Despite indigenous peoples living in about 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, several of them still struggle to maintain their legal rights to lands, resources and territories, according to a new UN report.
The latest edition of the State of the World’s Indigenous People report looks into several challenges faced by these communities. These challenges include asserting their rights to lands, whether in the context of agribusiness, extractive industries, development, conservation and tourism. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs came up with the report.
The Indigenous people have a deep relation to their lands, territories and resources. It is very much in their hearts and culture. Their existence mainly depends o the preservation of the environment transmitted through traditional knowledge. The world now recognises the negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. As such the society is getting to understand the importance of indigenous knowledge and territorial rights, the report said.
UN’s Chief Economist Elliott Harris said that ensuring collective rights of indigenous people to land, resource and territory was not only for their well-being but also for the whole planet. He spoke Speaking at the virtual launch of the report.
It is essential for addressing some of the most pressing global challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation, he said.
The report points out that Indigenous people are often described as the custodian of Earth’s precious resources. The report also mentions that the Governments across the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development five years ago. It laid the road map for a safer and equitable future for all people and the planet.
The report said that the rights to lands, territories and resources of indigenous people remain limited or unrecognised in several parts of the world. Despite legal support, the implementation of the rights is stalled, the report said.
The UN said that these people always faced high risks and reprisals for defending their lands. This ranged from criminalisation and harassment, to assault and killings.
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson Anne Nuorgam pointed out that there has always been a rise in cases of encroachment onto indigenous lands and territories during the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lock-downs. She said that the conflict occurred mainly because of resource extraction, logging and agribusiness. It also happened because of conflict between indigenous pastoralists, farmers and nomadic herders over shrinking grazing lands due to war and effects of climate change.
The authors advise state governments to include recognition of customary rights of indigenous people to their lands and resources in data on secure land tenure rights.