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Latin America: Our Partners

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Map of Latin America Bolivia Nicaragua Guatemala Mexico Peru Brazil Colombia Ecuador
Country Summaries

Bolivia: Bolivia's 2009 constitution represents an unprecedented opportunity to advance indigenous rights to autonomous governance of natural resources. RRI works to improve natural resources legislation and to ensure its adaptation into the new constitution. Our rights-based approach is based on critical, integrated input from indigenous and campesino organizations.

Guatemala: In Guatemala, RRI works with community forestry groups and other grassroots organizations to actively engage their government and incorporate historic demands in forest management, conservation, climate change and cadastre sectors into prevailing dialogues. RRI also works in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve to help deepen the rights for community concessionaires.

Peru: Enormous global investment continues to pour into Peruvian extractive and infrastructure industries, but the pressures on forest territories continue to grow. RRI works with a network of indigenous and civil society organizations to develop concrete advocacy strategies and tools to consolidate and gain clear forest tenure rights for communities.

Colombia: Colombian Indigenous Peoples have benefited from a broad recognition of territorial rights. However, many forest dwellers, including afro-descendant and peasant communities, still lack clear mechanisms to engage in decision-making processes. RRI works with these communities and civil society groups to expand opportunities for input into the government decisions that affect their territories.

Nicaragua: In 2009, the Nicaraguan government transferred rights to indigenous communities spanning 2.5 million hectares on the country's Atlantic Coast. Since that time, RRI has helped build capacity of leaders in the newly titled indigenous territories to better exercise tenure rights, govern multi-community entities and influence decision-making on economic investments in their territories.



Our Work in Latin America

Leading the world in forest tenure reform, the region is proactively addressing issues of sustainable forest management and poverty alleviation.

Over the past 20 years, Latin American countries have emerged as world leaders in the recognition of community forest tenure. Significant recognition of rights over forestlands and resources creates new opportunities for advancing human rights improving the sustainable management of forests.


Did You Know?
Indigenous and other forest communities now manage more than 200 million hectares of forestlands in Latin America.

States control about 36% of forestlands in the region.


The lowland forest areas of the agricultural frontiers in the Amazon and Central America have made some of the greatest strides in recognizing forest tenure rights. Meanwhile, territorial rights are pending recognition in several Amazon and Mesoamerican countries, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.


Forest tenure reforms represent a new approach to alleviating poverty in a region that still has the greatest level of income inequality in the world. Rural, forest-dependent populations are among the poorest in Latin America, and they are often comprised of indigenous, afro-descendant, and campesino groups with complicated legal statuses. Their remote locations and political issues present constant challenges for overcoming poverty and inequality.


However, amid widespread progress in forest policies, communities must ceaselessly work to prevent rollback of their rights in the face of growing threats from economic concessions for energy, fuel, agriculture and even exclusionary conservation schemes.


RRI's Approach

RRI capitalizes on opportunities for action to further community forest tenure rights to resources, particularly in Mesoamerica and South America. In response to current challenges and opportunities, RRI strategic actions in Latin America include:


Strengthen networks and link civil society organizations.  As information and commodity flows gain global dimensions, civil society and indigenous organizations have begun to form allegiances more actively across biophysical and political regions. Networks help them to mobilize around common agendas and address or resist threats from state-promoted or unchecked land and resource grabs in the name of climate, economic growth, conservation, energy supply or agro-fuel production. Sharing lessons learned and identifying strategic synergies can improve strategies to consolidate and defend territorial and natural resource rights from economically driven pressures and threats.


Inform local actors about the costs and benefits of REDD, and expand community influence in climate change policy. As REDD brings a greater regional concern for definitions of autonomy over territories and resources, RRI help indigenous and non-indigenous forest communities to understand REDD’s implications and formulate coherent strategies. From there, we encourage continued participation of community forest organizations in the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, programs and policies (including REDD+) at the national and regional level.


Increase participation of indigenous, local and campesino organizations in global discussions. In order for legal tenure rights to translate into benefits for livelihoods and forest resources, we advocate for clear pathways for traditional communities and indigenous groups need to access their rights.


Strengthen community capacity to defend rights. Forest communities often lack a broad base of political support within their respective countries, despite international policy victories. Powerful interests from the extractive industry and large-scale conservation sectors frequently threaten the existing rights of forest communities. We work to build communities’ capacity to administer, control and defend their territories to guard and maintain their existing rights. Building governance capacity in these regions is also vital for strengthening rights and preserving the livelihoods of forest communities.


Support informed reforms and create space for policy dialogue. Goals and strategies for reform must be guided and propelled by sound situational research and analysis. RRI researches and shares local knowledge and support the civil society and grassroots organizations with long-term experience and advocacy power, and we facilitate national and regional meetings with governments, policy makers, civil society and communities.