Posts Tagged ‘UNDRIP’


Mount Polley Mine: ‘Indigenous Law’ Will Now Be Enforced

This article has been reposted from Triple Pundit, originally published February 23, 2015

By Jan Lee

The negative effects of extractive industry operations on indigenous communities have been obvious for quite some time.

Studies show that the rights of Native communities are often at risk in such settings, especially when hydraulic fracturing and other crude oil-related developments are being operated on or near their lands.

What is often less reported however, are the dangers that Native peoples face from overlooked mechanical or structural failures where materials or waste compounds are stored in remote areas.

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Images from NASA showcase the contaminated water that surged from the bright blue retention basin into nearby lakes when the mine collapsed. [photo credit: Triple Pundit]

Mount Polley: Canada’s Worst Mining Spill

That danger was illumined in brutal clarity last August when a tailings pond in British Columbia, Canada failed, spewing 2.5 billion gallons of waste into nearby waterways. The Mount Polley Mine, located in B.C.’s vibrant Cariboo region sits amidst the province’s Fraser River watershed, an essential resource not only to the Vancouver Mainland, but to the Neskonlith Indian Band and nearby towns of the Cariboo. First Nations communities along the Fraser River and its tributaries depend on the rivers and lakes for food, water and livelihood. In many cases, access and the right to manage those resources are protected by treaty or another type of agreement with the government. In this case, sovereign rights of the Secwepemc First Nation (Shuswap First Nation in English), which includes the Neskonlith band, are protected through a reconciliation agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

The spill, reported to be the largest industrial accident of its kind in Canadian history, flowed into nearby waterways, polluting Polley Lake and creating a four-month-long drinking ban for local communities. Cleanup was estimated to cost $200 million.

This January, the results of the first of three investigations into the spill was released. The fact that the spill was caused by a failure of the pond’s earthen containment wall was visually evident from aerial photos. But the assessment of what caused the breach sent a chilling wake-up call to Native communities situated around North American ore mining sites.

“[The] dominant contribution to the failure resides in the design,” said the three-expert panel charged with determining the reason for the breach. “The design did not take into
account the complexity of the sub-glacial and pre-glacial geological environment” below the dam, which breached when stresses underneath it changed. For unknown reasons, the structural design for the containment pond had been changed at the last minute to an option that appears to have been “flawed.” The loading conditions of the pond didn’t take into consideration geological factors that would be essential to the long-term integrity of the containment walls. When the wall collapsed, the breach was sudden and unstoppable, creating a swath of heavy metals, mud and debris that penetrated nearby water systems.

Even before the cause of the breach was known, Native communities in other parts of the province began to speak out against mining operations on their lands.

“The spill’s ramifications rippled to Imperial’s Red Chris mine in northern BC, where elders from the Tahltan Central Council (with whom the company previously had a positive working relationship) established a blockade to voice their concerns about the potential of a similar incident in their territories,” stated First Peoples Worldwide in their Corporate Monitor post last September. In order to continue operations, the company was forced to sign an agreement that would allow third-party inspection of the operation under the band’s auspices.

Similar concerns were voiced in other parts of western Canada as well. In July, just days before the dam broke, Toronto-based Seabridge Gold obtained environmental certificate for its $42 billion KSM mining operation at the northwest corner of B.C. Weeks later, with news of the breach still in international spotlight, KSM bowed to pressure to allow third-party oversight for the life of the operation. Geologic studies suggest that the area possesses the same sub-glacial mining risks as the Mount Polley mine.

New Mining Policies for First Nations’ Lands

The provincial government has since delayed the release of the final report until 2017. The announcement, along with revelations of the avoidable cause of the breach, only heightened the frustration of Native communities in B.C.

Realizing that it would be essentially powerless to prevent any similar disasters without a conclusive report that could spur the industry and province into remedial action, the Secwepemc took what some might feel was a bold step: It invoked its rights as a sovereign First Nation of Canada and evicted Imperial Metals from its land. It also announced that it now had mining policies of its own, and would enforce from hereafter.

”One thing I want to make perfectly clear is this policy isn’t a wish-list,” said Jacinda Mack when the policies were announced. Mack serves as the the council coordinator for the Secwepemc Nation. “This is Indigenous law.”

The 55-page document spells out in specific terms the responsibilities of the mining company and the rights of the First Nation to oversee and enforce those guidelines. It invokes the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights to define the Native peoples’ right to “determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.” It also defines its right to close the mine and evict mining companies as it sees fit.

The policies were developed by a third party, the Fair Mining Collaborative, and is now available to all First Nation communities facing the question of mining on their lands.

“Indigenous rights can be defined as “flowing from Indigenous peoples’ historic and sacred relationship with their territories,” says Fair Mining Collaborative.  “These rights are derived from Indigenous laws, cultural practices, customs, and forms of governance.”

