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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Statement of AIPP on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2016: “Protect our rights, our lands!”


Salute from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact!

Indigenous brothers and sisters,

We proudly celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples under this year’s Asia regional theme and call to “Protect our rights, our lands!” We urgently need to address the continuing violations of our collective rights as indigenous peoples, particularly our rights to our lands, territories and resources which are the bases of our identity, wellbeing, dignity and collective survival and development. More than 200 million of the estimated 370 million indigenous peoples across the world are in Asia. The majority have no security over their lands and are not legally recognized as indigenous peoples, adding to their further discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.

While we are at the frontline of the adverse impacts of climate change, the Paris Agreement negotiated by states has not fully incorporated the recognition and protection of our rights. This despite our invaluable contribution and crucial role through our way of life, traditional knowledge and our sustainable natural resources management system in combating climate change. Moreover, the global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development’s call of “leaving no one behind” lacks clear mechanisms for accountability and equity, protection of human rights, access to justice, and participatory and inclusive national and local planning, implementation, monitoring and review to ensure that indigenous peoples, women, persons with disabilities, youth and the elderly are not left behind. Amid these challenges are opportunities to promote and protect our rights, and to pursue our contributions to combat climate change and sustainable development not only beneficial to us but to the entire humanity. Thus, sustained engagement of indigenous peoples from the local, national and global levels is important more than ever.

The Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, also known as the #landrightsnow Campaign puts land rights at the center of sustainable development and climate change. The timely initiative calls on communities, organizations, governments as well as private sector actors worldwide to promote and secure indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land rights to build a just and equitable world and to achieve the SDGs to which our nations’ leaders have committed. More than 200 organizations in 14 AIPP member countries are presently participating and supporting this campaign with actions on the ground and policy engagements at different levels.

Securing our land rights is imperative with the ASEAN gearing up its ambitious Investment Plan for regional economic integration. Without full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the region, the plan includes various projects that will undermine our rights and wellbeing such as large dams, expansion of mono-cropping and mining, bio fuel plantations and economic land concessions.

September this year will be the 10th commemoration of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Many states have yet to incorporate the provisions of the UNDRIP into their national laws, policies and programmes to fulfill their obligation in legally recognizing and protecting our collective rights. We further raise our serious concern on the shrinking democratic space for civil society including indigenous peoples in many countries in Asia. Restrictions to legitimate actions of citizens including their right to freedom of expression and assembly are clear violations of states’ obligations to human rights as members of the United Nations. Indigenous peoples’ land and environmental rights defenders in Asia and around the world are facing grave threat and security issues.

Our brother Billy, a Karen from Thailand remains missing since he was detained by four National Park officials in 2014. We are yet to know about his fate and his wife is left alone, caring for their five children. In June this year, another dedicated land activist Bill Kayong, was brutally gunned down in his car in Malaysia. Further, Jannie Lasimbang faces a legal harassment case for leading a peaceful and legal assembly for good governance and democracy in Sabah. In the Philippines, 15 indigenous leaders and land activists were criminalized through falsified charges by the Philippine Government.

The designation of a reserved forest in Modpur, Bangladesh, will displace 15,000 Garo, Barman, Koch and Dalu who face threats of losing their land and livelihoods. In Rawai beach, Thailand, the Chao Ley peoples are currently struggling to reclaim over five hectares of land from Baron World Trade. Co. Ltd. In India, thousands of Adivasis continue to be displaced by mining expansion. These are some cases of the violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights, including eviction, terror and intimidation, harassment of indigenous women and girls by military and companies. These threaten the survival and distinct identity of indigenous peoples, and lead them to extreme poverty and hunger.

Despite the challenges we face, our collective strength and concerted actions will enable us to overcome this condition. The sacrifices and heroism of our ancestors and leaders remind and guide us. We take stock of what we have achieved and make these our staging point to move forward and persevere to realize and fulfill our rights, and ensure a better future.

Together, let us call on States to:

Respect, protect and fulfill our rights through the proper implementation of the UNDRIP, the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples’ (WCIP) Outcome Document, the UN System-Wide Action Plan (SWAP) for Ensuring a Coherent Approach to Achieving the Ends of the UNDRIP and other relevant international human rights instruments and standards.

Recognize, protect and enhance our invaluable contribution in combating climate change and advancing sustainable development. Our traditional knowledge and innovations imbedded in our sustainable use and management of resources, and our low carbon lifestyle and our values of mutual cooperation, solidarity and upholding the common good are essential in meeting the global challenges of the climate crisis and the need for sustainable development for all.

Ensure our full and effective participation in all relevant processes that affect us. This shall include the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the planning, follow up and review processes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which are paramount in making the SDGs a reality for indigenous peoples.

Recognize our land rights and our right to free, prior and informed consent in the Investment Plan processes, development projects and climate change solutions, as enshrined in the UNDRIP.

Let the world know that we are the peoples who have conserved the ecosystems for centuries. We are the rights holders and agents of change. We have the solutions to climate change. The recognition of our rights, particularly our collective rights to lands, territories and resources is the key to addressing the worsening climate crisis that severely impacts and threatens the entire planet.

On the commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this year, we join hands together, strengthen our solidarity and multiply our efforts in asserting our rights to shape a better future for the next generations, the next guardians of the Mother Earth. We demand for the protection of our rights, our lands! We demand for the recognition of our collective land rights now!

Long live the indigenous peoples in Asia!
Long live the indigenous peoples all over the world!

In solidarity,
Joan Carling
Secretary General
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Click here to download full statement.