AIPP statement on good practices and challenges in business and in access to financial services by indigenous peoples at the 10th EMRIP session

10th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

10 – 14 July 2017

Agenda Item no. 4: Study and advice on good practices and challenges in business and in access to financial services by indigenous peoples

Statement of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

We thank the Expert Mechanism for sharing their draft on the study and emphasising on day one that it is still open for inputs.  We would then like to turn the attention of the Expert Mechanism to the salient points raised in AIPP’s submission that were missed in the draft study as well as give our observations to the current draft, particularly in relation to indigenous women and persons with disabilities.

We welcome that the draft highlights the importance of securing indigenous peoples rights to lands, territories and resources and its importance to their life and tradition. However, it also puts more emphasis on treating land as a commodity to be utilised as capital for loan or as leverage to access financial services available without consideration of how they can lose lands in such manner. Also, despite the study pointing out that profit is not the central measure of success for indigenous peoples’ business ventures (paragraph 23), it has missed to elaborate that the business model promoted by State or third party business enterprises remains to be profit-centered and not fully conducive to the fulfillment of indigenous peoples’ rights.

In addition, it is important to examine and consider the issue of business and access to financial services with regards to the general situation of impoverishment and marginalisation of indigenous peoples, particularly women and persons with disabilities.   It is imperative to identify lack of access to basic social services, including the general issue of political marginalisation and discrimination of indigenous peoples, as challenges that must be addressed should economic empowerment for indigenous peoples are to be achieved through business (paragraph 12).

With specific attention to indigenous women, they have limited access to basic social services, including education. Compared to indigenous men and their non-indigenous counterparts, indigenous women have lower literacy level limiting the awareness of their rights and affecting their ability to engage with relevant mechanisms to fulfill their economic potential.  That also holds true for indigenous persons with disabilities.

Lower literacy level affects their overall potential for development and for bringing change to their current dire situation. We thus recommend the Expert Mechanism to include and provide more concrete advice in combatting discrimination to indigenous peoples, particularly women and persons with disabilities (Annex paragraph 3). At the same time, indigenous peoples, particularly women and persons with disabilities, must be supported based on their specific needs to allow them have the same capacity as their non-indigenous counterparts to access financial services and maintain their business activities or self-determined economic initiatives.

Further, the multiple discrimination that indigenous women and persons with disabilities experience is not only due to deprivation from economic but also from political opportunity. The need to establish and secure an enabling environment to address the multi-layered discrimination they encounter and effectively facilitate self-determined economic empowerment should be put forward in the Expert Mechanism’s advice.  This point of addressing the root cause of disempowerment, impoverishment and inequality should be the strategy in attaining Goal 8 and Goal 10, if not all SDG (paragraph 14).

Finally, it is observable that the practices mentioned in the draft study on access to financial services highlight formal economic structure, i.e. banking, credit history, etc. mainly in developed countries. As follow-up to the recommendations made under Agenda item 3, including by Asia Caucus, we thus urge having regional and sub-regional perspectives and analysis on comparable trends among regions and States in the study. As such, there should be more analysis and advice on the theme of business and access to financial services in regions or States where indigenous peoples are not even legally recognized to access basic social services or have the opportunity to open bank account.

To end, we would like to note that there are various good practices of indigenous peoples undertaking community-based business enterprises in various countries in Asia, particularly in face of threats to their rights, such as installation of micro hydropower projects against destructive mega-dams and collective cash crop farming against large-scale agribusiness. At the same time, there are far greater number of challenges such as continuing abuse of indigenous peoples’ lands and cultures for resources extraction and tourism profits and financial services not reaching those most marginalized. We trust those practices and challenges can be useful for the study of the Expert Mechanism as well for the States, business and other concerned stakeholders.

Thank you for the opportunity to hear and consider our inputs in your study, Mr. Chairperson.

Presented by: Joyce Godio

Click here to download full statement.

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