Posts Tagged ‘united nations’


A Call to Action: Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn

Māori activist Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn is no stranger to the international Indigenous rights movement. She is often heard and photographed making moving and passionate interventions, calling on Pacific countries to respect Indigenous rights. Murupaenga-Ikenn hails from the iwi Māori of Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kuri in Aotearoa (New Zealand). She is an executive member of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa, the governing authority for her Te Rarawa peoples, and a member of the Ahipara Komiti Takutaimoana, a committee that manages the customary fisheries and coastal environment interests of traditional family groupings of her village of Ahipara. She was also an iwi negotiator for the Ngāti Kuri Historical Land Claims Deed of Settlement with the Crown. This extremely important settlement returned to Ngāti Kuri thousands of hectares of traditional lands and cultural sites and other redress for Crown violations of Ngāti Kuri’s rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the English version is the Treaty of Waitangi) signed with the Crown in 1840.

“I’m often thinking about the juncture between this political world and campaigning back home, about advice on working for the rights of our peoples,” she said in a radio interview with Cultural Survival at the 14th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In a struggle against what she refers to as “juggernauts of corporates,” it is important to connect with networks of people, including NGOs and faith-based groups.

To understand how Indigenous Peoples could win against the powerful, wealthy forces that threaten their ways of life, Murupaenga-Ikenn referenced the book David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. “It talks about the underdog going up against the big dude, and for us to critically analyze the Achilles heels and the weaknesses in those big powers,” she said. “When you look at them, they do have weaknesses. We just got to figure out what they are and use all the potential we have. And we have so many strengths. We have to galvanize those strengths, and one of those strengths [is] numbers, of course. We are the citizens of our countries, and citizens [need] to stand up whether you’re Indigenous or otherwise.”

The business sector, Murupaenga-Ikenn said, is another potential source of support—and crucial funding—for Indigenous Peoples. Socially minded businesses as well as philanthropists from wealthy families can make powerful contributions to social and environmental causes. “There are people out there. Go actively looking for them,” she urged. When asked about her thoughts on consumerism, consumption of oil, and individual responsibility to solve environmental problems, she responded, “We as Indigenous Peoples, actually all humans, should take responsibility for being stewards of a kind.” But, she continued, “We, Indigenous Peoples are not just stewards—we are in a family that has connections with Mother Earth and Father Sky. And so we are part of the bigger family. We are in it. And we are part of nature.” This connectedness with the natural world makes environmental issues, and the harmful risks of oil in particular, a “life and death situation.”

Murupaenga-Ikenn did not mince words about modern value systems that ignore the environment, calling them consumerist, competitive, and destructive. If it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, gross domestic product may not be an effective way to measure a country’s progress, and indeed, Murupaenga-Ikenn believes that this system is deeply flawed. “[GDP] only values those things that consumers can put a dollar sign on,” she said. “You know, the marketplace, if you look at it, can’t value things like love. Even your health, well being, even your community’s sense of security and harmony, and our environmental well being—all those things Indigenous Peoples value—the GDP system [as] a measuring stick cannot.”

Instead, Murupaenga-Ikenn argues that countries must shift to what she called a “true well-being index,” where a healthy environment is one key factor. “When the environment is degraded anywhere in the world, the Indigenous Peoples are also suffering,” she said. This shift to a more environmentally conscious value system should take place not only in national policies, but also at the local level: “Communities need to have their own value systems . . . families need to have their own value system. It all comes back to the individuals at the end of the day. What are our values?”

To effect change at the individual level, there is no better place to begin than in schools. Children, said Ms. MurupaengaIkenn, must “understand the importance of human rights and treating their fellow humans in the environment with dignity and respect,” and school curriculums must include these subjects. “When that platform is solid, you’ll see a whole lot of transformation happening,” she said. “But it’s just not happening in schools, unfortunately. So I encourage people to go and champion that transformation at a school with all young people.”

One of the most important issues Murupaenga-Ikenn called attention to at the Permanent Forum was deep sea oil drilling. She pointed out that such drilling could pose a threat to marine life as well as the many Indigenous people who depend on that marine life for food. For Murupaenga-Ikenn’s peoples, the coastline is a spiritual pathway for those who have passed away, making pollution from deep sea oil drilling an “incomprehensible” spiritual threat. Oil drilling is also contributing to climate change—an issue that has been a “big ticket item” at the United Nations. “We know fossil fuels and carbon-based fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, and all that sort of thing [are] directly related to oil production . . . don’t give any permits for exploration, for crying out loud. And at the same time, really ramp up the renewable energy production infrastructure and ensure the legislative policy regimes back home. Help the average person to use renewable energy,” she implored.

