In the current era of land grabbing and extractivism, political participation of indigenous peoples in their national and local affairs appears to be the crucial right to guarantee the exercise of their other rights. In the last decades, un bodies have increasingly stressed the need to improve indigenous participation in their domestic political arenas. How indigenous political participation may be recognised, operationalised, and exercised as a right, and be effective, however, remains to be discussed. Against this background, this article elaborates a proposal for a holistic approach to the right to political participation of indigenous peoples and demonstrates how it is rooted in international law, international human rights law, and international indigenous law.
Indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable sectors of society in the face of climate change because they generally have a profound and spiritual relationship with the(ir) land. Paradoxically, they are among those who have maintained and promoted a holistic management of the(ir) land and the environment, and have caused less climate change effects. The Inuit petition against the US at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has prompted the debate and an increased international attention on climate change effects and human (and indigenous) rights. However, the nexus between human rights and climate change raises several conceptual issues. Against this background, this article pursues a threefold goal. First, it aims to introduce the international debate, scholarly approaches, and conceptual and analytical questions that have arisen and still arise about the human rights-climate change nexus. Second, it tries to ascertain how the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources, such as fossil fuels (e.g. oil and gas), are contributing to climate change and how (some of) its adverse effects may—directly or indirectly—represent a threat for indigenous peoples and their rights in the Russian Federation and in Northern Europe (Denmark-Greenland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden). Third, it seeks to identify which indigenous international law instruments may offer (some) protection to these indigenous peoples against (few) climate change-related harms.
Environmental protection and the struggle over natural resources have long been of major concern for indigenous peoples all over Latin America. Notwithstanding the increasing incisiveness of international indigenous rights standards, indigenous peoples have still very limited access to natural resources, or to benefits deriving from them. Nonetheless, the recent ratification by Chile of the ILO Convention No. 169 is having a remarkable, positive impact. In 2009, the Court of Appeal of Temuco and the Supreme Court of Chile blocked a logging exploitation in indigenous territories (Machi Francisca Lincolao v. Forest Enterprise Palermo, sent. 1773-2008 dated 16 September 2009, confirmed by the Supreme Chilean Court on 30 November 2009, sent. 7287-2009) applying the ILO Convention No. 169. Other similar cases followed. These and other actions put forward by indigenous peoples’ movements in Chile, especially Mapuche, seem to be a direct consequence of an increasing awareness of indigenous peoples’ rights and the possibility to raise their voice and be heard within the civil society and at the international level. All the frustration against a legal system which is not responding to indigenous peoples’ demands is now flowing into new movements. This article, therefore, seeks to analyze the impact on indigenous peoples’ movements and the rise of new conflicts linked to the claims over natural resources and land rights in current Chile. The aim is thus to illustrate the interrelation between the Chilean inadequate legal framework, and the claims, conflicts and the self-empowerment of indigenous movements also in the Cono Sur.