The European Union has published a new report by indigenous rights expert Julian Burger of the University of Essex, entitled “Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Industries and Human Right”.
The report provides an overview of relevant policy fields and recommends that the European Parliament re-affirm its commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples as contained in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It calls for a specific recognition of free, prior and informed consent as an obligation for extractive industries engaging in activities that may impact indigenous peoples. It notes that serious and unacceptable human rights violations continue to be associated with the extractive industries in their dealings with indigenous peoples and considers that such abuses are likely to continue given the more invasive methods of extraction required to respond to global demand for commodities.
The paper welcomes the advances made by parts of the extractive industry sector to address the human rights, social and environmental issues arising from their contacts with indigenous peoples. It also considers that a goal at the European level should be a legally binding regime including sanctions where appropriate. This would ensure a level playing field among all extractive industry companies and prevent companies with serious commitments to indigenous peoples’ rights being put at a disadvantage with companies that do not have those commitments.
The paper also notes that the European Union (EU) in its trade and investment policies with outside partner countries may inadvertently set standards or impose restrictions that result in undermining the human rights of indigenous peoples. In this respect, further research on these contradictions would be helpful so that they can be brought to the attention of policy-makers with a view to making the necessary changes. The paper notes that the EU includes indigenous peoples as a cross-cutting part of its development, human rights and democracy programmes, and recommends that this area be strengthened and that further specific attention be given to challenges arising from the presence of extractive industries on indigenous peoples’ lands.