Dialogue on land rights and biocultural heritages of indigenous people

Time: Monday, 28 May 2018, 1-3 pm
Venue: Kaisa-room (7062), Library of University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 30, Helsinki

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Speakers and commentators:

-Ms. Nonette Royo; Executive Director, The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility. Download the Tenure Facility presentation (pdf, 1.5 MB) here
-Mr. Tapani Oksanen; Chair of the Board, Rights and Resources Group. Download the RRI presentation (pdf, 1.2 MB) here
-Ms. Aili Pyhälä; Council Member, The ICCA Consortium & Lecturer, University of Helsinki, Development Studies. Download the ICCA Consortium presentation (pdf, 3.4 MB) here
-Ms. Tikli Loivaranta; Board Member, The Siemenpuu Foundation & Researcher, University of Turku. Download the Siemenpuu presentation (pdf, 1.4 MB) here
-Ms. Hanna Guttorm; Associate Professor, Sami University of Applied Sciences & Senior Researcher, University of Helsinki
-Ms. Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen; Assistant Professor, University of Helsinki, Indigenous Studies
-Mr. Vesa Kaarakka; Senior Forest Adviser, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland


One important source of inspiration in the search for solutions to the multi-faceted problems caused by industrial modernisation are the indigenous people who have a track record of ecologically sustainable livelihoods and ways of life. While the alienation of their lands and territories is increasing due to increased global and local pressures, also protective international agreements and national laws have been enacted.

During the past decades international and national laws have increasingly recognised the rights of indigenous communities to the land and territories they depend on. On international level such agreements include the Convention on Biological Diversity and the diverse human rights treaties' provisions presented also in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In line with these, a number of governments have enacted laws that articulate the rights and provide processes for their recognition on the ground. However, the implementation of such agreements and laws are far from satisfactory. Bureaucratic hurdles, outside economic interests and unfavourable power hierarchies are among the reasons why the land rights of indigenous people are yet to be fulfilled.

In this context efforts to advance land rights of the indigenous communities have increased and yielded important results. One of the strongest approaches in such efforts is the combined advancement of biological and cultural (or bio-cultural) rights.

The concept of biocultural rights addresses people's rights to live on land by such diversity of life which the land itself grows. To survive, the diversity of Earth's life must not be displaced by human life. Human life and culture needs thus to be adapted by their diversity to Earth's biodiversity and its regeneration. To sustain the diversity of its life, the land needs to be held and guarded by such practices and cultures which have adapted their life to the local regeneration of Earth's life.

The diversity of Earth's life has often survived better in the areas where the diversity of local or indigenous cultures as adapted to the regeneration of the local biodiversity has survived.  People's rights to such biocultural diversity are thus in crucial respects also the rights of Earth's life to survive in its diversity. Indigenous cultures which have adapted to live the life of the land for centuries or milleniums need to be secured rights to such tenure on land, forest and water, which sustain the local biodiversity.


The aim of the dialogue is to bring together people working on the recognition, respect and protection of the biocultural and land rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities with different roles and networks to share ideas and experiences. It is envisaged that the dialogue will promote information sharing about the powerful approach and urgent need in the realm of land rights.

Ms. Tikli Loivaranta will give examples on Siemenpuu's approach on supporting the indigenous and local communities to secure their biocultural land and forest tenure.

Ms. Aili Pyhälä will give examples on how the ICCA Consortium is responding to threats and opportunities by actively upholding ICCAs by promoting ICCA self-strengthening processes at local level and networking, peer-support and advocacy at national, sub-national and  international level.

Ms. Nonette Royo will debate what is needed in achieving the two outcomes:  1) The land and forest rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are made more secure by governments; and 2) Practical approaches for implementing land and forest tenure reforms are shared and leveraged by practitioners and stakeholders to enable greater support and investment in securing the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Mr. Tapani Oksanen will introduce the  Rights and Resources Initiative and it’s work on analyzing and reporting on global trends in forest tenure and land rights.

Commentators include views from Sami community, research and policy.

About the organisations involved

The Siemenpuu Foundation (officially Siemenpuu - Foundation for Social Movements’ Cooperation sr) is a Finnish foundation, founded in 1998 by 15 Finnish NGOs and foundations working on environment and development issues. It receives funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The Siemenpuu Foundation provides support to environmental and democracy initiatives done by civil society actors in the South and is a development communication actor in Finland. The projects supported by Siemenpuu are tackling poverty and inequality and reduce the loss of biological diversity and climate emissions. The projects are planned and implemented locally by NGOs in the South. Local organisations are also supported in their networking and capacity building. The Siemenpuu Foundation promotes recognising the root causes of complex environmental and social issues, higlighting causal relations, and acting upon the actual causes. The Foundation aims to long-term cooperation with its Southern partners and to increase interaction based on equality. At the same time, attempts are made to deepen substantial dialogue on environmental issues and NGO cooperation between the South and the North. See more about Siemenpuu's work on biocultural rights.    www.siemenpuu.org

The ICCA Consortium grew out of the movement promoting equity in conservation in the decades around the turn of the Millennium. A close association is often found between a specific indigenous people or local community and a specific territory, area, or body of natural resources. When such an association is combined with effective local governance and conservation of nature, we speak of an “ICCA”. ICCA sounds like an acronym, but it is not. It is an abbreviation for “territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities” or “territories of life”. The Consortium emerged from the close collaboration of like-minded individuals and organizations who started working together in the early 1990s and progressively strengthened their cooperation and engagement. Responding to mounting interest and concerns about ICCAs, several mutually-respected organisations representing indigenous peoples and local communities and their supporting NGOs then established the ‘ICCA Consortium’ at a gathering during the 4th World Conservation Congress in Barcelona (Spain) in October 2008. ICCA Consortium is an International Association registered in Switzerland. It is a membership-based civil society organisation supported by an international semi-volunteer Secretariat based in twenty-two countries. www.iccaconsortium.org

The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility is an international multi-stakeholder institution focused on securing land and forest rights for indigenous peoples and local communities. It provides grants to implement tenure rights under existing law and policy and shares the knowledge, innovations and tools that emerge. Launched in 2014 by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the Tenure Facility is dedicated to scaling up recognition of collective land and forest rights globally. This helps reduce conflict and further the achievement of global human rights, environment, and development goals. The Tenure Facility is an international foundation registered in Sweden. http://thetenurefacility.org/

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) is a global coalition supporting forest and land policy reform in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. RRI was founded in 2005 to address the insecure and unjust land rights of over two billion Indigenous Peoples and local communities living in the forests and drylands of developing countries. These insecure rights undermine global efforts to alleviate poverty, advance women’s rights and gender equity, and reduce illegal logging, conflict, and climate change. https://rightsandresources.org/