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New ITUC report on indigenous peoples in Latin America
by Sharan Burrow
International Trade Union Confederation
To mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the ITUC is releasing a new report entitled "The Alliance Between the Indigenous Peoples and Trade Unions in Latin America".
The report points to the discrimination, feudal exploitation, isolation and forced labour suffered by indigenous peoples in Latin America.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, is observed by the global community each year on 9 August, serves to raise awareness about indigenous peoples’ cultures and the great diversity they represent.
It is also an opportunity to scale up efforts to tackle the exclusion, discrimination and poverty that remain an everyday reality for a large part of these peoples. Many are those still faced with discrimination, marginalisation, extreme poverty and conflict around the world, especially in Latin America, where indigenous peoples suffer the worst violations of their rights, despite it being the continent where ILO Convention 169 has been the most widely ratified.
The ITUC report explains how in Guatemala a new bill conflicting with ILO Convention 169, concocted by the private sector in cahoots with the Guatemalan government, is currently before parliament. The international trade union movement, together with indigenous peoples’ organisations from the country, has firmly denounced this bill breaching the Convention. "This bill poses a serious threat to the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, especially with regard to consultation," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. "It responds exclusively to national and international private economic interests."
The international trade union movement also recalled during the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June that Guatemala must comply with the precautionary measures advocated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has called for a suspension of works at the Marlin gold and silver mine - an immense operation violating the Mayan people’s rights.
The indigenous peoples of Colombia and Guatemala have demanded their right from the European Parliament to be consulted over free trade and association agreements.
"ILO Convention 169 must be included in the free trade agreements the EU is negotiating with the sub-regions of Latin America, along with mechanisms to ensure that governments and companies respect the Convention," insisted Manuela Chavez, who is in charge of trade unions and indigenous peoples in Latin America at the ITUC.
In Paraguay, as the ITUC report highlights, thousands of indigenous workers and their families are subjected to feudal exploitation on the large ranches and farming estates.
According to trade union and indigenous peoples’ organisations, the days of slavery, now in the contemporary form of forced labour, are far from over. Women and children are also exploited in large numbers as domestic labour.
In Brazil, the Quilombolas* and indigenous peoples suffer violations and discrimination in the areas of consultation and participation, the right to land and natural resources, development and health. The Brazilian government has pledged to meet with the national trade union confederations before the end of 2011 to tackle these issues, and particularly those related to land rights violations.

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Food agency seeks to boost role of indigenous peoples in fight against hunger
by UN Food & Agriculture Organization
Dec 2010
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking to boost cooperation and dialogue with the world’s indigenous populations in the fight against hunger.
The new “FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples” aims to ensure that indigenous people are given more consideration in all relevant aspects of the agency’s work.
“With the preparation of this policy paper, FAO aspires to play an important role in the international community"s efforts to ensure a better life for indigenous peoples and rural populations,” said FAO Director General Jacques Diouf in the preface to the report. “The fight against hunger cannot be won without them.”
The policy is designed to foster better exchange of knowledge and ideas between indigenous populations and the Rome-based organization. It gives guidance to the agency’s headquarters and regional staff, urging more systematic and responsible engagement with indigenous peoples.
Issues such as land tenure, sustainable resource management and the preservation of traditional knowledge and food systems are of particular importance. Indigenous populations possess specialized knowledge about natural resources and diversity and often have coping strategies for the effects of climate change.
FAO’s new policy notes that the erosion of traditional skills possessed by indigenous people works against efforts to achieve food security and sustainable development. With indigenous and tribal peoples comprising around five per cent of the world"s population but about 15 per cent of the world’s poorest people, they are particularly at risk of a failure to address the problems.
A number of UN agencies worked together closely with indigenous representatives to formulate the new policy, which is based on international legal instruments such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007.
Indigenous peoples right to food is the common subject of this set of publications in which important issues such as the access to natural resources and the cultural dimension of the adequacy of food are addressed. The four publications advocate for the adoption of the human rights based approach as a means for a progressive realization of indigenous people’s right to food.
They constitute not only a valuable reference on the current issues and future challenges to address, but also represent a basis for clarification and awareness building that needs to be pursued. The 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ as well as other international instruments provides an important framework for the concrete implementation of this human right at country level.
Download the publications : The right to food and indigenous peoples. The right to adequate food and indigenous people. The right to food guidelines and indigenous peoples: An operational guide, 2009. Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Food: Legal foundation. The right to food as a collective right. Cultural dimension of the right to food. How can the right to food benefit indigenous peoples? What is the relation between the right to food and food sovereignty? What are some of the challenges that need to be addressed?
* Visit the link below to access the publications.

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