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Barbudans Seek International Support to Resist Harmful Land Grab

Request sent to Inter-American Commission for Human Rights  

25.04.24: This week GLAN, on behalf of our grassroots partner the Barbuda Land Rights and Resources Committee (BLRRC), filed an urgent request to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights seeking precautionary measures to be adopted to halt the central administration of Antigua’s plans to begin to adjudicate the entire island of Barbuda, in an attempt to fully abolish the Barbudan’s communal land ownership. 


What are precautionary measures? 

The Inter-American Commission can issue precautionary measures to a State to protect people where there is a serious and urgent situation whereby the people are at risk of suffering irreparable harm. Their goal is two-fold. First, to protect the exercise of human rights and secondly to prevent irreparable harm from occurring and therefore preserve the exercise of human rights. The Commission has issued precautionary measures relating to other Afro-descendant communities and Indigenous groups facing similar issues. 

Why is the proposed adjudication process a risk? 

If land is transferred through the adjudication process to the government and subsequently sold to foreign investors who proceed to construct harmful, unsustainable developments, these actions will inevitably continue to devastate the island's ecology. This destruction will exacerbate the island’s climate vulnerability as developers have already torn out mangroves, which have historically served as a critical barrier against extreme weather events and as a vital carbon sink. Therefore, Barbudans are at risk of losing their land, culture and becoming even more vulnerable to climate change and pollution from large-scale luxury residential communities extracting key resources and in turn polluting the water and air. 

What rights are urgently at risk? 

Barbudans as a Tribal Afro-descendant people have a right to self-determination and special rights to their land and resources. Tribal people, while not indigenous to the region they inhabit, share similar characteristics with indigenous peoples, such as an inextricable important relationship with their land and nature, different social, cultural and economic traditions than other sections of the national population and regulating themselves, at least partially, by their own norms, customs, and traditions. The Barbudan system of collective land tenure is thus protected and there can be no outsider use of Barbudan land or resources without the Barbudan people’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Flowing from these key rights are social, economic and cultural rights as well as the right to live in a healthy environment and the right to climate justice. The rights of children are particularly at risk from an adjudication process that would happen without their voice being heard. Children make up over half of the Barbudan population and are at risk of losing out on the traditional land allocation practice whereby on turning 18 Barbudans are granted a parcel of land from the Barbuda Council. If lands are restricted, children would be denied culturally significant experiences linked to the lands such as crab hunting and camping in nature that are a key part of their heritage. 


What else can be done to stop this happening?  

We are working closely with Barbudans to strategise a community-led multi-pronged legal and advocacy strategy to preserve the collective land tenure system. Barbudans have been the custodians of the land under their system of communal land tenure and have protected the delicate ecology and environment of their island for centuries. Keep sharing information from the ground: and you can donate to the cause here:  


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