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in the municipalities, in public policy


The Significance of the San Andres Agreements for Civil Society

Part 3 - Towards the Strengthening of Collective Rights

by Javier Elorriaga
Translated by Cecilia Rodriguez

San Cristobal de las Casas
Chiapas, Mexico


Towards the Strengthening of Collective Rights

The focal point of the agreements of San Andres is the recognition and fortification of the collective rights of the indigenous communities and villages. They refer as well to the rights of specific sectors of the population, which can be extended throughout the country. They deal with particular rights of farmers, migrants, women and educational rights.

1. Farmers

In San Andres it was agreed to "legislate so that the integrity of the lands of indigenous groups are protected"; and in the constitutional reforms the recognition of collective rights to lands and territories was established. This is relevant, because it contradicts the privatizing tendencies of ejidal and communal lands which have been imposed in Mexico after the reforms of Article 27 of the Constitution. Unresolved for indigenous people as well as for farmers is the original spirit of Article 27, a demand which was insisted upon but not won.

In agrarian issues, the most significant gains were that mestizo farmers can secure the commitment of the State for sustainable development.

It was agreed to promote the recognition of the rights of towns and communities to receive compensation, when the exploitation of natural resources is such that it destroys habitats of communities. In cases where damage has already occurred, the establishment of mechanisms of grievance will be undertaken so that the case may be analyzed. In both cases, the mechanisms for compensation will seek to secure the sustainable development of the peoples and the communities.

It is established as well that communities will have priority in being granted the benefits of exploration and use of natural resources.

2. Migrant Workers

The State should promote specific social policies to protect migrants, in national territory as well as beyond the borders, with institutional actions of support for the labor and education of women, health and education of children and young people. In rural regions, these policies should be coordinated in zones which attract and need agricultural workers.

3. Women

Indigenous women at San Andres won the recognition of their right to participate under equal conditions with men in all matters which concern government and the development of indigenous communities. They will have a priority participation in economic, educational and health projects which specifically impact them.

4. Education

It was agreed that the State should assure an education which respects and makes use of the wisdom of the peoples; and which guarantees their participation in the organization and formulation of regional programs. Cultural diversity should be incorporated into the plans and programs of study of regional programs.

Together with indigenous people: national priorities will be reorganized. It is necessary to establish a new relationship between the State and indigenous peoples. This relationship, in addition to being based in respect for their self-determination, should depart from the recognition and compliance of a governmental commitment to re-orient public policies in order to transform the conditions of poverty and marginalization which affect indigenous peoples.

In San Andres it was recognized that a new politics of the State is necessary, one which is not determined by electoral terms. The government committed itself to develop it within the framework of a profound reform of the State which should initiate actions to elevate the levels of well-being, development and justice.

There are commitments which specify the obligation of the State to secure education and training in such a way that indigenous wisdom is respected and utilized. The access of indigenous wisdom to science and technology is to be promoted and a professional education which improves the possibilities of development for the communities is to be provided. Training and technical assistance which improves the productive processes are guaranteed. Training for the organizations which elevate the productive capacity of communities is to be provided.

The responsibility of the State to secure the fulfillment of basic necessities by guaranteeing the conditions which will allow indigenous peoples to enjoy adequate nutrition, health and housing. In this social policy it is agreed to promote programs destined to benefit children and women.

Finally, it was agreed that the State should promote the economic base of indigenous communities with specific strategies of development agreed to by them, which contribute to the generation of jobs and improve the provision of services.

In terms of social policy, indigenous people managed to impose on the State a series of commitments which run counter to neoliberal policy. If they are carried out, they presuppose a reorientation of public policy and a re-definition of national priorities. And this is a task which involves not only indigenous people but all of society.

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