The Shared Societies Project’s mission is to actively encourage building shared societies based on ‘locating responsibility of social cohesion within government structures and creating opportunities for consultations’. One of its objectives is to work and promote ethnic and indigenous inclusion into the mainstream society and political decision making and help to create political space and environment where ethnic minorities are being respected and consulted.
Earlier this month Chile’s Supreme Court overruled the Valdivia Court of Appeals’ decision which previously ruled in favour of Mapuche Communities in southern Chile who requested access and protection of a land they consider sacred for ritual purposes. The Mapuche community also requested to put a stop to the logging of trees by private companies in the area, which they deem illegal.
The Supreme Court’s decision that the land in question is not eligible for special protection as indigenous land was based on Article 12 of Law 19.253, which requires communities to occupy or own a part of the land claimed as sacred. The Court’s decision was met with protests from Mapuche leaders and human rights organization Observatorio Guidadano who described the decision as a ‘setback’ in their relations with the state.
Many believe that the Supreme Court decided to use a very narrow interpretation of the word ‘occupy’ and ignored the fact that the Mapuche people were entering the land and were using it for ceremonial purposes. The Court decided to uphold the laws of private property over the rights of use. Furthermore, the Court’s decision ignores Article 13 of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 which states that governments should respect the ‘special importance for the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned of their relationship with the lands or territories’
José Araya, coordinator of the Citizenship and Intercultural Program of Observatorio Guidadano said that the sacred site is at serious risk and ‘We think it is the obligation of the state to protect it’. Moreover, Observatorio Guidadano representatives argue that the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t follow the previous precedents in which the Court ruled in favour of indigenous tribes in Chile.