Latest News (168)
On 24 January 2014 an indigenous Santal village named Chirkuta (Habibpur) under Mostafapur union of Parbotipur upazila in Dinajpur district went under attack allegedly by a group of Bengali land grabbers. The land grabbers looted and vandalized all the houses and belongings of indigenous peoples, leaving all indigenous families literally destitute.
It is learnt that on the day of incident at around 7.30 am, Zahurul Islam (50) and his brother Ziarul Mandal, both sons of late Mohammad Ali, from Habibpur under Parbotipur upazila in Dinjapur district went to work on 19 acres land of Joseph Tudu and his family. When Joseph Tudu and his family members came to know about the incident, they tried to stop alleged land grabbers and some altercation took place between two groups. At some point around a dozen of Bengalis joined in favor of Jahurul’s family and the feud turned violent. As a result, some Santals villagers were forced to shot arrows in order to defend themselves. Later, Zahurul's son Safiul Islam Sohag (22) was found dead. Besides, some Santal villagers namely Rakib Tudu, Ruben Tudu and Kablu Tudu were injured in the clash.
After learning about the incident, hundreds of Bengalis encircled whole Chirakuta village with locally made weapons including ramda, machete, sharp knife, and dagger. However, they did not attack until police held 19 Santal men. After police took those people, the assailants broke over the Santal houses — they set fire on at least 25 houses and vandalized 65 houses of Santal villagers and looted all the belongings of indigenous villagers including food, kitchen utensils, furniture, cattle and tube wells, leaving each and every indigenous family literally destitute. The attackers also set fire on a primary school run by Caritas-Bangladesh. Beside, in the attack, one Mikhalina Murmu (28), a pregnant indigenous woman, and one Mikhael Tudu were tortured and survived serious injury. Both of them were later admitted to Dinajpur sadar hospital.
Mahmudul Hoque (29), the uncle of Saiful Islam Sohag, filed a case (case No. 22, dated 24/01/14) with Parbotipur police station against indigenous Santals accusing named 28 and 14 unanimous indigenous persons. On the other hand, a Santal woman victim named Nilima Hembrom filed a case (case No. 29, dated 28/01/2014) against 76 identified Bengali persons and many unknown persons with Parbotipur police station in connection with this incident.
Police has not arrested any of the attackers as of yet, although all the 19 indigenous persons who were held by the police earlier have remained under the custody of the police except for Antineus Tudu, a candidate of Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, whose exam is scheduled to be held from 2nd February 2015. On 29 January, the court granted bail to until the SSC examination period.
It is mentionable that Zahurul Islam has been claiming his ownership over the land of Joseph for last few years. In this situation several talks and arbitrations took place between Joshep Tudu and Zahurul Islam. The local UP chairman, police and other villagers also joined the talks. Every time Joseph Tudu showed land documents whereas Zahurul Islam failed to show any.
On 27 January, a three-member probe committee was formed by Shamim Al Razi, the Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur district to investigate the incident. The probe committee is supposed to submit their probe report within 15 days since the formation of the committee. The members of this team are Touhidul Islam, Additional District Magistrate, Dinajpur; Sushanta Sarkar, Assistant Superintendent of Police (Sadar circle), Dinajpur; and Jahangir Alam, Assistant Commissioner of Land, Parbotipur upazilla.
On 25 January, an onsite enquiry team of Jatiya Adivasi Parisad (JAP) visited Chirakuta village. The team found obvious signs of demolition of indigenous houses including remnants of clay-made walls, ashes, charcoal and other debris from burning. They also found that all the indigenous men fled the village and all the young girls were sent to their relatives’ elsewhere allegedly due to the fear of police arrest and further attack by the Bengalis.
The investigation team of JAP found the evidence that the case of land grabbing was turned into a communal attack. They also claimed that although the clash was between two families, other Bengali people who were incited to make this brutal attack on indigenous Santals.
Different citizen groups and indigenous peoples’ organizations condemned the brutal attack on indigenous Santals of Chirakuta and demanded to bring all the perpetrators to justice. Indigenous peoples organizations including Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, JAP, Kapaeeng Foundation, and Bangladesh Indigenous Students Action Forum staged demonstrations to protest against the attack.
Name of Santal villagers against whom land grabbers filed cases and among them police held 19 persons from sl. 1 to 19 villagers:
1. Barnabas Tudu, 40,
2. Habil Tudu, 55, both son of Late Manir Tudu
3. Antinues Tudu, 22,
4. Emelius Tudu, 20, both son of Josef Tudu
5. Jibon Hembrom, 22, son of Vadu Hembrom
6. Khalil Tudu (Ripan), 25, son of unknown
7. Lazarus Tudu, 20, both son of Habil Tudu
8. Juwel Tudu, 22,
9. Bifol Mardi, 20, son of Noren Mardi
10. Noren Mardi, 51,
11. Mosoi Tudu, 58, son of late Mohon Tudu
12. Chelsu Hembrom (Rengta), 45,
13. Renatus Hembrom, 40, both son of late Regna Hembrom
14. Rakib Murmu, 32, son of Suren Murmu
15. Romesh Soren, 50, son late Dhanai Soren
16. Alfaskius Tudu, 43,
17. Karlus Tudu, 30, both son of Gonesh Tudu
18. Bachu Barman, 38, son of late Ghutu Barman
19. Hayus Tudu (Thosa), 42, son of Churkai tudu
20. Josef Tudu, 55,
21. Mikhael Tudu, 45, both son of late Raghunath Tudu
22. Aihas Tudu, 45, son of Churkai Tudu
23. Kistu Tudu, 35, son of late Sam Tudu
24. Gudai Tudu, 58, son of late Manir Tudu
25. Srimon Tudu, 35,
26. Noren Mastar, 42,
27. Vadu Hembrom, 50, son of late Chotu Hembrom
28. Benedic Tudu, 25
Please visit for following for lList of loses of indigenous Santal villagers of Chirakuta village under Parbotipur upazilla in Dinajpur: www.kapaeeng.org
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
Three indigenous women and girl raped in different districts in Bangladesh, one indigenous student leader killed in Rajshahi and at least 30 injured in Rangamati violence16 January 2015, 1:43 am Written by Kapaeeng Foundation
Indigenous Bagdi mother and daughter raped by Bengali miscreants at Pangsha in Rajbari
On 6 January 2014 an indigenous Bagdi women along with her daughter was gang raped beside of their own home at Brittidanga village of Sarisha Union under Pangsha upoziela in Rajbari district. The victims have filed a case (no 3, date 10/01/2015, under section 7/9(3)/30) against the perpetrators named Safin Sheikh (25) and other 4 person with Pangsha police station.
It is learnt that the day of incident, at around 8.30 pm, Safin Sheikh, younger brother of acting Union Parishad (UP) member Sohrab Hossain, Oli Sarder (28), Saddam (22), Ziarul and other 4/5 unidentified persons came to her house and asked them to open the door. The woman was dragged forcefully to a nearby place around 200 yards far from her home, when she opened the door. After a while, they also dragged her daughter who had come to visit her mother two weeks before from her in-laws house. Then, Safin and Oli forcefully raped both mother and daughter and fled away. However, after few hours, the gang led by Safin and Oli came again and they forcefully took mother out of the house and, Shafin and Oli raped the daughter for the second time one after another.
Pangsha police station informed that they arrested the main accused Safin Sheikh and they are trying to arrest the rest of culprits. It is notable that after filing the case, the perpetrators are giving threat to the victims for withdrawing the case; otherwise they will burn them alive with petrol. Now the victims are living in serious insecurity.
A grade II Indigenous student raped in Kaukhali
A 7-year-old Marma girl studying in grade II at Kashkhali Primary School was allegedly raped by a Bengali settler named Ayub Ali, 45, son of Khondoker Sururj Mia of Kashkhali village under Kaukhali upazilla in Rangamati district on 14 January 2015. Police held alleged perpetrator after identified by the victim herself.
On 14 January at around 12:00 pm the girl was returning home from school with a friend of her. At some point she went to buy some snacks and got separated from her friend. Then she started walking back home alone. When she arrived at Kashkhali Bangatila area, the alleged perpetrator, Ayub Ali, appeared in the scene and forcefully raped her. Immediately after raping, Ayub Ali fled the scene.
After she was raped, the victim managed to reach home with her body soaked in blood, informed her mother. The girl was immediately taken to Kaukhali Upazila Health Complex. As her body was heavily bleeding, the doctors referred her to Rangamati General Hospital at around 4:00 pm. However, the doctors in Rangamati General Hospital further referred the victim to Chittagong Medical College Hospital for her better treatment. Later at around 9:00 pm in the night the girl was admitted to the Emergency Department of Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Later, the doctors transferred her to the Gynecology Department, where she was in close observation for two hours and then transferred to the Children’s Department. On 15 January at around 2:00 pm the victim underwent a successful operation. According to her family members, the victim’s health condition has slightly improved. She was under the supervision at the One-stop Crisis Centre of Chittagong Medical College Hospital up to this writing.
Victim’s father filed a case with Kaukhali Police Station on 14 January. Nilu Kanti Barua, Officer in Charge (OC) of Kaukhali Police station, informed that police arrested Ayub Ali on the same day (14 January) in the evening. The victim was produced to the court on 15 January. The perpetrator confessed his misdeed.
Being a poor family, victim’s family was unable to bear the expenses related to medical treatment and other costs. Different community people and indigenous student organizations like CHT Hill Students’ Council and Bangladesh Marma Students’ Council came forward in this regard and provided the victims with limited support. Different rights and civic groups have demanded exemplary punishment of the perpetrator.
In December 2014, a teen-aged girl killed after raping in Kaptai and two girls were attempted of raping in Khagrachari district
On 15 December 2014, a tender-aged Jumma girl identified as Umraching (Atuma)Marma alias Chhobi (15) village ChitmaramKayangGhatunder Kaptaiupazila in Rangamti district was brutally killed on 15 December 2014. It is assumed that UmrachingMarma was killed after raping. The victim had appeared JSC Examination in Chitmaram High School this year.Victim’s father filed a case with Kaptai police station and police arrested two Bengali settlers in connection with this incident.
On 19 December 2014 a 2nd year Marma girl of Mahalchari College was attempted to rape by a Bengali settler youth at Kaptai Para near Mahalchari thana brigde under Mahalchari upazila in Khagrachari district. The miscreant was caught by the public and handed over to police. The victim tried to file case, but police of Mahalchari police station denied accepting any case. On the contrary, alleging torture of said settler youth by the public, Bengali settlers brought out procession.
On 21 December 2014 a 10-year old Tripura girl (grade V student) named Champa Rani Tripura of SudhilaRanjan Headman Para of Taindong union under Matirangaupazila in Khagrachari district was attempted to rape by Md. BadshahMian (22) s/o Harunur Rashid of Majhpara of same upazila.
Babul Hembrom, a Santal student leader killed in Rajshahi
Bablu Hembrom, 25, a leader of Santal Students Union and honours fourth-year student of Rajshahi Government College, was hacked to death by unknown miscreants. He was found dead with the throat slit in his house at Moyenpara of Tanore on January 10, 2015.
Peaceful Blockade against Medical College Set-up turns Rangamati in Turmoil
An all-out dawn-to-dusk road and waterway blockade called on by Chittagong Hill Tracts Hill Students’ Council (popularly known as Pahari Chatra Parishad-PCP) on 10 January 2015 against government’s plan to set-up a medical college in Rangamati has turned this beautiful hill town in turmoil. Due to repeated communal attacks made by hundreds of members of pro-Awami League organizations and Bengali settlers on indigenous peoples, the district administration was compelled to impose section 144 and later curfew in the town.
The government’s plan to set up Rangamati Medical Collage and Rangamati University of Science and Technology has been opposed by indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) including PCP, a representative student organization of indigenous Jumma students of the CHT. PCP leaders argued that if the medical college and university were set up, thousands indigenous and non-indigenous residents of the region would fall victims of serious adverse impacts. Hence, they demanded postponement the Medical College and the University until the CHT Accord of 1997 is fully implemented by the government.
Yet, overriding this popular demand of CHT’s inhabitants, the government kicked off intake of students for MBBS first year course and planned to inaugurate Rangamati Medical College on 10 January. The decision of the government agitated the indigenous peoples and citizen groups across the country. To protest the initiative of the government, PCP called on all-out dawn-to-dusk road and waterway blockade program on 10 January throughout Rangamati district.
On the day while PCP along with support and participation of students en masse was observing its blockade program, hundreds of members of the Chhatra League, a pro government student organization, Samo Odhikar Andolan and Parbatya Juba Front carried out communal attacks upon the Jumma peoples in different parts of Rangamati town. It all began when the Awami League district committee President, Dipankar Talukder, aboard in his vehicle was passing through Court Building area ignoring the blockade at 9:30 am, instigated the Chatra League members to attack the PCP picketers. The Chhatra League members pelted stones and cocktails at PCP members. As a result, at least 15 persons including Jyotirmoy Chakma, 45; Ripon Chakma, 21; Suresh Chakma, 21; Durjoy Chakma, 25; Mohan Chan Dewan 26; Kanti Chakma, 42; Choto Chakma 28; Moni Chakma, 40; Surjya Chakma, 25; Shyamalendu Chakma, 30; Ankur Bikash Chakma et al sustained serious injuries.
