Under its programme Building and Recognising Communication Rights WACC has supported a number of communication projects for indigenous communities in Asia and Latin America. The programme is rooted in the principle that communication is an essential human need and a basic human right. This is essential if society is to change so that it fully responds to the needs of every sector and, in particular, those who have faced long lasting social and economic marginalisation. Recognising the historical communication deficit faced by indigenous communities across the world in the last ten years, WACC has provided support for indigenous groups in Argentina, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Philippines and Peru.
With the continental summit of indigenous communicators which took place 8-12 November 2010 in the Cauca, Colombia, the long-held dream of creating a continent wide network of indigenous communicators might be a step closer. From all corners of Abya Yala, the ancient name given by the original inhabitants to Latin America, indigenous communicators travelled to the ancestral territory of the Misak people in south west Colombia to ‘contribute to the promotion of the self-development of indigenous people’.
This first summit exclusively dedicated to communication gives continuity to a number of indigenous communication events that took place between 2006 and 2010. The Summit had two main objectives: firstly to defend collective rights, including the right to information and communication during the process of planning and building the Life Plans and the Good Life (Sumac Kawsay http://alainet.org/active/33609〈=es) of the Original Peoples of Abya-Yala. Secondly, to strengthen and consolidate the process of joint coordination, articulation and strategic planning of the indigenous organizations and the indigenous communication channels at a continental level.
Around 79 indigenous nations from some 24 countries participated in the Summit’s inauguration. The Summit was organised by a number of indigenous and civil society organizations from Latin America. The Summit’s declaration calls for the establishment of a continent wide articulation of indigenous communication activities and projects and calls for States’ recognition of and respect for indigenous nations right to communication and information. The declaration (in Spanish only) can be read here.
Meanwhile, in Guatemala, another part of Abya-Yala, a network of Maya Radio Stations (RRM) has reached its first birthday. Formed by members of two radio networks, the Communicators Network of Boca de Polen and the Federation of Guatemalan Educational Radio Stations, the Network of Maya Radio Stations also had the support of ALER, the Latin American Association of Educational Radio. The RRM is one of several networks of indigenous communicators across the continent. For more information on the Mayan stations visit here.
WACC believes that radio is one of the most effective mediums for marginalised groups to advocate for the recognition of their communication rights. New information and communication technologies and their decreasing cost make radio an accessible medium for most people. It is also the one medium where people and their communities can have a say over content and programming.