Tribes from four continents have urged Britain to ratify a law that will ‘guarantee’ their survival.
It is the first time a group of tribal representatives have made such a direct appeal, reflecting the urgent need for the law’s global endorsement, says Survival International, the NGO which campaigns for the rights of tribal people.
Currently 22 nations have signed the law, known as ILO Convention 169, which is the only legally binding international law designed to protect tribal peoples’ rights.
It gives tribal peoples the right to own the land they live on, make decisions about projects that affect them, and ensures their freedom and equality.
Prominent Africans, West Papuans, Brazilians, Russians, as well as UK-based networks, have written the letter to British Foreign Minister William Hague.
Ratifying the law was official policy of the Liberal Democrat party, now part of the governing coalition.
The signatories urge the UK to set a precedent by backing a law that will not only save the lives of tribal peoples, but preserve precious eco-systems.
The letter reminds the UK that whilst it does not have tribal or indigenous peoples, ‘British companies operate on indigenous land, (and) British aid money funds projects on tribal territories.’
Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood, who is also Chairman of the UK’s All Party Group for Tribal Peoples agrees with the urgent need to sign ILO 169, saying, "British ratification of the convention now would send a powerful signal around the world ahead of the forthcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit. The message is that Britain understands that sustainable development has to respect the human rights of the most vulnerable peoples of the world. This call by tribal representatives could not have come at a more important time."
Survival International’s Director, Stephen Corry said today (29 May), "For centuries, tribes have been brutalised, forced off their land, murdered, marginalised, and sold into slavery. The British have historically played a key role in these abominations, which led to the extinction of countless peoples. Today, Britain can choose to ratify the only law that will prevent similar genocides. It’s high time that it does so."