Sent From: United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues April 27, 2022
By Jenna Kunze
NEW YORK—Today was all about autonomy.
On the second day of the two-week United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, states, sovereign nations, tribal governments and non-profit organizations weighed in on the importance of a term to which many delegates refer to it by its acronym, FIPC—free, prior, and informed consent.
The concept is directly linked to self-determination and provided for in six separate mentions in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples.
But FPIC is often in direct contrast to the private sector and a country’s economic development.
Delegates from Australia, Mexico, Kenya, Sami Parliament of Finland, Peru, Nepal, North Siberia, Guyana, Burundi, South Africa, National Congress of American Indians , Chad, Hawaii, Northeast India, Paraguay, Indonesia, the Sami Parliament of Norway, the Assembly of First Nations in Canada and Venezuela each testified for three minutes saying effectively the same thing: Indigenous lands are taken without free, prior and informed consent.
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A delegate from the Sámi Parliament in Finland and Chief Francis Laceese (Tl’esqox) of the Tsilhqot’in Nation in British Columbia both spoke about huge mining projects on Indigenous lands.
“In Finland, mining companies have recently secured several explorations and reservations over large areas of Sami territory,” the Sami delegate said on Tuesday. “While this is only the first step in the process of establishing the mine, for reindeer herders to receive news that a mining company has made a reservation on their ancestral lands, it’s like getting a death threat.”
Chief Francis Laceese, one of six chiefs that make up the Tsilhqot’in Nation, said Indigenous peoples are still fighting every day for survival.
“The time for talks is over,” he said. “Government and industry continue to take everything they can from our lands every day. It’s like that.”
Many countries have called on the Forum to fight against reprisals against land defenders. More than a third of attacks against human rights defenders in 2020 were linked to resource exploitation and more than a third of human rights defenders killed were indigenous, according to the delegate of the ‘European Union.
While many testimonies touched on agreements similar to those of Laceese, others, such as those of the Vatican’s Holy See delegation (identified by its own numerical nameplate, while each indigenous organization, including the sovereign tribes , was identified simply as “Indigenous Peoples’ Organization”), as well as delegates from authoritarian governments in China and Russia, rang hollow in light of current truths.
“Unfortunately, economic and ideological colonization continues to be carried out without regard to the human rights of indigenous peoples for the environment in which they live,” said the delegate of the Holy See, without mentioning the enormous role of the Church Catholic in such colonization. He said Pope Francis encourages “meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples…. and the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples for commercial and commercial activities affecting them.
Similarly, the delegate from China said that his country “fully supports the rights of indigenous peoples through free, prior and informed consent”, adding later that the Chinese government requires FPIC in development projects. abroad.
This, against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s known and ongoing human rights abuse – the genocide of their own indigenous ethnic group in northwest China, the Uyghurs – led delegates around the room to exchange knowing glances.
While other Member States took the opportunity to express their support for their indigenous peoples, I then heard murmurs of annoyance for States that talked politics with very little concrete results.
National Congress of American Indian President Fawn Sharp called the implementation of FPIC a “paramount issue” facing Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world. She called on the former co-chairs of the Permanent Forum to meet with indigenous peoples to create “meaningful and achievable steps”.
“This right is inherent, indivisible and absolute,” Sharp said. “Indigenous peoples must have the absolute right, the inherent right, to freely determine their future without outside interference.”
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