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.