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Empowering Indigenous People to claim their Rights before National Courts, an Experience from Guatemala

Cisneros de Alencar, Antonio M.

As the United Nations advances towards a better understanding of what elements are central in ensuring that the development assistance it provides is effective and results in tangible changes for the lives of the people it seeks to assist, it has recently began to recognize the need to work in strengthening the capacity of rights-holders to demand their rights, as much as it works in strengthening the capacity of duty-bearers to meet their obligations; a key notion in the human rights based approach to development the United Nations now promotes. Yet, development assistance programmes, even at the United Nations, still overwhelmingly focus on the duty-bearer’s role, with fewer programmes devoted to working with rights-holders. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) results framework for 2012–2013 for example, devotes five of its technical assistance global objectives (or “expected accomplishments”) to duty-bearers, four to the international community’s role, and only two focused on rights-holders. There are surely several reasons for this, but one element that I suspect contributes to this imbalance is the reduced number of experiences gathered in working with rights-holders, in comparison to the number of experiences gathered in working with duty-bearers; and the even fewer experiences, if we circumscribe our interest specifically to integrating Indigenous Peoples’ rights into development assistance programmes. The present article seeks to describe one such experience, highlighting key elements that could be of use to other similar programmes, to promote greater attention to the potential this form of international assistance has in empowering Indigenous Peoples to claim their rights.

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Indigenous Peoples’ Access To Justice, Including Truth And Reconciliation Processes
Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University

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Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Published Here
March 26, 2015


This is a chapter from "Indigenous Peoples’ Access to Justice, Including Truth and Reconciliation Processes". The entire volume is available in Academic Commons at