Posts Tagged ‘Free prior informed consent’


First Peoples Worldwide: Coming Up at the 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

First Peoples Worldwide has some exciting events coming up this week at the 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Don’t forget to RSVP!

April 23: Corporate Leadership and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Building a Community of Practice

FINAL UNPFII 2015 Corp Invitation

This workshop, open to corporate practitioners, consultants, investors, and NGO representatives, will bring corporate practitioners and Indigenous leaders together in establishing a community of practice: a space for exchanging knowledge and insights on successful community engagement with Indigenous peoples, while reflecting on key issues and trends related to business and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Coinciding with the 14th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City. The workshop is co-hosted by First Peoples Worldwide, Future 500, and the UN Global Compact.

Thursday April 23, 2015
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas
655 Third Avenue, 4th Floor (Board Room A)
New York, NY 10017

April 25: Shareholder Advocacy and Leadership Training

UNPFII Leadership Workshop Invite

 Tailored for Indigenous Peoples facing corporate development, this workshop will focus on the fundamentals of Indigenous leadership, using market forces to uphold Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC), and utilizing social media in the Indigenous movement. Space is limited, so don’t forget to RSVP to by April 24. Lunch will be provided!

April 25, 2015
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The Church Center for the United Nations
777 United Nations Plaza, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10017


Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership: What It Means for Indigenous Peoples

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published April 13, 2015.



The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a massive, controversial free trade agreement currently under negotiation behind closed doors by officials from the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The TPP would elevate multinational corporations and private investors to equal status with sovereign nations, and therefore above individual citizens, empowering these entities to sue nations via private tribunals.  The TPP has been marked by an alarming lack of transparency and public input. The public has not been allowed to see the draft text, and the majority of information that is available is the result of leaks. Even members of Congress have been provided only limited access to the proposed agreement. US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has called for increased transparency in trade negotiations for the TPP, warning that, “Without transparency, the benefit from robust democratic participation—an open marketplace of ideas—is considerably reduced.” Meanwhile, more than 600 official corporate “trade advisors” have been given special access to the draft text.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: What Does It Mean for Indigenous Peoples?

In the same vein as deals like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization, the TPP is being drafted with no input from the Indigenous Peoples who live in countries that will be affected by the deal. The TPP could have broad implications for Indigenous Peoples living in the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The secrecy of the TPP entirely disregards the concept of Free, Prior, Informed Consent, a tenant of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states that policies affecting Indigenous Peoples should not move forward without the full understanding and approval of those it might affect.


Corporate Rights over Human Rights

The agreement threatens to dramatically affect Indigenous Peoples by ramping up trade policies that have allowed for transnational corporations to engage in oil, gas, and mineral extraction without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of their communities.  TPP policies would encourage the natural gas industry, which has already severely affected Native and First Nations communities in North America.  “The TPP would facilitate increased exports of liquefied natural gas by requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to automatically approve all natural gas exports to TPP countries. Increased exports would mean an increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the dirty and violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations,’’ explains the Sierra Club.  Natural gas companies have already begun encroaching otherwise off limits native lands. Uniquely affecting native women, fracking operations tend to be correlated with increased sex trafficking, rape, missing women, and influxes of drugs and alcohol into communities, in addition to its obvious environmental effects contaminating local water and air quality.

The TPP would also allow companies to evade financial responsibility for environmental contamination, even when it occurs on Indigenous Peoples lands. Under the TPP, investors would have the ability to demand taxpayer compensation for imposed fines, effectively burdening the public with the cost of environmental cleanup. According to Professor Jane Kelsey of New Zealand, the TPP draft chapter on environmental regulations fails to define its key terms, leaving vagueness that will allow for inconsistent interpretation and implementation of regulations. Nowhere in the chapter does it detail a mechanism for setting penalties for environmental offenders. It excludes resource management practices and ignores standards set by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mother Nature®

The draft article on Trade and Biodiversity recognizes the rights of states over natural resources and genetic material. This would allow for multinational corporations like Monsanto and industries like Big Pharma to benefit enormously by allowing them to exclusive rights over things like seeds and traditional plant-based medicines found in biodiverse areas managed by Indigenous communities. The agreement flagrantly ignores the United Nations’ specific mention of this in the Declaration, which states that

