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Special Rapporteurs discuss impact of free trade agreements in Peru

April 25 2016
In the wake of the signing of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement TPP on 4 February 2016, human rights experts gather in Lima, Peru. On 25 and 26 April 2016, two Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations and two Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) will participate in a seminar on Free Trade Agreements, Bilateral Investment Treaties and Large Scale Investment Projects and their Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Successive UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples have expressed serious concerns in relation to the growing negative impacts of foreign investment on rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

These investments often involve extraction of natural resources and large scale infrastructure projects in or near the territories of indigenous peoples and have been associated with violations of the land and resource, participation, consultation, consent, self-determination and cultural rights of indigenous peoples. In a number of cases they threaten the very cultural and physical survival of these peoples.

As a result of this alarming trend, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples decided that it was necessary to look into the international legal regime which serves to facilitate and regulate these investments and protect the rights of foreign investors, frequently at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights.

This investment regime consist of almost 3,000 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), as well as investment chapters of over 350 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), collectively referred to as International Investment Agreements (IIAs).

The Transpacific Partnership Agreement

One of the significant developments within the international investment regime has been the negotiation of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. The TPP currently involves 12 countries, and spans three continents, America, Asia and the Pacific, which account for 40 percent of global trade.

In the Americas, the TPP countries are Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the United States. All of these countries have significant populations of indigenous peoples, a growing number of whom are negatively impacted by large scale foreign investment based extractive and infrastructure projects in their territories.

Together with affected indigenous peoples in other TPP countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia, they have expressed their concerns in relation to the absence of consultation in the negotiation of the TPP and its failure to include adequate protections for their rights vis-à-vis those of foreign investors.

They fear that unless such protections are included the TPP will facilitate projects and activities which lead to further conflict and serious violations of rights to lands, territories and natural resources, including their rights to traditional knowledge.

Indigenous peoples are consequently calling for good faith consultations with them during the TPP ratification process, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169 and in keeping with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by States in 2015.

About the seminar

Participants include Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste; Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Francisco Jose Eguiguren Praeli, who is also the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;  and Mr. Melakou Tegegn (Ethiopia), representative of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

They will be joined by academics, NGOs and indigenous peoples’ representatives from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Canada and Kenya.

The seminar is organized by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), the Tebtebba Foundation (Philippines), the Unity Pact of Indigenous Organization of Peru and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP).

Public Forum on 26th April

The conclusions of the seminar will be presented to the interested public in a Public Forum on 26th April (18.30-20.30). The venue is Hotel Sol de Oro, Calle San Martin 305, Miraflores, Lima. Admission is free, but space is limited.  The Forum also has the collaboration of the Indigenous Communication Service, Servindi.

Read more on the Spanish Web site of Servindi