David Cameron snubs tribal rights as he refuses to ratify international law.

David Cameron has recently refused to ratify a key law that would protect the rights of indigenous people, around the world. The law, called ILO 169, is the only international law at present like its kind. The aim is to prevent land being stolen and communities devastated. The only problem is; most countries refuse to ratify it. A site called Survival International gives light to these issues, drawing support from celebrities such as Colin Firth, and gaining public attention through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, in the hope that they can help in their mission to save tribal peoples rights.

In a world where Westernised culture dominates every aspect of life, tribal people are becoming increasingly rare. The destruction of rainforests, mining and logging show the complete disregard many have for those who live a natural way of life. The repercussions of this are tragic: diseases are spread, homes are destroyed, and lives are devastated. It is not an unknown fact that the rainforests are in critical danger due to deforestation, meaning that the legally binding law that has been put in place does not only help these vulnerable people, but also the world as a whole. For this reason, it is important for all countries to support this new law. A point could be made that ratifying this law could put unnecessary “responsibilities” on Britain, that it could not fulfil. However, in ratifying the law, the government would simply be more involved in consultations over the development of the land, but more importantly, showing support and respect for indigenous tribes.

David Cameron has defended the UK’s decision not to participate by stating: ‘The UK has no indigenous people to whom the Convention can apply’. This may be so, but this decision has left many supporters disgruntled, as UK companies overseas work can have a lasting impact on indigenous people. An example of this is UK mining company Vedanta, who has recently been criticised for mistreating India’s Dongria Kondh tribe. MP Martin Horwood has stated the UK government “completely underestimated the importance and impact UK ratification would have had on UK companies, on UK policy and on the international community.” The fact that countries such as Spain and the Netherlands, (who also have no indigenous people), have ratified the law. This has shown that it will not have a great impact on Britain, as other European countries are participating. The Prime Ministers actions have also generated a lot of public outcry on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with one post gaining 319 shares. Comments from the public stated:

“Dreadful. This is the least the UK could do.”

“Such a shame but not at all surprising of our government.”

“All this carry on at Olympics and Jubilee etc. about our wonderful proud nation, and we behave like this, disgusting. Yet another thing we should be ashamed of.”

The use of social media in Survival International has been fundamental in bringing change to the lives of tribal people. Without it, the world would be oblivious to the atrocities these people are subject to. Twitter has been used to reach out to the public to contact their local MP, in a bid to gain support. Survival International has nearly 18,000 followers on twitter, and nearly 80,000 likes on Facebook. This shows the outstanding support the non-profit organisation has gained, and the public’s obvious interest in the rights of indigenous peoples. To support this law, the British government would have to take such a simple step that would help so many. The director of Survival Internationals Stephen Corry commented on Britain’s dismissal of this law by stating, “Britain’s refusal to ratify the law is shameful, particularly given the terrible impact its colonial past has had on so many tribal peoples around the world.”

The Prime Ministers refusal to participate in the aid of tribal people is not a one off thing, according to Survival. David Cameron has had another clash with the public with regard to the Indonesian state visiting him in London. The UK apparently has links with an Indonesian “Death Squad”, which has been accused of suppressing a Papuan tribe who are seeking independence. A peaceful protest was conducted outside parliament with signs stating, “Cameron stop funding Indonesian death squads.” This event was organised on Facebook, with hundreds turning up. It was an attempt to provoke Cameron into taking a more active interest in tribal rights, and the effects his decisions may be having on them.

It appears that many feel the Prime Minister has an obligation to help Indigenous tribes, due to indirect actions. Survival International has given the opportunity to those who feel apathetic to tribal causes, by providing an online letter to the Prime Minister, in which your support of the law is shown. Through social media, a voice has been given to those, whose language barriers and lack of technology, mean contact is seldom.

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