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop…the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora.” –Article 31

The patenting of plants that have been used traditionally by Indigenous Peoples without their consent or benefit sharing has been called bio-piracy, and would snowball given the approval of the TPP.  Indigenous activist Te Kaituhi, a Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand, exhorts us to “Imagine a world where Indigenous knowledge, language, and customs are outright owned by multinational corporations and copyright enforcement is heavily backed by government police forces.” According to Kaituhi, “The TPP won’t only affect Indigenous freehold land, nor will it just push our people further into poverty. The TPP will give multinationals the right to exploit the ecosystem and further aid them in the acquiring of enforced trademarking and copyrighting of Indigenous intellectual property and cultural or traditional knowledge;” in other words, a new form of colonization.


Suing for lost profits

One of the most troubling aspects of the TPP is found in the draft chapter on investment deals with investor-state dispute settlement which gives corporations the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation — in private and non-transparent tribunals — over nearly any law or policy that a corporation alleges will reduce its profits. Kelsey notes that “the vast majority of investment arbitrations under similar agreements involve natural resources, especially mining, and have resulted in billions of dollars of damages against governments for measures designed to protect the environment from harm caused by foreign corporations.” Under the proposed TPP, the investor-state clause can be used to pressure governments into allowing the continued operation of the severely polluting industries out of fear of being sued for lost profits.  Governments around the world are already extremely reluctant to regulate industries like mining and oil, which can bring them large revenues in royalties. With the potential that States could be held financially responsible for reigning in harmful business practices, corporate profits gains an even stronger precedence over disenfranchised Indigenous Peoples living with destructive industries in their backyards.

Fast Track

Negotiators have announced that they are very close to concluding the agreement, with just a few outstanding issues remaining. However, several countries have said that they won’t present their final offers until the US Congress grants President Obama “Fast Track” Authority.

Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), is a process that would rush trade deals through Congress and remove the ability of elected officials to ensure that trade pacts protect workers, communities and the environment. Fast track would allow the president to send already signed trade pacts, including the TPP, to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments and a maximum of 20 hours debate.

Despite mounting opposition, The Obama administration is throwing its full weight behind Fast Track and the TPP.   In response, a national day of action against Fast Track  has been declared for April 18th, 2015. The national day corresponds to a global day of action to promote fair rather than free trade deals  with events spanning the globe.  Now is the time to spread the word about the detrimental effects of the deals like the TPP and advocate for something better.

Cultural Survival signed on along with over 550 organizations in sending a letter to then US Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) firmly rejecting fast track trade promotion authority in the United States and calling for a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements. In the letter, this diverse coalition stated that “fast track,” an outdated mechanism that would limit Congressional and public oversight over trade negotiations, is “simply not appropriate” given the broad subjects covered by today’s trade pacts, such as the TPP and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “Fast track is the wrong track for Americans who care about the health of our families and access to clean air, clean water, and land,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “We need a new model of trade—one that protects communities and the environment while keeping the public engaged in the policy-making process.”

Communities, workers, and especially Indigenous Peoples must have a say in these deals. The fast track is the exact opposite of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent that is laid out as a human rights standard when negotiating deals that will affect Indigenous Peoples, as the TPP will in a dozen countries.


What can you do?

  1. Get in touch with your area Representatives and Senators.
  2. Share on social media: Fast tracking the TPP ignores the rights of #Indigenous Peoples across Pacific nations. #NoFastTrack for #TPP Atn.@RonWyden .@BarackObama
  3. Learn more with Public Citizen


Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.


Indigenous People In Danger of Displacement: The Nicaraguan Canal and its Drastic Effects

Nicaraguans protest the canal construction [Photo source: Noticiero Digital]

Nicaraguans protest the canal construction
[Photo source: Noticiero Digital]

by Katie Redmiles

Vendepatria!”: an epithet for one who sells his own homeland, was shouted at the Nicaraguan government by protesters during the groundbreaking of the Nicaraguan Canal.

