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Opening Windows In International Courts For The Defense of Indigenous Rights

On September 28th and 29th, 2015 FundaMaya and Rights and Resources Initiative hosted the first International Workshop in Guatemala City addressing the opportunities available to Indigenous communities in their constitutional courts and the International Court of Human Rights. The workshop was a debate and reflection from various experiences in Latin America that analyzed and provided lessons learned on the social, political, and strategic use of constitutional courts and the International Court of Human Rights. Indigenous lawyers, activists, leaders, and communities from Central and South America gathered for two days to discuss their achievements, hardships, and goals in fighting for their rights.

“Constitutional Courts and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have been spaces that have allowed Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent communities to make use of international and national legal tools to defend and re-affirm their collective rights,” said Gustavo Zambrano, International Consultant. The workshop held three panels with leaders and experts from all over Latin America to talk about three important topics. Panels included: “Where is the success in making use of our courts: impacts and benefits?"; “What strategic allies and what empowerment have communities reached?” and on the final day “Strategic use of preceding court wins: achievements and limitations” took place. The panels gave participants the opportunity to ask questions about issues currently affecting their communities and how to go about defending their rights.

The two-day workshop was productive and inspiring. Indigenous leaders from all over Latin America spoke about their courageous work to defend their communities, lands, and resources. They spoke about recent successes regarding territories, use of resources, and the fulfillment of rights by their governments. A signed agreement with ancestral and community Indigenous leaders in Guatemala to establish a  support network in local struggles for territory and rights was a major and important outcome of this workshop