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Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Land: The Threat of Land Grabbing

By: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)

This brief overview by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) profiles indigenous peoples’ heightened vulnerability to land-grabbing. The practice of land-grabbing consists of the large-scale acquisition of land for commercial or industrial purposes, such as agribusiness or logging and mining concessions, by domestic and/or foreign investors, often with minimal regard for resident communities or environmental sustainability. This report articulates how failure to acknowledge indigenous land rights in national legal regimes can facilitate land-grabbing. If indigenous lands are categorized as “empty”, “unoccupied” or “unproductive” there is a much greater risk that they will be made available to foreign investors. The report highlights international instruments such as the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that explicitly protect indigenous rights to land and to sustainable environments. IWGIA urges states to align national legislation with these international instruments and provide the necessary means for indigenous communities to assert their land rights.

Keywords: Indigenous rights, Land grabbing, ILO Convention No. 169, UNDRIP.