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Outrage: Human Rights Violations Continue Around the World

The international community often depends on sporadic experiences and expressions of outrage to support and defend Indigenous Peoples.

The international community often depends on sporadic experiences and expressions of outrage to support and defend Indigenous Peoples who are subject to land loss, unwanted resource extraction, discrimination, and other forms of repression. In nearly every country where Indigenous Peoples live, they are subject to human rights violations, land and resource losses, absence of recognition, and political marginalization. Nevertheless, only a few of these ongoing incidents reach public attention or receive significant attention from the world press.

Every year the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), located in Copenhagen, Denmark, publishes a short account of human rights violations of indigenous nations in many countries around the world. The summaries of human rights issues among Indigenous Peoples are published as volumes with the title The Indigenous World 2014, the year changing with each annual publication. More accounts could be published, but many countries do not have local voluntary reporters that are willing to publish about the affairs of Indigenous Peoples in their countries.

The 2014 edition contains a comprehensive update on the current situation of indigenous peoples in 73 articles written by indigenous and non-indigenous scholars and activists.

For example, many of the Arab countries in the Middle East do not report on the affairs of Bedouins or other indigenous groups. The accounts of human rights transgressions are numerous, and are far from detailed or completely acknowledged even in the IWGIA human rights publications. The accounts do not paint a picture or provide promise that indigenous issues will significantly improve soon.

Most indigenous rights issues get very little attention. For example, in Israel, few Israeli citizens have an understanding of the history, culture, or current land issues of Bedouins living in Israel. In the south of Israel, in the Negev desert, about 45,000 Bedouins have been removed from the land and encouraged to take up residence in new towns. Another 45,000 Bedouins have refused to move, and continue to live illegally in towns and in the desert where they seasonally tend their sheep. The Israeli government refuses to allow the illegally settled Bedouins to build any permanent structures. The land losses and marginalization that historically occurred in the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, continue to be played out in most countries today and with similar dire consequences. The present-day world is not a friendly place for Indigenous Peoples. Current international protections are not strong enough, and perhaps not intended to provide protection.

Sometimes, an incident gains the attention of the international community, like when a celebrity or movie star intervenes, that brings attention to a land grab or resource extraction that is unwanted by affected Indigenous Peoples. In most, if not all countries of the world, Indigenous Peoples do not have rights to land and minerals. Nation states and corporations are able to proceed with extraction without consent from affected Indigenous Peoples. Under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, nation states and development companies need to seek free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from affected indigenous nations. Indigenous Peoples, however, do not have the right to veto resource extractions from their traditional lands, and do not usually have the political power to prevent extractions. Indigenous Peoples do not intend to stop development, but often do not favor development in their lands when they do not benefit directly or substantially, or the development interferes or does not support their ability to achieve a sustainable economy.

The main tool available to the indigenous communities is media exposure, which will create indignation among concerned members of the international community. Often, however, such attention is brief, and while sometimes immediately effective, does not last more than a few weeks, at best. In some cases, the event is overturned and the affected indigenous communities are relieved. However, international outrage is fleeting, and often without an informed plan. For the most part, international outrage does not come to grips with the complexity, breadth, and dire conditions that continue to plague Indigenous Peoples around the world.