I have been an intern with the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and
Community Land Rights (more commonly called the Land Rights Now campaign) since early September 2016. Land Rights Now is not just an Oxfam project, but involves more than 550 partner organizations and thousands of individual participants from across the
globe. Our aim is to work together to ensure that, by 2020, the global area of land
legally recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local
communities is doubled.
This element of partnership is
crucial. The campaign includes Indigenous Peoples’ groups, national and
regional NGOs, and international organizations. Each of the organizations bring
its own focus and expertise to the cause. Oxfam, for instance, has a wide
global presence and rich experience in advocacy around development issues. As a
result, our involvement in this campaign has focused on helping to increase the
visibility of the work that local communities and organizations are doing to
strengthen indigenous and community land rights, and on building a global
coalition of actors working on these issues.
Oxfam’s role in Land Rights Now
is very well illustrated in a recent mobilization and advocacy exercise that I
was closely involved in. From 1-4 November, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and
the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia or Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia
(JOAS), who are both partner organizations in the campaign, were organizing a
regional conference on Agribusiness and Human Rights in Southeast Asia. The
conference brought together a network of concerned actors to address the
increasing human rights violations resulting from the rapid growth of
agribusiness in the region in recent years. Since large scale land acquisitions
for such agribusiness concessions often cause violations against indigenous
communities that depend on this land for their sustenance and livelihoods,
these issues are highly relevant to the work of the Land Rights Now campaign.
Therefore, in the run up to the
conference, our team at Oxfam interacted closely with the event organizers to
come up with ways in which we could contribute. In order to spread the word
about the conference and the importance of looking at agribusiness human rights
violations in relation to indigenous and community land rights, we decided to
send out a newsletter to the global network of Land Rights Now participants.
This newsletter included information about the conference and an article
discussing the topic in more detail. During the conference, we also published a
series of social media posts on specific cases of violations of Indigenous
Peoples’ land rights due to agribusiness. The cases were provided by campaign
participants in Asia who work closely on these issues. Our aim was to shine a
spotlight on these individual cases, as well as to highlight the widespread
nature of land rights violations due to the rise of agribusiness across
Southeast Asia. We will also be circulating the conference resolution within
the broader Land Rights Now network, along with an appeal for action in a case
of land rights violations of an indigenous community in Sabah state of Malaysia
due to an aquaculture project.
Working on this mobilization has
been a very engaging and informative experience for me. Though my interaction
with organizations working closely on these issues on the ground, I have learnt
a lot about the topic. Perhaps most importantly, I feel that this emphasis of
the Land Rights Now campaign – on creating partnerships between organizations
with different strengths and expertise, in order to achieve the common goal of
better recognition for indigenous and community land rights – is a great
example of how the practice of development can be an equal, open and egalitarian process.
Amod is interning at our Land Rights Now campaign producing great content on land rights issues. We can always count on his dry humor to brighten our meetings.