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Traditions pour Demain

In Rolle, Switzerland, Traditions pour Demain is engaged in the development of activities aiming to protect and to preserve the rights of the indigenous peoples. A dual approach is pursued. On the one hand the organization is represented in discussions with the United Nations, UNESCO, WIPO and similar organizations on the cause of the indigenous peoples and their cultures, on the other hand Traditions pour Demain supports field projects in a number of Central and South American countries.

Established in 1986 Traditions pour Demain (Tradiciones para el manana / Traditions for Tomorrow) is headed and run mainly by volunteers. The founders, French-Swiss couple Diego Gradis and Christiane Johannot, feel that culture is a mean to enhance social cohesion in local indigenous communities, giving them back a sense of belonging, purpose and identity, of which they were deprived by history and without which it is difficult to build a sustainable future. In addition to field work in Latin America, Traditions pour Demain aims constantly to raise awareness among governments, international organizations and other NGOs of the lessons that can be learnt from indigenous peoples in this era of globalization and environmental issues, but also warn against over-idealization of Amerindians and their culture. The organization functions as an intermediary between the indigenous peoples and potential donors – members, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private companies and foundations like Horizon – to whom the various projects are presented for funding. These projects aspire to restore a sense of confidence, dignity and self-esteem among Amerindian people who have been marginalized because of their ethnic origins and helps them to take their future into their own hands. Local communities are supported in reviving their knowledge of and pride in their traditional Amerindian cultures and be recognized in their capacity to be official counterparts in development; to be actors in their own future.

Traditions pour Demain’s projects are mostly cultural and educational in nature and are fully initiated and carried out by the indigenous communities themselves. Over the past years, the organization has been able to realize projects in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The majority of projects supported fell into one of two categories: traditional cultural expressions or community-based education programs. Budgets were modest and went to grassroots organizations who have no other or limited sources of funding. The projects are led by local NGOs and leaders of local rural communities, which reinforces the structure of these groups. Moreover, strengthening the cultural bonds of the communities reinforces their coherence. Without this cohesion the rural communities, and in particular the younger generation, are likely to be tempted to abandon their homes and cultures for urban areas that offer them little opportunities to live and work.

For various reasons, the living environment of the indigenous peoples in Latin America has considerably changed during the years of Traditions pour Demain’ existence. Quite often these changes of circumstances have shown an improvement but not always. Important developments include political trends and events – especially in some Andean countries, the ongoing Americanization of Central America and more in general the increased use of information and communication technology, particularly the social media. In this volatile political, social and technological climate, the cause of the rights of the indigenous peoples, their history and their cultures continues to require support. Constantly discussing the needs of the environment in which it operates, Traditions pour Demain plans to expand its focus to larger scale projects and on sharing and further dissemination of information on indigenous cultural values. Initiated and organized by local NGOs, which are increasingly staffed by well-educated and highly qualified people, projects may include (documentary) films, the organization of (regional) conferences, radio & television transmissions and an effective use of the social media.

Horizon has been working with Traditions pour Demain since 1997. More information is to be found on http://www.tradi.info/