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Indigenous Conflict Mediation and Resolution Processes that Work: 

Editing Office - Geneva

Interview with Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Victoria Tauli Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, laughs out loud as she recalls reading about capacity-building programs on self-governance for indigenous peoples. “We’ve been governing ourselves long before nation states even existed!” In a conversation with Politically Speaking during a recent trip to New York, Ms. Tauli Corpuz talked about important role indigenous governance can play in achieving peaceful and inclusive societies by furthering cooperation and dialogue between indigenous peoples, the private sector and state actors.

Can you give us some examples of indigenous governance systems and how they have prevented and/or addressed conflict between indigenous communities and state/non-state actors?

Victoria Tauli Corpuz: Some of the examples that I have seen are examples in Mexico. I went to Guerrero [in central Mexico] for instance, which is one of the most drug-ridden places in Mexico. That’s where 43 students were disappeared in 2014. I talked to the autonomous municipalities and I met the community police and they said that because of the existence of their own self-protection systems, the community police managed to keep away some of these drug syndicates from coming into the communities. They are therefore able to ensure better peace and security for the indigenous peoples. That’s one example. The other one is in Cheran, San Francisco, in Mexico as well, who they themselves have taken up the cudgels to govern themselves. Five years ago, they kicked out the municipal authorities, whom they have accused of colluding with the drug syndicates and illegal loggers, that had been destroying their forest. So, they went and kicked them out. They elected their own officials, and then they were challenged in the electoral tribunal as well as in the supreme court, but they won the cases, because the constitution of Mexico does recognize indigenous governance. So, in Mexico, because there is a constitutional provision that mentions that, it’s used by the people themselves in creating and crafting their own governance systems or invigorating their traditional systems of governance, but also to ensure peace and security in their communities and to reduce conflicts. In Chiapas, of course we all know about the Zapatista uprising. Because of that, they managed to have the San Andrés Accords, which have created these autonomous municipalities. I met with some of these Caracoles, who are running the municipalities and they said that there is now lesser conflict. There isn’t much conflict anymore, the drug syndicates are not coming to their communities anymore. With regards to the armed conflict that was spurred by the Zapatista uprising, now they are doing more work in relations to strengthening governance. Chiapas State, Mexico. UN Photo/Jerry Frank I was also in Peru, and I met with these people from the Huambisa Nation. They mapped their territory – tens of thousands of hectares. They made a very sophisticated, very scientific map of what their territories are, they made their own customary protocols in terms of the role that external actors play, when they come into their territory, and then they went to the government and submitted their map as well as their by-laws and their constitution. They said, “We’re Peruvians, but we want to have our own nation as well.” And the government accepted that. At least they didn’t resist, they didn’t send military troops to stop them, so I think these are some of the good efforts that I have seen in terms of indigenous peoples self-asserting, but also in terms of using legal frameworks to further strengthen their own indigenous systems. Of course, these systems are hybrid systems, because they live in communities, where the modern governance system is in place, but they are able to configure this in a way to make sure that the indigenous leadership is more prominent.


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