Indigenous Peoples speak out at UN Permanent Forum
Messages of Indigenous Peoples' Organizations for Rio+20
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues release
12 May 2012
On Tuesday, 8 May, three civil society organizations convened a side event to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) entitled The Road to Rio+20: Indigenous Peoples' Key Messages and Actions.
|Todadaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation at the opening
of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)’s
eleventh session. Photo credit: UN/Devra Berkowitz
These organizations - Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education); Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organisation (MPIDO) of Kenya, and the Asian Indigenous Women's Network (AIWN) - framed their discussion in the context of the Rio Principles that arose from the 1992 Earth Summit, and strategized on key points of advocacy for indigenous peoples' sustainable development.
Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and member of the Onondaga Nation's Council of Chiefs, illustrated the concept of a "statement for the seventh generation" (keeping in mind the seven generations of impacts) as a guiding principle for world leaders in their decisions about sustainable development. In Rio in 1992, Mr. Lyons stated, indigenous peoples fought to be included in the agenda for sustainable development, along with women and youth, and addressed issues of mining and extraction, violations of human rights, and labour. These issues, he continued, are still at stake today; how much attention was paid to the earlier discussions? As a result of the world's lack of corrective action on environmental challenges, climate change is part of our daily realities; Mr. Lyons concluded by emphasizing the necessity of humanity's recognition that it is part of nature.
Focusing her intervention on the two themes of the conference (green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development), Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of Tebtebba stated her support for enhancing the Commission on Sustainable Development into a Sustainable Development Council, a standing body to regularly discuss relevant issues. Differences between developing and developed countries on the issue of green economy, however, ensure that the parameters of the issue are unclear. Additionally, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz highlighted the politics of language in international conventions regarding indigenous peoples, in the plural as the preferred language introduced first in Johannesburg as well as in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The particular circumstances of indigenous peoples in Africa formed the subject of the remarks of MPIDO's Joseph ole Simel. Sustainable development, often in conflict with government and private sector-led development activities, must address land use and pastoralism, along with the vulnerability of women. At a preparatory meeting of indigenous peoples held in Tanzania, participants agreed on a declaration that advocated the inclusion of a pillar of sustainable development for cultural identity and dignity. Sustainable development, the declaration stated, must be based on a human rights approach, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to ensure its achievement. Focus must be on implementation: financing, indicators, and reporting, no matter the outcome of Rio, Mr. Simel concluded.
Referring to another planning meeting for indigenous peoples, Grace Balawag of Tebtebba and the Major Group for Indigenous Peoples shared the results of the Manaus Declaration, decided upon in August 2011. The UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples should be a foundation for sustainable development, the Manaus meeting decided, and they also called for the integration of a cultural pillar of sustainable development, one that includes a focuso n spiritual and moral values. Green economy, too, should recognize the value of traditional knowledge and the diversity of local economies as part of sustainable development, the declaration continues, and the approach of indigenous peoples - inter-cultural and gender-sensitive, focused on human rights and the ecosystem - is an important contribution to conversations on sustainable development. Ms. Talawag concluded that despite disappointments in the ongoing negotiations of the outcome document, including the continued bracketing of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, one of the 21 agreed paragraphs so far confirms the importance of indigenous peoples for sustainable development.
The final panelist, Jadder Lewis of the Centro para la Autonomia y Desarrollo de los Pueblas Indigenas (CADPI), stressed the importance of the fourth, cultural pillar for indigenous peoples, especially those of Latin America. The concept of buen vivir, or the right to a good life enshrined within the rights of nature, is central especially within relation to questions of territory and self-governance. At Rio, indigenous peoples will hold a conference on self-determined sustainable development, to focus on key messages including: buen vivir; food sovereignty as a fundamental basis for sustainable development; the impact of extractive industries on the quality of life of indigenous peoples; and a focus on climate change and biological diversity. Between 70 and 150 representatives at the global level are expected for this conference, Mr. Lewis concluded.
In her final statements, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, who chaired the event, shared plans for a report to be launched after Rio, assessing the outcomes of the conference and illustrating best practices of indigenous peoples' sustainable development. She concluded by highlighting current concerns with the process of the negotiations thus far, particularly the Rio principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, free prior informed consent, polluter pays, etc, being undermined. As regulatory frameworks are weakened in favour of a strong private sector, challenges to sustainable development increase.
