All That Fits: A gathering for protecting Indigenous Peoples Rights


In the coming days we will participate in a timely event organised by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) in Copenhagen.

The IWGIA is an international human rights organisation that promotes, protects and defends indigenous peoples’ rights. IWGIA works through a global network of indigenous organisations and international human rights bodies. IWGIA is committed to the promotion, recognition, respect and implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights to land, cultural integrity and development on their own terms.

IWGIA has organised Defending the Defenders—New Alliances for Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the first week of September, aimed at addressing the increasing violence against human rights defenders including indigenous peoples. Globally, human rights defenders are under attack, criminalised and killed, at an alarmingly increasing rate. Of the 197 human rights defenders killed in 2017 alone, 40% of these are indigenous peoples. Hence, the conference will strive to answer why indigenous peoples in developing countries are particularly affected and what measures can be taken for our protection.

The focused themes are selected to look into the wordlwide phenomenon of violations against indigenous peoples human rights defenders (IPHRDs) in the context of the extractive industry, defense of land and large scale development projects. These themes include criminalisation, land rights and access to justice. I think that for each of these themes there are clear examples or experiences that we can impart from the experience IPHRDs not only in the Cordillera but the entire Philippines.

Expected in the upcoming event are IPHRDs from Asia, Africa and Latin America who are most at risk and subjected to gross human rights violations; high-level officials, development practitioners, decision-makers and other key actors. United Nations mechanisms dealing with indigenous peoples’ rights will also participate, regional human rights institutions, relevant inter-governmental institutions and representatives of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, academe and international and Danish civil society organisations.

From the exchange of ideas and discussions, the conference shall identify ways forward at international, regional and national levels required for the protection of indigenous human rights defenders. This will be expressed in an outcome document that will later be utilised when lobbying key actors, including government, the private sector, UN mechanisms and others.

The results will certainly feed into upcoming sessions of UN mechanisms in the coming months such as the Human Rights Council and the Business and Human Rights Forum, among other relevant international bodies that will meet before the end of the year.

For IPHRDs in the Cordillera, this event organised by IWGIA and the expected results will lend a great hand to bringing to international attention the plight of indigenous peoples worldwide in the face of worsening development aggression, and ultimately, motivate individuals and institutions into solutions and actions that safeguard human rights and the rule of law in developing countries. It is yet another effort of the international community “to leave no one behind” – that is, not to leave behind IPHRDs to defend themselves and have their significant role in defense of land and life respected and recognised. The event being organised reminds us that no matter how much the gravity and extent of the human rights situation in the country, human rights defenders, IPHRDs and communities are alone in facing these.

Fact is, IWGIA has been working with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) along with these same lines for more than 20 years if I am not misktaken. It is a solidarity partnership that traces its back to the early 1980s—if I remember right, as early as the Chico Dam struggle, from which the CPA was borne out of. From then on, IWGIA has stood shoulder to shoulder with CPA in advocating for indigenous peoples rights and human rights in the Cordillera and participating in key activities of the people’s movement such as Cordillera Day every April 24. Even at CPA’s most difficult times, when it is under attack due to State fascism, IWGIA did not falter from standing with CPA and calling for justice for indigenous peoples in the Cordillera. This September is also IWGIA’s 50th Annivesary, and we take this opportunity to congratulate IWGIA for 50 years of standing with indigenous peoples worldwide for the defense of land, life, honor and self-determination.

So. We expect fruitful recommendations at the end of the conference, which I hope to report back next week. #


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