Later on the same day, the miscreants of Chhatra League, Samo Odhikar Andolan and Parbatya Juba Front, spreading communal tension, attempted to attack Jummas in different places of Rangamati including Banarupa, Tribal Adam, Ananda Viahara (a Buddhist temple) and Siddhi Bhaban areas. They pelted brick chips upon Jumma-owned shops and Jumma people. In these attacks, Deborshi Chakma, 38; Probin Chakma, 17; Jibanta Tanchangya, 35; Biki Chakma, 25, son of Bimal Kanti Chakma sustained injuries. Among them, Biki Chakma was hacked by attackers leaving serious injuries in head, cheek and abdomen. He has been shifted to Chittagong Medical College in serious condition.
As the situation was deteriorating as the time was going by, district administration imposed Section 144 in Ragamati town on 10 January at 11:30 am for an indefinite period. However, this effort of the district administration went in vain as the pro-government organization and organizations of settler Bengalis continued to spread communal tension and make attempts to attack upon indigenous peoples in different parts of the town.
On 11 January at around 4:30 pm, Bengali settlers, led by the members of pro-government organizations, made attempts to attack upon indigenous peoples and their shops at Banarupa areas in Rangamati town. Later on the same day violence spread throughout the town and Bengali settlers, led by members of pro-government organizations cracked down on indigenous peoples of Vedvedi, Ananda Vihara, Tabalchari, Reserve Bazar, Public Health area and Kathaltali areas of the hill town. At least 7 indigenous persons namely Samarendu Chakma (25) (an MLSS staff of Deputy Commissioner’s office) at Public Health area; Tarun Bikash Chakma (30) s/o Hengotya Chakma at Vedvedi area; Monikko Dewan Happy (30) w/o Monghla Prue Marma at Tabalchari; Titu Marma (26) and Buddha Moni Chakma (32) s/o Manulal Chakma at Tabalchari were injured. Besides 4 houses including three belonging to indigenous peoples were torched and looted by the miscreants.
Considering the situation ‘out-of-control’ Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Rangamati town Shamsul Arefin, in consultation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, declared curfew beginning from 7:30 pm on 11 January - 8:00 am on 12 January. In order to ‘pacify’ the situation, curfew was scheduled once again from 5:00 pm on 12 January-7:00 am on 13 January 2015. Later on, the Section 144 was withdrawn from 11:00 am on 13 January 2015. People are virtually locked at their homes and most of the shops, marketplaces, offices, banks etc. remained closed.
Meanwhile, at least 35 persons have held by police for ‘defying’ Section 144 and curfew. Hundreds of members of Army, RAB, BGB and Police have been deployed in the town since 10 January.
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON INDIGENOUS AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Delivered on January 12 at the IPBES plenary in Bonn, Germany by Joji Carino and Preston Hardison.
We welcome the highly informative progress report of the Task Force on ILK as contained in IPBES/3/ Information Document 2 and we look forward to consideration its deliverables and recommendations at IPBES4.
The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES) composed of indigenous peoples and local community participants at IPBES wishes to make the following comments and recommendations:
IPBES, would be very well served by instituting participatory mechanisms for the effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities. To be fit for purpose, the participatory mechanism must be inclusive of the range of knowledge and experiences contributed by indigenous peoples and local communities across the four IPBES functions. Direct participation of indigenous and local knowledge holders is important for thematic assessments, for example on pollination and pollinators associated with food production; or for methodological assessments, for example on the diverse conceptualization of values of biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people.
In addition, the experience and contributions of indigenous researchers, technical experts or leaders, who have engaged governments and scientific bodies to develop appropriate and relevant policies and plans of direct benefit for indigenous peoples and local communities, are equally important for a well-balanced and holistic participatory mechanism within IPBES.
IPBES is not a platform for generating primary research, neither of science nor of indigenous and local knowledge. Rather IPBES needs to strengthen its capacity for the inclusion of Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) in its assessments and identification of knowledge gaps, in its capacity-building work, and in its policy support tools for decision-makers on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
We call on IPBES to support and recognize local Centres of Expertise on Indigenous and Local Knowledge, which build on the many excellent initiatives undertaken and led by indigenous peoples and local communities in many parts of the world, to revitalize and use ILK to address multiple problems relating to biodiversity and sustainable development. Support for such Traditional Knowledge Centres and networks would help to build the institutional capacity of indigenous peoples and local communities, and can be a wellspring for identifying Indigenous and Local Knowledge experts who can contribute across the range of IPBES functions.
The indigenous and local community participants at this meeting would welcome a meeting with members of the Task Force on ILK for exchange of views on its work and to offer our full support in moving forward.
1 December 2014, MANILA – Indigenous women led by Bai Indigenous Women Network (BAI) protested at the Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) on Thursday, Nov. 27 condemning rights violations committed by state security forces.
Wearing their traditional clothes, the Indigenous women of Dumagat, Igorot, Tumanduk, Ayta, and Lumad marched through Mendiola despite the rain.
They called for justice for those who were killed and victims of human rights violations as they protect their ancestral land. The women also supported the call for the ouster of President Benigno S. Aquino III who they described as a disaster to the indigenous people for permitting big foreign companies to plunder on the country’s natural resources.
The protest action is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign in connection with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW). It started on Nov. 25 and ends on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
With feet red with paint, the indigenous women performed a war dance on an illustration of Aquino. The group said the red footprints symbolized the blood of indigenous women martyrs and the continuing resistance against the killings and the violations of human rights of indigenous peoples committed by the Aquino government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“On this day, indigenous women rise for justice. We face the militarization of our communities and suffer from human rights abuses. We are impoverished and made landless because of the plunder of our ancestral lands. These are biggest forms of violence against indigenous women that should be put to an end,” Kakay Tolentino, a member of the Dumagat tribe and the national coordinator of BAI said.
Violator of indigenous women’s rights
It is the government who is the gross violator of human rights, said Tolentino. She said the Aquino government’s economic policies such as the Public-Private Partnership Program, especially in mining, energy, and other extractive industries, worsen the situation of indigenous women and their families in rural areas.
“Big businesses in our lands, most often large-scale mining, disrupt and upset the economic situation in indigenous communities. Because feeding and caring for the family fall on the shoulders of indigenous women, they are the first to be burdened by the loss of their land and livelihood,” Tolentino.
Jocelyn Agdahan, secretary general of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (Tindoga) said their land is where they get their food, medicines and “hardware” or construction supplies. But the government prefers to have big foreign companies plunder the natural resources in Mindanao, leaving the people poor as big companies have taken away their livelihood. Many were displaced from their communities, and worse, some have been killed for fighting for their right to ancestral lands.
