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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid