Asian rights groups’ urges governments to protect rights of indigenous peoples
Saleem Samad of DOT
The indigenous peoples rights groups urges government of Asia region and other concerned institutions to immediately halt increasing threats to the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources and take urgent measures to promote and protect those rights.
Those rights are extremely critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with the pledge of States to ensure “no one will be left behind” and to endeavor to “reach the furthest behind first”, stated a joint press release on Wednesday of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and International Land Coalition Asia (ILC Asia). Members from 10 countries under the aegis of AIPP and ILC Asia participated at a regional workshop on indigenous peoples’ land rights campaign and advocacy from 21-22 March. Recently, indigenous peoples in Asian countries are facing new urgent and grave risks to the limited legal protections they have for their rights to lands, territories and resources in national laws or impacts on them due to new laws and projects. At the same time, long standing land conflicts of indigenous communities remain unresolved in various countries. For example, in Bangladesh, to resolve land disputes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), which is one of the main isuses of decades of armed conflict in the region, the CHT Accord stipulated to form a Land Commission.
However, the work of the Commission is still seriously impeded by its lack of funds, manpower and the absence of Rules of the Commission to supplement the provisions of the Land Commission Act.
The draft Rules of Business was submitted to the Land Ministry on 1 January 2017 but the government has not yet finalized the draft. Due to non-resolution of land disputes through the Commission, land grabbing, eviction and ethnic conflicts are frequently taking place in CHT, which leads to a great trouble of lives and livelihood of indigenous Jumma peoples.
Finally, indigenous human rights defenders in Asia are taking legitimate actions to protect the rights of their communities as well as the environment are facing increasing risks and reprisals, including threats of violence and physical assaults, judicial and other forms harassments, arbitrary detentions and arrests and even disappearances and killings.
The governments of Asia and other concerned State institutions must take immediate steps to ensure that the legislative and other processes affecting the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources, such as those related to the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in India, the VFV lands management law in Myanmar and the CHT Land Commission in Bangladesh, should be undertaken only after obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples through adequate and meaningful consultations with them and in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.