ROC: National legislation on the rights of indigenous peoples: participation, capacity-building and rights

Excerpt: "...In 2004 OCDH (supported by the Rainforest Foundation) published a report which illustrated the extent to which indigenous peoples’ rights were being abused. The Ministry of Justice then drafted an outline law to protect ‘pygmy’ peoples’ rights, and invited contributions and comments from civil society organisations. The Rainforest Foundation, welcoming this positive initiative on the part of the government, secured funding from the British government, Department for International Development (DFID), to support civil society to make an informed contribution to this law and to do lobbying and advocacy work to ensure that the law is passed...The Congolese groups, working in collaboration with staff from the Ministry of Justice, have now produced their analysis of the national context and their recommendations for a future law protecting the rights of indigenous peoples in the Republic of Congo. This involved four months of desk studies, training, and preparation, followed by six months of field work and analysis, culminating in a week-long workshop held in May 2006. In this meeting the field work and the desk studies were brought together and 60 recommendations concerning the law were developed... During the field work, research teams, trained in participatory research methods by the Rainforest Foundation, discussed and analysed issues around equality, citizenship, self governance, cultural integrity, land and natural resources and social and economic rights with indigenous communities in all the major regions of Congo. The results enabled an analysis of the extent to which the national legal context affords adequate protection for indigenous peoples in Congo. This analysis along with civil society’s recommendations for a future law, is presented in ‘Les Droits des Peuples Autochtones en République du Congo: analyse du contexte nationale et recommandations’. This report and recommendations have been presented to the Ministry of Justice...The Rainforest Foundation has also worked with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Programme of the University of Arizona to complete an analysis of the international legal context. This paper sets out clearly the commitments in the conventions and treaties that Congo has signed, and the accepted international norms concerning indigenous peoples’ rights...The Ministry of Justice has now re-drafted the proposed law working from the recommendations of their workshops, and the detailed recommendations from civil society. This draft will be discussed and if necessary amended at a further workshop, for all key partners, to be held at the end of July 2006...The Rainforest Foundation and OCDH believe that following the re-drafting of the law, it is critical that the peoples concerned are consulted about its contents before it is submitted to the Council of Ministers. Indigenous peoples in Congo need an appropriate mechanism through which they can provide input on the proposed law, and through which the proposed law can be amended before being presented to government. The right to consultation is a fundamental principle of Convention 169 of the ILO, the most widely recognised international standard for indigenous rights. Following good consultation with indigenous peoples, the focus of the project will be on working with ministers and MP's to ensure that the law is passed by the government..."

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