International Alliance Charter
Penang, Malaysia, 15 Feb 1992)
Nairobi, Kenya, 22 Nov 2002)
We, the indigenous and tribal peoples of the tropical-forests,
present this charter as a response to hundreds of years of
continual encroachment and colonisation of our territories and the
undermining of our lives, livelihoods and cultures caused by the
destruction of the forests that our survival depends on.
We declare that we are the original peoples, the rightful owners
and the cultures that defend the tropical forests of the world.
Our territories and forests are to us more than an economic
resource. For us, they are life itself and have an integral and
spiritual value for our communities. They are fundamental to our
social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political survival as
The unity of people and territory is vital and must be recognised.
All policies towards the forests must be based on mutual
understanding and respect for cultural diversity and gender
perspectives, for a promotion of indigenous ways of life, and an
understanding that our peoples have developed ways of life closely
attuned to our environment.
THEREFORE WE DECLARE THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES, GOALS AND
RESPECT FOR OUR RIGHTS
Respect for our human, political, social, economic and cultural
rights, respect for our right to self-determination, and to pursue
our own ways of life.
Respect for our autonomous forms of self-government, as
differentiated political systems at the community, regional and
other levels. This includes our right to control all economic
activities in our territories.
Respect for our customary laws and that they be recognized by
national and international law, as equally valid systems of law
Where the peoples so demand, nation states must comply with the
different treaties, agreements, covenants, awards and other forms
of legal recognition that have been signed with us indigenous
peoples in the past, both in the colonial period and since
independence, regarding our rights.
An end to violence, slavery, debt-peonage and land grabbing; the
disbanding of all private armies and militias and their
replacement by the rule of law and social justice; the means to
use the law in our own defence, including the training of our
people in the law.
The approval and application of the UN Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples (1993 version), which affirms and guarantees
our right to self-determination, and the ratification of ILO
Convention 169, which guides States in the application of some of
The setting up of effective international mechanisms and a
tribunal to protect us against the violation of our rights and
guarantee the application of the principles set out in this
There can be no sustainable development of the forests and of our
peoples until our fundamental rights as peoples are respected.
Secure control of our territories, by which we mean a whole living
system of continuous and vital connection between man and nature;
expressed as our right to the unity and continuity of our
ancestral domains; including the parts that have been usurped,
those being reclaimed and those that we use; the soil, subsoil,
air and water required for our self-reliance, cultural development
and future generations.
The recognition, definition and demarcation of our territories in
accordance with our local and customary systems of ownership and
The form of land tenure will be decided by the people themselves,
and the territory should be held communally, unless the people
The right to permanent sovereignty over the use and ownership of
the territories which we occupy. Such territories should be
inalienable, unleasable, unmortgageable and untransferable.
The right to demarcate our territories ourselves and that these
areas be officially recognised and documented.
LAND RIGHTS FOR OUR NEIGHBOURS
Legalise the ownership of lands used by non-indigenous peoples who
live within and on the forests' margins in the areas that are
available once title has been guaranteed to the indigenous
Land reforms and changes in land tenure to secure the livelihoods
of those who live outside the forests and indigenous territories,
because we recognise that landlessness outside the forests puts
heavy pressure on our territories and forests.
Control of our territories and the resources that we depend on:
all development in our areas should only go ahead with the free,
prior and informed consent of the indigenous people involved or
affected. We insist on recognition of our right to veto any
developments proposed on our lands without our consent.
Recognition of the legal entity of our indigenous institutions and
organisations, that defend our rights, and through them the right
to collectively negotiate our future.
The right to our own forms of social organisation; the right to
elect and revoke the authorities and government functionaries who
oversee the territorial areas within our jurisdiction.
Our policy of development is based, first, on guaranteeing our
self-sufficiency, material welfare, cosmo-visions and spirituality,
as well as that of our neighbours; a full social and cultural
development based on the values of equity, justice, solidarity and
reciprocity, and a balance with nature. Thereafter, the generation
of a surplus for the market must come from a rational and creative
use of natural resources developing our own traditional
technologies and selecting appropriate new ones.
Our right to self-development and to redirect the development
process away from large-scale projects towards the promotion of
small-scale initiatives controlled by our peoples. The priority
for such initiatives is to secure our control over our territories
and resources on which our survival depends. Such projects should
be the cornerstone of all future development in the forests.
The right of our peoples to be broadly informed, consulted and,
above all, to participate in the making of decisions on
legislation or policies: and in the formulation, implementation or
evaluation of any development project, be it at local, national or
international levels, whether private or of the state, that may
affect our futures directly or indirectly.
All major development initiatives should be preceded by social,
cultural, health and environmental impact assessments, carried out
with the full participation of local communities and indigenous
peoples. All such studies and projects should be open to public
scrutiny and debate by the indigenous peoples affected.
