We, who live in territories of life and self-identify and mutually recognize4 as Indigenous Peoples5 and community6 custodians7,
We, who understand the many values of territories of life and are determined to support the Indigenous Peoples and community custodians,
Based on our shared sense of gratitude, affirmation, and pledge, and acting in peace and collaboration with our societies, we ally in solidarity17 towards the sustainable self-determination18 of all custodians of territories of life.
Organized as part of local, national, regional,and global networks, we will:
Pursue the resurgence, decolonization and self-strengthening of Indigenous Peoples and community custodians, and their mutual recognition among peers, based on renewed relations and collective responsibilities19 for territories of life;
Pursue the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the collective rights of community custodians to govern territories of life as their commons and necessary ground for the survival of their culture;20
Collectively govern, manage and care for territories of life as Indigenous Peoples and community custodians, including by restoring and regenerating them where ecosystems have been degraded or wildlife decimated, so that present and future generations secure their wellbeing in and as Nature;
Conserve territories of life, preventing their fragmentation, privatization, militarization, and commercialization, seeking them to be forever free from extractivism or any other ‘development’ undertaken without the custodians’ free, prior and informed consent;
Defend territories of life and their custodians and defenders, and resist unjust governance of Nature, unsustainable development, and perennial war within but also beyond territories of life – valuing frugality, wellbeing, the global commons, and peace everywhere;
Seek all dimensions of social, environmental and climate justice21 within and beyond territories of life.
(As of September 20, 2023)
Teodoro Brawner Baguilat Jr.
President (Executive Committee), Council, ICCA Consortium
Council of Elders of the ICCA Consortium
- Observatorio Ciudadano, Chile (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Indigenous Taiwan Self-Determination Alliance – ITWSDA (ICCA Consortium Member)
- SAVIA, Bolivia (ICCA Consortium Member)
- ALDEA, Ecuador (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Kalpavriksh, India (ICCA Consortium Member)
- U Yich Lu’um, Mexico (ICCA Consortium Member)
- KRAPAVIS, India (ICCA Consortium Member)
- CENESTA, Iran (ICCA Consortium Member)
- APCRM – Kawawana – Mangagoulak Rural Community Fishermen’s Association, Senegal (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Endorois Welfare Council, Kenya (ICCA Consortium Member)
- NCCAF – Nagaland Community Conservation Area Forum, India (ICCA Consortium Member)
- TNRF – Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, Tanzania (ICCA Consortium Member)
- CoopeSoliDar R.L, Costa Rica (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Biocultural Heritage Network, Mexico (ICCA Consortium Member)
- MEMOLab (Biocultural Archaeology Laboratory), Spain (ICCA Consortium Member)
- MBLA – Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association, Morocco (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Strong Roots, DRC (ICCA Consortium Member)
- BED – Brod Ecological Society, Croatia (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Natural Justice, South Africa (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Center for Social Development and Sustainability, Nuiwari, A.C., Mexico (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Confederacion Indigena Tayrona, Colombia (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Action pour le Développement Durable ACDD, Cameroon (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Talents des Femmes Autochtones et Rurales, DRC (ICCA Consortium Member)
- ANAPAC, DRC (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme NTFP-EP (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Centre Régional de Recherche et d’Education pour un Développement Intégré (CREDI-ONG), Benin (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Asociación Indígena Mapu Lahual de Butahuillimapu, Chile (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets, Armenia (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Fundación para el desarrollo de la cultura indígena Los pasos del jaguar, El Salvador (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Congreso indigenas Maje Embera Drua, Panama (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Centro de Estudios Médicos Interculturales CEMI, Colombia (ICCA Consortium Member)
- Centro de Asistencia Legal a Pueblos Indigenas CALPI, Nicaragua
- ILC Asia Platform on Ecosystem Restoration
- Red Patrimonio Biocultural de México, Mexico, ICCA Consortium Member
- FIDEPE, Cameroon, ICCA Consortium Member
- Aborigine Forum, Russia
