11.1 – Sacred Earth: People, Land, Conflict

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2011-11-09-09.33.38-amEditors’ Note:

In recent years, recognition of the Arctic’s commercial and strategic value has increased the possibility of conflict among regional powers. In 2008, the Arctic rim states convened a summit to discuss a peaceful resolution to issues causing regional tensions, yet notably absent were the indigenous people who inhabit the vast lands of the Arctic. The following year, Inuit leaders promulgated a declaration demanding the right to help chart the future course of their own region.

In the Arctic and elsewhere, government priorities and industry objectives often trump indigenous rights and interests. Central to these differences are land claims, which involve battles over natural resources and local authority. Sacred Earth brings these battles to light, revealing the fragile and potentially volatile condition of relations among indigenous peoples, private firms, and state actors over land. In West Papua, Siberia, and Kenya, the absence of property rights recognized by the state marginalizes indigenous groups, exposing them to abuses by powerful governments and private industry. Here, land rights concern more than control over natural resources or former lands; they signify indigenous claims to legitimacy and power. Indigenous struggles, however, do not always result in armed conflict. Examples in Canada and the South Pacific illustrate the ability of indigenous groups to protect their interests through legal avenues. Moreover, the achievements of the Inuit demonstrate that political mobilization and attempts at collaboration can sway the designs of even great powers.

The concerns of indigenous peoples receive scant attention in policy circles. We hope this issue of the Journal brings to the fore topics that heighten your aware- ness, pique your curiosity, and deepen your knowledge of indigenous peoples worldwide.

– Julia Famularo & Sarath Ganji

Forum: Sacred Earth

For the indigenous peoples of the world, native lands are inextricably tied to ideas of heritage, culture, and livelihood. Their interests, however, must often compete with those of state governments and private industry. In locations as diverse as Canada, Kenya, and the South Pacific, disagreements are addressed through established institutions like local governments and national courts. Yet, in Indonesia, Siberia, and the Arctic, political stalemates drive indigenous groups to agitate for change through political mobilization. This Forum examines how the intimate links among indigenous peoples, land, and resources are imperiled. Consolidation of state power, modernization of economic and legal systems, and climate change all create challenges for indigenous peoples seeking to shape their own destines and protect their sacred earth.

Politics & Diplomacy

Despite recognition by military leaders of a required shift to population security in Afghanistan, only the United Nations possesses the relevant expertise to lead the more crucial aspects of international operations there, including anti-corruption efforts, improved local governance, and security sector reform.

When outside mediation is deemed necessary for resolving internal conflicts, non-governmental organizations’ evenhanded approach can make them useful facilitators.

Conflict & Security

  • Taking Back the High Ground: Disarmament and Nonproliferation Under the Obama Administration by Jacqueline W. Shire Read

Amid numerous domestic and international challenges, nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament will remain a central objective in U.S. foreign policy, driven by President Barack Obama’s leadership.

While terrorism has been a predominantly male occupation, women are increasingly becoming more active in terror and insurgent groups, revealing a disturbing trend.

Culture & Society

The way human security is currently construed is inadequate for understanding the sense of danger, doubt, and fear that afflicts a great part of the world’s population. A failure to understand the threats posed to everyday life by invisible forces can produce unintended consequences in practice.

Law & Ethics

While international lawyers understand well the UN Charter’s prohibition on the use of force by member states, they have thus far ignored the Charter’s prohibition on threats to use force. In this light, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment that “Israel must be wiped off the map” takes on new significance.

Business & Economics

Although U.S. and EU antitrust policies have significantly converged over the past decade, the global economic crisis may undermine competition agencies’ efforts in the developing world.

 Science & Technology

Poor drug regulation in the developing world has caused a prevalence of faulty medicines that can only be addressed through consumer demand for better protection against dangerous pharmaceuticals.

The formation of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization permits developed nations to exert their influence and underdeveloped nations to benefit from technology transfer in Asia.

View from the Ground

The United States’s polio eradication efforts in India not only further its humanitarian objectives in the region; they also provide the United States with a unique way to re-engage Muslim communities.


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