What We Do

 

Our Work

The IR Group is a nonprofit legal organization that offers services to indigenous governments, communities, organizations and individuals, at home and abroad, with the objective of finding creative ways to inject emerging human rights norms into dominant legal frameworks. We offer domestic legal and litigation services in jurisdictions where we have licensed attorneys and in front of international tribunals where there is cross-competency (e.g. the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, etc.). In all other circumstances we offer consultancy services on appropriate issues regarding indigenous and human rights norms. 

    We combine a range of strategies.

     

    IR Group centers its services around various ways to incorporate international human rights and indigenous rights norms into domestic systems for greater protection of these rights. The enforcement gap in international human rights is primarily due to the lack of domestic codification of a State’s international obligations.

    International Advocacy & Consultancy

    Domestic Legal Services

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Capacity Building

    Mentorship and Advocate Support

    Legislation

    Legislative Drafting

    IR Group assists clients in drafting or revising national legislation addressing indigenous rights or impacting indigenous peoples. We also provide assistance drafting codes and regulations for indigenous jurisdictions. Throughout this process we assist the client engage and educate the community of the topics under consideration. These services may look like drafting a national bill entirely dedicated to indigenous rights or drafting a tribal domestic violence ordinance.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    IR Group has the capacity to represent indigenous clients in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as negotiations, mediations and arbitration, and to help them incorporate their traditional governance processes into those mechanisms.

    This is particularly important when it comes to conflict resolution between indigenous communities. Often the dominant culture thrives politically and economically by creating circumstances designed to divide communities that have a similar cultural heritage and maintain the same rights. An important aspect to any indigenous rights movement is recognizing similar rights holders and seeking inter-community harmonization to any tensions that arise from correlating rights. As a part of our ADR services, we offer facilitator services for disputes between indigenous communities.

    Strategic Litigation and International Advocacy

    IR Group believes that strategic domestic litigation in conjunction with advocacy efforts before international mechanisms can assist in the progressive realization of indigenous rights and help shape how these rights are being defined. 

    Whether it be on fundamental land and governance rights, or any other expression of indigenous rights, sometimes the only option that remains is litigation. In jurisdictions where IR Group has licensed attorneys, we can help indigenous clients determine when it is the right time to bring an effective lawsuit and provide the needed representation. In other jurisdictions, IR Group can advise when and how to find competent local counsel and consult with local counsel on applicable human rights norms and legal theories that have been successful for other indigenous communities around the world. 

    In support of strategic litigation, several indigenous communities have found success with first obtaining positive decisions from various international and regional tribunals and treaty bodies. While mechanisms such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights do not provide binding decisions, they are politically and legally persuasive. Particularly in common law countries, these decisions inform domestic courts and help to shape domestic policies and campaigns. IR Group can assist indigenous communities in bringing or continuing ongoing engagement with appropriate international and regional bodies that are targeted at obtaining meaningful expressions of human rights norms that are directly applicable to their struggle.

     

    Creative Alternatives to the Shortfalls of Intellectual Property Regimes

    IR Group prioritizes remaining at the forefront of creative methods being developed worldwide to address the shortfalls of intellectual property regimes, and to encourage the protection of indigenous cultural survival.

    There is a broad consensus amongst indigenous rights advocates, academics, and experts that there are extensive gaps in most intellectual property legal frameworks concerning both indigenous peoples’ tangible and intangible cultural heritage. While in recent decades, there have been achievements on repatriation of indigenous artifacts, graves, and sacred sites. Much of traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and genetic resources of indigenous peoples continue to be exploited by outside actors. 

    The methods we utilize are oriented toward encouraging indigenous communities to assert their own self-determination and traditional governance systems into legal spaces currently available but often under utilized in the status quo (e.g. corporate structure, contract negotiations, and alternative dispute resolution processes), while also managing community expectations and balancing advocacy techniques in international and domestic fora. While IR Group is aware that progress in this field is going to take a long and arduous multi-faceted attack, we believe the small success stories within indigenous communities around the world can be amalgamated into some effective forms of positive protection while indigenous communities wait for the courts of the conquerors to catch up.

     

      Indigenous Capacity Building

      IR Group provides consultation services to assist indigenous communities to understand what international law has to say about rights relevant to them and to think strategically about how to organize awareness.

      Training information on rights

      IR Group provides trainings to indigenous communities, organizations, and relevant stakeholders on indigenous and other relevant human and environmental rights through work with our clients. We offer in-person training locally to indigenous people on various issues, from a broad understanding of international law and indigenous rights to specific issues such as how free, prior and informed consent may impact the community’s rights to natural resources. In our training we provide worksheets and fact sheets to indigenous organizers to assist in broader community outreach and engagement.  

      Support for community created and led language survival programs

      As we enter the United Nations’ Decade of Indigenous Languages, IR Group supports our clients and partners in their efforts to revitalize indigenous languages as critical aspects of cultural survival and community capacity building. To that end, we help to connect various organizations and programs and to incorporate relevant indigenous languages into our trainings and materials.

      Referral Services and Facilitation of Advocacy Networks

      Given the lack of resources that many indigenous rights movements experience, often the first insurmountable hurdle is finding the appropriate advocates who can help advance their struggle. IR Group will only ever have the capacity to directly help a fraction of those communities that need it. However, we make it one of our objectives to direct any community in need to the other available resources that our well-connected and experienced researchers know of from our continued networking. No community should feel hopeless because their plight is constantly turned away with no next steps.