MANILA, Philippines - Officials of the United Nations system, multilateral institutions such as the European Commission, the World Bank, ADB, Member States of the UN, international experts, indigenous peoples and other organizations attending the International Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Corporate Accountability and the Extractive Industries have started deliberating yesterday on piles of serious issues surrounding the Indigenous Peoples all around the world, and in their bid to find better and lasting solutions to stop large-scale oil, gas and mining companies from further destroying indigenous lands, the environment, and contributing to the alarming problem of global warming.
"Although there have been substantial developments in the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples in recent years, indigenous peoples have continued to suffer violations of their human rights on a regular basis. This is especially the case in the context of extractive industries, such as mineral, oil and gas extraction, which disproportionately impact indigenous peoples," said Carol Pollack of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues during her opening address.
The Experts and participants are expected to craft stronger recommendations within the three-day workshop that will help solve the problems of the Indigenous Peoples' rights worldwide and mitigate the effect of climate change which is mainly caused by extractive industries, particularly oil, gas and coal extraction.
Among others, the officials will try to find better mechanisms to force extractive industries into complying with relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which includes self determination, right to traditional lands, right to be secure in subsistence and development, right to conservation and protection of the environment and productive capacity of lands and the often violated free, prior and informed consent provision.
"We have lived within nation states which established norms and laws according to their interest. We have suffered disproportionately from the impact of extractive industries as our territories are home to over sixty percent of the world's most coveted mineral resources," the Indigenous Peoples said in the final Declaration crafted after the International Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries. "The activities of these corporations have led to the worst forms of environmental degradation, human rights violations and land dispossession," they added.
Although, the extractive industries must play a vital role in addressing these problems, those invited opted not to send their representatives to the international expert workshop, to which Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey from the Cordillera and the current chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), expressed disappointment over failure to do so.
In a statement sent to Tauli-Corpuz, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), a CEO-led organization representing many of the world's leading mining and metals companies as well as regional, national and commodity associations, said that "it has been working on Indigenous Peoples issues for several years including; producing a Mining and Indigenous People's Review (2005, holding two roundtables on mining and Indigenous Peoples (2005, 2008), seeking legal reviews of FPIC, approving a Position Statement outlining our member's policy on Indigenous Peoples and recently we have produced a first draft of a Good Practice Guidance on Mining and Indigenous Peoples."
Along with ICMM, transnational mining corporations such as Rio Tinto, among others, were also invited to sit in the international expert dialogue. However, they declined saying that, "In view of the global financial crisis, we are cutting on costs and prioritize activities that are essential."
Tauli-Corpuz said, "They did not see the importance of attending a dialogue with the World's Indigenous Peoples, where 60 to 70 percent of the world's minerals, oil and gas are found in their territories. It is sad that they undermined the importance of this event.
"It is in the interest of the extractive industries corporations to listen to indigenous peoples affected by mining, oil and gas projects so that there would be less conflict, less human rights violations and more equitable-sharing and sustainable use of resources if a dialogue with them is to happen," she added.