On September 23rd, 2022, Leslie Cloud and Laurie Fartaria of the Normandy Chair for Peace had the pleasure of dialoguing with Dijon Koemapu and Léon Ribas, both members of the Mulokot Foundation, which works on Wayana land in Suriname.
This rich meeting, which benefited from a Wayana-French translation by Marciano, allowed us to learn more about the context of the creation of the Mulokot Foundation, the projects of this foundation, the struggle of the Wayana for the recognition of their right to self-determination and to development as they conceive it, to live together, on their lands, in the respect of their traditional activities and their mode of education. Dijon shared with us the strength of their traditional institutions, including those of the Grand Man and the shaman, their roles within the communities, and the great laws that govern their relationship to the land while respecting the power of “nature” and the forbidden. He also shared with us his concerns about the lack of demarcation of their lands, water pollution, the lack of consideration of their right to participation and the CPLE by the State in the decision-making process that affects them, particularly regarding the project to create protected areas on their territory. Léon, who taught for several years in French Guiana and in Suriname where he coordinated, came back on the difficult access of the Wayana to school in Suriname, their schooling in French elementary school, the Wayana school projects set up by the Foundation and shared with us his reflections on a model of education adapted to the young Wayana allowing them to determine their future.
To complete the information shared during this meeting and to follow the activities of the foundation, you can consult the following links
Blog of the Mulokot Foundation which presents the progress of the different projects implemented for the demarcation of lands, access to drinking water, agricultural projects, Wayana school projects etc.
Mulokot Foundation facebook page: Mulokot Kawemhakan
For more information on the rights of indigenous peoples in Suriname, you can consult the annual chapters on Suriname in the IWGIA publication, Indigenous Worlds, translated into French on the GITPA website. Also recently published are the recent findings on indigenous peoples of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its review of Suriname’s compliance with the Convention.
Finally, you will find below a brief review of the rights of indigenous peoples in Suriname, which was presented as an introduction to this meeting:
According to the last census in 2012 the indigenous peoples of Suriname represent about 20344 inhabitants or 3.8% of the total population. The four most numerous indigenous peoples are the Kali’ña (Caribs), Lokono (Arawaks), Trio (Tirio, Tareno) and Wayana. The latter, also present in Brazil and French Guiana, number about 800 inhabitants in Suriname. The Kali’ña and Lokono live mainly in the north of the country while the Trio and Wayana live in the south of Suriname. Suriname law does not recognize the existence and rights of indigenous peoples and has not ratified ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples of 1989. This convention, which is binding and recognizes a set of rights for indigenous peoples, has been ratified to date by a majority of Central and South American states . In this context, the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and natural resources are permanently threatened, particularly due to the mining of bauxite and gold,
the exploitation of forests, the pollution of watercourses, and the establishment of conservation areas in disregard of their rights.
In this regard, despite several condemnations of the State of Suriname by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for violation of the property rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), the Court’s rulings are still not implemented and the violations continue . In the absence of recognition of the rights of Surinam’s indigenous peoples, and in particular the right to CPLE, numerous measures have been taken by the government in violation of the right to participation of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are concerned about the adoption of a US$50 million compensation agreement between the government and the company Total, in violation of their right to CPLE .
In order to address the lack of recognition of the right to FTC that is constantly violated , the Wayana people have established their own FTC protocol .
- Progress in the legislative recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights was seen in 2021 with the discussion of a law on the collective rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname, while a controversial project to convert leased land into title deeds is of concern to indigenous peoples who fear that titles will be adopted in favour of third parties in their territories.
- As of October 4, 2002, the Convention has been ratified by twenty-four States: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Central African Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Spain and Venezuela.
- Three cases were brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by indigenous peoples of Suriname against the State of Suriname: Report No. 9/13, Petition 1621-09, Comunidad indígena Kaliña de Maho; Report No. 76/07, Petition 198-07, Los Pueblos Kaliňa y Lokono; Report No. 26/00, Caso 11.821, Aldea de Moiwana. Four important decisions have also been issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the rights of the indigenous peoples of Suriname: Caso Pueblos Kaliña y Lokono Vs. Surinam. Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas. Decision of November 25, 2015; Caso del Pueblo Saramaka Vs. Suriname. Interpretación de la Sentencia de Excepciones Preliminares, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas. Decision of August 12, 2008. Serie C No. 185; Caso del Pueblo Saramaka Vs. Suriname, Decision of November 28, 2007, (Excepciones Preliminares, Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas), Series C, No. 172; Caso de la Comunidad Moiwana Vs. Suriname. Interpretación de la Sentencia de Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas. Decision of February 8, 2006. Serie C No. 145. For an analysis of the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights on the rights of indigenous peoples, see Comision Interamricana de derechos humanos, derechos de los pueblos indigenas y tribales sobre sus tierras ancestrales y recursos naturales. Normas y jurisprudencia del sistema interamericaino de derechos humanos; OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc 56/09, December 30, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/indigenas/docs/pdf/Tierras-Ancestrales.ESP.pdf; Karine Rinaldi, The rights of traditional societies in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Le modèle interaméricain de l’interprétation interculturelle des droits, PhD thesis in public law, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, 2012; Karine Rinaldi, “Casos Pueblo Saramaka y Pueblo Indígena Kichwa de Sarayaku: ¿un paso atrás en cuanto al fundamento de los derechos de las sociedades tradicionales?”, Revue de l’Instituto Brasileiro de Direitos Humanos, vol. 12, no. 12, 2013, pp. 243-256; Karine Rinaldi, “El principio de no regresión ambiental y los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y tribales. Enseñanzas de la jurisprudencia interamericana”, in Mario Peña Chacon (Dir.), El principio de no regresión ambiental en el derecho comparado latinoamericano, San José, UNDP, 2013, pp. 357-384; Karine Rinaldi, “Le droit des populations autochtones et tribales à la propriété dans le système interaméricain de protection des droits de l’homme”, in Ludovic Hennebel et Hélène Tigroudja (Dir.), Le particularisme interaméricain des droits de l’homme, Paris: Editions Pedone, 2009, pp. 215-250; Karine Rinaldi, Joint contribution with Francisco Rivera, “Pueblo Saramaka vs. Surinam: el derecho a la supervivencia de los pueblos indígenas y tribales, como pueblos”, Debates on Human Rights and the Inter-American System, CEJIL, 2008, pp. 80-96.
- On this point, see IWGIA, El mundo indigena, Suriname chapter, 2022. Online, accessed October 4, 2022 at https://www.iwgia.org/es/surinam/4798-mi-2022-surinam.html
- On the violation of their right to CPLE and the contamination of their waterways with mercury, see a 2022 communication from the Mulokot Foundation, accessed October 4, 2022: https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/issues/toxicwaste/toxics-indigenous-peoples/inputsreceived/2022-07-13/mulokot-foundation%20%283%29.pdf:
- On indigenous CPLE protocols, see for example Cathal Doyle et al, Free Prior Informed Consent Protocols as Instruments of Autonomy. Laying Foundations for Rights Based Engagement, Infoe, ENIP, Köln, 2019, accessed October 4, 2022 at https://enip.eu/FPIC/FPIC.pdf