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Indigenous governance in Latin America

Since the 90's, indigenous movements have come to the forefront in the political arena whether at the local, regional and national level, under diverse forms: advances in the Constitution of 1991 in Colombia, the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, the vice-presidency of Victor Hugo Cárdenas and the 2003 mobilizations in Bolivia and the participation of the indigenous leaders in Ecuadorian government of President Gutiérrez in 2000.

Today, it is time to take stock of these developments and to analyze the key moments of indigenous governance. Indigenous leaders from 10 Latin American countries will share their experiences with scholars from Europe and Latin America at an IDB seminar on the experiences of indigenous governments in Latin America, organized by the Bank's Sustainable Development Department (SDS), the Special Office in Europe (SOE) and the Institute for Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris on March 29, 30 and 31.

In his opening remarks, Fernando Carrillo, Principal Advisor from SOE, highlighted how indigenous movements and organizations in Latin America have significantly increased their importance and influence on the region's democratic system.

“Their increasingly strong political participation has contributed to the definition of constitutional reforms (such as in Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela) and reforms in the legal and institutional frameworks regarding agricultural, educational, political, municipal and economic development issues,” he pointed out, “which have significantly impacted the current Latin American model of governance.”

The emergence of these new structures requires a critical assessment with a view towards the future democratic prospects for the region. Professors Yvon Le Bot and Yves Dezalay from the Institute for Higher Studies in Social Sciences stated that through these processes, indigenous actors have started to discuss the effectiveness, applicability and inclusiveness of traditional government policies and practices in their countries, while proposing new political dimensions that broaden the democratic framework in the region.

This seminar will contribute to increase the visibility of existing best practices of indigenous governance, their significant impacts on the region's democratic model, the recognition of traditional indigenous systems of social and political organization, and the improvement of the social and political inclusion of indigenous peoples in the region.

Others topics include experiences of indigenous local governments; governance and autonomy in resource management; governance issues at the national level; economic and social governance; and participation of indigenous peoples in national governments.