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United Nations investment programme gets backing 18/06/09
 

The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) programme has received support from three orginsations to create engagement between investors and companies to promote and respect the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

Investment research company EIRIS, the Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER) and Survival International are supporting the move with UN PRI collaborative engagement drawing on latest research from EIRIS exploring the opportunities faced by companies operating in parts of the world where the rights of indigenous peoples are threatened.

According to the United Nations there are 370 million indigenous people in the world and 5,000 distinct indigenous cultural identities in more than 70 countries.

There are believed to be more than 100 uncontacted groups in the world. Although indigenous people only account for 5% of the world's population, they account for over 15% of the world's poor.

Companies engaging in activities that may infringe the rights of indigenous peoples, as enshrined within the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, face increasing reputational risks potentially leading to issues with access to capital, damage to brand, licence to operate, and operational risks such as the threat of litigation and increased regulation.

The EIRIS report Indigenous rights: risks and opportunities for investors highlights the rights of indigenous peoples as a key human rights issue that companies and their investors should take into account.

It covers companies operating in sectors and countries considered to be high risk for indigenous peoples.

The research also highlights key risks areas which investors should consider when engaging with companies on indigenous rights issues such as access to investment capital; increased regulation; litigation and reputational risk.

The key findings are:

- Big companies at risk: 250 companies (with a total market value of GBP 1.7 trillion) have been identified as having an exposure to indigenous rights. 17% of companies have a high risk exposure to indigenous rights issues.

- Few companies report on indigenous rights issues: The quality of reporting is generally poor: whilst most companies provide a response to allegations of breaches of indigenous rights few report voluntarily on areas of non-compliance.

- Fewer than 20% of companies have adopted a policy supporting free prior informed consent2 for indigenous peoples:19% of these companies have a corporate-wide indigenous rights policy. Only 15% of companies have a corporate-wide policy supporting free prior informed consultation.

- Only a fifth of companies disclose employment data on indigenous people:19% of companies disclose employment data on indigenous peoples.

- Fewer than 10% of companies have a policy for involuntary resettlement: Just over 6% of companies have a policy covering involuntary resettlement.

Stephanie Maier, head of research at EIRIS, said: 'Indigenous rights is a complex issue that companies and their investors need to address and is especially important for extractive companies as they seek to expand and gain access to land.

"Our research explores the challenges and opportunities faced by major companies operating in parts of the world where the rights of indigenous peoples are threatened. We are very pleased to be working with the UN PRI and Survival International on this important area of engagement.'

Click here (http://www.eiris.org/files/research%20publications/indigenousrightsjun09.pdf) to download a copy of the research report.

 
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