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  • U.N. Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

    U.N. Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz | Photo: EFE

Published 18 February 2016

The trade agreement signed earlier in February will have a devastating effect on Indigenous people, the last guardians of our natural world.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, better known as the TPP, seriously threatens indigenous land rights, as well as the natural resources they preserve, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said.

According to Tauli-Corpuz, the major issue with the TPP is “the clause of non-discrimination between a local and an international investor ... (it) grants more rights to transnational firms, often at the expense of indigenous rights,” she said in an interview with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

This is a crucial issue, she argued, as most of the remaining natural resources available on earth are located on indigenous lands — because protecting them is part of the indigenous culture, or because they are located on remote lands.

Unfortunately, indigenous land rights and their legitimate access to natural resources are not defended as strongly as in the past by either the state or international organizations, she said.

Tauli-Corpuz condemned the International Labor Organization for not having a strong program in place in each member state to monitor the effective implementation of U.N. Convention No. 169 on indigenous rights.

IN DEPTH: The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Putting Profit Above People

The U.N. expert mentioned the case of Ecuador, where oil giant Chevron-Texaco was sentenced to clean up the area after it had caused serious environmental damage between the 1964 and the 1992 as an example of the risks of not having proper monitoring programs in place. And despite the ruling, the multinational oil company has not complied and instead continues to delay action through court appeals, in which they are attempting to place the blame on the Ecuadorean state.

Trade agreements like the TPP prioritize corporate rights over human rights, she insisted, adding that even if states implement policies to protect human rights, companies may challenge them at court with the support of such trade agreements.

Leaked documents suggest the trade deal is one of the most brutal ever as it benefits multinational corporations to the detriment of workers, consumers, health care and the environment.

The secretive and controversial TPP was signed Feb. 4, but still requires ratification by congresses and parliaments of the countries involved, which are the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru Singapore, and Vietnam.

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