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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

EMRIP8: AGENDA ITEM 7: Promotion and Protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples with respect to their Cultural Heritage

8th SESSION, 20-24 JULY 2015

AGENDA ITEM 7: Promotion and Protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples with respect to their Cultural Heritage

Delivered by: Kyasingmong Marma

On behalf of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Indigenous Peoples Asia Caucus

Mr. Chair, distinguished participants, indigenous brothers and sisters. I, on behalf of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and IP Asia Caucus, would like to pay our deepest condolence to the family of Mr. Pu R Thangmawia, President of Zo Re-Unification Organization, who passed away 20th July, on Sunday. We pray with our deepest sincerity for his departed soul to rest in Peace.

Mr Chair, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and IP Asia Caucus welcome the report of the Expert Mechanism on its study on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with Respect to their Cultural Heritage. It is unfortunate that Asian States have not contributed to this study. AIPP submitted its input in the study and now wishes to reiterate the points we raised in our contribution.

Cultural heritage among Asia’s indigenous peoples is embodied in their relationship with peoples and nature. These are manifested in both tangible and intangible heritage, including their traditional knowledge, livelihoods, cultural practices, languages, and socio-political institutions that are rooted in their territory and make them distinct as peoples. It also characterizes diversity in their ways of life, in their identity and spirituality.

Mr. Chair, in Asia, some States have recognized the value of indigenous peoples cultural heritage and have legislated laws for the respect, promotion and protection of these heritage.

Sadly, despite the recognition of Indigenous peoples cultural heritage in national laws and through Court rulings, the threat to their cultural integrity continues unabatedly because of lack of legal recognition of their collective rights to their lands, territories and resources. On the other hand, implementation of national legislations that respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples has been a problematic and manipulated such as laws on land rights resulting to land grabbing such as the case of mining in the Philippines, individual land titling instead of collective land titling in the case of Cambodia and India. In the name of development, indigenous peoples in Asia are subjected to violations of their rights including right to cultural heritage. The construction of mega dam, commercial plantation, activities of extractive industries on indigenous land and territory not only cause the displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land, but also destroys their linkage with their cultural heritage due to loss of traditional livelihood, sacred places, and so on. Furthermore, these development activities often take place without free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. The construction of Baram Dam in Sarawak of Malayisa, massive economic land concession given the private companies in Cambodia, heavy militarization on the land of indigenous peoples in Chittagong Hill Tract of Bangladesh as well as in Philippines are some examples of violation of indigenous peoples rights as enshrined in United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights instruments.

Mr Chair, The continuing violations and serious threats to the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples warrant a more concerted action by states to comply with their international human rights obligations related to indigenous peoples. In this context, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Indigenous peoples Asia Caucus reiterate our recommendations for the immediate action of the states:

  1. Review and amend/repeal discriminatory laws and policies against the indigenous peoples’ distinct identities and their cultural heritage. This shall include laws relating to the designation of national parks and conservation areas, military reservations among others.
  2. Ensure the implementation of the free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples on plans, projects, programmes that affects their lives and livelihood
  3. Legally recognize and protect the right of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources through appropriate measures and policies including declaring cultural heritage sites, sacred sites and other areas of spiritual significance to indigenous peoples as no go zones for extractive industries, aggressive tourism projects, and other destructive projects.
  4. In countries where land rights are recognized, proper implementation of such laws shall be guaranteed and effective access to justice shall be provided when these laws are violated.
  5. Provide measures for the revitalization and transmission of the indigenous knowledge of indigenous peoples in formal and informal education
  6. Promote and protect the indigenous peoples’ languages through effective mother tongue education for indigenous children.

I Thank You Mr. Chair for your attention