The Indigenous people of Nicaragua, known as campesinos, gathered by the thousands in early October to protest the plan for the interoceanic canal to cut across the country. Protesters held up banners reading “Chinese go home!” and “Our land is not for sale!” The march organizer herself, Francis Ramirez, said in response to the projected canal plan that she “would rather die than hand over [her] property,” as quoted by the Huffington Post.

President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega gave a 50 year concession (with the flexibility to make it 100 years) to Chinese businessman Wang Jing to head the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development (HKND) in December 2014. The canal project is estimated to cost $40-$50 billion. It will measure 278 kilometers, compared to the Panama Canal which is currently the longest in the world at 77 kilometers. It will be twice as deep as the Panama Canal requiring the excavation of more than 4.5billion cubic meters of earth. The Nicaraguan Canal’s projected width is estimated to be around 230 to 520 meters.

Yet the project is aimed to take only five years, compared to the ten it took for the Panama Canal.

These numbers have been a huge cause for concern for environmentalists, scientists and Indigenous Nicaraguans since the plan’s announcement.

President Ortega and other supporters of the HKND profess its necessity, claiming that the initial 50,000 jobs created during construction and 200,000 upon its completion will be the driving force to raising Nicaragua out of severe poverty. The leader of Nicaragua’s National Agrarian University, Francisco Telemaco Talavera, supports the canal because of its potential to follow in the path of the Panama Canal by making Nicaragua into “the region’s powerhouse, with economic growth rates as high as 14% per year.”

However, the number of negative ramifications from the canal are vast and drastic.

Due to the range of the route and the immense amount of land it will cover, there is an outcry of injustice from the Indigenous communities that would be displaced by its construction. Many of the communities have been living on the land since before the Spanish conquest, and include Rama and Kriol people. The canal would bisect the two territories causing fragmentation, which at minimum could induce a loss of culture and belonging.

[Photo Credit: SCMP]

[Photo Credit: SCMP]

Before the HKND was decided upon and put on the table, there were no conversations held with the Indigenous communities, no Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC),  no thought to include them in the process, and there appears to be no sign that their rights will be taken into account.

Many of the affected Indigenous groups have presented their case to the Inter-American Commission Human Rights, with strong evidences of violations to Nicaraguan law, as well as international labor standards. Yet as the months progress, nothing seems to be in action to prevent these violations from taking place once canal construction starts.

What has been made clear by the Nicaraguan government is that anyone who is displaced by the canal construction will be compensated for their property based on its value as of June 2013. It seems that the most Indigenous communities can hope for in terms of justice is for higher rates of compensation – no movement is being considered for allowing them to stay on their land and not build the disastrous canal.

President of a Rama community, Carlos Billis, expressed his strong opposition for the canal: “It will destroy the nature that we are as much a part of as the trees that grow here and spread their seeds. The government wants to move us for a project that has nothing to do with us. There’s been no consultation, but they are going ahead regardless. This is discrimination against Indians, the same discrimination that’s been seen all over the world for so long.”

Other Indigenous leaders, such as Alan Claire of the Kriol Community, express the same opinion citing the legal and moral injustices of the plan. “This is an Indigenous area. By law, the government is supposed to ensure prior, free and informed consultation, but we haven’t been asked anything,” he tell Watts.

The government has claimed it feels secure against any campesino uprising once they learn of the generous compensations given to them. However, for many Indigenous people, the displacement itself is the heartbreak, not just the monetary concerns of having to adjust elsewhere.

Elizabeth Del Carmen is one such individual, whose family has seen generations live on the land and recently was told to shut down their project of building a chapel due to the canal development.

“I’ve been worrying about this because I don’t want to move to another place,” said Del Carmen. “We don’t agree with this bad treatment. They are making poor people feel uncomfortable. This place is safe. We all know each other here. Who knows where they are going to move us…We don’t want to leave.”

Indigenous peoples, as well as environmentalists all around the globe, are also greatly lamenting the ecological destruction the construction would wreak. The canal is planned to cut through nature reserves, significant wetlands that contribute to the biodiversity of the globe, Lake Nicaragua which is the largest freshwater lake in Central America, and the scenic beauty that is characteristic of the country.

