Bianca Jagger backs new campaign for world's tribes

June 13, 2005

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'Alternative Nobel Prize' meeting, Salzburg, 13 June 2005

Bianca Jagger has backed a new campaign for the world's governments to sign up to the main international law protecting tribal people. At a meeting of the Right Livelihood Award (known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) in Salzburg, Austria, Ms Jagger, said, 'Many of the former colonial countries had policies which resulted in the decimation of millions of Indigenous people. They continue to marginalise them by failing to agree to the main law which would protect them. It is now time to take constructive action. I call upon all countries to ratify ILO Convention 169 without any further delay.'

For the last 16 years, most governments have ignored the only piece of international law concerned with protecting the rights of Indigenous and tribal peoples. Worse, there is currently a movement amongst governments denying that any collective rights exist, that only individuals have human rights. This is largely unknown by the public and media. Survival is beginning a campaign to raise public awareness about this to pressure governments to accept that collective human rights do exist and, in particular, to ask their own governments to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 on tribal peoples.

Convention 169 recognises that tribal peoples have ownership rights over their lands. This is crucial for their survival, yet in many areas tribes are being evicted from their lands which are taken over for mining, oil exploration, ranching, dams or tourism. For example, in Botswana the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari have been evicted and dumped in bleak relocation camps they call 'places of death'. This could not happen if 169 was applied.

The Convention also supports tribal peoples' right to control the ways in which they adapt and change their ways of life, educational and health systems, beliefs and so forth as their circumstances alter in the future. Crucially, their right is also recognised to be properly consulted before national laws are passed which affect them and when development or other projects are being proposed for their territories. For example, all the inhabitants of Ecuadorian Amazonia are now suffering from the invasion of oil companies which have been active there for decades and have now destroyed and polluted much of the forest.

In Europe, only the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have ratified the Convention. When asked why the UK has not agreed to it, the government there says that it is not relevant because there are no tribal peoples the country. Yet the UK is funding many projects and many UK companies are active in tribal areas all over the world. The same is true throughout the EU. If the only reason not to ratify the Convention is because the country has no tribal peoples, then it would cost it nothing to agree to it.

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]