“Aquino is a disaster. He should be ousted!” Agdahan said during the protest action. Meanwhile, in the Northern part of the Philippines, Mila Singson, chairwoman of Innabuyog Gabriela, said women and children too have suffered due to the heavy militarization of communities.
Singson said in Abra province, communities in the towns of Lacub and Malibcong were bombed by the military. “With the bombings, their routines were ruined. They cannot go to their farms because they are afraid if the soldiers will see them, they will be bombed again,” Singson told Bulatlat.com.
Some soldiers also court women leaders to make them stop opposing mining companies from entering their communities. “They know that the women leaders are staunch fighters of their right to land. Some leaders who are in the forefront of the struggle are being wooed by the soldiers.”
Singson, who is from the Guinaang tribe in Kalinga province, also experienced harassment from state security forces in April for actively opposing mining in her community.
“We opposed the entry of Makilala Mining Company in our company. They used the paramilitary forces and the intelligence units of the military against me. They vilified me in the community. They threatened to bomb us – me and my relatives — if we are not going to let the mining company enter our community.” The indigenous women have filed cases before the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and submitted their case in the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP).
“On the commemoration of International Day against the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), we demand that any form of violence against women be stopped. Just recently Engineer Fidela Salvador was brutally killed in Lacub, Abra. She was killed for helping the peasant and the indigenous people in Lacub, Abra. We have to seek justice and we will continue to seek it for this senseless killing,” said Singson.
‘Unite and fight’
“With the continuous mining in our communities, the indigenous women and the whole community continue to fight. Those who are fighting are being killed just like Juvy Capion and her family in 2012. This is the basis why we should unite and fight for our rights,” said Anelfa Hamilo, spokesperson of Kaluhamin-Socksargen.
Capion, and her two sons were massacred allegedly by the 26th Infantry Battalion in October 2012 in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
The women’s group said that under the Aquino administration, 50 indigenous people have been killed by suspected AFP and paramilitary groups.
“Of this number six are indigenous women while seven are indigenous children.”
BAI also expressed concern over the 55 combat battalions reportedly deployed in Mindano, amounting to 46,000 to 50,000 troops. Just this Oct. 30, the group said 446 families or 2,184 individuals from 14 communities in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur fled from their homes due to military operations.
“The militarization of Mindanao will only bring about more killings and violations of human rights among indigenous peoples and other vulnerable sectors. The Aquino administration has turned the island into a warzone, rather than pursue long-lasting peace in Mindanao,” Tolentino said.
On Human Rights Day we speak out.
We denounce authorities who deny the rights of any person or group.
We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation.
This is a matter of individual justice, social stability and global progress.
The United Nations protects human rights because that is our proud mission – and because when people enjoy their rights, economies flourish and countries are at peace.
Violations of human rights are more than personal tragedies. They are alarm bells that may warn of a much bigger crisis.
The UN’s Human Rights Up Front initiative aims to heed those alarms. We are rallying in response to violations – before they degenerate into mass atrocities or war crimes.
Everyone can advance the struggle against injustice, intolerance and extremism.
I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. And I call for special protections for the human rights defenders who courageously serve our collective cause.
Let us respond to the cries of the exploited, and uphold the right to human dignity for all.
CHTC concerns over the failure to fully implement the 1997 CHT Accord and calls for roadmap with clear milestones on full implementation3 December 2014, 3:17 am Written by CHT Commission
Dhaka: December 2, 2014. The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) has expressed concern over the Government’s lack of political will leading to the failure of full implementation of the CHT Accord 17 years after its signing. The CHTC has called upon the Government to urgently adopt and enforce a roadmap with clear milestones for implementation of the Accord ensuring full participation of all stakeholders.
The Awami League signed the Accord together with PCJSS on December 2, 1997 and the present Awami League government has repeatedly pledged to implement the Accord, both nationally through each of its election manifestos to date and internationally during the Universal Periodic Reviews in 2009 and 2013. Yet the state of peace and stability in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) has continued to deteriorate throughout the two terms the government has held office and there have been no efforts to strengthen local institutions and ensure end to land conflict which has led to the deterioration of the human rights situation in the area.
Amendment of the HDC Acts and failure to hold elections
On November 23, 2014 parliament passed the three Hill District Councils amendment acts despite strong opposition from the indigenous community. The Ministry of CHT Affairs tabled the Rangamati Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Khagrachari Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Bandarban Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014 on July 1. As a result of passing of these bills the number of interim members of the hill district councils will be increased to 11 from the existing five including three non-indigenous members. By increasing the number of members without an election, the Government has violated the Accord which stipulates the preparation of a voter list comprising only the permanent residents of the three hill districts.
The Government should immediately start the work of resolving land disputes in order to authenticate the permanent residents of the CHT and draw up a voter list and hold elections at the Hill District Councils.
Failure to amend the Land Commission Act
The success of the drawing up of the voter list is directly related to the settlement of the land disputes in the CHT. In the nineteenth session of the 9th National Parliament in October 2013 the Government came close to but failed to pass the Bill on the amendment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001. The thirteen points proposed by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (CHTRC) and the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MOCHTA) which were approved by the CHT Accord Implementation Committee and adopted by the inter‐ministerial committee were approved by the Cabinet on June 3, 2013 and placed in the House on June 16, 2013. This once again proved the lack of political will of the Awami League Government to fulfill a pledge made to the people during the 2008 election to implement the 1997 CHT Accord. Since resuming office in 2014 the Awami League Government has had absolute majority in Parliament. There seems to be no effective opposition preventing the Government from implementing the Accord in full, it is thus disconcerting that no attempts have yet been made to table the Land Commission Amendment Bill in the Parliament sessions.
Failure to end militarism
The Government has failed to dismantle all temporary camps as stipulated in the 1997 CHT Accord and the presence of security forces appears to be increasing. In recent years the securitization has also proliferated through other security forces like the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB). There have been allegations of land-grabbing and human rights violations by the BGB in Khagrachari and in Bandarban Sadar.
Not only did the Government fail to conduct independent and impartial investigations into these cases, but civil society groups who went to carry out investigations into the allegations were harassed and threatened by Bengali settler groups with clear impunity.
Threats and attacks on the CHT Commission
The CHT Commission members were attacked and persons in their entourage injured by Bengali settler groups in July 2014 where police failed to apprehend the identified suspects. It appears that there is no freedom to conduct inquiry and express opinion in a democratic manner regarding the complaints of people in the CHT. The Government has also put restrictions on the work of the CHT Commission and protests about such undemocratic restrictions have not been heeded by the Government.
On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the CHT Accord the CHT Commission urges the Government to publicly commit to a roadmap with clear milestones on full implementation of the Accord.
