UN Expert Urges States, Companies to Involve Indigenous Peoples as Partners in Development


Galdu Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Date of publication: 
16 February 2012

KIRKENES, Norway — The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Professor James Anaya, urges state authorities and industrial companies to involve indigenous peoples as genuine partners in decision making on and extraction of natural resources in or near their traditional territories.
In a keynote speech delivered in Kirkenes, Norway, Professor Anaya underlined the key developments that have taken place in recent decades aimed at safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples. He spoke of corporate responsibility, which is in the process of being formalized in international customary law. He reminded of the three main dimensions of it: the duty of states to protect indigenous peoples; the duty of corporations to respect indigenous peoples; and the need to have remedial mechanisms in place when states and corporations fail on the two first-mentioned accounts.
“The [extractive] industry must begin to treat indigenous peoples as equal partners in their activity”, Anaya said.
According to Special Rapporteur´s analysis, indigenous peoples have hitherto experienced two eras of international human rights developments concerning the situation of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The first was an era of invisibility, a time when the interests and rights of indigenous peoples were not seen nor acknowledged by the international community, state actors and private businesses.
The second was an era of recognition, when indigenous peoples´ interests and rights eventually where taken into account in the evolvement of international human rights instruments, such as the ILO Convention No. 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries (ILO 169, 1990) and the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (UNDRIP, 2007).
The next era that Professor Anaya foresees, is an era of true partnership between state authorities, industrial companies and indigenous peoples in development processes and industrial projects.
Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur calls for a new model of development in which indigenous peoples have the opportunity to be genuine partners, especially in the context of natural resource extraction taking place in or near their traditional territories. To make this happen, the regulations on indigenous peoples´ rights stated in international human rights instruments, such as the ILO 169 and UNDRIP, should be implemented domestically by the states.
The Special Rapporteur’s speech was delivered at a conference on “Indigenous peoples, corporations, and the environment,” which was organized by the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Regional BEAR). The Working Group, a consultative body affiliated with the intergovernmental Berents Euro-Artic Council, is composed of representatives of the Nenets, Sami, and Veps peoples living in Barents region which spans across far northern parts of Finland, Norway, and the Russian Federation.
Among 100 representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Barents Region, the Nenets, Sami and Veps residing in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, convened in Kirkenes, Norway, 9-10 February for the 2nd Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Congress 2012 and a conference on Indigenous Peoples, Business and Environment, to discuss indigenous peoples´ participation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Cooperation.
Many indigenous people in the Barents Region are adversely affected by the increasing activity within mineral extraction is taking place across the region. This fact is also reflected in the resolution made by the congress. The resolution, adopted by consensus by the particpants, states that additional national legislation is needed to regulate the interaction between industrial and extractive enterprises and indigenous communities in the Barents Region. The legislation should have a special emphasis on the right of indigenous peoples to be effectively consulted about the industrial activities, and the right to compensation and mitigation measures.
Moreover, the resolution affirms that indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands, territories and resources. It also points out that ”the states have the duty to consult and cooperate an good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or teritories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploration of mineral, water or oter resources”.
Read more about the conference and the Working Group here:- http://galdu.org/govat/smavva/the_yuzhnoe_khilchuyu_fielld__untitled.bmp