Solidarity Pact of Indigenous People of Asia and the Pacific

Indigenous people are found in varying numbers in most countries of Asia and the Pacific; throughout the region they have much in common. Most indigenous communities have a basic kinship through their histories, where customs and traditions are defined by virtue of centuries-old relations with land, forests, rivers and society. The problems confronting these communities are also similar in nature. Eviction from ancestral land, disruption of age-old customs and traditions and the onslaught of development are threatening the very right of these people to a peaceful existence.

The Urban Rural Mission of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA-URM) has long been concerned with the problems of the indigenous people. In response to the need expressed for indigenous people to come together and share, reflect and learn from each other's experiences, the CCA-URM sponsored a Dialogue on the theme Solidarity of Indigenous Minority People's Struggle for Land and Identity. The Dialogue was held at Baguio City in Philippines from October 20-30th, 1984. The Dialogue brought together thirty participants representing indigenous communities in Australia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Philippines. The participants of the Dialogue decided together to formalize their support for each other in the form of a Solidarity Pact.

The Solidarity Pact is a result of ten days of sharing and collective reflection of the participants, who discovered that indigenous people in most countries in Asia and the Pacific share similar problems. This sharing included visits made by the participants to some indigenous communities in the Philippines, cultural events, the sharing of country reports and the intensive discussions in the workshops on Land Concepts and Land-related Issues; History and Traditions; Visions, Hopes and Aspirations.

The participants defined the main problems facing them as follows:

* Land alienation, caused by groups from within their countries as well as foreigners. Displacement from ancestral land and disruption of traditional patterns of land use and ownership.

* Extensive deforestation by local governments and multinational corporations. Mining projects and hydro-electric dams have uprooted indigenous communities from their lands and destroyed their environments.

* Cultural aggression in the form of imposition of alien values, religions, laws and practices.

* Militarization and the use of repressive methods to brutally crush any attempt by the people to resist the process of displacement and disruption.

* Marginalization, and lack of participation in decision-making on issues that concern the lives and futures of the indigenous peoples.

The above are, in brief, some of the issues that were highlighted in the Dialogue. The Solidarity Pact was the outcome of this group of indigenous peoples' decision to continue this sharing and exchange, and is also an expression of the strong unity and solidarity that was felt by the participants. It is only the beginning of a process which we hope will result in increased solidarity and will strengthen the indigenous people in their continuous struggles for a decent human life. These concerns and the Solidarity Pact will now be discussed in a wider way with indigenous peoples throughout our region.

We welcome links of solidarity not only among the indigenous people in Asia and the Pacific but the world over.

Coordination Committee for the Solidarity Pact: Brian Wyatt (Australia); Raajan Singh (India); Gary Pekas and Marcelo Fakilang (Philippines). Address of Secretariat of Solidarity Pact:

SPCC (Solidarity Pact Coordinating Committee),

c/o Coreillera Consultation and Research,

Room 304 Laperal Building,

Session Road,

Baguio City, Philippines.

Alternatively, correspondence for the SPCC can be sent to:

DAGA,

57 Peking Road, 5th Floor,

Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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