Filipina leader and activist for indigenous and women’s rights becomes first female to hold this position
Baguio City, Philippines/Arlington, Virginia, USA – Conservation International extends congratulations and enthusiastic support to its board director and Indigenous & Traditional Peoples Program adviser, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on her prestigious appointment as U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The early March announcement was made official on Friday March 28th, by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
United Nations Human Rights Council president Boudelaire Ndong Ella confirmed Tauli-Corpuz’s selection, noting her “active involvement with United Nations and multi-stakeholder cross-regional bodies on indigenous issues and her past collaboration with and commitment to constructive engagement among governments and indigenous peoples.”
A member of the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines as well as a member of Conservation International’s Board of Directors since 2009, Tauli-Corpuz has partnered with the United Nations for many years on concerns such as indigenous peoples’ rights, sustainable development, gender, climate change and biodiversity. She has established several institutions to provide trainings on human rights to many indigenous communities, lawyers and paralegal workers, including Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education).
Self-taught in human rights during a youth spent living under Martial Law in the Philippines, Tauli-Corpuz has since served as Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Human Rights Expert for the United Nations High Commissioner, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations and Philippine government delegate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“There is still a long way to go before indigenous peoples' rights are effectively respected, protected and fulfilled”, said Tauli-Corpuz in describing her interest in the position as one which can help States more effectively implement their role as duty bearers of human rights.
“In this era, when many of the world's remaining natural resources are largely found in indigenous peoples' territories, there are increasing violations of their basic rights to lands, territories and resources and to self-determination and participation. This need not be the case. I hope to be able to help governments understand better how the development visions and aspirations of indigenous peoples are consistent with sustainable development objectives and principles.”
As Special Rapporteur, Tauli-Corpuz will be responsible to research and identify reoccurring issues relevant to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples; visit countries to observe and hear about the challenges faced by indigenous peoples; and communicate with governments when human rights violations are alleged.
Tauli-Corpuz intends “to embark on cutting-edge studies to surface indigenous peoples’ issues.” Many conflicts arise as big business such as plantations and big mining encroach into indigenous peoples’ lands and territories without public consultation and transparency. Her plan is to focus on the impacts of big business on the rights of indigenous peoples and to collaborate with other indigenous partner organizations in various parts worldwide, which expressed their support.
Kristen Walker Painemilla, Vice President for Social Policy and Practice at Conservation International and Executive Director of CI’s Indigenous & Traditional Peoples Program recognizes that “Vicky's counsel and advice to Conservation International, strengthens and guides our work and engagement with indigenous and traditional peoples, who are frontline stewards of conservation. Her important role as Special Rapporteurs on Indigenous Peoples' Rights will continue to build awareness and influence programs within CI and among the conservation community related to Indigenous Peoples rights and our conversation.”
“My perspectives and experiences can provide new thinking and innovative initiatives,” added Tauli-Corpuz, who has also been actively engaged in global fora including the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the World Trade Organization -- processes which collectively inform her understanding of environment, trade and development processes.
Tauli-Corpuz’s formal appointment announcement came on Friday, March 28th, the last day of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Her term as Special Rapporteur will be effective for three years.
Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program
In 2003, CI created the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program to strengthen our commitments to indigenous and traditional peoples and support the vital role of their territories in conservation landscapes. More than 250,000 square kilometers of critically diverse areas coincide with indigenous lands in the world's hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas where CI works.
Laura Lucia, Media Relations Manager, Conservation International
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