At a related side event, "Resisting a Climate Conquest," organized by the Indian Law Resource Center and the Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigénas (CAOI), participants focused on the impacts on indigenous peoples of extractive industries and the destruction of natural resources. CAOI's Miguel Palacin Quipse illustrated the biodiversity losses and water insufficiency in the Andes region as an example; indigenous people there, he stated, are "climate refugees." Mr. Palacin also referred to the concept of buen vivir, defining it as harmony with nature and among people and recommending that a new paradigm of civilization be based on this alternative model. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of food sovereignty.
Nancy Iza, also of CAOI, placed the blame for these crises squarely on Western civilization, free trade agreements, and the privatization of natural resources. She, too, advocated buen vivir as a return to balance. The rights and role of women, she concluded, should be respected, especially within the context of food production.
Panelist Gretchen Gordon shared a working paper, "International Law Principles for REDD+," of her organization, the Indian Law Resource Center. This paper outlines incentives to combat illegal practices among indigenous people, in relation to the obligations under international law of international agencies and States. The rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Gordon asserted, must be respected in both project implementation and initial processes of decision-making; free, prior and informed consent is essential, as indigenous peoples must have the choice to engage or not in REDD+ programmes.
Mother Earth Should Not Be "Owned, Privatised and Exploited"
Interpress Service (IPS)
9 May 2012
Aline Jenckel interviews, TOM B.K. GOLDTOOTH, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
UNITED NATIONS, - For centuries, indigenous peoples and their rights, resources and lands have been exploited. Yet long overdue acknowledgment of past exploitation and dedicated efforts by indigenous peoples have done little to end or prevent violations of the present, stated indigenous leaders in the Manaus Declaration of 2011.
The declaration, part of preparations for the upcoming U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, frequently referred to as Rio+20, in June, recounted the "active participation" of indigenous groups in the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and similar efforts in 2002 that led to the adoption of the term "indigenous peoples" for the United Nations (U.N.) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Despite this work, "the continuing gross violations of our rights...by governments and corporations" remain major obstacles to sustainable development, the declaration continued. "Indigenous activists and leaders defending their territories still continue to be harassed, tortured, vilified as 'terrorists' and assassinated by powerful vested interests."
As Rio+20 approaches, IPS interviewed Tom B.K. Goldtooth, who has been an activist for social change in Native American communities for more than three decades and is the executive director of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), an alliance of indigenous peoples that combats the exploitation and contamination of the earth and will participate in the Rio+20 conference.
Goldtooth called for a "new paradigm of laws that redefine humanity and its governance relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth and the natural world".
The activist explained that the most effective measures for reducing deforestation, protecting the environment from unsustainable mineral extraction and preserving a better world for future generations are to strengthen international, national and sub-national frameworks for collectively demarcating and titling indigenous peoples' territories.
U.N. Correspondent Aline Jenckel spoke with Tom Goldtooth about the main threats faced by indigenous peoples and how the Rio+ 20 conference could be a success.
Q: At the Rio+20 conference in June, you will speak on behalf of indigenous peoples and their human rights, in terms of protecting their natural environment and creating sustainable development. What is the key message you hope to convey?
A: The thematic discussion of green economy and sustainability creates differences in views between the money-centred Western views and our indigenous life-centred worldview of our relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth.
Many of our indigenous peoples globally are deeply concerned with the current economic globalisation model that looks at Mother Earth and nature as a resource to be owned, privatised and exploited for maximised financial return through the marketplace.
With this development model, indigenous peoples continue to be displaced from their lands, cultures and spiritual relationship to Mother Earth, and destruction to the life-sustaining capacity of nature and the ecosystem that sustains us and all life continues as well.
For the sake of humanity and the world as we know her, to survive, there must be a new paradigm of laws that redefine humanity and its governance relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth and the natural world.
This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally- sensitive and knowledge-based approaches. The world must forge a new economic system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings.
We can only achieve balance with nature if there is equity among human beings.
