The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) completed its 83rd session on August 30th in Geneva. During the session, CERD discussed Chile’s treatment of Indigenous peoples and offered some recommendations for the future. Specifically, CERD asked Chile: to speed up the process of returning lands to Indigenous peoples throughout the country; to improve Indigenous consultation, particularly with respect to natural resource development; and to “precisely define” crimes that fall under the Anti-Terrorism Law while ensuring the law is not used inappropriately against the Mapuche people.
Prior to CERD’s recommendations, Chile was given the opportunity to submit its own report and make its own comments with respect to eliminating racial discrimination. Chile addressed the issue of Indigenous lands head-on and informed the committee that in the past three years nearly 40,000 hectares (~154 square miles) have been returned to Indigenous communities, benefitting 30,000 Indigenous families.
In response, CERD encouraged Chile to improve their efforts, indicating that they had received information that land transfers have been very slow to occur and that the land being returned in exchange for ancestral lands was often far less useful than the land sought. Additionally, when natural resource projects — particularly extraction — occur on ancestral lands, CERD noted that Indigenous peoples are not being consulted appropriately and rarely, if ever, are able to grant free, prior and informed consent.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also turned to issues of violence between Chile and Indigenous peoples. CERD noted that Chile’s Anti-Terrorism Law only vaguely defines terrorist activities, allowing for its inappropriate use against the Mapuche people. CERD called on Chile to fix the law and to cease its utilization in cases where violence erupts out of social demands (for example, demands for land).
Finally, CERD also called on Chile to investigate reports of violence that have come from Rapa Nui (on Easter Island) over the past few years.