the-south-asian.com February 2003
FEBRUARY 2003 Contents
Page 4 of 4
Following information was provided by Survival - a London based organisation supporting tribal people worldwide. Survival's contact details appear at the end of this page.
The law and tribal peoples
International law clearly says that tribal peoples own the lands they live on and use. Your country may also have its own laws about tribal peoples. National laws should not contradict international law, though in fact many do.
Indigenous organisations should be able to provide copies of the relevant national laws and explain what they mean.
If not, ask the government (either the department that deals with indigenous peoples or the ministry of justice or law). Often such requests will be ignored. In that case, we suggest you carry on asking repeatedly.
The two most important laws about tribal peoples are Conventions 107 and 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), part of the United Nations (UN). If your country has signed up to either of these conventions, then it is law in your country. More countries sign the newer Convention 169 (but not 107) all the time.
To the right is a list of those countries which have signed these conventions (at the time of printing), and important sections of their texts.
Even if your country has not agreed to these conventions, they can still be used to show your government what the international standards are, and to urge it to apply them.
What if your country’s laws disagree with international law?
You should point this out to the ministry of justice or law, preferably by writing. Such letters will often be ignored, but it is useful to send more letters repeatedly, to the most senior person responsible – the minister or even the president.
Can the United Nations help tribal peoples?
The United Nations (UN) is an association of national governments. Its main purpose is to prevent war between countries.
It can only help you a little, if at all. It will hear cases of violations of peoples’ rights by governments. But because it is controlled by governments, it is unlikely to take any action.
Survival can advise on using the UN, but results are only likely after a very long time (if at all). Do not expect the UN to be the solution to your problems.
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