- Jeff Ganohalidoh Corntassel (Cherokee Nation), Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Sutej Hugu (Siraya People), Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Lorena Arce, Chile, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Paola Maldonado Tobar, Ecuador, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Carmen Miranda, Bolivia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Delfin Ganapin, The Philippines, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Joseph Itongwa Mukumo (Walikale People), Democratic Republic of Congo, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Aman Singh, India, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Antonino Morabito, Italy, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Vololoniaina Rasoarimanana, Madagascar, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Victor Boton, Benin, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Patricia Mupeta Muyamwa, Zambia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Janis Alcorn, USA, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Alessandra Pellegrini, Australia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Christian Chatelain, France, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Faisal Moola, Canada, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Emmanuel Sulle, Tanzania, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Michel Forst, France, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Mrinalini Rai, India, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Barbara Ehringhaus, Germany, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Tim Salomon, The Philippines, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Rosemary Hill, Australia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Shruti Ajit, India, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Jenny Springer, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Marco Bassi, Italy, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Dominique Bikaba, DRC, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- João Gama Amaralare, Portugal, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Md Kutub Uddin (Mohammad Arju), Bangladesh, Communications Coordinator, ICCA Consortium
- Emmanuel Ole Kileli, Tanzania, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Ykhanbai Hijaba, Mongolia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Jerome Lewis, United Kingdom, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Marta Villa, Italy, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Federico Bigaran, Italy, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Ali Razmkhah, Iran, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Maria Luisa Acosta, Nicaragua, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Carolina Amaya Pedraza, Colombia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Niyomugabo Ildephonse, Representative of Hope for Community Development Organization (HCDO), Rwanda
- S Faizi, India, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Jasmin Upton, UNEP-WCMC, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Vanessa Linforth, UK, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Kawika Winter, United States, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Stan Stevens, United States, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Zakaria Faustin, Zambia, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Benjamin Ortiz, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Simon Catar, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Alessandro Mancuso, Italy, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
- Fenosoa Andriamahenina, Madagascar, Honorary member of the ICCA Consortium
Thank you in advance for your active engagement with this important process.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Explanatory notes to the Manifesto for territories of life
- The need for a ‘Manifesto for territories of life’ was established by ICCA Consortium in January 2019. Since then, specific exchanges took place during Consortium’s meetings and global, regional and national assemblies, and a number of relevant declarations were produced. Drawing from those, as well as from reports, publications and e-mail discussions among Members and Honorary members since 2008, a specific Manifesto-focused exercise was carried out among the Members and Honorary members of the Consortium in 2022. The exercise lasted a few months, and its results were gathered by the Secretariat. Based on all this, and grounded in the Consortium’s existing mission and vision, a first draft of this Manifesto was compiled by the Council of Elders in April 2023. The draft was promptly reviewed and commented by members of the Council and Secretariat, and further drafts were compiled and sent for comments to the ICCA Consortium’s entire membership. The current version integrates the rich comments received in writing as well as during online discussions. The Manifesto has three parts. Part 1 is not a preamble but a call to gratefulness and unity, something that we have shared at the beginning of most ICCA Consortium gatherings in diverse continents. This is followed by a needed specification that the Manifesto results from the solidarity alliance among two different groups of people: 1) Indigenous Peoples and community custodians and 2) their supporters. Part 2 is an affirmation and pledge to continue to sustain the many values of territories of life and the diversity of cultures that nourished them. It also describes some current issues and predicaments, listed under ‘raising awareness, organization and action’, which sketch the context that gave impetus to develop the Manifesto. Part 3 starts by naming the overall objective and vision of the organizations and individuals that will sign up to the Manifesto. This is followed by a commitment to act. It is sort of implicit that the ‘ICCA Consortium’ may change name and become a (global? multi-level? solidarity?) alliance for territories of life. Clearly, this Manifesto is not for all Indigenous Peoples and local communities but only for those who self-identify and mutually recognize as custodians of territories of life and seek a level of self-determination as appropriate in their circumstances.
