Tag Archive for Mapuche

Consulting Indigenous communities to preserve a unique ecosystem: a first time in Chile

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In September 2017, The Rapa Nui people agreed with the Chilean Environment Ministry on the creation of a 700,000 square kilometer protected marine area around Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Due to its location, Easter Island’s ecosystem has unique coral species preserved by the traditional fishing practices that would be also protected. Chile has become one of the five countries with the largest area of marine space protected in the world.

The Environment Ministry, Marcelo Mena, introduced the agreement as part of the commitments of Chile with the community:

“it was the first time indigenous people had been consulted over the creation of a marine area in Chile.”

Overall, 642 Rapanui people voted on this unique consultation to create this area which will be administrated by 6 Rapanui representatives and 5 Chilean Government representatives.

In an interview with the Chilean Newspaper La Tercera, PokiTaneHaoa, Rapanui local leader, highlighted that the protected area would allow them not only to manage their territory but also to fight against illegal fishing and consequent loss of biodiversity. All relevant decisions regarding the sea area around the island will be overseened by its inhabitants.

As included in the Minority Rights Organization directory, indigenous people in Chile include the Mapuche, Ayamara, and the Rapanui people among others. According to the 2012 census, more than 1.7 million Chileans self-identified as indigenous: 88% as Mapuche, followed by 7% as Amara and 5% other smaller groups.

In 2007, Chile adopted the United Declaration on Indigenous Rights and, in 2008, it ratified Convention 169 of the ILO on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which guaranteed rights to education, property, consultation and self-determination. The same year Chile adopted an indigenous policy called “Recognition: Social Pact for Multiculturalism (Re-conocer: Pacto Social por la Multiculturalidad”. In 2016, a Presidential Advisory Commission was set up with the purpose of preparing proposals in the areas of regional and territorial development and participation of indigenous communities[1].

As part of the conclusions of the Working Group on Sustainability and Shared Societies convened by the Club de Madrid through its Shared Societies Project, society and the environment, together with the economy, have been identified as the three pillars of sustainable development. Given that, this Working Group underline that “meaningful participation by all stakeholders is viable and can ensure more sustainable decision making: some are the continuation of traditional practices, some are part of devolution of local government by the state; and some are situations in which local people have taken control of their own affairs.” As a core element of the Shared Society concept “the ability of indigenous peoples not only to maintain their own cultural context but also to fulfil their responsibilities to future generations, demonstrates the significance of their own local government systems.”

[1] OECD (2017), Making Decentralisation Work in Chile. Towards Stronger Municipalities, Multi-Level Governance Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Sacred Land Ngen Mapu Kintuante in Chile in danger

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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.





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