IP experiences on extractive industries discussed in UN business and rights parallel session


16 November 2015

Geneva, Switzerland—Indigenous representatives from countries in Asia,
Latin America and the United States come together to present their
experiences on the mechanisms for redress in the light of extractive
industries entering their ancestral lands.

The international business community gathers today in Geneva for the
fourth Forum on Business and Human Rights organized by the Office of the
Higher Commission on Human Rights. To air the voices of the indigenous
communities directly impacted by these businesses, a parallel session
titled ‘Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Land, Territories and
Resources, and Challenges in their Access to Mechanisms for Redress’ has
been organized.

The session opens with a short video from the Philippines which presents
the killings of an indigenous leader by state-backed paramilitary
forces, motivated by their promotion of the entry of mining in an
ancestral domain.

“Right now we have more than 4000 indigenous peoples displaced in the
Philippines who cannot come home to their communities because of the
continuing military and paramilitary attacks,” said Angelica Gonzales of
the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
introducing the session, bridging from the short documentary. “And this
is just in the Philippines.”

Other presentations show that despite laws that are in place both in
national and international levels, the rights of indigenous peoples
continue to be violated.

“In our country, we hear a lot about our leaders getting threatened,”
said Carlos Gualtero from the Colombia-based Consejo Regional Indigena
del Tolima. “In some cases, some have been assassinated so they cannot
do the lobbying and defend their rights.”

“Businesses in general avoid Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
They know they will always have a negative environmental impact. In
Colombia, the situation is the same [as in other countries]. The states
are corrupt because of the businesses. They do not make demands on these

In two of the presentations, failure of national laws have led to the
victimization of the indigenous peoples by their own governmental
systems. Michael Hill from the Apache Nation presents the recent
military bill that has allowed the taking of their land, which is their
spiritual center. “In our language, n’de (pronounced as en-da)
[referring to the military bill NDAA National Defense Authorization Act]
means enemy. This place [their ancestral land taken away through NDAA]
is a site of commerce for many tribes prior to colonization in trading
and bartering goods.”

Arnold Alamon of the Philippines points out that the Indigenous Peoples
Rights Act has been used to force indigenous peoples to agree to
streamlined permits that allow extractive industries access to their
ancestral lands.

“Instead of working for the indigenous peoples, what is happening in
some countries – like the Philippines – the laws victimize the
indigenous communities, are used by businesses so that they can force
their entry into the ancestral lands,” said Alamon, a sociology
professor of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of
Technology and executive editor of the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on
Lumad Studies, prior to the start of the session. Many of the government
economic policies promote the entry of resource-extractive industries in
the still rich ancestral lands.

“87 Lumad schools are threatened with closure, three have ceased
operating, throwing more than a thousand indigenous students from
school. One of the closures was after the killing of their school
director Emerito Samarca. What fuels this madness in Mindanao is the
lucrative potential for mining,” he said in his presentation.

Some traditional remedies were also discussed. “We bring on the shame
game – doing spiritual prayers. This is our redress. We are going
directly to the creator,” said Hill. “We will act in that way, and
behave in that way in a manner that is connected to the earth as woman’s
ways. We also need to step back as nations and come back down to earth
and find out what’s happening to our systems.”

A social- environmental monitoring done by the Guarani young
professionals in the Chiquisaca District in Bolivia was also shared.
“The community fought for respect and they got it,” said Lorena Terrazas
of the Red Pazinde who clarified that the scheme they had set up had not
been readily given to them. They also fought hard which had forced
Repsol, the oil company they are now working together with, out of their
lands. “Nothing is perfect but I think we are moving forward.”

Coordinated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern
Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) Inc, the parallel session was co-organized
with Incomindios, Latin America Mining Monitoring Program, Red PAZINDE,
Asia Indigenous People’s Network on Extractive Industries and Energies,
and the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and
Liberation. Organizations like Civicus, World Council of
Churches-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, and the CSO Partnership for
Development Effectiveness also co-organized the event.###