Welcome to the First Peoples Worldwide Blog. First Peoples is the first and only Indigenous-led organization working to restore Indigenous Peoples’ control and authority over their assets by making grants directly to Indigenous communities, and by engaging directly with corporations and investors to promote Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. Our Mission is to build upon a foundation of Indigenous values to achieve a sustainable future for all. Visit our main site at www.FirstPeoples.org for more information about our grants and how to apply.

Updated by @FirstPeoples

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Risk Alert: Barro Blanco

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In May 2016, 35 Ngabe protesters were forcibly removed by police to make way for the Barro Blanco Dam to start flooding six hectares of their territories in Panama. The communities plan to take further action to stop the dam and are on high alert due to the prevalence of threats and violence towards environmental defenders in the region. The dam is owned by Honduran company GENISA, and financed by the Dutch and German development banks and by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. In 2015, the Panamanian government suspended construction and fined the developer $775,000 for failing to consult and compensate the communities. However, the dam was allowed to resume without an agreement in place.

Sources: Carbon Market Watch


Mending Community Relationships After Disasters

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Three days after a Bakken oil train derailed and caught fire in Mosier, Oregon, Union Pacific resumed service along the route, infuriating communities near the incident. Although the company says it is not transporting oil and insists there is no safety hazard, residents are angry with the decision to run more trains through the area before crews finished draining and removing the crashed tankers. The Yakama Nation and other tribes have also been vocal, as the derailment released oil into the Columbia River, which they rely on for fishing.

The company’s prioritization of resuming its cash flow over mending community relationships indicates a highly short-term business mindset. The derailment happened in a region where several large oil export terminals are under review, and opposed by tribal and environmental activists. Disasters like this will strengthen opposition to these projects, and the risk is compounded when companies are perceived as careless in their aftermath.

Sources: Indian Country Today, US News and World Report


World Bank’s Cancellation of Funding Spurs Reform

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The Uganda National Roads Authority is vowing to make changes after the World Bank cancelled funding to the agency due to social and environmental concerns, including allegations of sexual misconduct by contractors. The Executive Director announced that “going forward, every road project will have a grievance committee, a community education program, a social safeguard committee, and an environment committee composed of not only us, but also the community members.” The agency is also restructuring itself to reduce dependency on contractors, whose behavior is more difficult to monitor.

It is too early to tell whether these commitments have teeth, but they demonstrate the importance of the Bank upholding its Safeguards. Not only do they shield the Bank from financial and reputational risk, they can also trigger positive changes from potential lenders with poor performance.

Sources: New Vision


Indigenous Rights are Good for Business

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In May 2016, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which represents Canada’s oil and gas industry, announced support for a recent Supreme Court ruling that recognized Métis and non-status Indigenous Peoples as “Indians” under the Canadian Constitution, thus granting them the same legal protections as First Nations. A CAPP spokesperson said the ruling has a positive impact because it clarifies the government’s responsibility to consult these communities regarding energy projects on or near their lands.

Conventional thinking frequently places Indigenous rights and economic development on opposite sides of the coin, but a growing pool of data and research indicates that this is not the case. For example, First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found a strong correlation between Country Risk and corporate risk. Forward thinking companies and industries should be proactive about vocalizing how stronger legal protections for Indigenous rights create more certainty and stability for business.

Sources: Bloomberg


Servicios para el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable

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By: Katie Redmiles| First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

In the face of severe water and soil contamination, Servicios para el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable (SDHS) created a project called Farmer-to-Farmer aimed at saving Tseltal farmer’s lands and community from the agricultural turmoil destroying the earth around them. The project combines agro ecological practices being taught and carried out through many Indigenous territories, as well as, integrating spiritual traditions and teachings into the process.

In areas across Mexico, especially in the region of Chiapas, the dominant agricultural practices use chemicals and industrial fertilizers to produce the mass demand for food for outside places. These chemicals and practices have caused sinister repercussions by destroying the soil and earth on which they farm, contaminating the water that is used by those who live in the area, creating a dependency on imported processed food leading to malnutrition, and allegedly cancers in children as a result of the poisoned drinking water. This haunting reality caused the SDHS to take action in an attempt to save the earth and people they love. The project was designed and implemented to bring the Indigenous communities together through organic traditional practices of nurturing and sustainably farming the land’s resources.

With a First Peoples Worldwide grant, the project was able to take a group of 20 Tseltal producers from a Pinabetal ranch and train them on technical knowledge and skills to safely use bio pesticides that are conducive to healthy soil and plant nutrition. During 10 workshops the project taught them how to manage and handle organic fertilizer and foliar. The workshops disseminated information about the harmful effects and technical process of the agrochemical practices and the benefits of reverting to traditional practices in order to remediate the disastrous effects of agrochemicals.

