UN fails uncontacted Indians

July 5, 2011

Members of an Ayoreo family contacted in 2004. © GAT 2004

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The UN’s flagship business initiative is being used as a tool to mask human rights abuses, according to Ayoreo Indians in Paraguay.

Leaders of the tribe, some of whose members are still uncontacted, have written to the UN Global Compact saying they are ‘concerned and frustrated’ by the inclusion in it of a controversial Brazilian ranching company.

The company, Yaguarete Porá, was charged and fined for illegally clearing the Ayoreo’s forests, and concealing evidence of uncontacted Ayoreo living there. The Ayoreo have asked that it be expelled from the Global Compact.

The UN Global Compact was designed for companies ‘committed to aligning their operations with ten universally accepted principles,’ including respect for human and environmental rights.

A bulldozer clears forest belonging to Ayoreo-Totobiegosode people, Paraguay © Survival

In its reply, the Global Compact has admitted that it has ‘neither the resources nor the mandate to conduct investigations into any of our participants’.

Yaguarete Porá won Survival International’s ‘Greenwashing Award’ in 2010 for ‘dressing up the wholesale destruction of a huge area of the Indians’ forest as a noble gesture for conservation’.

While some Ayoreo have been contacted by missionaries, a number remain hidden in the forest. But their land is being quickly destroyed to make way for cattle farming.

Yaguarete has angered the Ayoreo by promoting its membership of the UN Global Compact on its website, which the Indians believe promotes a false image of corporate responsibility.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This makes an utter mockery of the UN Global Compact. If the UN doesn’t make sure companies displaying its logos abide by the rules, such initiatives become entirely meaningless. Yaguarete should be forced to leave the compact immediately.’