Aboriginal leaders hit Asian Development Bank projects

Three leaders of Asian indigenous peoples said at a news conference May 7 that their human rights and environment are being violated because of development projects partially funded by Japan.

The press conference was held prior to the board meeting of the Asian Development Bank, scheduled for next week in Fukuoka, in which the ADB is expected to adopt a guideline on how to treat indigenous peoples involved in ADB-funded development projects. Aboriginal leaders claim such treatment is presently far from satisfactory. Japan, when its official development assistance is included, is the major contributor to the ADB.

Subodh Bikash Chakma, a coordinator of indigenous peoples living in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, said indigenous peoples should have been more involved in the process of drawing up such guidelines. “I’m not against the idea of having a guideline,” Subodh said. “What concerns me is that the ADB’s guideline lacks the mechanism to resolve the problems indigenous people are facing. The ADB is trying to justify what they have done to us.”

Kabita Chakma, who was born in the tracts and is now trying to network indigenous peoples in the area, said Japan should adhere to its ODA policies more strictly. “Japan’s ODA charter stipulates that environmental conservation and development be pursued in tandem, and that aid should be not put to military use. Neither case applies to where I am from,” Kabita said. Before the press conference, the three met with Upper House member Shigeru Kayano, the first Ainu elected as a lawmaker.