- The term ‘territories of life’ is not in caps and we propose NOT to abbreviate it as “ToL” to stress that the term is not a label but a lingua franca term to describe a major phenomenon that is widespread and diverse. ‘Territory of life’ and ‘custodians’ are interdependent concepts, i.e., a territory of life is a territory that nourishes a custodian Indigenous People or community, and a custodian Indigenous People or community cares for a territory of life. We also say that custodians include the “…the mobile and settled human communities who bonded with the forests, grasslands, mountains, plains, islands, lakes, deserts, wetlands, rivers and marine environments that, in turn, have kept nourishing over millennia their livelihoods, identities, and capacity to care”. But we do not offer definitions. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that many signatories of the Manifesto have their own names for their territories of life and a sense of the concept that is richer and broader than any definition. The second is that some openness and
a sliver of ambiguity leave the concepts space to breathe and grow; they do not nail down a diversity of views, allowing them to evolve dynamically and at their own pace. That said, the Members of the Consortium have often spoken about three defining characteristics for territories of life: 1) a close and deep connection between a territory and its custodian Indigenous People or community; 2) the custodian is capable of developing and enforcing rules about the territory (has a well-functioning governance institution); and 3) the rules and efforts of the custodian positively contribute to the conservation of nature and community livelihoods and wellbeing. These characteristics vary across diverse contexts and regions. Some custodians use the terms ‘defined territories of life’ when the three characteristics are fully satisfied and ‘disrupted territories of life’ for those that satisfied them in the past but do not today because of historical changes and disturbances that can still be reversed or counteracted. The term ‘desired territories of life’ is
sometimes used by those that have not yet satisfied the three characteristics, but could develop them today as some communities are ready to act as custodians.
- As a ‘living document’, this Manifesto will be regularly reaffirmed (e.g., in the occasion of the ICCA Consortium’s General Assemblies) and enriched as required. Its signatories recognize the importance of a dynamic Manifesto in the current context of accelerating change imposed upon Nature and people. Yet, as they seek constant learning and sharing, the signatories also recognize and stress the urgent need to ally — among Indigenous Peoples custodians, community custodians, and organizations and individuals determined to support them — to transform the vision of the Manifesto into action as soon as possible.
- We say ‘self-identify and mutually recognize’ as opposed to ‘being recognized by the State’. ‘Self-identify’ recalls the self-identification of Indigenous Peoples included in ILO Convention 169 of 1989 and is assertive of self-determination and self-strengthening. ‘Mutual recognition’ refers to mutual acceptance and respect among peers — i.e., among the Indigenous Peoples and communities who self-identify as custodians. This key aspect of solidarity and support is essential to sustaining self-determination.
- Many Indigenous Peoples have historical continuity with the pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, and consider themselves distinct from the societies now prevailing on those territories. In this sense the term Indigenous is eminently political and takes its full meaning against the historical background of colonial, neo-colonial, and post-colonial States, engaging issues of justice and solidarity. The 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) includes as guiding characteristics: self-identification as Indigenous Nations and/or Peoples; a shared history of suffering injustices, colonization and land dispossession; a web of place-based relationships; language, traditional practices, knowledge and legal and cultural institutions distinct from those dominant in the nation-state where they reside; and knowledge, culture and practices that contribute to sustainable governance and management of human relationships with the natural world and beyond. The concept of ‘Indigenous Peoples’ is extremely rich and should neither be used in simplistic ways nor flatten the particular histories and cultural diversities of peoples.
- We understand as ‘communities’ those who ‘self-recognize as such’ and often – as in the case of Afro-Colombian or quilombola communities in South America or montane communities in Europe – have a long association with the territories they have traditionally used or lived on. A working definition of ‘community’ may be ‘a self-recognized
human group that acts collectively in ways that contribute to defining a territory and culture through time’. A local community can be long-standing (‘traditional’) or relatively new, can include a single ethnic identity or multiple ones, and it usually ensures its own continuity by natural reproduction and care for its members and its life environment.
Communities can be permanently settled or mobile. The members of a community usually have frequent opportunities for direct (possibly face-to-face) encounters and possess shared social and cultural elements such as a common history, traditions, language, values, life plans and/or a sense of identity that bind them together and distinguish them
from others in society. Importantly, a community custodian of a territory of life possesses or is actively developing a governance institution with the capacity to establish and enforce rules for territorial access and use. The conditions of custodianship may be historically complex, as when communities were forcefully moved from their original territories. While community custodians are more easily found in ‘rural’ environments, ‘urban’ communities may also self-identify as custodians (Ashish Kothari, communication to the Consortium’s Manifesto drafting team, June 2023).
