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.

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Broadcasting Unity: the Goal of Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio

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By Hannah Stack

For Indigenous communities in Guatemala, unity is partially a problem of communication.

Although an estimated 60 percent of the country’s population has an indigenous background, the

rural locale and generally high poverty level of the native communities, along with the

substantial distance between one community and another, make communication between the

greater Indigenous population challenging. As effective communication is key to spreading issue

awareness and developing cultural unity, overcoming this challenge is crucial for resisting

outside marginalization of the region.

For Cultural Survival, an Indigenous advocacy group working in Guatemala, the importance of

maximizing Indigenous communication throughout the country has not been overlooked. While

the organization offers several other services to benefit Indigenous Peoples including support for

grassroots movements and the publication of a quarterly magazine, its Indigenous Rights Radio

program has become vital in its pursuit of greater unity. Through this program, Cultural Survival

looks to empower native communities by informing their members of their fundamental rights.

Stories and subject matter are gathered from communities around the world and broadcasted to

rural Indigenous populations in their native languages. While radio communication may seem

outdated to the modern world, it is a valuable tool in these regions due to its overall affordability

and its capacity to reach remote areas.

With the help of a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant from First Peoples Worldwide, the

organization has been able to air a radio series on the United Nations-declared right to Free,

Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). This right, which ensures Indigenous participation in

matters concerning their well-being, rights, and traditional land, requires organizations and

governments whose endeavors affect native lands and lifestyles to gain the willing consent of the

communities they disturb. Through its radio broadcasts about FPIC, Cultural Survival is

informing its Guatemalan Indigenous listeners of the rights they possess and of outside actions,

such as land concessions, that could violate these rights.

While Cultural Survival’s radio program has been hindered by legal loopholes that allow

community stations to be forcibly terminated, its broadcasts continue to be vital to many

Guatemalan Indigenous communities. By equipping listeners with a greater knowledge of their

rights, Cultural Survival is enabling Indigenous Peoples to better defend their cultures and



“Cultural Survival.” Cultural Survival.


“Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala.” International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.


“Indigenous Rights Radio.” Indigenous Rights Radio.



Indigenous People Must Lead World to Sustainability

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Rebecca Adamson’s decision to close First Peoples Worldwide by year’s end is an opportunity for other organizations to take over innovative and compelling projects intended to restore to Indigenous Peoples their rightful position of leadership in today’s troubled world.

Adamson rebecca_adamsons_ted_talk_dominates_times_square_new_york1tells ICTMN, “Whether we like it or not the simple truth is that Indians have to become leaders beyond their own communities. We have to get out there and we have to start leading now. There’s no choice.”

What we see in today’s Western societies, she says, “is fear-based — a scarcity of resources and individuals with insatiable appetites. When you look at an indigenous economy that’s survived for tens of thousands of years you see [an assumption] of prosperity and a kinship-based sense of enoughness. In one economy you hoard and you compete and you beat your competition down. In the other economy you share and you collaborate. One of them will sustain and be sustainable and the other won’t.”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/07/21/indigenous-people-must-lead-world-sustainability-165220


Upholding Agreements

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In June 2016, 200 U’wa men, women and children occupied a plant belonging to Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-owned oil and gas company, demanding that the government uphold an agreement signed two years earlier. Traditional authorities said the agreement, which obligates the government to recognize U’wa territory and cleanup oil spills, has been ignored. The occupation coincided with a larger protest movement in Colombia called Minga Agraria, in which 100,000 people demonstrated against the government’s favoring of business interests over those of Indigenous and rural communities.

When companies or governments enter agreements with Indigenous Peoples, they must include detailed implementation plans and timelines to ensure accountability from both sides. The U’wa have struggled with oil and gas drilling for decades, and each broken promise reduces the likelihood of constructive solutions in the future.

Sources: Intercontinental Cry


American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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In June 2016, the Organization of American States adopted the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adding to the list of international instruments that promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. The Declaration recognizes, among other things, Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and includes special provisions for Indigenous women and for communities living in voluntary isolation.

Minority Rights Group International expressed concern that some “rights and recognitions set forth in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are conspicuously weaker or not included at all. The lack of need to seek FPIC before relocation of Indigenous Peoples from their lands is particularly worrying. In addition, the requirement for Indigenous Peoples’ land rights to comply with the national legal systems of each state has the potential to undermine the valuable protections afforded by international human rights law.”

While the Declaration provides another important legal framework, companies must remember that UNDRIP still constitutes the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples around the world.

Sources: MRGI, OAS


World Bank Continues Lowering the Bar

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The World Bank is waiving the application of its Indigenous Peoples Safeguard in order to fast track a loan to the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) project. Although SAGCOT will relocate cattle herders who meet the international criteria for Indigenous Peoples, the government is circumventing the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard by arguing that “no ethnic groups in Tanzania are more Indigenous than others because all Tanzanians are equal under the law.”

