The International Alliance
The International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests is a worldwide network of organisations representing indigenous and tribal peoples living in tropical forest regions (Africa, the Asia-Pacific and the Americas). The Alliance was founded in 1992 during an indigenous conference in Malaysia, where the Charter of the Alliance was adopted, and has been fighting continuously for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples ever since.
The objectives of the Alliance are to:
promote full recognition of the rights and territories of indigenous and tribal peoples;
promote the development of indigenous and tribal peoples and their participation in decision and policy making;
establish effective networks between indigenous peoples at regional and international levels;
exchange information and experiences to empower Alliance members to advocate for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, enabling them to impact upon processes falling within the complex UN system, and the policies and decision-making of developmental agencies and multi-lateral development banks;
promote worldwide solidarity between indigenous and tribal peoples.
The Alliance has a flexible structure of nine autonomous regions coordinated and supported by a Technical Secretariat. The membership of the Alliance, made up of indigenous and tribal peoples organisations in regional networks, is the highest policy-making body in the network. Policy is formulated through the Alliance's International Conferences, which have been held every two to three years since the establishment of the Alliance in 1992. The most recent was in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2002.
Between these assemblies, the Alliance is coordinated by an International Coordinating Committee (ICC), which meets at least twice a year to monitor the work of the Alliance. The Committee is constituted of 9 Regional Coordinators. Supported by a regional secretariat and the International Technical Secretariat, each Regional Coordinator represents one of the nine regions falling within the Alliance's remit. These regions are:
Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico
Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Brasil, French Guyana, Bolivia, Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela and Colombia
Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon etc.
Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic, Niger, Gambia, Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Southern Sudan
Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan
Thailand, Burma, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam
Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines
Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Caledonia
Regional Coordinating Committees (RCC), constituted by national coordinators in the region, coordinate the work in each of these regions under the leadership of the Regional Coordinators (RC).
The International Technical Secretariat
The Alliance has an International Technical Secretariat, based in Panamai, which gathers and distributes information, organises the paperwork, facilitates contact between indigenous and other organisations, participates in and reports on relevant meetings, analyses important international processes, and maintains the logistical activities of the Alliance. The Secretariat is staffed by the Executive Secretary of the Alliance, an Office Manager and an Information Officer. The Secretariat produces a quarterly bulletin, which charts recent developments, and provides background information about ongoing processes.
The Work of the Alliance
The work of the Alliance is divided into regional capacity building and training programs and the work of monitoring and participating in international policy processes impacting on indigenous and tribal peoples. International policy work is carried out in two ways: primarily, through a system of 'Focal Points' in which members of the ICC are nominated to follow specific international processes; and secondarily, through the ITS' preparation of briefing papers and submission of funding applications to ensure regional participation in these processes. Processes that are currently being followed in the international arena include, but are not restricted to, the following:
• Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Article (8(j)
• Follow-up on the Action Plan of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR)
• UN Forum on Forests (UNFF)
• UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (SBSTA, COP)
• UN Working Group on Draft Declaration
• UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP)
• Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPF)
• World Bank (and other multilateral organizations) policy on Indigenous Peoples
• World Parks Congress
• World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Regional capacity building programs implemented by the Alliance focus on designing and implementing training programs within the regions on issues such as human rights, international law and other issues of importance to indigenous peoples. Support is also provided to the regions through the ITS in the form of information dissemination and coordination to ensure that work between the regions is complementary and effective.
Enlarging the network
Any indigenous-led organisation based in a tropical forest country can become a member of the Alliance. Currently, the Alliance has a diverse range of members, including local organisations, national bodies and regional organisations that themselves represent a large number of peoples and communities. However, the Alliance is always keen to make contact with other interested organisations, particularly environmental and human rights orientated NGOs and agencies, tropical forest campaign centres, research and publication centres, and governmental, regional and international bodies. The more the Alliance interacts with different organisations around the world, the greater will be the impact of its members on international fora and inter-governmental decision-making.