A press conference was held yesterday at the offices of CAFOD in London, bringing together representatives from Indigenous Peoples around the world. They were gathered to share the outcomes of a two-day conference, where their objections and recommendations about the Minerals Extractive Industries projects in their countries were presented to World Bank officials and independent reviewers. The conference was organised by the Forest Peoples Programme based in the UK and the Tebtebba Foundation from the Philippines. Present at the meetings was Dr Emil Salim, who heads the Extractive Industries Review process considering if the World Bank should continue to fund controversial mining oil and gas projects. Among the delegates were representatives from the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Federation, Cameroon and India. The delegates were united in welcoming the opportunity to express their views and raise issues. Whilst being positive about the meetings, previous experience has illustrated the lack of willingness on behalf of the World Bank and government offices to act on the concerns of the Indigenous Peoples. The World Bank implements the Indigenous Peoples Development Plan in order to tackle the local peoples' issues, but this is a highly criticised document that extraction companies and governments frequently flagrantly ignore. The World Bank is in serious violation of many of its own safeguard regulations, to the extent that some lawyers for the Indigenous Peoples believe it to be in breach of International Law. Typically, what is coming out from the World Bank in published papers is vastly different to what is happening on the ground and the interests of the Indigenous Peoples are not fully taken into account or respected. It is frequently their traditional lands that are targeted by extractive industries and this means that they are suffering greatly. The Bagyeli communities in Cameroon are suffering serious problems as a result of the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline. Joachim Gwodog, of the Cameroon delegation stated that the pipeline project is 'sowing disorder and confusion in the territory.' Water sources are heavily polluted with no action being taken, and traditional hunting areas have been cleared of animals. The community understood that when the World Bank finances a project it pledges to fight poverty. However, the community was surprised to find that the reality was quite to the contrary. The arrival of extractive industry companies in some areas has led to severe human rights abuses and increased militarisation. People can be forcibly displaced from their lands and corruption is rife, including bribery of leaders to gain their consent. Raymond Rovillos, of the Tebtebba Philippines delegation, stated that the lands of the Indigenous Peoples are targeted, with about seventy per cent of the mining applications being on traditional lands. Severe abuses such as killings and rape have taken place. He states there is a lack of respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and contrary to the statements of the World Bank and other organisations, the process 'has not led to poverty alleviation.' Rodian Sulyandziga of the Nenet communities in Siberia felt that this week's meetings formed the 'beginning of the negotiations.' Whilst understanding the need for the government to have resources, it is the delegation's primary concern that the traditional way of life and the rights of the Indigenous Peoples are respected. He shared the views of all the delegates that the Indigenous Peoples Development Plan needs radical revision. Bineet Mundu of the Delhi Forum, raised the issues of the Adivasi communities impacted by Coal India in East Parej, India, which have been the subject of case studies for six years. Land for land compensation is not mandatory by the World Bank. Displaced people without land title to their new lands live in fear of eviction. Natural water sources are greatly overburdened and the well water levels are down. The mining process consumes and diverts most of the water and as a result the people are at the mercy of the mining company. All delegates called on a moratorium on all future controversial minerals and extractive industries projects, with no further investments to be made by the World Bank. Human rights abuses must be eliminated and the rights of the Indigenous Peoples fully taken into account. A full report with recommendations will be published at a later date.
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