The current draft of the Bank’s revised Safeguards is improved from the first in that there is no longer an explicit opt out option for the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard, but according to the Bank Information Center, “another possible opt out option remains in force; Borrowers that do not want to implement [the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard] may in rare instances still be able to initiate a waiver process.” It appears that one such rare instance has occurred before the Safeguards are even finalized. This sets a dangerous precedent that will further erode the Bank’s legitimacy with Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: Bank Information Center, Huffington Post


The Importance of Communication

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During a speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, the CEO of SM Resources said the oil and gas industry’s failure to communicate effectively is causing what he perceives to be “overreaching regulations, misguided legislative efforts and destructive ballot initiatives.” To address this, the company is hiring a PR firm to create “open source software for improving the industry’s communications.”

Enhanced communication is a good idea, but this may miss the mark for several reasons. The goal is to develop digital materials and social media messages that will “engage customers with positive messages on how the industry’s products make peoples’ lives better” and “highlight the use of oil and gas products for transportation, agriculture, medicine, clothing, cooking and other purposes.” However, most grievances with oil and gas are triggered by the process of creating the products, not the products themselves.

Additionally, customers are not the only stakeholders with whom the industry must communicate; long-term shareholders and neighboring communities are among the other audiences that warrant attention. Finally, communication is a two way street, so for this to be effective it must include ways for the industry to both give and receive information.

Sources: Bakken Magazine


State-Owned Company Ignores Best Practice

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The Marap Indigenous group is invoking customary law to retake 1,300 hectares of land that overlap with a palm oil plantation operated by PTTP, a state-owned company in Indonesia. They say the company has paid no attention to their well-being during its thirty years of existence, so they are taking back the land and have no interest in further dialogue. The area is now under police watch. According to a company spokesperson, “since we’re a state-owned company, we can only listen to all aspirations and complaints and pass them on to the local government for further action. There is not much we can do.”

State-owned companies must adhere to the same best practices as private companies. Government ownership makes it equally, if not more, important for companies to have effective community relations functions and obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: Asia Pacific Report


First Peoples Worldwide is Closing

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July 5, 2016

Dear First Peoples Worldwide Community:

My entire life I have held the belief that Indigenous Peoples’ ways of being provide answers to the problems societies face today. We have achieved what First Peoples Worldwide was created to do – create change, inspire the next seven generations and promote our mission to ensure the power is within our communities. I write you to share our successes and the news that First Peoples Worldwide plans to close over the course of this year.

We understand that this news may cause concern from our grantees and others who benefit from our technical assistance services. In keeping on this path, our board and staff are in agreement that the best way to continue this work is through strategic partnerships rather than a freestanding organization. Please know that we are also having conversations aimed at the continued existence of our Keepers of the Earth Fund. We are excited by these discussions, and will share information as we go along.

Throughout my career, I have focused on “building out” strategies and movements rather than “building up” organizations. First Peoples Worldwide is a vehicle for empowering Indigenous objectives, but the organization was never an objective itself. For the last decade, our Keepers of the Earth Fund has awarded more than $2.1 million in small grants to 579 communities in 62 countries. Approximately one third of our grantees have never received funding before. This has enabled the flourishing of a global network of projects designed in accordance with the Indigenous definition of economic success – meeting the greatest number of needs for the greatest number of people.

While I will be slowing down, I will continue working with Indigenous Peoples to amplify our voices for self-determination and to build allies in social justice, human rights and women’s movements. No words can describe the privilege it has been to spend my career working with Indigenous Peoples and witnessing firsthand the brilliance and resilience that drives our communities.

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FPIC for Rural Women

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In March 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors implementation of the legally-binding UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, recommended that states obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from rural women “prior to the approval of any acquisitions or project affecting rural lands or territories and resources, including as related to the lease and sale of land, land expropriation and resettlement.”


This is the first time that FPIC is being explicitly applied to a non-Indigenous constituency by an international legal body. It is the latest sign that FPIC will soon be required from all communities. Companies that already obtain FPIC from Indigenous Peoples will be best positioned to adapt to the shifting business landscape.

Sources: Cultural Survival


Activist Arrested; Shareholders Questioned

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In December 2015, Amnesty International reported that Evenki leader Sergei Nikiforov was sentenced to four years in prison for opposing a gold mine owned by Petropavlovsk in Russia. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited the company to respond to the allegations. When the company did not answer, the Centre contacted its shareholders. Prudential PLC replied that “[our fund managers] believe good governance is closely linked to the long term success of companies and as a result take ESG issues into consideration…We take matters such as these seriously and will be following up with the company in order to gain a better understanding.” The other shareholders declined to comment.

The “mainstreaming” of socially responsible investing is prompting more communities and NGOs to approach shareholders of problematic companies. This will add to the financial burdens of investing in companies with poor human rights records. Companies must have response mechanisms in place to address these types of issues so stakeholders do not have to go over their head to get their voices heard.

Sources: Amnesty International, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre