GENEVA (20 December 2017) – A new law promoting road-building in remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon would impact indigenous territories and threaten the very survival of the peoples living there, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has warned.
The bill, awaiting presidential approval after being adopted by Congress, would permit road construction and trail conservation in the Ucayali region, affecting indigenous peoples, including groups living on the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti territorial reserve.
“This law could have irreversible consequences for the survival of these groups, whose isolation places them at higher risk of impacts on their human rights,” said Ms. Tauli-Corpuz.
“Past experiences in which road construction or similar activities led to forced contact have generated irreversible impacts, such as the physical and cultural extermination of indigenous peoples in isolation, owing to factors such as their immunological weakness.
“I urge the Government, before the final approval of this bill, to engage in a broader debate to consider alternatives and take into account the impact that this project would have on the human rights of the people living in this area.”
The bill, 1123/2016-PC, was adopted by Congress on the sole advice of the Committee on Transport and Communications, despite serious objections from other relevant government institutions – including those responsible for protecting indigenous peoples.
The Special Rapporteur noted that Peru had an existing law designed to protect indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact, and reminded the Government that these groups deserve special attention from their own governments and the international system.
“Defending the fundamental human rights of isolated indigenous peoples is an obligation of the States in which they live and of the entire international community,” she said.
“These fundamental rights are intimately linked to the respect and protection of their rights over their lands and natural resources, on which they depend for their survival and for their social and cultural well-being.
“The protection of their territories and resources against intrusion by third parties and environmental and other damage that may be generated by external people is the first step to protecting their human rights.”
The Special Rapporteur urged the government to gather input from indigenous and other expert organizations, and relevant agencies such as the Congress Commission on Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples, Environment and Ecology, the Vice-Ministry of Intercultural Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, the National Service of Natural Protected Areas and the Ministries of Health and the Environment.
“Peru has obligations towards indigenous peoples in its constitutional and legal framework that must be respected,” said Ms. Tauli-Corpuz.
“In future discussions, the Government of Peru should take into account the need to develop appropriate consultations with the affected indigenous peoples and communities, taking into account the special requirements in the case of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact, as indicated by the inter-American human rights system reports and jurisprudence and the Guidelines for the Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation and Initial Contact,” the Special Rapporteur added.
Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
See the Guidelines for the protection of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact in the Amazon Basin, El Gran Chaco and the Eastern Region of Paraguay
UN Human Rights, country page: Peru
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