Murupaenga-Ikenn also focused on the importance of the Pacific Ocean, naming the problems of sinking States due to rising sea levels, depleted fisheries and food sources, and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and the immense dangers nuclear energy poses to oceans. Radiation from Fukushima, she said, has a flow-on effect, and the harms it causes to the northern Pacific will eventually affect the southern Pacific as well. “Does anyone have an exit strategy if [we] decide we want to get out of nuclear?” asked Murupaenga-Ikenn. “No! Nobody had one. They didn’t think about if there was an earthquake, like in Fukushima. What happens if the nuclear power plant is broken and all this radiation gets out? Do we have a mop-up plan? Is there an international organization that’s dedicated to going in there and fixing it up and locking it down? No. Nobody thought about that.” When disasters strike, Indigenous Peoples are often the most affected. For geographic and economic reasons, she explained, Indigenous Peoples simply “don’t have the capacity to just uproot and go and relocate to some other place.”

Among Murupaenga-Ikenn’s successes at the United Nations was helping to achieve a more internal focus among Indigenous delegates. In past years she has focused on communicating with the UN and with government officials, but this year, she said, “We’ve taken conscious, intentional steps towards creating a regional mechanism for the Pacific.” Murupaenga-Ikenn also supported a proposed funding group for Indigenous Peoples inspired by an effective coordinating committee at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. “We need a strategy and it can’t just be about a strategy inside the UN, because we have been banging on their door for so long and they keep pushing us back. We will continue with that, but we need our own Indigenous strategy,” she said. Such a strategy would indubitably involve Indigenous people writing history for themselves: “Let’s talk about strengthening ourselves and our self-determination, strengthening our sovereignty. Let’s use that language.”

Source: Cultural Survival


Breaking Barriers: Indigenous Women Participate at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

“Fears and tears bound women (and some men, too),
Shackles that need to be broken.
Together in harmony and peace we can live,
If we open the path for man and woman to walk hand-in-hand, If our mat welcomes both to sit together as equals, When we do not leave anyone behind, All together we can move forward to a life of bliss.”

— Maribeth Biano, Indigenous woman from
the Philippines and first time participant at CSW

More than 30 Indigenous women participated at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 59), also known as Beijing+20, at the United Nations. The International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) actively participated and supported the advocacy efforts led by Indigenous women from the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, and the Pacific, bearing in mind the Fourth World Conference on Women organized in Beijing, China by the United Nations; reaffirming the advancements achieved during the past 20 years in terms
of political advocacy at an international level; and demanding more actions to be taken to ensure the full exercise of Indigenous women’s rights. Participation included organization of side events and presentation of political statements such as marching, lobbying, and engaging in the Regional Women Caucuses.

The International Indigenous Women’s Forum is an organization that brings together Indigenous women leaders and human rights activists from different parts of the world to coordinate agendas, capacity-build, and to develop leadership roles. It followed a delegation of Indigenous women from different countries including Argentina, Cameroon, Nepal, Philippines, and Sudan. Sisters from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico and Peru, among others, were also part of the delegation. The session opened on the morning of Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day. Agnes Leina, an Indigenous woman from Kenya and founder and executive director of I’llaramatak Community Concerns, spoke on the urgent need to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples. She also emphasized the need to consider the demands of Indigenous women at the global level as stated in the Lima Position Document and Plan of Action.

In the afternoon, Indigenous women from Asia, Latin America, and Africa gathered for an initial coordination meeting at UN Church Center, where Mirian Masaquiza (Quichua) from the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Eleanor Solo, a former UN Women official, provided an introductory overview on advocacy strategies. After the session, some of the participants joined the March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights organized by UN Women. Each day the delegation of Indigenous women convened coordination meetings in the UN lobby, exchanging their experiences and organizing activities and ideas for the day.

On March 9, FIMI organized a press conference on Indigenous women at UN Headquarters. It was an empowering experience for Winnie Kodi (Nuba) from Sudan and Maribeth Biano from the Philippines, two young Indigenous women attending CSW for the first time thanks to a UN Women scholarship. One of the speakers, Tarcila Rivera Zea (Quechua), president of FIMI, ECMIA, and Chirapaq, stressed Indigenous women’s key demands at CSW 59. She called on the Commission to focus on the empowerment of Indigenous women at future sessions by way of collecting disaggregated data by gender and ethnicity; paying special attention to violence specifically committed against Indigenous women; promoting their political and economic advancement; and considering the rights of all Indigenous Peoples in the elaboration of the post-2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

On March 11, FIMI convened a second session to share the results of research conducted in partnership with the Association of Women Rights in Development and International Funders for Indigenous Peoples on the question of funding for Indigenous women to organize. It was a space to share knowledge, experiences, and concerns. As an outcome of this session, the soon to be published research will include specific case studies illustrating its findings. The following day at midday, the side event “Political Participation of Indigenous Women: Leadership and Good Governance” was convened at the Salvation Army, followed by another side event sponsored by FIMI and co-organized by Tebtebba
and Asia Indigenous Women’s Network.