Chief Bev Sellars of the Soda Creek Band, which was affected by the tailings pond breach, explained the reason for the policies in more concrete terms. “Since mining arrived in BC First Nations have been ignored and imposed upon,” she stated in an interview with Canadian publication The Tyee. “With this mining policy we can no longer be ignored or imposed upon, and the province and industry can no longer claim they do not know how to work with us …”

Tailing Ponds Risks: A Worldwide Issue

According to studies released by the Center for Science in Public Participation and Earthworks, the conditions that affect the Mount Polley and KSM mining sites aren’t limited to British Columbia.

“There are 839 tailings dams in the United States and approximately 3,500 around the world, according the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the United Nations, respectively,” the organizations announced in a press release in February. There is currently no international oversight of such mines.

There also aren’t uniform laws protecting Aboriginal rights when it comes to mining operations. First Peoples Worldwide’s 2014 study of extractive industry operations around the world last fall illumined numerous gaps in international policies when it came to indigenous communities and their rights to water, food and other resources when it comes to mining operations.

“Our Indigenous Rights Risk Report identified 73 mining projects on or near Indigenous Peoples lands globally, of which 17 are on or near Native American lands in the U.S.,” said a spokeperson for First Peoples.

It is worth noting that while last fall’s assessment of U.S. mining operations near or on Native American lands suggested that their residents experience less risk from mining operations than in Canada, Native American rights are not necessarily as far-reaching as in Canada. The path to nation sovereignty and community oversight of mining operations is often slower in the U.S., where some Native American populations are still battling the courts regarding environmental justice and climate justice issues.

Mount Polley: Climate Change?

There are numerous takeaway lessons that can be extracted from the Mount Polley catastrophe. While it is geographically more than a thousand miles from Alberta’s Tar Sands, Mount Polley mirrors the very type of environmental disaster that ecologists feared would occur if the Embridge Pipeline were constructed across the watershed. The provincial government turned down the controversial oil pipeline two years earlier because it said it feared among other things, that the pipeline would put this breadbasket of resources at risk. It cited insufficient protections to ensure a spill of far-reaching potential wouldn’t occur. The initial report on the Mount Polley disaster suggests that far-reaching environmental spills can still occur in industries that have prevailed for years and settings that are actively managed, just as they can miles of pipeline that cross desolate terrain.

One question that the report did not address is why there was a shifting of the sub-glacial formation. It is to be assumed that such change can occur over years as a part of the natural ecology of the area, but was this unexpected shift due to melting of glacial formations, and could it be related to climate change? Is this why it occurred at the peak of the Cariboo’s warm weather, and is it a risk we’ll see again with the Northwest’s increasingly warmer and drier summer landscapes? The next two reports aren’t meant to address geologic factors, but with the lessons of the Mount Polley Mine disaster now at hand, and concerns about climate change that is increasing the prevalence of warmer temps, perhaps these are questions worth asking.

To learn more about Triple Pundit, visit their website.




World Bank Incentivizes Governments to Violate UNDRIP

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized the World Bank’s draft Safeguard Policies for “going out of their way to avoid any meaningful references to human rights.” Among its criticisms is the fact that the safeguards now require Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous Peoples, but “it is not clear whether the processes prescribed…to obtain such consent meet the standards required by international human rights laws.” Furthermore, the safeguards enable borrowers to “opt out” of the FPIC requirement, ostensibly to “facilitate projects in countries where the existence or the notion of Indigenous Peoples is contested. However, the ability of borrower countries to effectively choose whether or not to recognize Indigenous Peoples appears incompatible with the fundamental purpose of UNDRIP…[and] may also undermine progress achieved in recognizing and implementing the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples in certain regions of the world.”

By proposing weaker lending criteria for countries that do not recognize Indigenous Peoples, the Bank is incentivizing governments to violate UNDRIP. This has serious consequences not only for Indigenous Peoples, but for companies with investments in emerging markets, as the Indigenous Rights Risk Report demonstrates an unmistakable correlation between Country Risk and risk to the private sector.


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.


Indigenous Rights Risk Report Quantifies Social Risks of Extractive Companies

Reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published December 15, 2014

By Madeline McGill

Further complications between extraction industries and Indigenous Peoples have been unveiled in a new report published by First Peoples Worldwide. The report, The Indigenous Rights Risk Report: How Violating Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Increases Industry Risks, found that U.S. extractive companies expose shareholders to tangible risks in neglecting the rights of the Nation’s Indigenous.

