Today, many of the world’s remaining natural resources can be found on or in indigenous peoples’ territories. This poses great threats to their lands, natural environment and their well being, and often leads to violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples. Protecting these rights of indigenous peoples is the primary responsibility of governments, but increasingly companies that want to invest in indigenous territories are held responsible for respecting the human rights of indigenous peoples.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Today there is an increasing awareness about the limitations of our planet’s resources and the need to combat poverty and take care of better working conditions. Companies start to realise that it’s not only in the interest of the people and the planet to adapt their policies, but also in their own interest to continue to make profits. Resources become scarcer, which may frustrate future production capacities. A healthy, educated work force is more productive, while human rights violations and environmental pollution may rapidly damage a responsible image of private corporations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. Ideally, CSR policies would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its adherence to law, ethical standards, and international norms. Business would embrace responsibility for the impact of their activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. However, many times action from civil society groups, such as NCIV, is necessary to make business aware of their impact and to make them change their policies towards the desired situation.
Indigenous peoples in a global economy
In recent decades, indigenous peoples have faced the increasing negative impacts of economic globalization on their natural environment and their well being. The growing global economy has increased the demand for natural resources. Many governments rely upon massive extraction of natural resources for export to generate foreign exchange to pay for foreign debts. And in many of these and also other countries, indigenous peoples’ territories are the last frontiers where such resources are found, because indigenous peoples had so far been able to successfully defend their territories from being exploited. According to Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the majority of the world’s remaining natural resources – minerals, freshwater, potential energy sources and more – are found within indigenous territories.
A study of the International Forum on Globalisation’s Committee on Indigenous Peoples, ‘Paradigm wars’ , provides a better insight into the differences between indigenous worldviews and worldviews of the industrialised world and mapped out globally how several economic sectors impact indigenous territories. We briefly describe some of these sectors;
- Development projects: infrastructure development and extractive industries: Mineral, oil and gas extraction is carried out in many indigenous peoples’ territories. These activities are usually undertaken without their free, prior and informed consent, often even without any consultation. Other examples of such activities are logging and large infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams.
- Industrial agriculture: the growing demand for food and biofuels is pressing for industrial agriculture. These large scale agricultural projects are a direct threat to indigenous territories, forcing them of their land and leaving them with less fertile land or no land at all. Examples of these are the palm oil plantations in Indonesia and soy production in Brazil.
The tourism industry is increasingly attracting tourists to the most remote corners of the world to discover other cultures. Indeed, indigenous peoples are often 'an attraction' of a country to lure tourists. Unfortunately, the consequences for indigenous peoples can be very negative (such as introduction of alien diseases, pollution of their environment and infringements on their social, cultural and spiritual well being), while they have little or no benefit from the large capital flows that tourism brings to a country. The rise of ecotourism, supposedly designed to help local people with economic development while protecting nature, can also cause problems for indigenous peoples. In some cases, indigenous peoples have even been forced off their lands to make space for ecotourism projects. In some other cases, however, indigenous peoples have initiated and control their own (eco) tourism projects, which can then be a sustainable economic activity.
- Biopiracy/ Intellectual property rights: Indigenous peoples have much knowledge of and have access to medicinal plants. The WTO TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) gives monopoly rights (patents) to individuals or legal persons (such as transnational corporations) who can prove that the inventions or innovations they made are novel, innovative and capable of industrial application. Applications for such patents are largely based on the knowledge and plants taken from indigenous peoples. The TRIPS agreement is pushing all countries and international institutions to allow the search for and patenting of indigenous plant varieties that have beneficial properties. Indigenous peoples are usually not compensated for their knowledge and do not share in the revenues derived from that knowledge. In some cases they were even denied access to the plants after a patent was granted to a company.
Indigenous peoples and the Dutch economy
The Netherlands has a long tradition as a trading nation, due to its open economy and geographical position. Despite its small size, today, The Netherlands is the 6th largest exporter of merchandising goods in the world and the 8th largest importer of merchandising goods. The seaport of Rotterdam is one of the largest in the world, trans-shipping millions of tons of goods per year. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is the fourth largest airport in Europe for the traffic of both passengers and goods.
A survey from The Netherlands Committee of IUCN ‘The Netherlands and the world Ecology’, shows that the economic activities of The Netherlands bear great ecological costs. Combining the survey on the impact of economic globalisation on indigenous peoples and the IUCN survey on the impact of the Dutch economy on the world's ecology, it can be assumed that there is a direct impact of the Dutch economy on indigenous territories. Besides this direct link between indigenous peoples and the Dutch economy there is a possible indirect link through foreign direct investment of Dutch multinationals and capital investments by Dutch investors (banks and pension funds). The Netherlands is among the world´s largest investors and hosts 5 of the top 50 transnational financial companies in the world.
International standards to protect indigenous peoples’ rights
In the past decades some important standards have been developed to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Two of the most relevant are:
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
Core articles from the UNDRIP in relation to economic activities on indigenous lands, territories and other resources are article 29, about the obligation of states to protect the natural environment on indigenous territory and article 32 about the right to free, prior and informed consent before any activities take place on indigenous territory
- ILO 169
Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries is the only international treaty which deals exclusively with the rights of indigenous peoples. The convention covers a broad range of issues concerning indigenous and tribal peoples' rights, such as; land, territories and resources. It provides for the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted and participate in decision-making in all matters that affect them. The convention is legally binding for all twenty countries have now ratified this convention. Amongst them is the Netherlands.
 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Backgrounder, Indigenous Peoples – Lands, Territories and Natural Resources
 Meander, Jerry and Tauli-Corpuz, Victoria, Paradigm wars, Indigenous peoples’ resistance to economic globalization, A special report of the International Forum on Globalization Committee on Indigenous Peoples
 International Trade Statistics 2008, WTO: http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/its2008_e/its08_toc_e.htm
 World investment report 2008, www.unctad.org/wir
The ILO's Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107) pre-dates Convention 169, but is no longer open for ratification. However, this Convention is still in force for a number of countries that have ratified it and not yet ratified Convention No. 169.
 Doyle, Cathal, Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) – a universal norm and framework for consultation and benefit sharing in relation to indigenous peoples and the extractive sector. Paper prepared for OHCHR Workshop on Extractive Industries, Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights, Moscow, 3rd-4th December 2008
 UN Document E/C.19/2005/3, paragraph 47.