The event on political participation focused on the results of a research study on political participation of Indigenous women, showing the challenges that they face for full and effective participation and the different ways they participate at the community, local, national, and regional levels. The results were presented by FIMI Program Coordinator Mariana Lopez and commented on by Begoña Lasagabster, acting head of the UN Women’s Policy Division; Rose Cunningham, director of Wangki Tangni in Nicaragua; Lucy Mulenkei, executive director of the Indigenous Information Network; and Chanda Thapa Magar, regional Indigenous Women Program Coordinator for Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, all of whom helped shed light on the achievements, challenges, and next steps to enhance awareness on Indigenous women’s participation throughout the world.

By the end of the first and most intensive week of CSW, FIMI convened another side event at the UN in partnership with the Secretariat of Permanent Forum and the International Fund for Agricultural Development on the implementation
of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. It was also the occasion to present the results of the “20-Year Review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and Beyond: Framework to Advance Indigenous Women’s Issues,” prepared by the secretariat of the Permanent Forum. Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary general of the UN and deputy executive director of UN Women, gave the opening remarks centered on the key role that Indigenous women have as protagonists of the change in the social, economic, and political spheres. María Cristina Perceval, permanent representative of Argentina to the United Nations, expressed her commitment and insisted on the need to overcome the gap between the inter- national instruments and the real implementation at national level. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Igorot) and Rivera Zea high- lighted the progress made at the local, national, and inter- national levels, and also showed concern about the structural racism that still permeates the system and represents a barrier to the full exercise of Indigenous women’s human rights. To conclude, Gambo Aminatu Samiratu (Mboro), women’s coordinator at Lelewal Foundation in Cameroon, called on the Commission to consider the issue of empowerment of Indigenous women at a future session.

The Ivonne H. Fellowship, sponsored by UN Women, enabled participation of young women who were attending CSW for the first time. Five Indigenous women were sup- ported this year with that fellowship, including Samiratu, who shared her perspective on gender equality in an interview with UN Women: “I think that to achieve gender equality we need to take proactive measures to train and place women in positions of political power while meeting their various needs and sensitizing the entire community about women’s rights and gender equality. To do so we need to focus on the social trans- formation required to eradicate poverty and employ the most marginalized and excluded peoples, such as the Indigenous and local communities, by removing all barriers to women’s empowerment.”

Indigenous women’s participation at CSW 59 showcased the many efforts that have been made toward removing these barriers, evidenced by various meetings with governments and coordination of advocacy to demand that the empowerment of Indigenous women be considered as an emerging theme at CSW 60 in 2016. To this aim, a position document was presented by Dali Angel (Zapoteca) during the second week of the session. The document is one piece of an advocacy road map that is already being developed. It is a long road
to be sure, one which will continue during the upcoming Permanent Forum and beyond, so that Indigenous women’s voices are heard and their rights are fully exercised.

For more information on FIMI (Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indigenas/Internation Indigenous Women’s Forum), visit:


Indigenous Women Still Discriminated Against by Their Governments

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival, originally posted March 25, 2015


Indigenous women demand that their countries reduce the inequality gaps and improve the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples.

Racism and gender discrimination are intertwined in our societies. That is why Indigenous women represent the population that face some of the biggest hardships. This was pointed out by female leaders who are members of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA), Tuesday the 13th, at the 59th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, which ended on March 20 in New York.

“If we want to talk about inclusion and be inclusive ourselves, we have to share the stage with all differences present and develop respect between us,” recommended Tarcila Rivera Zea to the states. Rivera is the Peruvian president of CHIRAPAQ, the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru. Rivera said that while countries should promote respect for the human rights of women, these should include the collective rights of Indigenous women in relation to their cultures and territories.

For Tania Pariona, a young leader from Peru, “there are still gaps in empowering Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.” Pariona stated that young leaders like herself are demanding to participate in any discussion board on topics that deal with “the rights of our people and the survival of our cultures.”

“Women in Latin America face great challenges to obtain even the most basic human rights. This is magnified in the case of Indigenous peoples,” reported Karmen Ramírez, a leader from the Wayuu people of Venezuela. Ramírez expresses that without educational and legal assistance programs, all other programs for the protection of Indigenous women will be ineffective. “Even if these barriers were overcome, women in our communities are stigmatized and excluded by extremely patriarchal societies,” she concluded.

The statements were made in the context of an intergenerational dialogue organized by UN Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The space aimed to strengthen ties between young activists committed to gender equality and senior leaders of the “generation of Beijing,” who participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. During the meeting, participants examined advancements and challenges from the past twenty years and the strategies and perspectives that can accelerate the achievement of gender equality by 2030.


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


25 Years of ILO Convention 169

The International Labour Organization meets annually in June at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Photo by Joshua Cooper.

The International Labour Organization meets annually in June at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Photo by Joshua Cooper.

Reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly39-1 Upholding Indigenous Rights Is Good Business (March 2015)

By Joshua Cooper

For almost a century, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has focused on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. For half a century, there has been an international convention focusing exclusively on the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including land rights. Twenty-five years ago, when the UN recognized the necessity to reform and craft a new convention that would evolve with public international law philosophy, it created a new convention on Indigenous and tribal Peoples—the first of its kind in world history—Convention 169, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.

The ILO is the only specialized agency to survive the League of Nations, which we know today as the United Nations. Founded in 1919, the ILO has always included Indigenous Peoples on its agenda for justice. In the 1920s, the ILO initiated studies investigating labor conditions of Indigenous and tribal workers. In recognition of the subjugation of Indigenous Peoples to the colonial work force around the world, they were included in the groups protected under ILO Convention 29 focusing on forced labor.

For decades, the ILO’s efforts included multifaceted actions of creative programming, publishing research, and adopting international standards recognizing Indigenous rights in specific conventions. In 1951 the ILO Committee of Experts on Indigenous Labour suggested a plan to solve some aspects of the problems facing Indigenous Peoples, an impetus that led to the creation of a 20-year program in the Americas in 1952. This program would ultimately serve as a model for future program collaborations of various specialized UN agencies, and even regional organizations such as the Andean Indian Program. Covering some 250,000 Indigenous people in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, it brought together other UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. It also led to the publication of a comprehensive study of the core social and economic conditions facing Indigenous Peoples in the Americas, Indigenous Peoples: Living Conditions of Aboriginal Populations in Independent Countries.

A historic step for human rights of Indigenous Peoples was the articulation and adoption of an international convention guaranteeing the rights of Indigenous Peoples in their living and working conditions. The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 107 was adopted in 1957, covering a range of human rights issues such as working conditions, health, education, and land rights. The comprehensive coverage of these rights is particularly significant, as it was the world’s first attempt to codify Indigenous rights in international law through a binding convention.

A major concern about ILO 107 was the assimilation philosophy that dominated the mindset of humanity at the time. But, the paternalistic philosophy of the previous century slowly receded as Indigenous Peoples convinced international organizations of the possibilities for their cultural and political contribution to global progress. At an ILO Meeting of Experts in 1986, at the behest of Indigenous Peoples, there was discussion of revision of the original convention. The evolution of the 20th Century world, and worldview, is reflected in the amendments of ILO 169.

The first step in what became a two-year revision process was sending out questionnaires for the three bodies of government, employers, and employees. The troika role of governance in the ILO is significant for Indigenous Peoples, who usually participate through employee representatives. First Nations in Canada, for example, responded to the questionnaire through a labor union and continued this partnership in the actual negotiations, suggesting language that eventually appeared in the ILO convention negotiation text. At the actual adoption in 1989, Indigenous Peoples were allowed to participate through the Canadian Labour Congress. Cree advocates came into the hallways during the negotiation to share what was happening inside and to receive advice on legal language to insert into the convention text. In this way, Indigenous Peoples were able to monitor the meeting and also draft articles to reverse the assimilation perspective while working toward the right of self-determination.

The language of ILO 169 is markedly different from 107, recognizing that it “takes the approach of respect for the cultures, ways of life, traditions and customary laws of Indigenous and tribal Peoples who are covered by it. It presumes that they will continue to exist as parts of national societies with their own identity, their own structures and their own traditions. The Convention presumes that these structures and ways of life have a value that needs to be protected.”

ILO 169 is a binding law holding governments accountable to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. However, Indigenous Peoples’ advocacy for full recognition of the right of self-determination was a political compromise; “Indigenous Peoples” appears in the convention text, but a footnote qualifies the term’s meaning in international law. The ILO insisted that the issue of self-determination was being taken up at the UN and that it wouldn’t precede the UN in creating new standards. In the meantime, Indigenous Peoples continued coordinating global advocacy for their rights and increased their involvement in international human rights instruments.

Today, 22 States have ratified ILO 169. States cannot make reservations when ratifying; they must accept the entire convention. They are allowed one year to conform in areas of concern, at which point they must report to the ILO Committee of Experts on Recommendations on their realization of the rights in the convention. Besides the ILO, the report is also sent to an organization of employers at the national level, who have a right to respond. The government also sends the report to trade unions, which have the right to comment and respond to specific paragraphs.

Indigenous Peoples generally participate in the process through the trade unions. Every comment or citation of violation is taken into account in a process that is repeated every five years to monitor the implementation of the rights in ILO 169 for each State that ratified it. Of course, if there is a clear violation recognized by the ILO Committee of Experts or a credible report citing specific abuses, the five-year cycle can be abridged. The result of an observation of a convention violation is published in the Committee of Experts report and goes to the annual ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards each June.

In order to get the Committee of Experts to take action on a citation or violation, it is important to submit the report before the end of September. This can be done during the annual UN Human Rights Council September session where resolutions are adopted on Indigenous Peoples. While in Geneva for the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples report to the UN Human Rights Council, it is possible to walk up the hill to file a report with the ILO. The Committee of Experts (currently 20 members but set to expand to 22 members) meets annually in November-December.