On behalf of the CHT Commission
Eric Avebury, Co-chair of the CHT Commission
Sultana Kamal, Co-chair of the CHT Commission
Elsa Stamatopoulou, Co-chair of the CHT Commission
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
"Together, we are shining a light on acts that bring pain, shame and fear to girls and women" - Executive Director
Speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the official UN commemoration of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, ECOSOC Chamber, New York, 25 November 2014
Date : 25 November 2014
[Check against delivery]
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The activities around this day, and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence that follow it, are an important opportunity for us to confront the horror of this violence and to commit to extinguish it.
The women’s experiences we have just seen, and the one billion girls and women that they represent, are a poignant and invigorating reminder that this is work that cannot wait.
No country, no culture, no age group is untouched by this massive and pervasive human rights violation.
Far too often, sexual and gender-based crimes go unpunished and the perpetrators walk free. Society turns a blind eye and a deaf ear.
That is going to change.
Yesterday we lit up the Empire State Building and our own UN building as bright orange beacons of promise and hope for a brighter future with no violence against women and girls.
Together, we are shining a light on acts that bring pain, shame and fear to girls and women.
We must continue to gather national facts and figures – and use them to inform the development of effective legislation and policies.
We must uphold the existing laws and provisions that prevent violence and support survivors – and implement them.
We must develop quality essential services for the protection, ongoing safety and recovery of survivors – and get women to use them
And we must all refuse absolutely to condone or participate in harmful acts against women and girls.
This includes having more men and boys standing up against violence, denouncing it, and stopping it.
Male leaders, including traditional and religious leaders, must show the way.
We all have a role in changing norms that accept or ignore violence and confer sexual entitlement.
We all have a role in brightening this world and establishing inclusive, equal societies.
Next year, a new roadmap for development will be adopted by the international community.
Ending violence against women and girls must have a central place in the new framework so that we can make 2015 the beginning of the end of gender inequality.
Tackling deforestation and other climate mitigation actions will be one of the key items on the agenda of the up-coming Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December in Lima, Peru (COP20). This has been evidenced in the recent past with the intense negotiations on REDD+ and more recently with the launch of the New York Declaration on Forests, signed by governments, companies and NGOs on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit held in New York September.
REDD+, climate smart agriculture, sustainable supply-chains are now bundled together in a common effort to reduce deforestation and related carbon emissions in tropical areas. However, lack of compliance with internationally agreed safeguards, poor governance reform, and the increasing pressure on indigenous lands and territories require more compelling action to address the danger of exacerbating human rights abuse. Voluntary agreements and private public partnerships cannot substitute for robust public international and national action to target internal and external drivers of deforestation, ensure respect and compliance with international human rights standards and norms and in particular respect for and protection of indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources and the principle of free prior and informed consent.
Accountability of governments and companies is even more urgent given the risk that current negotiations leading to COP21 in Paris may pay only lip service to indigenous peoples’ rights and the obligation to ensure a rights-based approach to land-based mitigation, as well as the risk that they will fail to duly recognise the positive contribution of indigenous peoples in forest protection, climate mitigation and adaptation.
For all these reasons, the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) is organising – together with Peruvian Indigenous peoples’ organization AIDESEP – an international public hearing on deforestation and human rights during COP20. The public hearing will be held on December 8th at the Museum of Arts of Lima (MALI). Special guest of the hearing will be Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The hearing will offer a public space for indigenous peoples' leaders from Latin America, Africa and Asia to share their experiences from the field, both experiences with deforestation and associated human rights issues, and experiences in defending forests and resources. The hearing will also launch a groundbreaking report on deforestation, with contributing authors and involved communities present, and the demands of the Palangka Raya Declaration will be reiterated.
In addition to the hearing, that is meant to be a contribution to the activities of the Cumbre de los Pueblos, FPP and a delegation of indigenous peoples’ leaders and CSO representatives from Peru, Colombia, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia will also participate in the activities of the Indigenous Pavilion and at civil society initiatives at the Global Landscapes Forum.
More details on the Palangka Raya Declaration and follow-up work:
Deforestation and the rights of indigenous peoples - Building on the Palangka Raya Declaration
More details about the Public Hearing:
Follow the conversation on Twitter @ForestPeoplesP #COP20hearing #factsandrights #hechosyderechos
Testimonios de las comunidades muestran el camino a la protección de los derechos y los bosques
La lucha contra la deforestación y otras medidas de mitigación del cambio climático serán uno de los elementos clave de la agenda de la Conferencia de las Partes en la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático, a celebrarse en diciembre en Lima, Perú (COP 20). Estas prioridades se han puesto de manifiesto en los últimos años con las intensas negociaciones en torno a la REDD+, y más recientemente con el lanzamiento de la Declaración de Nueva York sobre los Bosques, firmada por Gobiernos, empresas y ONG con ocasión de la Cumbre sobre el Clima que las Naciones Unidas celebrada en el mes de septiembre en Nueva York.
En la actualidad, la REDD+, la agricultura climáticamente inteligente y las cadenas de suministro sostenibles están agrupadas en un esfuerzo común para reducir la deforestación y las emisiones de carbono en las áreas tropicales. Sin embargo, el incumplimiento de las salvaguardias acordadas internacionalmente, la deficiente reforma de la gobernanza y la creciente presión sobre las tierras y territorios indígenas requieren medidas más contundentes para abordar el peligro de exacerbar las violaciones de los derechos humanos. Los acuerdos voluntarios y las asociaciones público-privadas no pueden reemplazar una acción enérgica internacional y nacional a nivel público para combatir los impulsores internos y externos de la deforestación, garantizar el respeto y cumplimiento de normas y estándares internacionales de derechos humanos y, en particular, el respeto y la protección de tierras, territorios y recursos de los pueblos indígenas, al igual que el principio del consentimiento libre, previo e informado.
La responsabilidad y la rendición de cuentas por parte de los Gobiernos y las empresas son todavía más urgentes debido a que las negociaciones previas a la COP21 en París, actualmente en curso, puedan ser únicamente palabras vacías en lo referente a los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y la obligación de garantizar un enfoque basado en los derechos para la mitigación con base en la tierra. Además, se corre el riesgo de no reconozcan de manera debida la contribución positiva de los pueblos indígenas a la protección de los bosques, la mitigación del clima y la adaptación.
