BAGUIO CITY – The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples cited that the clamor for autonomy has always been anchored on the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples in different parts of the global village.
Speaking before the Cordillera Stakeholders Conference on Autonomy, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the worldwide struggle for autonomy has been triggered by the legacy of colonization, continuing racism and discrimination, loss and degradation of lands, territories and resources, loss and denial of cultural heritage, identity, languages, and militarization and armed conflicts, extra-judicial killings, and other human rights violations.
She added that the context and rationale for the demand for autonomy among indigenous peoples is anchored on the violation of the right to self-determination, violation of the right to development, inappropriate, inadequate or lack of basic social services, lack of consultation and non-implementation of the right to free, prior and informed consent, lack of access to justice, violence against indigenous women, among others.
Corpuz revealed that among the common demands of indigenous peoples are respect or return of ancestral lands as a means for their physical, cultural, social and spiritual survival, right to practice their traditions and celebrate their culture and spirituality with all its implications, access to welfare, health, education and social services, and that States which have favored the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should respect and honor their treaty promises, and that the right to self-determination should be respected.
On the other hand, she said the that legal and normative basis for self-determination and autonomy include principles and precepts of non-discrimination and equality as contained in international human rights law, and self-determination is ordinarily interpreted as the right of peoples to negotiate freely their political status and representations in the States in which they live.
“The States has the duty to accommodate the aspirations of indigenous peoples through constitutional reforms designed to share power democratically and that indigenous peoples have the correlative good-faith duty to reach a power-sharing agreement with the existing State,” Corpuz stressed.
According to her, there are numerous legal bases for the right of self-determination and clamor for autonomy that has been made available by existing laws of nations and international treaties and UN declarations, thus, there is more reason for the Cordillera to sustain its efforts in achieving the establishment of an autonomous region pursuant to the mandate of the Constitution and as a product of a peace agreement and the clamor from the indigenous peoples regionwide.
Corpuz explained that self-governance is a means of promoting better knowledge about indigenous peoples vis-à-vis the wider society, and the assumption that the exercise of self-governance presupposes indigenous jurisdiction, that is, the right of indigenous peoples to establish their own institutions and determine their priorities relative to their lands, resources, political, economic, cultural and spiritual affairs.
By Dexter A. See