21 October, 2017

Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Business Enterpise

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Opening Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, during the First Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group in Charge of Elaborating a Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, 6 July 2015, Geneva.

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It is for me a great honour and privilege to share these words with you in such a historic gathering. Today, I would like to provide some reflections on the various and important themes that this working group will be examining in accordance to the mandate granted by the Human Rights Council in resolution 26/9.

These reflections stem from my experiences in working with indigenous peoples in all parts of the world, first as an indigenous rights advocate, then as a member and chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and currently in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Madame Chairperson,

Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of discussions regarding the human rights abuses committed by corporations since the 1970s. For decades, indigenous peoples have been victims of corporate activities in or near their traditional territories, which have depleted and polluted their traditional territories without their consent, putting many peoples at the verge of cultural or physical extinction. Today, little has changed in relation to this situation. As reflected in the communications I have received in my capacity as Special Rapporteur, indigenous peoples and other local communities continue to suffer disproportionately the negative impact of corporate activities, while community leaders and activists suffer a true escalation of violence on the hands of government forces and private security companies. Many of the displacements of indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories and the extrajudicial killings of indigenous activists usually happen in communities where there are ongoing struggles against corporations. My predecessor in the mandate, Professor James Anaya, concluded that extractive and other large scale corporate activates constitute today 'one of the most important sources of abuse of the rights of indigenous peoples' in virtually all parts of the world.'

The adoption by the Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9, establishing this Working Group represents a significant development. The United Nations responded to calls from around the world, including the persistent appeals of indigenous peoples, to strengthen the architecture of international human rights law in order to adapt further to the challenges posed by corporate-related human rights abuses. While the global economic trends are increasingly characterized by dominance of corporations, their role extends beyond the capacities of any one national system to effectively regulate their operations. The issues are stake are global, and so should be the response.

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