Ten years ago the U.N. adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People embodying a global consensus on fundamental freedoms and minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being. In Greenland and Colombia, Canada and Aotearoa, Australia and Indonesia – across the planet the original inhabitants of nations are struggling to retain their lands, their languages and ways of life. Ten years on from the Declaration the successes and struggles continue.
As the health of the planet increasingly suffers, the struggles of indigenous peoples become struggles for all seeking future well-being. Indigenous human rights defenders face severe risks, as they live in territories that are rich in natural resources and that are coveted by State and non-State actors alike. Indigenous peoples frequently oppose land grabbing, natural resource extraction, mega projects and deforestation activities on their lands and territories, arguing that these endanger their traditional livelihoods, and are harmful to the environment and ultimately unsustainable. Many indigenous environmental activists promote alternative visions of development that place a primacy on sustainability, human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
As climate change begins to inundate Pacific Islands, as forestry felling and mining consumes regions of the Solomon Islands and PNG, as Native Americans and First Nations’ peoples of Canada fight Big Oil to retain their land rights, what policies are we agreeing to in our own governance and in the investment of our pension funds? And how readily do we all embrace the culture and contributions of Aotearoa’s indigenous people to our life in NZ?