Mining, the Aluminium Industry, and Indigenous Peoples: Enhancing Corporate Respect for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

There is now increasing global attention on how to change “business as usual” practices of corporations so that they account for environmental sustainability, ensure respect for human rights and contribute to equitable development. Finding ways to ensure that corporations respect and support the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples remains a challenge in securing the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Through international processes and mechanisms such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and the annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, as well as the development of corporate social, environmental and human rights policies, a set of global standards in relation to corporate responsibilities and approaches to human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, is now emerging.

These standards and the principles they embody, including the requirement for the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples in relation to corporate activities affecting their rights and interests are key steps forward in addressing conflicts, social justice and participatory and sustainable development. However, these standards and policies alone will remain insufficient unless the political will and institutional mechanisms are in place ensuring that corporations understand and respect, and that States protect the human rights of those impacted by corporate activities.

The experiences re-told in this publication serve to underscore the critical importance of finding ways to improve, in practical and real terms, the experiences of indigenous peoples when faced with extractive industries in their territories. There are many lessons to be learned from these experiences that can assist in moving towards improved engagement based on an understanding of indigenous peoples’ perspectives, rights and aspirations. I join the editors in thanking the contributors and express my hope that the ASI Performance Standard can establish a benchmark of good practice that will provide a way to avoid some of the potentially devastating impacts of extractive and related industries and enable real benefits and genuine opportunities to be realised.

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