Beware the ‘Hunger’ to Access Indigenous Peoples’ Land and Resources for Post-COVID-19 Recovery

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

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
resources.

“The fear is [that] the economic recovery is based on access
to land and natural resources,†Lola García-Alix, senior advisor
on Global Governance at the International Work Group for Indigenous
Affairs (IWGIA), told IPS.

“Indigenous 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. It’s an
economic asset for them to have access there,†she said.

García-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, “Delivering Results For Not Leaving Indigenous
Peoples Behind: COVID-19 Responses and Beyond†was organised as
part of the United Nations’ High Level Political Forum
(HLPF). 

“One of the main threats that indigenous people are facing
today is land grabbing,†García-Alix added. “So, it’s not so
much the issue of financial support but the issue of where will be
the protection and respect of indigenous peoples’ right to land
and national resources in a context where there will be huge
interest in those resources.†

She was responding to concerns posed by other indigenous leaders
about different factors affecting the impact of COVID-19 on their
communities. 

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 “external actorsâ€
coming into territories of indigenous peoples that are exacerbating
the pandemic’s impacts. 

“External actors are coming into these territories now more
than ever so there’s more contagion and this is why they’re
putting at risk not only the individual people but as a collective
group as well,†she said. 

These “actors†include members of security forces, drug
traffickers as well as miners. García-Alix said that there’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. 

“It’s a hunger to access their resources in their lands. And
this hunger is in the part of states’ as well as other actors –
from cartels to illegal logging, or companies,†she told IPS.
“Many of these illegal actors don’t stop because there’s
quarantine. It’s even better because there’s no police.â€

Urrejola added other concerns that are currently exacerbated
because of the pandemic, such as lack of access to health
services.

“Hospitals 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,†she said. “We know
that they don’t have basic needs, many times they can’t even
get tested.†

An ethnic matriarch in India'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 Jena/IPS

A dated photo of an ethnic matriarch in India’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
Jena/IPS

García-Alix pointed out how language and accessibility can play
a role in this lack of services for the indigenous community. 

“In most cases, the problem is that indigenous people
haven’t had the information in their own language and have not
had the access to the medical services,†she said. 

Kamla Thapa, executive director of National Indigenous Women’s
Federation in Nepal, also brought up this issue during a panel talk
about indigenous women in COVID-19 responses and impacts on Jul.
8. 

“Indigenous women are not in decision-making positions, and
they are ignored,†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 aren’t allowed into the community so as
to protect members from contracting COVID-19.

“We indigenous women are the knowledge holders, we have hope;
we are knowledgeable, and changemakers,†she said. “We have the
power to transform the pandemic into an opportunity, to derive a
new normal by applying our knowledge, our skills.â€

The post
Beware the ‘Hunger’ to Access Indigenous Peoples’ Land and
Resources for Post-COVID-19 Recovery
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Beware the ‘Hunger’ to Access Indigenous Peoples’ Land and
Resources for Post-COVID-19 Recovery