Have indigenous populations the right, not only to be protected from the threatening effects of globalization on their way of life, but also to be legally and politically supported in their claim to self-determination? The United Nations recognize in its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007 that indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions (article 4). Furthermore, indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State (article 5).
However, this Declaration carries no legal sanction against UN member states’ violations of this right. For this reason, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues keep a close eye on the latest developments taking place among sensitive populations, likely to suffer from encroachments of their fundamental rights. At the Belem World Social Forum in 2009, more than a 1000 people drew attention to the threat posed by globalization to the indigenous and tribal peoples of the Amazon.
Students of Theme 8, dedicated to ‘People, nations and cultures’ should be aware of the struggle of local and tribal populations all around the world. Sovereign states are notoriously reluctant to relinquish any political and economic power to ethnic minorities, often linguistically and culturally estranged from the dominant national culture. Such groups can simply be swallowed up or absorbed by globalization. On the other hand, the power of the Net can, not only help these minorities be heard for the first time but also contribute to their rights being vindicated worldwide, through a better understanding of their plight.