ILO169

Protecting human rights and the climate

The total number of indigenous people on earth is estimated at around 370 million people in over 70 countries. Their ways of life are mostly shaped by their special bond with nature that has characterised their culture for centuries. However, their livelihoods are today increasingly under threat. Globalised political and economic interests threaten the ways of life of many indigenous peoples, whose lands are stolen and communities destroyed. The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No. 169 is the only international law designed to protect the rights of these peoples. The International Labour Organization was established in 1919 as a specialised agency of the United Nations with the target of improving global social security as well as living and working conditions.

ILO Convention 169 is based on respect for indigenous peoples’ cultures and guarantees them legally-binding protection and entitlement to basic rights. Its aim is to overcome discriminatory practices affecting these peoples and enable them to participate in decision-making that affects their lives through a right to "prior consultation". Consultation is compulsory for every project affecting indigenous territories, the most common being mining projects, agribusiness and logging. The objective is to ensure agreement or consent to the proposed project by the indigenous peoples. However, most governments refuse to sign ILO Convention 169, often on the grounds that no indigenous peoples live there: it has so far been ratified by only 23 countries. But in our globalised world, multinationals corporations are better held accountable when both the country where they operate and the one where they are based offer the same degree of legal protection. Thereby, each additional ratification of ILO Convention 169 strengthens the very limited protection given to indigenous peoples worldwide, meaning less human rights abuses and more environment protection.

In Europe, the signatories are Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Luxembourg (since 2018). This last ratification is the fruit of a six-year-process of awareness raising and lobbying by Climate Alliance and NGO networks as well as administrative procedures, at the end of which the Luxembourgian Parliament voted unanimously on February 27th. It is worth noting that the German government also aims to ratify the ILO Convention 169, as stated in its 2018 coalition contract (available here). Drawing on the experience from Luxembourg, Climate Alliance and its partners are already planning lobbying actions in order to speed up the process

  • Ratification in Luxembourg @ ASTM

    Ratification in Luxembourg @ ASTM

Related Articles