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

First Peoples’ Indigenous Rights Risk Report analyzes 370 oil, gas and mining sites on or near Indigenous land operated by 52 U.S.-based companies. The results are eye opening. 92% of these sites pose a medium to high risk to shareholders and investors. Yet only 5 companies have Indigenous Peoples policies to guide the company for how to positively engage and work with Indigenous Peoples. Co-written by Rebecca Adamson and Nick Pelosi, the report quantifies many of the social risks posed by extractive industries. Until now, such grievances have been difficult to prove, which has made it difficult to evaluate social risks.

“The push back on evaluating social risks, or at least as far as the conventional wisdom goes, is that there are no quantitative metrics,” said Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide and author of the report.  “Meaning, social risks are considered to be ‘intangibles’ a word the market uses to ignore whatever it does not want to have to deal with, such as the environment, is intangible. However, like the environment, we are seeing much more public pressure for corporations to be responsible for their footprints: planet and society. The funny thing about ‘intangibles’ is how much attention they are getting in the market nowadays.”

Now that attention is being granted to some of these issues, the next step is to incentivize companies to implement policy that recognizes these risks.

“Indigenous Peoples are securing unprecedented recognition of their rights from governments,” the report states. “But these impressive legal gains are matched with chronic gaps in implementation, especially as they relate to resource extraction.”

One of these gaps is the failure of many extraction companies to formally observe the land and human rights of Indigenous people. Adamson believes that these injustices can be addressed by holding companies accountable not only morally, but also economically.

“If you have bad credit you pay a higher interest rate,” Adamson said. “This is how the market works. So the idea behind the Risk Report is to quantify the risk companies encounter when they violate free prior informed consent and tie it to their cost of capital. That way a company that consistently violates Indigenous Rights will be rated riskier than one that upholds our rights, and therefore it will have to pay higher financing costs.”

This, she believes, will incentivize companies to take action in a way that local, national, and international governmental bodies have not been able to successfully achieve. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report hopefully will speak to profit-based companies in a language they more readily comprehend: their market value.

“I don’t have much faith in either the national or international political leadership,” said Adamson, “many of the countries are not implementing UNDRIP, courts are slow to rule and often rulings get ignored. The activists are raising awareness and public pressure is mounting. Social media has helped catapult the issue onto national and international attention but the end game for corporations is still about keeping your stock price up and there is no incentive to change yet.  No one strategy will solve it we have to continue to build on the legal successes, look for gaps and new strategies, and get more resources flowing directly to our communities. However, using market mechanisms is a crucial void this Report intends to fill.”

Currently, the report states, action is taken to address these social risks if and only if tangible negative consequences arise. This fire-alarm method of regulation, the report finds, is beneficial to neither party.

“These informational loopholes limit the financial sector’s ability to comprehensively manage social risks…” the report states. “In the absence of market incentives for proactively addressing social risks, companies are not prompted to do so until things go wrong, and social risks become social costs.”

The Indigenous Rights Risk Report serves to evaluate these risks both quantitatively and with respect to the most pressing human rights issues affecting Indigenous people.

Looking at 52 oil, gas, and mining companies listed on the Russell 1000 Index (a stock market index that represents the 1,000 largest publicly-held companies in the US), First Peoples Worldwide identified those which overlapped with Indigenous Peoples. From there, they used five risk indicators (Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management) to rate each company on a scale of low to high risk, indicated through numbers 1 through 5.

The findings, as expected, were not positive. 330 projects were assessed for risks associated with operating country, companies’ reputation, the engaged Indigenous community, legal action, and risk management. 35% of those projects had high-risk exposure, and 54% had medium-risk exposure.

The report found that a majority of companies were not exhibiting adequate efforts to establish positive relationships with Indigenous communities. 92% of companies surveyed did not address community relations or human rights at the board level in any formal capacity.

Many found to be at high levels of risk were both small and large companies alike. Companies such as Alpha Natural Resources and Southwestern Energy were found with risk scores of 100%. Companies with risk scores of 50% included names such as Chevron Corporation and Murphy Oil.

Adamson hopes that the report will garner the attention of some of these companies, who rely on intangible assets such as intellectual property, human and social capital, reputation and goodwill, and even risk management accounting for 80% in the valuation assessment of their stock.

It is the purpose of the report, Adamson explains, to link corporate accountability to Indigenous social costs such as overburdened roads and utilities, increased crime, housing shortages, and polluted waters.

“In the case of Indigenous social concerns there will be cultural practices, sacred sites, subsistence livelihoods — all crucial elements of the social costs we face when corporations come into our territories with or without our consent. By identifying and quantifying these impacts Indigenous Peoples are better informed to make decisions and set development agendas on their own terms. And corporations are better equipped to listen to those terms.”

However, the news is not all bad. There are corporations taking steps towards social awareness. Conoco Philips, Exxon Mobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newport Mining all had board committees with community relations or human rights in their mandates. Furthermore, Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. While larger companies such as Exxon may be more incentivized for these actions to avoid negative media exposure, they are a step in the right direction.

