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The Indigenous Navigator helps respond to human development needs from within indigenous territories in Bolivia

The Indigenous Navigator tools have been useful to monitor the level of implementation of indigenous peoples rights in Bolivia, especially in two indigenous territories (Lomerío and Tapacarí Cóndor), which represent 15,000 indigenous people.

The Indigenous Navigator tools documented gaps in the respect of indigenous peoples’ rights, including a lack of consultations with indigenous peoples with a view reaching agreements and consent, a critical state of Monkoxi language, and access to justice not being guaranteed by the state.

These findings come after six months of experiencing surveying 10 indigenous communities to monitor the level of implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention No. 169.

“The fact that the information is collected by the communities themselves, is already a good practice to replicate in other projects, aiming to reinforce their own capacity to identify the problems that affect them, as well as to sustain them in the face of public authorities”, says National Project Coordinator Angela Agreda Farell.

The big challenge in Bolivia is to construct an indigenous agenda to implement the SDGs, considering that Bolivia does not currently have any process of adaptation of goals or indicators of the SDGs in the national context.

Therefore, the Indigenous Navigator tools and approach are envisaged to guide the construction processes of the municipal and inter-municipal annual plans prioritised by the indigenous organizations. The local partner, CEJIS, will also focus the attention to the prioritisation of local spaces and regions where indigenous autonomy processes are being developed, an instance that at this moment represents one of the most interesting processes of collective construction of a common development agenda.

On the other hand, one of the problems to which the Navigator is responding in a comprehensive manner in Bolivia is the phenomenon of climate change. The tools are addressing specific problems, helping design and propose specific measures to adapt to its effects.

Reflecting on results

“For us, the most important achievements so far are the agreements between the municipal governments, the indigenous organisations and the communities, which have been adopted in general assembly”, explains CEJIS lawyer Leonardo Tamburini.

As other results, CEJIS highlights that the main gaps identified by using the Indigenous Navigator’s tools have been now prioritised. These are the protection and conservation of the basins and reservoir of rivers and streams as a territorial development policy, and the revitalization of the Bésiro language with the direct involvement of the Plurinational Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures (IPELC) as a decentralized organ of the Ministry of Education.

The indigenous Bésiro language at risk

The lomerío territory is formed as an indigenous refuge of the Chiquitanos that fled from the Jesuit Missions (especially of Concepción) in the 18th century, and more recently of those who returned from the Chaco War and managed to escape from the barracks caucheras or escaped from the haciendas where they remained in captivity. In the new communities formed, a key factor of social cohesion and cultural strength has been the language, maintained for over three centuries unharmed against the onslaught of Castilian modernism promoted by the state and the various processes of economic development involved.

The Monkoxi have expressed in the Indigenous Navigator surveys that their children enter the primary school speaking their language but unfortunately graduate with a significant degree of loss of mastery of it. Education is taught in Spanish, under Western criteria and with contents that are far from their history and cultural patterns. The problem lies at the core of the national plurinational education system, that is currently not fully implemented.

At the moment, education is not bilingual, and the survey’s responses show that in the majority of the communities, classes are not taught in the mother tongue. For this reason, at the Extraordinary Assembly held in the community of Puquio in March, a project was entrusted to the Indigenous Navigator with the central objective of revitalizing the Bésiro language, promoting the training of its own professors so that they can dictate their classes in their own language. An inter-institutional agreement was proposed with the Institute of Language and Culture of the Ministry of Education, CEJIS, CICOL and the Municipal Government of San Antonio de Lomerío.

The right to consultation and protection of water

The Monkoxi's sources of water in their territory, such as streams, lagoons, "puquio" (springs) and rivers, on which they depend, are endangered by mining activities. Lomerío has 10 so-called Special Transitory Authorizations (ATE) for mining, which occupies 4,250 ha, 2 mining contracts prior to the entry into force of the Mining Law No. 535, which occupy 6,300 ha, 5 mining contracts processed before the Jurisdictional Mining Authority (AJAM), covering 5,625 ha. While there are 3 mining areas immobilized by the Mining Corporation of Bolivia (COMIBOL), for an area of 925 ha, which makes a total of 17,100 ha.

The result of the surveying based on the Indigenous Navigator tools has shown that the communities consider that their right to consultations is not being respected. This refers to the state’s duty to consult indigenous peoples with a view to in order to obtaining free, prior and informed consent, whenever consideration is given to adopting legislative or administrative measures that may affect them - including in relation to plans, programs or projects that have an impact on indigenous peoples’ lands and territories and especially its natural resources such as water.

One of the decisions on this delicate issue was assumed by CICOL, together with all its communities in the recent Extraordinary Assembly held in March, where they declared a "total mining break", all illegal mining activities being prohibited in the Territory of Lomerío. This decision was made on the basis of defending and protecting water sources, which, although they are not treated, represent the only guarantee for indigenous food security. In this context, a project has also been defined, with the support of the Indigenous Navigator, which makes it possible to carry out infrastructure works to guarantee access to water for the communities most in need.

Supported by the European Union

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The Indigenous Navigator provides a set of tools for indigenous peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights.

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