Penang, Malaysia, 15 Feb 1992)
Nairobi, Kenya, 22 Nov 2002)
We, the indigenous and tribal peoples of the tropical-forests, present
this charter as a response to hundreds of years of continual
encroachment and colonisation of our territories and the undermining
of our lives, livelihoods and cultures caused by the destruction of
the forests that our survival depends on.
We declare that we are the original peoples, the rightful owners and
the cultures that defend the tropical forests of the world.
Our territories and forests are to us more than an economic resource.
For us, they are life itself and have an integral and spiritual value
for our communities. They are fundamental to our social, cultural,
spiritual, economic and political survival as distinct peoples.
The unity of people and territory is vital and must be recognised.
All policies towards the forests must be based on mutual understanding
and respect for cultural diversity and gender perspectives, for a
promotion of indigenous ways of life, and an understanding that our
peoples have developed ways of life closely attuned to our environment.
THEREFORE WE DECLARE THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES, GOALS AND DEMANDS:
RESPECT FOR OUR RIGHTS
Respect for our human, political, social, economic and cultural
rights, respect for our right to self-determination, and to pursue our
own ways of life.
Respect for our autonomous forms of self-government, as differentiated
political systems at the community, regional and other levels. This
includes our right to control all economic activities in our
Respect for our customary laws and that they be recognized by national
and international law, as equally valid systems of law and
Where the peoples so demand, nation states must comply with the
different treaties, agreements, covenants, awards and other forms of
legal recognition that have been signed with us indigenous peoples in
the past, both in the colonial period and since independence,
regarding our rights.
An end to violence, slavery, debt-peonage and land grabbing; the
disbanding of all private armies and militias and their replacement by
the rule of law and social justice; the means to use the law in our
own defence, including the training of our people in the law.
The approval and application of the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples (1993 version), which affirms and guarantees our
right to self-determination, and the ratification of ILO Convention
169, which guides States in the application of some of these
The setting up of effective international mechanisms and a tribunal to
protect us against the violation of our rights and guarantee the
application of the principles set out in this charter.
There can be no sustainable development of the forests and of our
peoples until our fundamental rights as peoples are respected.
Secure control of our territories, by which we mean a whole living
system of continuous and vital connection between man and nature;
expressed as our right to the unity and continuity of our ancestral
domains; including the parts that have been usurped, those being
reclaimed and those that we use; the soil, subsoil, air and water
required for our self-reliance, cultural development and future
The recognition, definition and demarcation of our territories in
accordance with our local and customary systems of ownership and use.
The form of land tenure will be decided by the people themselves, and
the territory should be held communally, unless the people decide
The right to permanent sovereignty over the use and ownership of the
territories which we occupy. Such territories should be inalienable,
unleasable, unmortgageable and untransferable.
The right to demarcate our territories ourselves and that these areas
be officially recognised and documented.
LAND RIGHTS FOR OUR NEIGHBOURS
Legalise the ownership of lands used by non-indigenous peoples who
live within and on the forests' margins in the areas that are
available once title has been guaranteed to the indigenous peoples.
Land reforms and changes in land tenure to secure the livelihoods of
those who live outside the forests and indigenous territories, because
we recognise that landlessness outside the forests puts heavy pressure
on our territories and forests.
Control of our territories and the resources that we depend on: all
development in our areas should only go ahead with the free, prior and
informed consent of the indigenous people involved or affected. We
insist on recognition of our right to veto any developments proposed
on our lands without our consent.
Recognition of the legal entity of our indigenous institutions and
organisations, that defend our rights, and through them the right to
collectively negotiate our future.
The right to our own forms of social organisation; the right to elect
and revoke the authorities and government functionaries who oversee
the territorial areas within our jurisdiction.
Our policy of development is based, first, on guaranteeing our
self-sufficiency, material welfare, cosmo-visions and spirituality, as
well as that of our neighbours; a full social and cultural development
based on the values of equity, justice, solidarity and reciprocity,
and a balance with nature. Thereafter, the generation of a surplus for
the market must come from a rational and creative use of natural
resources developing our own traditional technologies and selecting
appropriate new ones.
Our right to self-development and to redirect the development process
away from large-scale projects towards the promotion of small-scale
initiatives controlled by our peoples. The priority for such
initiatives is to secure our control over our territories and
resources on which our survival depends. Such projects should be the
cornerstone of all future development in the forests.
The right of our peoples to be broadly informed, consulted and, above
all, to participate in the making of decisions on legislation or
policies: and in the formulation, implementation or evaluation of any
development project, be it at local, national or international levels,
whether private or of the state, that may affect our futures directly
All major development initiatives should be preceded by social,
cultural, health and environmental impact assessments, carried out
with the full participation of local communities and indigenous
peoples. All such studies and projects should be open to public
scrutiny and debate by the indigenous peoples affected.
