15 December, 2019

New Special Rapporteur to focus on indigenous “collective” rights

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BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (6 August) –A new United Nations indigenous woman official from the Philippines has pledged to promote “collective rights”and “good practices”in implementing international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples.

“My mandate, therefore, demands lots of research work because I have to come up with reports backed by solid evidence,”Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the new Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, told supporters here recently. 

The first-ever indigenous woman Special Rapporteur, who hails from Besao town, Mt. Province in northern Philippines, assumed her post last June 2, replacing Professor James Anaya. 

She said she would focus on collective rights as indigenous peoples worldwide up to now continue to seek recognition of their identities, life ways and their rights to their traditional lands, territories and natural resources (or economic, social and cultural rights).

“So I have to look into all these national and global bilateral agreements, which continue to impinge on the collective rights of indigenous peoples,”she said. “Looking into all these bilateral agreements demands research, documentation and analytical work.”

Besides her allies in the indigenous peoples’organizations and nongovernment networks in various parts worldwide, Tauli-Corpuz is banking on the support of the academe, some of whom have pledged to help in the field of research.

The University of the Philippines or UP, the Colombia University, University of Colorado and other universities with interest in indigenous studies in North and Latin America have all vowed to help provide the research work, which the new Special Rapporteur needs.

Academic leaders have welcomed the partnership between them and the Special Rapporteur. 

“This partnership is an opportunity for us to connect with like-minded people in the academe who are interested in indigenous studies,”said UP Baguio Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos. UP Baguio’s research arm, he said, can help in the Special Rapporteur’s “evidence-based advocacy.”

Tauli-Corpuz’s appointment to her new post has encouraged other indigenous activists to review their engagement with government.  Cesar Barona, former activist and former mayor of Lacub town in Abra province, cited the Indigenous Peoples’Rights Act or IPRA of 1997, which, he said, was the result largely of activists and indigenous peoples’long engagement with government.

“The challenge now is to raise our level of engagement with government so we can help give more teeth to the IPRA,”said the former Tinggian activist. 

Besides the academe, representatives from the government, nongovernment and indigenous peoples’organizations met with the Special Rapporteur over dinner last July 31 during which they pledged their support and laid out their expectations.

A daylong national consultation with the Special Rapporteur is also slated on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 8 in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines where indigenous peoples’leaders and representatives and some representatives from government and UN agencies are expected to participate.  (Maurice Malanes/Tebtebba Indigenous Information Service)