Environmental assessments have been made by organizations such as the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation  and the International Society of Limnology, all citing the major negative effects the canal will have.

The lake will be compromised as the significant source of freshwater for irrigation, with harmful effects to the ecosystem due to pollution, traffic, noise, salinity, higher levels of torpidity and oxygen depletion.

[Photo Credit: ]

[Photo Credit: ]

There is also the constant risk of oil spills from cargo-carrying ships.

Other important wetlands and ecosystems will be upheaved as a result of the canal construction, and given the sheer size of the project, scientists are not hopeful for them to ever return to their original states.

The destruction of pristine land, displacement of peoples who have called the land home for centuries, and ecological depletion are some of the major reasons why the development for

the Nicaraguan Canal is a global catastrophe and warrants global awareness. With economic ambitions and major influential government powers driving this project into fruition, it is hard to see a way of halting the plan, but in order to protect Indigenous rights and culture, a ceasing of the canal’s construction is vital.


The Corruption of Keystone: Congressional Permits to Drill Don’t Change Public Opinion

This article has been reposted from The article was originally published on March 27, 2015.
Copyright, Reprinted with permission.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

By Rebecca Adamson

When TransCanada Corporation announced its plans for a Keystone XL pipeline expansion project in 2008, the company projected capital costs to be $4.3 billion for the entire project. After 6 years of waiting for US executive approval, including countless congressional votes, a Nebraska Supreme Court case and a president who has yet to budge, TransCanada increased estimated capital investments for the pipeline another $2.5 billion. The reason? “Lengthy delays,” undoubtedly exacerbated by community protests and opposition from environmental and social interest groups.

One of the loudest proponents of pipeline opposition, and arguably the most vulnerable, are North America’s Indigenous Peoples. For extractive companies, indigenous lands are one and the same with their profit source – approximately 30 percent of current extractive production is located on indigenous lands, along with an approximated 60 percent of future reserves. For indigenous communities, the presence of corporations in indigenous territories, regardless of consent, is fraught with social costs – extractive projects often threaten indigenous cultural practices, sacred sites and subsistence livelihoods. Corporations must be held accountable for the losses they impose on indigenous assets.

And in some ways, they have been held accountable. Social responsibility has been on the corporate radar for over a decade now, thanks to NGOs, student movements, protests and the legal system holding corporations morally accountable for their actions.

One major missing link in demanding corporate accountability: the government. Surprisingly Congress, meant to be the biggest advocate of the American public, has transcended silence on the pipeline to promote active pursuit of exploration and drilling permits. Our entitled government has taken it upon itself to grant TransCanada a social license to operate, as though it were another pithy “ye” or “nay” vote interrupting their afternoon nap.

Congress cannot grant a social license for the Keystone XL pipeline – the only people who can grant a social license to operate is the American public, the local communities and stakeholders affected by the project. Moreover, Congressional permits shoved down the American publics’ throats won’t change their opinion of the pipeline. Congress needs to realize that a social license to operate, much like a congressional mandate to lead, comes from Main Street – not Wall Street.

There is no way to gloss this over as Congress acting “for the common good.”When governments make decisions without citizens’ consent or support, including those of indigenous peoples’, they hurt the businesses within their borders. A recent report from First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that failed to recognize Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) or respect indigenous rights hosted extractive projects at the highest risk of community protests, work stoppages and inevitable profit loss. This is becoming increasingly evident in Canada, Indonesia, Ecuador, Peru and other emerging resource economies.

In 2013, a consortium of Canadian leaders (including industry representatives) warned that Canada is “heading for a gridlock in energy development that will rob the country of future wealth unless it can solve vexing environmental and Aboriginal conflicts.” Indonesia has become saturated with violent resource conflicts, with more than 2,230 indigenous communities requesting investigations into violations of their land rights. Also in 2013, auctions for oil and gas concessions in Ecuador and Peru encountered both vehement opposition from indigenous peoples and “underwhelming” interest from companies – raising speculation that the indigenous protests influenced companies’ decisions.

