmer Krom
Issues at stake: Over the years, Khmer Krom have been leaving Vietnam and Cambodia (where many had previously fled), because of the discrimination they face in both countries. Large communities have settled in North America and Western Europe. Moreover, a large number of Khmer Krom have fled to Thailand, where they face considerable difficulties in receiving official refugee status. In this context, less than ten per cent of children whose parents are Khmer Krom asylum seekers/refugees can access school in Thailand, despite the fact that a majority of these children were born in Thailand and have valid Thai birth certificates. The problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of Khmer Krom parents do not understand the enrolment process, nor do they understand the rights of their children to access education. A few years ago, there were legitimate concerns that the Khmers Krom would disappear through assimilation, but diplomacy, stepped-up activism and an empowered diaspora have changed the outlook somewhat.

Objective: to support the trend of empowering Khmer Krom diaspora and increase the Khmer Krom’s knowledge of their rights within national, regional and international law and human rights standards through public participation and civic engagement.

Activities:
1) Human rights trainings and active participation in UN sessions of Khmer Krom youth and monks from the Diaspora;
2) Practical workshops in children’s rights and educational support for Khmer Krom asylum seekers/refugees in Thailand;
3) Publications and advocacy material for the Khmer Krom community.

Outcomes:
1) An increased number of members of the Khmer Krom diaspora receive training in human rights, and are able to transfer the knowledge to future generation;
2) An increased number of Khmer Krom asylum seekers in Thailand acquire knowledge of children’s rights and how to endure access to the education system for their children;
3) Increased public recognition of the Khmer Krom people’s rights.


Awá and Indigenous Rights in Brazil
Issues at stake: Over the past three years, UNPO, through a successful educational and institutional campaign, laid the foundations of what recently became a major victory in the struggle to save the indigenous Awá tribe. In light of unprecedented international pressure, in April 2014, the Brazilian government officially acknowledged that the Awá were literally on the verge of extinction due to illegal settlement, logging, mining, attacks and risks of diseases brought in by outsiders, and responded by sending a ground squad of hundreds of agents to remove illegal cattle ranchers and loggers from the land of the Awá. Nonetheless, agribusiness, mining and energy lobbies continue to advance a recently proposed constitutional amendment, the controversial PEC 215, which threatens to weaken even further indigenous rights in Brazil, putting the Awá and the country’s ca 300 other indigenous peoples at significant risk.

Objective: to set in motion a long-term campaign to protect and promote indigenous rights in the country, through close cooperation with key members of the Brazilian and European Parliament, local and international policy makers, as well as civil society.

Activities:
1) National Hearing at the Brazilian Congress and a corresponding event at the European Parliament, to raise awareness at both the national and international level of the detrimental effects of illegal settlements, logging, mining, hunting and certain ‘development’ projects on Brazil’s indigenous peoples, including the Awá;
2) A support platform comprised of national and international civil society actors, indigenous leaders, governments, corporate stakeholders, and Members of the European and Brazilian Parliament;
3) Practical workshops in indigenous rights for indigenous leaders, women and youth in Brazil;
4) Dedicated website and targeted social media campaign.

Outcomes:
1) Increased awareness at both the national and international level of the detrimental effects of
illegal settlements, logging, mining, hunting and certain ‘development’ projects on Brazil’s indigenous peoples, including the Awá;
2) Increased pressure the Brazilian government not to give in to the controversial PEC 215; to comply with its own constitution regarding demarcation, protection and monitoring of indigenous lands; and to reform its development agenda so that the rights of indigenous peoples are not threatened by the interests of the energy and mining sectors;
3) An increased number of indigenous representatives receive training in indigenous rights;
4) Increased public participation and awareness of indigenous peoples and rights in Brazil.


Batwa
Issues at stake: Marginalised and unable to sustain their livelihoods and culture, many Batwa continue to live in abject poverty and thus suffer in terms of poor health and nutrition. International programs that provide social welfare services and economic development related to housing, food, agriculture, health and the access to clean and safe drinking water rarely reach the Batwa. Following a successful livestock initiative carried out by UNPO within the framework of the previous phase (III) of the Earth, Exploitation and Survival project, which aimed at empowering Batwa women by making them economically independent from their male relatives, this project will provide further means of strengthening their livelihoods through family farming and micro-gardens, increasingly seen as the most viable livelihood for the Batwa in Nyabihu. At the same time, government authorities and donors must be made aware of this urgent problem, in order to facilitate access for the Batwa to national/international programs that provide economic development and social welfare services.

Objective: Strengthen the livelihoods of Batwa, while at the same time sensitise government authorities and donors of community-specific problems. The project will also contribute to the preservation of the Batwa identity and culture through the promotion of community cohesion and togetherness, as well as a sense of hope and self-reliance.

Activities:
1) Workshops focusing on the topics of nutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation for community members;
2) Training on how to build and maintain different types of micro-agriculture projects;
3) Advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the situation of the community and the importance of access to water purification systems and irrigation for Batwa communities, in order to contribute to the wellbeing and preservation of the Batwa identity and culture.

Outcomes:
1) Increased knowledge among Batwa of how to effectively combat malnutrition and strengthen hygiene practices in households in order to prevent the spread of illnesses;
2) An increased number of Batwa community members acquire skills in livelihood techniques; quality products/material accessible to the community.
3) Increased public knowledge of the intersection of traditional livelihoods and the preservation of Batwa identity and culture.


Haratin
Issues at stake: This project focuses on empowering the Haratin people of Mauritania, of whom a disproportionate number remain slaves of the country’s Arab-Berber minority. Emphasis will be given to empowering local antislavery organizations, but also Haratin children, who due to their ethnicity and vulnerable socio-economic position, are often pushed out of the formal education system and therefore remain trapped in a cycle of discrimination, exclusion and even slavery. To combat slavery in Mauritania, first of all, awareness of rights among all societal groups and the ability to recognize illegal exploitation are paramount. Local anti-slavery organizations have made great efforts in this regard, but their capacity and outreach remain limited – not least because one of the most important anti-slavery movements in the country, IRA-Mauritania, has been targeted by the authorities, leading to the imprisonment of its leader and confiscation of all equipment in 2014.

Objective: First, help restore IRA-Mauritania to full-functioning capacity and expand IRA-Mauritania’s ability to disseminate knowledge and understanding of slavery, individual worker rights, and legal protection through support to IRA’s Liberty Van – a project that uses a minibus as a mobile service centre to disseminate information about slavery; second, tackle the issue of illiteracy, which is closely linked to the persistence of slavery.

Activities:
1) Training in advocacy, monitoring and documenting of slavery, social activism and use of informational/media technologies for anti-slavery campaigners;
2) Reading and writing lessons and necessary school material for Haratin children excluded from the national education system (in collaboration with local NGO AVOCAN);
3) Necessary adaptations to, maintenance of and material for IRA’s Liberty Van in order to strengthen its outreach and educational capacity.

Outcomes:
1) Strengthened organizational and individual capacity of anti-slavery campaigners to act as a positive and constructive force in the fight against slavery;
2) Increased number of Haratin children have access to basic literacy classes;
3) Strengthened outreach and educational capacity of IRA’s Liberty Van.
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