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Can two new bills reshape indigenous rights and illegal gold mining in Suriname?

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Charles Lyons and Charlie Espinosa, Menlo Park, California
Wednesday, September 14, 2022

"We've been fighting the government of Suriname for almost 25 years, for recognition of our land rights," says Jupta Itoewaki, a leader of the Indigenous Wayana people. "The government and leaders don't feel like they need to consult us."

Itoewaki has long been at the forefront of a battle to win legal standing for Indigenous and tribal groups, who make up about a quarter of the population of Suriname, the smallest country in South America. Along with Guyana and French Guiana, Suriname is the only Amazonian country or territory not to have ratified Convention 169, a 1989 treaty from the International Labour Organization that legally recognizes Indigenous and tribal peoples' right to self-determination. 

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Such rights have not been recognized despite rulings in 2006, 2007, and 2015 by the Inter-American Human Rights Court against Suriname for violating the rights of Indigenous groups.

And as Indigenous activists in Suriname recently pointed out, even the United Nations continues to fail to be sensitive to the issue. 

On a trip to the country in July, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres celebrated Suriname's record of preserving its forests, calling the country an example for the rest of the world. 

Two associations of tribal and Indigenous leaders, VIDS and KAMPOS, sent a letter to Guterres and the U.N. reminding them that Suriname's environmental and human rights records have been far from the best and pleading for legislation to defend their rights. ...

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