Washington, D.C. August 10, 2016. On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Francisco Eguiguren, Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous peoples of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urge States in the Americas to ensure indigenous people's right to meaningful and effective participation in decision-making processes related to development or investment plans which may affect their rights and their cultural survival, and to affirm their right to a self-determined development.
Both human rights monitoring bodies express their concern with regards to the way development measures have historically been and remain undertaken at the expense of indigenous peoples in the continent, and in disregard of their recognized rights to consultation, effective participation, and benefit sharing. In its report on extractive industries, the IACHR acknowledged that the region is plagued by a constant structural problem that relates to the granting of concessions, authorizations and permits of all kinds without complying with indigenous peoples' right to consultation and, where appropriate, free, prior and informed consent. The IACHR also underlined how States often confuse benefit sharing agreements – which are mandatory pursuant to inter-American and International Human Rights Law – with voluntary or charitable deeds within the realm of corporate social responsibility policies.
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples Tuesday 9 August 2016
Nearly ten years since the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous children and youth still lack full access to adequate, accessible and appropriate forms of education, warned a group of four UN experts on indigenous issues in a joint statement* made public today.
Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on Tuesday 9 August, the experts called on governments to ensure discrimination-free and culturally-sensitive education systems for indigenous peoples, taking into account their languages and histories.
"States and indigenous peoples must work together to fulfil indigenous peoples' right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions," said Claire Charters, Chair of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Alvaro Pop Ac, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Albert K. Barume, Chair of UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Message by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Tuesday 9 August 2016.
The 2016 International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples offers an opportunity for the international community to reflect on the overall human rights situation of indigenous peoples, as the world prepares to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This year's theme, Indigenous Peoples' Right to Education, enshrined in Article 14 of the Declaration and several other international instruments, is timely as States begin to take measures to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a view to leaving no one behind.
"Education is empowerment, and critical to the realization of all of the rights contained in the Declaration and international human rights treaties," stresses Claire Charters, Chair of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. "Unfortunately, indigenous children and youth often do not have access to adequate, accessible and appropriate forms of education. It is imperative that States, indigenous peoples, the United Nations and other stakeholders work together in order to increase awareness and efforts to ensure the fulfilment of this universal and fundamental human right".
BRAZIL, July 27, 2016. The Indigenous Land Bar Mundaú, belonging to the Tremembé people in Itapipoca (EC), has obtained the administrative ruling issued by the Ministry of Justice in August 2015, with 3,580 hectares. Since 2002, the community of Tremembé people waged a fight against the construction of a tourist megaproject called New Atlantis, in its territory.
In 2005, the Federal Public Ministry in Ceara filed a lawsuit against the company, also requesting the annulment of the environmental permit issued by the State Environmental Superintendency (Semace) for the project installation. On Tuesday (27), construction of tourist development and nullifying the environmental license the Federal Court's decision was announced prevented.
In the ruling, Judge Marcelo Sampaio Pimentel Rock, the 27th Court, cited the UN Rapporteur's statement for indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, in a recent visit to Brazil, on the threat to the livelihood of the indigenous communities before the implementation of major projects infrastructure and exploitation by the private sector in their territory.
GENEVA (15 July 2016) - A group of independent experts of the United Nations* today welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court of El Salvador to declare unconstitutional the amnesty law of 1993, which had left in impunity crimes against humanity and war crimes, and serious or systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed during the internal armed conflict (1980-1992).
"This historic decision for the country restores the hope to the victims and trust in the justice system," the experts said, recalling that the Salvadoran conflict left a toll of 75,000 dead and 8,000 disappeared, mostly civilians, many victims of torture and women victims of sexual violence, in addition to one million internally displaced persons and refugees in other countries.
"More than 20 years after the end of the conflict, this decision by the highest court will restore the fundamental rights to justice and integral reparation of the victims," they stressed. "It is an example for the world".
Seeking for More Effective Ways of Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Human Rights Council Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Ninth Session, 11-15 July 2016 Agenda Item 8: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Distinguished members of the Expert Mechanism, Excellencies, Distinguished representatives of indigenous peoples Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to present to this 9th session of the EMRIP an update on my activities since I reported to you last year. It is also an opportunity to share my reflections on how the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be implemented in a better manner at all levels. Sharing these activities and reflections with you is a good tradition which has been established in this body because this promotes better coordination and knowledge sharing between our mechanisms.
This Agenda Item 8, under which I am making this report, is important because next year will be the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration by the UN General Assembly in 13 September 2016. May mandate contained in A/HRC/RES/15/14 of October 2010 mainly revolves around assessing how the rights of indigenous peoples contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are protected, respected and fulfilled. My mandate specifically asks me to;
Critical Issues and Challenges in addressing rights of indigenous persons with disabilities
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Human Rights Council Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Ninth Session, 11-15 July 2016 Panel discussion on the promotion and protection of indigenous persons with disabilities
Geneva, July 11 2016
My presentation today contains my reflections on what I deem are critical issues which have to be addressed in the efforts to respect and protectthe rights of indigenous persons with disabilities. Last week the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and my mandate with held an Expert Meeting on Indigenous Persons with Disabilities . This was with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the ILO and in collaboration with the EMRIP and the UNPFII. The participants included representatives of indigenous persons with disabilities, States, the Committee of the on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and experts from the ILO and the IDA The wealth of discussions in this Expert Meeting allowed me to better understand this issue but also led me to raise more questions than answers on how best to protect the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities.
GENEVA (5 July 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today commended the decision of the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice to suspend the settlement reached between the Government of Brazil and Samarco Mining S.A., and its parent companies Vale S.A. and BHP Billiton Brazil Ltda in response to what has been described as the worst socio-environmental disaster in the country's history.
"The agreed settlement ignored the victims' human rights, and its suspension on 1 July is a perfect opportunity to perform a thorough human rights-based review of the remedies and compensations due to the victims with transparency and public participation" the experts said. "We urge the Brazilian Government to seize it in order to address timely and adequately persisting human rights concerns."
In November 2015, the collapse of a tailing dam in Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais released about 50 million tonnes of iron ore waste, reportedly exacerbating the levels of several toxic substances, in a course of approximately 700km of several rivers including the vital River Doce. Nineteen people were killed as a direct result of the collapse.
The lives of 6 million people were severely affected, as many homes and villages were buried or destroyed, and, essential sources of water were contaminated. Sources of food and water for indigenous peoples and local communities were greatly compromised.
"The Executive powers and companies appeared to have, in their haste, ignored the rights of the victims to information, participation and an effective remedy, and to provide assurance of accountability. For the victims, this adds insult to injury," said the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak. "They appeared willing to forgo the rights of victims in an effort to sweep this disaster under the rug."
The Special Rapporteur, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, will hold individual meetings with representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations during the ninth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva. Representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations may request a meeting with her with regard to matters that fall within her mandate, including allegations of human rights violations.
Requests for a meeting with the Special Rapporteur
Requests for a meeting should be accompanied by written information on the issues to be presented to the Special Rapporteur, or relate to written information previously submitted to her. All requests should also state the names of the persons who will be attending the meeting. Because of time limitations, priority will be given to those who submit a request and corresponding written information.
Requests should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether a meeting is granted as well as the location and time of meetings granted will be indicated by 10 July 2016. The meetings will be held on two afternoons during the week of 11 to 15 July. Please note that to meet with the Special Rapporteur during the Expert Mechanism, you must also pre-register for its ninth session. Please see the Expert Mechanism Accreditation Page.
As independent human rights experts  appointed by the Human Rights Council, we call for a New Urban Agenda that embraces the transformative potential of human rights as a necessary framework for inclusive, vibrant and sustainable cities. At a time of unprecedented migration and urbanization, human rights are increasingly under threat and their protection is a central challenge of our time.
As the negotiations on the revised zero draft move forward in New York, this week (27 June-1 July) we appeal to Member States to ensure that human rights are placed at the centre of the agenda. This means including firm commitments to the realization of human rights in cities, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It will require the full participation of civil society and marginalized groups, including women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities, the establishment of transparent mechanisms for monitoring, as well as the assurance of ensuring access to justice for all human rights.
No other Habitat Conference has grappled with a majority of the world's population living in urban centres. The New Urban Agenda is an exceptional opportunity to ensure that human rights engage effectively with contemporary challenges, bringing back the notion that cities are made by and for all its inhabitants to live, work and prosper. It is imperative that the New Urban Agenda prioritize the needs and the human rights of millions of urban dwellers, many of whom are minorities, or who are homeless, living in extreme poverty, and who experience forced and violent evictions and displacement, limited physical environments, lack of access to food, drinking water, sanitation, health services, land or adequate housing and rely on precarious, underpaid work.
GENEVA (22 June 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today strongly condemned recent attacks on the Guarani Kaiowá indigenous community in Brazil. The expert urged the federal and state authorities to take urgent action to prevent further killings and to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable.
On June 14, public health worker Clodiodi Achilles Rodrigues de Souza was shot dead and another six indigenous persons were wounded by gunfire, including a twelve year old child. The attack took place in the municipality of Caarapó, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, on ancestral land which has recently been claimed by the Guarani Kaiowá.
Paramilitaries acting on instructions of wealthy land owners (fazendeiros) allegedly carried out the attack as a reprisal against the indigenous community for seeking recognition of their land rights.
"This was a death foretold," stressed Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, who visited Guarani Kaiowá indigenous communities in Mato Grosso do Sul in March 2016*, and raised alert about the high incidence of killings. "This state ranks the most deadly in Brazil, with the highest and rising number of indigenous peoples killed."
"I deplore that despite my prior alerts, state and federal authorities have failed to take prompt measures to prevent violence against indigenous peoples," she stated. "This failure is aggravated by the recurring high incidence of violence and the fears expressed by the community of being victims of further attacks."
GENEVA (2 June 2016) – Speaking ahead of World Environment Day on Sunday 5 June, three United Nations human rights experts call on every Government to protect environmental and land rights defenders.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox; the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, stress that protecting environmental rights defenders is crucial to protect the environment and the human rights that depend on it.
"Being an environmentalist can be a dangerous, even deadly undertaking. Berta Cáceres, the Goldman Prize winner who was assassinated in Honduras in March 2016, was only one of dozens of environmentalists to be killed in recent months.
Every week, on average, two environmental and land rights activists are killed and the numbers are getting worse, according to civil society figures. The situation is particularly grave in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but it affects every region of the world. It is truly a global crisis.
On this World Environment Day, we want to underscore that environmental human rights defenders should be lauded as heroes for putting themselves at risk to protect the rights and well-being of others. Instead, they are often targeted as if they were enemies of the State.
Conflict, peace and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples Presentation by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace 14-15 May 2016, Columbia University, New York
It is a pleasure for me to be present here today and speak on this important topic. Through many decades of my life as an indigenous activist and an indigenous rights advocate and in my two years as the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, I regrettably have born witness to the tragic consequences armed conflict has on indigenous peoples across the world.
As part of my mandate as Special Rapporteur, I monitor and report publicly on the situation of indigenous peoples through country visits and by sending communications to Governments on specific cases of alleged violations. Through this work, I and my predecessors have engaged numerous situations of armed conflict where we have called for 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.
"The Special Rapporteur is now carrying out further investigations to support the preparation of a second thematic report on international investment and the rights of indigenous peoples."
"This workshop is intended to broaden the range of potential strategies for strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples in this context. It brings together indigenous representatives, legal practitioners, academics, and other stakeholders, each of whose experiences can provide additional perspectives to help advance a more nuanced understanding of, and more creative solutions for, investment and the rights of indigenous peoples."
