Thursday, September 10, 2020

Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples Participating in the V Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean

Those who engage in the necessary work of managing the narrative of business and human rights, along with their friends and influence leader, the business and human rights vanguard, have again organized a (Fifth) Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean  with the theme this year (these events appear always to have a theme, that is a centering element that is meant to be advanced for each annual cycle of events) of Realising responsible business conduct in difficult times: Turning challenges into opportunities (Virtual week).  The event took place 7 to 11 September 2020 with Plenary sessions: 8 and 11 September.  As they describe it
Building on the successful experience of previous years, the Fifth Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC BHR Forum) will be held virtually in September 2020. Over the years, the LAC BHR Forum has become a key gathering on business and human rights, and one of the most important human rights meetings in the Americas. The Forum provides a unique space for dialogue between governments, business, civil society, affected groups -including indigenous peoples, workers organizations and international organizations- on trends, challenges and good practices in preventing and addressing business-related human rights impacts.

The LAC BHR Forum is organised under the project Responsible Business Conduct in Latin America and the Caribbean (RBCLAC) which has as an object the promotion of of Corporate Social Responsbility (now under its new labl-- responsible business conduct) practices in line with international standards, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. It is fodder for the much larger and more complex machinery that is the IX Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, which will be held on 16-18 November 2020.

The event included “snapshots sessions” where selected participants will be able to share their projects or initiatives with the wider forum’s audience through video presentations or life. Its  may be accessed HERE: Concept note. The contributions of the Vth Regional Forum were valuable and will contribute in significant ways to the well orchestrated project which is the 10th Anniversary events organized through the UN Working Group. And it will certainly advance--and seek to both normalize their vision, and establish it as the orthodox approach to both the UNGP and the "way forward" to an increasingly clear set of end goals, all of which appear suspicious of markets, even more suspicious of enterprises, and unconditionally embracing the state (any state really) as the summun bonum for the "end" of the UNGP project, to be realized as a sort of international legalized system for which states will serve as the worker bees and they as the magisterium of principle. But all of this is well known and the process is now essentially unstoppable until it either succeeds or fails.

Much more interesting, and a much better gauge of the way in which marginal actors in this narrative making and international legalization project understand the world of business and human rights and seek to utilize its normative structures. Among the most important of these actors in Latin America are indigenous and Afro-decedent communities scattered throughout North and South America.  For almost the entirety of the 10 years of the Forum for Business and Human Rights, these communities have served narrative makers well. I have always been troubled by the power relationships inherent in their utilization by elite norm makers in the service of their global legalization project. . . but that is politics and certainly such communities have seen value enough to participate in the ways they have chosen.  

And yet, such communities have begun to suggest that though they are bit players in a larger drama (from the perspective fo their patrons in New York, Geneva, and elsewhere), they are preparing to declare their independence and to press what may eventually become a counter narrative to that for which they are being used.  One gets hints of this possibility from the Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples Participating in the V Regional Forum On Business And Human Rights For Latin America An The Caribbean which was circulated during the course of the event. There are several ideas percolating within the Declaration that might be worth substantial thought:

(1) Autonomy: Self organization is both inherent in the historical-cultural character of a community, as it may emerge from circumstances; the suggestion, buried in the Declaration, is that potentially autonomous communities may emerge where circumstances make such constitution necessary. COVID-19 serves as such a force of necessity. Communities, like states, can come together, and thus constituted, might acquire collective dignity and rights. From a human rights perspective there ought to be little distinction between communities so formed. And each has the right to take measures to ensure self preservation and avoid extinction. Most interesting here is the way in which the reconstitution of state borders in the wake of COVID, non-state collectives now seek the authority to both mark territory and to police those borders against outsiders. Good intentions here might remake constitutional principle.  And the borderlands of rights systems grounded in individual autonomy when it collides with collective autonomy may produce a substantial transformation of the way one understands rights, duties, and responsibilities of states and other (collective) actors.

(2) Dependence: Yet it is the converse that remains untouched--having emerged as a collective, who but the collective has a responsibility for its preservation, development, and operation. The Declaration hints at a dependence that perhaps requires further exploration. Collectives may certainly have the right to protect themselves against extermination, but do others have a positive obligation to ensure that preservation? The answer since the middle of the last century appears to be a cautious yes--in the way that the UN system itself sort of posits an expectation of the eternal constitution of states and a collective effort at mutual self preservation. But in this case it also appears to recognize hierarchy that is that self constitution is undertaken within the protective bubble of other, superior, collectives with which the inferior negotiates conditions of autonomy and expectations of dependence, bounded by international rules that preserve the dependent against extinction and the rights of the superior collective.

(3) The role of the state and the nature of corporate responsibility is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Declaration.  It requires a careful interplay of autonomy and dependence.  Dependence is grounded in the acceptance of supra-structures of laws and norms that bind states to a specific framework for autonomy and for the management of business activity; autonomy is grounded in the power of the collective to opt out--to say "no" for their own reasons.  The result is the constitution of collectives that are both a part and apart from the superior political, normative, and legal structures on which they are dependent. And yet that right to say "no" is possible only in a context in which the superior powers can guarantee  that such opting out will not otherwise affect the condition of the collectives within the greater collective that is the state. That, in turn, might pose issues unexplored--including the human rights and sustainability of effects of a "no" of the greater community. Most interesting of all is the potential for the universalization of the notion of "free,prior, and informed consent" at the heart of the Declaration. One speaks here to a consent environment in

There are are no easy answers, and human rights may be far too narrow a framework within which these issues are conceived, expressed or engaged. Sustainability, including human rights, might better frame these issues--and the centering on environment rather than human collectives, may provide a different and useful perspective.  But these are conversations to come; they might not be avoided. For all of these both the promise and the challenges of Bolivia's experiment in indigenous and collective community autonomy ought to serve as a starting point (discussed e.g.,  Indigenous Law and Global Constraints: Bolivia, Decolonization of Law, Constitutionalism and Human Rights). Yet it also must confront  a reality of "mixing" that has, in certain states, produced substantial reframing of the indigenous, or at least its politics (From Hatuey to Che: Indigenous Cuba without Indians and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Indigenous, Afro-decedent and other autonomous communities offer us here is a glimpse of the promise and challenges for the incorporation of collectives other than states as privileged actors within emerging systems, legalized or not and as private or public governance systems, within the complex that is the UNGP.

The Declaration has been distributed in español, portugués e inglés  each of which also follow below. 

Post Script: Rio Tinto chief Jean-Sébastien Jacques to quit over Aboriginal cave destruction ("The caves - seen as one of Australia's most significant archaeological research sites - had shown evidence of continuous human habitation dating back 46,000 years. They sat above about eight million tonnes of high-grade iron ore, with an estimated value of £75m (A$132m; $96m). . . . Australia's parliament is currently holding an inquiry into the miner's actions. Rio Tinto also held its own inquiry earlier this year, after which the company cut bonuses for directors and began attempts at repairing relations with Aboriginal communities. . . Although the company said it had permission for the work under Aboriginal heritage laws, critics said it suggested the miner was aware of the site's cultural importance.")


Nosotras y nosotros los pueblos indígenas, cuando el mundo entero enfrenta una grave contingencia sanitaria provocada por la pandemia del COVID-19, observamos con mucha preocupación las debilidades de los sistemas de salud pública y protección social que se ha evidenciado en los distintos países de la región. También nos alarma la patente fragilidad de los mecanismos que debieran garantizar el ejercicio pleno de los derechos humanos en este contexto. A esta situación se suman, tanto los impactos ambientales, como los referidos a la salud, causados por proyectos empresariales que contribuyen a la vulnerabilidad de las comunidades indígenas que se encuentran viviendo en contextos extractivos.

En este escenario de COVID-19, los pueblos indígenas hemos sido capaces de organizarnos para hacer frente a la pandemia con nuestros propios conocimientos tradicionales y nuestras formas de organización, ejerciendo nuestro derecho a la libre autodeterminación. Los pueblos indígenas hemos resistido por siglos (y seguimos resistiendo) las políticas de exterminio, el atropello sistemático de nuestros derechos y el despojo legalizado de nuestros territorios. Somos quienes ponemos nuestros cuerpos y territorios como guardianas y guardianes de los bienes comunes naturales y, en esta defensa de nuestros derechos, las mujeres hemos tenido un papel central.

Es por ello, que en protección de nuestros pueblos exigimos suspender de manera inmediata toda actividad que promueva el ingreso de personas ajenas a los territorios indígenas y aplicar una moratoria a toda actividad extractiva en el interior o en las proximidades de los territorios indígenas, como medida preventiva durante la pandemia. Asimismo, instamos a que se eviten proyectos de inversión y la aprobación de normas que afecten o pongan en riesgo los derechos indígenas sin llevar a cabo procesos efectivos de consulta y consentimiento previo, libre e informado.

Hoy manifestamos que existimos y tenemos derechos que la comunidad internacional y los Estados han pactado y que deben ser respetados. Por eso llamamos a la ratificación del Convenio 169 de la OIT para los Estados que aún no lo hayan hecho. Además, proponemos la creación de un mecanismo de vigilancia del Convenio, con especial énfasis en el derecho a la consulta y el consentimiento previo, libre e informado, que permita identificar a los Estados que no cumplen efectivamente estos estándares internacionales de derechos humanos y a las empresas que interfieren con los procesos de consulta.

