Accelerating collective land titling in Panama
Project to strengthen the collective rights of land and territories of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama
Accelerating collective land titling in Panama
Project to strengthen the collective rights of land and territories of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama

The National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) accelerated titling of indigenous lands, resolved tenure conflicts, and developed legal and administrative capacity to protect indigenous land rights. While Panama’s laws on indigenous rights are progressive, implementation lags far behind. With Tenure Facility support COONAPIP capitalized on the current government’s commitments to indigenous rights and favorable rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Panama Supreme Court.

The project trained 252 women,

men and young people in indigenous rights and law

Indigenous Peoples from Tagarkunyala

mapped the boundaries of their land and forests

COONAPIP advanced titling of 223,500 hectares in four territories and resolved 18 tenure conflicts affecting communities

“COONAPIP was formed years ago to strengthen indigenous struggles, in particular that of the territories. It is essential that our brothers respect the land. It is our dream. Comarcas have been achieved, Law 72 has been achieved, but there has been no follow-up. Through the project with the Tenure Facility we can achieve a solid image and be heard. Due to lack of resources, it was possible to fall into fatigue beforehand, or end up going around and around as we pursue our just demands. But the project opened a path. A road was cut. It is possible now to sit down and talk to the government. There is also the important work of accompaniment of the Legal Clinic; and the technical strengthening of our youth. Measurements and land mapping, which previously could only be done by the government, when there was availability, now we can also do it very well, as our young people are trained. ” — Marcelo Guerra, President of COONAPIP

Goal

To consolidate and protect the collective rights (land, forest and water) of Panama’s Indigenous Peoples

Objectives

  • Capitalize on existing opportunities with the Government of Panama to accelerate processes of land titling, registry, and conflict resolution, and strengthen governance of indigenous territories
  • Develop institutional capacity to support the full exercise and protection of indigenous territorial rights
“The government was surprised because we, the seven indigenous groups, go together to the authorities to demand that dossiers be expedited at ANATI and MIAMBIENTE.” — Manuel Martinez, Project coordinator

Actions

  • Strengthen COONAPIP’s capacity to provide legal services in support of Indigenous Peoples’ full enjoyment, exercise, and protection of their rights to land, water, and forests
  • Train traditional indigenous authorities on priority issues of indigenous rights and develop permanent and continuous access to legal advice and services in support of the advancement of indigenous rights and territorial governance
  • Support titling and registration of the Collective Territories of Bajo Lepe and Pijibasal
  • Advance legal and administrative processes for the titling of the Territory of Maje Embera Drúa
  • Advance the titling processes in other communities.
“COONAPIP is the only entity that brings together Indigenous Peoples at the national level. Its seven different cultures are enriched by coexistence. COONAPIP is our “home” where we build collectively. Perseverance is important. Some have been waiting more than 20 years to gain their territory. We do not see the territories as a business, but rather as a necessity for the reproduction of our culture.” — Ariel Gonzalez, Project adjudicator

Results

  • Advanced titling of 223,500 hectares, including four territories and resolution of 18 tenure conflicts affecting communities
  • Supported titling and registration of the Collective Territories of Bajo Lepe and Pijibasal, however title not yet granted because Ministry of Environment has not approved due to overlap with land claimed by protected area
  • Advanced legal and administrative processes for the titling of the Territory of Maje Embera Drúa, however, title not yet granted because Ministry of Environment has not approved due to overlap with land claimed by protected area
  • Advanced the titling processes in other communities
  • Created ‘Clinica Juridica’ — a legal clinic that supports land titling
  • Clarified the steps for titling indigenous lands
  • Trained 252 women, men and young people in indigenous rights and law
  • Initiated discussions to establish a diploma at the University of Panama’s Faculty of Law to broaden understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ legal rights under national and international law
“We have been fighting the titling of our territory for more than 40 years. In the last year, with the support of COONAPIP’s PDCT project, we have advanced more than in the previous 40 years.” — Lazaro Mecha
, Regional chief, Majé Emberá Drüa collective territory

Impact

  • Strengthened COONAPIP’s administrative and technical skills and capacity title indigenous lands
  • Build momentum for faster and more efficient titling by raising awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ rights among government authorities, building relationships among relevant institutions and increasing the confidence of Indigenous Peoples in their power to effect change
  • Positioned Indigenous Peoples to protect land, forest and water, and improve livelihoods, thereby contributing to global climate change and development goals
  • Demonstrated new methods that indigenous communities can use to resolve conflicts among themselves and with government, investors, immigrants, and settlers

Completed


From 06/30/2015
To 30 April 2017

Budget
US$824,000

Proponents

COONAPIP (a federation of indigenous governments), and grant administration by registered NGO, Program for Social Promotion and Development (PRODESO)

Partners

Traditional authorities (congresses and councils) of participating indigenous territories

Associates

National Land Administration Authority (ANATI)

Ministry of Environment

National Commission for Political and Administrative Limits

National Geographic Institute “Tommy Guardia”

