The Mobilisation and Political Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica: Increased Citizen Power or Continued Exclusion?
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This research sets out to explore what factors have been important for the mobilisation of indigenous peoples in Costa Rica and the extent to which they are able to influence and participate in political decision-making processes. Indigenous peoples all over the world have been socially, economically and politically marginalised and excluded. Over the past few decades, they have increasingly mobilised to fight for the recognition of their collective rights. This is also the case for Costa Rica, where indigenous peoples have not been included in the development success, are still overrepresented in the poor segments of society, have less access to basic services, and their land rights are continuously violated. While Costa Rica has ratified international conventions and has installed national laws for the protection of indigenous rights, these laws are not being implemented. Indigenous peoples have little to no citizen power, as their collective rights continue to be violated. This research utilises a social movement lens to analyse how indigenous peoples in Costa Rica have mobilised to try to instigate social change for the recognition of their collective rights. Through a comparative literature review of indigenous mobilisation and political participation in Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica, I have sought to explore what factors have been important for mobilisation in Costa Rica, thereby focusing on those factors that come forward as the most important based on the major social movement theories: inequality, political opportunity, organisational capacity, and a collective action frame. Then, a with a policy analysis I aim to analyse the laws that Costa Rica has established for the protection of indigenous rights and how these laws are being implemented. Lastly, a content analysis of three indigenous organisations - the Frente Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas, the Mesa Nacional Indígena de Costa Rica and the Ditsö Costa Rica - will give a closer look into the framing capacities of indigenous organisations. This paper shows that despite increasing mobilisation of indigenous peoples in Costa Rica, their citizen power has not actually increased. While indigenous mobilisation in Costa Rica started a bit later than in many other Latin American countries, indigenous peoples have increasingly mobilised since the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, motivated by globalisation and the increasing mobilisation of indigenous peoples throughout the region. While Costa Rica has implemented some laws for the protection of indigenous rights, these laws are not being properly implemented. For indigenous peoples to acquire more citizen power, national and international systemic change is required that tackles the historic unequal power relations and socioeconomic inequalities that have been established in colonial times, consolidated in nation-building practices of the 19th and 20th century and deepened by neoliberal reforms in the 1980s and 1990s. It is essential that indigenous peoples' collective territorial rights are protected, as this is an important component in guaranteeing global sustainable development as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.