It has been 10 years since the United Nations proposed the declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Before then, the rights of those unrecognized tribes, people, and local communities who depend on the forests were often violated and not taken into consideration. However, people can now see the progress that has been made on behalf of indigenous communities.
FSC was not immune from those changes and created a new committee to support Indigenous Peoples’ rights within forest issues.
The Permanent Indigenous Peoples’ Committee (PIPC) of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created by Motion 19, adopted at the FSC General Assembly (GA) in 2011. Since that time, representatives of Indigenous Peoples can propose motions, organize side events, and be part of FSC general assembly.
On 9 October 2017, members of the PIPC proposed new motions at a side event organized by the PIPC at the FSC General Assembly 2017, in Vancouver, Canada.
There should be balance in the decision-making processes of any organization; therefore, FSC is governed by its three chambers which represent environmental, economic, and social interests with equal vote and power. However, the PIPC considers that there needs to be a fourth, Indigenous Chamber. If this motion is approved, then there is going to be a big change in the FSC system.
“One of the 10 principles on which FSC was created is recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. We have the rights of Indigenous Peoples, that’s why we decided that we need the fourth chamber,” said Russell Diabo, advisor for Wolf Lake First Nation. He also added: “Personally, I do not want to see Europeans deciding the indigenous issues and work on news done by Indigenous Peoples; that’s why we have self-determination, principle three, and UN declaration. And if you do not want to involve international law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, then you cannot stick to the law at the same time.”
According to Bradley Young, National Aboriginal Forestry Association, Canada / North America, some members of the PIPC could not participate in the FSC General Assembly 2017 because of visa issues. It is a big problem when a person cannot participate in a life-changing event just because they could not get permission to enter another state. One of the motions proposed by the PIPC was connected with this issue.
Anders Blom, Protect Sapmi Foundation, Northern Europe, presented FSC Indigenous Initiatives during the side event. His main idea was to establish an Indigenous Peoples Secretariat in Panama to strengthen the PIPC within FSC; moreover, Panama is an accessible country located between North and South.
The importance of the PIPC lies in the fact that it is an accountable structure that works in partnership and collaboration. It helps to unite all indigenous communities from around the world, representing the innovation within the FSC membership. The PIPC is based on respect for the autonomy and self-determination rights of Indigenous Peoples.