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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Follow-up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Conventions and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh

Follow-up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Conventions and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh

On 20 June 2011 a day-long follow up meeting titled ‘Follow Up Meeting of Regional Consultation on ILO Convention no: 107 &169 and Indigenous Peoples Issues in Bangladesh’ was held at Padakhep Institute of Development and Management auditorium (2nd floor), Adabar, Dhaka. The meeting was jointly organized by Kapaeeng Foundation and International Labour Organization.
The inaugural session of the meeting was chaired by Rabindranath Soren, chairperson of the Kapaeeng Foundation while Mr. Saktipada Tripura, organizing secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, indigenous researcher Kirti Nishan Chakma and Mr. Abhilash Tripura, national coordinator of ILO Pro 169 was present as special guests.
Starting the inauguration session, Mr. Rabindranath Soren said, ‘As we have been struggling regarding many issues including land rights and constitutional recognition for long time it is now time to be more united and find out a strategy to fight against all odds.’ He said, ‘The problems of indigenous peoples are mainly political. The political problems should be solved politically. The friends of indigenous peoples are doing many things for them. But they will not be successful if they don’t stand determinedly. The rights can not be established without the struggle of the people who are the victims.’
Mr. Kirti Nishan Chakma in his speech said that continuation of movement for the cause of indigenous peoples is a must and such continuation would help for placing the rights of indigenous peoples. He also emphasized on Kapaeeng news circulation through the internet and advised to do it in a more effective and regular basis.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura said that there had been eight regional consultation meeting on ILO convention no:107 & 169 across the country since 2008. He also said ILO would provide supports to create opportunity where dialogue could happen between the government and indigenous peoples.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura, later, gave a presentation. In his presentation he provided an overview on the case of Bangladesh regarding the ratification of ILO convention 169.In his overview on government policy of Bangladesh, he identified a few problems that, there is no single formal policy regarding indigenous peoples in Bangladesh; sectoral policies largely bypass indigenous peoples’ issues except education and health; there are no representations of plain land indigenous peoples in decision making; land and resources rights  are being violated.
In the context of CHT he emphasized on the implementations of the local instruments including CHT Regulation 1900, Hill District Council Acts 1989, CHT Regional Council Acts 1998, CHT land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001, CHT Regulation (Amendment) Act 2003, Customary personal laws in accordance with governance, administrative and development processes generally on a  par with ILO convention 169. He focused on a few positive developments in policy level, which include constitutional provisions-non discrimination (article 27), affirmative action safeguards (article 28), preservation of cultural diversity (article 23), quota policy (jobs and education), CHT accord 1997, PRSP-1 and PRSP-2 (some consultation with IPs), Awami League election manifesto, constitutional
amendment process, draft 5th  five year plan and so on. !
Mr. Abhilash Tripura declared that, the implementation of ILO convention 169 will help Bangladesh in several ways. Such as, it will promote inclusive development, democracy, good governance and conflict resolution, it will demonstrate commitment to achieving consensus and collectively addressing indigenous peoples’ issues at national level, it will provide framework for much needed coordinated action for indigenous peoples’ development, it will provide commitment based platform for establishing harmonious and cooperative relationship between indigenous peoples and State, it will ensure the positive reflection for international  human rights record for Bangladesh. The implementation of ILO convention 169 will also reinforce implementation of CHT Accord, open way for ILO supervision and technical assistance, ensuring systematic and long term follow up! , promote partnerships (government, donors and indigenous peoples) as well as it will attract donor funding, as indicates commitment to protection of human rights of vulnerable groups and democratization in general.
He said, ILO convention 169 is a natural progression as Bangladesh is a signatory of ILO convention 107.There are some provisions in ILO convention 169 in-line with spirit of constitution of Bangladesh (non-discrimination, special measures,); sectoral policies (e.g. education, health),CHT accord and other national laws. He said, it is positive substance that, PRSP (2009-2011) and 5th five year plan incorporate indigenous peoples concern and recommend ratifying ILO convention 169, National Human Rights Commission included advocacy and support for C169 ratification in their strategic plan, Awami League election manifesto stated the indigenous peoples concern as well as prime minister Sheikh Hasina voiced support to adoption and implementation of United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mr. Abhilash Tripura’s presentation was followed by Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma’s presentation. Mr. Chakma, advisor of the Kapaeeng Foundation gave an overview on ILO regional consultations meetings which were held nationwide. He also discussed on sharing of the experiences and achievements of previous regional consultation.
