On the work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in extractive industries and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for the invitation to address the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament as a Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This is a valuable opportunity for me to share with you the work of UNPFII in one of the most crucial themes for indigenous peoples: the impact of extractive industries. I will also comment on the preparations for the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) as it relates to extractive industries, and on the study on Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Industries and Human Rights by Dr. Julian Burger.
UNPFII AND UNDRIP
UNPFII is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted in September 2007 by the UN General Assembly is the most advanced and comprehensive international instrument on indigenous peoples’ rights. It builds on existing human rights enshrined in international human rights treaties and embodies global consensus on indigenous peoples’ rights.
UNDRIP mandates the United Nations, its bodies, including UNPFII and specialized agencies, to promote respect for and full application of the provisions of UNDRIP and follow up on its effectiveness.
As we are aware, on many occasions extractive industries have violated the rights of indigenous peoples as stated in UNDRIP, especially rights related to lands, territories and resources, but in some instances even the right to life. Often these violations occur as a result of a collusion between extractive corporations and States, with indigenous peoples left on the sidelines or entirely removed from the planning and decision-making process. As Prof. James Anaya, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Righs of Indigenous Peoples, has stated, “the prevailing model of resource extraction is one in which an outside company, with backing by the State, controls and profits from the extractive operation, with the affected indigenous peoples at best being offered benefits in the form of jobs or community development projects that typically pale in economic value in comparison to profits gained by the corporation”.
UNPFII and Extractive Industries
Responding to the concerns raised by indigenous peoples at UNPFII sessions, in 2009 the UNPFII organized an Expert Group Meeting on extractive industries, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and corporate social responsibility. At the meeting, held in Manila, indigenous peoples reported that some businesses have caused or contributed to adverse impacts on indigenous peoples’ rights: and in some cases such impact has been irremediable.
The expert group meeting recommended that States “review laws and policies and structures on extractive industries that are detrimental to indigenous peoples, and ensure consistency with the UNDRIP and other international instruments protecting the rights of indigenous peoples”. The Meeting also recommended States to “ensure that the legislation governing the granting of concessions includes provisions on consultation, free, prior and informed consent, in line with international standards and which recognize the right of indigenous peoples to say no”.
UNPFII has since then adopted several recommendations on extractive industries. In 2009, UNPFII called upon States and corporations to fully recognize the presence and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all negotiation processes relating to the entry of extractive industries into their communities consistent with UNDRIP. In 2012 UNPFII called upon States to uphold the right to the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and avoid, minimize and adjudicate disputes arising from extractive industries projects.
What has been the impact of these recommendations? No thorough assessment has been conducted to date. However, we know that some Member States, including Finland, Spain, Bolivia and Mexico, have reported to the Forum certain level of compliance with its recommendations on extractive industries.
Individual Members of UNPFII have prepared specific reports on the impact of extractive industries, including concerning Mexico and Australia. Members of UNPFII and the Secretariat worked together with the United Nations Global Compact in the Business Reference Guide on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was launched in 2013. This handbook provides guidance for business – including extractive industries – to understand, respect and support the rights of indigenous peoples by illustrating how these rights are relevant to business activities.
Members of UNPFII have also participated in the sessions of the OHCHR Forum on Human Rights and Business advocating for the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights into the work conducted by this important Forum.
I am confident that UNPFII remains committed to discussing the impacts of extractive industries on the rights of indigenous peoples and will offer the topic due attention during its future annual sessions, recommendations and other channels.
World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
From 22 to 23 September 2014 the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) will be organized by the UN General Assembly in NY. The World Conference will be attended by Heads of State and Governments, Ministers, and other high level officials. The Conference will be an opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.
During the consultation to gather input for the outcome document of the World Conference, indigenous peoples frequently raised their concerns over the activities of transnational corporations and the impact of their activities in the exercise of their rights. The draft outcome document makes a concrete reference to extractive industries and indigenous peoples in its Paragraph 18:
“We, the Heads of State and Government, Ministers and representatives of Member States (…)
Commit to address the impact of major development projects, including extractive industries, on indigenous peoples and to ensure transparency and benefit sharing. The rights of indigenous peoples regarding development of lands, territories and resources, will be incorporated into law, policies and practices.”
During the informal interactive hearings there have been proposals to strengthen as well as to weaken paragraph 18. For example, a State proposed to add the commitment “to protect indigenous peoples from the abuses and violations of their human rights by transnational corporations”. Others, including the European Union proposed to change the language and instead of committing “to address the impact of major development projects” they proposed to “commit to conduct studies in consultation with indigenous peoples…”. Another State suggested to include the phrase at the end of the paragraph: “according to relevant national legislation”.
At this stage of the process, only Member States are able to influence the content of the outcome document. The negotiations to agree on its content are currently ongoing. It is expected and hoped that the standards set out in UNDRIP will be maintained, and its implementation outlined. It is of essence that the wording of Paragraph 18 will not be weakened during these final two weeks of negotiations.
Study on Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Industries and Human Rights
I enthusiastically welcome the Draft Study on Indigenous Peoples, extractive industries and human rights, commissioned by this Subcommittee and prepared by Dr. Julian Burger, noting that this document invites the European Union to comply with the international standards set out in UNDRIP.
I find the recommendations contained in the Study highly relevant. In particular I support the following recommendations: a) that EU Member States include reference to indigenous peoples in their Business and Human Rights National Action Plans; b) Proposal to establish a grievance mechanism where indigenous peoples can address allegations of European corporate violations of their rights and c) Strengthening or extending EU’s legislation so that corporations involved in extractive industries – both European companies as well as foreign corporations operating on the European market – can be held accountable for violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.
I look forward for the European Union to thoroughly analyze and follow up on the recommendations contained in the study in order to better protect world’s indigenous peoples from harmful impacts of extractive industries. This is an opportunity for the EU to raise the bar not only for itself and its 28 member states, but also to provide a model for other regional inter-governmental agencies to follow and/or adapt to their unique circumstances.
In conclusion, I am confident that UNPFII remains open for a continuing dialogue and collaboration with the European Parliament in matters concerning rights and well-being of indigenous peoples.
For a full text of the statement, click Loode Statement Extractive Industries EP 11.09.2014 FULL.