- All terms included in the Manifesto — and particularly the term ‘custodians’ — require language-tailored translation as the literal translation may convey little of the desired meaning. In French, for instance, the literal translation of custodians is ‘gardiens’, a term often perceived with a colonial connotation, i.e., not conveying an active relationship of
governing and caring for but the simpler meaning of ‘managing on behalf of the owner’. We have chosen to translate it as ‘protecteurs’, which is still a compromise but may be better than ‘gardiens’. In other Latin languages (e.g., Spanish, Italian) the term describes fairly well the idea of receiving a territory from the ancestors and maintaining it for future generations. For some, however, it still evokes the idea of mere ‘keepers’ rather than ‘decision-makers’. In many other languages (e.g., Dutch) it is truly hard to properly translate the term. The Consortium is actively seeking a grassroots term in any language that would richly and exhaustively describe the unique bonds that connect a community to its territory of life, hoping to adopt that in due time as a lingua franca term for all its Members.
- We capitalize ‘Nature’ following an explicit request from the May 2023 regional meeting of the Council members and regional coordinators of the ICCA Consortium in Africa.
- The concept of ‘living well’ (buen vivir) has recently emerged strongly in Latin America. The subject of buen vivir is not the individual but an entire community, in harmony within its environment [see: Gudynas E., & A. Acosta, 2011. “La renovación de la crítica al desarrollo y el buen vivir como alternativa”, Utopía y Praxis Latinoamerica, 16 (53): 71-83].
- By ‘fanatic nativism’ we mean ‘racism based on place of birth’, the idea that only the people born locally should be fully treated as humans. This is today most pertinent for Europe and North America, but not only there, as the risk of intolerance, brutality, and violence towards ‘the others’ is a danger pertaining to all movements based on ‘territory’.
The signatories of the Manifesto are aware of this danger. They value the common humanity of all and reject intolerant behaviour even as they defend their territories of life.
- The concept of ‘moral economy’ was developed in Brazil by the Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra to describe local economies where many more values than monetary are practically in use. Only moral economies may have a chance to prevent the degradation of Nature and support social equity.
- From the Greek autos (self) and nomos (rules), ‘autonomy’ means being able to provides the rules of the community — a clear political meaning. The term also implies a level of independence in assuring the conditions and necessities for life — a clear economic meaning. For some, only a level of autonomy at an appropriate socio-ecological scale means freedom from the industrial system and its accompanying socio-ecological disasters. In this sense, as mass production and distribution and total dependence on salaried work necessarily imply the political and economic control by the few over the many, only territories of life with a level of autonomy at local or regional scale offer a chance for convivial governance by the custodians themselves [see: Berlain A., 2021. Terre et Liberté. La Lenteur Ed., Saint Michel de Vax].
- See: Human Rights Council Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2023. Impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, A/HRC/EMRIP/2023/2.
- ‘Extractivism’ describes as economic model centred on the removal of large quantities of raw or natural materials, particularly for export, with minimal local processing, little or no control by the communities at the sites of extraction, and little or no benefit accruing to them.
- The traditional livelihoods of custodians, such as shifting cultivation and mobile pastoralism, have often been misunderstood, criminalized and shamelessly swept aside. Their rehabilitation as sustainable and diversity-supporting livelihoods has barely started.
- An example of ‘conserved area’ self-defined, established, governed and managed by its custodian Indigenous People is the Selva Viviente Kawsak Sacha of the Sarayaku People of Ecuador (kawsaksacha.org).
- As the ICCA Consortium has been a strategic association, the Manifesto is principally a strategic document. It does not wish to conflate in any way the diverse realities and perspectives of the myriads of Indigenous Peoples and communities that may self-identify and be recognized by their peers as ‘custodians’ of territories of life. Rather, it calls
for their alliance in pursuit of the perpetuation of their heritage, cultures and territories in self-determined ways, i.e., in ways they deem most appropriate for them and their circumstances.