He illustrated that, indigenous peoples are facing historical injustices in the country for long time. They are facing the discrimination and injustices, marginalization and minoritization, extreme poverty, conflict, dispossession from ancestral land, undermined livelihood and culture.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma also expressed his concern over inclusion of the words such ‘tribals, small nationalities, small ethnic groups and communities’ in the constitution which only deals with cultural rights of indigenous peoples.
He said ‘If here the government even includes the word indigenous peoples, it will not ensure our any rights of us. Until and unless, fundamental rights of indigenous peoples including participation and representation at decision-making level, land rights, reservation of seat at parliament and local government bodies, indigenous peoples-inhabited status of Chittagong Hill Tracts, constitutional guarantee of CHT Accord and laws enacted as per as CHT Accord are not recognised in the constitution; only recognition of culture and heritage in the constitution is meaningless.’
He pointed out Article 6 of the constitution which is likely to be included that “all peoples of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengali as nation and citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bangladeshis”. According to Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma, such introduction of citizens would definitely hamper identity of indigenous peoples who posses different identity, language, customs and culture than the mainstream people.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma’s presentation was followed by a group workshop where four different groups were formed. These four groups are – Chittagong Hill Tacts group, North Bengal group, Coastal Region group and Sylhet, Mymansingh and Dhaka Region group.
These four groups identified some problems regarding ensuring indigenous rights as well as also recommended suggestions to combat these problems. These groups also recommended some suggestions over the regional consultation meeting on ILO convention no: 107 and 169.
The identified problems regarding ensuring indigenous rights are as follows-
  • Identity problem.
  • Land dispute.
  • Non implementation of CHT Accord- 1997.
  • Lack of access in the service.
  • Low access in education.
  • Derogatory presentation of indigenous community peoples in the school books.
  • Discrimination in all sectors.
  • Cultural threat by the mass community’s culture.
  • Extinction of customary laws.
  • Racial discrimination in judicial system.
  • No exemplary punishment for the perpetrators who violates indigenous rights. 
  • Encroachment of land of indigenous in the name of eco-park, and reserve forest.
  • Problems created by the Vested Property Act.
  • Decrease in using herbal medication system.
  • Lack of awareness on rights those IP people posses.
  • Lack of knowledge on international instruments.
  • Lack of collaboration between the indigenous organizations.
  • Lack of coordination among the indigenous leaders.
  • Lack of representatives in policy making system.
  • Unwillingness of the arm forces and government employees to establish the rights of indigenous peoples. 
The participants also suggested recommendation in order to combat these problems. They are as follows-
  • Create awareness from the grass roots level to the national level.
  • Inclusion of mass people in such training and workshops which deals with indigenous rights.
  • Build awareness among the Union Parishad chairman, members, journalists, civil society about indigenous rights.
  • Organizing capacity building training particularly for the local indigenous organizations.
  • Inclusion of a curriculum on indigenous rights at the public service commission.  
  • Build awareness against racial discrimination especially in the judicial system.
  • Proper implementation of CHT Accord.
  • Introduction of multi- lingual education system.
  • Introducing customary laws.
  • Proper implementation of the reserved quotas.
  • Create a network among the national indigenous organization.
  • Emphasize on media campaign.
  • Empowering Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.
The participants also spontaneously made some recommendation for the ILO, which are as follows:
  • Follow up the recommendations of the regional consultation meeting.
  • Create a platform which will help to organize dialogue between the indigenous peoples and the policy makers such as ministers and member of the parliaments. 
  • To start a project on Indigenous population. (Adivashi Census).
  • Translating the ILO convention 107 and 169 in different indigenous language.
  • Organize training for the non governmental organizations on indigenous rights.
Later on, Ms. Srijony Tripura, Mr. Sishir Deo, Advocate Babul Rabi Dash also took part in the open discussion of the group workshop.
Finally Mr . Abhilash Tripura pointed out the issues which can be undertaken for future actions and Mr. Dipayan Khisa, vice chair person of Kapaeeng Foundation concluded the daylong meeting.                                                                                                                 

---- Kapaeeng Foundation
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
E-mail: kapaeeng.foundation@gmail.com, kapaeeng.watch@gmail.com

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