August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, June 22, 2012

Aljazeera and Democracy Now! feature Indigenous Environmental Network

Alternative voices from Rio+20 
While world leaders negotiate in the Rio+20 meeting halls, thousands of activists have launched 'The People's Summit'.
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2012 18:51

.Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - "The development - the drilling, mining and damming - is affecting everyone, our communities and the Earth, our home and the only planet we have."
The piercing voice of 11-year-old T'Kaiya is enough to grab the attention of delegates passing by. With the aptitude of a seasoned speaker, this young delegate from Canada comfortably commanded the following of environmental activists staging a sit-in at the Rio+20 conference.
T'Kaiya is in Rio to represent the Indigenous Environmental Network and to speak out against the controversial tar sands project being planned by an energy transport company, Enbridge, that involves a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific northwest coast of Canada.
"This pipeline puts in jeopardy, thousands of streams, 45 different indigenous cultures that have been practiced by my ancestors and their ancestors. I am shocked that people would jeopardise such pristine beauty and put a price tag on it," T'Kaiya told Al Jazeera.

Civil Society, Indigenous Groups Protest at Rio+20       

Democracy Now

Protests continue at the Rio+20 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. On Thursday, civil society delegates staged a walkout of the talks to call for bold action against global warming. Meanwhile, hundreds of indigenous activists marched through the streets of Rio de Janeiro to deliver a petition demanding fairer treatment over land and other rights.
Tom Goldtooth: "What we are concerned about is that Mother Earth is not for sale. Mother Earth is not a commodity to be traded on the trading system. The trees are not for sale."

What is it about Ecuador?

Colombian Embassy serves up coffee to journalists outside
Ecuador Embassy in London Friday, where Wikileaks Julian
Assange has sought refuge.
Twitter photo borrowed from RT London Bureau.
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

With Wikileaks Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy in London, waiting to hear if Ecuador will grant him political asylum, I have to ask myself: What is it about Ecuador?
A few years back, while I was doing the grassroots radio show on the Longest Walk across America, one of the young Japanese walkers needed a quick ticket out of the country to satisfy his visa.
It was nearing midnight and the Internet was coming and going out in the woods. The cheapest ticket I could find was to Ecuador. He spoke almost no English and not a word of Spanish.
I was very worried. He had no US dollars. A good-hearted walker who had just arrived from California quickly loaned him nearly $1,000. All this happened in minutes.
A car arrived, and he was off to the airport. In the weeks that followed, I imagined the worst. (Locked up abroad, sick and hospitalized, wandering and lost.)
Weeks passed. Finally I heard from him. He was back.
"How was your trip?"
Wonderful, he said, laughing, and said something about meeting up with some like-minded Buddhists on the streets of Ecuador, teaming up to explore the Andes, then hiking up near Peru, and having the time of his life.
Let's hope the magic finds Assange.

Amnesty International: Rio+20 document undermined by human rights opponents

Military blocks Indigenous Peoples march delivering Kari-Oca Declaration to Rio+20 on June 21. A small delegation delivered the declaration upholding the rights of nature and opposing carbon markets scams. Photo Ben Powless, Mohawk.

RIO+20 claims to honor UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples -- while halting their participation
Amnesty International: Rio+20 outcome document undermined by human rights opponents
By Amnesty International
Censored News

Global economic troubles are being matched by a recession in human rights with worryingly minimal commitments coming out of the United Nations Rio+20 conference on Sustainable Development, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for International Environment Law (CIEL) said today on the close of the conference.

Rio+20 aimed to renew political commitments to sustainable development that were made at the original conference 20 years ago, through assessing progress and implementation gaps and discussing new and emerging issues.

“The G77 countries, the Holy See, and Canada formed a shameful alliance against making a commitment to human rights, on occasion aided by the US,” said Jan Egeland, deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite opposition, rights language has survived in the outcome document – but it does not go far enough.”

The Holy See led the charge against sexual and reproductive rights, with support of the G77, an organization of developing countries. The participating countries emphasized the need for universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health and the integration of reproductive health in national strategies and programs in the outcome document. But express reproductive rights language was deleted.

Canada, the G77, and the US united against reaffirming the responsibility of businesses to respect rights. Throughout the negotiations, governments also failed to address their human rights obligations when they sit as shareholders of international financial institutions (IFIs).

In the outcome document, governments recognized that sustainable development requires the meaningful involvement and active participation of civil society and many marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, amongst others. However, governments struck out reference to the rights of freedom of association and assembly, said Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and CIEL. And the right to freedom of expression, essential for participation and accountability, never even made it into a draft of the outcome document.

Further, civil society groups have expressed dismay at the lack of opportunities for their meaningful participation in the Rio process.

“The G77 challenged the rights to freedom of assembly and association, while past champions refused to fight for these rights,” Egeland said. “It is amazing that in the wake of the Arab spring, governments did not find their voices to support free speech rights in the context of sustainable development.”