Adamson believes that with the unprecedented findings of the report and a more unified front, real change could be seen in the relationship between Indigenous people and extractive industries.

“Indigenous Peoples have the potential to set a major portion of the extractive industries agenda but we have to be so much more united and organized,” Adamson said. “The data we collected for the Risk Report was sometimes erratic and had gaps so we were unable to calculate what the total production and future reserves were for Indigenous lands. However, there was a pattern that ran close to 30 % of current production was coming from Indigenous lands and up to 60% of the future reserves were on Indigenous lands. This is HUGE. If we were more united we could harness the market forces and make sure it is no longer business as usual. United we could be sure we are all heard in the corporate boardroom whether the answer is NO to development or whether it is YES. Indigenous Peoples would be the ones determining the relationship they want to have with corporations.”

Read the Indigenous Rights Risks Report here.


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.


Canada Sparks “Outrage” at World Conference

Once again, Canada has sparked outrage among its Aboriginal population, this time for using the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples “as an opportunity to continue its unprincipled attack on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).” At the conference, an outcome document was produced calling on countries to “take appropriate measures at the national level…to achieve the ends of the UNDRIP” and affirming that “decisions potentially affecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples should be undertaken only with their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).” Canada was the only country to raise objections to the outcome document, insisting that it cannot “commit to uphold provisions in the UNDRIP that deal with FPIC if these provisions were ‘interpreted as a veto.’” Canada’s behavior at the conference was condemned by the Assembly of First Nations and other Aboriginal leaders across the country. According to Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, “the right of FPIC is crucial to us…The government has never explained what it means by ‘veto.’ Is a ‘veto’ absolute? If so, then a ‘veto’ isn’t the same thing as ‘consent.’”

It is unclear why Canada continues to backslide on an issue that is so crucial to its economic agenda. While Canada is certainly not the only country failing to uphold its commitments to UNDRIP, it has positioned itself as the document’s most vocal opponent, perpetuating the tensions that threaten to paralyze its natural resource future.

Sources: Union of BC Indian Chiefs

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.


High Level United Nations Conference Focuses on World’s Indigenous Peoples on September 22-23

wcip logo2
Reposted from Cultural Survival
Indigenous Peoples represent remarkable diversity – more than 5,000 distinct groups in some 90 countries, making up more than 5 per cent of the world’s population, some 370 million people. These peoples continue to self-identify as distinct peoples with strong links to traditional territories with their own social, economic and political systems as well as unique languages, cultures and beliefs.Today, many Indigenous Peoples struggle to remain on their lands and retain the right to their natural resources. Other Indigenous Peoples have long since been removed from their lands, denied their languages and traditional ways, and have consequently been left impoverished. In order to address these injustices Indigenous Peoples effectively advocate for their rights and have engaged the United Nations (UN) since its establishment. Indeed, they also brought their concerns to the predecessor of the UN, the League of Nations in the 1920s.

On September 22-23, 2014 the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), a high-level plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), will be held at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Over a thousand Indigenous and non-Indigenous delegates will have the opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration sets out minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples of the world and was adopted by the UNGA on September 13, 2007. Meeting participants will include a wide range of parties and stakeholders, including the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Heads of State or Government and high-level representatives of Member States, high-level representatives of entities of the UN system, Indigenous Peoples, civil society organizations and national human rights institutions. It is expected that the WCIP will result in a concise, action-oriented outcome document on the implementation the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the promotion of the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, prepared by the President of the General Assembly on the basis of inclusive and open consultations with Member States and Indigenous Peoples.

“The UN General Assembly’s adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 is hailed as a milestone in the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a triumph for justice and human dignity. It is indeed not difficult to concur with these views, as the Declaration represents the world community’s commitment towards redressing the historic injustice faced by the world’s Indigenous Peoples. The World Conference provides Member States and the UN an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a firm commitment towards the realization of the Declaration, by adopting an action-oriented outcome document. However, the world’s Indigenous Peoples struggle for their rights does not end with the World Conference, but the Conference could become an important stepping stone towards achieving improved implementation of their rights.” Mr. John B. Henriksen, International Representative of the Sami Parliament of Norway, and member of the Global Indigenous Coordinating Group (GCG) for the World Conference.

“This is the time for states to demonstrate their adherence to their international human rights obligations by committing to clear actions at all levels in response to the demands made by indigenous Peoples for them to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of Indigenous Peoples in line with the full implementation of UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples.” Ms. Joan Carling, Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and a member of the GCG.

Cultural Survival’s Indigenous media team is providing same-day coverage of the People’s Climate March in New York, a massive global mobilization to draw attention to the need to address climate change, and of the high level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. This live coverage will span September 21-23rd. You will be able to listen to reports and interviews with Indigenous people on climate change, Indigenous rights, and the experience of being at these game-changing events.

Monday 22 September
9am-1pm – Opening Plenary Meeting
3-6pm – Roundtable 1: United Nations system action to implement the rights of Indigenous peoples
3-6pm – Roundtable 2: Implementation of the rights of Indigenous peoples at the national and local level

Tuesday 23 September
3-5pm – Roundtable 3: Indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources
3-5pm – Panel Discussion: Indigenous priorities for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda
5-6pm – Closing Plenary Meeting

Draft Outcome Document:

Background Information:
Little progress was made on advancing Indigenous Peoples’ rights internationally until the 1980s, when the Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established in Geneva and the International Labour Organization adopted Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was launched in 1994 followed by a Second Decade, which will end in December 2014.

During these two decades, the UN and Indigenous Peoples have made significant progress in their collaboration, with the establishment of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In 2007 the General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration sets out minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.

The General Assembly, in its resolution 65/198 of 21 December 2010, decided to organize a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, in order to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In its resolution 66/296, the General Assembly further decided that the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be held on 22 September 2014 and in the afternoon of 23 September 2014 in New York.

The World Conference will be composed of two plenary meetings in the form of an opening and a closing session, three interactive round-table discussions and one interactive panel discussion, with the opening meeting beginning at 9 a.m. on 22 September 2014, followed, in the afternoon, by two round-table discussions taking place simultaneously.

To provide valuable input into the preparatory process for the World Conference, the President of the General Assembly organized on 17 and 18 June 2014 an informal interactive hearing with representatives of Indigenous Peoples and representatives of entities of the UN system, academic institutions, national human rights institutions, parliamentarians, civil society and non-governmental organizations, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the present resolution.

The World Conference will result in a concise, action-oriented outcome document prepared on the basis of inclusive and open informal consultations with Member States and indigenous Peoples.

Detailed schedule:

Side events:

Live and on-demand webcast coverage of the plenary meetings, roundtables, panel discussion and press conference will be available on:

Highlights of the opening plenary meeting and press conference in broadcast quality will be available at:

Meeting Summaries:
Meeting summaries will be available at:

Indigenous Interviewees
The GCG will have available a list of Indigenous delegates available for interviews. Contact to arrange interviews.

Photo gallery:

Social Media: #WCIP2014
Follow the Indigenous Global Coordinating Group Media Team coverage on Facebook (, Twitter (, Youtube ( and Soundcloud (
Cultural Survival (

For more information, contact:
Alyssa Macy, 1-414-748-0220,
Agnes Portalewska, 617-441-5400 x14,



First Nations Turn to Corporations for Funding

As Canada slashes federal funding for Aboriginal programs and services, First Nations are increasingly turning to corporations as a funding source for governance, education, and other initiatives. Examples include Vale Canada Limited’s support for the Centre for Indigenous Governance, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s support for the Metis Nation of Ontario, and Enbridge and Syncrude’s support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Some Indigenous groups, such as the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, view this as an opportunity to build positive relationships between First Nations and the extractive industries, while others, such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, assert that “companies are able to exploit organizations and native people generally because they know we don’t have any resources…Indigenous Peoples need to ask themselves why companies are approaching them in the first place and how the company might be benefitting.”

Companies should deliberately align their financial or technical support to Indigenous Peoples with the principles of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially “the right to self-determination” and “the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising the right to development.” Doing so diminishes perceptions that their support is fueled by ulterior motives, and ensures that communities retain full control of their development destinies.

Sources: Vice


FPIC 101: An Introduction to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent


What is FPIC?

The world’s Indigenous territories are rich in natural resources. Governments, corporations and non-governmental organizations have historically used the lands of Indigenous Peoples for their own purposes and profit—drilling for oil, selling land for large farming plantations, or claiming areas for conservation purposes. These projects are too often undertaken without the consent of those who live on and are sustained by the land, resulting in physical, cultural, spiritual and environmental damage to the communities and the planet.

If a corporation, along with representatives of your government, came to your house and wanted to drill for oil, you would expect them to ask your permission first. You would also expect to be told of all the potential benefits and risks of the project, and if you agreed to the plan, partake in the profits. You wouldn’t expect to be completely ignored, or worse, violently removed from your own land without so much as an explanation. And yet that’s what Indigenous people are experiencing all over the world.

In other words, Indigenous people are not given the chance to give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to companies looking to make use of their land. The consequences are dire—because governments often use force to ensure that companies can proceed unhindered, FPIC is literally a matter of life and death. Without control of their land, these communities suffer abject poverty and the unraveling of their traditional cultures, all because they are denied a right that most people living in Western-style democracies take as a given.

Over the last few decades, the concept of FPIC has increasingly been used by Indigenous rights advocates to guide negotiations between Indigenous communities and outside interests. The principles of FPIC were first formally laid out by the 1989 International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO 169). Articles 6, 7, and 9 of ILO 169 establish that consent must be acquired before indigenous communities are relocated or before development is undertaken on their land. The FPIC concept was strongly reinforced by the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which outlined a host of scenarios in which FPIC should become the standard “best practice” for negotiations between indigenous peoples and any other entity. UNDRIP articles 10, 11, 19, 29, 30, and 32 all argue for the inclusion of FPIC in negotiations regarding land, culture, property, resources, and conservation.

Why do we need to define FPIC?

While the United Nations is an international organization with 193 member states and its declarations carry enormous weight, they are not legally binding. FPIC is simply a guideline and “best practice” for negotiations. So why focus on defining the concept in such detail?

FPIC can be used to alleviate misunderstandings about land ownership, safeguard indigenous sovereignty, ensure fair dealing, and formulate relationships built on trust. The FPIC guidelines established by UNDRIP have been used by Indigenous Peoples and their supporters to pass laws at the national level. However, since FPIC is not binding, it can be distorted for the purposes of manipulation, inequitable bargains, and poor representation for Indigenous Peoples. Without clear definitions of what qualifies as “consent,” outside actors can claim the legitimacy of FPIC even if its true spirit has not been upheld, making their projects even more difficult to challenge.

Even when outside interests fully intend to acquire FPIC before beginning their projects, it can be difficult to know how to secure FPIC from a community. For instance, there are multiple decision makers and opinions in every community, and consent from one faction may not represent the desires of the entire group. The more practical and unequivocal the international definition of FPIC, the stronger its implementation will be on the ground and the easier to follow for companies, governments and NGOs.

Defining Free, Prior and Informed Consent


Communities must be free to participate in negotiations that affect them without force, intimidation, manipulation, coercion, or pressure by the government, company, or organization seeking consent.


The community must be given a sufficient amount of time to review and consider all necessary information and to reach a decision before the implementation of the project begins. Because every community is different and has different decision-making processes, the community and only the community must decide how much time it needs.


The interested parties must provide adequate, complete, relevant information to the community so that it can assess the potential pros and cons of a particular action. Information must be provided in a form that is easily accessible to the community, including translated documents and media and descriptions of proposed actions that can be understood by a layperson. Scale models, videos, maps, diagrams and photographs can only do so much in depicting complex, large-scale changes that the community may never have experienced and are hard to conceptualize. Ideally, representatives of affected communities are able to visit similar projects in person and enter into dialogues with people who have experienced similar developments firsthand. It is also crucial that the community have access to independent, neutral counseling and the necessary legal and/or technical expertise to understand all of the potential results of the proposed action.


The community must have the option of saying “yes” or “no” to the project before planning begins, along with a detailed explanation of the conditions under which consent will be given. This decision must be respected absolutely by all interested parties. The community must also be given the opportunity to provide feedback at every stage of project development and execution to ensure that the conditions of consent are met. If the conditions of initial consent are not met, the community must have the option of withdrawing its consent and all interested parties must immediately cease any part of the project to which the community had not agreed.

What’s next?

Even these definitions leave much to be desired. A detailed manual on FPIC is needed, something that Indigenous groups all over the world contribute to and build from their collective needs and experience. First Peoples is working on creating a database of FPIC guidebooks – disturbingly, we’ve so far found that only 25 percent of FPIC sources are actually produced by Indigenous organizations.

All this week, First Peoples is focusing on FPIC, leading up to the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on Friday, August 9th, when we’ll also be hosting a webinar with Proud to Be Indigenous Coalition members Cultural Survival and the International Indian Treaty Council. The webinar, which will start at 11am EST, is entitled Engaging FPIC: Understanding, Interpretation, and Self-Determination – register online here!


(Photo from Amazon Watch)


Boycott of the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous leaders are planning to boycott the upcoming UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which is a “high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA)…to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”  The conference, scheduled for September 2014, was originally going to be co-facilitated by an Indigenous representative and a state representative of equal footings.  In January 2014, at the behest of pressures from several states (namely China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Russia), the President of the UNGA demoted the Indigenous co-facilitator to the role of an Indigenous “advisor”, and appointed a second state co-facilitator in his place.  Without the full and equal participation of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous leaders fear that the states will use the conference to undermine the principles set forth in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and many are renouncing their plans to attend.

Sources: Indian Country Today


Filipina Activist Named New Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples


By Britnae Purdy

The United Nations has named Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Filipina Indigenous leader and activist, as the next UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz, a member of the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines, will be the first woman to hold this position.

