The Indian Law Resource Center is working to include indigenous peoples’ collective rights and the human rights obligations of public sector financial institutions in a new treaty to govern transnational corporations and other business entities. Center staff, Chris Foley, delivered a statement to the UN Working Group on Oct. 24, 2016, in Geneva. The future international legally binding instrument is meant to address gaps in international law and in the voluntary guidelines of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
"Many of the human rights of indigenous peoples are held collectively by communities, tribes, nations, or peoples," said Chris Foley, Center attorney and co-author of the Center's recommendations. He explains that these include extensive rights relating to self-governance and indigenous ownership and control over lands and resources. "These rights are sufficiently distinct from other human rights that specific language in the instrument is needed to ensure that they are properly recognized and fully protected."
Foley says the issue is that too often businesses and public sector financial institutions fail to appreciate the extent of indigenous land rights or fail to acknowledge or recognize indigenous governments and decision-making institutions.
The Center recommends that:
1. The instrument address indigenous peoples’ collective rights and create clear legal rules regarding jurisdiction and responsibility for all businesses and lenders.
2. The instrument establish complaint procedures for human rights violations arising from projects funded by public sector financial institutions
3. The instrument’s monitoring body should assess compliance with these rules through periodic reports. The body should monitor compliance with any recommendations it might issue by investigating facts, gathering evidence, and examining the law, in order to ensure that the violation at issue does not recur.
4. The treaty body should work closely with existing UN mechanisms, including the Forum on Business and Human Rights, to assist states, public sector financial institutions, and business enterprises to address human rights issues by offering technical assistance, disseminating best practices, and providing opportunities for dialogue and discussion.
5. Finally, the Working Group should discuss establishment of an international court-like body to provide a forum for victims of human rights violations to pursue their claims when domestic remedies are inadequate.