Indigenous Panamanian communities have denounced government inaction on ratifying International Labor Organization, ILO, Convention 169 and are demanding that their needs and social issues be addressed.
World Indigenous Peoples’ Day
At a meeting of community leaders Wednesday during the Second National Congress of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama in Ngabe-Bugle, attendees itemized their list of demands for the Panamanian government.
Panama is one of few Latin American countries that has not yet signed Convention 169, which was approved by the ILO in 1989 and is considered the main international treaty on the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
The list of demands was delivered to the country’s Foreign Ministry with a note stating the government must ratify the agreement. The Ministry confirmed that they had received approval from the Vice Ministry of Indigenous Affairs to proceed.
Ngabe National Youth Council of Panama President Ricardo Miranda said the government has ignored previous demands from at least five Ngabe-Bugle communities, leaving residents unsettled. Miranda added, however, that the government should still develop an understanding of Indigenous needs and work alongside native communities to seek solutions to social problems.
Marcelo Guerra, national coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama, described the ratification of Convention 169 as a “priority issue.”
“If no agreement is reached,” Guerra said, “we will go to other bodies, because the agreement benefits us on Indigenous rights, security, equality and freedom to be informed.”
Indigenous Panamanians have been calling on the government to ratify ILO Convention 169 for more than 20 years.
There are seven primary Indigenous groups in the Central American country: Embera, Wounaan, Kuna, Ngabe, Bugle, Naso and Bri-Bri. They represent 11 percent of the total population, more than 90 percent of whom live below the country’s poverty line.