On the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples tomorrow, August 9, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell says the EU this year joins the United Nations in the call for a new social contract that protects the rights of indigenous peoples.
“On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we celebrate the resilience and resourcefulness of indigenous peoples around the world,” Borrell stated in his press statement released today.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected indigenous peoples globally. It has put a strain on their rights, in particular their equitable access to health-care, education, land and natural resources. It has further exacerbated the existing economic marginalisation and discrimination of indigenous peoples. In areas of tropical forests, economic interests often have prevailed when amending social and environmental laws, policies and safeguards.
“We are witnessing alarming developments: increase in exclusion of indigenous peoples from decision-making; expansion of industrial activity; increased land grabbing and illegal logging; and the rise in the criminalisation and violence against indigenous human rights defenders. Indigenous human rights defenders made up nearly a third of the more than 330 human rights defenders killed worldwide in 2020. Many of them were women.
The respect of the principle of free, prior and informed consent, culturally appropriate social protection and sustainable natural habitat preservation must be part of the COVID-19 recovery plans – Josep Borrell
“Indigenous peoples’ culture, language, spirituality and politics, economies and survival are connected to their lands. We must honour their relationship with nature and customary lands. They globally contribute to the protection of around 80% of biodiversity. The pandemic has made clear that the time for a new social contract has come. The respect of the principle of free, prior and informed consent, culturally appropriate social protection and sustainable natural habitat preservation must be part of the COVID-19 recovery plans.
“To this end, the EU continues to fund a number of projects under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. In 2020, the EU also extended its contribution to the Indigenous Navigator, an open-source, community-based data collection system and mapping tool led by indigenous peoples. With its timely reports, it is an invaluable resource for assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous peoples and when considering measures to address the injustice they are facing.
* The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).Click here to view the voting record.
Years later the four countries that voted against have reversed their position and now support the UN Declaration. Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.