The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is wrapping up the 15th session today while hearing from individuals speaking on indigenous issues and the right for indigenous to have a voice in the conversation.
On May 17, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz addressed the permanent forum about armed conflicts having tragic consequences on Indigenous Peoples across the world. An issue she has witnessed as a long time indigenous rights advocate and in her travels in her current role as Special Rapporteur.
Tauli-Corpuz opened by discussing her role – monitoring and reporting publicly on the situation of Indigenous Peoples while sharing that information with governments on specific cases of alleged violations. Through this work, she and her predecessors have become engaged in numerous armed conflicts, she said. Situations where “we have called for the halt of violations and the adoption of protection measures, argued for the need to hold perpetrators accountable and to ensure that victims are provided with reparations.”
Tauli-Corpuz went on to say that each armed conflict is different when it comes to the specific triggers and context, but the aftermath carries similar characteristics of serious violations: forced displacement, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence and forced recruitment of children.
“The violations against Indigenous Peoples in the context of armed conflict cause trauma and irreparable harm, destroy their culture and rip apart the social fabric of the affected indigenous communities,” she said. “Conflict generally affects Indigenous Peoples who are already marginalized and entrenches them in poverty, perpetuating high illiteracy rates and poor health indicators.”
The Special Rapporteur spoke on the historical connection of these conflicts being traced to “long-standing historical injustices and discrimination originating in the context of colonization and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories and resources.”
In many of the countries where Indigenous Peoples live, the land is often filled with natural resources. These resources – whether oil, gold, logging or water energy – draw private interest groups to the area leading to land disputes as companies seek control.
In her presentation to the UNPFII, Tauli-Corpuz spoke of the current armed conflicts affecting Indigenous Peoples in Colombia, India, Myanmar and the Philippines; and past conflicts still lingering in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Peru.
“These armed conflicts affect Indigenous Peoples in various ways and Indigenous Peoples have adopted different strategies in such situations,” Tauli-Corpuz said.
“When a state undertakes measures to affect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, there must be compliance with provisions contained in international instruments and the state has the obligation to consult Indigenous Peoples,” she said. “[It is] crucial that Indigenous Peoples be consulted and that their rights are expressly recognized in peace negotiations and in transitional justice measures, including truth commissions and reparation programs.
“I want to emphasize that military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous Peoples unless imperative for the security of peoples concerned … I urge Indigenous Peoples to make thorough use of international law to continue to advocate for breaking the impunity for human rights and humanitarian law violations. Accountability must be established at the national level.”