Statement of Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz Special Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous peoples
Human Rights Council 33rd Session
Geneva, 20 September 2016
Mr. President, Distinguished delegates, Indigenous Peoples' Representatives Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the honor to present today my third annual report to the Human Rights Council. I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to the numerous States, indigenous peoples, and others, and in particular to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the support they have provided as I have carried out my mandate over the past year, as I begin my third as the Special Rapporteur.
The present report is submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples pursuant to Council resolutions 15/14 and 24/9. In the report, she provides a brief summary of her activities since her previous report (A/HRC/30/41) and offers a thematic analysis of the impact of international investment agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The present report is the second of three that the Rapporteur dedicates to this issue. She has previously introduced the topic and touched on some of the impacts of international investment agreements on indigenous peoples' rights and the more systemic issues associated with the international investment law regime. In the present report,she seeks to further contextualize and examine those impacts by focusing on cases involving such agreements and rights. In her final report,she will reflect on the standards of protections that those agreements afford and contextualize them in the light of developments in international human rights law and the sustainable development agenda as they pertain to indigenous peoples.
In doing so, the Special Rapporteur seeks to promote coherence in international investment law and international human rights law and ensure that State fulfilment of duties pertaining to indigenous peoples' rights is not obstructed by protections afforded to investors.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples on the human rights situation of the Sami people in the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The present report examines the situation on the basis of research and investigation carried out, including during a conference organized by the Sami Parliamentary Council in Bierke/Hemavan, Sweden, from 25 to 27 August 2015.
During her visit, the Special Rapporteur heard repeated and insistent concerns over the increase in natural resource investments in the Sápmi region and the States' balancing of interests in that context. The balance, which is rarely free of conflict, is a primary focus of the present report. The Special Rapporteur concludes that there are still challenges that the Governments must meet, in particular with respect to adequately defining and recognizing the Sami people's rights over their land and related resources, and that further efforts are needed to advance and strengthen Sami rights, particularly in the face of increased natural resource investments in the Sápmi region.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples on her visit to Honduras. The report is based on information received by the Special Rapporteur during her visit to the country from 2 to 10 November 2015 and on independent research.
The situation of the indigenous peoples of Honduras is critical, since their rights over their lands, territories and natural resources are not protected, they face acts of violence when claiming their rights, in a general context of violence and impunity, and they lack access to justice. In addition, they suffer from inequality, poverty and a lack of basic social services, such as education and health.
They call for immediate and decisive protection measures, including the prevention, investigation and punishment of persons responsible for murdering, threatening and harassing members of indigenous peoples and also of those responsible for actions that infringe their rights over their lands, natural resources and other human rights. The legal, political and institutional framework must be overhauled and strengthened in order to deal with the situation properly and effectively, with reforms including coordination between government agencies to ensure the cross-cutting implementation of the Government's international commitments on the rights of indigenous peoples. All this requires more public resources and greater political will. Serious and committed participation by the international community and the international human rights bodies is essential in order to ensure international oversight of such efforts and to provide the necessary technical and financial assistance.
The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on her mission to Brazil from 7 to 17 March 2016. The main objective of the visit was to identify and assess the main issues currently facing indigenous peoples in the country and to follow up on key recommendations made in 2009 by the previous mandate holder.
Brazil has a number of exemplary constitutional provisions pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples and was, in the past, a leader in the area of demarcation of indigenous peoples' territories. However, in the eight years since the visit of the previous mandate holder, there has been a disturbing absence of progress in the implementation of his recommendations and the resolution of long-standing issues of key concern to indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteur noted a worrying regression in the protection of indigenous peoples' rights. In the current political context, the threats facing ndigenous peoples may be exacerbated and the long-standing protections of their human rights may be at risk.
HONOLULU — Conservation organizations dedicated to protecting the world's biodiversity hot spots often fail to take into account why the forests are still standing. Often, it is the indigenous people who have lived there since time immemorial who protected and preserved these lands. This is a crucial issue that the major conservation organizations must address at the World Conservation Congress, taking place in Honolulu from now until Sept. 10.
Many of the initiatives sponsored by these organizations overlook the simple fact that environmentally valuable lands are often inhabited by communities, many of them indigenous, and that these communities' rights must be respected.
In India, for example, local people are being illegally forced from their homes in the Kanha tiger reserve and elsewhere, despite evidence that indigenous people and tigers can coexist.
Research by the Rights and Resources Initiative and the World Resources Institute shows that where indigenous people and local communities have legally recognized land rights, carbon storage is higher, biodiversity is richer and deforestation lower than in government-managed forests or those run by nongovernmental groups. Indigenous people and local communities are the best proven stewards of their traditional lands and resources, and respecting their rights is critical amid the climate crisis.
Conservation of bio-diversity appears to come at a price. But who really bears this cost?
The current friction which exists between conservation policies and indigenous communities is evident in the experiences of the Sengwer and Ogiek peoples in Kenya. Cherangani Hills in western Kenya, is home to several indigenous peoples including the Sengwer community. However, Kenya's conservation policies have resulted in alienation of indigenous peoples from their lands.
"We have been facing a lot of human rights violations, forceful evictions from our forest homes...and as a result we do not have a place where we can sit and say 'This is our home'," says Milka Chepkorir Kuto, herself a Sengwer, and a participant in the 2016 UN Human Rights Office Indigenous Fellowship Programme.
Many indigenous peoples around the world experience the same plight. They are violently displaced away from their traditional territories without their free, prior and informed consent, without satisfactory provisions for resettlement and without any adequate compensation. Consequently, they are denied their cultural rights and their means of livelihood. If they attempt to return to these lands, they are often arrested for poaching or even killed by 'eco-guards'.
GENEVA (29 August 2016) – Effective and sustainable conservation requires respect for human rights, two United Nations experts on environment and indigenous peoples rights said today, ahead of the largest global forum for the adoption of conservation policies on protected areas: the World Conservation Congress (WCC), which will take place from 1 to 10 September in Honolulu, USA.
"The escalating incidence of killings of environmentalists, among them many indigenous leaders, underlines the urgency that conservationists and indigenous peoples join forces to protect land and biodiversity from external threats, notably lucrative resource exploitation," stressed the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
The WCC, organised every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), brings together heads of States, high-level government officials, CEOs and business leaders, representatives from indigenous groups and leading civil society organisations along with scientists and academics.
"Protection of biodiversity is a human rights issue as a healthy ecosystem is important for the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights," Mr. Knox emphasised. The expert, who will be attending the World Congress, has recently launched a project on biodiversity and human rights, which will culminate in a report to the Human Rights Council in March 2017.
The present report is submitted to the General Assembly by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples pursuant to her mandate under Council resolutions 15/14 and 24/9. In the report, the Special Rapporteur provides a brief summary of her activities since her previous report to the Assembly, as well as a thematic analysis of conservation measures and their impact on indigenous peoples' rights.
Protected areas have the potential of safeguarding the biodiversity for the benefit of all humanity; however, these have also been associated with human rights violations against indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. The complex violations that have been faced by indigenous peoples in the wake of evermore expanding protected areas have been raised by respective special rapporteurs during numerous country visits and communications to governments.
The present report charts legal developments and commitments and measures taken made to advance a human rights-based paradigm in conservation, while also identifying key remaining challenges. The report concludes with recommendations on how conservation, in policy and practice, can be developed in a manner which respects indigenous peoples' rights and enhances sustainable conservation.
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 email@example.com. 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."