Por todas estas razones, el Forest Peoples Programme o FPP (Programa para los Pueblos de los Bosques) está organizando junto con la organización de pueblos indígenas de Perú AIDESEP una audiencia pública internacional sobre la deforestación y los derechos humanos que se celebrará durante la COP 20. La audiencia pública tendrá lugar el día 8 de diciembre en el Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI). Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Relatora Especial de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, participará como invitada especial. La audiencia ofrecerá a los líderes de los pueblos indígenas de Latinoamérica, África y Asia un espacio público en el que podrán compartir sus experiencias adquiridas sobre el terreno, bien sea con referencia a la deforestación y los problemas de derechos humanos que conlleva, o a la defensa de los bosques y los recursos. Durante la audiencia se hará público un novedoso informe sobre la deforestación contando con la presencia de algunos de los autores que contribuyeron al informe y las comunidades implicadas, y también se reiterarán las exigencias de la Declaración de Palangka Raya.
Además de la audiencia, que pretende ser una contribución a las actividades de la Cumbre de los Pueblos, el FPP y una delegación de líderes de pueblos indígenas y representantes de OSC de Perú, Colombia, Guyana, Panamá, Paraguay, República Democrática del Congo e Indonesia también participarán en las actividades del Pabellón Indígena y en iniciativas de la sociedad civil en el Foro Mundial de Paisajes.
Para ver más detalles referentes a la Declaración de Palangka Raya y los trabajos de seguimiento, por favor consulte:
Deforestation and the rights of indigenous peoples - Building on the Palangka Raya Declaration
Para obtener más detalles acerca de la audiencia pública, por favor visite:
Seguir la conversación en Twitter @ForestPeoplesP #COP20hearing #factsandrights #hechosyderechos
Statement by Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to 69th session of the UN General Assembly22 October 2014, 2:12 am Written by UNSRIP Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
Statement by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz,
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
69th session of the General Assembly
Item # 66
20 October 2014
Your Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the honor to present today my first report to the General Assembly. I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to the numerous States, indigenous peoples, and others for the support they have provided as I have carried out my mandate accorded to me by the Human Rights Council over the past four months.
In my report, given the focus of the General Assembly in reviewing and adopting the post 2015 development agenda, I have provided some thoughts on this crucial issue for indigenous peoples in the hopes of guiding Member States as they reflect further on development priorities. To that end, I have presented an overview of the human rights framework and concerns related to the development and well-being of indigenous peoples. These human rights standards should be viewed in light of the basic principles of non-discrimination and equality undergirding all human rights and the cross-cutting right of self-determination contained in Article 3 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This Article recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination which includes their right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. I have also included lessons learned and have identified obstacles and advances in achieving the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples. Finally, I offer some recommendations for addressing these concerns in the context of policies and strategies to reach global Sustainable Development Goals and achieve the Post-2015 development framework which will be agreed upon UN member-states in September 2015.
Right to Development of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples have come a long way since the adoption of ILO 107 on 'indigenous and tribal populations' in the late 1950s. ILO 107 (1957) was the first attempt to codify international obligations of states with respect to indigenous peoples and called on states to assist indigenous peoples to fully integrate into the national community, with the goal of reaching development and equality. In the 1970s and 1980s, indigenous peoples' representatives challenged the assimilationist content and integrationist approach of ILO 107 and worked for the adoption of ILO Convention 169 (1989) which rectified this weakness. Article 7 of this Convention states that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to "decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control over their economic, social and cultural development".
In 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Principle 22 of this Declaration acknowledged the vital role of indigenous peoples to environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. This principle further stated that "...States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development." Agenda 21 contained Chapter 26 "Recognizing and Strengthening the Role of Indigenous People and Their Communities". This led to the inclusion of indigenous peoples as one of the 9 major groups which engaged in the various mechanisms and processes around sustainable development.
The landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007 by the UN General Assembly after more than 20 years of drafting and negotiations. This contained several articles on the right to economic, social and cultural development of indigenous peoples. Foremost among these are Article 3 which I referred to earlier and Article 23 which affirmed that, "Indigenous peoples have the right determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development..."
The most recent global process related to indigenous peoples, the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) held here in this same hall last 22-23 of September 2014, contains several paragraphs on this same concern. Paragraph 34 of the Outcome Document (A/69/L.3) states, "We recognize the significant contribution of indigenous peoples in the promotion of sustainable development, in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations..." Additionally, paragraph 37 affirmed the importance of Article 23 of the UNDRIP, mentioned above. It further stated "...we commit ourselves to giving due consideration to all the rights of indigenous peoples in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda."
Economic, social and cultural rights as they apply to indigenous peoples
I need to stress that States duties to respect, protect and fulfill indigenous peoples' economic, social and cultural rights arises as an integral element of their duties under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right and not solely on their commitment to specific instruments on indigenous peoples' rights such as the Declaration or ILO 169. In the context of development, contemporary standards strive to address discrimination while ensuring respect for their right to define and pursue their self-determined development paths. The right to culture, in the context of indigenous peoples, is contained in Articles 11 to 16 of the Declaration. The Declaration has a remedial purpose and in the words of the previous Rapporteur, James Anaya, "aims at repairing the ongoing consequences of the historical denial of the right to self-determination". Since non-discrimination has an individual and a collective dimension, special measures should not only address the socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous sectors of society but also remove discriminatory barriers to the exercise of the rights to self-determined development and cultural integrity.
Lessons learned from current efforts to achieve the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples
Huge challenges in the implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples remain. Sadly, this implementation gap is reflected by the failure of the international community to use the Millennium Development Goals as a vehicle to overcome discrimination and achieve substantial equality for indigenous peoples in the context of development. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, special measures are integral to the principle of non-discrimination. Unfortunately, indigenous peoples were not formally involved in the formulation of the MDGs and neither the goals nor the targets and indicators have any reference to the situation of indigenous peoples. Based on available data regarding social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples, it is evident that the MDGs did not address or resolve their social and economic disadvantage.
In my report, I lay out a non-exhaustive list of obstacles and advancements to the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples to development. Numerous institutions have endorsed that strengthening indigenous peoples' own strategies for sustainable development is not only key to achieving their economic, social and cultural rights but it is also indispensable element of the global efforts to achieve sustainable development. Programs that maximize indigenous self-determination tend to perform better than those controlled by the State or other external actors.
Unfortunately, and as described by the previous Special Rapporteur, the externally designed and managed model for development for indigenous peoples, especially in the area of extractive resources, is still the "standard scenario". I believe that at a minimum, third party development initiatives should be developed within the framework of State regulatory regimes which adequately protect indigenous peoples' rights, ensure participation of and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in strategic planning at national and local levels in activities related to resource extraction and development. Mechanisms should be put in place to enforce corporations' compliance with their responsibility to respect and protect indigenous peoples' rights and provide remedies when these rights are violated, perform due diligence to assess and avoid any adverse impacts, and ascertain that fair and adequate consultation and negotiation procedures aimed at obtaining free, prior and informed consent.
