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Campaigning for the rights of indigenous peoples

Date added: September 30, 2016

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A new generation of strategies for government accountability is needed, one that fully considers entrenched, institutional obstacles to change. Vertical integration of coordinated civil society policy monitoring and advocacy is one such strategy. Engaging each stage and level of public sector actions in an integrated way can locate the causes of accountability failures, show their interconnected nature, and leverage the local, national and transnational power shifts necessary to produce sustainable institutional change.

The campaign for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Philippines is both pioneering and long-standing. Indigenous peoples’ claims for self-governance and the use of their ancestral lands has been the driving force of their continuing struggle, which has overlapped with other rights-based campaigns on themes such as the environment, participation in governance, gender equality and peace.

Some of the country’s indigenous peoples’ groups focus on specific issues. One example is the Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organisation, Inc. (TLWOI), an indigenous people’s organisation led by women. TLWOI operates in Maguindanao province, the regional centre of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and a stronghold of the Muslim struggle for autonomy.

TLWOI worked for indigenous peoples’ rights in general, and indigenous women’s rights in particular. TLWOI was successful in lobbying for the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the ARMM regional assembly. At the national level, the group’s most significant contribution was the inclusion of indigenous women’s rights in the Magna Carta of Women, enacted in 2009. It also represented indigenous people’s interests in national talks about the establishment of a Bangsamoro regional entity.

Lessons for vertically integrated advocacy:

  • TWLOI recognises that engagement with the government is not limited by the size of an organisation, and that creativity in building vertically integrated networks and identifying strategic partnerships is key to effective campaigning
  • identifying and engaging with the right political power at each level of government is important in achieving results.

This case study summary is one of seven that reflect on civil society monitoring and advocacy initiatives in the Philippines – all of which aim to improve government accountability in different sectors – through the lens of vertical integration.

See also "Going vertical: citizen-led reform campaigns in the Philippines", with all case studies here

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