President Obama has announced that the United States will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In a speech given at the White House, the President told listeners, "The aspirations [the Declaration] affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples, are ones we must always seek to fulfill."
The United Nations passed the Declaration in 2007, after twenty years of debate. The United States is late to sign on, but it's support is welcomed by many indigenous communities. According to a publication by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), "Implementation is what we are waiting for now." While U.S. support is a good step forward, there are concerns about qualifications made to U.S. support, one of which the IITC reports waters down the concept of "free, prior, and informed consent" to "consultation".
In October of this year, First Affirmative joined other investors in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging the United States to sign the declaration. U.S. support of the Declaration sends a clear message to the business community that proactive policies addressing human rights are expected.
As investors, we've encouraged companies to uphold human rights for many years. Our Proxy Voting Guidelines support shareholder proposals that ask companies to report on the impact of their operations on indigenous communities, and/or to take steps to ensure that they respect the rights of such communities. First Affirmative also supports proposals asking companies to consider the impacts and to provide an opportunity for free, prior, and informed consent regarding planned development and operations that may impact indigenous communities.
For more information, view the President's full announcement.
Posted: December 20, 2010