MAC: Mines and Communities

UN Forum shares experiences of extractive industries and human rights

Published by MAC on 2015-11-26
Source: Statements (2015-11-26)

The talking shop that is the Fourth Annual Forum on Business & Human Rights has recently taken place in Geneva. It has been used as the vehicle to launch various reports (see for instance: Barrick Gold Fails to Address Ongoing Violence at Tanzania Mine).

As previously, issues around the extractive industries played a disproportionally large role.

Indigenous Peoples once again met before the Forum itself, and issued a caucus statement, demanding "that transnational companies’ countries of origin assume responsibility to guarantee that businesses do not violate human rights in third countries, and where this occurs, that they take all measures necessary so that justice can be done and the necessary remedy provided."

In addition - and apparently for the first time - the caucus stated that "[M]ultilateral development financial institutions (such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) and new development financial institutions (such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development Bank (BRICS), aimed at financing private sector infrastructure) should comply with the UN Guiding Principles within the framework of standards governing human rights and the specific rights of Indigenous Peoples..."


Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus Statement to the 4th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

United Nations Fourth Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights

Joint statement

16- 18 November 2015

Representatives of Indigenous Peoples from different world regions, meeting at a caucus on the 15th of November 2015, declare that:

“We, the Indigenous Peoples, Mother Nature’s sons and daughters, with our world vision and spirituality, demand that States protect, and that business respect, our rights to land, territory and water, the wind and other natural resources, fully guaranteeing our individual and collective rights as recognised in all the conventions, treaties and international norms on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We embrace and restate our ideas in the Indigenous People’s caucus Declaration made at the Third Forum on Business and Human Rights, in 2014. We express our great concern that no measures have been taken this regard.”[1]

For this reason we have reviewed, debated and agreed upon the following recommendations regarding the subject matter and the six key areas of the fourth forum:

Efforts to track performance and progress in the implementation of the Guiding Principles

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (hereafter, the “Guiding Principles”) are an asset that encourage respect for human rights. However, as the testimonies of Indigenous Peoples show, irreparable damage has been caused to Mother Earth and all living beings, such as murders, abuse, rape, the disappearance of rivers, destruction of the social fabric, hunger and poverty. That is why we would like to reiterate that these principles should not justify businesses presence without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples.

We denounce the militarisation of our land by armies, paramilitaries and other armed groups, who protect business interests and violate our rights. These armed groups are the causes of forced disappearances, they threaten and murder us, they break the balance of our communities and contribute to the destruction of our culture. All of these facts must be investigated independently and those responsible tried and punished.[2]

Further to the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (Measuring the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) of July 2015, we urge the Working Group to engage in further study regarding gaps in data coverage on Indigenous Peoples described in paragraph 51 of that report. We also urge States and corporations to facilitate culturally appropriate data indicators and collection with the full and active participation of Indigenous Peoples.

In their future work and activities related to the implementation of their remit to promote the Guiding Principles, we urge the Working Group to review the implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, building on its 2013 annual report (A/68/279) which addressed the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights in relation to its mandate. We particularly request that the Working Group, in cooperation with indigenous peoples, conduct further research and hold discussions on issue of guarantying effective remedial mechanisms.

Policy coherence in global governance frameworks

Some States are promoting laws to eliminate Indigenous Peoples’ rights in favour of business corporations, therefore negating any coherence in policy action with the Guiding Principles. We demand States and businesses that they ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples before undertaking any initiative, in compliance with the norms stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and ILO Convention 169.

We ask States to comply with their obligation and commit to following up on the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the recommendations of the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur report on the rights of Indigenous Peoples regarding international investment and free-trade regimes and their impact on the rights of Indigenous Peoples published in August 2015.

We recommend consulting the Indigenous Peoples Major Group Position Paper on Proposed SDG Indicators[3], published by AIPP, CADPI, IITC and Tebtebba, in which it is requested that the definition of the indicators be guided by Indigenous People’s human rights, and that States include legitimate representation of Indigenous Peoples permanently when collecting official date, in order to guarantee those data are sufficiently disaggregated.

We would also state that existing multilateral development financial institutions (such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) and new development financial institutions (such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development Bank (BRICS), aimed at financing private sector in infrastructure) should comply with the Guiding Principles within the framework of standards governing human rights and the specific rights of Indigenous Peoples, like the UNDRIP and ILO Convention 169.

Policy and practice: coherence at the national level

In our review of National Action Plans (NAPs) on business and human rights that have been developed to date and are being developed, it is a matter of great disappointment that human rights obligations of States, including to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, have not been given due regard, specifically, concerning Indigenous Peoples participation in the elaboration of NAPs.

We recommend State bodies, including the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to fully address the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples in developing and implementing action plans aimed at putting into practice the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Caucus restates article 37 of the UNDRIP and recognises that, in those countries where Indigenous Peoples have treaties, these treaties must be respected and fully applied in the context of businesses obligation to respect and State obligation to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Finally, in order to support coherence in the application of the Guiding Principles, we feel it is necessary that the Human Rights Council ensures there is always an Indigenous People’s representative among the members of the Working Group.

Corporate respect for human rights in practice

The Indigenous Caucus states that many States have been co-opted by transnational and national companies that promote an economic development model based on extractivism, the destruction of land and territory, and who are unaware of and violate Indigenous People’s rights as set out in international regulatory framework.