Es necesario garantizar que los instrumentos de consulta no deriven en un mero trámite ni sean implementados únicamente por requerimiento de sentencias judiciales. Al contrario, deben asegurar los derechos sustantivos al consentimiento, incluyendo el derecho a decir “no”. Asimismo, deben acreditar la plena participación de las mujeres, así como el uso de la lengua indígena. Es necesario, además, el reconocimiento de los procesos de auto-consulta y protocolos de consulta propios de los pueblos indígenas.

Por otro lado, exigimos la plena participación de los pueblos indígenas en la identificación de los impactos de proyectos empresariales para determinar su compatibilidad -o no- con nuestras formas de vida y desarrollo. La manera en que se vienen implementando dichos estudios –tanto ambiental, como social- no identifican los impactos culturales sobre nuestros territorios ancestrales. Asimismo, es fundamental incorporar el impacto diferenciado hacia las mujeres.

Adicionalmente, reiteramos nuestra preocupación por las personas indígenas defensoras de derechos humanos, quienes son perseguidas, criminalizadas y asesinadas por defender sus territorios y los derechos de los pueblos indígenas. Necesitamos acciones concretas y conjuntas por parte de los Estados y las empresas para proteger y respetar a las personas defensoras de derechos humanos. En este sentido, solicitamos el reconocimiento y fortalecimiento de los mecanismos de protección individual y colectiva.

Para concluir, teniendo en cuenta que nos acercamos al décimo aniversario de la adopción de los Principios Rectores de las Naciones Unidas sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos que se sustentan en la protección, respeto y remediación; reconocemos que constituyen una oportunidad para demandar a los Estados las reformas urgentes y necesarias, así como para exigir su cumplimiento a las empresas, siempre y cuando sean acompañados por mecanismos nacionales o internacionales vinculantes y efectivos, que aseguren el acceso a la justicia y a la reparación del daño.

8 de septiembre de 2020


Declaração dos povos indígenas participantes no V Fórum Regional sobre Empresas e Direitos Humanos para a América Latina e o Caribe

No meio da atual crise mundial devido à pandemia de COVID-19; nós, povos indígenas, observamos muito preocupados as fraquezas dos sistemas públicos de saúde e proteção social que se tem evidenciado nos países da região. Assim também, estamos alarmados pela fragilidade dos mecanismos supostamente orientados a garantir o pleno exercício dos direitos humanos no atual cenário. Além disso, as nossas comunidades indígenas vêm sofrendo os impactos ambientais e na saúde provocados pelos empreendimentos extrativistas em nossos territórios.

Nesse cenário de COVID-19, nós, povos indígenas temos organizado a nossa própria resposta frente à pandemia, baseados em nossos conhecimentos tradicionais e nosso direito à livre autodeterminação. Nós, povos indígenas, temos resistido por séculos - e seguiremos a resistir - às políticas de extermínio, ao desrespeito aos nossos direitos, e ao roubo legalizado de nossos territórios. Temos sido nós quem, expondo as nossas vidas e territórios, agimos como defensores dos bens comuns da natureza e, nessa defesa dos nossos direitos, as mulheres tem desempenhado um papel fundamental.

Em consequência, para garantir a proteção dos nossos povos, exigimos a imediata suspenção de todo empreendimento que implica no ingresso de pessoas alheias em nosso território assim como uma moratória de toda atividade extrativista ao interior ou na periferia dos nossos territórios indígenas durante a pandemia. Assim também, demandamos que todo empreendimento ou aprovação de norma legal, que puder afetar ou colocar em risco os direitos indígenas devem ser submetidos primeiramente ao processo de consulta e consentimento livre, prévio e informado.

Hoje nos manifestamos que existimos e temos direitos reconhecidos tanto pela comunidade internacional quanto pelos muitos países assinantes. Nesse sentido, chamamos os estados que até agora não tenham feito a ratificação da Convenção n° 169 da OIT. Ainda, apresentamos a proposta para criar um mecanismo de vigilância efetiva da aplicação dessa convenção, com espacial cuidado no direito de consulta e consentimento livre, prévio e informado. Assim, devem- se identificar tanto os estados que não cumprem efetivamente os padrões internacionais de direitos humanos quanto às empresas que atrapalham os processos de consulta.