National or international agencies considering funding development
projects which may affect us, must set up tripartite commissions -
including the funding agency, government representatives and our
own communities as represented through our representative
organisations - to carry through the planning, implementation,
monitoring and evaluation of the projects. In all such
negotiations, the right to involve technical advisers and
professionals of our choice.
The cancellation of all mining concessions in our territories
imposed without the consent of our indigenous organisations.
Mining policies must prioritise, and be carried out under, our
control, to guarantee rational management and a balance with the
environment. All mining on our lands should be subject to our free,
prior and informed consent and should be carried out subject to
freely agreed, openly negotiated, legally binding contracts
assented to by our own indigenous institutions, communities and
An end to imposed development schemes and fiscal incentives or
subsidies that threaten the integrity of our lives, forests and
A halt to all imposed resettlement programmes.
The problems caused in our territories by international criminal
syndicates trafficking in products from plants like poppy and coca
must he confronted by effective policies which involve our peoples
Promotion of the health systems of the indigenous peoples,
including the revalidation of indigenous medicine and health care,
and the promotion of programmes of modern medicine, with measures
to ensure our free and equal access to them. Such programmes
should allow us to have control over them, providing suitable
training to allow us to manage them ourselves.
Establishment of systems of bilingual and intercultural education.
These must revalidate our beliefs, religious traditions, customs,
and knowledge; allowing our control over these programmes, by the
provision of suitable training, in accordance with our cultures;
in order to achieve technical and scientific advances for our
peoples, in tune with our own cosmo-visions, and as a contribution
to the world community.
Promotion of alternative financial policies that permit us to
develop our community economies and develop mechanisms to
establish fair prices for our products.
Halt all new logging concessions and suspend existing ones, that
affect our territories. The destruction of forests must be
considered a crime against humanity and a halt must be made to the
various anti-social consequences, such as roads across indigenous
cultivations, cemeteries and hunting zones; the destruction of
areas used for medicinal plants and crafts; the erosion and
compression of soil; the pollution of our environment; the
corruption and enclave economy generated by the industry; the
increase of invasions and settlement in our territories.
Logging concessions on lands adjacent to our territories, or which
have an impact on our environment, must comply with operating
conditions - ecological, social, of labour, transport, health and
others - laid down by the indigenous peoples, who should
participate in ensuring that these are complied with. Commercial
timber extraction should be prohibited in strategic and seriously
The protection of existing natural forests should take priority
Reforestation programmes in indigenous peoplesí territories must
be subject to our free, prior and informed consent and should be
prioritised on degraded lands, giving priority to the regeneration
of native forests, including the recovery of all the functions of
tropical forests, and not being restricted only to timber values.
Reforestation programmes on our territories should be developed
under the control of our communities. We should select species in
accordance with our needs.
BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION
Programmes related to biodiversity must respect the collective
rights of our peoples to cultural and intellectual property,
genetic resources, gene banks, biotechnology and knowledge of
biological diversity; this should include our participation in the
management of any such project in our territories, as well as
control of any benefits that derive from them.
Conservation programmes must respect our rights to the use and
ownership of the territories and resources we depend on. No
programmes to conserve biodiversity should be promoted on our
territories without our free, prior and informed consent as
expressed through our indigenous organisations.
The best guarantee of the conservation of biodiversity is that
those who promote it should uphold our rights to the use,
administration, management and control of our territories. We
assert that guardianship of the different ecosystems should be
entrusted to us, indigenous peoples, given that we have inhabited
them for thousands of years and our very survival depends on them.
Environmental policies and legislation should recognise indigenous
territories and systems of natural resource management as
effective 'protected areas', and give priority to their legal
establishment as indigenous territories.
Since we highly value our technologies and believe that our
biotechnologies can make important contributions to humanity,
including 'developed' countries, we demand guaranteed rights to
our collective intellectual property in both national and
international law, and control over the development and
manipulation of this knowledge.
All investigations in our territories should be carried out with
our free, prior and informed consent and under joint control and
guidance according to mutual agreement; including the provision
for training, publication and support for indigenous institutions
necessary to achieve such control.
The international community, particularly the United Nations, must
recognise us indigenous peoples as peoples, as distinct from other
organised social movements, non-governmental organisations and
independent sectors, and respect for our right to participate
directly and on the basis of equality, as indigenous peoples, in
all fora, mechanisms, processes and funding bodies so as to
promote and safeguard the future of the tropical forests.
The development of programmes to educate the general public about
our rights as indigenous peoples and about the principles, goals
and demands in this charter. For this we call on the international
community for the necessary recognition and support.
We indigenous peoples will use this charter as a basis for
promoting our own local strategies for our actions.