One of the more spiritual aspects of the project is the incorporation of the Maya Altar, with all of the participating producers from Mayan origin. Before each job is performed during the project they are to offer each other one’s hand and say a prayer asking permission from Mother Earth, the sun, the moon, and the water. The altar is made by placing all the products from the locality together and asking for permission to continue the work. By revitalizing the Maya Altar, the project strengthens the community’s ancestral knowledge and sense of belonging to one another and to Mother Earth. The methodology used to handle the natural resources, called Farmer-to-Farmer, also maintains ancestral respect and uses Indigenous knowledge to rescue the earth.

Servicios para el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable’s Farmer-to-Farmer project is a powerful testament to the positive change on the earth and in the community that occurs when reinstating Indigenous agricultural practices.

Sources: Servicios pare el Desarrollo Humano Sustentable’s Keepers of the Earth Fund grant application (translated).


The Importance of Transparency

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In May 2016, seven out of twelve councilmembers representing the Wangan and Jagalingou Peoples voted to approve an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) authorizing Adani to develop one of Australia’s largest coal mines on their territories. The five councilmembers who voted against the ILUA are calling it a “sham outcome” and threatening legal action. Until recently, the councilmembers appeared to be united in its opposition to the project. An investigation by The Guardian revealed that the company made payments to the seven councilmembers who supported the project.

The payments were relatively small (estimated at $10,000) and designated as “sitting fees” for attending meetings and covering travel costs. Still, the fact that they were undisclosed has triggered a fight over the integrity of the decision and over who truly speaks for the community.

Money is frequently used a divisive tool. While companies may provide financial support to Indigenous Peoples for participating in the engagement process, funding only those who are sympathetic to their interests is likely to be seen as bribery or coercion.

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian


Development Debate in the Ring of Fire

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The CEO of Noront Resources, the largest leaseholder in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire mining hotbed, is criticizing a Chinese firm’s proposal to build a railroad through the remote area, when several First Nations do not have road access yet. He is arguing for roads to be prioritized over railroads, telling The Globe and Mail, “let’s start modestly. Let’s get this infrastructure in place where there’s a social benefit and an industrial benefit.”

The Ring of Fire remains a focal point of Canada’s resource future despite the slump in commodity prices. Ontario has pledged $1 billion to develop the region, and has asked the federal government to match that amount. It is imperative that First Nations are at the front and center of the debate over how these funds are spent.

Sources: The Globe and Mail


Canada Affirms UNDRIP

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In May 2016, Canada announced unqualified support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the Fifteenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The country plans to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with its constitution as part of its path towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. This marks a noteworthy shift from 2007 when Canada was one of four countries that voted against the declaration. In 2010, the country endorsed the declaration, but maintained that it was aspirational and non-binding.

This will raise legal and social expectations on companies to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Aboriginal communities. Companies that already aligned their policies and practices with international standards-even when the government did not require them to do so-will be best positioned to make the transition from consultation to consent.

Sources: CBC


Indigenous Peoples Strengthen Engagement with Investors

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In April 2016, a delegation of leaders from the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, which represents Amazonian communities in nine countries, met with the Brazilian National Development Bank to demand an end to financing projects that cause environmental damage to their territories. The discussion focused on hydroelectric dams, which many South American countries are promoting as a source of clean energy despite their devastating effects on Indigenous livelihoods.

Indigenous Peoples are becoming more attuned to the role of private and public finance in influencing development on their lands, thanks in part to First Peoples Worldwide’s Shareholder Advocacy Leadership Training program. As a result, investors can expect to encounter more opportunities for engagement with Indigenous Peoples that will strengthen the accuracy and rigor of their ESG analysis.

Sources: Hastings Tribute


Ruggie Expresses Concern with SDG Discourse

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In February 2016, John Ruggie, author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, wrote a letter to the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development calling attention to a particular risk he sees in the current business discourse around the Sustainable Development Goals: “companies’ social development initiatives cannot substitute for measures to address the negative human rights impacts their operations and relationships may have…where people’s human rights are not fully respected, their ability to enjoy the fruits of development are much reduced, and the disparities between the poor and most vulnerable and the rest of society only grow.”

Ruggie’s concern can be evidenced by looking at most companies’ sustainability reports. They often provide extensive information about contributions to social and economic development, but few disclose details on negative human rights impacts or other social and environmental costs.

Sources: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre