Ash Center: Indigenous Governance, Equity, and Rights in Pluralistic Settings

March 1, 2011
 Ash Center: Indigenous Governance, Equity, and Rights in Pluralistic Settings
Pictured left to right: Tribal Representatives Maximiliano Mamani, Camilo Tolentino, Andre Fernando, Jhon Jansen, Tony Fish, Louis Hicks

Liaison Group Convenes Workshop in Peru
By Christina Marchand 

In December 2010, the Ash Center participated in the Indigenous Governance, Equity, and Rights in Pluralistic Settings Workshop. This workshop, convened by the Liaison Group for Innovations in Governance and Public Action, brought together a group of international innovations awards programs with indigenous innovators from across the world to discuss significant issues facing native peoples. Tribal representatives from Brazil, Chile, Peru, South Africa, and the United States discussed their experiences, and program representatives from the Philippines, China, and Mexico discussed the state of indigenous rights in their countries.

Presentations covered a range of innovations that have been successfully implemented in tribal regions, from an education program in Brazil that provides a rigorous education while also retaining cultural traditions, to a tribe in Chile that successfully battled against a corporation to restore wetlands damaged by development. In the U.S., the Moscogee Creek Nation’s Reintegration Program has significantly reduced recidivism through pre- and post-incarceration support for its tribal citizens, while the Matagoan Program in Tabuk City, Kalinga in the Philippines reversed the cycle of vendetta killings and tribal warfare through the peaceful resolution of conflict cases.

On the final day of the workshop, attendees visited the indigenous village of Raqchi, which has developed an ecotourism program within its village through a partnership with the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism and World Bank financial assistance. Through the program, which seeks to educate the outside world about their way of life, the village has restored many cultural traditions and improved their own well-being.

Criminalization of indigenous peoples, the creation of conflict within tribes, and the criminalization of indigenous movements was a common theme at the workshop. Another central issue was the issue of land. Many tribes in South America are now finding themselves pushed back onto ancestral lands they do not “legally” own. These lands are often fertile and rich in mineral resources. But ironically, tribes seeking to access these resources often find themselves in direct conflict with environmental government regulators or self-interested private corporations. In fact, the challenge of land—its cultivation and ownership—is one that “ties all peoples.”

On the positive side, these shared experiences give indigenous tribes a chance to work together. One possible avenue for collaboration is to try to homogenize the many different ways countries have interpreted what was meant to be a single body of international indigenous laws and conventions adopted through the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. To gain support for their rights, traditions, and cultures, tribes could also do a better job educating the general populace. And we need their help as well. As the representative from South Africa Jhon Jansen observed, “The world is in trouble—we can learn from indigenous wisdom.”

Through support from the Ford Foundation and contributions by the individual programs, the Liaison Group was established in 2002 to enhance the collaboration among the programs for shared learning and global dissemination of individual and collective knowledge and experiences. Liaison Group activities include workshops, research, and publications. While each of these initiatives is adapting the innovations approach to its country’s specific concerns and priorities, they all share a strong allegiance to the core idea that government can be improved through the identification and dissemination of examples of effective solutions to public sector problems.