Monday, 25 February 2013

Suriname: the impact of gold mining

On February 13h we read a publication from the American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) from a working visit to Suriname in South America. The visit took place on 23th and 25th January. From this visit the Commission released a statement on the rights of women and indigenous peoples of continental interest.

During the visit Rapporteurs received information from both the state and non-state individuals and entities. The Rapporteurs acknowledge the steps taken by the State to recognize the right of certain communities maroon i.e. recognition of their traditional territories and the use and enjoyment of the land and the resources necessary for their survival. Yet, the Rapporteurs emphasize the need to increase its efforts.

Some of the information that they received was related to gold mining and its impact. For instance the use mercury on water damages the quality of it in these communities. There is also the issue of forced displacement, child labour and sexual violence perpetrated against women in mining areas. Due to this situation surrounding gold mining, the Rapporteurs stress “the need to hold consultations with affected communities before and during the implementation of these activities, and the State's obligation to take measures to safeguard the economic, social and cultural rights of these communities”.

Another case presented to the Rapporteurs was from the village Brownsweg, where the population feels isolated “with respect to policies, programs and benefits provided by the national government and the lack of an effective response to their needs.” Moreover, the villagers noted “deficiencies in the provision of basic services, such as those related to water and health, and lack of support for the preservation of their language.”

While Suriname is not a member of the ILO Convention No 169, it is indeed one of the countries that voted in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Therefore, it is important to remember some potential articles which Suriname appears to be violating e.g. Art 10 ‘Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.’ Art 17(2) “States shall in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples take specific measures to protect indigenous children from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, taking into account their special vulnerability and the importance of education for their empowerment.”. Art 26 “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired”. Art 29 “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment” and Art 29(2) “States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.” [I am sure there are more]

Source Servindi (Servicios en ComunicaciĆ³n Intercultural).

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