Kapaeeng achieves the Center of Defenders Award

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Hill Voice, 4 March 2024, International Desk: Kapaeeng Foundation, a leading human rights organization advocating for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh, has been honored with the prestigious award of “Centers of Defenders” from the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) on March 03, 2024 in Chiangmai, Thailand. This recognition underscores the tireless efforts and unwavering dedication of the organization in championing the cause of Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs) in Bangladesh.

The award ceremony, hosted by AIPP, celebrates the exceptional contributions of individuals and organizations committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of Indigenous communities across the region. On behalf of the Kapaeeng Foundation Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director received the award and he dedicated the award to Late Mr. Rabindranath Soren, the immediate past Chairperson of the organization.

In the award giving ceremony, The Chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot handed over the Award to Mr. Pallab Chakma while Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) Mr. Dario Mejia Montalvo, Member of the House of Representatives of Thailand Mr. Manup and Mr. Nuttaphung, and Executive Council Members of AIPP were present among others.

Invited members of the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and indigenous peoples representatives from 14 Asian countries were also present in the award giving ceremony.

The Center of Defenders, conceptualized to honor the courage and commitment of IPHRDs in Asia, visualizes fostering a strong network of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations dedicated to addressing the root causes of human rights violations. The initiative aims to combat the criminalization of Indigenous Peoples, counter environmental degradation, and elevate these pressing issues on national, regional, and global platforms. The inception of the Center of Defenders can be traced back to the establishment of the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders Network in 2010, hosted by AIPP. This network serves as a vital pillar of solidarity, coordination, and support for Indigenous human rights across Asia.

The Kapaeeng Foundation, established in 2004, has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh. The organization derives its name, meaning ‘Rights’ in the Khumi indigenous language, symbolizing its unwavering commitment to the cause. Through its initiatives, the Kapaeeng Foundation provides training and support to Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs), facilitating documentation, legal assistance, and advocacy campaigns. Notably, the Foundation addresses critical issues such as land grabs resulting from militarization and development projects impacting the Chittagong Hills Tract (CHT) and plains. The award not only celebrates past achievements but also accelerates furthering the cause of Indigenous rights and promoting social justice.

After receiving the award Kapaeeng Foundation’s Executive Director Pallab Chakma Said, “Kapaeeng Foundation will remains committed to the cause of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, tirelessly working towards the realization of self-determination, land rights, and holistic empowerment. Our journey is one of resilience, and with continued support, we aim to create a future where Indigenous communities thrive in a world that respects and values their inherent rights.”

“With profound respect, we dedicate today’s Award to our late Chairperson, Rabindranath Soren, who passed away on January 13, 2024. At the same time, I want to remember to those individuals and organizations with utmost respect who contributed raising the Kapaeeng Foundation over the years”, Pallab Chakma further added.