The Guardian May 28, 2003


Indigenous peoples demand compensation

Indigenous leaders who gathered at the United Nations on May 17 to 
discuss ways to protect their culture and environment are demanding that 
multinational corporations accept legal responsibility for practices that 
destroy Indigenous lands and lifestyles.

Leaders of the world's 350 million Aboriginal peoples meeting at the UN and 
representing territories from the Himalayas to the Amazon rainforests have 
told countless stories about how oil, gas, lumber and mining projects by 
multinational firms, and in some cases by national governments, continue to 
pose threats to the survival of their communities.

Victoria Tauli, of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus on Sustainable Development 
 one of the 1500 activists gathered at the meeting  said, "one would 
think that industries on indigenous lands were meant to bring development 
and to reduce poverty, but what they have brought is more poverty."

Leaders of Nigeria's Partnership for Indigenous People's Environment said 
that the Ogoni people's ancestral lands in that African nation have been 
devastated by oil drilling and spills, and that transnationals should be 
held legally accountable.

Activist Nana Akuoko Sarpong, of Ghana, noted that trees in tropical 
forests that sometimes take 200 years to mature are felled at the stroke of 
a chainsaw.

The World Bank earlier this week launched a $700,000-fund called the 
"Grants Facility for Indigenous Peoples", which was expected to provide up 
to $50,000 for projects on development themes recommended by the UN.

But indigenous leaders called the fund "a cruel joke", noting that many of 
the World Bank's officials earn more money than that every year, and that 
the financial institution has lent millions for projects that have 
destroyed Indigenous communities and their environments. They demanded that 
the World Bank also address the issue of compensation for that devastation.

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