National or international agencies considering funding development
projects which may affect us, must set up tripartite commissions -
including the funding agency, government representatives and our own
communities as represented through our representative organisations -
to carry through the planning, implementation, monitoring and
evaluation of the projects. In all such negotiations, the right to
involve technical advisers and professionals of our choice.
The cancellation of all mining concessions in our territories imposed
without the consent of our indigenous organisations. Mining policies
must prioritise, and be carried out under, our control, to guarantee
rational management and a balance with the environment. All mining on
our lands should be subject to our free, prior and informed consent
and should be carried out subject to freely agreed, openly negotiated,
legally binding contracts assented to by our own indigenous
institutions, communities and peoples.
An end to imposed development schemes and fiscal incentives or
subsidies that threaten the integrity of our lives, forests and
A halt to all imposed resettlement programmes.
The problems caused in our territories by international criminal
syndicates trafficking in products from plants like poppy and coca
must he confronted by effective policies which involve our peoples in
Promotion of the health systems of the indigenous peoples, including
the revalidation of indigenous medicine and health care, and the
promotion of programmes of modern medicine, with measures to ensure
our free and equal access to them. Such programmes should allow us to
have control over them, providing suitable training to allow us to
manage them ourselves.
Establishment of systems of bilingual and intercultural education.
These must revalidate our beliefs, religious traditions, customs, and
knowledge; allowing our control over these programmes, by the
provision of suitable training, in accordance with our cultures; in
order to achieve technical and scientific advances for our peoples, in
tune with our own cosmo-visions, and as a contribution to the world
Promotion of alternative financial policies that permit us to develop
our community economies and develop mechanisms to establish fair
prices for our products.
Halt all new logging concessions and suspend existing ones, that
affect our territories. The destruction of forests must be considered
a crime against humanity and a halt must be made to the various
anti-social consequences, such as roads across indigenous cultivations,
cemeteries and hunting zones; the destruction of areas used for
medicinal plants and crafts; the erosion and compression of soil; the
pollution of our environment; the corruption and enclave economy
generated by the industry; the increase of invasions and settlement in
Logging concessions on lands adjacent to our territories, or which
have an impact on our environment, must comply with operating
conditions - ecological, social, of labour, transport, health and
others - laid down by the indigenous peoples, who should participate
in ensuring that these are complied with. Commercial timber extraction
should be prohibited in strategic and seriously degraded forests.
The protection of existing natural forests should take priority over
Reforestation programmes in indigenous peoplesí territories must be
subject to our free, prior and informed consent and should be
prioritised on degraded lands, giving priority to the regeneration of
native forests, including the recovery of all the functions of
tropical forests, and not being restricted only to timber values.
Reforestation programmes on our territories should be developed under
the control of our communities. We should select species in accordance
with our needs.
BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION
Programmes related to biodiversity must respect the collective rights
of our peoples to cultural and intellectual property, genetic
resources, gene banks, biotechnology and knowledge of biological
diversity; this should include our participation in the management of
any such project in our territories, as well as control of any
benefits that derive from them.
Conservation programmes must respect our rights to the use and
ownership of the territories and resources we depend on. No programmes
to conserve biodiversity should be promoted on our territories without
our free, prior and informed consent as expressed through our
The best guarantee of the conservation of biodiversity is that those
who promote it should uphold our rights to the use, administration,
management and control of our territories. We assert that guardianship
of the different ecosystems should be entrusted to us, indigenous
peoples, given that we have inhabited them for thousands of years and
our very survival depends on them.
Environmental policies and legislation should recognise indigenous
territories and systems of natural resource management as effective 'protected
areas', and give priority to their legal establishment as indigenous
Since we highly value our technologies and believe that our
biotechnologies can make important contributions to humanity,
including 'developed' countries, we demand guaranteed rights to our
collective intellectual property in both national and international
law, and control over the development and manipulation of this
All investigations in our territories should be carried out with our
free, prior and informed consent and under joint control and guidance
according to mutual agreement; including the provision for training,
publication and support for indigenous institutions necessary to
achieve such control.
The international community, particularly the United Nations, must
recognise us indigenous peoples as peoples, as distinct from other
organised social movements, non-governmental organisations and
independent sectors, and respect for our right to participate directly
and on the basis of equality, as indigenous peoples, in all fora,
mechanisms, processes and funding bodies so as to promote and
safeguard the future of the tropical forests.
The development of programmes to educate the general public about our
rights as indigenous peoples and about the principles, goals and
demands in this charter. For this we call on the international
community for the necessary recognition and support.
We indigenous peoples will use this charter as a basis for promoting
our own local strategies for our actions.