Implementing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the national and local level

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High level Plenary Meeting of the 69th Session of UN General Assembly to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP)
September 22-23, 2014, UN Headquarters, New York

Implementing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the national and local level
Statement of the Asia IP Caucus and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

On the theme of “ Implementing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the national and local levels, the Asia Caucus and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) welcome the WCIP Outcome Document, particularly the paragraphs 3,7, 8, 20 and 21.

We urge states to immediately conduct a national review of laws, policies and guidelines in order to incorporate legal recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples as committed in paragraph 3, ensuring the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and their free prior and informed consent in the formulation, adoption and implementation of laws, policies and measures. The legal recognition of indigenous peoples as distinct groups with collective rights shall be ensured. The continuing denial by many states, including in Asia to legally recognize indigenous peoples is a major stumbling block in the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, leading to systematic human rights violations. It is a key factor in the worsening discrimination, exploitation and dis-empowerment of indigenous peoples in Asia, who account for 2/3 of the world’s indigenous peoples.

We look forward to the establishment and institutionalization of mechanisms for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the development of national and local action plans, strategies and other measures to achieve the ends of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in keeping with paragraphs 7 and 8 of the WCIP Outcome Document. The formulation of these action plans shall be inclusive of persons with dis-abilities, women, elders and youth. We also call on states to respect our governance, independent representation and self-selection processes including representatives of indigenous traditional systems and institutions and legitimate organizations actively promoting the rights and concerns of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the content of the action plans and strategies shall focus on addressing the needs and priorities of indigenous peoples from their own perspectives and aspirations, with due consideration to their specific conditions. We urge states to ensure budgetary support for the development and implementation of these plans and strategies and including capacity building for governments, indigenous peoples and other relevant actors.

On paragraph 20, we strongly recommend that there should be a moratorium in the implementation of projects approved without the explicit consent of indigenous peoples affected by such projects. Indigenous communities and organizations have expressed opposition to many projects including large hydro-dams, biofuel plantations such as palm oil, large-scale mining, mono-cropping, rubber plantations, economic land concessions being planned and implemented without effective consultations, representation and sharing of important information to affected communities. The individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples have been violated with impunity in the planning and implementation of such projects.

In order to lessen the adverse impacts of extractive and controversial projects on indigenous peoples, we strongly recommend for states to immediately adopt clear national policies and guidelines for the effective implementation of free prior and informed consent for all projects affecting indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and other resources. Explicit accountability mechanisms are needed for state bodies, corporations, business enterprises and others to uphold indigenous peoples’ rights to FPIC. It is also important to draw the lessons from the good and bad experiences of other countries in the implementation of FPIC towards addressing such challenges as manipulation, “engineering of consent”, and community conflicts and ensuring substantive compliance for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.

It is crucial for states to implement paragraph 21 of the WCIP Outcome Document by immediately establishing mechanisms for resolving and transforming cases and conflicts over the lands, territories and resources of indigenous peoples, including redress mechanisms and the recognition of customary justice systems. The legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to lands, territories and resources shall focus on the demarcation and protection of collective land rights of indigenous peoples over individual titles

We fully acknowledge and appreciate the positive steps in the recognition of land rights of indigenous peoples in several countries in Asia. However, the predominance of individual land rights has been very problematic, inconsistent, subjective and manipulative resulting in more conflicts and human rights violations. We appeal to states to immediately rectify this situation, by strengthening the recognition of the collective land rights of indigenous peoples.

Finally, we look forward to the consideration of our concrete recommendations as key steps in moving forward with the WCIP Outcome document. We wish to express our continuing cooperation and partnership with states, the UN system and other actors towards the realization of our rights as indigenous peoples at the local and national levels.