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States and industries still ignore the rights of indigenous peoples

April 25 2017
Despite significant progress on global and regional level, indigenous peoples are left behind when it comes to recognition and protection of their right to land, territories and natural resources. This is the main conclusion of IWGIA’s 30th edition of the annual global report on indigenous peoples.

For ten years, indigenous peoples like the Maasai, Adivasi, Inuit and Quechua peoples have had their own UN declaration that commits States to promote, respect and protect indigenous peoples’ rights. 

Still, the dignity and survival of the world’s 370 million indigenous people is under threat, as the global race for land and natural resources is increasing.

The Indigenous World 2017 provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide and a comprehensive overview of the main global trends and developments affecting indigenous peoples during 2016.

Focus on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous World 2017 comes in a special edition marking the ten years anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The public launch took place April 25 2017 during the 16th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. Symbolically it was launched on the same day, as the UN General Assembly marked the ten years anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Lola Garcia-Alix, co-director of IWGIA, says:

“The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a landmark. Still, action on the ground is really needed. Good intentions are simply not enough, as indigenous peoples lose lands and livelihoods every day.”  

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a legal framework and an instrument for fulfilling the rights relating to indigenous peoples, including recognition of their right to self-determination, collective land rights, self-determined development, culture and more. 

During its first ten years of existence, the Declaration has helped to shape laws, policies and programmes worldwide and continues to do so.

Consultations ignored in the global run for land and raw materials

Still, the realisation of the Declaration falls short in many parts of the world. Numerous examples show that both states and indus­tries are repeatedly ignoring the Declaration’s key principle of free, prior and informed consent. The principle is to protect indigenous peoples by including them in processes that affect their lands and lives.

Kathrin Wessendorf, co-director and coordinator of IWGIA’s climate programme says:

“In the global race for acquiring land for industries and large-scale infrastructure projects, indigenous peoples and their rights are too often neglected. International companies and States should be concerned with this development and take responsibility. We call for joint action to realise the Declaration and ensure the dignity and survival of indigenous peoples.” 

Development projects on indigenous lands continue to take place without consulting the people living on and from the affected land. And increasingly, energy projects and tourism threaten indigenous peoples to the same degree as construction of hy­droelectric dams, fossil fuel development, logging and agro-plantations do.

Shrinking space for indigenous activists

The year 2016 witnessed an alarming rate of violence and discrimination of in­digenous peoples and human rights defenders around the world.

Conflicts over land often lead to forced eviction and displacement of indigenous peoples. When defending their rights to land and territory, indigenous peoples risk being arrested, harassed, threatened and even murdered.

Lola Garcia-Alix says:

“We condemn the use of threats, arrests and violence against indigenous peoples. Our hope is that by applying the principle of free, prior and informed consent and by generally respecting indigenous peoples’ rights, violent conflicts over land and resources will decrease in the future.”

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For any further questions, please contact IWGIA's Press and Communications team: press@iwgia.org or +45 30749470.