MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Human Rights Council Adopts Text for Indigenous Rights

Published by MAC on 2006-07-06


Human Rights Council Adopts Text for Indigenous Rights

6th July 2006

The following are statements relating to the recent vote of the new UN Human Rights Council, accepting the contents of a future Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This will be finally considered during the UN General Assembly later this year, for adoption and ratification. Its passage could have a major impact in standard setting, with Indigenous Peoples being further emboldened to assert their rights, especially to their territories. The draft Declaration (reproduced in full below) not only acknowledges Indigenous Peoples rights to self-determination, but also their individual and collective land and resource rights.

Inter alia, the draft Declaration affirms that "States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of their mineral, water or other resources."

Introducing the draft to Indigenous organisations and their supporters, Devasish Roy Chakma (Chief & Co-Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus (Former) Working Group on the Draft ) comments: "We are aware that the draft may not meet the hopes and aspirations of all the indigenous peoples of the world. It no doubt contains defects and shortcomings...
However, it is our firm belief that further deliberations would have weakened, rather than strengthened, the instrument..We believe that the draft did, on the whole, accommodate our most basic rights without being unacceptable to a large number of member states of the UN."

Two mineral-rich states voted against the proposed draft (Canada and Russia), while Argentina, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria and the Philippines were among the twelve which abstained.

One major challenge, posed by the draft declaration, is to the World Bank/IFC- and the growing number of financial and other institutions which claim to follow its lead.
The IFC's "performance standards were published in draft earlier this year. The world's biggest "development" funder still fails to recognise Indigenous Peoples' rights to exercise consent to mineral and other exploitation of their terriorities - granting only the "right" to "consultation".

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