The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation and World Council of Churches held a learning exchange activity in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland on 28 November. The activity was attended by indigenous peoples’ organizations and support networks from the Philippines, Zambia, Peru, and Colombia. The activity aimed to discuss the human rights situation among indigenous communities and human rights defenders confronting resource plunder and militarism. The gathering also sought to foster solidarity between indigenous communities, organizations, and advocates.
Grimaldo Najantai of the Wampis Nation of Peru shared about the community’s ongoing struggle against extractive industries that endanger people’s lives and their cultural identity. Extraction projects cause serious damage to the entire Amazon forest which is ecologically and culturally important for the survival of Wampis Nation. Through their own established government, an assertion of their right to self-determination, the community is able to collectively defend their land and territory from further exploitation and environmental destruction.
In Zambia, the collusion of government and corporations is very apparent, as both entities share common interest over the lands and resources of indigenous people. Corruption has been prevalent in Zambia’s bureaucracy involving huge amounts of money to bribe government officials in exchange for necessary permits and licenses for corporations. This has resulted in violence and conflict in indigenous communities. Leaders were constantly harassed and their right to self-determination has been violated.
Sister Emma Cupin of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines talked about the worsening situation of Lumad, indigenous people in Mindanao, amid martial law. Mining, energy projects, and plantations operating in Lumad communities are accompanied by heightened militarization. The massive deployment of military troops with paramilitary groups in various communities is geared towards protecting investments and operations of corporations while violating the rights of indigenous people. This has resulted in forced evacuation of thousands of indigenous people and killings of indigenous leaders.
Resource exploitation and militarization of indigenous communities are also happening in countries within the Mekong region of southeast Asia as well as in Africa. Many communities are displaced to pave the way for the entry of corporations, even without a genuine free, prior and informed consent. Indigenous communities defending their lands and territories are criminalized and tagged as terrorists by the state.
Participants in the learning exchange agreed that the lands and territories of indigenous people across the globe have been targeted for further exploitation for the benefit of the few at the expense of the people and the environment.