It’s a simple formula to understand – when a government doesn’t listen to its people, protests happen. Protests around extractive projects cause work stoppages and overrun budgets for companies like TransCanada, which is spending an extra $2.5 billion on its “delayed,” and heavily protested, Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline debate is not about climate change, oil independence, or increased jobs – it’s about government corruption. A government that overruns its peoples’ lands by granting eminent domain to corporations is the same government that causes civil unrest, corruption, violence and therefore high risk for companies. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. The American public’s opposition to the pipeline is going to keep costing TransCanada, regardless of whether or not Congress grants the necessary permits, or even if the State Department signs off on the project. When both governments and extractive industries lack a social license to operate, it’s a lose-lose game.


Rebecca Adamson is a Cherokee economist and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. A leader, activist and ground-breaking Indigenous woman, she has dedicated nearly five decades to the Indigenous movement, both in the US and globally.


Corporations and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Advancing the Struggle for Protection, Recognition, and Redress at the Third UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

Reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly 39-1 Upholding Indigenous Rights Is Good Business (March 2015)

By Andrea Carmen

In 1990, the UN Global Consultation on the Right to Development declared that “the most destructive and prevalent abuses of Indigenous rights are the direct consequences of development strategies that fail to respect their fundamental right of self-determination.” Twenty-five years later, notwithstanding historic progress in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the international arena (most notably the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), this statement still defines the reality for the majority of Indigenous Peoples.


Today, the survival of Indigenous Peoples around the world continues to be threatened by corporate activity. This includes mining, oil drilling, damming, deforestation, toxic pesticides, proliferation by agribusiness, water privatization and appropriation, and a range of other activities carried out on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. These activities are often undertaken in violation of legally binding treaties and agreements. They desecrate sacred places, undermine food sovereignty and traditional livelihoods, and jeopardize community and reproductive health with little regard for violations of these and other individual and collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and other Indigenous organizations are engaged in the work of Special Representative John Ruggie, who was appointed by the UN Secretary General “to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights.” IITC has made several submissions urging the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples to ensure that their perspectives and experiences would be taken into account. IITC has also consistently underscored the vital importance of the Declaration as a framework for upholding Indigenous rights.

In June 2011 the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution unanimously endorsing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework proposed by Ruggie. This framework provided a global standard for preventing human rights impacts of business activity and providing remedies for victims. The Guiding Principles are organized under three pillars: the State’s duty to protect human rights; corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for greater access to remedy for victims of business-related abuse.

The UN Working Group

In addition to adopting the Guiding Principles, the Human Rights Council established a UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to carry out studies and oversee implementation at the country level. Along with issue-based studies and country visits, the Working Group organizes annual Human Rights and Business Forums where States, UN agencies, NGOs, and Indigenous Peoples review good (and bad) practices, present strategies for effective implementation, and highlight areas of ongoing concern.

The responsibility of States to be accountable for human rights violations caused by the corporations they license and the duty of corporations to respect human rights are relatively new and evolving human rights concepts. However, even before the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted in 2011, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the treaty monitoring body for the international convention of the same name, affirmed that both Canada and the United States are obligated to prevent human rights violations in Indigenous communities around the world by corporations licensed in either country. The continued lack of compliance by the US with this recommendation from the Committee was addressed when the US was reviewed again in 2013. The Committee made similar observations addressing the responsibility of Canada, in particular regarding the activities of Canadian mining companies carrying out activities that violated the rights of Indigenous Peoples outside the country in both 2007 and 2012.

Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in UN Forums on Business and Human Rights

From its first session in 2012, the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights has recognized that Indigenous Peoples around the world suffer from adverse impacts of corporate activity resulting in violation of a wide range of their individual and collective rights. At all three sessions of the Forum to date, Indigenous Peoples have been a key focus, although there is still no formal mechanism or permanent agenda item, as requested by Indigenous Peoples, to ensure their formal participation and full inclusion in future sessions. Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples addressed the first session in 2012, and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, were panelists at the second and third sessions. One of the Working Group’s first activities was a groundbreaking study exploring the challenges faced in addressing “adverse impacts of business-related activities on the rights of Indigenous Peoples through the lens of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Specific concerns raised by IITC at the third Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights held December 1–3, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, focused on the continued production and export by US corporations of highly restricted and unregulated pesticides banned for use in the US. This practice, permitted by current US laws, has had devastating, well-documented human rights consequences, including undermining reproductive health and causing over 25 documented deaths in Yaqui Indian communities in northern Mexico. IITC presented this concern in a side event organized by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and was invited to submit this issue for the Committee’s country review of Mexico in May 2015.

