LSE SU Terra

Fighting for justice for indigenous peoples.

LSESU Terra is a new initiative to promote the land rights of indigenous communities and raise awareness about the problem of land grabbing.

1. Land is a fundamental right. Our aim is to protect it.

The right to land is the most fundamental right of indigenous peoples. It provides the basis of their existence, their freedom and their cultural development. Indigenous people are often in a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis powerful others who want to displace them and exploit their ancestral land. Terra is a student society affiliated with the LSE SU that was established by a group of dedicated students in November 2013. We campaign for the protection of land rights of indigenous communities and is committed to educating people about issues involving land and indigeneity.

2. Protest works. We campaign to help bring about change.

Land grabbing has to stop. We want to help achieve that. We support existing movements for tribal communities, and create new campaigns for tribes seeking outside help. Building up international pressure through online petitions and galvanising media attention have proven to be effective instruments in combatting land-grabbing. Sending letters to politicians and protesting against companies involved in land grabbing has stopped human rights violations in the past. Protest works.

3. Indigenous issues need to be discussed. We bring together a variety of perspectives on these issues in our online blog.

Society needs to have a dialogue on indigenous issues. These issues are complex, relevant and urgent. Terra brings together a variety of social science perspectives to consider problems of land and indigeneity. As the mainstream media presents a biased picture of land grabbing, a lot of land grabbing and human rights violations continue unnoticed. Our online blog informs people about recent developments in the field which typically do not receive enough media coverage. The blog also serves as a platform of intellectual exchange to inspire a discussion about the wider issues faced by indigenous people today.

4. There is a lot of ignorance about indigenous problems. We fight to change that with our events and campaigns.

Many people do not know about the problems indigenous peoples face. As a student society we want to raise awareness about their problems and open up the debate to the wider public. We organise a variety of cultural and intellectual events. We have debates between academics from different disciplines, private sector representatives, human rights activists and – most importantly – the public. This exchange will help people to critically engage with indigenous issues.

5. Questions around land rights are complex and deserve a nuanced and varied discussion. We want to instigate this.

Issues and debates evolving around land rights and indigeneity are hugely complex. The UN definition of indigeneity is closely linked to the concept of ownership of land, and reliant on a perceived continuity of ‘culture’. However, these concepts and definitions create difficulties when implemented, due the historical complications connected with the concept of ‘ownership’, “culture”, “origin”. Moral judgments are required when considering land rights issues: After how many generations does a community become indigenous to their land? How should a government deal with a rising population that puts pressure on indigenous resources? Terra encourages a reflective and nuanced debate on these problems.

6. Their issues are our issues. We seek to highlight how indigenous issues concern us all.

As citizens of the global West, we are implicated in many of the conflicts over land. Much land occupied by indigenous people is now considered valuable in an economic sense; the resources of the ancestral land of indigenous tribes are sought after to fuel capitalist production. Terra encourages people to consider how our lives and choices are interconnected with indigenous issues. Protecting indigenous rights is not external to our responsibility. Their issues are also our issues. Our consumer needs are the impetus for the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. These activities have important environmental, political and social implications that concern us all.

7. Cultural diversity is to be respected. We encourage people appreciate the richness of tribal cultures.

Terra is dedicated to promoting the value of other ways of knowing and to challenge the attitudes underlying racism towards tribal peoples. Many indigenous cultures have a different perspective and relationship to nature, consumption, democracy and community which we can learn from. Different epistemological traditions can help challenge our assumptions about the order and organisation of our socio-economic system. Development is not a linear process. There is a diversity of conceptions of what constitutes a good life. Let us embrace them.

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