News / Africa

Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Exploitation

Munduruku Indians march to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The group along with other had been occupying the controversial Belo Monte dam being built in the Amazon on the Xingu River. They were recently flown
Munduruku Indians march to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The group along with other had been occupying the controversial Belo Monte dam being built in the Amazon on the Xingu River. They were recently flown

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
This month (6-10/12), 600 indigenous leaders gathered in the far north of Norway. They produced a document that called for an end to discrimination and exploitation of their people. The Alta Declaration will be used as the basis for the U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014.


Inuit, Maasai, Maya, Nasa, Tao, Komi, Berber -- these are just a small fraction of the world’s indigenous peoples.

Their leaders met in Alta, Norway, the traditional territories and lands of the Sami people. The declaration they wrote there calls for a binding commitment to indigenous rights and the appointment of a U.N. envoy to help defend those rights.

“Generally, we can still say that the majority of indigenous peoples are still in very poor condition. You know, indigenous peoples compose five-percent of the world’s population, but they compose 15 percent of the world’s poor. They are still suffering from discrimination and also from a lot of human rights violations,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines, who chaired the meeting.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is an indigenous leader in the Philippines. She chaired the indigenous leaders summit in Alta, Norway in June 2013. (Credit: Tebtebba)Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is an indigenous leader in the Philippines. She chaired the indigenous leaders summit in Alta, Norway in June 2013. (Credit: Tebtebba)
x
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is an indigenous leader in the Philippines. She chaired the indigenous leaders summit in Alta, Norway in June 2013. (Credit: Tebtebba)
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is an indigenous leader in the Philippines. She chaired the indigenous leaders summit in Alta, Norway in June 2013. (Credit: Tebtebba)

Tauli-Corpuz is executive-director of Tebtebba, the Indigenous Peoples International Center for Policy Research and Education. She cited examples of discrimination.

“They are usually looked down [upon] as backward peoples, as primitive peoples. In some places, like in India, they are called primitive tribal groups. And, of course, our practices or our customary governance systems are also not considered modern enough. So these are systems that need to be destroyed and replaced by modern governance systems, for instance, or modern laws.”

What’s more, she said, many are forbidden from speaking their own languages or using their own names. Some may not even be considered citizens of a country even though they have lived on the same land for many generations.

“Our lands, our resources are usually not protected. We are easily displaced from our own communities. And also whenever there is [a] so-called development project the government can just displace us from our communities if they want to develop a big mining corporation or a hydroelectric dam. We have lots of cases,” she said.
Indigenous peoples also have a spiritual connection to their lands – lands often rich in oil, natural gas or minerals.

She said, “This is where our cultures and traditional religions are also based. We have sacred sites. We have sacred groves. We have sacred waters. And so these are the kinds of harmonious relationships that we maintain and sustain with our lands.”

When climate change or pollution cause environmental degradation, Tauli-Corpuz said that indigenous people bear most of the burden. 

“We bear the heavier brunt when, in fact, we haven’t really caused this problem. But we are the ones carrying the heavier brunt of having to adapt to it and having to contribute to its mitigation.”

When the world conference convenes next year in New York, one recommendation will be to create a new U.N. position – Undersecretary-General for Indigenous Peoples.

“We are also calling on states to stop displacing indigenous peoples from their communities and to get their prior and informed consent when they bring in development projects into the indigenous territories,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

The Alta Declaration also calls for a human rights approach when implementing climate change initiatives.

She said, “Giving indigenous peoples the right to continue to manage sustainably their ecosystems, their lands and their territories – if we are given that right – then we can really contribute in addressing this crisis. It’s something that’s not just going to benefit us, but it’s also going to benefit the rest of the world.”

She admitted that achieving all their goals won’t be easy because there’s so much money involved in commercial development. However she added that indigenous people have the power “to protect and preserve the forests, the mountains, the oceans, the waters and other resources that the world needs to survive.”

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid