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UN expert calls on Paraguay to better implement protections for indigenous peoples

ASUNCIÓN (28 November 2014) – At the end of an eight-day official visit to Paraguay, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Friday raised concerns about land and resource rights, access to social services and the judiciary, the lack of consultation of indigenous peoples, inequality, and discrimination against them.

Tauli-Corpuz noted that Paraguay has ratified “all core international and regional human rights treaties” and codified indigenous rights in its Constitution. However, she identified a number of ongoing challenges, noting that in her conversations with representatives of indigenous communities, “their foremost concern remains the security of their rights to their lands, territories, and resources.”

“Nearly half of the indigenous communities do not have lands,” she said. “Even when the lands have been titled to the communities, land security is not ensured. Members of the communities reported encroachment by agro-businesses, logging companies, cattle ranchers, among others, sometimes forcing them into displacement.”

Tauli-Corpuz said that while Paraguay has experienced phenomenal economic growth over the last few years, this growth “happens at the expense of massive destruction of ecosystems such as forests and rivers which are essential for indigenous peoples’ food security and livelihoods.” Poverty rates, illiteracy rates, and other indicators of inequality remain alarmingly high in indigenous communities.

Compounding these problems is a lack of adequate social services. “Most of the indigenous communities have limited access to water, health care, or education,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. She acknowledged that there have been positive developments in some areas, such as the recent law on indigenous education, but others remain of great concern—almost 9 in 10 indigenous persons have no access to health services.

Tauli-Corpuz expressed concern over a lack of consultation and participation of indigenous peoples. She called on the Paraguayan Government to develop an adequate legal framework for consultation, and to upgrade the main government institution for indigenous affairs (INDI) to a full-fledged ministry.

The Special Rapporteur emphasized that “much remains to be done in terms of ensuring access to justice for indigenous peoples.” Historic justice issues, such as the forced displacement caused by the Yacitera and Itaipu hydro-electric dams, have thus far been without redress. Tauli-Corpuz also mentioned the “lack of knowledge by the judiciary about the rights of indigenous peoples leading to inaction or decisions contrary to the Constitution.” Some promising developments have been visible, however, such as the Supreme Court’s work on customary law.

Tauli-Corpuz addressed the underlying causes of the difficulties faced by indigenous peoples in Paraguay: “In my view, discrimination and racism are at the bottom of many of the problems faced by indigenous peoples.” She also noted that indigenous women face special challenges.

The Special Rapporteur will present her assessment and recommendations in a report to the 30th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2015 in Geneva.

ENDS

For the full end of mission statement, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15361&LangID=E

The new Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx

UN Human Rights Country Page – Paraguay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/PYIndex.aspx

For more information and media inquiries, please contact:
Ms. Hee-Kyong Yoo (+ 41 22 917 9723 / hyoo@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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