In September 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted, a fundamental text for the protection of indigenous rights in the international framework. In 2017 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Declaration's entry into force. However, there are many difficulties and challenges that have arisen in recent years in relation to the protection of indigenous rights and the survival of their ways of life as a collective or as individuals.
On the occasion of the important regulatory progress made in the human rights field and the emergence of new conflicts, and as part of the Training Programme in Human Rights for Latin American Indigenous Leaders, the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute held a roundtable discussion on 9 May entitled “"Avances y dificultades en la protección de los pueblos indígenas. Una mirada desde los derechos humanos". It was attended by Lola García Alix (coordinator of the IWGIA Global Governance Team (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs; an expert in the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms and procedures in monitoring the rights of indigenous peoples, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the United Nations Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; a researcher at the Institute of Cultural Sociology in Copenhagen), and Patricia Borraz (adviser to the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples; a specialist in the rights of indigenous peoples and responsible for ALMÁCIGA ‘s International Participation area. She is also responsible for supporting the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives in multilateral negotiations and mechanisms at the international level through training and empowerment) .
The roundtable discussion focused on the general crisis experienced by the UN Human Rights system that shapes human rights discourse, and on how this affects indigenous peoples’ rights. In this regard, a detailed account was made of what this situation of general rights crisis involves, based on an analysis of the mechanisms for the protection of indigenous rights, with a special emphasis on what the main conflicts of indigenous rights are today. The discussion focused on two key elements to understand this situation of generalised crisis: the mild and negotiating nature of the rights between States; the responses given to migration policies by States as well as environmental issues. It was also argued that violence on the territory and extractivist policies are a fundamental cause of violations of indigenous rights.
The discussion moved on to the analysis of these conflicts by country and geopolitical region, with special emphasis on the difficulties in indigenous rights experienced in Latin America. The idea of the "implementation gap" was recovered, that is, the rapid and prodigious development and evolution of indigenous rights in international human rights law, together with the difficulties to actually apply them in practice. The importance of continuing struggling to attain indigenous rights was also pointed out.