by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta in UP Forum
For countless years, indigenous peoples (IPs) have lived on the fringes of society, barely mentioned even in the footnotes of history texts. The IPs, if given any attention at all, are often viewed as collateral damage in the march to economic development, as members of a somewhat lesser race of humans, and at best, icons of a romanticized past regularly trotted out and paraded during cultural celebrations. This is the case for many of the 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries around the world.1
“[IPs around the world] share common problems—the non-recognition of their rights to their territories and human rights violations—but in different degrees,” said Marissa Cabato of the Philippine Program for the Indigenous People’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development under the Baguio City-based indigenous peoples organization Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).
Tebtebba (www.tebtebba.org) was one of the participants in the Rio+20 International Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Self-Determination and Sustainable Development held on June 19, 2012 at Rio De Janeiro, participated in by IP organizations, traditional and spirituals leaders and indigenous peoples from seven regions of the world. “During those partner-meetings, representatives from different countries came together and discussed their situations, so we saw that the issues [the IPs] are confronting are not all that different from one another.”
Progress has been made in all areas of development with regard to the world’s indigenous peoples since the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations was designated in 1982 to promote and protect the human rights and basic freedoms of indigenous peoples. This led to the drafting of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 1995 and its eventual approval on September 13, 2007. However, Cabato acknowledges that the issue of the non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights remains as pressing as ever, even into the second decade of the 21st century.
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