Jul 23, 2018

European Parliament Adopts Far-Reaching Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous People Worldwide

On 3 July 2018, the European Parliament adopted by 534 votes to 71, with 73 abstentions, a resolution on violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in the world, including land grabbing, drafted by rapporteur Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Francisco Assis (S&D). The UNPO welcomes this initiative and the support of the Friends of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America in the European Parliament, among others, for the protection and promotion of indigenous rights worldwide. During the vote, MEPs Julie Ward (S&D), Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL) and Ignazio Corrao (EFDD) took the floor to welcome the adoption of the report and express their commitment to the causes of indigenous peoples worldwide. Rapporteur Francisco Assis expressed his satisfaction for the consensus regarding this resolution and insisted on the fact that the European Union (EU) must take responsibility so as to lead the way and start an international dialogue regarding this pressing issue.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of the human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples around the world and gives a list of recommendations aiming at achieving more protection for these vulnerable communities, with a particular focus on women and indigenous people with disabilities, who experience intersectional discrimination. This report includes recommendations directed to the European Parliament as well as EU member States, particularly regarding trade agreements that might have a detrimental impact on indigenous communities and the extraterritorial responsibility/liability of European companies operating abroad. The report is divided in five main topics: human rights, land grabbing, business and human rights, sustainable and economic development for indigenous peoples and EU cooperation policy with third countries, which are the main current challenges faced by indigenous communities worldwide.

The UNPO welcomes the adoption of this resolution as the protection of indigenous rights has been a priority for many MEPs for the past years. The UNPO, together with committee parliamentarians, has carried out a series of initiatives as part of a continuous effort to raise awareness of the grave human rights violations perpetrated towards indigenous peoples worldwide. This is particularly exemplified by the work carried out regarding Latin America, with a particular focus on indigenous communities in Brazil.

From 5 to 9 December 2016, UNPO organised a fact-finding mission to Brazil in order to shed light on the dire reality of the indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, with the kind support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation. The mission opened way to an unprecedented level of European Parliament support for indigenous peoples in Brazil. The delegation was coordinated by UNPO representative Mr Fernando Burgés and consisted of 4 MEPs: Francisco Assis; Marisa Matias, Julie Ward and Estefania Torres Martinez (GUE/NGL), as well as representatives of Ignazio Corrao, Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D) and Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE); Mr Erik von Pistohlkors, from the EU Delegation to Brazil and Mr Lukas van Diermen, UNPO Project Assistant.

One year after the successful fact finding mission - during the week of 20 November 2017 -  the UNPO, in collaboration with Francisco Assis and Marisa Matias and with the support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, received a Brazilian delegation in Brussels in order to raise awareness for the cause of the Guarani-Kaiowá and other indigenous peoples in Latin America. The delegation, took part in a series of events and meetings. One of these events was the launch of an informal group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America in the European Parliament. One of the most pressing issues discussed throughout the week were the possible harmful implications of European corporate interests and how Europe’s involvement could foster positive change in the Mercosur region, particularly relevant in the context of the ongoing EU-Mercosur negotiations.

The issue of European corporate interests and the European role in fostering positive change in the region has been included in the resolution, as a large majority of the European Parliament agreed on the fact that the EU must assume its responsibilities by making sure that its actions abroad don’t lead to violations of indigenous rights. This constitutes a great achievement for the UNPO given that many of its Members see their communities negatively affected by business projects, as is the case for Southern Mongolians or Ogadenis, among others.

The resolution is available here.

The video of the plenary session is also available here.