UN Says the TPP Threatens Indigenous Rights

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. (Photo: UN)

UN Says the TPP Threatens Indigenous Rights

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens Indigenous land rights.

Telesur reports, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, better known as the TPP, seriously threatens indigenous land rights, as well as the natural resources they preserve, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said. According to Tauli-Corpuz, the major issue with the TPP is 'the clause of non-discrimination between a local and an international investor ... (it) grants more rights to transnational firms, often at the expense of indigenous rights', she said in an interview with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs."

There's something in the air...

The article adds, "This is a crucial issue, she argued, as most of the remaining natural resources available on earth are located on indigenous lands -- because protecting them is part of the indigenous culture, or because they are located on remote lands. Unfortunately, indigenous land rights and their legitimate access to natural resources are not defended as strongly as in the past by either the state or international organizations, she said. ...Trade agreements like the TPP prioritize corporate rights over human rights, she insisted, adding that even if states implement policies to protect human rights, companies may challenge them at court with the support of such trade agreements."

In a Jan. 27, 2016 op-ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape and Winnipeg chapter activist Jobb Arnold highlighted the threat the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision poses to Indigenous peoples defending the land, water and future generations.

They noted, "This could affect the First Nations on Lelu Island, B.C. ...There, the battle is against Petronas, a company that wants to exploit liquefied natural gas. It's not just the land and water but also the fishing economy at stake for future generations. Under the TPP, Petronas, a Malaysian company, could sue the Canadian government if it were to limit LNG exploitation on the island. In this way, the TPP gives multinational corporations more power and grassroots land-defenders less. It takes power away from states and puts pressure on them to side with resource-development corporations, rather than land defenders, for fear of being sued."

And as Canada's trade minister Chrystia Freeland travelled to Auckland to sign the TPP on Feb. 4, Indigenous peoples in New Zealand were saying, "The [Trans-Pacific Partnership] is part of the neo-liberal structural adjustment programme to diminish and extinguish Indigenous rights forever."

Their media release noted, "Tangata whenua [a Maori term of the indigenous peoples of New Zealand] are strongly opposed to the signing of the [TPP]... The New Zealand government has by-passed indigenous involvement at every level. This complete lack of consultation also contravenes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and this government has no right to sign this trade deal without our free,prior and informed consent. Similar free trade agreements have had a devastating impact on the rights & lives of Indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous peoples have been criminalised and rights to their lands and resource have been ignored."

The Council of Canadians has called on the Trudeau government to hold consultations on the TPP with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Hupacasath, a 300-member nation located on Vancouver Island, has previously argued that the Harper government failed to consult First Nations before signing the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Act (FIPA) in 2012 as required by law. They say that FIPA, notably its investor-state provision, could be used to override Indigenous rights and give the balance of power in questions of resource management to corporations rather than affected communities. As highlighted above, the TPP contains a similar ISDS provision.

We believe in a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples based on recognition of their right to full, prior and informed consent. That includes full consultation and consent to "free trade" agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that impact on their rights as nations and peoples.

For more on our campaign to stop the TPP, please click here.

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