Corpuz has been a leader in Indigenous issues for decades. Corpuz joined the Indigenous Peoples movement in Cordillera in the 1970s and headed the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) from 1992-1994. Corpuz lobbied before the United Nations for more than 20 years to bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to fruition, and was the first Filipina to hold the position of chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in 2007. Corpuz cofounded Tebtebba: the Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy Research and Education in 1996, and is a convener of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.

“Vicky’s lifetime commitment and passion in her own country has been evident in the way in which she has supported the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her ability to emphasize, network, and support other Indigenous Peoples across the world as well as working collaboratively and constructively with governments globally makes her an excellent choice,” says Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

Corpuz was chosen from 14 other candidates for the position; Corpuz herself says she is surprised she was chosen because most of the other nominees had obtained Masters or Doctoral degrees, while Corpuz holds an undergraduate nursing degree; she identifies her many years of work in the field as her best qualification for the job.

“The local Indigenous Peoples movement will have a hearing ear to their complaints and whatever is reported to me, based on strong evidence, I will reach out to the necessary authorities and actors who should address these,” says Corpuz.

Corpuz says that while she holds this position she will focus on the impact of big business, such as mining, plantations, and narco-trafficking, on the rights and land of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz is expected to be formally appointed to the position on March 28th, the last day of the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council, taking place now in Geneva. Corpus follows current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, a Native American lawyer and professor who was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

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Extractives’ Impact / Impacto Extractivista

Extractives’ Impact

The study of a U.S. NGO shows that the oil and mining companies of that country operate on 370 sites in indigenous communities in 36 countries.

By: Darío Aranda

Originally published in Argentinian newspaper Pagina 12 – Spanish version below

The largest oil and mining companies in the United States operate on 370 sites in indigenous communities in 36 countries, and in the large majority of cases, they extract natural resources without respecting the rights of the indigenous communities. The extractive companies operate in 41 places in Latin America and five in Argentina. An example of the impact of extraction in indigenous communities: 39 percent of the sites of hydrocarbon exploitation are in indigenous territories and almost half (46 percent) of the confirmed oil and gas reserves are located in indigenous communities.

The U.S. NGO, First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) published their study “Indigenous Rights: Risk report for Extractive Industries” is based on information from the 52 largest oil and mining companies of the United States. Although it is primarily directed at businesses (it evaluates the corporate “risk”) it reveals useful data for indigenous organizations. The principal companies in territories that affect indigenous communities are the oil companies ConocoPhillips (44 sites), ExxonMobil (35), Chevron (24) and Apache (19) and mining companies Southern Cooper (17), Freeport-McMoRan (16), Newmont Mining (14) and Peabody Energy (14).

It projects information that bodes major unrest: 39 percent of petroleum and gas that these companies produce is on or near indigenous territory. 46 percent of petroleum and gas is located on indigenous land.

The ranking of countries with mining and oil companies in indigenous territories is lead by the United States with 157 cases. They are followed by Canada (74), Australia (24) and Indonesia (23). In Latin America, there are 41 cases of American corporations that affect indigenous communities. Mexico and Peru each have 9 cases, Chile, six and Argentina, five. Columbia and Venezuela each have 4. Ecuador, two and Nicaragua and Surinam each have once case.

The NGO reminds corporations that the indigenous people have international legislation, such as Article 169 of the ILO (International Labor Organization) and the Declaration of the United Nations for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It emphasizes the indigenous right to informed consent, prior and informed for any action that could affect their territories and way of life.

The five cases in Argentina cited in the study are in the Neuquen Basin. The oil company EOG Resources operates in the north part of the province, in the Vaca Muerta oil field. WPX energy is also present, with majority stake in Apco Oil (in Argentina it operates the oil company Entre Lomas), with extraction sites in Neuquén and Rio Negro.

In the report, of 34 facets, the oil company Apache stands out. They hold conflicts with Mapuche communities of Gelay Ko and Winkul Newen, just outside Zapala, where they do not have consent of the communities. The powerful ExxonMobil is also present, which operates in the Vaca Muerta formation along with YPF, Petrobas, Pan American Energy, and the provincial GyP (Gas and Petroleum of Neuquén). They have businesses in Rincon de las Sauces and Añelo.

The U.S. NGO states that one of the situations of greatest corporate risk is the case of Chevron in Vaca Muerta. Remember that in 2011 the United Nations (through the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) warned about the violation of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Argentina. “For many years, the Mapuche have peacefully protested and participated in campaigns to defend their human rights, protected by the national Constitution”, notes the report. The spokesperson for the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, Jorge Nahuel cites: “There is no doubt that all of the announcements about these petroleum megafields are a clear and direct threat to the life and culture of the Mapuche communities”.

