Home Institution

University of Maryland

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


For indigenous peoples, land is more than an economic commodity, it has guided their way of life for generations. This notion is particularly prevalent in Africa, where many diverse indigenous communities exist, from desert regions to vast forests. However, without the recognition of international laws and standards that seek to preserve and uphold their land rights, the indigenous peoples of Africa continue to face socio-environmental and political issues. This research paper seeks to understand what actors, documents, and mechanisms exist to protect and promote the land rights of indigenous peoples in Africa and assess their effectiveness. This research question was answered by collecting information about the instruments within the African Commission, International Labor Organization (ILO), and United Nations (UN) and by reading reports, press releases, and documents from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and news outlets that have published information on the current issues indigenous peoples in Africa are enduring. This research has found an apparent discrepancy between the land rights of African indigenous peoples guaranteed and monitored by the international instruments and the alarming reality of the situations these peoples are facing, including food and water insecurity, environmental pressures, limited national recognition, and conflict. These results illustrate a need for more effective implementation of international law, monitoring and enforcement by international bodies, and creation of national policies that address the needs of indigenous African populations.


African Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Geography | Nature and Society Relations | Place and Environment