The United States’ National Action Plan

A key mechanism for implementation and a central focus of discussion at the most recent Forum is the development of National Action Plans by UN member states to promote implementation of the Guiding Principles. On January 14, IITC sent a written contribution to the US State Department for the development of its own National Action Plan, which was announced by President Obama in September 2014. It is targeted for completion, after a series of consultations around the country, by the end of 2015. The first consultation was held in New York City on December 15; upcoming sessions are planned for Oklahoma, California, and Washington, D.C. in February and March 2015.

IITC’s submission followed up on issues raised during reviews of the US in 2014 highlighting corporate activities impacting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in and out of the country. These include laws allowing the manufacture and export of pesticides from the US that have been banned or deregulated in the US; violations resulting from corporate activities that cause the destruction, desecration, and contamination of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred and ceremonial sites, areas, and landscapes, including many located on what are now federal lands and in areas recognized as belonging to Indigenous nations under their ratified Treaties with the US; and lack of US compliance and implementation of the provisions and rights affirmed in its human rights obligations and commitments.

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

AThe Outcome Document of the High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, also known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, further underscored UN member states’ commitments to uphold the rights affirmed in the Declaration. The Outcome Document adopted on September 22, 2014, included a commitment to the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent related to development activities. Based on the UN Guiding Principles Business and Human Rights, as well as the Concluding Observations of UN Treaty Bodies and the commitments made by States (including the US) in the outcome document, IITC made several recommendations to the US State Department urging the use of rights affirmed in the Declaration, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

IITC also urged that the national action plan affirm the rights contained in the World Conference outcome document to Free, Prior and Informed Consent; that the plan uphold the rights affirmed in the nation-to-nation treaties it concluded with Indigenous nations to interpret and guide its implementation of the UN Principles on Human Rights and Business; that it incorporate and implement the recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaty bodies with regard to the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ sacred areas, sites, and landscapes; and that it include a commitment to take immediate steps to halt the production and export of pesticides and other toxic chemicals that have been banned for use in the United States.

Although these recommendations are directed specifically to the US, similar recommendations can be made to other member states where corporate and business activities impact the rights and survival of Indigenous Peoples. The devastating effects of business and corporate activities upon the rights of Indigenous Peoples, their health, lands and territories, cultures, and ways of life, cannot be minimized. Neither can the responsibility or accountability of member states.

Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights here:

Andrea Carmen is the executive director of International Indian Treaty Council, an Indigenous Peoples organization with General Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.


Indigenous Workshop: “Shareholder Advocacy & Leadership Training”

First Peoples Worldwide will hold a “Shareholder Advocacy and Leadership Training” Workshop for Indigenous Peoples facing corporate development at this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Please see the flyer below for details, and we hope you can join us!

Unfortunately, First Peoples Worldwide is unable to provide travel expenses or travel document assistance for this event.

UNPFII Leadership Workshop Invite


Transparency in the Supply Chain

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

Wilmar International is publicly disclosing the names and locations of all its palm oil suppliers in Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries where palm oil production is devastating Indigenous lands. Wilmar is the first company in the palm oil industry to do so, and is being praised for implementing this unusually high level of supply chain transparency.

In December 2013, Wilmar adopted a Sustainability Policy committing to the full and demonstrable application of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. It is too early to determine whether this policy has been fully implemented, but this indicates movement in the right direction. Wilmar has also developed a Sustainability Dashboard containing information on how it’s implementing the policy, and how grievances raised by communities are being addressed.

