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Today on International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APAC) groups from 13 countries are celebrating the stories of the indigenous communities.

Globally, there are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples, the majority of whom are living in the Asia Pacific region. UN figures indicate that they make up less than 5% of the global population and are considered to belong to the poorest 15%.

For hundreds of years, indigenous communities have struggled for the recognition of indigenous rights and the protection of their lives, culture and territories. These collective struggles have resulted in the adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007. Although awareness of indigenous people’s rights and struggles has increased, the struggle for genuine recognition especially on the rights to self-determination, including collective rights to land, resources and territories are still wanting and need to be realized. 

Indigenous people continue to be amongst the most marginalized, disenfranchised and vulnerable in Asia Pacific. Aside from their struggle in defence of their land and territories against development aggression, they have to endure multiple crises including in relation to recognition of rights, food sovereignty, energy allocation, and environmental protection. The shrinking democratic space in most countries in the Asia Pacific has resulted in the violation of rights of indigenous leaders and environmental human rights defenders. Last but not least, climate change has brought new threats to indigenous communities, in particular to women. 

In many timber-producing countries, the conversion of forests to oil palm and timber tree plantations create a threat to indigenous communities, where logging exhausts natural timber resources. Moreover, the construction of large-scale dams and mining operations continues to displace hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples in many Asia Pacific countries.

Friends of the Earth groups across the Asia Pacific work with indigenous communities and allies to ensure that state and corporate impunity is stopped and to create genuine and just solutions to effect systems change. Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific ensures that its work supports the voices of communities. 

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific believes that while it is important to engage institutions and platforms to create spaces and influence policies, it is equally important that the struggle for the recognition of Indigenous People builds a movement supporting indigenous struggles and working with communities, ensuring that their collective struggle is supported.  

On International Day of the World’s Indigenous People we renew our commitment to work with indigenous communities to defend their territories, protect ecosystems, preserve indigenous cultures’ sustainable systems and practices and work for real peoples’ solutions to the climate crisis. 

Now, more than ever, we stand in solidarity with indigenous communities in their historic struggle to overcome institutionalized discrimination and marginalization even as they resist  the neoliberal plunder of their land and resources and fight back against militarization, attacks and violations by governments and corporations.

 Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific groups:

Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Korea, Japan, Palestine, Australia, BangladeshRussia and Timor Leste

Image: A community from Long Meraan,Sarawak, Malaysia blockading a logging company. © Friends of the Earth Malaysia/SAM