Rainforest Foundation US

Beneficiaries

Indigenous Peoples, communities and their participating traditional authorities

COONAPIP

National Land Administration Authority (ANATI)

National Environmental Authority (ANAM)

National Commission for Political and Administrative Limits

National Geographical Institute “Tommy Guardia”

Academic and civil society organizations

Lessons learned

  • Greater inclusion and equity for women and girls in the titling processes remains a challenge.
  • A detailed roadmap for titling is needed for all parties to understand the roles and responsibilities of each actor at every step.
  • Close working relationships between COONAPIP and government authorities is essential as evidenced by success of joint teams for preparing and verifying the titling application documents.
  • A strong Tenure Facility Country Focal Point for the entire project would have been valuable.
  • The windows of opportunity for the titling of indigenous territories can be very short, remaining open for only a few months and then closing abruptly due to government’s political considerations, without specific changes in a country’s relevant laws or the larger political and economic context.
  • A forward-looking legal framework, particularly in countries like Panama is not sufficient. The current framework can be complex, and the contradictions or inconsistencies within the various rules that regulate titling processes can be hard to understand, and these discrepancies can become “bottlenecks.”
  • A monitoring, assessment and learning system or approach must be tailored to a particular organization because organizations are different from each other. This suggests that, in the process creating the Tenure Facility monitoring, assessment and learning system, the “bottom-up” approach must be considered through paying more attention to local experience development, and seeing how these local experiences can feed into a system which applies to all Tenure Facility activities.

The National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) is working with indigenous authorities and government to advance the territorial security of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama. The initiative will build the capacity of COONAPIP and its member congresses and councils to secure, protect, and govern indigenous territories. In addition to preparing applications for title, the initiative will address claims blocked by the Ministry of Environment because they overlap with protected areas. In Panama, 80% of indigenous lands without title overlap with protected areas. The initiative will also build the capacity of indigenous women leaders. It scales up the successes of the Tenure Facility pilot project in Panama which advanced titling of 223,500 hectares in four territories and resolved 18 tenure conflicts affecting communities, and applies lessons learned from that experience.

For the full story of the struggle to implement land and forest rights in Panama go to the Timeline.

For details on Tenure Facility initiatives in Panama, visit the Panama country page.

Securing collective title to almost 200,000 hectares of land and forest

Goal

To advance tenure security over the indigenous lands and forests that encompass more than 30% of Panama

Objectives

  • Advance the tenure security of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama
  • Strengthen the capacity of indigenous organizations to govern their territories
  • Strengthen COONAPIP’s administrative, communication, and financial management capacity

Actions

  • Design and implement community-level training programs to build the capacities of indigenous authorities, women leaders, and youth
  • Prepare and finalize collective title applications, and demarcate indigenous territories
  • Detect and stop illegal occupation, logging, and resource extraction, and resolve conflicts with non-indigenous settlers
  • Conduct occupation studies
  • Develop sustainable use plans
  • Strengthen COONAPIP’s communication with members, government, and the public

Expected results

  • Strengthened government recognition and support for the legal and administrative procedures that secure and safeguard the integrity of collective indigenous territories
  • Strengthened capacity of Indigenous Peoples to claim, process, and protect their collective territorial rights
  • Strengthened COONAPIP’s ability to transparently and responsibly manage relations with the seven Indigenous Peoples of Panama, manage projects, evaluate results, report on progress
  • Strengthened COONAPIP’s ability to manage projects, capture and apply lessons learned, evaluate results and impacts, report to indigenous congresses and councils, and communicate
  • Enhanced coordination between government and indigenous congresses and councils
  • Enhanced public support for indigenous rights

Expected impact

  • Indigenous Peoples in Panama have the skills, abilities, and confidence required to attain collective title; protect and govern their lands, forests, and water; improve their livelihoods; and contribute to global climate change and development goals
  • Indigenous land claims are clarified and awarded
  • Cases of illegal occupation of indigenous lands, conflicts among neighbouring indigenous groups, and illegal logging are reduced
  • COONAPIP’s leadership, administrative, communication, and project management capacities are developed

Ongoing


From 08/01/2018
To 31 July 2020

Budget
US$1,681,736

Proponents

National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP), with grant administration by Program for Social Promotion and Development (PRODESO)

Partners

Traditional authorities (congresses and councils) of participating indigenous territories, including the Comarcas of Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Wargandi Comarca, Emberá Wounaan Comarca, and the collective territories of Emberá Wounaan, Tagarkunyal, Bribri, and Buglé

Associates

National Land Administration Authority (ANATI)

Ministry of Environment

National Commission for Political and Administrative Limits

National Geographic Institute “Tommy Guardia”

Vice Ministry of Indigenous Affairs

Office of the People’s Ombudsman

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Beneficiaries

Indigenous Peoples, communities, and their traditional authorities

COONAPIP

Government agencies responsible for land titling and environmental management