On 18 March, at the conclusion of its 175th session in Haiti, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) called on the member states fully to recognise the representative organisations of indigenous peoples so that they can exercise and defend their rights. Article IX of the American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples obliges member states to grant legal recognition to these organisations.

Although the right to these peoples’ legal existence and the organisations that represent them is intrinsic and precedes the existence of the states, many state authorities demand that indigenous peoples’ organisations be registered by the state before they can exercise their rights; and when this registration is denied they are placed in a vulnerable situation.

In the case of Peru, the Achuar people of the Pastaza River has the only indigenous people’s organisation that is recognised by the state. However it is not registered. Peruvian law only allows regional governments to recognise legally indigenous communities; it does not recognise indigenous peoples, because current legislation preceded the signing and ratification of ILO Convention 169.

Thus, when the Cajamarca and Loreto regional governments recognised ethnic organisations that represent peoples rather than communities, the Ministry of Culture asked the Constitutional Tribunal to have the regional ordinances declared unconstitutional. Nelton Yankur, president of the Achuar nation of the Pastaza valley, declares that they are still waiting for the Tribunal to resume its activities to clarify this matter.

Even so, in 44 years the state has only recognised one third of the communities that make up the broader nation.