Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights, and the Environment
Yale Human Rights and Environment Dialogues Report, Spring 2011
19 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2012
Date Written: 2011
This essay is taken from the authors’ remarks to a workshop on Indigenous Peoples, International Human Rights Law, and the Environment, which was part of the New Directions in Environmental Law conference held at Yale Law School on April 2, 2011. The goals of the workshop were to examine whether the international human rights framework can give legal and practical meaning to indigenous peoples’ environmental aspirations and struggles and whether and how the indigenous peoples’ rights movement is relevant and useful to the environmental movement. To assist in addressing these questions, the history of the indigenous peoples’ rights movement and its relationship to the international human rights movement was explored, followed by a discussion of three indigenous lands and natural resources cases decided within the context of this human rights framework. Although many indigenous lands rights cases have roots in resisting the destruction of their lands and preventing the harmful extraction of natural resources, one stark conclusion that the sampling of cases illustrates is that these types of cases are driven primarily by the threats to the physical and cultural survival of indigenous peoples. As a result, the cases rely primarily on human rights law to argue for the protection and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights to lands and resources. However, a review of both international human rights law and the indigenous rights cases decided under this framework demonstrate an inextricable link between indigenous peoples’ concerns and the environment. This essay highlights some of these linkages and their potential impact on environmental law.
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