The report, which should contain objectively researched information citing the violation of Indigenous rights under ILO 169, should be submitted every September. The government record of response is nearly 60 percent. The Committee of Experts can demand that governments respond to their direct request about their inquiry coming from the trade union based on Indigenous peoples’ claims. If the response is not adequate the request can also be published publicly and sent to the ILO Conference Committee meeting at the Palais des Nations in June. Like many similar instruments and institutions, ILO 169 is designed to put continual pressure on governments not respecting the rights enshrined in the convention.

While ILO Conventions 107 and 169 are the main international instruments to focus on, there are others such as Convention 111 on discrimination and Conventions 138 and 182 on child labor. The ILO offers technical assistance and capacity building, including in-country assistance on the application of the convention to ensure States are in compliance and Indigenous rights respected. It is essential for Indigenous Peoples to explore the opportunities of engagement to realize rights through ILO 169, the only legally binding convention on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in international law.

To read the ILO 169, visit:

States that have ratified ILO 169:

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, and Venezuela


Joshua Cooper is a professor at the University of Hawai’i, West Oahu, Kapolei and director of the Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights. 

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.


Rape, Sex Trafficking, and the Bottom Line: Corporations’ Complicity in Violence Against Women

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

By Katie Cheney

On January 17, 2007, 9 men entered the temporary home of Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi woman in Guatemala. 12 days earlier, Rosa and her family had been forcibly evicted from their home – now, she faced a second eviction, as hundreds of policemen, military, and security workers entered the settlement. After pointing a gun to her head, these 9 officials – one by one – proceeded to rape Rosa. They followed suit with 10 more Mayan Q’eqchi’ women in the community.

Gender-based violence is considered a pandemic by the United Nations, as 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are victims of violence at the hands of their partners, family members, communities, and governments – and now, increasingly, the private sector.

The officials that entered Rosa’s settlement allegedly did so based on a land dispute, between the Fenix mine, then owned by Skye Resources, and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan community of El Estor, Guatemala. The community claims the land on which the mine sits as their Indigenous territory, and has argued that the land concession was granted without the community’s consultation or consent. Skye Resources allegedly hired security officers to “guard” the mine against the local community – the same security officers that carried out the evictions and rapes in El Estor In 2007.

On March 28, 2011, the 11 Q’eqchi rape survivors filed a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court against Hudbay Minerals, which acquired Skye Resources in 2008. It is the first time a Canadian court is hearing a case against a Canadian mining company for overseas human rights abuses. The company is also facing lawsuits from the El Estor community for shootings in 2009 that left one man dead and another paralyzed, investigations into which are ongoing in Guatemala. Hudbay Minerals has denied all allegations against them, saying they are “without merit”, and has vowed to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations of rape. The company’s stance on its former operations in Guatemala can be accessed on its website.

Rape: A Weapon of Corporate Warfare

In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited CEO’s and Corporate Executives the world over to join in the fight to end violence against women and girls – but what about corporations that are perpetrating, and at the very least permitting, violence against women?

Over the past decade, more and more cases of corporations complicit in violence against women have surfaced across the globe, particularly in the extractive industry. Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo provided transportation (planes and vehicles) to the Congolese Armed Forces as they raped and tortured civilians near Anvil’s Dikulushi copper mine. Unocal Oil Corporation was sued for permitting (and arguably encouraging) rape, slave labor, murder, and forced displacement during the constructing of their gas pipeline in Burma. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is infamous for suppressing protests against their operations in Nigeria in the early 1990s, during which the military systematically targeted Ogoni villages, murdering, looting, and raping Ogoni women – on behalf of Shell’s operations.

An overwhelming number of lawsuits against extractive corporations that cite human rights abuses include rape and sexual assault of women. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, and was deemed a war crime in 1998 as a result of the Rwandan genocide. According to UNICEF, “Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The harm inflicted in such cases on a woman by a rapist is an attack on her family and culture, as in many societies women are viewed as repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” Albeit on a smaller scale, corporations are waging wars against communities, and using sexual violence as a weapon.


Bakken: the Sex Trafficking Boom

While many of these cases happen internationally, extractive corporations have not excluded the United States from this trend of gender-based human rights abuses. The Bakken oil formation in North Dakota has boomed – over the past five years, it has increased daily production of oil from 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels, becoming the second most oil-productive state in the country. Thousands of highly-paid workers have flocked to the region, settling in “man camps” that encroach upon the Native American Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has sparked a considerable crime wave – crime has tripled on the reservation in the past 2 years, including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies – 90% of which are drug related. Most alarmingly, a burgeoning illegal sex trade in the region has put Native American women hugely at risk to sex trafficking.

