[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Wednesday raised awareness [UN news report] for the rights of indigenous peoples, comprised of approximately 370 million people in 90 countries around the world. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz [official website], urged members of the international community to reconcile any past differences with indigenous peoples for prior rights violations and work towards open communication about the important legal issues which affect indigenous populations, especially rights to land and resources. Tauli-Corpuz noted “the nearly universal disadvantageous social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples as compared to the economic and social conditions of the majority societies in which they live present a barrier to the full exercise of their human rights.” Wednesday’s remarks will likely raise awareness for the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples [official website], scheduled to meet at the UN General Assembly for September 22 and 23 in New York.
The rights of indigenous peoples has become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Ugandan mining industry to respect the rights of indigenous people affected by mineral exploration. The report argues that three large mining companies in particular have infringed upon the rights of the indigenous people of Karamoja by engaging in land and mineral grabs, causing environmental damage and refusing to provide information concerning the occurrence, extent and timing of their explorations. In January HRW encouraged [JURIST report] the Canadian government to institute an independent national inquiry into violence against indigenous women in the country. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text], was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 and “marked a historic moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples” but UN experts said last year that implementing the Declaration would continue to be a challenge [JURIST report] without greater awareness.