Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Traditional Lands and Natural Recourses. The Inter-American Court Jurisprudence and Beyond.

This research project explores the recognition of the right to traditional lands and natural resources by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and their interrelation with Indigenous Peoples’ rights to cultural identity and dignified life.

Worldwide, indigenous peoples have suffered from the lack of recognition of their right to enjoy and own the lands and natural resources that they have traditionally occupied and used since time immemorial. The lack of access to these lands and territories has not only endangered their physical survival, but also the perpetuation of their ancestral culture as well as the maintenance and development of their distinguishable cultural identity.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I-ACtHR) was the first human rights international judicial body to recognize the right to communal property of indigenous and tribal communities over their ancestral lands and natural resources that they have traditionally used. Since the adoption of the landmark judgment in the Case of Mayana (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community vs. Nicaragua (2001), the I-ACHR has developed an innovative jurisprudence that shows a sensitive inclination towards the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and cultural understandings. This jurisprudence has not only paved the way for the amelioration of the life of thousands of indigenous peoples in the Americas, but it has also strengthened the protection of their rights within other regional systems that have found inspiration in this legal development.

The outcome of this project is to contribute to the scientific debate in this area through participation in two international conferences with the presentation of two different scientific papers, and a publication of a scholarly article in a leading international peer-reviewed journal.



Project owner:

Alejandro Fuentes

Alejandro Fuentes

Senior Researcher

Phone: +46 46 222 10 46

Alejandro Fuentes is a Senior Researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI), an affiliated lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Lund University (Sweden) and –since 2022, a Professor of International Human Rights Law at Africa University (Zimbabwe). He received his Doctor of Laws (PhD) in International law and Master (LL.M) in Comparative and European Legal Studies from Trento University (Italy), and Law degree from the University of Córdoba (Argentina).

His main areas of expertise are international human rights law, with focuses on regional systems of human rights protection, local governance, human rights cities, and sustainable development. Additionally, Alejandro’s expertise convers a diverse set of collective and individual rights questions including cultural diversity, identity, minority, indigenous peoples, and children’s rights.

Some of the foundational questions that currently engage his research are related to balancing potential conflict of rights and how regional human rights courts search for a fair adjudicative balance between conflicting legal interests. For instance, regarding indigenous peoples rights, essential questions relate to how regional tribunals find a fair balance between the protection of their traditional lands and cultural practises, and the interest of national governments to exploit natural resources, support sustainable development and protect environmental rights.

Alejandro also has extensive experience in developing and implementing international development programmes. These programs are aimed at strengthening institutional capacities in partnership with local stakeholders, including governmental institutions and judicial actors, across the globe. These initiatives have largely focused on the advancement of human rights education (HRE) in academia, including the development of clinical legal education (CLE) at partner universities. Alejandro is currently in close collaboration with institutional partners in Africa (Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe); Europe (Belarus, Poland, Armenia, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, and –of course- Scandinavian countries); and the Americas (Mexico, Colombia, Cuba).

For further updates on his research, please refer to his Research profile: