Here is footage of last week’s Hearing of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. I live streamed this hearing on Friday.
Testimony was given about the construction of roads for the Bonyic and Chan II hydroelectric projects, Lake Bayano, the rights “universal and indivisible” of the Naso, Bri Bri & Ngäbe-Buglé peoples, legal obstacles to achieving those rights, the need for a legal process for property rights, and the barriers to indigenous access to the justice system in combating mega-developments abuse of power under administrative concessions.
Commission President Rose Marie stated that disputed documents should not be the end of the process and questioned the authenticity of corporate title where indigenous have been displaced. The question was raised as to why action does not exist on the Naso Comarca. It was recommended that the government reach out to the Naso to get this process started. They face many barriers to organizing a formal legal petition to begin first debate in front of Panama’s National Assembly.
Attending on behalf of the Naso was Osvaldo Jordán of Panama’s Alliance for Conservation and Development (ACD). He provides the following insights:
“I recommend watching the last twenty minutes in which the Commissioners refer to international standards on collective property of indigenous peoples. We believe this has been one of the most productive hearings we’ve had, forcing us to follow up on several commitments both Commissioners as representatives of the state. In particular, we are very concerned that a legal ban still exists to collective title within protected areas, which paradoxically does not extend to administrative concessions that have been taking place since 2007.”
In other words, the government can grant an international consortiums rights to cut trees in a forest reserve, use dynamite, destroy rivers, and build dams, but they cannot give autonomy to the indigenous who have acted as responsible stewards of their ancestral territory (according to UNESCO) because it is “a protected area”. This travesty of justice obviously allows developers to take indigenous lands for their own uses.
Sr. Jordán adds, “When estimating the many communities that may be contained within protected areas nationally, we have a truly worrisome problem that should make us reconsider our strategy for the protection of territories across the country. For those who may be interested, I reiterate the proposal I have been making to hold a forum to discuss the implications of the recent judgment of Bayano and the position taken by the government with respect to protected / indigenous territories.
We will meet when he returns from Washington D.C. to plan this forum.