The trafficking of Native American women started in the colonial era, and has not abated – many major sex trafficking centers in North America are in cities in proximity to First Nations reserves, Indian Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. Of female trafficking victims in the U.S., Native American women are disproportionately over-represented – in Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, yet Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. In Canada, researchers have found that 90% of children in the sex trade were Native, and First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%.

Reports of Native American women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken has put the Three Affiliated Tribes community on high alert – according to Sadie Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence, “We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out…these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about. No one was prepared for any of this.” While trafficking has been a concern among Native populations in Minnesota and North Dakota for a long time, what’s unique about the spike in sex trafficking in the Bakken is its source of fuel – the oil workers.

How have companies operating in the Bakken responded to this trend? They haven’t. Companies including Apache, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Hess have taken zero responsibility for their workers’ collusion in the growing sex trade, increased drug violence, and general crime wave in Fort Berthold over the past two years, let alone the rest of the Bakken region.

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]


Zero Corporate Social Responsibility

There is no indication that companies are having any substantive conversations about the impacts of their operations in the Bakken region. This trend of neglecting social risks, as companies in the Bakken have done repeatedly, has permeated corporate interactions with the communities they impact across the globe.

In the example of the Hudbay Minerals case in Guatemala, the company could have avoided its current legal challenges, had it given stronger attention to the social risks involved with acquiring Skye Resources. Despite making a number of community investments (link), the company remains exposed to financial, legal, and reputational risks related to the actions of its predecessor in the concession.

Hudbay is not the only one with poor social risk management. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that only 8% of U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies have operating policies that address human rights or community relations. According to the report, virtually all communities that host or are proximate to extractive projects are unprotected from the project’s potential negative impacts – as we’ve seen, given case after case of corporate abuses against women.


The Price of Cooperation

Corporations can’t get much worse than perpetrating violence against women – except when they attempt to bribe their victims to keep quiet. Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold since 1990, an amount equivalent to about US$20 billion today. To protect the mine, Barrick employed a private security force of nearly 450 personnel, who also monitor the mine’s waste dumps. Hundreds of local people scour the waste dumps daily in search of minute traces of gold, at the risk of arrest by the company’s security officers.

At least 170 women have allegedly been raped at the Porgera mine as of 2013, by those same security officers employed by Barrick Gold. A report from Human Rights Watch recounts horrifying stories of gang rape and physical abuse, in the name of “protecting” the waste dumps from illegal mining. Many women reported that after they were arrested, they were given a choice between gang rape or going to prison and paying fines. Several were raped regardless of their choice to go to prison.

It allegedly took Barrick Gold 5 years to acknowledge the rapes. In 2013, the company set up a grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims – allegedly forcing women to return to the site of their attack. In Barrick Gold’s remediation strategy, if womens’ reports of rape were validated by the company’s complaints process, they qualified to receive a benefits package – on the condition that “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Barrick Gold or its subsidiaries] in or outside of [Papua New Guinea].” Barrick Gold’s conditional remediation package, including items such as access to counseling and micro-credit, is an appallingly inhuman response to the rape of 170 women.

Not surprisingly, a chillingly similar case occurred at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania, where police and security guards sexually assaulted 14 women, originally arrested for also scouring waste dumps for tiny bits of gold. This is in addition to allegations that security police at the North Mara mine killed six local villagers and injured many more.

Barrick Gold has repeatedly made systemic failures in both recognizing and addressing the social risks of their mining operations, and at this point, hundreds of people have faced sexual assault and violence because of it.


Corporate Warfare

Imagine if we were to add Barrick’s number of rape victims to those attributed to Hudbay Minerals, Shell, Anvil Mining, and Unocal Oil. Then, we accounted for every sex trafficking victim in the Bakken, whose exploitation was supported by various extractive corporations’ employees. To be thorough, we add in the number of murder, torture, and assault victims linked to corporate abuses. War has traditionally been defined as conflict between political entities – yet if we consider corporations collectively, is their accumulation of victims and use of force not increasingly similar to warfare?

Account after account of gender-based violence is adding up to a war – waged by corporations, against women. Their weapon of choice: rape, sex trafficking, and violence, all for the sake of the bottom line.



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 Makes Killing Indigenous Peoples More Profitable

The World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework draft neglects Indigenous rights

Washington, D.C. – Not only does the World Bank’s new Environment and Social Framework (ESF) draft incentivize governments to ignore Indigenous peoples, it strategically neglects Indigenous and human rights of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) and protection from forced evictions. Despite the Bank’s repeated “alignment” with international human rights laws and standards, the new ESF draft prioritizes rapid loan approval for borrower countries over protection of human rights, by allowing countries to “opt-out” of FPIC requirements if they do not recognize Indigenous peoples within their border. The neglect of Indigenous rights in the new ESF draft sends a clear and false message that protecting Indigenous peoples, let alone basic human rights, should drive up the cost of lending.

