Human rights advocates and specialist bodies at the United Nations have demanded an end to the discrimination, exclusion and lack of protections for Indigenous peoples around the globe.
This call comes ahead of the tenth annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which will take place Wednesday.
The statement, dated August 9, urges the world's governments to take further measures to provide basic services to Indigenous people facing systemic dispossession, while also preventing violence against land defenders facing worsened murder rates, dispossession and the loss of their lands.
The statement was signed by the special rapporteur for Indigenous peoples' rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz; chair for U.N. Permanent Forum for Indigenous Affairs, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and the chair for the Experts' Mechanism on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, Albert K. Barume.
The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved ten years ago by the General Assembly, but the challenges faced by Indigenous nationalities and tribes across the globe remain present, according to the experts.
“In too many cases, Indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago,” the statement said. “Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.”
“Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities,” the group continued.
The situation is even worse for women, who suffer from double discrimination as both women and Indigenous people, they added, noting their exclusion from land rights and decision-making processes.
“The worsening human rights situation of Indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of Indigenous human rights defenders,” the group emphasized. “Individuals and communities who dare to defend Indigenous rights find themselves labeled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.”
Indigenous communities from Southeast Asia to Central and South America are often faced with collective punishment, forced displacement, militarization and myriad other forms of violence when members of their communities join social movements or resistance organizations.
In many cases, Indigenous people face extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and are pitted against one another in paramilitary groups bankrolled by interested parties who covet the land, resources and territories that traditionally belong to Indigenous people.
State institutions such as the courts, police and armed forces are often used to drive Indigenous people from their land to the benefit of multinational corporations, a process often compared to colonialism.
The experts noted that time cannot be wasted and the governments must increase their efforts to translate the Declaration, adopted a decade ago, into concrete achievements.
“It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector,” the group added.
Underscoring the need for meeting the minimal standard for preserving the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous people – as well as the goals of the Declaration – the statement urged governments to ensure their rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, while also consulting and cooperating with Indigenous peoples in a deliberative and non-coercive fashion before taking measures that would affect them.
“We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from Indigenous backgrounds,” the statement concluded.