Though Obama temporarily halted construction on a section of the controversial pipeline earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur said the pipeline’s construction should be permanently ended.
Following extensive protests that have brought together many indigenous groups and their allies, a United Nations expert issued a statement condemning the Dakota Access pipeline and called on the United States government to permanently stop the project. UN Special Rapporteur on the Indigenous Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said in the statement that “the tribe was denied access to information and excluded from consultations at the planning stage of the project” and added that “environmental assessments failed to disclose the presence and proximity of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. She said that this prevented the tribe from offering informed consent and the US government’s failure to sufficiently inform the tribe to do so breaches the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Talui-Corpuz seconded Sioux concerns that the project posed a significant threat to the tribe’s water supply and the preservation of its sacred sites. She also admonished the US for the horrific crackdown on pipeline protestors saying that “US authorities should fully protect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of indigenous people.” Ultimately, Tauli-Corpuz urged the UN Humans Rights Council to pressure the US to end the Dakota Access pipeline once and for all. She was not alone in her statement either as seven other UN experts endorsed her written opinion. They include Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, John H. Knox, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, and Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II with (left) UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Andrea Carmen, executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council, on September 20th. Credit – Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Tauli-Corpuz’s statement came only two days after Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II addressed the UN Human Right Council in an attempt to gain international opposition to the pipeline. It also follows a UN appeal filed last month by the Standing Rock Sioux and the International Indian Treaty Council. Both groups jointly submitted an urgent action communication to four UN special rapporteurs due to “ongoing threats and violations to the human rights of the Tribe, its members, and its future generations.” The $3.8 billion pipeline project was approved in late July by the US Army Corps of Engineers despite objections from the EPA, Dept of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation.
The Standing Rock Sioux have been protesting for months due to concerns that the pipeline will gravely endanger their only water source, the Missouri River, and that its construction will destroy many of their sacred sites. Considering that three oil spills happened in just one week earlier this month, including one in North Dakota, their concerns are very real, which Tauli-Corpuz noted in her statement. However, it remains to be seen what effect the opinion of UN experts will have on the government’s actions regarding the pipeline.