The Lelepa Declaration 2014

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA) Port Vila, Vanuatu

March 20, 2014

The declaration of the 3rd meeting of the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA), held at Natapao Village on the island of Lelepa, Vanuatu, 10-11 March 2014

In response to continued and increasing severity of threats to customary land systems posed by the land reform and other foreign development agendas of international financial institutions, aid agencies, governments and elites within our own countries, the third meeting of the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA) re-affirms its commitment to indigenous control of customary land systems and Melanesian development goals. We are united and organized as a region to defend the continued control of Melanesian communities over their land, sea, water, air and ancestral heritage, recognising that the threats to customary land are directed against the Melanesian Pacific as a region. We re-assert that the customary land systems are the basis of life and community in Melanesia.

MILDA is an alliance of groups and individuals with a shared vision and commitment to working together united by a common cause to protect our indigenous land extending from the surface of the ground to the centre of the earth and underneath the sea, including our ecosystems, biodiversity, intangible cultural heritage, the waters of our rivers, streams and air. Our members comprise church and traditional leaders, fieldworkers, community members including men, women, youths, children and people with special needs, academics, regional NGOs and international supporters.

Land has and always will be of the highest value to the lives of our peoples, and so it will be for generations to come. In all Melanesian traditions, land is regarded as a non-alienable resource that cannot be parted with. The relationship which we have with our land is special and unique, and cannot be replaced by foreign value systems. The Melanesian definition of land is collective and inclusive. We are custodians of the land since time immemorial.

Land is our mother and the source of life for our people. Land secures life, fosters and strengthens relationships that sustain our society. It embodies the connections to our past, present and future and therefore sustains everything we aspire to. MILDA members, hailing from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Fiji, Kanaky, Papua New Guinea, Maluku, Solomon Islands, West Papua, and Vanuatu, reaffirm the sanctity of land.

We declare the following:

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