Indigenous Peoples and Corporate Accountability in the ASEAN

Indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia live in areas rich in natural resources. These areas have become targets of resource extraction and development projects by multinational companies. Indigenous communities are confronted with the adverse impacts of mining, logging, large-scale plantations and infrastructure programs.

These projects are generally implemented without the consultation and consent of affected communities. Massive displacement of indigenous peoples, the loss of their livelihood and the denigration on of their culture and identity are just some of the adverse effects of these projects.

Due to the increasing and expanding operations of multinational corporations in indigenous peoples’ territories, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) conducted this study on the business practices of these corporations in indigenous peoples’ territories. The study focused on the operations involving rubber, cassava and oil palm plantations; hydropower dams; and mining in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The cases demonstrate the impacts of corporate activities in indigenous territories and the violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. These include displacement and dislocation from their lands and territories with minimal or no compensation and without any plans for benefit sharing; the non-compliance of corporations to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a requirement for conducting activities in indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources; the non-recognition and loss of traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples living in the areas affected by the business operations; violations of their cultural rights especially the desecration and destruction of sacred sites; and exposure to hazards resultant to poisonous and dangerous materials used by the corporations. They also highlight the inability of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and of the workers who slave for corporations operating in the ancestral lands of these peoples.

Given this situation and lack of corporate accountability, the AIPP calls on all ASEAN Member States to provide the legal framework for the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. This includes recognition as distinct peoples with collective rights; right to their lands, territories and resources; and the right to the FPIC. These are just some of their rights guaranteed by International Human Rights Instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The AIPP further calls on ASEAN Member States to enact laws and policies that would set binding standards for corporations to be accountable for their human rights abuses. This can be achieved by setting up grievance mechanisms. Furthermore, the AIPP calls for a moratorium on all corporate projects being opposed by indigenous peoples and for the resolution of conflicts arising from corporate projects in indigenous territories.

Click here to download this report.

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