Using E-democracy for the Political Inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America

The first decade of the new millennium will be remembered in Latin America for strong economic growth and unprecedented reduction of inequality. It also coincided with the end of the United Nations’ First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004),[1] which intended to strenghthen the position of indigenous peoples as relevant actors in the political and social spheres of countries.[2] Moreover,  Convention 169, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted in 1989, is now considered as the most capable and advanced tool in the area of indigenous rights. Convention 169 determines the inclusion of identity as a criterion for the definition of a legal person.


Despite these international agreements, only few countries in Latin America have thus far enacted laws to expand the political participation of indigenous peoples in democratic elections: eight countries adopted laws and procedures for supporting the electoral participation of indigenous voters, six introduced quotas in local and national legislatures for indigenous representatives, and merely four had changed the country’s political-administrative composition to establish special electoral jurisdictions for indigenous peoples.[3]


It can be assumed that there is no fully democratic system whithout electoral means to ensure the political participation of all citizens. Consequently, representatives of indigenous peoples should be enabled to bring their political agendas into mainstream debates, for increasing their voice in the political and social processes. This is where the notion of E-democracy may come to play a crucial role.


E-democracy is understood to encompass the use of eletronic tools and social media for enabling individuals to exchange, plan, act and interact with policy-makers inside and outside of traditional political spaces and institutional systems. The prospect of interactions between citizens and governments taking place increasingly over the internet entails challenging aspects with regard to internet security and confidentiality, while holding promises of including hitherto excluded segments of societies in the political process.


In recent years, first advances have been made. For instance, the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean’s Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum (LACIGF) in 2008 provided a first platform for subsequent programs in Latin America. Since 2011, the LACIGF agenda has adopted a more decisive approach, with discussions and analyses on regional internet governance issues such as human rights and freedom of expression on the internet, which complements the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) topics and attracts increasing attention from local civil society organizations.[4]


Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil Access.


Other notable examples can be found in Brazil. Here, important initiatives include ”Oca Digital”[5] and “Índios Online”[6], which are programs designed  to include minorities into the E-democratic process. The funding for these programs is provided by the public-private agency SENAC (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Comercial), an institution for advancing professional education among Brazilian citizens.


Through this juridical, political and social advances based on information technology, there is the real possibility of promoting the inclusion of indigenous people in the digital realm, fomenting E-democracy in a more effective way, and bringing quality of life to broader segments of society.



[1] KYMLICKA, Will. Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

[2] Access:

[3] URQUIDI, Vivian; TEIXEIRA, Vanessa; LANA, Eliana. Questão indígena na América Latina: Direito internacional, novo constitucionalismo e organização dos movimentos indígenas. Cadernos PROLAM/USP. São Paulo, 8, v. 1, 2008

[4] Access:


[6] Access:



Catarina Woyames
Catarina Woyames

3 thoughts on “Using E-democracy for the Political Inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America”

Comments are closed.