Community Rights Training for Tibetan Villagers

July 2009

Through a grant from the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), the Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association (SGREPA), a Qinghai Province non-governmental organization, trained more than 280 villagers in the Tibetan Plateau on community rights and illegal mining. The trainings, offered in six villages in January and February, were meant to raise the awareness of local communities about their right to participate in making decisions that affect their livelihood and cultural heritage.

To better tailor the trainings, ABA ROLI and SGREPA undertook comprehensive research. The research assessed current mining- and community rights-related laws and researched community responses to suspected illegal mining in three areas of the Tibetan plateau. SGREPA developed a Tibetan-language community rights guide for the trainings. It revised the guide, incorporating ABA ROLI’s and training participants’ feedback, and is distributing the final version in villages across the Tibetan plateau.

The trainings covered the environmental, health and cultural impacts of mining. They also addressed community rights and presented the available legal tools to exercise them, discussing specific cases in which communities challenged illegal mining. Prior to designing the training materials, SGREPA conducted extensive field research, interviewing more than 200 villagers and stakeholders in 33 counties, to understand community responses to illegal mining. It also conducted on-the-spot investigations of eight mining sites. During these investigations, many villagers said that they face difficulties in challenging illegal mining. Many mining organizations have connections to government entities that allow them to obtain official-looking documents, making it difficult for local communities to assess if the miners are operating legally. Some mining programs erect physical barriers around mining sites to limit the monitoring of mining activities and the collecting of evidence. Moreover, villagers have little leverage to force mining companies to communicate with them.

The trainings addressed strategies to overcome these challenges, including obtaining information through China’s open government regulations and advocating for mining-related public hearings. They also covered identifying and reporting illegal mining activity to local land resources management bureaus and to public security bureaus, as needed.

With ABA ROLI support, SGREPA has created a set of materials that can empower local communities to use legal tools to advocate for and assert their participation in mining-related decisions. SGREPA, which has already received additional requests for training, will continue to use these resources in its ongoing land governance work.

To learn more about our work in China, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <>.