15 Jan 2010

U.N. Condemns Land Grabs in Native Territories

seems to be a lot of net problems in London, so apologies for lack of posts, just had that from Phil Gasper, gracias amigo.


U.N. Condemns Land Grabs in Native Territories

*Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 (IPS) - Millions of people around the world who
belong to indigenous communities continue to face discrimination and abuse
at the hands of authorities and private business concerns, says a new U.N.
report released here Thursday.
It is happening not only in the developing parts of the world but also in
countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,
which champion the causes of human rights and democracy, the report says.

Despite all the "positive developments" in international human rights
setting in recent years, the study's findings suggest that indigenous
peoples remain vulnerable to state-sponsored violence and brutality, which
is often aimed at confiscating their lands.

"Governments and the United Nations need to be serious about this," said
Victoria Tauli-Corpus, chairperson of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Issues, an advisory body that works with the 54-member Economic and Social
Council, after launching the report.

The 222 page-report, entitled "State of the World's Indigenous Peoples",
points out that an overwhelming majority of the indigenous population is
condemned to live in extreme poverty. Its authors noted that while
indigenous peoples are around five percent of the world's population, they
comprise 15 percent of people living in extreme poverty.

The first-ever comprehensive report on indigenous peoples' rights comes as
the U.N. is reviewing progress toward achieving the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs), globally agreed targets to reduce, poverty, disease and
environmental destruction, among other issues, by the year 2015.

Explaining her findings, one of the report's authors, Myrna Cunningham, said
indigenous communities in many countries are living in abject poverty
because they have lost their lands to private interests that are often
backed by state authorities.

She also raised concerns about the extrajudicial killing of indigenous
people in some parts of the world. In this context, she cited the examples
of Colombia and Peru, where extreme hostility towards native people has been
well-documented by human rights organisations.

"There are several cases where indigenous peoples are being identified by
governments as terrorists," Cunningham told IPS, adding that it was in clear
violation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The U.N. Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007. The
historic document calls for the recognition of native populations' right to
control their lands and protect their culture and language.

The report's chapter dealing with environmental issues suggests that most of
the deforestation is taking place on indigenous territories due to massive
operations by mining corporations. It says many of the business ventures on
native lands are illegal.

"We have agonised over many ongoing situations," said Ben Powless, an
indigenous activist in Canada who has attended numerous international
meetings on climate change and biodiversity, including the U.N. summit held
in Copenhagen, Denmark last month.

Powless said those situations included "the massacres of our relatives in
the Peruvian Amazon, the evictions of our Masai families in Kenya, and the
devastation of our communities by the impacts of climate change."

Large dams and mining activities have caused massive displacements of
indigenous peoples in many countries. The study's authors documented several
cases where native people were forced by the tourism industry to leave their
ancestral lands.

The report points out that in many countries around the world, indigenous
children are not only deprived of education, but also lack adequate access
to health care and nutritious food.

That, according to Cunningham, is against "our right to self-determination".

The U.N. General Assembly fully recognises indigenous populations' right to
exercise their right to "self-determination". However, some powerful
countries, including the United States and Canada, have rejected the

Contrary to the previous U.S. administration's stance, President Barack
Obama seems willing to sign on to the declaration. ¨We are having a dialogue
with the U.S. government," Tauli-Corpus told IPS. "We are doing all we can."

At the news conference, Tauli-Corpus raised hopes that at future talks on
climate change, indigenous peoples' rights to control their lands and
forests will be given due consideration. But not all indigenous leaders
think along the same lines.

Recent negotiations on climate change have suggested that deforestation in
indigenous lands could be tackled by means of carbon trading. Many
indigenous peoples see that as a tool of corruption and a threat to their
cultural survival.

"Carbon trading and carbon offsets are a crime against humanity and
Creation," said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous
Environmental Network. "The sky is sacred."

"This carbon market insanity privatises the air and sells it to climate
criminals like Shell so they can continue to pollute and destroy the climate
and our future, rather than reducing their emissions at source," he added in
a statement.

Considering the fact that much of the world's forests are located in
indigenous peoples' lands, Goldtooth fears that carbon trading would pave
the way for more "land grabs, killings, evictions and forced displacement"
of native communities.

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