Wednesday, June 3, 2009

May 27 - June 2, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of May 27 - June 2, 2009

Bangladesh: Chittagong Hill Tracts: AI Report Details Injustices

Amnesty International (AI)’s report shows that the lack of respect for citizens’ rights in Bangladesh is also having a major impact on indigenous peoples.

Indigenous people in Bangladesh suffered due to government policies while Bangla-speaking settlers continued to capture their land with the behind-the-scene support of the government, reads Amnesty International's (AI) annual report.

Right to fair trials continued to be undermined and was further exacerbated by emergency regulations, as defendants' access to due process of law was limited, the report mentioned regarding the state of emergency enforced during the caretaker government's rule.

"Behind the scene the government continued its steady support for Bangla-speaking settlers seizing land from Jumma indigenous inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts," the report added.

Regarding indigenous communities, the report quoting three UN rapporteurs said there might be a systematic campaign to support the relocation of non-indigenous people to the Chittagong Hill Tracts in order to outnumber the local indigenous people.

The report also mentioned excessive use of police force against peaceful demonstrations on several occasions. Read more on the Chittagong Hill Tracts here....

Russia: Winds Of Change From The North

When thinking about Russia, almost every foreigner names three geographical entities: Moscow, St. Petersburg and… Siberia. Vast, snow white and bitter cold, Siberia seems to be deserted in the popular imagination. However, in spite of its low population density, more than 30 ethnic groups inhabit Siberia, falling into the category of “small-numbered indigeneous peoples of the North” (malie narodi severa): Aleuts, Chukchi, Nenets, Dolgans, Evenks, Selkups, Chuvans, Kets, Khants, Mansi and others.

Mansi Girl with a Deer, by Nikolai Fomin, a Russian artist who often depicts the lives of smaller ethnic groups in his work.

About 30,000 Khants and Mansi live in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug Yugra, one of the most important Russian regions in recent years because of its oil and gas extraction industries. Traditionally hunters and anglers, they also engage in cattle rearing and reindeer breeding. Due to the rapid development of Russia’s energy industry, the area’s population has increased by 1 million people over the past 30 years. Newcomers to the region have had a strong impact on the unique languages, native cultures and lifestyles of indigenous peoples.

Irina Nikiforova has been studying the peoples of Siberia for many years, and is currently conducting research on the ancient forms of government of the autochthons of the North. “Among the major problems, I am sorry to name the following: depopulation of many groups, alcoholism, loss of national identity and traditions,” she said, when asked about the most pressing social problems affecting these people today.

The latter can be partially eased by the development of better indigenous education services. At present, there are primary schools and various education institutions that teach the basics of national trades and languages. However, they are primarily situated in remote national settlements and are short of teaching staff, as a result. Furthermore, the education of ethnic groups still revolves around the state curriculum, which facilitates the further assimilation of each indigenous generation into Russian culture. Read more about indigenous peoples in Russia here....

Peru: Indigenous Protests Force Government Negotiation

Mass protests by indigenous communities continue to spread throughout Peru. This is despite a violent crackdown by police and military forces following President Alan Garcia’s declaration of a 60-day state of emergency in the Cusco, Ucayali, Loreto and Amazonas regions on May 9.

Since April 9, indigenous communities have shut down oil fields and gas pipelines, and blocked roads, rivers, airports and other installations. These actions are in protest at government decrees that open access to indigenous people’s lands to facilitate oil, mining, logging and agricultural companies.

Garcia decreed the laws under special powers awarded to him by Congress to bring Peruvian law into line with a free trade agreement (FTA) signed with the United States in December 2007.

One of the most controversial decrees (Legislative Decree 1090) removes some 45 million hectares, or roughly 60%, of Peru’s jungles from the country’s Forestry Heritage protection system.

Another decree allows companies with concessions to obtain changes in zoning permits directly from the central government, bypassing indigenous consultation processes.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), which groups 1385 indigenous communities, is calling for the full repeal of the decrees.

AIDESEP said the decrees were deemed unconstitutional, as they violated the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted prior to any project on their land. This is established by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, which has a constitutional character in Peruvian law. Read more about the continuing protests in Peru here....

International: Eighth Session Of The UN Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues: Summary

Gathering approximately 2,000 representatives of indigenous peoples, government, civil society, academia and international organizations, UNPFII-8 addressed the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, climate change, the Arctic region, land tenure and the relationship between indigenous peoples and extractive corporations. Read more on the Eighth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues here....

North America: Human “Message from the North” To Climate Negotiators

If you want to send a message, the old Hollywood saying goes, call Western Union. But environmental activists chose a different medium to get through to climate change negotiators: they put their bodies on the line — in this case, the Alaskan tundra — to spell out “Save The Arctic” and sketch the outline of a caribou.

Members of the Gwich’in Nation gathered last weekend near Arctic Village, Alaska, to send what they called a “Message from the North” to environmental diplomats gathering this week in Bonn, Germany.

The Alaskan activists want permanent protection from oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on the far northern edge of Alaska where caribou roam, along with urgent action to address climate change.

The Gwich’in people, who live in this area, were celebrating 20 years of activism to prevent oil drilling in the refuge. But climate change is a new and increasing threat, and even without drilling, they say the region has seen some of the most extreme impacts of global warming.

“Indigenous peoples live at the point of impact and are among the first to experience the catastrophic effects of climate change - the wisdom indigenous peoples offer is crucial to the survival of all life,” said Robby Romero, UN ambassador for the environment and founder of the native rock band Red Thunder, which performed at the event. “Everything new is hidden in the past - It will take traditional Indigenous wisdom and modern technology working together to lead us on a path of healing.” Read more about the Gwich'in people's gathering here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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