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Indígenas de Paraguay. Foto: Tierradevoces.com.py

Indigenous peoples of Brazil and Paraguay under consideration by the ILO Committee of Experts

23 February, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

On 17 February 2023, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), a key body for the ILO’s monitoring system on international labour standards, published its annual report on the Application of international labour standards, 2023, which will be considered during the International Labour Conference at its 111th session that will take place in the middle of this year 2023 at the ILO headquarters in Geneva.

The document shares the experts’ opinion on the extent to which the legislation and practice of each State is in conformity with the ratified conventions and the extent to which States comply with their obligations under the ILO Constitution in relation to standards.

In the section corresponding to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the report analyzes the situation of two South American countries: Brazil and Paraguay.

Both countries have ratified Convention No. 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, so progress or non-compliance with this instrument is what has led the analysis carried out.

Regarding Brazil, the Commission of Experts warns about the serious situation of human rights violations linked above all to land claims, threats, violations of the rights and integrity of indigenous peoples in Brazil, as expressed by organs of the United Nations and the Inter-American System. In view of this, the Commission urges the Government to take all necessary measures to protect life, physical and psychological integrity, as well as the rights guaranteed to indigenous and tribal peoples by the Convention. The Commission considers that indigenous and tribal peoples can only assert their rights, particularly in the matter of possession and ownership of lands that they traditionally occupy, if appropriate measures are taken to guarantee a climate devoid of violence, pressures, fears and threats of all kinds.

Regarding compliance with Articles 6, 7, 15 and 16 of Convention No. 169 related to the rights of participation and consultation, the Commission requests the Government to provide information on the announced process of drafting a consultation protocol initiated in 2012, suggesting that progress be made in the adoption of a regulatory framework for consultation that provides indigenous and Quilombola peoples with an adequate mechanism to guarantee their right to be consulted and to participate effectively when legislative or administrative measures that may directly affect them are contemplated, and in order to provide greater legal certainty to all the protagonists.

At the same time, it recalls the need to consult indigenous peoples and quilombolas in this process and to allow them to participate fully through their representative institutions in order to be able to express their opinions and influence the final outcome of the process. The Commission requests the Government to provide information on the consultation processes carried out, including those undertaken on the basis of the consultation protocols elaborated by the various indigenous communities, and on their results.

With regard to the case of Paraguay, the Commission requests the Government to continue taking measures, in collaboration with indigenous peoples, to reduce the inequality gap and the poverty and extreme poverty rates among indigenous communities, including within the framework of development plans at the national and departmental levels, and to report on the results of such measures.

The situation of indigenous lands and territories is considered with special attention. In this regard, the Commission takes note of the information provided by the Government on the progress made in the processes of expropriation and transfer of land in favor of the Sawhoyamaxa (14,404 hectares), Xákmok Kásek (7,701 hectares), and Yakye Axa (11,312 hectares) indigenous communities, in compliance with the judgments handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It also takes note of the declaration of expropriation of 219 hectares in the district of Carlos Antonio López, Department of Itapúa in favor of the INDI for subsequent adjudication to the Y’aká Marangatu indigenous community.

The Commission, understanding the complexities that arise in relation to the recognition and titling in favor of indigenous peoples with respect to the lands that they have traditionally occupied, requests the Government to increase its efforts to advance in the appropriate processes in this regard and to report on the progress made.

Finally, it expresses its great concern about the situation of economic exploitation, and in particular the debt bondage of indigenous workers in the Chaco region, and therefore requests that the offices of the Ministry of Labor of the Chaco region, including the labor inspectorate, have the necessary means to monitor respect for the labor rights of such workers, particularly those located in isolated estancias, address complaints and punish violations.

The commented chapter includes the analysis of a third country, Bangladesh. Although it has not ratified the Convention No. 169, if it has done so with the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107), for which reason, on the basis of the obligations assumed therein, the comments are made.

In this regard, the Commission notes that the United Nations Committee against Torture, in the concluding observations it formulated in 2019, expressed its concern about the information received regarding the subjection of indigenous communities to intimidation, harassment, and physical violence, including sexual violence, in particular by or with the cooperation of State officials to guarantee an environment conducive to the full exercise of the rights of indigenous and tribal populations. (CAT/C/BGD/CO/1, paragraph 23).

Therefore, the Commission urges the Government to take the necessary measures to protect the physical integrity of persons belonging to indigenous populations, and in particular those living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, and to address the root causes of violence in the areas where they reside.

It also requests the Government to urgently conduct thorough investigations into the reported cases of intimidation, violence, especially sexual violence, and disappearance of persons belonging to indigenous communities and to ensure that the perpetrators are identified, prosecuted and punished. The Committee requests the Government to provide detailed information in this regard and to continue considering the possibility of ratifying Convention No. 169, which is the most up-to-date instrument in this field.

To expand on these comments and access the entire Report, you can consult the following link: