DECLARATION from the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Preparatory Meeting
on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
April 18 – 22, 2013, Baguio City, Philippines
Indigenous Peoples worldwide live in harmony with nature to include the lands, waters, forests and all living creatures within. Through their engagement with nature, they developed their traditional systems of management that is sustainable, their spirituality and established their identity as Indigenous Peoples while observing a deep respect to Mother Earth. However, at the onset of colonialism, their lands, territories and natural resources were exploited and they were forced to be assimilated to the mainstream culture thus forcing them to lose their identity and inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples.
In the era of global capitalism, the violations to Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to their lands, territories, identity and self-determination were intensified. Various defective, divisive and deceiving programs, policies and frameworks, labeled with different names, were crafted by the leaders of nations and states in the name of the so-called global development defined by mono capitalists but to the detriment of the people, especially the Indigenous Peoples.
Our ancestors fought valiantly against subjugation and forced assimilation in order to defend the indigenous lands, territories, nature and their right to self-determination. The generations that followed continued these heroic struggles up to this day, to protect what is left of their natural resources and reclaim their inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples.
We, the Indigenous youth of today, deeply appreciate the efforts of the earlier generations that despite geographical locations, unified by their common problems, struggles and aspirations, they collectively raised their concerns and asserted to be heard even at the international level. As a result, after more than 2 decades of processes, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UNGA in 2007.
We also commend the earlier international mechanisms and tools that contributed to the formulation of the UNDRIP such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) and the First Earth Summit in 1992. It is also worth noting that while Indigenous Peoples’ voices and rights are gaining recognition at the international level, the inclusion of the participation of indigenous youth and women also started to develop.
However, we are still concern on the minimal effective representation of indigenous youth, especially those from the grassroots, at the international arena. We strongly believe that our roles as the current defenders of our indigenous lands, territories, natural resources and as future leaders of our communities would be best achieved if we are already included in all decision making processes even at the international level.
We also recognize that we, as Indigenous Peoples still have a long way to go for the full realization and implementation of the UNDRIP. But we will continue to persevere until all the states will implement UNDRIP as the standard instrument and guide in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
It is in this framework that we, the indigenous youth from India, Nagaland, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand, Panama and Botswana gathered in the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Preparatory Meeting on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples dubbed as WEAVING PERSPECTIVES: Converging the Indigenous Youth Initiatives and Capacities in Advancing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” held from April 18 – 22, 2013, Baguio City, Philippines collectively:
Recognize and reaffirm our roles in defending our cultural heritage, passed to us by our ancestors, and in advancing our right to self-determination.
Welcome and appreciate the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution A/RES/65/198 dated 3 March 2011 to organize by 2014 a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP).
Believe that the WCIP and other international processes related to Indigenous Peoples, offer opportunities also for indigenous youth to elevate their issues and concerns and effectively perform their roles and achieve their aspirations. The indigenous youth play vital roles in the monitoring, continuity and development of the outcomes of the WCIP and other international processes related to Indigenous Peoples and on the realization of the UNDRIP until its full recognition.
Strongly reiterate that Indigenous youth must be appropriately represented in all the various discourses during the WCIP and other international processes related to Indigenous Peoples. The states, CSO’s and UN agencies should help provide additional funds for the increased full and effective participation of the Indigenous youth, especially those from the grassroots, to all relevant decision making processes affecting the Indigenous Peoples including Indigenous youth, Children and Women.
Demand that all states must respect and recognize the concerns of the Indigenous Peoples to be forwarded at the WCIP which is another step in the realization of the UNDRIP.
Look forward to the implementation of the concrete and appropriate plans and actions to be formulated in the WCIP and for the inclusion of the recommendations of the Indigenous youth to these plans and actions.
Concrete and Relevant Issues of the Indigenous Youth
Self-determination, governance and participation
The right to self-determination is very much embedded in the cultural and traditional way of life of Indigenous Peoples since time immemorial. Before colonization, Indigenous Peoples already developed their own customary laws that effectively and quickly settle disputes in the community. The political, economic and socio-cultural systems of the Indigenous Peoples are also more progressive because decision making is done collectively by the community in consideration to other peoples’ rights, nature and the future generations.
Continuously, the Indigenous Peoples assert their rights in managing their own lands, territories and resources; practice their customary laws and indigenous knowledge which are essentially practical solutions to the problems on global environmental degradation and poverty. However, many states, especially in Asia responded to these with threats, intimidation, divisive policies and more destructive projects. A concrete example is the manipulation by the states and MNCs on the principles and processes of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
National laws remain to be inconsistent with the customary laws and principles of the Indigenous Peoples. Even the laws and policies created for the Indigenous Peoples that exist in some states are also unreliable and even created conflicts among the Indigenous Peoples. This is especially true if the laws and policies for IPs were not formulated by the Indigenous Peoples themselves, especially those coming from the grassroots. In some countries like in India, Nagaland, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, Panama and New Zealand, Indigenous Peoples already gained adequate representation in their local governments. However, they still face challenges on their recognition as IP leaders/government at the National level.
We believe that as long as the Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination, which includes the right to their own political systems, resource management and the use of their own culture and language, is not recognized by the states, the problems on environmental degradation and sustainable development that are important to poverty alleviation will be difficult to address. Further, the indigenous youth and the future generations will continuously suffer from the ill-effects of these problems.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We urge all states for the immediate full implementation of the UNDRIP. We understand that until and unless it is implemented, our discussions and efforts at the WCIP and other UN processes and mechanisms would be meaningless.
- All states must review and amend the national laws, policies and programs that are in conflict with the Indigenous Peoples’ rights and for the states to include the Indigenous Peoples in these processes.
- For the states, foreign investors and even CSOs to comply with the principles and processes of FPIC as defined in the UNDRIP and the Indigenous Peoples.
- We also urge the CSOs representing the Indigenous Peoples to involve the Indigenous Peoples including Indigenous youth from the grassroots in decision making processes especially on matters that concerns their representation in international events.
Education, Culture and Language
Our indigenous knowledge and culture is used in harmony with nature which is important to our livelihood, unity as peoples and in the protection of Mother Earth. These make our culture distinct from the rest of the mainstream society. However, we are deeply concerned that our culture is fast disintegrating in this modern era.
The colonial and commercialized character of the education system is not pro-people, inaccessible and inappropriate especially to indigenous youth and contributes to the fast disintegration of indigenous culture, language, values and spirituality. This educational pattern, practiced in most countries in Asia, does not recognize and even misrepresent the glorious history of Indigenous Peoples leaders and their contributions to their communities. Instead, colonial and mainstream cultures are regarded as superior culture in the curriculum and mainstream media while downgrading the indigenous culture thus making indigenous youth to be ashamed of their own culture and identity.
Because education is perceived by the states and capitalists as a commodity, in many countries in Asia, almost every year, there is an increase of tuition fees and other school fees hence education is not affordable to many youth especially indigenous youth. Also, due to low education budget allotted by the states, there are few schools and with good facilities in the villages. Most of the schools are located far from the villages resulting to difficulties and inaccessible education such as in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal. Even the courses offered are those that benefit the needs of the MNC’s and mono capitalists and not their communities or even state.
We appreciate the initiatives of other states such as in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and New Zealand who have Indigenous education in their curriculum at the primary/elementary level and the use of mother tongue in some areas of the countries mentioned, however, the dominant mainstream education still poses big challenges.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We strongly urge the states to stop budget cut and privatization of educational institutions and to increase the budget allotted for education and allocate 6% of their GDP to Education as stated in the Dhaka Declaration.
- We demand the states to provide better employment for indigenous youth that coincides with their own country and indigenous community’s concrete and basic needs and must not be confined with the standards set by the mono capitalist states in the name of global competition.
- We demand the states and urge the academic institutions to include the Indigenous Knowledge based approach, including the use of mother tongue in the education system at all levels.
- We urge the states to provide necessary and appropriate guidelines, modules and allocate sufficient funds to train educators/teachers on the use of indigenous culture and language.
- We further urge the states to employ, as educators, Indigenous Peoples who upholds their peoples and communities’ interests and welfare in government and private schools. They should also be included in the formulation of the education curriculum and module.
- We urge the media industrial complex to stop using indigenous culture inappropriately in their shows and programs. They should provide sufficient air-time for Indigenous Peoples to discuss their actual concerns and promote their appropriate culture in observance with FPIC process.
- We also urge the indigenous families to teach their children their Indigenous knowledge, culture, practices, values and language to their children. We believe that involving the indigenous youth in decision making, production, rituals and other indigenous practices in the communities is an effective and practical way of education.
We express great concern regarding the increasing rate of drug and alcohol addiction among the indigenous youth in almost all states. We are also alarmed at the growing rate of HIV infection among the indigenous communities particularly on the young men and women. We believe that the disintegration of indigenous culture and values and the lack of support to indigenous youth initiatives, quality and affordable education, better employment and programs for their positive development forced the youth to engage in drugs, alcohol and prostitution which are detrimental to their physical, mental and spiritual health.
Based from our experiences and from documented findings, extractive projects such as mining, also contributed to the increasing rate of drugs and alcohol addiction and prostitution in the indigenous communities. Pubs/bars were erected near the mining sites and the indigenous youth are not exempted from being drawn into these places. The silts and fumes of these extractive industries also caused various sickness such as lung and skin deceases, coughing and loose bowel movement especially among children. Sometimes it also caused death due to poisoning from the mercury and gas from the mining operations.
While this is the case, limited access to basic health services remain a big problem among the Indigenous Peoples. Majority of indigenous communities have no hospitals or clinics and there is lack of medicines, facilities and worst, doctors and health workers. Just like education, quality health services come with a high price which the Indigenous Peoples cannot afford.
It should also be noted that community health workers, among them are young professionals, who are trying to deliver health services to the indigenous peoples in the communities, also suffers from harassment, intimidation and death threat from the military forces such as the case in the Cordillera, Philippines. This dire situation of health workers eliminates the alternative opportunities for indigenous peoples, especially the women and children, to have access to basic health services.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We call on the states, UN agencies, educational institutions and indigenous communities to provide appropriate programs and venues where indigenous youth can exhaust their potentials and initiatives. And for these institutions to promote culturally sensitive health practices in indigenous communities.
- For the states to allocate higher budget to health services and employ the support of the UN agencies and concerned private institutions to address the lack of health services especially in the indigenous communities.
- For the states and other concerned agencies to support and developed the indigenous methods in health care and train more community health workers.
- For the states and their armed/military forces to end the harassment, intimidation and vilification of community health workers.
Human Rights Violations, militarization and conflicts
The gross violations on Indigenous Peoples rights to their lands, territories, resources, culture and self-determination are intensified due to militarization as more developmental aggression projects are implemented in indigenous territories. In most indigenous communities especially in Asia, Africa and Pacific, efforts of Indigenous Peoples to reclaim their inherent rights were met by states with heavy militarization resulting to arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, random interrogation , torture, disappearances, rapes and extra judicial killings of Indigenous Peoples.
We are deeply concerned that indigenous youth and even children are not exempted by these gross human rights violations. In many indigenous communities in Asia, primary schools and daycare centers are being used by military as bases and camps causing disruption of classes and instilling fear to the children and teachers. The youth and children are continuously recruited by the states’ armed forces as paramilitary personnel and into the Student Intelligence Network. We are also alarmed on the increasing number of legitimate indigenous youth organizations, its leaders and members that are experiencing surveillance, political vilification and red tagging just because they are activists. These forms of harassment and intimidations resulted to drop outs in school and fear to join progressive organizations and voice out their legitimate issues and concerns.
More alarming and of deep concern is the systematic program of states, especially in Asia in collaboration with the mono capitalist states on the violation of the Indigenous Peoples and other peoples’ rights. These programs such as the Operation Greenhunt, Operation Cleanheart, Operation Conflagration, Operation Upliftment, or Oplan Bayanihan are used to legitimize the violations to the peoples.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We strongly condemn all forms of violations against the collective rights of the Indigenous Peoples including Indigenous youth and Women.
- We demand the states to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations to our indigenous leaders, members and communities.
- We demand the states to pull out all military camps including their activities, operations and personnel inside the indigenous territories, including the houses and schools.
- We urge the UN bodies, Special Rapporteurs and other experts and other concerned institutions and agencies to conduct an impartial investigation on the reports regarding human rights situation in the indigenous communities and to help the affected communities, organizations and individuals seek and ensure justice and restitution for the victims and their families.
- We demand the states to scrap all the “Operation Plans” that are causing human rights violations and instead formulate programs and policies in protecting the Indigenous Peoples’ rights using the UNDRIP as guide.
Commodification of nature, Market Based Approach and Sustainable Development
Indigenous communities remain the reservoir and home to extensive resources in terms of minerals, oil, gas, coal, hydroelectricity, logs, etc. Since time immemorial, we, the Indigenous Peoples already developed our own traditional systems of resource management that is more sustainable and respectful to Mother Earth.
In the name of global development, state leaders worldwide organized international meetings, summits and conferences and formed policies and programs as methods to address the growing concern of global environmental crises and poverty. However, the solutions that the states are offering are tied to the market based approach that are inappropriate, deceptive and divisive as these will further contribute to the destruction of the environment and eventually the society. Among these include REDD and REDD+ and the Green Economy concept. Memorandum of Understandings was signed between the leaders of the states and the Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) without the proper process of FPIC of Indigenous Peoples.
Such programs and policies even legalized the different developmental aggression projects such as large scale mining, construction of multi-purpose and hydro-electric dams, massive logging, plantations and other mono culture agriculture, oil explorations and production and other transnational and multinational investments. Mono crop plantations and the genetically modified organism resulted into serious misbalance in the biodiversity of the region. The commercial palm oil trees are now infecting the coconut plantations nearby. To protect these programs, military aggressions were institutionalized resulting to the gross violations to the Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights. These market based projects also evict the Indigenous Peoples from their lands.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We strongly resent the Green Economy, REDD/REDD+ and other market based solutions since these programs and frameworks facilitates false solutions as opposed to the Indigenous Peoples’ practice of sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity.
- We strongly demand the full stop of large scale mining operations, massive logging, construction of multi-purpose and hydro-electric dams, plantations and other mono culture agriculture, oil explorations and production.
- We strongly demand the full stop to evictions or forced relocations of Indigenous Peoples to give way to the developmental aggressive projects.
- We will continue the fight against new developmental aggression projects introduced to our communities.
- The states and multinational corporations should recognized their accountability as the major contributories to the degradation of the environment. They should also dropped the Green Economy and REDD+ as solutions to the global crises.
- We urge the UN bodies and states to come up with concrete binding policies and enforcing mechanisms to those who do not meet the goals of achieving sustainable development consistent to the perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples.
Women and children
Women and children are indispensable. In most indigenous territories, women played important roles in sustaining the traditional culture, nurturing nature and caring for the future generations who will be the future leaders of our society. Despite this, both women and children are most vulnerable with the adverse effects of the problems brought by colonization and global capitalism. Their situation is aggravated by the feudal-patriarchal system which still exists and is tolerated in most states.
At present, women including Indigenous girls’ struggles are gaining recognition even at the international level as they assert their rights. However, they still have a long way to thread in the realization of their goals. Indigenous women, especially in Asia, Latin America and Africa still suffer from discrimination as women and as indigenous. Roles of women in South-Asia are usually limited to household chores. They are not encouraged to participate in struggles. They are only allowed to participate in selected activities but with minor roles and very few opportunities. The states tolerated these repressions on women.
Due to their low status in the society, the women and children are often viewed as commodities. They are most vulnerable to prostitution, rape and are often given low wages. It is also the women who are prone to the violations caused by militarization. Indigenous women activists are labeled as rebels, putting them in a dangerous situation of being imprisoned, tortured, harassed and worst killed. Even the children are not spared from the atrocities and crimes happening in the society as most governments lack the political will to make and enact laws that protect the women and children’s rights.
Recommendations and Actions:
- We call on all states and our indigenous brothers, sisters and elders, to provide the women important roles such as decision making in the communities and in the wider society based from their capacities and in recognition of their key roles in the economic, political and cultural survival of their indigenous communities and the society.
- We urge the states, UN bodies and other relevant institutions to create and enforce appropriate laws and policies to protect the right of women and children.
- We urge the states, patriarchal society, including indigenous communities to change their degrading perceptions and attitudes on women and children.
- We urge the states, CSO’s and UN agencies to allocate funds for women and children’s quality education and training for them to achieve their full potentials.
- The states should provide decent employment for women and young women.
- Valiantly, we will monitor the development of the abuses of state actors against women and children and continuously mobilize support for the campaign for the states and concerned agencies to create and implement policies to stop and prevent unlawful labor practices against young women and children, sex trafficking of women and children and other forms of abuses.
Mobilizing Resources for Indigenous Youth
International funding and aid are largely disconnected from local realities and needs. The dominant funding paradigm must be turned upside down from implementing preconceived ideas of development as they relate to indigenous youth, towards supporting the initiatives that are developed by indigenous youth for indigenous youth because indigenous youth are the future.
Recommendations and actions:
- For states, UN agencies and concerned institutions to create dedicated streams of funding to support the role of indigenous youth in the process of self-determined development.
- For states, UN agencies and concerned institutions to dedicate streams of funding to ensure FPIC by and for indigenous youth and guarantee long term support to ensure lasting impact
- We welcome the proposal, as stated in the Zero Draft of the UNCSD, of the head of states in increasing the ODA in support to the developing and least developed countries, of which most of the underprivileged indigenous communities are located. However, the ODA must be given directly to those communities in need, especially the indigenous communities and without restrictions and compelling guidelines and policies detrimental to the Indigenous Peoples.
We affirm that in order for the indigenous youth achieved their goals, demands and recommendations, they should link arms not only with the Indigenous Peoples worldwide but also with other Peoples’ Mass Movement, democratic and marginalized sectors and CSO’s worldwide that have common goals and aspirations with that of the Indigenous Peoples including Indigenous youth, children and Women. Together, we will struggle for alternatives to the unjust global system and dominant development paradigm that are generating multiple crises that we are all confronting. We should engage the ongoing global conversations about the Post-2015 development agenda.
We support and will help advance the campaigns, positions and actions related to Indigenous Peoples and youth concerns such as the Kari-Oca 2 declaration, Campaign for Peoples’ Goals for Sustainable Development, and the Statement from Indigenous Peoples in Asia to the WCIP.
We urged our fellow indigenous youth to go back to their roots and appreciate the historical struggles of our ancestors and to understand the root causes of the issues affecting their peoples and communities. We must revitalize our indigenous values and practices, amidst the fast changing world and use the technologies, multi-media and advanced science that are appropriate and beneficial to our indigenous communities. We believe that re-learning our history and culture will strengthen our resolve in upholding our role as the defenders of our indigenous lands, territories and natural resources.
We believe that indigenous youth initiatives should be based on bottom-up community-led processes that guarantee transparency, accountability, equal opportunities for both men and women and that follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.
Recognizing the need and importance of a platform where the initiatives, ideas and positions of indigenous youth from the grassroots will be consolidated, elevated and put into action both at the country and international level, we commit to strengthen and broaden the indigenous youth movement by establishing an international youth network in the near future.
We urge all the Indigenous Peoples, particularly our fellow Indigenous youth to stand firm, educate ourselves and commit ourselves to end the culture of impunity and human rights violations. Let’s strengthen, expand, unite and mobilize our ranks in defending our territories and resources and reclaim our inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples. It is our land, it is our life, it is ours to reclaim and defend.
We the undersigned affirmed and endorsed this declaration formulated during the Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth Preparatory Meeting on WCIP held in Baguio City, Philippines, 22 April 2013.
Organization / Country
Hill Women’s Federation / Bangladesh
Pangkhua Community Forum / Bangladesh
Botswana Khwedom San Council / Botswana, Africa
Paggawisan Tako Am-in / Baguio City, Philippines
Interactive Cordillera (INCOR) / Baguio City, Philippines
UB – BIBAK / Baguio City, Philippines
Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association / Cambodia
Highlanders Association / Cambodia
Conversations with the Earth / Canada
Cordillera Youth Center / Cordillera, Philippines
Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera (Center for the Indigenous Culture in the Cordillera) / Cordillera, Philippines
Mountain Province Youth Alliance / Cordillera, Philippines
Ifugao Youth Association / Cordillera, Philippines
Anakbayan – Cordillera / Cordillera, Philippines
Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services / Cordillera, Philippines
FDAPID-Hope for Indigenous Peoples / Democratic Republic of the Congo
Jharkhand Indigenous Youth for Action / India
Bhaiya Ram Munda Foundation / India
Zo Indigenous Forum / India
Barisan Pemuda Adat Nusantara / Indonesia
Jaringan Belia Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS-Youths Movement) / Malaysia
PACOS Trust / Malaysia
Centre for Research and Advocacy / Manipur, India
Committee on Natural Resources Protection / Manipur, India
Centre For Organisation Research and Education (CORE) / Manipur, India
Haggibat / Mindoro, Philippines
Chin Human Rights Organization / Myanmar
Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights / Nagaland
Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities / Nepal
Newah Bidhyarthi Daboo (Newar Students Association) / Nepal
Mugal Indigenous Women Upliftment Institute / Nepal
Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities / Nepal
Wise Women Collective Aotearoa / New Zealand
Life Watch / North East, India
Joventud Organizada Para vivir en Equilibrio con la Madre Tierra (Youth Organized to live in Balance with the Mother land) / Panama
Central Luzon Aeta Association / Pampanga, Philippines
Tumanduk Youth / Panay, Philippines
Task Force on Indigenous Peoples / Philippines
Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines) / Philippines
Hadzabe Survival Council / Tanzania
Land is Life / USA
Center for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas / Vietnam
 In the Cordillera, Philippines, a staggered 300% increase in tuition fee was implemented last 2012 in all the 7 public universities.
 Until this day, justice was not achieved for the woman who was raped in 2005 by a police/military Sgt. in CHT, while in the Philippines, the family and community of the 16 year old girl in Mankayan, Benguet who was raped by a military officer, are also still seeking justice.