UN expert body urges action to prevent violation of indigenous rights due to business activities

Indigenous people in Totonicapán, Guatemala. Photo: OHCHR/Rolando Alfaro

29 October 2013 – States and corporations need to do more to prevent the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights as a result of business-related activities, a United Nations independent expert body has said.

“Indigenous peoples are among the groups most severely affected by the extractive, agro-industrial and energy sectors,” said Pavel Sulyandziga, Chair of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

“Negative effects range from indigenous peoples’ right to maintain their chosen traditional way of life, with their distinct cultural identity, to discrimination in employment and in accessing goods and services.”

Other challenges involved land use and ownership, as well as displacement through forced or economic resettlement Mr. Sulyandziga said yesterday in his presentation of the Working Group’s report to the General Assembly’s social, humanitarian and cultural committee (Third Committee) on the adverse effects of business activities on indigenous peoples’ rights.

“Such disruption often leads to serious abuses of civil and political rights, with human rights defenders in particular put at risk,” Mr. Sulyandziga said. “Indigenous peoples are also often excluded from agreements and decision-making processes that irrevocably affect their lives.”

The report highlights how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can clarify the roles and responsibilities of States, business enterprises and indigenous peoples in addressing these problems.

“We call on States and business enterprises to increase their efforts to implement the Guiding Principles. This includes the State’s duty to protect indigenous peoples against business-related human rights abuses and corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and where abuses have occurred, to ensure people can have effective remedy,” said Mr. Sulyandziga, while urging interested parties to register for the second annual Forum on Business and Human Rights to be held in Geneva in December.

“It will be an opportunity to discuss challenges in implementing the Guiding Principles, in particular sectors, in operational environments and in relation to specific rights and groups, including indigenous peoples. It will also be a chance to identify good practices and opportunities for dialogue and cooperation toward solutions,” he added.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN experts on indigenous issues urge greater focus on environment, women’s rights

Related Stories





In-depth Interviews