UNDER THE COVER OF COVID: New Laws in Asia Favor Business at the Cost of Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Land and Territorial Rights

Author: Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Coalition for Tenure Justice in Indonesia & Rights and Resources Initiative

Date: November 16, 2020

This brief discusses legislative developments during COVID-19 in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines that undermine sustainable human-environment interactions and IPs’ and LCs’ broader enjoyment of their rights over their customary territories. While India, Indonesia and the Philippines have yet to ratify the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) (ILO 169), all three countries have ratified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Each of these countries has also promoted national-level tenure reforms over lands and forests, though their implementation has been weak.

In this brief, we first introduce the context to COVID-19 in each focus country. Legislative processes presented here are occurring alongside each country’s pandemic response, including state-led lockdowns, which provides important context. Then, we summarize legislative developments through three themes, which at times overlap:

  1. Opportunistic advancements in controversial legislative processes that pre-date COVID.
  2. Corporate stimulus and compensation.
  3. Top-down pandemic solutions that undermine IP and LC rights.

We find that in India, the Philippines and Indonesia, government initiatives are continuing pre-COVID developmental agendas that have increased the likelihood of vector-borne diseases such as COVID-19 to proliferate and enter human hosts. These activities have undermined global agendas for addressing climate change and the collapse of biodiversity, and will continue to do so if people-centered responses to the pandemic are discarded in favor of environmentally destructive trajectories.

This brief is also available in Filipino and Indonesian.

Key Findings

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