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IWGIA: The implementation gap has widened into an abyss

May 18 2016

EMRIP member Mr. Albert Barume, Ms. Rie Odgaard and Ms. Lola Garcia-Alix (IWGIA), UNSR Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Ms. Myrna Cunningham (CADPI) Photo/IWGIA.
With the participation of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, IWGIA yesterday, 17 May 2016, launched "The indigenous World 2016". The launch took place at a side event during the 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN Headquarters in New York

With its 54 country specific reports and 12 articles on international processes, this new edition of THE INDIGENOUS WORLD gives a comprehensive overview of the main developments that have affected indigenous women and men in the course of 2015

According to the 54 country reports, the situation of indigenous communities remains alarming: they have experienced few if any socio-economic progress, their land and resource rights continue to be precarious at best, while land grabbing and encroachments occur regularly, particularly in relation to extractive industries.

The country reports also give many examples of how indigenous peoples’ human rights were violated in 2015, how indigenous leaders were arrested, threatened or murdered and repressive military and paramilitary forces took their deadly toll.

Indigenous women continued to suffer multiple constraints when it came to having access to land and livelihood, education and health, and to local decision-making bodies, and they were often victims of rape. Some of the reports also look at the issue of the marginalization and lack of opportunities for indigenous youth which have made them easy targets for extreme radicalization.

At the international level THE INDIGENOUS WORLD 2016 shows that the concerted efforts of indigenous peoples’ representatives resulted in several noteworthy achievements even though all their expectations were not fulfilled.

The outcome documents of the two most important UN events of the year—the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September and the 21th Conference of Parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December—mention indigenous peoples.

The World Heritage Committee (WHC) also decided to introduce references to indigenous peoples in its operational guidelines and to recommend States Parties to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples when nominating sites for World Heritage listing.

Another positive development was the decision taken by the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN General Assembly to follow up on the implementation of the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples by drafting a system-wide action plan with inputs from indigenous peoples.

THE INDIGENOUS WORLD 2016 thus clearly underscores the words of UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz:  “despite developments in human rights law in relation to indigenous peoples’ rights, the reality around the world is that serious violations of these rights continue unabated”. What used to be called the “implementation gap” has become an “implementation abyss”!

As the country specific reports indicate the reason for this is that too many governments tend to remember and use the term “indigenous peoples” only when it is beneficial.

When it comes to fulfil and implement the commitments they have made internationally and nationally, they tend to forget or totally disregard indigenous peoples’ rights, pursuing national policies in dire contrast to the international agreements, they have committed themselves to—notably international conventions, UNDRIP, and ILO Convention No. 169—but also to the intentions behind the newly adopted Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement.

On this backdrop, it is encouraging to see a new trend among indigenous communities and groups towards forging and developing national alliances in order to strengthen their advocacy work, defend their right to self-determination and gain more political leverage.

Such alliances may be an important step for indigenous communities towards gaining the strength to demand accountability from their States and governments. This why it is important that indigenous peoples at the international level keep advocating for indigenous rights and monitor their respective governments’ declarations and actions, and at the national level form strong alliances that are able to hold their governments accountable and make them fulfill their duty towards indigenous peoples.

Only then will it be possible to start bridging the implementation abyss.

The Indigenous World 2016 can be downloaded or purchased here