Information dissemination, Capacity Building & Advocacy
The story so far
Activities at the National level
At national level, through the organization of conferences, debates and studies, SONIA is engaged in capacity building and awareness raising about the situation of some developing countries, of migrants in Italy and of indigenous peoples in the world. Awareness raising campaigns regarding developing countries comprise the organization of a series of cultural events and debates related to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular the region of North Kivu, during the conflict in the area (2008-2009), the diffusion of information related to the situation in India of Muslim women Zari Sardosi (those who embroider fancy saris for weddings) and the Manual Scavangers - untouchable women who clean by hand open pit latrines (2012).
Migrants in Italy and Rome, their economic, demographic, cultural and social contribution and the value of diversity is a major area of SONIA’s work and takes many forms: the organization of conferences and debates – addressed to Master students of the Luiss University of Rome (2009) – and in more public spaces: Bisignani public library (2009), Caffè Letterario (2011), Città dell’Altra Economia (2013) e Eataly (2014); b) participatory research and case studies on the situation of migrants in the province of Rome, undertaken by students of La Sapienza University of Rome (2010 and 2011); and, c) specific projects: for example, in 2013, SONIA, in partnership with OMVCI and in collaboration with Slow Food Lazio, implemented a project “ROMA INTEGRA”. Its results have been quite remarkable:
➢ A synthesis study on migration in Italy and in the Roman province in particular, highlighting the substantial contributions made by migrants in the country;
➢ Preparation of training modules to synthesise the results of the study:
➢ A competition amongst the students of I.I.S.P.T for the development of the ROMA INTEGRA logo
➢ Training modules on the links between food and interculture
➢ Organisation of laboratories at the secondary schools Alberto Manzi and the Insitute Albio Tibullo; subsequently students were brought on a tour of the ethnic food market of the Esquilino;
➢ An event at Eataly Rome where children discussed their experiences with Roma Integra and the importance of interculture and diversity were stressed;
➢ A conference titled “At the School of Diversity” at Eataly Rome, aimed at disseminating the results achieved with the schools;
➢ A conference on the theme “New Generations: a resource for co-development”, aimed at an adult audience;
➢ The production of two videos as well as of a series of cartoons, a card game - both made by the students – and a class recipe book, produced by the students with the assistance of their family members;
➢ The final events were broadcasted on TV (Rai 2 and Rai 3).
Activities at the International Level
Internationally, SONIA is actively engaged in capacity building, sensitisation, awareness raising and advocacy on questions related to indigenous peoples, climate justice and cultural and agro biodiversity. For example, in 2008, SONIA undertook an extensive awareness raising and advocacy campaign with the international humanitarian organisations (WFP, UNHCR and the International Red Cross) on the situation of the Bambuti peoples in refugee camps in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a result of SONIA’s intervention, these peoples, who were discriminated against, received both food and non food aid like all the other refugees residing in those camps. SONIA also co-organised seminars and workshops on climate justice for indigenous peoples, at the European Social Forum in Malmö (Sweden, 2008) and at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil (2009). Thanks to the active involvement of SONIA, an alliance was forged amongst NGOs, environmental organizations and indigenous peoples’ movements, aiming at promoting the rights and safeguarding the sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples during the negotiations on climate change.
Since 2008, SONIA participates in all the negotiations on climate change and provides technical assistance to the International Indigenous Forum on Climate Changes (IIFCCC). These efforts have been successful because the Paris Agreement (2015), though high on ambitions but low on commitments, contains specific language which acknowledges the respect and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples, the safeguard of indigenous ecological knowledge and reaffirms the need of their full and effective participation in all climate related activities and programmes .
SONIA has also participated in the negotiations on the Convention of Biological Diversity in Nagoya (Japan, 2010) where three very important agreements on benefit sharing, favourable to indigenous peoples, were reached. During that conference SONIA promoted a new initiative on Indigenous Peoples, Agro Biodiversity and Food Sovereignty.
Since 2010 SONIA cooperates with the Indigenous Partnership on Food Sovereignty and Agro biodiversity. During 2012 SONIA organized two food and agro biodiversity festivals: a local one in Sahsa, an autonomous indigenous territory of the Municipality of Puerto Cabeza (Nicaragua), in collaboration with CADPI, to bring together local producers, and a major one in Ayacucho, Peru, - called Days of Living Cultures - in collaboration with CHIRAPAQ, to restore and promote indigenous food systems and agricultural diversity. This event gathered 81 exhibitors coming from 7 indigenous distinct peoples, spanning from the Andes to the Amazon. Altogether, 382 varieties of products were displayed. In addition to showcasing the huge agro biodiversity existing in indigenous territories, the event offered a number of cultural activities for children and adults: screening to school children of films by indigenous filmmakers, highlighting indigenous cultural identity; day long ateliers on sculpture and painting for children and youth; various forms of indigenous handicraft; traditional dances and music; an award-giving ceremony to promoters of indigenous culture and identity in the region and workshops in the evening where the issues of agro biodiversity, climate change and the nutritional value of indigenous foods were debated. www.chirapaq.org.pe/seccion/eventos/jornada-de-cultura-viva
During 2014 SONIA assisted a groups of young Italian researchers and their teachers of IRFOSS (Research and Training Institute in Social Sciences) in a participatory research that mapped out traditional ecological knowledge of pollinators and the ecological services provided by them in two villages in the Kotagiri Hills (Tamil Nadu, India) where wild honey hunting is traditionally practiced.
With SONIA’s assistance three indigenous organisations in Nicaragua, Peru and Kenya were identified and they carried out similar studies in 2014-2015. Preliminary results of these studies were shared with the scientific community in Panama. Since the beginning of 2015 SONIA has been named as one of the reviewers of studies on pollinators and their services, coordinated by IPBES (The International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).
In 2015 SONIA contributed to the holding of the international Indigenous Terra Madre - co-organised by the Indigenous Partnership on Agro Biodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Slow Food International and NESFAS – which gathered 650 indigenous participants coming from all over the world and an equivalent number of indigenous peoples from India. The theme of this event - The future we want - was analysed from different aspects: health and indigenous food systems, the notion of well being, the role of matriarchal societies on nutritional security, the role of agro-ecology and of agro biodiversity in indigenous food systems and the role of chefs in promoting indigenous food systems. The event culminated in a one-day indigenous food festival that gathered about 50,000 visitors.
At the request of a regional indigenous association, AIPP (Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact), in 1013, SONIA trained about 20 young indigenous professionals in participatory monitoring and evaluation. The course was repeated the following year for the new staff of the institution and a refreshers’ course was given to the old trainees. They were all assisted in putting in place an institution-wide participatory monitoring system. Subsequently in June 2014 a participatory evaluation of one of AIPP flagship programmes on Human Rights Defenders in two countries (Nepal and Cambodia) was undertaken with some of the same staff. This was a great opportunity for them to learn by doing. In addition, the results of the evaluation and the methodology utilized were widely discussed with the rest of the staff.
In view of the dramatic rise worldwide in the number of cases of grabbing of indigenous peoples’ lands and territories, since the end of 2013 SONIA has become a member of the International Land Coalition (ILC), which has recently extended its advocacy work to the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral lands, territories and associated resources. During 2014, SONIA has been providing support and assistance to ILC on matters related to Indigenous Peoples’ issues both in New York, during the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and in Rome, where two meetings were held. In 2015 SONIA attended the Global Conference organized by ILC in Dakar (Senegal) and moderated a session on grassroots participatory monitoring. In 2015 SONIA also joined the Global Call on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, which is a joint effort of many civil society organisations and has the target to double the global area of land legally recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities by 2020.