Latin America

Latin America continues to report a higher level of recognition of collective land tenure compared to Africa and South and Southeast Asia. However, the pace of progress has dramatically slowed since 2015. According to RRI’s 2023 flagship report, Who Owns the World’s Land?, less than 1 percent of land across 16 countries in Latin America was recognized as being owned by or designated for the region’s Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, and local communities between 2015 and 2020.

In 2023, we collected regional data to support and anchor these communities’ advocacy for their land and resource rights. We also published a new analysis on Afro-descendant Peoples’ Territories in Biodiversity Hotspots Across Latin America and the Caribbean using results from the first-ever open-access GIS tool to monitor Afro-descendant territories. We also catalyzed major legal wins for Indigenous communities in Bolivia and the Maya Q’egchi People of Agua Caliente in Guatemala.

A community woman cooks food over a firepit outside her home in Honduras. | Photo Credit: Joel Redman for If Not Us Then Who?

Here are a few highlights of our achievements.

  1. In February 2023, we published a new analysis demonstrating the territorial presence of Afro-descendant communities in 16 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. The report is a collective effort by RRI, the Process of Black Communities (PCN), the Pontifical Universidad Javeriana’s Observatory of Ethnic and Campesino Territories (OTEC), the National Coordination of Articulation of Rural Black Quilombola Communities (CONAQ), and a coalition of 21 Afro-descendant rights organizations. The study identifies 205 million hectares of land managed by these communities, of which only 5 percent is currently legally recognized. The map, available in an online open-access cartographic tool, also shows the overlap of Afro-descendant Peoples’ customary territories with formally protected areas and biological hotspots, underscoring the pivotal role these groups play in global conservation efforts.

"We are very hopeful that peace will become a reality in our territories and that people will be able to come and enjoy what these lands hold without fear."

— Luz Deifa Carabalí Member of the La Alsacia community council, Colombia

  1. In Bolivia, we secured the titling of 181,130 hectares of land within the Multiethnic Indigenous Territory, benefiting the Mojeño Trinitario, Mojeño Ignaciano, Movima, Yuracaré, and Tsimane Indigenous Peoples. This achievement was made possible through the efforts of our collaborators, the National Confederation of Indigenous Women of Bolivia and the Center for Legal Studies and Social Research (CEJIS).
Indigenous girls attend school near Cuzco in Peru. | Photo Credit: Omaira Bolaños, RRI.
  1. At CoP28 in Dubai, RRI supported the Afro-descendant coalition in presenting initial findings from its legal analysis on Afro-descendant Peoples’ tenure rights in 11 countries in the region. The analysis reveals key disparities in the advancement of Afro-descendant Peoples’ tenure rights, with only five countries—Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico—possessing legal frameworks that acknowledge the collective rights of these communities.
  2. We also played a pivotal role in convening Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community youth leaders from 10 countries for a landmark gathering in Bogota, Colombia leading to the formulation of a Youth Manifesto. The manifesto represents the youth leaders’ desire and commitment to strengthen their leadership skills and knowledge to become agents of change in the defense of their ancestral territories and the planet.

"We, youth leaders from Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendent Peoples, and local communities, are the bridge between ancestral knowledge and technology and we created together a manifesto to raise our voices so that each one of us can be heard."

— Yaily Nadir Castillo Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB)

  1. The end of 2023 also brought a historic milestone for the Naso People of Panama with the validation of their Organic Charter. The charter outlines the territorial governance and management practices of the Naso Tjër Di Comarca, marking theirs as the first Indigenous Territory in Panama to be officially recognized despite overlapping with protected areas. RRI collaborator, Asociación ANAI, helped make this achievement possible.