We reject using the issue of accelerated climate change as a justification for mercantilisation and imposing the implantation of energy projects, that exploit the water, wind, sun and land under the supposed paradigm of ‘green energy’, which only benefits the businesses involved and continues to displace and rob Indigenous Peoples of their territories.

We demand that transnational companies’ countries of origin assume responsibility to guarantee that businesses do not violate human rights in third countries, and where this occurs, that they take all measures necessary so that justice can be done and the necessary remedy provided.

Groups at risk

Indigenous Peoples have been the guardians and guarantors of the abundance of natural resources in our territories, but this role we have, which benefits all society, has placed us at particular risk of violations of our individual and collective rights by business interests that promote expropriation, removal and exploitation. We demand that consultations are carried out in good faith, guaranteeing our right to free, prior and informed consent to any business intervention, and thus ensuring self-determination of our territories, in accordance with our ways of organising and decision-making.

We demand that those peoples living in voluntary isolation are resected, and that no business projects are carried out in their territories.

We would also like to express our concern that there are no mechanisms to duly protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically women. We denounce all acts committed against women and men leaders and Indigenous People’s authorities in defence of their territory.

Access to effective remedy

The Indigenous Peoples recommend a legally-binding treaty applicable to all transnational, national and sub-national business enterprises. This treaty should cover all violations of human rights (not merely grave violations). Furthermore, the treaty drafting process should be inclusive and participatory for all States, civil society and Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous Peoples in attendance at this Forum wish to express our solidarity with all peoples who are suffering serious violations of their rights, particularly:


[2] This is the case in Honduras, where Indigenous Peoples are being murdered and criminalised by the army.


IP experiences on extractive industries discussed in UN business and rights parallel session

16 November 2015

Geneva, Switzerland—Indigenous representatives from countries in Asia, Latin America and the United States come together to present their experiences on the mechanisms for redress in the light of extractive industries entering their ancestral lands.

The international business community gathers today in Geneva for the fourth Forum on Business and Human Rights organized by the Office of the Higher Commission on Human Rights. To air the voices of the indigenous communities directly impacted by these businesses, a parallel session titled ‘Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Land, Territories and Resources, and Challenges in their Access to Mechanisms for Redress’ has been organized.

The session opens with a short video from the Philippines which presents the killings of an indigenous leader by state-backed paramilitary forces, motivated by their promotion of the entry of mining in an ancestral domain.

“Right now we have more than 4000 indigenous peoples displaced in the Philippines who cannot come home to their communities because of the continuing military and paramilitary attacks,” said Angelica Gonzales of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines introducing the session, bridging from the short documentary. “And this is just in the Philippines.”

Other presentations show that despite laws that are in place both in national and international levels, the rights of indigenous peoples continue to be violated.

“In our country, we hear a lot about our leaders getting threatened,” said Carlos Gualtero from the Colombia-based Consejo Regional Indigena del Tolima. “In some cases, some have been assassinated so they cannot do the lobbying and defend their rights.”

“Businesses in general avoid Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). They know they will always have a negative environmental impact. In Colombia, the situation is the same [as in other countries]. The states are corrupt because of the businesses. They do not make demands on these businesses.”

In two of the presentations, failure of national laws have led to the victimization of the indigenous peoples by their own governmental systems. Michael Hill from the Apache Nation presents the recent military bill that has allowed the taking of their land, which is their spiritual center. “In our language, n’de (pronounced as en-da) [referring to the military bill NDAA National Defense Authorization Act] means enemy. This place [their ancestral land taken away through NDAA] is a site of commerce for many tribes prior to colonization in trading and bartering goods.”

Arnold Alamon of the Philippines points out that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act has been used to force indigenous peoples to agree to streamlined permits that allow extractive industries access to their ancestral lands.

“Instead of working for the indigenous peoples, what is happening in some countries – like the Philippines - the laws victimize the indigenous communities, are used by businesses so that they can force their entry into the ancestral lands,” said Alamon, a sociology professor of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology and executive editor of the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies, prior to the start of the session. Many of the government economic policies promote the entry of resource-extractive industries in the still rich ancestral lands.

“87 Lumad schools are threatened with closure, three have ceased operating, throwing more than a thousand indigenous students from school. One of the closures was after the killing of their school director Emerito Samarca. What fuels this madness in Mindanao is the lucrative potential for mining,” he said in his presentation.

Some traditional remedies were also discussed. “We bring on the shame game – doing spiritual prayers. This is our redress. We are going directly to the creator,” said Hill. “We will act in that way, and behave in that way in a manner that is connected to the earth as woman’s ways. We also need to step back as nations and come back down to earth and find out what’s happening to our systems.”

A social- environmental monitoring done by the Guarani young professionals in the Chiquisaca District in Bolivia was also shared. “The community fought for respect and they got it,” said Lorena Terrazas of the Red Pazinde who clarified that the scheme they had set up had not been readily given to them. They also fought hard which had forced Repsol, the oil company they are now working together with, out of their lands. “Nothing is perfect but I think we are moving forward.”

Coordinated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) Inc, the parallel session was co-organized with Incomindios, Latin America Mining Monitoring Program, Red PAZINDE, Asia Indigenous People’s Network on Extractive Industries and Energies, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation. Organizations like Civicus, World Council of Churches-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, and the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness also co-organized the event.

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