Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the United Nations, spoke to the UN Human Rights Council today about the pressing need to help indigenous peoples. He congratulated the commission on the importance of their work, but then went on to urge them to not stand by while people are being taken advantage of.
The Archbishop emphasized the importance of a speedy adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), which was recently postponed.
Without the acceptance of the Declaration many poor indigenous peoples remain powerless to overcome their often oppressive circumstances. Migliore warned states that they are not just harming indigenous people, but also robbing themselves of the good that these people could contribute to the state. States should not “be oblivious to the economic progress for all that could be achieved by a greater regard for the particular genius of indigenous peoples and what they may be willing to contribute when their good will, not just their free, prior and informed consent, is sought and received.”
The issue of the exploitation of natural resources at the expense of those who inhabit the land was also raised by the Holy See’s delegation. “The rush to exploit resources which we are witnessing in many places not only puts the natural habitat under stress; there is sometimes little evidence of any good in political, social or economic terms, in favour of the peoples where such resources are found.”
Archbishop Migliore concluded his address with an exhorting the UN body not to delay adoption of the Declaration. “[T]he Holy See believes that we should all work towards a consensus adoption of the Declaration; but even the absence of such a consensus should not be a pretext for delaying the vindication of the legitimate concerns of indigenous peoples.”