48 participants from nine countries gathered in Nepal from 3rd to 7th September 2023 for Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact’s (AIPP’s) Regional Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender Exchange Program. The AIPP program was held with local partner, Lawyers Association for the Human Rights of Nepal’s Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP) as well as regional and global partners, including the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP). The collaboration takes forward the shared commitments to building the capacity of human rights defenders. The participants included 26 males and 22 females, 2 persons with a disability and 14 youth.
The program included knowledge and skills building sessions among participants from Nepal, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There were opportunities to discuss shared challenges around issues of land grabbing, and the denial of recognition of identity, cultures, and traditional knowledge. The intersectionality of rights was emphasised by participants from Indigenous disability organisations. Militarisation of Indigenous Peoples lands and territories was also highlighted as a growing challenge – from Bangladesh to the Philippines. Participants called for action against the practice of “red-tagging” in the Philippines – and the associated killing and enforced “disappearance” of Indigenous Peoples human rights defenders.
Sessions built knowledge of the UN standards and accountability mechanisms, tools for video advocacy and online security. There was a field visit to Newar communities at Kirtipur Municipality in the Kathmandu valley, where participants learnt more about the customary self-government mechanisms defending their land, territories, and resources and self-determination.
There was strong support from the participants for AIPP and DTP to continue their collaboration on capacity building.