A dated photo of indigenous women in Chiquimula in Guatemala
making rope out of maguey (Agave americana) fibre. Experts say
there is concern about whether there will be the protection and
respect of indigenous peoples’ right to land and national
resources as there will be huge interest in those resources during
the post-COVID-19 recovery. Credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS
By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2020 (IPS)
When governments and states begin their recovery journey from
the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there
might be a heightened threat to indigenous peoples, their land and
â€œThe fear is [that] the economic recovery is based on access
to land and natural resources,â€ Lola GarcÃa-Alix, senior advisor
on Global Governance at the International Work Group for Indigenous
Affairs (IWGIA), told IPS.
â€œIndigenous people also live in areas with the most biological
diversity. So of course they are the last frontier where the many
governments meet in a situation of economic recovery. Itâ€™s an
economic asset for them to have access there,â€ she said.
GarcÃa-Alix moderated a panel on Jul. 7 about the impact of
COVID-19 on indigenous communities around the world and key factors
that states must keep in mind during the recovery process.
The panel, â€œDelivering Results For Not Leaving Indigenous
Peoples Behind: COVID-19 Responses and Beyondâ€ was organised as
part of the United Nationsâ€™ High Level Political Forum
â€œOne of the main threats that indigenous people are facing
today is land grabbing,â€ GarcÃa-Alix added. â€œSo, itâ€™s not so
much the issue of financial support but the issue of where will be
the protection and respect of indigenous peoplesâ€™ right to land
and national resources in a context where there will be huge
interest in those resources.â€
She was responding to concerns posed by other indigenous leaders
about different factors affecting the impact of COVID-19 on their
At the Jul. 7 talk, Antonia Urrejola, vice president of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the rapporteur on the
rights of indigenous peoples, warned of â€œexternal actorsâ€
coming into territories of indigenous peoples that are exacerbating
the pandemicâ€™s impacts.
â€œExternal actors are coming into these territories now more
than ever so thereâ€™s more contagion and this is why theyâ€™re
putting at risk not only the individual people but as a collective
group as well,â€ she said.
These â€œactorsâ€ include members of security forces, drug
traffickers as well as miners. GarcÃa-Alix said that thereâ€™s
been an increase in illegal logging, entering of different actors,
as well as an increase in killing of indigenous community members
under the pandemic.
â€œItâ€™s a hunger to access their resources in their lands. And
this hunger is in the part of statesâ€™ as well as other actors â€“
from cartels to illegal logging, or companies,â€ she told IPS.
â€œMany of these illegal actors donâ€™t stop because thereâ€™s
quarantine. Itâ€™s even better because thereâ€™s no police.â€
Urrejola added other concerns that are currently exacerbated
because of the pandemic, such as lack of access to health
â€œHospitals are very far away in general from indigenous areas,
and sometimes [the people] have to travel even for a day, and they
[still] cannot receive medical treatment,â€ she said. â€œWe know
that they donâ€™t have basic needs, many times they canâ€™t even
A dated photo of an ethnic matriarch in Indiaâ€™s
biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a
repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and
medicinal properties. Experts say that indigenous women are being
denied their fundamental right to access information because the
information is not being disseminated in indigenous languages. This
is especially crucial as indigenous women hold a key role as
caretakers in many of their communities. Credit: Manipadma
GarcÃa-Alix pointed out how language and accessibility can play
a role in this lack of services for the indigenous community.
â€œIn most cases, the problem is that indigenous people
havenâ€™t had the information in their own language and have not
had the access to the medical services,â€ she said.
Kamla Thapa, executive director of National Indigenous Womenâ€™s
Federation in Nepal, also brought up this issue during a panel talk
about indigenous women in COVID-19 responses and impacts on Jul.
â€œIndigenous women are not in decision-making positions, and
they are ignored,â€ she said, adding that many of these women are
being denied their fundamental right to access information because
the information is not being disseminated in indigenous languages.
This is especially crucial as indigenous women hold a key role as
caretakers in many of their communities.
Thapa expressed hope going forward, citing the example of a
group of indigenous women in India who developed a herbal
sanitiser, as well as the Santal community from India and Nepal who
are making sure outsiders arenâ€™t allowed into the community so as
to protect members from contracting COVID-19.
â€œWe indigenous women are the knowledge holders, we have hope;
we are knowledgeable, and changemakers,â€ she said. â€œWe have the
power to transform the pandemic into an opportunity, to derive a
new normal by applying our knowledge, our skills.â€
Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Beware the ‘Hunger’ to Access Indigenous Peoples’ Land and
Resources for Post-COVID-19 Recovery