Sources: Eco-business

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


How We Make Progress, How We Have Change: Rebecca Adamson

Reposted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly

By Agnes Portalewska


Her voice reflects her passion. Her work reflects her commitment. Her legacy is an inspiration for many. Rebecca Adamson (Cherokee) is a businessperson and Indigenous rights advocate. She is the former director, president, and founder of First Nations Development Institute and the founder of First Peoples Worldwide. Born to a Swedish-American father and a Cherokee mother, Adamson grew up in Akron, Ohio and spent summers with her Cherokee grandmother in North Carolina. Reflecting on these early years, she says, “My journey and my vision has been driven by knowing we could solve our own problems and really wanting to listen to the ways our cultures helped us and supported our problem solving.”

Early in her career Adamson was hired by the coalition of five Indian Controlled Schools in the country. As she tells it, “the schools sued [then-President] Nixon to release the Title IV Indian Education funds. Title IV provided funds for parental involvement, among other things.” With the release of that money, the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools were able to help tribes start their own schools. “All of this dovetailed into the Indian Education Self Determination Act. After they won and then they hired me, and I got to work in our communities, and it was amazing.” She also worked to get the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 passed, giving tribes authority for how they administered the funds.

Adamson’s background was in philosophy, a field she entered with “an undying belief that as Indigenous Peoples, we needed our own models. People constantly look at our systems and they talk about them being quaint. We get pushed back on two things: one is that the principles that I call ‘fundamental design principles’ are called romantic notions in Western thinking. But then they get caught up thinking that we’re saying individual Indians are better than individual Westerners. Both of those are just wrong. We [have] built systems that actually incentivize the good behavior.”

Later, as she pursued a graduate degree in economics and “began really looking into the finances of it,” she says, “what really hit me was how all the models that we were taking out into our communities carried Western values—they weren’t our values. So I thought if we had a development process that really listened and brought the technical and the resources together with the brilliant thinking and problemsolving of Indigenous peoples, we would get new models.” This is how the idea for First Nations Development Institute was born in 1980.

Initially, the primary purpose of First Nations Development Institute was to create a development process for Native people to do their own problem solving. The Institute created the land consolidation model, the tribal investment model, marketing, arts, food sovereignty, traditional food processes, agriculture, and the first micro-loan fund in the United States. The first 15 years were devoted to exploring Indigenous economics domestically, and the Institute began global outreach in 1994. Their first international field project grew into First Peoples Worldwide.

Since 2007, First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund has awarded nearly $1.5 million to Indigenous communities around the world representing 427 Indigenous groups in 53 countries. “Making that international transition has been extremely rewarding,” Adamson says. “It is magnitudes more difficult, more violent, and more discriminatory internationally, with what other Indigenous groups are facing. The grants are really what bring the energy and excitement and the heartbeat into our work.” She adds that the fund has supported projects that are “really struggling in dealing with huge global corporations and the pressure of being surrounded by the extractive industries and the governments that want the resources. In those cases we may be the only funder out there that is funding our communities to make their own decisions. One-third of our grantmaking portfolio had never had funding before. So we’re building those links back up to national and international groups so that we build that political machinery, bit by bit.”

For Adamson, getting corporations and governments to respect Indigenous rights requires a multipronged approach. “In the long run I think the activist groups keep the heat on. Social media has absolutely been bringing attention to it. If corporations want to manage by headlines, we’ve got to get them headlines. The activist groups are doing good work on that. Legal and rights groups are trying to get legal precedents set. What hasn’t really been approached in all this is the market. That’s why First Peoples Worldwide did the Indigenous Rights Risk Report (see page 14), to try to get one more strategic tool out there that we could all use. I think it really will bring more power and augment what we’ve already got underway,” she says.

Forward progress, however, isn’t always linear: “We don’t have a silver bullet anywhere. We could win a court case and the government decides not to uphold it. We could win an activist and media campaign, and as soon as the headlines die down they turn around and do it again. We make progress and then we slide back. [But] that is how we make progress and that is how we have change. “

After concluding its risk assessment of US-based extractive companies, First Peoples Worldwide is now turning its attention to Canada; Adamson estimates that about 70 percent of the global equity capital financing oil, gas, and mining comes from the Canadian exchange. “What we hope to do is bring the Indigenous groups in areas where we’re researching together with the other groups in the areas we’ve already researched. That’s the idea, to really start sharing this information among ourselves,” she says.

