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statements May 29, 2013
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United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Twelfth Session
United Nations Headquarters, New York
May 2013

Rejecting a possible "business as usual" report on a Post-2015 Agenda

Statement of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and the Campaign for Peoples' Goals for Sustainable Development (CPGSD)

In the landmark Kari-Oca2 Declaration, indigenous peoples re-affirmed their right to self-determination to own, control and manage their traditional lands and territories, waters and resources, as well as to determine and establish priorities and strategies for self-development. They demanded that free prior and informed consent must be determinant and legally binding principle of approving or rejecting any plan, project or activity. They vowed to continue to unite and build strong solidarity and partnership among themselves, local communities and non-indigenous genuine advocates for peoples’ issues in advancing the campaign for the rights to land, life and resources.

Indigenous peoples declared to continue to challenge and resist colonialist and capitalist development models that promote the domination of nature, incessant economic growth, limitless profit-seeking resource extraction, unsustainable consumption and production and unregulated commodities and financial markets. They enjoined all of civil society to protect and promote IP rights and worldviews to respect natural law, indigenous spiritualities, cultures, and promote values of reciprocity, harmony with nature, solidarity and collectivity. They called for the inclusion of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development.

These indigenous concepts and perspectives are continuously advocated, in the context of global processes of coming up with a post 2015 development framework and a follow-up to Rio +20.

However, with the report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Agenda to be delivered to the UN in May - that will not deliver the bold, visionary and transformative recommendations needed for a new paradigm development, will have serious threats and implications to the exercise and fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination. Avowals for an “ambitious”, “transformative”, “people-centered” development agenda, contained in communiqués in New York, London, Monrovia and Bali - that will be undercut by an HLP final report re-enshrining another generation of private sector-led, neoliberal development, will be rejected by indigenous peoples and other marginalized and vulnerable groups.

A re-enshrined neoliberal Post 2015 development model will exacerbate the situation of indigenous peoples’ now numbering 370 million in 90 countries, even as they face continuing challenges that threaten their survival. 
The situation of indigenous peoples in many parts of the world continues to be critical, according to the latest report of the State of the World’s Ingenious Peoples: indigenous peoples face systemic discrimination and exclusion from political and economic power; they continue to be over-represented among the poorest, the illiterate, the destitute; they are displaced by wars and environmental disasters; the weapon of rape and sexual humiliation is also turned against indigenous women for the ethnic cleansing and demoralization of indigenous communities; indigenous peoples are dispossessed of their ancestral lands and deprived of their resources for survival, both physical and cultural; they are even robbed of their very right to life. In more modern versions of market exploitation, indigenous peoples see their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions marketed and patented without their consent or participation.
Development aggression projects continue to encroach indigenous territories, often without their free prior informed consent and eradicating requirements pertaining to environmental or social impact of their activities in mining, oil and gas development, large dams and other infrastructure projects, logging and plantations, bio-prospecting, industrial fishing and farming, and also eco-tourism and imposed conservation projects. 105 countries for example liberalized their Mining Codes in 2003, to facilitate large-scale mining by foreign companies, which intensified the pressure on indigenous lands and weakened or overrode the legal protections previously enjoyed by indigenous peoples.

The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) has allowed the entry of cheap agricultural products into indigenous peoples’ communities, thereby compromising their sustainable agricultural practices, food security, health and cultures. Small-scale farm production is giving way to commercial cash-crop plantations, further concentrating ancestral lands in the hands of a few agri-corporations and landlords or their conversion to cash-crop plantations further uprooting many community members from rural to urban areas. This agreement has resulted in the loss of livelihoods of indigenous communities. The General Agreement on Services (GATS) allows privatization of basic public services such as water and energy, and coverage is being expanded to include environmental services (sanitation, nature and landscape protection), financial services, and tourism, among others.

The exploitation of indigenous arts, designs, stories, performance and other art forms, as well as the proliferation of products on the market that imitate, misrepresent and profit from the alleged associations with indigenous cultures continue to be of major concern. As indigenous peoples and their cultures and territories are increasingly seen as desirable tourist attractions, tourism has opened the further commodification of indigenous cultures and communities.

The global challenge of climate change impact indigenous peoples the most, since they often live in physically isolated, fragile and harsh environments. Despite having contributed the least to GHG, indigenous peoples are the ones most at risk from the consequences of climate change because of their dependence upon and close relationship with the environment and its resources.

The present crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, resulting from the fossil fuel-based industrialized economy, are wreaking serious havoc on indigenous peoples’ economies and environments. Logging is the most prominent cause of deforestation, and as plants and wildlife disappear along with the trees, the subsistence base of forest-dwellers disappears too, and forces them to abandon their traditional ways of life based on hunting and gathering.

Indigenous peoples also face huge disparities in terms of access to and quality of education and health. Indigenous peoples suffer from poorer health, are more likely to experience disability and reduced quality of life and ultimately die younger than their non-indigenous counterparts.

Indigenous women and children are particularly vulnerable to poor health, compounded by structural racism and discrimination. They disproportionately experience high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Natural disasters and armed conflicts, denied access to education, land, property and other economic resources compound their vulnerability. They also suffer poor nutrition and malnutrition because of extreme poverty brought about by environmental degradation, contamination of the ecosystems and a decline in abundance or accessibility of traditional food sources. They also face varied forms of violence and brutality, continuing assimilation policies, marginalization, dis-possession of land, forced removal or relocation, denial of land rights, impacts of large-scale development, abuses by military forces and armed conflict, and a host of other abuses.

The poor and marginalized peoples of the world, like indigenous peoples,’ are in similar dire situation as a consequence of the failed neoliberal development. There is persistent and gaping inequality where over 1.3 billion people lived below $1.25 a day, despite staggering wealth. Current patterns of economic production and consumption have come at the cost of lasting damage to the environment, breaching three of nine Earth system thresholds for a safe operating space for humanity including climate change and biodiversity loss. The economic crisis that resulted from a financial crash of 2008 drags on, even while stimulus and bank bail-outs to avert financial collapse, have done little to bring the economy to health. Workers have been the main casualty of the crisis, where the job situation had gone from bad to worse, and still made worst by labor deregulation measures undertaken as part of the austerity measures in the West.  The world population had grown to an unprecedented 7 billion and growing by 70 million more every year, growing older and poorer as they settle increasingly in cities and urban areas marked by high poverty, crime, pollution, slums, consumerism among others.

Today, about one billion people suffer from chronic hunger, yet global food supplies are enough to feed everyone. 3.4 billion women and children have yet to win equality with men  as they struggle to gain better opportunities in education, health and formal employment.

As the scramble for the remaining resources of the planet intensifies between corporations and governments, representing the tiny elite and the world’s poor, competition and conflict over ownership and access to resources will likewise be on the rise. For the global powers, at stake is their individual economic and political strength, which will most likely be reflected in a Post 2015 development agenda.

Indigenous peoples with other exploited and vulnerable groups in society should unite to fight a private sector-led or corporate-led Post 2015 development model, to regain their lands and resources from being taken away or destroyed. They can come together to rally a broad constituency to campaign for peoples’ goals that would push for equity, justice and sustainability platform.#      

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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