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 Ferguson Grand Jury Reaches Decision

Missourians tensely await ruling on whether white police officer will be indicted in shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid