By Desiree Caluza
Posted date: August 13, 2007
BAGUIO CITY. The chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues said the biggest stumbling block to the adoption of
a UN document recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples is the
lobby started by multinational companies engaged in large businesses
around the world.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UNPFII chair, said multinational companies from
Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States engaged in mining
and logging have been pressuring other countries to vote against the
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“[These firms] were against the declaration because they would like
[to keep] their business interests in countries where indigenous
peoples wanted to assert sovereign rights on their territories. They
were afraid that the declaration would stop them from extracting the
resources in indigenous peoples’ communities,” she said.
Corpuz, also executive director of the Baguio-based Tebtebba
Foundation (Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy
Research and Education), said the Philippines, however, has started
gathering support from other countries to adopt the document.
The Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples establishes
the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own
institutions, cultures and traditions.
It addresses both individual and collective rights and protects their
cultural property and identity, and rights to education, health,
employment and language, among other things.
Corpuz said UN member-countries would vote to approve the declaration
on Sept. 17 in New York.
She said 67 countries have pledged to vote to approve the declaration
but votes from more than 20 countries are still needed to ensure its
She said they are talking to representatives of African countries to
gather their support for the declaration.
African governments last year were apprehensive about supporting the
declaration, fearing African tribes might use the document as an
instrument for cessation, she said.
“We are confident that the declaration will be adopted to address the
hundreds of years of injustices to indigenous peoples,” she told a
regional consultation on the Second International Decade of the
World’s Indigenous Peoples here.
The consultation was attended by at least 100 representatives of
various tribes and organizations in the Cordillera.