A set of environmental and social safeguards designed to support borrower countries’ Bank-funded projects, the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) draft was released for consultation on July 30, 2014. A concerned letter from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHCR) accuses the World Bank of continually prioritizing rapid approval of loans over the enforcement of safeguards, likely due to increased competition from other lenders to secure the “business” of developing country borrowers. However, incentivizing governments to adopt poor engagement practices with Indigenous peoples is counter-intuitive: countries that have negligible or non-existent policies toward Indigenous peoples are found to pose a much higher business risk than those that do have Indigenous policies, according to a recent study by First Peoples Worldwide. The Bank is cultivating a more hostile environment, both for Indigenous communities and business, with this safeguard draft.

While the ESF draft does require borrower countries to obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous communities, it allows countries to define who Indigenous peoples are to begin with. Countries where “the existence or notion of Indigenous peoples is contested” can choose to opt-out of the ESF’s FPIC requirements – essentially incentivizing governments with fewer standards to comply with if they choose to not recognize Indigenous peoples within their borders. If countries decide to opt-out, the piecemeal treatment of rights throughout the document fails to protect Indigenous rights under any other safeguard clause. Even if countries do comply with the FPIC requirement, the processes for acquiring FPIC outlined in the ESF draft don’t comply with international standards, and don’t require requesting parties to have meaningful consultations with or participation of affected Indigenous peoples.

The Bank also backpedaled on their land acquisition, restrictions on land use, and involuntary resettlement standards, particularly concerning for Indigenous peoples. While an existing standard (ESS5) states that involuntary resettlement should be avoided, the new ESF draft fails to prohibit projects that will cause forced evictions, and fails to recognize that forced evictions violate international human rights law. There is also no reference to the need for prior notice before resettlement, security of tenure, access to public services and facilities, and most alarmingly, no prohibition on use of bank funds for land grabbing and the consequent displacement of people.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Moreover, the recent evictions of Sengwer peoples in Kenya due to a Bank-funded project demonstrate the Bank’s regard for Indigenous lives – that they have none. When a Bank-financed watershed conservation project in the Embobut Forest of Kenya resulted in forced evictions, the Sengwer community challenged the project through litigation in Kenyan courts and filed a complaint with the World Bank. “As the World Bank started to defy their own safeguards, the Sengwer started looking for ways to end the negative impacts the project was having on their community,” says Rebecca Adamson, president and founder of First Peoples Worldwide. “We’re all familiar with a race to the bottom in the business world, but now we are seeing it in the international aid world too.” The Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme is a grantee of First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund.

The ESF draft egregiously avoids significant mentions of human rights or international human rights law throughout most of the document. Although the Bank has aligned itself and its operations in support of human rights through its Articles of Agreement, the ESF fails to stipulate how. While the draft includes a new standard on Indigenous peoples rights, they are built into the document incrementally. The ESF draft does not include a comprehensive safeguard that addresses all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights collectively, as in other international human rights laws and standards. Furthermore, the human rights norms expressed in the ESF draft fail to reflect any existing human rights laws and standards, which may muddle implementation and enforcement. The UNHRC calls for the World Bank to include human rights within its overall program objectives, and incorporate due diligence into its risk management policies.

Read the UN Human Rights Council’s letter of concern here.


UN Committee Reviews Nepal and Guatemala on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

This post consists of two articles re-posted from Cultural Survival: UN Committee Reviews Guatemala’s Record on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on November 20, 2014 and UN Committee Reviews Nepal on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights originally posted on November 24, 2014


By Alex Glomset

[Photo Credit: Cultural Survival]

[Photo Credit: Cultural Survival]

Nepal came before the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on November 20,2014 to present its third periodic report on how it has implemented the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Nepal is no stranger to minority and Indigenous rights issues, having a history of conflict with the Dalit community amongst others. Nepal has striven to uphold the rights of Indigenous communities as stated by the covenant, by not only implementation of the ICESCR, but also having the National Planning Commission acknowledge the Indigenous rights issues and the necessity of change.

The questions pertaining to Indigenous rights issues were of a similar nature, more so focused on the problems relating to acknowledging Indigenous groups and aspects of their culture rather than any legislation that is discriminatory towards the Indigenous groups. One committee member asked what efforts had been made by the government to support and promote education in Indigenous languages.  Another committee member was concerned over the lack of reference to unity ownership of land by Indigenous communities and asked if the government would include such a provision in the new constitution.

In response to these questions, the delegation stated that it was making efforts to revise their land act to allow such recognition, though further detail was not given. The delegation also added that government had pursued a policy of creating specific structures to decide whether or not to be a party to ILO Convention 169.

The delegation added, in response to the question about languages, that such an effort had been made, and schoolbooks had been printed in 16 languages. Furthermore, after being asked for further details, the delegation stated that there was an act to protect the cultural rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In conclusion, the Committee thanked the delegation of Nepal, having been informed with great detail on the transformation of Nepal since the last review. And though there was progress to be made, there had been steps made, which the committee found encouraging.

