To the Global Village and Back: International Indigenous Rights and Domestic Change in Nicaragua and Ecuador
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International indigenous rights represent a special category of human rights, offering a potent tool in the community-based defense of indigenous lands and livelihoods. State sovereignty has, however, historically been used to trump indigenous claims. New transnational advocacy networks have formed to promote and support indigenous rights claims in international law. In the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) has assumed a lead role in issuing important rulings that validate new international norms for indigenous rights. The challenge, identified in this thesis, is the implementation of these rulings through effective domestic policy. To realize effective implementation of international rights, domestic political realties cannot be sidestepped or ignored. This thesis focuses on indigenous property rights in the Americas. These rights are always contentious. Natural resources like oil, minerals and timber attract many powerful interests. There is an urgent need for a careful and systematic investigation into domestic level variables that can either hinder or help norm implementation. Even universal human rights present a challenge for state compliance. A number of scholars have explored the problem of human rights norm implementation and identified a number of important variables. These include the domestic structural context, norm salience, material constraints and international influences. This thesis builds on Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink’s Spiral Model of Human Rights Change (1999) by applying it to the specific case of indigenous rights to property in a comparative case study. Beginning with two important IACHR rulings for indigenous property rights, the Sarayaku case in the oil-rich Ecuadorian Amazon and the Awas Tingni case in the mahogany forests of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, the Spiral Model is used to highlight key variables that can impact the process of implementation at the level of the state.