Monumental Victory – First Peoples Worldwide Grantee News Alert

From a first grant, many firsts grow: Guarani of Itika Guasu set precedents in Bolivia

First Peoples Worldwide funded the Assembly of Guarani People of Itika Guasu because energy corporations had trespassed on their land, leading to years of conflict which included a highway blockage and many work stoppages. Beginning in 1997 after years of negotiations an agreement was in sight, but in 2009 opponents sought an economic stranglehold to undermine community unity. All 36 communities had to be consulted and agree with the terms of the agreement before it could be signed in the name of Itika Guasu communities. Any decisions would have to come straight from community leaders, not through others.

The Assembly of Guarani People of Itika Guasu (APG IG) had never received direct funding before, but they wanted to avoid non-Indigenous intermediaries that had proved “quite harmful on occasion and in some instances … even represented a risk for the community’s collective property rights.” APG IG turned to First Peoples Worldwide for direct funding. Our Keepers of the Earth Fund awarded $11,124 and two years later, a series of firsts have flowed from their first direct grant.

Without giving up any of their rights, APG IG signed an agreement with energy corporation Repsol Bolivia S.A. which created a $14.8 million investment fund that will provide the Guarani communities of Itika Guasu with health, housing and education services, as well as funding development projects. “This is the first time that an oil company has signed such an agreement in Bolivia and in Latin America,” stated President Never Barrientos of APG IG.

The 10-year renewing Itika Guasu Investment Fund, which began activities March 11, is the first such fund for an Indigenous organization in Bolivia. It may well be a first in Latin America. “Therefore,” Barrientos added, “we hope that it will have an impact on the practices in the oil industry.”

Also for the first time, a Bolivian authority has issued an official statement legally recognizing Indigenous collective property rights, including ownership of their ancestral lands. The legal clarification led to the agreement’s recognition of Itika Guasu as Original Community Territory, and of Guarani “customs and uses” there, including customary practice in conflict resolution.

Finally, an independent environmental audit of an Original Community Territory, as called for under the agreement, would be another first in Bolivia.

“The Itika Guasu Investment Fund is a great achievement for everyone,” said Rebecca Adamson, President and Founder of First Peoples Worldwide. “Often we hear funders say that they can’t fund Indigenous Peoples directly because of their lack of capacity. Overlooked capacities and abilities like those demonstrated by the Itika Guasu Guarani should inspire philanthropy to rethink its own capacities and relationships with Indigenous communities, because a lot more successes like this are out there.”

[Fuente: First Peoples Worldwide, 13Apr11]

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