Indigenous peoples’ welfare is falling through the cracks
Today, on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, Friends of the Earth Asia and Pacific groups from 13 countries celebrate the stories of the indigenous communities. Globally, there is an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples, majority of whom is living in Asia and the Pacific. UN figures indicate that they make up less than 5% of the global population and are considered to belong to the poorest 15%. For hundreds of years, indigenous communities have struggled for the recognition of indigenous rights and the protection of their lives, culture and territories. These collective struggles have resulted in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 by a majority of the states. Ten years since this Declaration, indigenous people’s rights have figured more and more in public discussions. But the struggle for recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, collective right to land, resources and territories continues. In the Philippines many indigenous peoples still struggle for their right to their ancestral lands to be recognized. They continue to be marginalized, suffering from lack of access to basic social services, including education, health, and other government programs. Indigenous communities have long suffered the effects of militarization. But now with the government’s continuing war on terrorism and with the president ending the peace talks with the communist rebels, it is worrying what will happen to the lumads whom the president recently characterised as rebel sympathizers, if not rebels themselves. Indigenous peoples today belong to the most marginalized, disenfranchised and vulnerable. They struggle to defend their territories against big agribusiness ventures, mining companies, real estate projects, and other forms of development aggression. Their sources of food and energy are insecure. The creeping impacts of climate change have increased the already heavy burdens of indigenous communities, particularly that of the women. The shrinking democratic space in most countries in Asia and the Pacific has resulted in the violation of rights of indigenous leaders and environmental human rights defenders. Friends of the Earth groups in Asia and the Pacific work with indigenous communities and allies to ensure that impunity ends and that we create genuine and just solutions to bring about systemic change. FOE APAC believes that while it is important to engage institutions to create spaces and influence policies, it is equally important to build a movement that supports indigenous peoples’ struggles.
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) is the Philippines chapter of Friends of the Earth, a global movement supporting indigenous peoples and pushing for environmental conservation.