EMRIP 2013 – Land & Territory

EMRIP  2013

 Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Sixth Session, United Nations, Geneva, 8-12 July 2013

Notes provided by Foundation for GAIA and taken by Jordi Mallarach Parés

Land and Territory

Land and territory was highlighted in numerous interventions throughout the meeting. Access and legitimization of land ownership and stewardship were mentioned by many Indigenous Peoples representatives, as well as NGO’s.

The National Indian Youth Council pointed out that the UNDRIP’s preamble says rights to land, territories and resources of Indigenous Peoples must be respected by states. They explained how water is not just a resource for their people, but it is sacred. (More on this)   They exhorted the EMRIP to realize how water is being put at risk from northern Alaska to the Golf of Mexico, due to accidents by well-known oil companies, fracking and also by commercial fisheries that use dynamite and cyanide to increase their production. They explained the example of a Canadian mine that has destroyed spawning grounds of salmon; more than 48.000 acres of Inuit territory are being destroyed. Continuing with the issue of land ownership, the Indigenous World Association pointed out that the United States Government had broken many treaties that granted Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty over their land. They said they consider these practices to be a continuation of colonialism. J.Lorenzo, also American Indian Law Alliance, said Indigenous Peoples in the United States had been offered money by the government as settlement for previous land grabs, but Shoshone and Lakota Indigenous Peoples have refused it, saying their land is not for sale and that money in exchange for their traditional land is not justice.

The Collara-Aymara nation also affirmed they have been deprived of their ancestral territory, which had been theirs before the creation of modern states such as Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The ocean has traditionally been part of their livelihood, and they said they worry about a court case in the Hague regarding the conflict over ownership of their lands, which Peru and Chile both affirm is theirs. This dispute, they reiterate, along with increased militarization of the border regions, is being carried out without any regard of the Collara-Aymara nation. The Association of Indigenous People in the Ryukyus mentioned a similar situation of land dispute. They explained that the Ryukyu Islands, home of the Ryukyu Indigenous Peoples, are being disputed for their natural resources by China, Japan and South Korea. These countries are using the pretext of “ownerless land” in order to claim it for their own use, but the Ryukyu Indigenous People affirm they had once been independent until they were conquered by Japan, and that they now oppose the increased militarization of the islands as well as the takeover of their traditional territory.

AMAN explained the situation of land grabs from Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia, whose forest is being given to the private sector, especially to logging and palm oil companies, as most natural resources in Indonesia are found in Indigenous territories. In the case of the Moaratai Indigenous Peoples, their ancestral territory, including forests that are their source of livelihood and identity, have been taken over by four palm oil companies. Now, however, a recent court ruling has given a different status to customary Indigenous forest in Indonesia in relation to other types of forest. The Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus explained a similar court ruling had been issued in Indonesia, granting the Indigenous Peoples the right to recover customary forest that had been taken away from them.

 These incidents of land grabs are also happening in Malaysia, where Indigenous Peoples’ customary lands are being converted into dams, national parks and water catchment areas. In India, the Society for Development of Tribals pointed out the governments lack of will in implementing the “Forest Rights Act”, which give Indigenous People the right to have forest land and participate in its conservation. Instead, they said the government has given 15.000 hectares to extractive industries, displacing tribal communities, in some cases with the use of force. The Papua New Guinea Mining Watch Group Association Inc. said the same is happening in their Indigenous territories, where the government grants licenses to extractive industries without prior consultation or consent by Indigenous Peoples.

Along similar lines, the Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality said Bedouins are being expelled from ancestral lands by Israel, and that now more than 200.000 of them live as internally displaced peoples in “unrecognized villages” with no basic services such as electricity or water nor education and health facilities. The Ogiek People Development Program said they have suffered eviction, occupation of their forests and that they are now being forced to settle in shantytowns due to development and tourism. The Ogyek people said they have lived in the forest for more than two thousand years, and are now being deprived of their land. Similarly, the Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organization said that land is crucial for them, as their nomadic way of life is based on fluctuating pasture conditions. They said they are being evicted by force by agro-industry companies and development policies, threatening their traditional way of life.

The UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous People pointed out that in many cases abuses by extractive industries against Indigenous People, especially land grabs, happen because of lack of government legislation. The UN Voluntary fund for Indigenous People stressed the importance of considering jurisprudence in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ right to land.

Bolivia said they have incorporated Indigenous Peoples territories into their constitution and legal system, giving them 22.000 hectares of land. They have also created the “Indigenous Autonomies”, granting ownership and custodian status of lands and resources to Indigenous Peoples.

The Russian Federation said there that companies pose many obstacles to traditional Indigenous Peoples’ territory. They explained how they wish to promote social responsibility, with companies making reports on a voluntary basis and taking the traditions of Indigenous Peoples into account.