Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty

Edited by Martha F. Davis, Morten Kjaerum and Amanda Lyons

This important Research Handbook explores the nexus between human rights, poverty and inequality as a critical lens for understanding and addressing key challenges of the coming decades, including the objectives set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. The Research Handbook starts from the premise that poverty is not solely an issue of minimum income and explores the profound ways that deprivation and distributive inequality of power and capability relate to economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
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Chapter 20: Indigenous Peoples land rights: a culturally sensitive strategy for poverty eradication and sustainable development

Alejandro Fuentes


In Latin-America -as in most parts of the world- indigenous peoples are ‘the poorest of the poor, and the most excluded of the excluded’. Poverty goes hand in hand with their situation of vulnerability, exclusion and disempowerment. How can this situation be changed? How to find adequate frameworks able to facilitate the overturn of their structural disenfranchisement? Departing from the jurisprudence developed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR), this paper argues that the recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to collective property over their traditional lands and natural resources constitutes the most adequate strategy for poverty reduction that takes into consideration their own cultural distinctiveness. In fact, indigenous peoples’ special connection with their lands and territories is essential for both their material and cultural survival. Without access to their lands and natural resources, indigenous peoples are not only condemned to structural poverty conditions but they are also deprived of the necessary conditions for a life in dignity, that is, a life that takes into consideration their own world’s views and cultural understandings. In other words, in the case of indigenous peoples, the recognition and effective realization of their land rights constitutes the most effective strategy for reducing and ending their structural condition of poverty but also for guaranteeing their societal inclusion and cultural empowerment. Finally yet importantly, the effective recognition of indigenous peoples’ land rights could also be understood as a culturally sensitive approach to the realization of the UN 2030 Agenda and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere) that takes into consideration and respects their cultural diversity.

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