Conference programme for "Defending the Defenders"

Conference programme for "Defending the Defenders" - Building New Alliances for Protecting Indigenous Peoples' Rights"


September 3, 2018.- Read the programme for the International conference in Copenhagen themed "Defending the Defenders - New Alliances for protecting indigenous peoples' rights" hosted by IWGIA.

5th of September 2018

Time Programme

10:00-10:30 Welcoming remarks

Minister Eva Kjer Hansen - Minister for Equal Opportunities and Special Representative for the Danish Candidature for the UN Human Rights Council 2019-21

Mr. Knud Vilby - Chairperson of IWGIA

High-level opening session

10:30 – 10:55 Opening remarks by high-level representatives

Ms Kate Gilmore - Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

Ms Lida Skifte Lennert - Head of the Greenlandic Representation in Denmark

10:55 - 11:10 Musical interlude by Aavaat Greenland’s Choir in Denmark

11:10 - 11:25 Coffee break

Indigenous peoples at risk

11:25 - 11:45 Programme overview

Mr. Verner Kristiansen, moderator, provides an overview of today’s programme and participant expectations.

11:45-11:50 Indigenous human rights defenders – in memory of those who died defending their land

Ms. Julie Koch, Executive Director, IWGIA - What is the scale of the problem?

11:50 – 13:00 Defending indigenous rights – the perspective of indigenous human rights defenders

Three indigenous human rights defenders will share their experience of being personally targeted while defending the rights of their community. They will tell their stories of being criminalized, how their land and natural resources have been taken away or destroyed, but also how they have been able to access justice and remedies.

• Ms Lida Emilse Paz Labio - leader of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, Colombia

• Mr. Adam Ole Mwarabu - Director of PAICODEO in Tanzania

• Mr. Devasish Roy - Chakma Chief in Bangladesh

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 16:30 Defending the Defenders: Do we need new alliances?

Can the private sector be an ally of indigenous human rights defenders? A panel debate

The following experts will debate how the private sector can work together with indigenous peoples and civil society organizations to ensure that no human rights violations are committed when they invest in and operate on indigenous peoples’ land.

• Ms Victoria Tauli Corpuz – UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

• Mr. Claus Primdal Sørensen – Director for the CSR, Export Credit Funds Denmark

• Ms Anita Ramasastry – Expert Member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

• Mr. Mauricio Lazala, Vice - Director, Business and Human Rights Resource Center

• Mr. Kristian Heydenreich - Senior Director, Head of Global Compliance & CSR, Vestas

How can state agencies improve their efforts to protect indigenous human rights defenders? A panel debate

What are the state’s responsibilities as primary duty bearer in the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and what role can politicians and decision makers play to hold states accountable? In this session, the following experts will share their views on the state’s duty to protect indigenous human rights defenders.

• Mr. Michel Forst, - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

• Mr. Nikolaj West – Senior Adviser, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

• Mr. Chris Chapman - Indigenous Peoples' Rights Adviser, Amnesty International UK

• Ms Birgitte Feiring - Departmental Director, Danish Institute for Human Rights

• Ms Laila Susanne Vars – Vice-Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

16:30-17:00 Perspectives for tomorrow

The following experts will reflect on the day’s discussion – they will present the highlights of the day and what we should take forward to the discussion on day two of our conference.

• Mr. Rodion Sulyandziga – Director, Center for support of indigenous peoples of the North, Russia

• Ms Lola Garcia Alix - Senior Adviser, IWGIA

6th of September 2018

Plenary opening of Day Two

9:00 – 9:10 Overview of today’s programme

Mr. Verner Kristiansen summarizes impressions from day one and provides an overview of today’s programme

9:10 - 10:00 Indigenous Human Rights defenders – three testimonies from the frontline

Three indigenous human rights defenders will introduce the following parallel sessions by illustrating how they have personally experienced criminalization, conflict over their land and resources, and how they could access justice.

• Ms Abie Anongos – Treasurer, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Philippines

• Mr. Daniel Kobei - Director, Ogiek Peoples Development Program, Kenya

• Ms Toribia Lero Quispe - Coordinator, Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas, Bolivia

10:00 – 12:00 Parallel sessions: Experiences and testimonies from the ground


One of the most serious shortcomings in human rights protection is the trend towards the use of legislation and the justice system to penalize and criminalize indigenous peoples’ non-violent protests. A key issue to address is the stigmatization and criminalization of human rights defenders in developing countries by outlawing their activities through responses such as illegal surveillance, arbitrary arrests, travel bans, threats, dispossession and killings. During this session, findings from UN mechanisms, as well as concrete examples from the ground will be presented and discussed. The participants will present three concrete recommendations on how to address this negative trend.

• Ms Victoria Tauli Corpuz - UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples: findings of the Report on criminalization and attacks faced by indigenous peoples defending their rights

• Mr. Andrea Rocca - Deputy Director, Frontline Defenders: findings from the Report of Frontline Defenders “stop the killing”

• Mr. Gam Shimray - General Secretary, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP) & Mr. Jesús Amadeo Martinez - Coordinator of ABYA YALA Indigenous Forum: some examples from Asia & Latin America


The current global land rush and the intensification of the exploitation of natural resources are pushing into indigenous peoples’ lands and territories and rapidly dispossessing them of their primary source of livelihood. A key issue to address is how the changing nature of land grabbing in developing countries leads to increasing conflicts, including forced evictions, internal displacement, destruction of livelihoods, and loss of cultural identity, with a special focus on the gender dimensions and impact on indigenous youth and the role of the private sector in this. During this session, findings from UN mechanism and a concrete case study will be presented and discussed. The participants will present three concrete recommendations on how to address this negative trend.

• Mr. Michel Forst - UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders: Presentation of the Report on environmental human rights defenders with a focus on indigenous peoples

• Mr. Mike Davis - Director of Campaigns, Global Witness: What business and governments can do to tackle the root causes of threats and attacks against indigenous, land and environmental defenders

• Ms Frederica Barclay, - Peru Equidad & Mr. Shapiom Noningo Sesen - Technical Secretary of the autonomous territorial government of the Wampis: The Wampis Case


Non-judicial redress and grievance mechanisms offer possibilities for addressing human rights abuses and improving the human rights policies and practices of multinational corporations. One important aspect to address is what opportunities and barriers exist for indigenous rights defenders in seeking redress and remedy, especially those from marginalized and poor communities. During this session, examples from regional human rights mechanisms will be presented and the importance of fact-based documentation will be discussed. The participants will present three concrete recommendations on how to better access justice and remedy.

• Mr. Daniel Kobei - Director, OPDP Kenya & Mr. Melakou Tegegn - Expert Member, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: the Ogiek case

• Ms Anurhada Mittal - Director Oakland Institute: How fact-based documentation can help access justice

• Ms Joan Carling - Indigenous expert: How campaigning can be a tool to access justice and remedy impunity

12:00 – 12:45 Key recommendations from parallel sessions

12:45 – 13:00 Closing remarks:

Ms Mette Nørgaard Dissing-Spandet - Head of the Department for International Law and Human Rights, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ms Julie Koch – Executive Director, IWGIA

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch

 If you have any questions about the programme or if you want to participate in the conference, please contact Genevieve Rose ( Please note that there are only limited places available.


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