International alliance of Indigenous-Tribal peoples of the tropical forest and international work group of the Indigenous affair
Over the last twenty years, however, the international mobilisation of
indigenous peoples has succeeded in drawing attention to the threats which
hang over us. One consequence of this has been the increasing significance
of indigenous rights in the activities of the United Nations. In 1993, the
Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of
Minorities approved the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples. This document provides a minimum set of standards for the recognition
of our rights.
Parallel to the human rights initiatives, the United Nations has established
a process of creating and implementing global instruments on the
environment. The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) at Rio was a critical part of this process. Indigenous
peoples are one of the major groups affected by Agenda 21 and the Convention
on Biological Diversity which emerged from Rio, because we
live primarily in areas which are exposed to environmental destruction.
Indeed, we indigenous peoples from the tropical forest consider that the
fate of our environment is totally bound up with our survival – our destinies
This document illustrates the connection by tracing the participation
of the International Alliance of the Indigenous-Tribal Peoples of the
Tropical Forests in international fora dealing with environmental protection.
Environmental instruments and policies need not necessarily have
positive consequences for our lands and lives. They can easily be used
to weaken our indigenous rights and limit our access to our resources.
We are treated as irrelevant or, when noticed, courted as exotic sources
of knowledge for bolstering the profits of big business. We oppose these
views strongly and this book discusses ways in which the Alliance is trying
to provide an alternative approach to environmental protection and
sustainable resource use which respects both the forest and its inhabitants.
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