Workshop on Indigenous Peoples and International Investment. May 12, 2016. Ford Foundation headquarters 320 East 43rd St., New York
In the Special Rapporteur's report to the 70th session of the General Assembly framed her concerns in relation to international bilateral investment treaties (BITs), and investment protection chapters of multilateral and regional free trade agreements, collectively referred to as International Investment Agreements (IIAs).
The report pointed to issues in the current system of IIAs and made a series of recommendations in relation to how they could be addressed to ensure respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.
Building on these recommendations within the framework of her ongoing work in the area of IIAs, the Special Rapporteur laid out her plans to send questionnaires to Member States, indigenous peoples and their organizations and civil society organizations to gain further insight into the issue. The answers to the questionnaires will be invaluable resources to feed into her upcoming thematic reports.
The questionnaire for States, Civil Society Organizations and Indigenous Peoples should preferably be completed in English or Spanish. Responses to the questionnaire should be addressed to the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and sent to email@example.com by 11 May 2016.
Dialogues of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples with indigenous organizations and conservation organizations on the issue of indigenous peoples' rights and conservation activities.
The Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is preparing a report on the issue of the impacts of conservation activities on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to be submitted to the UN General Assembly this year. The Special Rapporteur also intends to transmit her recommendations to the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in Hawaii next September 2016.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving input from participants illustrated by concrete examples and she would appreciate further information on those cases to be submitted in electronic format.
* Dialogue with indigenous organizations and representatives. New York, 11th May 2016, from 10 to 13 hours.
GENEVA (11 April 2016) – More than a month after Berta Cáceres' murder, United Nations experts* have reiterated their appeal to the Government of Honduras to provide justice and reveal the truth in the killing of the woman human rights defender, and to ensure the security and protection of all people defending the environment and human rights in the country.
Berta Cáceres, founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations Honduras (COPINH), was shot to death on 3 March 2016 in spite of the 2009 decision by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights requiring Honduras to protect her.
Despite repeated acts of intimidation, including gender-specific attacks, arrests and violence that she suffered over the years, she continued to defend the rights of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, denouncing and opposing the exploitation of indigenous natural resources, especially via the hydroelectric project of 'Agua Zarca'.
"The murder of Berta Cáceres, which is believed to be directly linked to her work and to the fact that she was a woman and indigenous, sadly illustrates an appalling backlash against women human rights defenders and, especially against environmental activists," the experts stated.
In early March, Indigenous Honduran activist Berta Caceres was gunned down in her own home in response to her protests against a dam that threatens to displace hundreds of her people. A few weeks later, another member of her community, Nelson Garcia, was murdered for the same reason.
Berta received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 in recognition of her efforts, and was an inspiration to Indigenous Peoples around the world. During my official visit to Honduras last November, she facilitated my meeting with her people, who told me troubling stories of violence and intimidation in response to their protests.
Despite numerous death threats and emergency protection measures granted by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Honduran government failed to protect Berta, and continues to fail her community. Her family and her community remain in danger, and it is urgent that the government – who has thus far maintained that Berta's murder was a botched robbery – act immediately to protect her family and stem the flow of indigenous blood.
GENEVA (21 March 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, commended the Government of Brazil for a number of measures and initiatives it has taken to ensure the realization of indigenous peoples' rights, but stressed that more much needs to be done to fully respect their rights.
"The pursuit of economic interests in a manner that further subordinates the rights of indigenous peoples creates a potential risk of ethnocidal effects that cannot be overlooked nor underestimated," Ms. Tauli-Corpuz warned at the end of an eleven-day official visit* to Brazil, where she travelled to Brasilia and to the States of Mato Grosso Do Sul, Bahia and Pará.
"In the past, Brazil has been a world leader in the area of demarcation of indigenous peoples' territories," the expert said recalling that her mission was a follow up to the 2008 visit of her predecessor, James Anaya. "However, in the eight years following that visit, there has been an absence of progress in relation to the resolution of long standing issues of key concern to indigenous peoples and to the implementation of the his recommendations."