At Rio+20, global governments must look cautiously at any green economy agenda that supports the commodification and financialisation of nature and take concerted action to initiate the development of a new framework that begins with a recognition that nature is sacred and not for sale and that the ecosystems of our Mother Earth have jurisprudence for conservation and protection.
Full recognition of land tenure of our place-based indigenous communities are the most effective measures for protecting the rich biological and cultural diversity of the world.
Q: What are the biggest threats to Indigenous people's livelihoods today, and how can they be addressed?
A: Indigenous peoples from every region of the world continue to inhabit and maintain the last remaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots in the world.
Destructive mineral extractive industries continue to encroach on indigenous peoples' traditional territories. Unconventional oil and extreme energy development, with the real-life effects of climate chaos, are directly affecting the wellbeing of indigenous peoples from the North to the Global South.
Indigenous peoples can contribute substantially to sustainable development, but they believe that a holistic framework for sustainable development should be promoted.
With the knowledge that development that violates human rights is by definition unsustainable, Rio+20 must affirm a human rights-based approach to sustainable development.
Particularly, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must serve as a key framework which underpins all international, national and sub-national policies and programs on sustainable development with regard to indigenous peoples.
Q: Recently, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) expressed deep concern about the reversals on agreements made by governments in 1992 and say there's no country taking leadership of or acting as a visionary role in the conference. Do you believe there is still hope for new, binding commitments?
A: Because of the climate chaos, financial instabilities and ecological devastation, the world doesn't have an option to reverse the agreements made in 1992.
World leaders must remember the active participation of indigenous peoples in the Rio Earth Summit (UNCED 1992) and the parallel processes indigenous peoples organised, which resulted into the Kari- oca Indigenous Peoples' Declaration.
Agenda 21 embraced the language of Kari-Oca that recognised the vital role of indigenous peoples in sustainable development and identified Indigenous Peoples as a Major Group. Rio+20 must reaffirm the commitments made by UNCED to indigenous peoples in 1992.
Self-determined development: indigenous peoples fight resource extraction
By Camille Rogine
8 May 2012
"They've turned us into squatters on our own lands," said Windel Bolinget, Chairperson of the Cordillera People's Alliance, at yesterday's presentation on "Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries" at the UN. Bolinget was referring to the laws and legal framework, which he also called "colonial doctrine," currently infringing upon the rights of indigenous peoples across Southeast Asia.
Joan Carling, Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), began the presentation by framing the threats facing indigenous peoples within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Founded in 1967, ASEAN is primarily devoted to fostering economic cooperation between the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Some 85 million indigenous peoples live throughout these nations, but they are seldom recognized legally.
Currently, the bulk of ASEAN's economic partnership and development is devoted to rampant resource extraction. Carling pointed out that ASEAN's vision for 2020 "is full of rhetoric of sustainable development, high quality of life, and environmental action." She added, however, "If we look at the investment plan you can see how the approach is really for setting up extractive industries." The land conceded to the transnational companies pursuing these extractive industries is most often land belonging to indigenous groups.
Most ASEAN countries, except the Philippines, fail to recognize indigenous peoples as such. Instead, in Laos, for example, indigenous peoples are called "ethnic minorities," in Thailand they are called "hill tribes," and in Myanmar, where indigenous peoples make up 40 percent of the population, they are called "national minorities." By failing to recognize indigenous peoples, these countries can ignore the rights afforded to them under the 2006 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. According to Carling, "Since indigenous peoples are not recognized with their collective rights they do not have any entitlement to their lands, territories, and resources." As a result, they are often evicted, without any voice or compensation.
Rukka Sombolinggi, of the Indonesian Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara group, added that while Indonesia has made progress in honoring indigenous rights, it still faces a significant roadblock. "When it comes to mining," said Sombolinggi, "I haven't seen any light." For her, widespread mining projects have carved up the country "like cake."
All three panelists identified foreign investments as one of their main threats, as funding bodies typically fail to take indigenous rights into account. Carling named the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as key culprits. Carling also targeted the growing influence of Chinese investments, which are not screened for human rights violations. "There are no policies that guide their investments," she said.
Yet for Sombolinggi, foreign companies would not have nearly as much access to lands or power if not for government bodies that continue to usher them in. "The biggest sinner in Indonesia is the Forestry Department," said Sombolinggi. "They are the ones that sell the licenses for mining, for plantations, for everything."