The third CESCR review of Nepal gives hope that further changes can occur, though there are significant obstacles in the way before such progress is achieved. It was concerning that the government of Nepal was not fully committed to ratifying and implementing ILO Convention 169, which could only truly benefit the human rights situation in Nepal.

However, it was promising that Nepal appeared acknowledging of all the indigenous rights issues it has and showed commitment to changing them amongst the other problems that it faces as a nation.



By Alex Glomset

[Photo Credit: Cultural Survival]

[Photo Credit: Cultural Survival]

In the absence of an Indigenous rights treaty body, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has discussed many of the issues involving Indigenous Peoples in the reviews of applicable countries. Guatemala, whose Mayan population accounts for an estimated 51 percent of its total population, has historically had many issues regarding Indigenous Peoples. During Guatemala’s third review of its commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on November 18, 2014 during the CESCR’s 53rd session, Guatemala’s progress on its Indigenous rights issues was at the forefront of the discussion.

Members of the Committee asked several questions regarding Indigenous rights before the delegation was given an opportunity to respond. One of the committee members asked about Indigenous Peoples’ access to justice, and what provisions the Guatemalan government has to allow Indigenous Peoples to follow trials through the use of interpreters. A second committee member asked about the changes to constitutional reform that would recognize Indigenous Peoples. Specifically, the committee member was concerned on how exactly Indigenous Peoples would be recognized, and if the committee could elaborate on its strategy. A third question was asked by a committee member who was concerned about the high rates of unemployment for Indigenous People and what plans the government had to stimulate employment.

The delegation chose to not answer the first or third question, but was quick to respond that through the implementation of ILO Convention 169, Indigenous rights would be recognized and respected. Guatemala had chosen a committee to look into the various aspects of implementation of ILO Convention 169. According to the delegation, a technical document had been requested so that they committee could consult the Indigenous groups. However, the meeting that instructed this was the day before Guatemala’s review before the CESCR, so the proposed document was not finished and the Indigenous Groups had not been consulted.

The next round of questions by the committee members also referenced some of the issues in Guatemala that affected Indigenous Peoples. One committee member brought up the rates of malnutrition amongst children in Guatemala, which is at 43%, but the rate of Indigenous children with malnutrition was as high as 80 percent. There were many cases of malnutrition related deaths, which was truly sobering to the committee. The committee member asked what the Guatemalan delegation’s response was to these facts.

Other committee members built off of the previous question, asking the delegation what measures the government had in place for accessibility to health care in for Indigenous groups, particularly those in rural areas. This question was also extended to talk about what specific measures the government had for vulnerable groups such as women and children for health and reproductive care as well as how the government was addressing the prevalent poverty faced by Indigenous groups in Guatemala.

Another question that was asked was regarding any mechanism in place for issuance of land titles to Indigenous Peoples and if so, how many of these land titles were issued annually.

The final question regarding Indigenous rights that was asked before the delegation was given an opportunity to respond was how the government was combatting obstacles to access to schools and adequate education for Indigenous Peoples and peoples in rural areas.

The delegation responded to the plethora of Indigenous rights related questions by stating that Indigenous rights issues were important and understood in Guatemala. The delegation then went on a tangent about general implementation of human rights related laws and did not mention Indigenous rights for the remainder of the meeting.

In the conclusion of the meeting, the head of then Guatemalan delegation thanked the Committee for its questions, but stated that it regretted that some committee’s member’s comments were not in line with the ICESCR standards. The Committee Chairman referenced this comment in his conclusion stating that no comment made by any committee member would justify the remark made by the delegation.

The third review of Guatemala by the CESCR showed that though progress had been made since its first and second review, the Guatemalan government could have made much more progress. Whether or not the concluding comment by the delegation representative about inappropriate comments was referencing the questions regarding Indigenous rights, the delegation of Guatemala did not adequately answer many of the questions about Indigenous rights issues. In fact, the delegation avoided discussing many of the questions that talked about specific legislation regarding Indigenous Peoples and the issues surrounding them.

The one positive that can be taken from the discussion is that the Guatemalan government has ratified ILO Convention 169, though it was nearly two decades ago. The delegations response regarding the implementation of ILO Convention 169 seemed impressive initially, however, not much progress had been made to the implementation of ILO Convention 169 since Guatemala’s ratification in 1996. It is disappointing that progress was not made towards the implementation between the second and third review of Guatemala by the CESCR in 2003 and 2014 respectively.

It is therefore essential that these issues be discussed at Guatemala’s review for CEDAW and CRC whose covenants both reference Indigenous groups.  Otherwise, the unenforceable nature of human rights treaty bodies has allowed for another delegation to walk away from its severe human rights record by just merely refusing to answer the questions given by the committee.


 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.


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.