Despite promises to leave no one behind, the UN drafting committee has little to say about halting threats to indigenous peoples survival. On his blog at the Guardian Jonathan Glennie explains why development can be considered a threat as much as an opportunity.
We support indigenous peoples in accessing and benefiting from local and regional human rights mechanisms as well as the UN system and its global agendas.
A UN Permanent Forum is dedicated to indigenous peoples’ agendas; a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, and a Special Rapporteur is watching the realisation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Much has been achieved by indigenous peoples since they started advocating for their right to participate in international decision-making processes. Indigenous peoples have succeeded in adopting an international legal framework, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Institutional mechanisms and procedures mandated to promote and protect indigenous peoples’ rights have been established, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur.
At the international level, indigenous peoples have crawled up the latter in the UN system: It started with the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1984 at the lowest level of the UN system, and now indigenous peoples are on the verge of getting a special status at the highest level of the UN.
At the local and regional level, indigenous peoples have organised themselves and have also gained influence and spaces within the regional human rights mechanisms as the Inter-American Human Rights System and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Indigenous peoples are still being left behind
On the local level, the rights of indigenous peoples are still not fully realised. The situation of indigenous peoples remains alarming in many countries: From land rights to women’ rights, indigenous peoples are highly challenged on the ground.
Every year, reports written by IWGIA show that the human rights of indigenous peoples are being violated and that indigenous rights defenders are increasingly threatened and many continue to be arrested or even murdered.
The Sustainable Development Goals work for indigenous peoples
For indigenous peoples, the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development provides an opportunity to access all of their rights. The targets include six explicit references to indigenous peoples.
The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is grounded on the principles of human rights, human dignity, non-discrimination, equality and participation that are essential for indigenous peoples’ access to all of their rights. This includes the 2030 Agenda’s overarching aim of “leaving no one behind”.
The inclusion of indigenous peoples in the review process and realisation of the SDGs is necessary to prevent indigenous peoples from being left behind.
IWGIA supports the interlink between the local and the global
The linking of international commitments and national laws and is one of the biggest challenges for indigenous peoples.
Therefore IWGIA is enhancing the bridging of the existing gap by supporting the initiatives of indigenous peoples’ organisations to empower them to flag their cases in relevant international forums. They bring documentation, cases and updates from the ground to encourage change at the local level.
The aim is to link decisions and policies adopted at the global level with the development of laws and policies at the local and regional level.
Collecting data on indigenous peoples' rights and the SDGs
With support from the EU, the online platform called the Indigenous Navigator have been developed for collecting community-generated data and information that visualises and identifies existing gaps in the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Indigenous Navigator provides tools to analyze and document indigenous peoples’ human rights and development, and uncover the important links between the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the commitments put forward in the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, and in the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
Through the indigenous Navigator questionnaires, communities can generate their own data and make them available on an online data portal. This will allow other actors to access in-depth information about indigenous peoples’ situation.
The Indigenous Navigator is aimed at raising indigenous peoples’ awareness of their rights through systematic data generation, and empowering them to claim their rights by using their data in dialogue with policy-makers and development stakeholders at the local, national and global levels.
The Indigenous Navigator is a collaborative initiative developed by Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Tebtebba Foundation, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with support from the European Union (EU). You can explore the tools here: www.indigenousnavigator.org
The letter signed by indigenous organisations and support NGO’s underlines the importance of including a new Preambular Paragraph to the current Zero draft of the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
The Preambular Paragraph should welcome regional developments regarding indigenous peoples rights and recognise the important work carried out by regional human rights institutions such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
In an unprecedented move, the World Bank will be proposing that governments could ‘opt-out’ of requirements designed to protect indigenous peoples from unintended and negative consequences from development activities funded by the multilateral lender. In a leaked draft of new environmental and social standards to be considered for public consultation by a committee of the World Bank Executive Board on 30th of July, language has been included that would allow governments to disregard their existing obligations to indigenous peoples.
At the end of May, indigenous peoples were left with frustration and disappointment as the preparatory process for the realization of the High Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) was left in a limbo at the closing session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.