EU Directive and Indigenous peoples

EU Directive and Indigenous peoples

Date : 16/03/2023


International Justice and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence 

In a few decades, there is a real increase in ecological awareness. In front of the ecological crisis, the environment is a key issue at national, regional, and international levels. This challenge is perceptible in all areas: economic, political and legal. Today, there are rules and standards that protect the environment.
Green growth is at the heart of EU policy to ensure that Europe’s economic growth is environmentally sustainable. Moreover, the environment is protected with the aim of protecting humans. There is an interdependence between the environment and the sustainability of human societies. 

In February 2022, a proposal entitled “Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive” was adopted by the European Commission. Through this directive, companies will have to act sustainably and responsibly and integrate human rights and environmental considerations into their operations and corporate governance. Multinationals must consider the human rights, climate change and environmental consequences of their decisions.
The issues in this proposal are perfectly perceptible in the dispute between Indigenous peoples and the mining industry. 

Indigenous people represent 6% of the world’s population. The European Union expresses solidarity with the 476 million indigenous peoples worldwide. 

The rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in international human rights law. Their role in climate justice is essential because “They are critical custodians and defenders of more than 80% of our biological diversity and have a profound understanding of sustainable land management”. Consequently, the European Union is committed to supporting the participation of indigenous leaders and indigenous human rights defenders in development processes and key forums for global decision-making. For example, in early March 2023, the American NGO Cultural Survival came to Brussels to draw attention to the impact of extractive industries such as oil, gas and mining on the rights, lands and environment of indigenous peoples. 

According to the indigenous representatives, the “Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive” is highly questionable in several aspects. 

Firstly, the directive is applicable only to limited categories of companies: micro companies and Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not concerned by the proposed rules. This is very problematic as these categories of companies represent 99% of all businesses in the European Union. Thus, the effectiveness of this directive can be questioned. 

Secondly, while the majority of the work of these mining industries is carried out on indigenous lands, the European text makes no reference to indigenous peoples even though it is their rights that are threatened in the first place. 

In addition, the principle of ensuring access to justice is not guaranteed. Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law. If people do not have access to justice, they will not be able to assert their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable for their decisions. Indeed, some indigenous peoples speak only rare dialects and the cost of justice is very high for people who sometimes live little financial means. 

To conclude, despite the fact that this Directive established a corporate due diligence duty, this rule seems insufficient to deal with all the current issues as we have illustrated with the example of the indigenous peoples against mining abuses. 

Sources and further reading : 

Towards a greener and more sustainable Europe : 

Official EU website, European Commission, Corporate sustainability due diligence: 

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples :,all%20matters%20that%20concern%20them.

Press release, 8 August 2022, Council of the EU, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 9 August 2022: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union :  

Official EU website, Internal Market, Industry, Eutrepreneurship and SMEs, SME definition: 

Official UN website, Access to Justice :,exercise%20their%20rights%2C%20challenge%20discrimination%20or%20hold%20 

Article, RFI, 07/03/2023, Indigenous leaders ask EU to scale up justice against mining abuses :