News - 21 September 2016

en - Nine years since the United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Free, prior and informed consent in all matters concerning indigenous people.

On September 13th 2016 as this is being written there is a great rally of over 100 tribes, farmers, landowners and celebrities on the land of the Standing Rock Sioux ; they are leading a massive grassroots movement that is fiercely opposing the Dakota Access pipeline which, if built, will convey oil a fossil fuel which for the sake of the planet ought to be kept in the ground, hundreds of miles across lands and sites sacred to local tribes. At the same time in Canada the Chevron oil company is fighting in the law courts refusing to clean up the toxic mess and contamination that Texaco, the company taken over by Chevron, was responsible for in Ecuador many years ago. It refuses, `till hell freezes’, to pay the $11 billion fine it owes in order to clean up the biggest oil spill in history which is still polluting the Ecuadorial Amazon today.

So often it is the first nation peoples that suffer most from the irresponsibility of the great extractive and energy companies. So often it is the same people that guard the biodiversity and the living heritage of the ecosystems where they live. Nine years ago 144 countries voted for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against. All four nations have now reversed their position and have now endorsed the declaration. But as we see from the above there remains a big gap on implementation. There are many similar situations on a smaller scale all over the globe.

The Declaration aims to protect the collective and individual rights of indigenous people in relation to land, self government, education and employment amongst other things. Their consent is required for any matter concerning them, the consent should be `free, prior and informed’ so they are in control of their own destinies. It is estimated that 5% of the global population is indigenous/tribal. 15% of the poorest of the poor are among them, the majority being in Asia. They suffer discrimination and marginalization. They are crucial to the protection of so many ecological systems and can be important partners in achieving sustainable development without ruining the environment.
Representative of Indigenous People :

Speaking for indigenous peoples,` I ask that our ways of life may be respected, our rights and our traditions. Will you listen to me ?’


Pope Francis replies: -

I want to be a spokesman for the deepest longings of indigenous peoples. And I want you to add your voice to mine in a heartfelt prayer that all will respect indigenous peoples, threatened in their identity and even in their existence.