CEJUDHCAN is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that provides educational programs, legal support, and practical assistance to indigenous peoples and afro-descendant communities on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.
We assist these communities with the actualization of their established communal rights, specifically self-determination and autonomous governance over communal lands.
Our support is focused on the process of demarcation and titling of communal lands and indigenous territories, as a contribution to the main demand of leaders and inhabitants.
Our programs have strengthened the capacities of the community leadership in understanding and adoption of the legal framework that supports the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent in order to allow them to better petition public institutions and other social actors.
Currently the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) and a consortium of organizations of the civil society, at the request of twenty three Indigenous Territorial Governments and people of African descent, provided a forum for dialog between the indigenous leaders and regional authorities; achieving the approval and validation of a territorial sanitation (law surety) procedure agreed to with the different actors.
Additional to this key achievement for CEJUDHCAN, there is another of equal importance, to promote changes in the circumstance of indigenous women within their homes, communities and territories.
Given the work performed by CEJUDHCAN, indigenous women have begun to undertake decision-making positions in the communal spaces and territorial government. They have a stake in the decision-making process and have shown ability to promote issues of importance to their communities, impacting on organizations, institutions and the authorities, in order to obtain benefits for their community.
CEJUDHCAN has facilitated this process through complementary actions such as:
· Providing training to women, especially young women, in how to overcome conditions of inequality in their community and family
· Awareness of communal and territorial authorities as to the importance of including women in decision-making bodies
· Professional guidance in developing home gardens as a strategy to reduce intrafamiliar violence and a vehicle for women's economic independence.
· Spreading knowledge of general economic independence techniques for individuals and communities
· Providing information about communal land rights and strategies for defense
· Facilitated workshops on the value of leadership in all aspects of community life
· Distributed workbooks and information pamphlets on communal land rights and demarcation
· Trainings on human / communal rights assertion in defense of indigenous territory
CEJUDHCAN has facilitated activities of incidence on change in public policy for the defense of the collective human rights of indigenous peoples and people of African descent on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Among the most important initiatives that CEJUDHCAN has promoted are the following:
· Led a regional (on the Caribbean Coast) and national campaign to denounce the presence of national and international private sector companies that have demonstrated bad practices in the exploitation of natural resources.
· (II) Prepared the organization and operation of a space for the coordination of the civil society to monitor the compliance of the legislation on the collective rights of indigenous peoples in the Observance of the Autonomy. The purpose of this effort is having an impact on public institutions to expedite the process of sanitation (law surety) of indigenous territories.
CEJUDHCAN directs its programmatic actions to a diverse target groups among which are: 124 communal governments, 9 territorial governments (integrated by 124 communities), among the challenges we face are:
· To advance in full compliance with the laws that favor the collective right, especially the territorial rights, the forms of indigenous governance and management of their natural resources for the benefit of the communities and their residents.
· Complete the sanitation (law surety) phase with which it is closing the titling process. This is a complex but necessary faze, in view of the amount of natural persons (unlawful tenant) present in the territories and, in most cases, their lack of recognition of indigenous and afro-descendants authorities and the rights of these communities.
· It is necessary to support the formulation of national and regional public policies that strengthen and support the territorial self-management. One of the biggest fears of some communities is that, despite having legal titles, they would have little chance to exercise their rights of possession and use in order to effectively manage their territories and its resources. These communities have pointed to the need for state policies that support the undertaking of programs of co-management of protected areas, the transparency in the transfer of income, implementing phase of sanitation (law surety) and financial support for the territories and their communities to develop sustainable programs. Among others, in this context, it should strengthen the skills and local knowledge to negotiate work areas for each authority and handle the tensions inherent in the relationship between community, territory, municipality, region and State.
· Although there is a step forward in the process of demarcation, titling and registration of indigenous territories and people of African descent on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, it is necessary that public institutions assume the implementation of the restructuring phase, which means overcoming in a definitive and lasting manner the situation of settlers that still remain on indigenous territories. It requires the elaboration of a technical instrument for carrying out the stage of sanitation (law surety) by the institutions of the State of Nicaragua, in accordance with the requirements established by Article 59 of Law 445. The Institutions of government are to assume the responsibility for this process, facilitating its implementation from a legal approach for both indigenous territories as for the population that now live in these territories but that do not have property rights. Finally, there is the need for the definition of a clear position on the part of the State of Nicaragua with respect to the unlawful tenant on indigenous lands. Until now, the Government of Nicaragua has advanced in the demarcation, and titling but still does not articulate an interagency strategy to conclude the legalization of the territories of Indigenous and African Descent Peoples.
Awas Tingni Legal Victory
The main institutional achievement in the life of CEJUDHCAN is participating together with other non-governmental organization in the process of the demand of the community of Awas Tingni vs State of Nicaragua before the Inter-American human rights system, attaining a judgment in favor of the community.
Judgment of 31 August 2001
In this judgment, pertaining to the Awas Tingni case, the Inter-American Court concluded that the State of Nicaragua had violated the rights of this Mayangna community, by granting a concession for the exploitation of forest resources, in their traditional territory, without the prior consent and by neglecting the constant demands of the Awas Tingni community for the demarcation of their territory.
CEJUDHCAN facilitated the process of negotiation and discussion between the community of Awas Tingni and the State of Nicaragua, for the implementation of the ruling of the Inter-American Court, and legally represented the community of Awas Tingni before to the State of Nicaragua, to design a proposal for the process of delimitation, demarcation and titling of the territory of AMASAU.
The judgment of the Inter-American Court of Justice resulted in the creation of a mechanism for the demarcation and titling of indigenous territories in the Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua. (Adoption of Law No. 445, The Law of the communal ownership of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and the Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maiz rivers). It must be remembered that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established in its judgment the need for the Nicaraguan State to adopt a law that create procedures to demarcate and holder indigenous lands traditionally occupied by these Peoples, for in this way, effectively protect the communal property.
In the requirement of the Inter-American Court and with the participation of CEJUDHCAN and organizations of Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Communities, and their allies, Law No. 445 was adopted in 2003. This Law reflects the way in which the collective lands are owned and occupied by indigenous communities and afro-descendent, under a Community scheme in accordance with their customs and traditions; those that are, in addition, a heritage indivisible, inalienable and indefeasible, for the collective management of future generations.
Law 445 recognizes the traditional communal authorities and provides them with a leading role in the process of demarcating their traditional communal lands.