Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Indigenous Peoples from 4 continents call on UK to ratify ILO Convention 169

It might be tempting to sometimes think of indigenous rights as something that is relevant "elsewhere"--perhaps particularly with the concerns in Europe over economic stability of various countries. But a story carried by Survival International highlights that indigenous rights are truly a global matter.

The news story carried by Survival Internation highlights a request to the United Kingdom government to ratify International Labour Convention 169.

On May 17, 2012, several different indigenous groups were represented by signatories on a letter that was sent to William Hague, MP, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the United Kingdom. The letter states:

"We are aware that there are no tribal or indigenous groups in the United Kingdom, however, we respectfully remind you that British companies operate on indigenous land, British aid money funds projects on tribal territories and Britain funds World Bank and IMF development schemes planned for tribal land. Most importantly, we are certain that ratification [of ILO Convention 169] by the United Kingdom would provide extremely strong motivation for other states to ratify the Convention. Let the United Kingdom be an example to other governments, so that they may ratify."

Several key issues are raised by this letter. Firstly, the continued importance of ILO Convention 169 on indigenous matters. It is sometimes in the shadow of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The ILO Convention 169 is a binding "hard law" international instrument and is the only such international instrument on indigenous rights. Secondly, of course, is that indigenous issues are not confined to the boundaries of certain countries that have indigenous inhabitants. Indigenous rights and issues are global matters. Thirdly, is the symbolic importance of instrument ratification. In the international community, where arguably politics predominate decisions and relations, the value of symbolic support for indigenous rights by the United Kingdom is great.

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