World leaders reaffirmed the importance of respect for all human rights to development, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other rights instruments, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Governments recognized the importance of select economic and social rights in the outcome document, including the rights to food, health, and education. For the first time at a major UN summit meeting, the countries reaffirmed the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Governments committed to work to progressively make access a reality for all.

“It is unfortunate that some governments attempted arbitrarily to exclude transboundary water issues from the scope of the right to water,” said Savio Carvalho, Demand Dignity programme director of Amnesty International. “That these attempts were unsuccessful is a win for human rights.”

Rio+20 has also fallen short in integrating human rights and environmental protection, the rights groups said. While international, regional and national courts and human rights bodies have increasingly recognized environmental damage as a cause of human rights violations, and have firmly established state responsibility with respect to environmental protection, the Rio+20 process ignored the right to a healthy environment.

“Environmental protection is essential to the full enjoyment of all human rights,” said Dr. Marcos Orellana, human rights and environment director at CIEL. “Without the explicit recognition of the right to a healthy environment, the Rio+20 document fails to address the global ecological and poverty crisis confronting humanity and the planet.”

The 1992 Rio Declaration, which consisted of 27 principles intended to guide future sustainable development, included reference to the right to development, made reference to international law, and recognized that people should have access to information concerning the environment and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.

“While there has been some progress in the final outcome document, the mere fact that we have to advocate for inclusion of human rights is absurd,” Carvalho said.

Alaska's REDOIL at Rio+20: 'NO!' to drilling in Arctic


Statement of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL)
RIO + 20
Shell Oil and the Arctic
Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) is a movement of Alaska Natives of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Tlingit, Eyak, Gwich’in and Denaiana Athabascan Tribes who came together in June 2002 in Cordova, Alaska to form a powerful entity to challenge the fossil fuel and mining industries and demand our rights to a safe and healthy environment conducive to subsistence. REDOIL aims to address the human and ecological health impacts brought on by unsustainable development practices of the fossil fuel and mineral industries, and the ensuing effect of catastrophic climate change. We strongly support the self-determination right of tribes in Alaska, as well as a just transition from fossil fuel and mineral development to sustainable economies and sustainable development.

The three core focus areas of REDOIL are:
~Sovereignty and Subsistence Rights
~ Human and Ecological Health
~Climate Change and Climate Justice
Alaska’s Indigenous peoples health, culture and subsistence way of life are at threat by current energy development proposals which disproportionately targets Alaska Native homelands and continually puts our subsistence way of life at risk. Current Energy policy of the US calls for more extensive fossil fuel extraction and development within Indigenous Territories, which will have profound impacts to the communities. At this time, there are many areas in Alaska that are under threat, and our Alaska Native peoples are in duress…
At this time, Shell’s eyes are on the prize of the Arctic Oceans-the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Alaska’s coastal Indigenous Inupiat currently object strongly to the presence of Shell Oil in the waters that provide them with their Inupiat Whaling way of life, but also their other subsistence needs which are provided by these oceans.

In the words of Robert Thompson, Inupiat of Kaktovik, Alaska and Chairman of REDOIL:
“I am Inupiat, we have been in the Arctic for 12,000 years, possibly longer. Our culture depends on a clean Ocean; our culture has evolved because of the marine mammals and our dependency on them, which is a vital part of our subsistence livelihood. I am concerned because there is no convincing information from Shell or anyone else that oil can be cleaned up in the Arctic Ocean from within broken ice, from under the ice or in large waves, in the dark, during storms or a combination of these situations. A very small amount of oil spill equipment is available in the arctic and there are no means to deploy even if there was. There are very few boats, and in winter, there is absolutely no way to get boats to spill sites. There also is no proven ability to track oil under the ice, in the dark of winter and in storms. There have been no studies done to determine how long oil will remain toxic in cold water. I am concerned that the use of dispersants may have dire consequences on all marine life as well and I question what are the effects of in situ burning on people? Additionally there is no plan for cumulative effects of oil related activity. There also has been no discussion of future plans. Lastly, I am concerned about climate change and the effects of 27 billion barrels of oil, once consumed on our environment. We are already witnessing serious effects of climate change on our natural environment in the North; the animals of the ocean and land are being affected profoundly. Until these questions have been addressed satisfactorily to Inupiat, Shell Oil has no business in the Arctic Oceans. We appeal to all for support at this time as operations may ensue next month in July.”
Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of REDOIL states:
“Indigenous Peoples have the inherent right to continue our own way of life; and that this right is recognized and affirmed by civilized nations in the international covenants on human rights. Article 1 of both the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights read in part:
…In no case may a people be deprived of their own means of subsistence
Subsistence is our life, our identity, our culture, our spirituality, our connection to the lands…Ancestral ways that have been passed down generation to generation of hunting, fishing, and gathering. Our whole livelihood as Indigenous Peoples is inter-dependent on our ancestral homelands, for us to maintain our way of life; our homelands must remain untouched and intact. The US govt.; SHELL oil company; and corporations must be accountable and address the issues that have been raised by communities and entities that have taken the position in opposing drilling in the Arctic Oceans. The Obama Administration has put out the red carpet for Shell Oil in the Arctic without any real thought to the dire consequences, and Americans should pressure their government to change course before it is too late. This issue is about violations to Indigenous rights in the North, who will stand up for us, and with us to fight multi-national interests?”
Robert Thompson, Chairman of REDOIL (907) 640-6119/
Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of REDOIL (907) 750-0188/
Audio file of Presser (June 21, 2012)
Audio File of Greenpeace & REDOIL Presser at Rio+20 on Shell out of Arctic
Clayton Thomas-Muller of REDOIL comments after Arctic Shell Press Event
Coverage on CBC National News:

Navajo Grassroots to Council: Take final step to halt water settlement


Navajo Grassroots push council to take final step to oppose the water settlement

Council will soon make a decision on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Agreement

By Ron Milford, Dine' Water Rights Committee
Jihan Gearon, Black Mesa Water Coalition
Censored News
June 22,2012

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Last week the Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council voted 13-0 to approve Councilwoman Katherine Benally’s legislation to oppose the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights SettlementAct of 2012, also known as S2109 and HR4067. A movement of Navajo grassroots organizations and individuals opposing the settlement and calling themselves the Dine WaterRights Committee were overjoyed to see their Council take a step in the rightdirection but know the battle is not over. S2109 was introduced to Congress by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl in February and since then has been fast tracked for approval by the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal Councils. The Navajo Nation Council is set to make their final decision on the settlement next Wednesday, June 27th.

“I want to express my gratitude to our leaders that stayed latelast Friday, listened to their people and voted no on S2109,” said Elsa Johnson, Director of Iina Solutions. “Given that the grassroots people are overwhelmingly opposed to the entire settlement, I urge them to stand strong and expect them to vote against the agreement as well.” The Dine Water RightsCommittee has collected hundreds of petition signatures and people have written hundreds of letters against the settlement. Opposition is further evidenced by the 22 chapter resolutions that have been passed opposing the settlement. The Committee has also sponsored nine community forums and attended each of the NavajoNation Water Rights Commission’s seven town hall meetings. At each of these gatherings, the vast majority of Navajo citizens expressed opposition to the settlement. Furthermore, at the Council’s public meetings in Ganado and Pinon this week, the grassroots have continued to oppose the settlement.

Last week’s vote by the Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee applied to only half of the larger settlement, which includes both the act and the agreement. During the discussion of Benally’s legislation last week, Council delegates listedseveral reasons they were opposed to the Act including the extension of leases to the Navajo Generating Station, the unclear waiver of water rights, the limitation on the Navajo Nation’s ability to put lands into trust, and the limitationon the Nation’s ability to market or lease their water. Paramount among their objections was that Senator Kyl and Congress “put the cart before the horse” by moving forward with the Act before the Navajo people and Council members had time to debate, discuss and make a decision on the settlement.

“I hope the vote against S2109 and HR4067 sends a message to the federal government that their usual practice of forcing policies on us that sacrifice our people’s resources and livelihoods to benefit big cities and  extravagant lifestyles is coming to an end. Navajo people are rooted to theirland and water, and our people want to be actively involved in decisions that will impact our future,” states Jihan Gearon, Executive Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “I’m glad our Council voted against the Act but they have tovote against the agreement as well if they want to truly make a statement and represent the people.”

In an attempt to understand the relationship between the act and the agreement, the Dine Water Rights Committee inquired with Dr. Jack Utter, an instructor on federal Indian water law and water rights. Dr. Utter characterizes the agreement as the “legal heart of the whole settlement, the settlement including both the Act and the agreement.” He further explains that,“the Act (S2109) only exists for the agreement and simply gives Congress the opportunity to ratify, approve, and amplify the agreement.”

"President Shelly, Stan Pollack, and the Water Rights commission are trying to confuse the Navajo people by telling them the Act is different from the Agreement, but in actuality they are integral to each other and part of the same whole,” explains Ron Milford of the Dine Water Rights Committee. "If our tribal council truly disagrees with the minimizing ofour water rights, the across-the-board waiving of important rights such as theWinter's rights, and the clear giveaway of $40 million a year in valuable Navajo water in the NGS water provisions, then the delegates should absolutely vote no on the Agreement as well."

The Navajo Nation Council is set to make their final decision onthe entire settlement next Wednesday, June 27th in Window Rock.

The Dine' Water Rights Committee includes Black Mesa WaterCoalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Nxt Indigenous Generation, Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto, Forgotten People Corporation, Dine Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, and many Navajo individuals. For more information,please visit:

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