Self-determination is the crucial aim of the signatories of the Manifesto, and it is a rich and challenging concept that takes different meanings and involves different processes and results for different concerned Indigenous Peoples and communities. Some focus on maintaining their culture (language, values, institutions, traditions, ceremonies, ways
of living…). Others seek some form of autonomous governance over land and the material basis for livelihoods. Still others aim at a separate deliberative body that may secure a level of political autonomy. For many Indigenous Peoples and communities, self-determination includes diverse and specific combinations of the three, as they seek to secure survival for their natural and cultural, material and immaterial heritage. Only for a small minority who explicitly say so, self-determination implies political independence from the nation-state. Self-determination is fully embraced by the United Nations (Article 1 of the UN Charter of 1945 calls for “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples…”. Later, Article 1 of both the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 state that “All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.”). The International Court of Justice recognized the right of self-determination as “…one of the essential principles of contemporary international law” and described as “irreproachable” the assertion that the right of peoples to self-determination has an erga omnes character (see the case of East Timor ICJ Reports 1995, p. 90, at para. 29: www.icj-cij.org/case/84). Self-determination is also recognized in international law as a right of process, which is proper to peoples (not to nation-states or governments). Thus, the right to self-determination is an erga omnes ‘hard’ right, although a right to process, not to outcome, and a wide range of possible outcomes
depends on the situation, needs, interests and conditions of the concerned parties (see references here: unpo.org/article/4957). Self-determination is explicitly at the core of the UNDRIP and implicit in the demands of many non-Indigenous custodian communities in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. Respecting self-determination means diverse outcomes in diverse circumstances, from ensuring the will of an Indigenous People to remain in voluntary isolation to respecting the right to free, prior and informed consent, from recognizing a desired level of internal regulatory jurisdiction to full cultural and economic independence (e.g., language rights, autonomous food security, autonomous regional government) — all impeding assimilation de facto. Self-determination also means maintaining the capacity to define ‘self-determination’ in any changing context. Some peoples engaged in struggles for self-determination are members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. Others focus on limited territorial governance and seek both collective rights and responsibilities as part of specific global, national and local alliances. While self-determination is included in the mission of the ICCA Consortium, this Manifesto highlights the concept as the key self-defined objective and vision of custodians of territories of life.
- We interpret ‘responsibilities’ as: 1) responsibilities towards one another within the specific Indigenous People or community custodian as well as towards the past and future generations, and 2) responsibilities towards Nature. The term is not used to mean ‘responsibilities towards the nation-state’ or to express a condition to obtain collective rights. Following Indigenous thinkers and leaders, we believe that responsibility for the land is a privilege rather than a condition for something else, and it is the essence of true indigeneity. This implies that self-identification as custodians and mutual recognition by peers need to come first and are more important than recognition by the nation-state, including when this comes with a lubrication of money. According to Cherokee scholar and activist Jeff Corntassel, the transmission of Indigenous and local knowledge to future generations and the generation of new forms of community knowledge in the daily relations of livelihoods are necessary for sustainable self-determination to flourish. Relational responsibilities, rooted in place and kinship and often contained or expressed through customs and norms, rather than codified in legal statutes and/or court decisions, are characteristic of mature communities who both command respect for their rights and fulfil their responsibilities. The concept of ‘responsibilities’ rebalances attention towards the local, the community, the reality of the lives and identity of Indigenous Peoples and communities rather than towards national and international fora, which are not part of the history, institutions or culture of many such peoples and communities. [Corntassel J., 2012. ‘Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination’ in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1 (1): 86-101; Corntassel J. and T. Hardbarger, 2019. “Educate to perpetuate: land-based pedagogies and community resurgence”, International Review of Education 65: 87–116.]
- Some local communities do have collective rights that are similar or equivalent to some (not all) of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. If a local community has a distinct culture that is so connected to a particular place that its members’ ability to continue to enjoy and perpetuate their culture depends on protecting its relationship with that place, some human rights tribunals and other bodies have held that States cannot take actions that would adversely impact that relationship without the free, prior, and informed consent of the community. The leading case is Saramaka People v Suriname, decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2007 (John Knox, communication to the Consortium’s Manifesto drafting team, June 2023). The cultural connection is not an easy standard to meet, but many communities do meet it and deserve full protection of their human rights to their ancestral territory (Ali Razmkhah, communication to the Consortium’s Manifesto drafting team, June 2023).
Social justice, environmental justice and climate justice have to do with governance in society and can be broadly characterized as comprising three interrelated dimensions: 1) distribution (e.g., fair sharing of wealth and opportunities, fair access to essential needs like food, shelter, medical care and education, fair sharing of the costs and benefits of ‘development’, including environmental degradation, health risks and climate change); 2) procedures (e.g., decision-making and enforcing processes that are fair, informed, non-discriminatory and respect the dignity and human rights of all); and 3) recognition (e.g., awareness and appreciation of the identity, values, knowledge systems and institutions of all legitimate actors). Even more than conventional social and environmental justice, climate justice powerfully introduces the need to include in decision-making the consideration of future generations.
Images and illustration from Territories of Life: 2021 Report. Icons from flaticon.com by Eucalyp and Freepik.
Design by Ines Hirata.