Environmental Rights

Historic or traditional use of land by community or others are ignored


People have a right to practice their cultural and historical traditions.


Indigenous Peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources they have traditionally owned, occupied, used or acquired. By the principle of ‘free, prior and informed consent’, indigenous communities have the right to withhold consent to proposed projects or operations that may affect the lands they customarily or traditionally use, own or occupy. There are international obligations to protect these rights and to recognize them in a way that gives due respect to indigenous customs, traditions and land tenure systems. If they are not recognized and respected, the continuation of traditional cultural use of, and relationship with, land is jeopardized and may be permanently destroyed.


Businesses should conduct appropriate due diligence and undertake an environmental and social impact assessment for any operations that might ignore, disrupt or otherwise impact traditional land rights or use. Businesses should also engage in early prior consultations with traditional communities and conduct surveys to gauge and monitor risks of impacts on the community’s land rights. It is vital to consider education and training modules for boards and workers to raise awareness that can then inform business strategy and operations.


Businesses should also aim to understand how land rights may be viewed differently in various societies and traditions. Many traditional and indigenous understandings of land and land rights view land not as property or a financial commodity to be traded but as a communal, life-sustaining resource to be protected.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 27
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Article 27
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007, Articles 11 and 12
Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992
Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989 (No. 169)

SDG 11


SDG 11.4

Businesses that conduct due diligence and undertake environmental and social impact assessments help to achieve SDG 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.