The consolidation of corporate power is ‘terrifying’ and oppressive systems persist, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has told a symposium in Sydney. But building strong communities is the answer to making sure that the rights of Indigenous peoples are maintained.
By
Raveen Hunjan

1 Aug 2015 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 1 Aug 2015 - 3:39 PM

In the keynote address at the Indigenous Knowledge Symposium, Ms Tauli-Corpuz didn’t mince words as she spoke about the challenges facing Indigenous communities in a globalised world.

“It’s not the countries anymore that hold the largest economies, it’s really transnational corporations,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz said. “Fifty per cent of the world’s largest economies are corporations and 50 per cent are countries”.

In this global economy, “which is basically defined by unceasing accumulation of profit and so-called economic growth,” the “consolidation of the powers of corporations” is “terrifying,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz said.

The implications for the world’s Indigenous populations are not only unsustainable production and consumption – issues that threaten the entire human population – but “the destruction of Indigenous cosmo-visions and value systems, which would be replaced by the values being promoted of hyper-individualism, incessant consumption [and] short term-thinking."

”Globalisation, for me, is just really a continuation of the kind of colonisation we faced,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz said. “Of course, we don’t have direct colonisers anymore, but they are still very much around because of the systems that our governments have also accepted and are implementing. That is what has globalised.”

Despite this, Ms Tauli-Corpuz said that communities have several avenues open to them to secure improvements.

“Community strengthening is really, for me, one of the more long lasting solutions. 

“Community strengthening is really, for me, one of the more long lasting solutions. 

“Because at the end of the day if the communities are able to assert and claim and really strengthen themselves to be able do development in the way that they would like to do it, that will be a guarantee against all these kinds of developments that force them to go towards a direction they don’t like.”

Australian government yet to catch up

 Les Malezer, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, told NITV that governments must start fulfilling their responsibility to guard against Indigenous rights abuses – even if it is in the face of big business interests.

“It’s obvious around the world that governments have not been providing that protection and that needs to be done before development occurs,” he said.

“It’s obvious around the world that governments have not been providing that protection and that needs to be done before development occurs,” he said.

“Somehow governments, instead of playing the role of promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples where mining companies are involved and other multinationals, they tend to stand back and allow the mining companies to do as they like, even if it’s in breach of human rights standards.”

In his introduction to the evening’s discussion, Mr Malezer said the Australian government is yet to catch up to the international community in recognising Indigenous rights.

“[There’s] a challenge here in Australia because even now, to this day, the government can’t grasp and can’t acknowledge what it means to be peoples.

“Our rights do not derive from the government of the day, from the state, even though the governments believe that.

“Our rights, in fact, derive from ourselves. And we are fortunate in, and we should take courage as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, that the rights we enjoy, the rights we exercise, are backed by the international community.

“What we are, are a peoples who are aspiring to take control of our lives, to have a say about the future of our children and future generations.

“So it’s a case of Australia having to wake up to these situations.”