Friday 11 March 2011

EU supports UN rapporteur on Tibetan nomads’ rights

(, Mar11, 2011) The European Union has on Mar 8 expressed support for the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food’s recommendations to the Chinese authorities, asking it to engage in meaningful consultations with herding communities in Tibet and other parts of the PRC, and expressing concern on the marginalisation of the nomadic herders under the current policy. The occasion was the Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter’s preliminary report presented to the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva after his visit to the PRC from Dec 15 to 23.

The report expressed grave concern that “nomadic herders in the western provinces and autonomous regions, especially in Tibet (Xizang) and Inner Mongolian Autonomous Regions … face increasing pressure on their access to land.” It recommended to the Chinese authorities that herders should not, as a result of the measures adopted under the tuimu huancao (removing animals to grow grass) policy, be put in a situation where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle.

The report also recommended that China assess the results of its past and current policies by examining all available options, incorporating the knowledge of the nomadic herders of their territories.

In this connection, the report highlighted two significant UN instruments both of which China had ratified: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which prohibits depriving any people from its means of subsistence, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), which acknowledges the importance of indigenous communities as guarantors and protectors of biodiversity.

The council was told by NGO experts about the International development agencies’ concern that Tibetan nomads had been coercively removed, excluded from their rangelands and made to settle in rows of houses in rigid lines from the watershed, with no livelihoods, little compensation and nothing to do but watch television. These concerns had reportedly been expressed at an International Conference on Poverty Reduction and the Important Role for International Cooperation held in 2006 in Sichuan Province, China.

The council’s attention was drawn to media remarks by the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Governor Padma Choling that about 300,000 families involving 1.43 million Tibetan nomads and farmers had already been moved into new or fixed settlement homes while some 185,500 more families faced the same fate by 2013.

The Special Rapporteur was urged to request a follow-up visit to the nomadic and herding communities in the PRC, with affected Tibetan communities, which he had missed in his previous visit, being included in his schedule.

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