The UK Government is committed to promoting and protecting human rights for all individuals, including indigenous people, who continue to be amongst the poorest and most marginalised in the world. We condemn violence and discrimination against people from indigenous and minority groups. Our embassies and high commissions monitor human rights in their host countries and routinely raise our concerns with their governments.
The UK is active bilaterally and internationally, through the EU, the UN and with our Commonwealth partners, to draw attention to the rights of indigenous people, underline the importance of protecting their culture and traditions and to highlight the extreme disadvantages that indigenous people face across a range of social and economic indicators. We continue to emphasise the importance to indigenous people of sustainable development and the preservation of the natural environment, given that their quality and way of life strongly depend on natural resources.
The FCO funds projects in Colombia, Guatemala and Bolivia to encourage and support political participation by indigenous people on issues which affect them, such as land restitution or fishing rights. It also offers support through educational programmes on violence against women in indigenous communities. Indigenous issues also featured at the high-level EU–Brazil Human Rights Dialogue in May, and the EU funded four projects, totalling almost €600,000, to promote indigenous rights across Brazil, including an Oxfam UK project on indigenous rights in São Paulo.
We also used our Chevening Scholarship in 2012 in Australia to fund a programme to help Aboriginal students gain scholarships, supporting three outstanding scholars who had won places at Oxford and Cambridge universities. We believe that the programme has contributed to providing role models to indigenous communities and demonstrating the importance of educational aspiration.
We are launching a new strategy in 2013 on business and human rights (covered in Section V). It is based on the UN Guiding Principles ratified in the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and will promote responsible business behaviour for UK companies operating overseas. It will encourage UK companies to engage with indigenous communities and undertake impact assessments of their operations, as poor business practices can have a significant detrimental impact on these communities.