In this regard, I welcome indigenous peoples' efforts to participate in the processes of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and the Forum on Business and Human Rights. I hope that indigenous peoples participation will also be ensured at the sessions of the future open-ended intergovernmental working group to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations.
I remain deeply concerned that the particular situation of indigenous peoples often remains invisible within national statistics. In order to devise adequate policy responses to address inequalities and to monitor the effectiveness of measures to overcome discrimination, the existence of relevant information is a precondition. In this regard, I commend the efforts of the Economic Commission on Latin American and the Caribbean which has established a comprehensive database which provides socio-demographic data on indigenous peoples, disaggregated by sex and age, as well as data on internal migration, health, youth and territorial distribution of inequalities. The basis of much of this work is the inclusion of an "indigenous identifier" into the 2000 census round of most countries in Latin America. There is a need to further develop indicators that capture essential aspects of self-determined development, such as status and trends of indigenous languages, security of tenure with regards to lands, territories and resources and the recognition of indigenous customary law and autonomous governance institutions.
An essential element of overcoming discrimination and achieving economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples is the design and delivery of adequate social services, especially within the education and health sectors. Culturally appropriate services are related to higher achievement outcomes. Development strategies must take into account indigenous peoples' languages, traditions, livelihood strategies and autonomous institutions. One way to accommodate indigenous peoples' cultures is to include them in the design, programming and implementation of development efforts.
Additional special measures to protect the most vulnerable individuals and groups are also needed in the area of labor rights. I would particularly draw the attention to the precarious situation of numerous indigenous women, particularly from Latin America and Asia who serve as domestic workers either in their home countries or as migrant workers. In this context, I welcome the entry into force of the Domestic Workers' Convention (ILO No. 189) in September 2013. I also draw the attention to indigenous women who still face additional gender-based discrimination despite the strong and crucial roles played by them in food production, biodiversity conservation, and transmission of languages, culture and knowledge, among many others. As I noted in my first report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/27/52), I will place special emphasis on the issues facing indigenous women and make special efforts to work closely with them to ensure that their concerns are addressed consistently in my work.
It is necessary for States to consult with indigenous peoples and ensure their participation before adopting legislative or administrative measures or projects that affect them. Reviews of UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF) which constitute the main framework for UN-system development assistance at the country level have concluded that indigenous peoples had little participation and that most frameworks do not provide for disaggregated data and benchmarks related to indigenous peoples' development. The implications of this omission are simple and far-reaching: if indigenous peoples' needs and concerns are not reflected in these overall frameworks established by governments and supported by the UN-system and other bi and multilateral donors, they may simply be excluded from development efforts and their rights may even be further undermined. It is therefore important for me to reiterate what has been mentioned several times in the recommendations of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to ensure that the UNDAF ensures inclusion of indigenous peoples development priorities. The participation of indigenous peoples' representatives when this is being formulated should also be facilitated. I also would like to urge the OECD-Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) to likewise include respect for indigenous peoples rights as one of the elements of their development assistance framework, just as they have included gender, labor and child rights. These are some of the concrete steps in ensuring that indigenous peoples' rights and priorities on development are integrated in all present and future development decisions and agreements.
Let me conclude by underlining the unique opportunity that the global community has to use the design, implementation and monitoring processes related to the Sustainable Development Goals to address the persistent discrimination against indigenous peoples, as individuals and as collectives with regard to access to and adequacy of development assistance. Overcoming discrimination against indigenous peoples and indigenous women in particular, will require
concerted efforts and in many cases, special measures.
The universality of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals is a unique opportunity to address existing inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous sectors of the population in all countries across the globe. The processes to define, implement and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals should be used as a vehicle to address indigenous peoples' aspirations for self-determined development and achieve equality in development outcomes. It is also crucial that an agreement is reached on how the means of implementation of sustainable development goals will be included in the Post-2015 development agenda. This means looking at the financial and technology development and transfer issues. The Financing for Development (FFD) processes as well as the processes related to technology issues should also allow for more active engagement of indigenous peoples' representatives.
One month after the adoption of the Outcome Document on the World Conference, I remain committed in my role as Special Rapporteur to monitor closely how the United Nations is implementing the WCIP Outcome Document. I will continue to discuss with high level officials and staff of the UN bodies, programmes, agencies and funds to offer my help in making institutions more responsive to indigenous peoples. I also take the opportunity to thank the Member States, indigenous representatives, UN officials and staff who worked to have this document drafted and adopted and warmly congratulate you on setting aside long¬standing differences to agree on this document. While it is not perfect, it is a big stepping stone in the upward struggle to get indigenous peoples' collective and individual human rights respected, protected and fulfilled.
As I work to carry out this mandate, I do so with optimism for a better future for indigenous peoples, encouraged by positive developments in many places, and yet concerned by the reality of ongoing struggles and violations of indigenous peoples throughout the world. I reaffirm my strong commitment to my role as Special Rapporteur, and acknowledge with humility the responsibility it represents.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
October 13, 2014| Pyeongchang| We have called you together today over an impasse that we have met within these negotiations at the 12th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity concerning the use of the terminology “Indigenous Peoples and local communities” to replace the current phrase “indigenous and local communities.”
The United Nations was founded in 1945 to promote peaceful relations and cooperation among the nation states of the world. It is based on the principle of sovereignty of nations, and designed to provide a space where negotiations concerning deep and sensitive issues can take place in an atmosphere that allows for the free exchange of ideas and debate without external pressures. We have significant respect for this process, and have not left the halls of diplomacy lightly. But events over the last week have led us to this regrettable path.
What became the Convention on Biological Diversity began in 1988 with the concept of an international treaty focused on conservation. Negotiations on the treaty began in 1991, where the conservation of the world’s biological diversity became linked to the idea of sustainable development. This is to say that nature can be used perpetually in ways that promote human well-being and economies without harming nature itself. This puts people squarely into the center of the implementation of the Convention.
Indigenous Peoples’ issues were introduced into the negotiations by Ulf Svensson from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs who chaired the Drafting Sub-group on Access to Genetic Resources, Equitable Sharing of Benefits and Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, and Arthur Campeau, Canada’s First Ambassador for the Environment and head of the Canadian delegation.
The proposal to use “Indigenous Peoples” was contentious and subjected to strong debate. In the end, the attempt to develop an entire Article focusing on Indigenous Peoples was not adopted and pieces were scattered among the different Articles of the CBD, a core element being Article 8(j) on traditional knowledge. The phrase “indigenous and local communities” was adopted as a compromise within the Convention:
Article 8(j): (j) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices
We note that historically, Canada was a strong supporter of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Canada recognizes Indigenous Peoples rights. Article 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to the rights of the “aboriginal peoples of Canada.” “Aboriginal peoples” (equal to Indigenous Peoples) appears in other federal legislation in Canada and judicial decisions of the Canadian Supreme Court that have affirmed these rights. As recently as September 22-23, 2014, in a statement accompanying its adoption of the Outcomes Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Canada has said, “Canada is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples at home and abroad. Canada will also continue to contribute to international efforts to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples throughout the world.”
This is why today we are puzzled and concerned that Canada is working to tightly control and potentially limit references to Indigenous Peoples within future decisions of the CBD. The Canadian Delegation, along with Indonesia, while accepting some future use of “Indigenous Peoples,” seemed to be alone in blocking progress towards the adoption of the new terminology, placing conditions on the use of the phrase that are unacceptable to the International Indigenous forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) and the vast majority of Parties to the CBD.
We cannot comment on the details of the current draft being developed by the Friends of the Chair, as this text is still under negotiation and we will respect the norms of the United Nations and diplomacy. But we can comment on the original text as proposed by the CBD Secretariat, and some general reasons why the IIFB cannot accept the current direction.
The interpretation of United Nations treaties is governed by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. It is based on the principle that sovereign governments have inherent powers that can only be limited by their explicit consent or by universal human rights or international legal norms, such as those contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. When signing a treaty, governments are bound only by the terminology that is contained in the original treaty. Any changes in terminology and meaning can only occur through their explicit consent. Changes in meaning and use require a new negotiation and the development of a protocol in which parties accept these changes by amendment.
In order to accept this new terminology, the Parties to the CBD have sought to avoid the need to amend the CBD in order to accept “Indigenous Peoples” by using language that explicitly states that the use of “Indigenous Peoples and local communities” exactly equals the legal meaning of “indigenous and local communities.” In other words, in accepting “Indigenous Peoples,” there are no changes in meaning, no new obligations, and no new rights within the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The meaning stays precisely as it was in 1993 when the CBD came into force.
The IIFB accepted this original formulation, as it is a straight reading international treaty law, and provided a path to using “Indigenous Peoples” in future decisions and related documents of the Convention without needing to formally change the original convention itself. This would be a lengthy, costly and contentious amendment process. Canada and Indonesia have insisted on including other text from the Vienna Convention to make the same point multiple times that the change in terminology cannot be used in any international law argument to reinterpret the meaning of the original Convention unless there is a formal amendment. We do not believe this extra language is necessary. It is already stipulated in the original text provided by the Secretariat, which clearly states that the new terminology does not change any interpretation of the Convention. It is also contained in the Vienna Convention, which applies whether or not this language appears in the decision text. Other conventions and instruments have not found the need to reference the Vienna Convention, and we do not believe it is necessary here.
Why we bring you here today is the introduction of language that further limits when Parties can adopt the term “Indigenous Peoples and local communities” in their decisions. We note that Canada has consulted with capital and modified their original proposals. It appears to us that Canada and Indonesia are attempting to build a wall against any mention of Indigenous Peoples in a political or human rights context and any subsequent decisions or secondary texts of the CBD. Their approach is unnecessary, as the Secretariat’s text already stipulates that the use of the term will not contain any of these implications within this Convention. They are also setting up a legal argument, which will allow a single country to block the use in future consensus decisions of the CBD.
This will not move us forward in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It will set up the conditions for more costly, wasteful and fruitless debate over when it is appropriate and inappropriate to use the term Indigenous Peoples. We point out that the existing decisions of the Conference of Parties almost universally contain decisions that only apply to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The very small number of references that we have found that use the terminology “Indigenous Peoples” out of this context are mere references to the existence of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or other external treaties, agreements, or documents, or processes that do not change the meaning of the CBD. None of these references change the ability of state sovereigns to use or apply new meanings when applying the CBD in their own countries.
We point out to other parties that the current draft language limits their sovereign ability to make such references. We accept that the use of “Indigenous Peoples” as a term in the Convention on Biological Diversity cannot make sovereign states obligated to principles they did not agree to when ratifying the CBD unless it is formally amended, as provided in the Convention itself. The Vienna Convention contains multiple provisions that protect sovereigns from the interpretations, which Canada and Indonesia seem to fear, whether or not these are mentioned in the draft decision. But we remind them that they are also obligated by other treaties they have ratified and international legal norms, whether or not these are mentioned in the final decision. This is reflected in the consensus decision in the Preamble of the Nagoya Protocol that states “Affirming that nothing in this Protocol shall be construed as diminishing or extinguishing the existing rights of indigenous and local communities.”
This is not about an attempt to change the meaning of the Convention. The IIFB accepted the original draft text prepared by the Secretariat that made this clear, out of respect of the articles of this Convention and the rules of international law. That draft provides no legal change in meaning or interpretation, and fully respects and protects state sovereignty in decision-making authority within the CBD. We believe is a minimal statement of recognition and respect of Indigenous Peoples fundamental identity and human dignity.
We want to move on beyond these debates that will continue to waste the precious, limited time that we have in the processes of the CBD to get down to the aims of this Convention. On Saturday, many of us toured the Woljeongsa Temple, and were presented by the monks with the 2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration of Life-Peace, which affirms the principles that every life is a universe, that all lives are equal, that we should sanctify a culture that sanctifies the preservation of life, and that humans are responsible for the peace of all life, which all have the right to happiness and peace. This is compatible with the cosmovision or worldviews of the approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples around the world that have sent representatives here to Pyeongchang to work to find ways to maintain their ways of life, but to defend rights of all life, the rights of Mother Earth.
The IIFB cannot accept the qualifications that are being proposed for the decision on terminology. We will not resume further work in the Friends of the Chair group until we receive a diplomatic signal that we can move towards a decision that will affirm and support our fundamental identity and dignity as Indigenous Peoples. We are looking for a decision that will allow the common, unproblematic use of “Indigenous Peoples and local communities” in decisions and secondary documents of the Convention. If necessary, we will take this issue to the High-Level Segment, but we remain hopeful that this can be resolved before then. We thank the parties who have supported us in this position in near unanimity, and call upon Canada and Indonesia to not block consensus.
We continue to be peoples in our territorial lands, regardless of how we are defined in the Convention. We have suffered a long history of injustice, domination, inequality, discrimination, marginalization, invasion, colonization, exploitation and poverty. Despite this we have contributed to biological and cultural diversity with our traditional knowledge, innovation and practices. We believe that the States must demonstrate a minimum of recognition and respect and adopt the use of “indigenous peoples and local communities,” and reflect the highest principles adopted by the United Nations system.
We are ready to work with all parties, including Canada and Indonesia, if we can find an acceptable resolution, and move forward in a spirit of cooperation and peace to preserve all life on this planet.