Earlier this year, CI board member and human rights activist Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was appointed as the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Human Rights Council President. She is the first woman and the first person from a developing country to hold this three-year position. Vicky attended the World Parks Congress this past week in Sydney, Australia. Today on Human Nature, she explains what brought her to this point.
Indigenous peoples in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in Palawan, Philippines. (© Conservation International/photo by Lynn Tang)
I began teaching myself about human rights during the 1970s, when the Philippines was under martial law. I was actively engaged in the struggle against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Indigenous communities like mine were challenged by plans to build mega-hydroelectric dams, militarization, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of our leaders and activists.
In order to fight back, I needed to understand what our human rights as indigenous peoples are and where we could bring our grievances for redress.
After attending a number of training courses, I established several institutions that provided trainings on human rights to indigenous communities, lawyers and paralegal workers. The latest one is Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), based in the Philippines and which provides capacity building and advocacy activities at national, regional and global levels. Tebtebba also convenes the Global Indigenous Peoples Partnership on Climate Change, Forests and Sustainable Development, composed of indigenous organizations, communities and networks in 14 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Measuring the growth of a newly planted mangrove in Silonay, Philippines. (© Nandini Narayanan)
Over the years, I have become more involved with the U.N. processes that play integral roles in determining and implementing numerous international human rights, environment and development conventions, standards, policies and programs that impact the lives of indigenous peoples. I was actively engaged in the drafting, negotiations and adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was eventually adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, when I was Chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
My colleagues in Tebtebba and I also actively engaged with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to ensure recognition of the UNDRIP. Together with others, we pushed for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the processes of these bodies. Continue reading