Indigenous mobilisations for justice

Coordinated by : Jennifer Hays and Else Grete Broderstad (University of Tromsø, Norway), with Martin Papillon (University of Montreal, Canada, DIALOG)

The aim of this axis is to consider how indigenous peoples mobilize to achieve justice and under what conditions. A number of dimensions are of interest here. One is the conditions, constraints and opportunities for indigenous activism in different contexts. What forms does indigenous activism to achieve justice take? Under what circumstances legal or institutional avenues are privileged and, conversely, what explains more direct forms of resistance? We would also like to focus on the “conditions of acceptability” of indigenous activism and on the criminalization of indigenous activists as state strategy to diffuse protests and resistance, which defines questions of justice in a very different perspective. A related problematic is the over-representation of indigenous peoples in the penal population.

The criminalisation of indigenous activism has direct repercussions on the capacity of the latter to achieve justice in the context of land and resources development. What strategies are left under such conditions? Are strategies of collaboration and negotiation achieving some measure of success in redefining relations between indigenous communities, national governments and private interests with respect to, among others, land, resources, food security and education?

Also central to this theme is the growing role of multinational corporations and extractive industries in these processes. What influence do private interests have on states’ policies and legal processes? In what cases does the economic power of corporations allow them to operate outside of national and international law in silencing indigenous protests? What are the possible mechanisms for exerting legal and economic pressure on private actors to encourage and ensure justice for indigenous peoples? What are the potential of new international standards (i.e. Business and Human Rights efforts at the UN level) or mass consumer action (boycotts, etc.) in this respect? To what extent does Corporate Social Responsibility policies and behaviours of the various companies reflect these international norms and guidelines? What influence do Indigenous peoples have on multinational corporations?

Another thematic connected to mobilization for justice is the space granted to indigenous peoples in institutions of representation at the national, regional or local level. Given the marginalized position of Indigenous Peoples within the states (dispersed in territories that are often remote and sometimes inaccessible from the established centres of power, fragmented between the city and the land, with less formal education and in vulnerable economic and political situations), what capacity and resources do they have to express themselves and their interests in formal decision-making processes at local, national and international levels? Are there cases where decision-making processes affecting Indigenous Peoples on the ground have been transformed by the implementation of International human rights principles? In what sense the recourse to Free Prior and Informed Consent opens new paths in this respect? Do these principles represent real advances or “false solutions” that generate an even greater sense of alienation amongst the indigenous people?