Bolinget added that, "As we resist these mining companies to defend our existent territories and resources, the usual response of the state is to militarize," leading to extensive human rights violations. Bolinget pointed out that this reaction was far from democratic.
The panelists made a united call for all parties involved in plundering resources in the region, including local government officials, national government bodies, and international funding schemes, to be held accountable. Perhaps most crucially, they demanded the right to self-determination and development defined by the people.
Indigenous Peoples Call on UN to Improve World Bank Policies
Indian Law Resource Centre statement
15 May 2012
New York, New York - Today, the Indian Law Resource Center called on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to engage with the World Bank regarding its impacts on indigenous peoples. The statement was delivered by Senior Staff Attorney Leonardo Crippa during the Permanent Forum's 11th Session in New York City, and stresses the need to strengthen the Bank's safeguard policies relating to local indigenous communities.
The World Bank has a far-reaching impact on indigenous peoples throughout the world through its financing of projects and policy reforms - from land management reforms to construction of large dams and roads. Though the Bank is a UN specialized agency, its policies regarding indigenous peoples are not currently adequate to ensure that indigenous rights are protected, consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Permanent Forum, as the UN body in charge of implementing the UN Declaration within UN agencies, has an important role to play in urging and assisting the Bank with raising its standards and improving its conduct with local indigenous communities.
The statement issued today reiterates a recommendation by the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus for a focal discussion on the Bank's impacts on indigenous peoples, and calls on the Permanent Forum to engage with the World Bank throughout an upcoming review of its safeguard policies. The statement was fully supported by the Mexico and Central and South America Indigenous Caucus as well as the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus.
Statement of the Indian Law Resource Center - Eleventh Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
15 May 2012
Supported by the Latin American and Global Indigenous Caucus
The World Bank's safeguards policy review: Updating its Indigenous Peoples Policy in light of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Seeking Inputs in a Half-Day Discussion
Agenda Items: 4. Human Rights-Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
5. Draft Agenda for the Twelfth Session of the Permanent Forum
Speaker person: Leonardo Crippa, Senior Attorney, Indian Law Resource Center
Thank you Madam Chairperson
Distinguished Brothers, Sisters and Permanent Forum Members,
Today's discussion on the "Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples", is critical for the overall well being of indigenous peoples around the world. However, the Center believes that particular attention should be given to how the World Bank (Bank), as a UN specialized agency, is contributing to the fulfillment of the rights protected by the UN Declaration. Clearly, Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Declaration call upon all UN specialized agencies and the Permanent Forum to not only promote respect for the rights recognized in the UN Declaration, but also to ensure effective participation of indigenous peoples in these policy developments given that they may affect them.
We cannot ignore the human rights impacts of the Bank's practices. The Bank and its Member Countries must implement the UN Declaration. Development policies and projects conceived from a western point of view and promoted collectively by countries under the clothing of the Bank, continue to have devastating human rights impacts on indigenous peoples in the developing world. The Bank's OP/BP 4.10 Indigenous Peoples policy must be updated in light of the UN Declaration. There is a need of stronger safeguard measures to protect indigenous peoples' lands, natural resources and self-determined governing institutions, among other issues. The World Bank should promote development which improves the ability of indigenous peoples to fully realize their rights. At a minimum, forced relocation of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands, taking of Indian lands and natural resources, and harms to indigenous peoples' livelihoods and cultures must be prevented.
Distinguished Brothers, Sisters and Permanent Forum Members,
This is the right time to make decisions and commit to address this issue. This year, the Bank is initiating a two to three years review process of its social and environmental safeguards policies, including the Indigenous Peoples Policy. By the next session, the Permanent Forum should start a timely discussion on this critical issue, so that indigenous peoples around the world can inform the Permanent Forum's approach and actions to take within the Bank's safeguards policy review.
A half-day discussion on the role of the Bank is needed. As acknowledged by the Secretariat in its February 2012 Report on Implementation of the recommendations of the Permanent Forum, "[s]pecial themes and special half-day discussions play a key role in highlighting particular issues or regions, creating an impetus for the implementation of relevant recommendations." The review of the Bank's safeguard policies is a critical issue that deserves special attention.
