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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More