Extractive projects cause irreparable harm to indigenous cultures, languages, lives, speakers tell Permanent Forum
Did you know?
Indigenous peoples represent:
👉5% of 🌎's population
👉Speak 60% of 🌎's languages
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) April 25, 2022
The invocation dovetailed with the theme of the Forum’s twenty-first session – ‘Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent’ – and start of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, 2022-2032.
An infinity of sacred histories
In opening remarks, Chair Darío José Mejía Montalvo of Colombia said the 2022 theme touches upon the cosmos visions through which indigenous peoples have developed their systems for food, culture and coexistence with nature on their territories.
“We share a holistic relationship with nature, where rights are not anthropocentric,” he explained. “An infinity of sacred histories and stories underpin our visions of the world.”
Ancestors too have rights – including to exist – because their task is enduring in the preservation of life. These ancestral practices maintain life in all its forms, with dignity.
Therefore, he said the question of whether indigenous knowledge is scientific is “meaningless”: concepts of life, energy and spirituality are synonymous. Separating them from an economic, religious or other point of view leads to confusion, disputes and unnecessary clashes.
Trampling over informed consent
He said that while indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, land, resources and – importantly – free, prior and informed consent are guaranteed under international norms, these rights are often not applied, even in countries where they are legally recognized. They are instead violated routinely in the granting of lumber, timber, mining and mega-dam contracts.
The pillaging of their resources, loss of their ways of life, cultures and languages, and the disappearing and killing of their leaders are the results of harmful business activities.
A binding treaty for business
Mr. Mejía Montalvo said that without a change to the current energy matrix, the extermination of indigenous peoples will continue, along with expropriation of their lands and the sweeping aside of their rights.
He pressed States to help devise a legally binding instrument to regulate transnational business activities – one that adheres to international human rights and includes explicit provisions for indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, territory and resources, and for their free, prior and informed consent on decisions affecting them.
He described the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 as “fundamental loadstars” in this regard, and warned that industries from fashion and media to textiles, food and pharmaceutical production, are perpetuating “enclave economy models” that expropriate knowledge and practices from indigenous peoples. “All of these efforts must be interlinked and stepped up,” he said.