Tribal representatives from across the world have joined Kenya's Samburu tribe in urging the UK to sign an international law that not only ensures their secured existence but also protect forests and natural resources. The law, known as the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 for Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO 169), was designed in 1989 to protect tribal peoples' rights, enabling them to own their lands. It is the only law for tribal people worldwide.
While most governments refuse to endorse it, about 22 nations have ratified it.
"At this rate, it will be another 170 years before every country has ratified the Convention. Every country that does so, strengthens its force, and gives tribal peoples a greater chance to survive and thrive," Survival International, a London-based organisation fighting for tribal rights said in a statement.
According to Survival, tribal and indigenous representatives from around the world have written a letter, dated 17 May 2012, to MP William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pleading him to advise the UK government to ratify ILO 169 as a matter of grave importance.
"We write on the basis of our understanding of ILO Convention 169 and the principles it enshrines, convinced that: i) only through widespread ratification will they be recognised as an issue of global importance; ii) they represent the most effective way to guarantee our survival," representatives wrote in the letter.
They also noted Britain voted for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adding the UK does not have any indigenous tribe but British companies do have functions on their land.
"We are aware that there are no tribal or indigenous peoples in the United Kingdom, however, we respectfully remind you that British companies operate on indigenous land, British aid money funds projects on tribal territories and Britain funds World Bank and IMF development schemes planned for tribal land," they wrote.