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Full Access Squaring Indigenous Circles: The Making of Nicaragua’s Indigenous Communal Property Regime

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Squaring Indigenous Circles: The Making of Nicaragua’s Indigenous Communal Property Regime

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International standards on indigenous peoples contain a theoretical promise of spatial empowerment and traditional governance as part of autonomy which in practice is not absent of conflict and human rights concerns. Western “square” individual property rights conceptions are confronted with “circular” communal property relations. Legitimate interests of indigenous communities conflict with non-indigenous ones. The communal administration of the land is to be balanced with environmental protection. This article problematizes these dilemmas by analyzing the development of a communal property system within the Atlantic Coast Autonomy of Nicaragua. It identifies essentialist and constructivist ideas on indigenous identity and other policy assumptions behind it, the technical answers given to indigenous claims (de facto restitution, participatory demarcation and titling, conflict resolution mechanisms) and their consequences. It argues that a set of norms which is considered legitimate by all communities and which respects the rights of non-indigenous persons, including a fair dispute resolution mechanism, is needed for its success in protecting environmental and social stability and preventing violence. To achieve such objective in this or similar scenarios, an open minded approach to group identities and to available options (inclusive of others or exclusive to a community, collective or individual rights) in the design of special property regimes would be useful.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Legal Adviser, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

10.1163/157181112X620546
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International standards on indigenous peoples contain a theoretical promise of spatial empowerment and traditional governance as part of autonomy which in practice is not absent of conflict and human rights concerns. Western “square” individual property rights conceptions are confronted with “circular” communal property relations. Legitimate interests of indigenous communities conflict with non-indigenous ones. The communal administration of the land is to be balanced with environmental protection. This article problematizes these dilemmas by analyzing the development of a communal property system within the Atlantic Coast Autonomy of Nicaragua. It identifies essentialist and constructivist ideas on indigenous identity and other policy assumptions behind it, the technical answers given to indigenous claims (de facto restitution, participatory demarcation and titling, conflict resolution mechanisms) and their consequences. It argues that a set of norms which is considered legitimate by all communities and which respects the rights of non-indigenous persons, including a fair dispute resolution mechanism, is needed for its success in protecting environmental and social stability and preventing violence. To achieve such objective in this or similar scenarios, an open minded approach to group identities and to available options (inclusive of others or exclusive to a community, collective or individual rights) in the design of special property regimes would be useful.

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/content/journals/10.1163/157181112x620546
2012-01-01
2016-12-04

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