Indigenous rights ‘ignored’October 2009
More investors should be addressing the business risks associated with indigenous peoples, an investment research consultancy has concluded.
UK-based Ethical Investment Research Service (Eiris), says 250 businesses worldwide, together worth £1700 billion ($2800bn), have a significant exposure to such issues.
Yet few of those companies report on indigenous rights or have policies protecting them – and investors are not pushing them to do so. In a new study it has found that less than a fifth of businesses disclose indigenous employment data, and less than ten per cent have a policy on involuntary resettlement. Only 15 per cent have a corporate-wide policy supporting free prior informed consultation on projects that affect land use.
Eiris says that investors need to play a ‘key role’ in developing best practice in this area by encouraging firms to:
implement an indigenous rights policy across all operations
provide employment and education opportunities for indigenous populations affected by their operations
set up grievance mechanisms to deal with indigenous concerns.
The report particularly recommends that policy be based on article ten of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says native populations should not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories, and that no relocation shall take place without prior consent of the people concerned.
Eiris adds that the sectors most at risk – mining, forestry and paper, oil and gas, and food production – should regularly inform investors of their responsible practices in this area.
As a follow-up to the study, Eiris, the Centre of Australian Ethical Research, and Survival International, a charity for tribal peoples, have backed a UN Principles for Responsible Investment programme to support engagement between investors and companies on respecting indigenous peoples’ rights.
There are 370 million indigenous people in the world, or five per cent of the population. They account for more than 15 per cent of the world’s poor.
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