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Strategic Litigation Impacts: Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights

By: Open Society Justice Initiative

The world is increasingly encroaching on indigenous peoples’ traditional lands. Around the globe, indigenous communities are forced to cede ground to state development, corporate land grabs, rising sea levels, environmental degradation, and population growth. The right to land provides the basis for access to food, housing, and development. But for indigenous peoples, traditional lands are more than this; they represent essential ties to their ancestors, their culture, and their languages. Losing their land means losing their way of life.

This report is the third in a planned five-volume series looking at the impacts of strategic litigation. Strategic litigation is of keen interest to the Open Society Foundations (OSF), which both supports strategic litigation and engages in it directly—and thus has an interest in gaining an unbiased view of its promises and limitations. Strategic litigation can be a powerful engine of social change. Yet it can also be costly, time-consuming, and risky. Studying its strengths, weaknesses, unintended consequences, and the conditions under which it flourishes or flounders may yield lessons that enhance its potential and improve future social change efforts