Rights violation cases piling up vs IPs, says international group

Quezon City, the Philippines — Piles of cases about human rights violations against tribal communities have been deliberated March 28, this city, as part of the International Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Corporate Accountability and the Extractive Industries.

Part of the panel are experts and representatives from United Nations agencies and member-states, representatives from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB), the European Commission and indigenous peoples’ organizations from different countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. Carol Pollack of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum for IP issues, in her speech said, although there have been substantial developments in the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples in recent years, indigenous peoples have continued to suffer violations of their human rights on a regular basis. This is especially the case in the context of extractive industries, such as mineral, oil and gas extraction, which disproportionately impact indigenous peoples.

After the hearing, the participants and the group of experts, indigenous peoples’ (IP) and mining issues are expected to come up with stronger recommendations on how to solve the problems that the tribal communities of the world are facing, in connection with the ill-effects of extractive industries such as oil, gas and coal mining such as climate change and soil degradation.

The participants are hoping to craft better mechanisms to force extractive industries to comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that include self determination, right to traditional lands, right to be secure in subsistence and development, right to conservation and protection of the environment and productive capacity of lands and the often violated free, prior and informed consent provision.

Governments tend to craft laws which are anti-IP

Based on the IP’s experiences, their respective governments intend to craft or enact laws which serve the politicians’ self-interests and are detrimental to the tribal communities.

“We have suffered disproportionately from the impact of extractive industries as our territories are home to over sixty percent of the world’s most coveted mineral resources,” the Indigenous Peoples’ said in the final Declaration crafted after the International Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries.

“The activities of these corporations have led to the worst forms of environmental degradation, human rights violations and land dispossession,” they added.

No representatives from the mining industry

Notwithstanding strong invitations, the mining companies in the Philippines chose not send representatives to the international workshop, which disappoints the IP delegates.

“They did not see the importance of attending a dialogue with the World’s Indigenous Peoples, where 60 to 70 percent of the world’s minerals, oil and gas are found in their territories. It is sad that they undermined the importance of this event,” says Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey tribes-woman from the Cordilleras and the current representative of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Meanwhile, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), a CEO-led organization representing many of the world’s leading mining and metals companies as well as regional, national and commodity associations sent a statement for the attendees of the workshop saying, “[The ICMM] has been working on Indigenous Peoples issues for several years including; producing a Mining and Indigenous People’s Review (2005, holding two roundtables on mining and Indigenous Peoples (2005, 2008), seeking legal reviews of FPIC, approving a Position Statement outlining our member’s policy on Indigenous Peoples and recently we have produced a first draft of a Good Practice Guidance on Mining and Indigenous Peoples.”

On the other hand, transnational mining corporation Rio Tinto, sent a statement of decline explaining that due to the global financial crisis, their company has to cut their expenditures and they are only attending activities which are essential.

“It is in the interest of the extractive industries need to listen to indigenous peoples affected by mining, oil and gas projects so that there would be less conflict, less human rights violations and more equitable-sharing and sustainable use of resources if a dialogue with them is to happen,” Tauli-Corpuz said. (Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCP News Service)