É preciso garantir que os processos de consulta não virem apenas um trâmite burocrático, nem que sejam realizados unicamente após julgamento judicial. Muito pelo contrário, os processos de consulta devem garantir o direito ao consentimento, incluindo o direito a dizer “não”. Assim também, em todo processo de consulta, deve-se garantir a plena participação das mulheres e a utilização da língua indígena. Precisa-se também, o reconhecimento dos processos de auto consulta assim como dos protocolos de consulta dos próprios povos indígenas.

Por outro lado, exigimos a plena participação dos povos indígenas no processo de identificação de impactos dos empreendimentos, e assim poder determinar a viabilidade – ou não - desses projetos, em concordância com nossas formas de vida e desenvolvimento. Atualmente, esse processo de identificação de impactos (ambientais e sociais) não considera os impactos culturais sobre os nossos territórios ancestrais. Além disso, é fundamental incluir nessa avaliação o impacto diferenciado nas mulheres.

Queremos também manifestar a nossa preocupação pela situação dos defensores indígenas de direitos humanos que atualmente são perseguidos, criminalizados e assassinados por defender os territórios e direitos dos seus povos. São necessárias medidas efetivas por parte dos Governos e Empresas para proteger e respeitar aos defensores dos direitos humanos. Nesse sentido, solicitamos o reconhecimento e o fortalecimento dos mecanismos de proteção individual e coletiva.

Finalmente, estando próximo do décimo aniversário da adoção dos Princípios Orientadores das Nações Unidas sobre Empresas e Direitos Humanos, deve-se lembrar que são fundamentados na proteção, respeito e remediação. Consideramos que estes princípios constituem um importante instrumento para exigir o respeito aos nossos direitos por parte de governos e empresas, sempre e quando sejam acompanhados por mecanismos (nacionais como internacionais) efetivos e vinculantes que garantam o acesso à justiça e à reparação de danos.

8 de setembro de 2020



While the whole world faces a serious health emergency contingency provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, we, the Indigenous Peoples, note with great concern the weaknesses of the public health and social protection systems that have been unveiled in several countries of the region. We are also alarmed about the evident fragility of the human rights’ mechanisms -which should ensure the full exercise of human rights- specially in this context. Added to this situation are the health and environmental impacts caused by business projects that contribute to the vulnerability of the indigenous communities living in extractive contexts.

In this Covid-19 scenario, we, the indigenous peoples, have been able to organize ourselves in order to deal with the pandemic through our traditional knowledge and our forms of organization, exercising our right to self-determination. Our indigenous communities have resisted for centuries -and we continue to resist- the extermination policies, the systematic abuse of our rights, and the legalized dispossession of our territories. We are the ones who put our bodies and territories as guardians of the natural commons. In this defense of our rights, women have had a leading role.

For that reason, as a preventive measure during the current pandemic, we demand the immediate suspension of all activity that promotes the entry of outsiders into indigenous territories. In addition, we request a moratorium on all extractive activities within or near our indigenous lands in order to protect our peoples. Likewise, we urge the avoidance of investment projects -or any policy- without adopting effective Free, Prior and Informed Consent processes for they would threaten or affect our indigenous rights.

Today we declare that we exist and have rights that have been agreed by the international community and the States, and they must be respected. That is why we call for the ratification of ILO Convention 169 for States that have not yet done so. We also propose the creation of a monitoring mechanism for the Convention - with a special emphasis on the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. This mechanism would allow the identification of the States that do not comply with international human rights standards, as well as the businesses that interfere with the consultation processes.

It is also necessary to guarantee that the consultation instruments do not result in a mere formality or are implemented solely at the request of judicial decisions. Rather, they must ensure substantive rights to consent, including the right to say "no”. Furthermore, they must endorse the full participation of women, as well as the use of the indigenous language in these practices. It is also necessary to recognize the self-consultation processes and consultation protocols of indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, we demand the full participation of indigenous peoples in identifying the impacts of business projects to determine their compatibility -or not- with our ways of life and development. The way in which these social and environmental studies are being implemented do not identify the cultural impacts on our ancestral territories. Likewise, it is essential to incorporate the differentiated impact towards women.

On the other hand, we reaffirm our concern for indigenous human rights defenders, who are persecuted, criminalized, and murdered for defending their territories and indigenous rights. We need concrete and joint actions - by states and businesses - to protect and respect human rights defenders. In this sense, we request the recognition and strengthening of individual and collective protection mechanisms.

To conclude, considering that we are approaching the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, sustained in the protection, respect and remediation, we recognize that they constitute an opportunity to demand urgent and necessary reforms from the States. They also serve to demand its compliance by companies, provided that they are accompanied by binding and effective national or international mechanisms to ensure access to justice and the right to compensation for damage.

September 8th, 2020

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