Referring to the five oil companies in Mapuche territory, the NGO states: “There have been Mapuche protests about the contamination of their water and the lack of indigenous consent for the operation of businesses in their territory”. They also mention the “environmental groups” mobilized over the dangers of fracking and recalls that the Mapuche people are present in Rio Negro, Chubut and La Pampa. The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén accounts for at least 29 communities that live on the Vaca Muerta formation.


Impacto extractivista

El estudio de una ONG estadounidense muestra que las principales petroleras y mineras de ese país operan en 370 sitios de pueblos originarios en 36 países.

Por Darío Aranda

Las más grandes compañías petroleras y mineras de Estados Unidos operan en 370 sitios de pueblos originarios en 36 países y, en la gran mayoría de los casos, extraen riquezas naturales sin respetar los derechos de las comunidades indígenas. Las empresas extractivas operan en 41 lugares de América latina y cinco de Argentina. Una muestra del impacto extractivista en los pueblos originarios: el 39 por ciento de los yacimientos en explotación de hidrocarburos está en territorios indígenas y casi la mitad (46 por ciento) de las reservas comprobadas de petróleo y gas se ubica en comunidades originarias.

La ONG estadounidense Primeros Pueblos en el Mundo (First Peoples Worldwide –FPW–) publicó su estudio “Derechos indígenas: Informe de riesgo para las industrias extractivas”, en base a información de las 52 petroleras y mineras más grandes de Estados Unidos. Aunque dirigido principalmente a empresas (evalúa el “riesgo” corporativo), revela datos útiles para las organizaciones indígenas. Las principales empresas en territorios que afectan a pueblos originarios son las petroleras ConocoPhillips (44 explotaciones), ExxonMobil (35), Chevron (24) y Apache (19). Y las mineras Southern Copper (17), Freeport-McMoRan (16), Newmont Mining (14), Peabody Energy (14).

Y sobresale una información que augura mayor conflictividad: el 39 por ciento del petróleo y el gas que producen las compañías está en territorio indígena o cerca de él. El 46 por ciento del petróleo y el gas se ubica en tierras indígenas.

El ranking de países con empresas mineras y petroleras en territorios indígenas lo encabeza Estados Unidos, con 157 casos. Le siguen Canadá (74), Australia (24) e Indonesia (23). En América latina hay 41 casos de empresas estadounidenses que afectan a comunidades indígenas. México y Perú tienen nueve casos cada uno. Chile seis y Argentina cinco. Colombia y Venezuela, con cuatro cada una. Ecuador dos y Nicaragua y Surinam un caso cada una.

La ONG les recuerda a las empresas que los pueblos indígenas cuentan con legislación internacional, como el Convenio 169 de la OIT (Organización Internacional del Trabajo) y la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Hace hincapié en el derecho indígena al consentimiento libre, previo e informado para cualquier acción que pudiera afectar sus territorios y forma de vida.

Los cinco casos de Argentina citados en el estudio están en la cuenca neuquina. La petrolera EOG Resources opera en el norte de la provincia, en la formación Vaca Muerta. También está presente la petrolera WPX Energy, con participación mayoritaria en Apco Oil (en Argentina opera la petrolera Entre Lomas), con extracción en Neuquén y Río Negro.

En el informe, de 34 carillas, sobresale la petrolera Apache, que mantiene conflictos con las comunidades mapuches Gelay Ko y Winkul Newen, en las afueras de Zapala, y donde la empresa no cuenta con consentimiento de las comunidades. También está presente la poderosa ExxonMobil, que opera en la formación Vaca Muerta junto a YPF, Petrobras, Pan American Energy y la provincial GyP (Gas y Petróleo de Neuquén). Cuenta con concesiones en Rincón de la Sauces y Añelo.

La ONG estadounidense remarca que una de las situaciones de mayor peligro empresario es el caso de Chevron en Vaca Muerta. Recuerda que en 2011 las Naciones Unidas (mediante el Comité de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales) advirtió sobre la violación de derechos de los pueblos indígenas de Argentina. “Durante muchos años los mapuches han realizado protestas pacíficas y participaron de campañas para defender sus derechos humanos, protegidos por la Constitución nacional”, señala el informe y cita al vocero de la Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén, Jorge Nahuel: “No hay duda de que todos los anuncios acerca de estos megacampos petroleros son una amenaza directa y clara a la vida y a la cultura de las comunidades mapuche”.

Referido a las cinco petroleras en territorio mapuche, la ONG precisa: “Existen protestas mapuches por la contaminación de sus aguas y la falta de consentimiento indígena para el funcionamiento de empresas en su territorio”. También menciona a los “grupos ambientales” movilizados por los peligros del fracking y recuerda que el pueblo mapuche está presente en Río Negro, Chubut y La Pampa. La Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén contabilizó al menos 29 comunidades que viven sobre la formación Vaca Muerta.