VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis held an audience with the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which was being held in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on February 15.
Pope Francis stressed that indigenous peoples have the right to be correctly informed about the any development that changes the nature of their tribal lands, as well as probable economic and environmental consequences when their consent for projects is being sought.
It is a common practice for developers to present false plans and make fictitious claims about projects in order to gain the consent of the people, as well as bribe rogue members of their groups to sign the documents.
State law in many countries demands the consent, but in reality few take realistic steps towards enforcing it.
“You have come together to identify ways of giving greater economic empowerment to indigenous peoples,” the pope told the gathering.
Pope Francis told the forum, “The central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories. The right to prior and informed consent should always prevail.”
A Vatican press release pointed out that a second aspect concerns the development of guidelines and projects which take into account indigenous identity, with particular attention to young people and women; not only considering them, but including them!
Pope Francis concluded, “For governments, this means recognising that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level.”