Geneva, 8 March: The UN Human Rights Council 16th session discussed Olivier de Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food’s China report today. The Special Rapporteur’s preliminary report issued after visiting China from 15 to 23 December 2010 expressed concern regarding the marginalisation of Nomadic herders in Tibet.
The report highlighted “Nomadic herders in the western provinces and autonomous regions, especially in the Tibet (Xizang) and Inner Mongolian Autonomous Regions, also face increasing pressure on their access to land.”
The Special Rapporteur recommended the Chinese authorities that herders should not, as a result of the measures adopted under the tuimu huancao (“removing animals to grow grass”) policy, be put in a situation where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights prohibits depriving any people from its means of subsistence, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) acknowledges the importance of indigenous communities as guarantors and protectors of biodiversity. China has ratified both of these instruments. The Special Rapporteur encouraged the Chinese authorities to engage in meaningful consultations with the herding communities.
The European Union expressed its support for the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to the Chinese authorities “to engage in meaningful consultations with herding communities, including in order to assess the results of past and current policies, to examine all available options in order to combine the knowledge of the nomadic herders of their territories.”
The EU asked the Special Rapporteur what measures could be taken to effectively promote adequate forms of public participations in decision-making.
Mr. Tenzin Samphel Kayta speaking on behalf of the Society Threatened Peoples made reference to the 2006 International Conference on Poverty Reduction and the Important Role for International Cooperation in Sichuan Province, China. International development agencies at the conference said that Tibetan nomads had been coercively removed, excluded from their rangelands and made to settle in rows of houses in rigid lines from the watershed, with no livelihoods, little compensation and nothing to do but watch television.
He drew the attention of the Council and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food that China’s Xinhua News agency report dated 17 January 2011 quoting Mr. Padma Choling, Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet saying that a total of about 300,000 families involving 1.43 million Tibetan nomads and farmers had been moved into new or fixed settlement homes. He further said that some 185,500 families were expected to move into new homes by 2013.
“Since the very survival of Tibetan nomad’s traditional way of life and livelihood is at stake, we would like to urge Special Rapporteur to pay close attention on this issue and urge the Special Rapporteur to request a follow-up visit which include schedule to see those affected Tibetan nomads. We are, of course, disappointed that the Special Rapporteur was not able to visit Tibetan areas of present-day China,” said Mr. Kayta during his oral statement to the Human Rights Council.