With detailed field studies from Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and Namibia, a new report sheds light on the consequences of extractive industries on land rights and indigenous peoples in Africa. “Worrying that so little is done to protect the environment and the indigenous peoples,” says the report.
Environmental degradation, cultural ethnocide and gross human rights violations: For indigenous peoples these are some of the consequences of the current global race for natural resources and raw materials.
The skyrocketing global demand for natural resources is driven by the growth of both western and non-western economies and the liberalization of transnational investments and agreements.
Indigenous peoples in Africa are among the first to feel the consequences of the global increase in extractive industries, as they often live, where natural resources are found.
Terra nullius: No recognition of collective land rights
Indigenous peoples in many cases share collective land rights. But this ownership of the lands is not officially recognized by African states. Therefore indigenous peoples’ lands are often seen as fertile ground for natural resource exploitation.
“It is considered terra nullius, no one’s land, since there is no ‘visible’ use or occupation of the land,” says the new report, issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
When mining and construction companies move in, indigenous peoples generally get evicted from their ancestral lands and territories without any free, prior and informed consultation, consent or compensation.
“We struggle with the misconception that extractive industries benefits society by bringing modernity. This illogic defies the very fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa under the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Indigenous peoples host wanted natural reserves and resources
In 2020, 70 percent of all copper will be extracted from indigenous peoples’ territories, and in 2009, 70 percent of all uranium used in nuclear reactors was sourced from indigenous peoples’ territories.
And the tendency shows that the growth of extractive industries in Africa will continue.
“The pressure of the extractive industries leads to the question, if indigenous peoples will actually be able to stand up against this new and major direct threat to their environment, livelihoods and lives. If the international community and African states don’t prioritize the principle of free, prior and informed consent, the future survival of indigenous peoples and their unique cultures will be seriously threatened,” says Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’s Senior Advisor on Africa and land rights and Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.
The new report will be presented at the meeting of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in July 2017, where the conclusions and recommendations of the study will be discussed.
“I believe the impact of the study will be enormous. It can inform many in Africa, including governments, on the state and consequences of extractive industries on the rights of indigenous peoples. And it can serve as source for civic action for policy changes on the ground,” says Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.
The Working Group will organize national dialogues on the findings and recommendations of the study in the countries covered in the study.
Extractive Industries, Land Rights and the Indigenous Populations/Communities’ Rights: East, Central and Southern Africa
Includes field studies in Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and Namibia
Published by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and IWGIA with financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
Published online: May 29, 2017
About the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities in Africa
In 2003, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights established the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa with the responsibility to advise the Commission on matters relating to the rights of indigenous populations/communities on the continent. In this capacity, the Working Group found it appropriate to commission a study on extractive industries, land rights and indigenous populations/communities to inform and guide its activities and that of all other stakeholders. http://www.achpr.org/mechanisms/indigenous-populations/about/
About International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
Since 2001, IWGIA, an international human rights organisation defending indigenous peoples’ rights, has been represented in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa with Marianne Wiben Jensen as an expert member. For almost 50 years, IWGIA has documented the fight for indigenous peoples’ rights. IWGIA works through a global network of indigenous peoples’ organisations and international mechanisms. IWGIA promotes the recognition, respect and implementation of indigenous people’s rights to land, cultural integrity and development on their own terms.