To aid in this information sharing, First Peoples Worldwide is currently developing curriculum on shareholder advocacy and planning to organize Indigenous shareholder advocacy leadership training centers in Indigenous areas where resource extraction is rampant. “We are organizing these centers so that our people in those places have the accountability they need to really negotiate and control their destinies with these corporations and with the government,” she explains.

Getting resources and information to the grassroots is a must for Adamson. “Real successes have been primarily [achieved] by us, by Indigenous people. We’ve got thousands of grassroots groups out there, and we need to be able to link them with the international and national groups. We have an ability to build the political machinery globally that we need to achieve change. We need more local capacity. Funders right now tend to build somebody else’s capacity, to study us, to work for us, to be an intermediary with us, but never fund us.” She cites the adoption of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a prime example: “We saw hundreds of thousands of dollars going out to non-Indigenous groups to do FPIC studies. The Indigenous groups are the ones having to figure out how to implement it, and yet all of the resources went to other folks to study us in doing it.”

Adamson believes that Canada, at the epicenter of so many protests and recent controversies around FPIC and Indigenous rights, “is really the microcosm of all of this. What the First Nations have made [Prime Minister] Harper’s administration understand is they can stop his resource development agenda.” She also points to the Amazon region, which “has had the lowest bids on concessions in its history,” a cause she attributes directly to protests and work stoppages. “We can stop the production and the extraction of these resources and get heard, but it’s a path that could lead to violence, which in many cases has been a struggle for our lives,” she says.

As the First Peoples’ risk report illustrates, in-country risk is one of the biggest drivers of corporate risk. “Corporations want to go to where there’s the least risk, and if it’s working with us, we can be at the table directing the government to title our land, uphold our rights,” Adamson says. “We are finding out through the risk report that it’s good business when countries uphold Indigenous rights. My hope is that we can get the results into the market quicker; that we can prove that countries that want economic performance have to uphold our rights to get it, and companies that want profit have to uphold our rights to get the profit. We’ve got to get that message out more and more.”

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.


Indigenous Peoples Excluded from UN Climate Change Conference

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

Among many criticisms of the twentieth UN Climate Change Conference, which convened in Peru in December 2014, is the omission of Indigenous Peoples’ rights from the outcome document, despite the fact that 1) Indigenous Peoples are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and 2) Indigenous traditional knowledge offers valuable solutions to climate change that may be lost if it continues to be ignored by policymakers. An Indigenous Peoples’ caucus presented a series of proposals to the negotiators, including recognition and respect for land rights, the creation of a climate fund for Indigenous Peoples, and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for climate related projects. None of these proposals were accepted.

As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, the private sector will undoubtedly be expected to play a greater role in mitigation. It would be more effective—and probably cheaper—for companies to accomplish this by supporting Indigenous Peoples’ rights and lifestyles, rather than perpetuating the sequence of failed commitments and botched programs from governments.

Sources: Indian Country Today, HuffingtonPost

Christiana Figueres (L), executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) addresses the opening meeting of the plenary session. [photo credit: Xinhua News Agency/REX]

Christiana Figueres (L), executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) addresses the opening meeting of the plenary session. [photo credit: Xinhua News Agency/REX]

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Final Land Claim Agreements Supersede Territorial Legislation in Yukon

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

In December 2014, a Yukon court rejected the Yukon government’s land use plan for the Peel Watershed, on the grounds that it does not respect final land claim agreements with First Nations. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals, in response to a series of incremental changes to the land use plan (initially approved in 2009) that rendered it “unrecognizable” from the original, and reduced protected areas from 80% to 29%. The court ordered the Yukon government to return to discussions with First Nations and revise the land use plan in ways that fulfill its constitutional duty to consult and accommodate. This ruling establishes a precedent that final land claim agreements supersede territorial legislation in Yukon, and has important implications for companies interested in the largely undeveloped Peel Watershed.

Sources: Common Sense Canadian, Yukon Courts

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.