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DS completes successful mission to Gunayala Territories in Panama

DS has just completed its latest mission to Panama where, due to the consequences of climate change and rising sea levels, more than 30,000 Gunayala people face displacement from their Caribbean island homes to the safer mainland. The two-person mission was carried out by internationally renowned resettlement expert Professor Anthony Oliver-Smith and Colombian human rights lawyer Carlos Arenas, working together with the Gunayala people in identifying ways in which the planned relocation process can protect their human rights and other interests in full.

During the mission, the DS team comprised of Anthony and Carlos met with key participants involved in the resettlement of the Gunayala community of Gardi Sugdub, including the Deputy Minister of Housing and the three Caciques of the Guna General Congress. DS ran a workshop in Panama City, as well as a workshop in Gardi Sugdub, discussing the application of the Peninsula Principles, the current relocation prospects of the Gunayala people, and the prevailing government views on the matter. DS continues to refine the application of the Peninsula Principles, and continues to encourage the government and the communities themselves to further expand their use of the Principles in identifying viable solutions to the plight of the Gunayala people.

A Spanish article which appeared in Mi Diario on 22 April 2015 which highlights DS’s work with the Gunayala people can be accessed here in Spanish.

Based on the findings of the mission, a new DS report will be released later in 2015, which will aim to identify particular policy and legal measures that could be undertaken to best ensure that the traditional mistakes often associated with relocation are avoided, and that best-case resettlement options are followed.

DS has been active in Panama for over a year now, and last year released The Peninsula Principles in Action: Climate Change and Displacement in the Autonomous Region of Gunayala, Panama, which presents the results of the initial fact-finding mission to assess the situation in the Gunayala indigenous community which was already experiencing the affects of climate change. The report is available here in English and here in Spanish.


Anthony Oliver-Smith with participants in the Gardi Sugdub workshop


Anthony Oliver-Smith speaking at the Panama City workshop


Three Caciques at the Guna General Congress


Traditional Guna women looking at a DS report after DS met with Gardi Sugdub’s diaspora in Panama City

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