– Today we are starting a new series focused on human rights. For people working to create a more sustainable and just world – as we are – a human rights based approach makes sense as it starts from the premise that only by recognizing and protecting the dignity inherent in all people can we attain those goals.
Today’s guest, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has immense experience in human rights. She is the founder and executive director of Tebtebba Foundation, which works to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, her home country, and beyond. She was the Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples from 2005 To 2010, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from 2014 to 2020.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode — from Vicky’s analysis of her time as special rapporteur to recent rhetoric around ‘building back better’, the circular economy and other touted economic reforms, versus the reality on the ground. Indigenous communities are facing growing pressure from both states and the private sector to extract the natural resources that they are trying to protect. This dichotomy between the words and deeds of these powerful actors must be continually exposed and challenged by Indigenous peoples, says Vicky.
Asked whether governments of poorer countries are doing enough to protect human rights, without hesitating Vicky answers no. But she also points out that these countries are themselves pressured by international agreements, brokered largely by rich countries, that leave them with few options but to exploit natural resources.
She also tells me about an exciting project — the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a body of 23 global experts, is creating a General Recommendation on Indigenous women and girls. Among other things, it recognize the individual and collective rights of Indigenous women, the latter including respect for their rights to land, languages and other culture. Vicki says it is the first time that a UN treaty body is developing a recommendation focussed on Indigenous women.