The Permanent Forum has successfully engaged with similar policy developments in the past. For example, the Permanent Forum made recommendations to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) during its 2011 policy review, securing critical improvements in its Performance Standard 7: Indigenous Peoples.
Distinguished Brothers, Sisters and Permanent Forum Members,
The Center encourages the Permanent Forum to take actions regarding the Bank's safeguards policy review by carrying out the following activities:
1. Commit to have a half-day related discussion within the next session of the Permanent Forum, in order to seek the views of indigenous peoples from all regions regarding the Bank's OP/BP Indigenous Peoples Policy, among other relevant policies;
2. Request the Bank to inform the Permanent Forum regarding the status of implementation of the rights recognized in the UN Declaration within Bank policies and activities, and the future measures that will be taken to fulfill those rights as well as to secure the effective participation of indigenous peoples within the review of its safeguards policies;
3. Ensure that the Bank require human rights impact assessments to be performed by borrower countries, in order to assess the human rights risks and impacts that a supported-project may entail affecting the rights of indigenous peoples; and
4. Work with other special mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to take a more active role within the Bank's safeguards policy review, and policy development related to indigenous peoples.
The Permanent Forum has a critical role to play in ensuring that the World Bank meet its obligations to implement the rights of the UN Declaration, and the upcoming safeguard review presents a unique opportunity to do that. Indigenous peoples, and especially those directly impacted by the World Bank's activities, must have the opportunity to provide the Permanent Forum members and its Secretariat with relevant input and material on this issue. For this purpose, at least, we will need to have a have a half-day discussion during the 12th Session.
Thank you, and I hope to see you again next year to discuss this critical issue. We are happy to provide you with relevant information.
Basarwa lobby UN to force Botswana to recognise their land rights
The Monitor (Botswana)
Basarwa have asked the United Nations to force the government of Botswana, among others, to recognise their land and resource rights.
21 May 2012
For the first time Basarwa have made their first-ever collective San presentation by San and for the San at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The San caucus is made up of Basarwa from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Interestingly this presentation was made by Job Morris of Botswana, who lives in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and works for the Kuru Trust, on behalf of the San of southern Africa. In his presentation Morris also called for close consultation on all development projects including those involving extractive resource exploration and exploitation (mineral, gas, and oil resources).
"There should be no involuntary relocation from protected areas including national parks, game reserves, and monuments," the presentation reads. Morris also told the UN forum that commercial cattle farming and agricultural production have become a continuous threat to the land rights of the San, whilst extractive industries cause irreparable harm to their ancestral lands.
"We the San are known for the reverence with which we hold land, and for sustainably managing and nurturing the earth since time immemorial. In a world threatened by climate change, the loss of biodiversity, water shortages and threats to food security for billions of people, we submit that our land use systems should be protected and supported in the legislative and policy frameworks on our continent and beyond," the statement reads in part.
The San also called on southern African governments, SADC, the African Union and the African Commission to recognise their role as the stewards and custodians of the earth. "The San people have spiritual connections with the environment and it is our sacred duty to take care of the environment. Land and the protection of the environment is central to our culture, our dignity and to our existence as a people," says the statement.
The San caucus recommends to national governments, regional, continental and international bodies that free, prior and informed consent should be observed in relation to the lands of the San, and that their values of reciprocity and equitable sharing of resources should be embedded in policy.
They further urge the forum to influence southern African governments, in particular Botswana, South Africa and Namibia to hold proper continuous dialogue and consultation with the San on issues affecting their lands and livelihoods, particularly in relation to development projects, extractive industries and the commercial farming sector.
They further recommend that African governments honour the rights of the San as embodied in the UNDRIP, particularly as these relate to their lands. "In relation to food security, we call for programmes aimed at promoting food security, taking into consideration diverse programs aimed at enhancing the availability of high quality food and water at the individual, household, community, and regional levels.
Livelihood support programmes should include food and cash benefits for individuals in need, including those who are the most vulnerable," the statement reads, "Consideration must be given the impacts of local, regional, and global climate change and ways to mitigate these impacts, with an eye towards reducing risk for local people".