"The World Bank and the IMF make decisions every day that
affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of tribal peoples.
The tribes are hardly, if ever, consulted. In the last 50 years
the World Bank has approved projects that have had catastrophic
results for indigenous people worldwide. According to the Bank's
own figures, by 1996 it will have evicted 4 million people, many
of them tribal" - Survival International Press Release,
September 20, 1994.
Spirituality, Natural Law, and
the Ethics of Authority
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on ethics and spirituality
as it relates to the World Bank and its four regional banks:
Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, African
Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Indigenous peoples have a long history of being victims of
development projects throughout the world. This occurs consistently
because indigenous peoples live in what is called undeveloped
or underdeveloped territories. The natural resources, lands and
water are the targets of development which can take many different
forms. The extraction of oil, gold, other minerals, timber, or
water results in a fundamental change in the natural environment
in which indigenous peoples have culturally and physically adapted
for thousands of years.
Water is life. People migrate to water and people live by
water for its sustenance. The constant search for energy by industrial
societies has impacted indigenous peoples throughout the world.
Dams have become the primary source of cultural destruction to
many indigenous peoples. Dams have brought about relocation and
flooding of aboriginal lands, flooding of burial grounds and
sacred sites. It has meant a change of habitat for the lives
of fish, birds, and animals. It generally means a total disruption
of the ecosystems sustaining life. The effect of this dramatic
change upon indigenous peoples living a "sustainable"
lifestyle based upon the natural laws of nature is catastrophic.
In industrial societies privilege is standardized with bigger
bathrooms, bigger beds, and fatter, softer towels. For those
born into this standardized life of privilege it is difficult
to understand poverty because they have very limited frames of
reference and therefore, show little tolerance for differences.
Impact of Development
Development poses questions not only of ethics but also of
human rights, and even further, the rights of natural life co-habitating
It poses questions of the long term consequences of changing
ecosystems; it raises the question of authority and from whence
it is derived; it raises questions of morality and sovereignty
and the notions of "sustainable development", "market",
and "standards" of living. These actions pose questions
that need attention and answers.
Projects of the world bank have been notorious for negative
impacts on indigenous peoples' lives and aboriginal lands. We
have been impacted by the mining of gold, uranium, and other
minerals, roads and highways built to access raw materials not
only remove minerals and destroy forests and fragment habitat
for living creatures, but they also provide access to land-hungry
individuals coming from deprived circumstances in deteriorating
infrastructures of overpopulated cities and urban wastelands.
These people bring with them a fierce instinct for survival
coupled with racism. They also bring relief to hard pressed governments
overwhelmed with population demands for relief from the social
pressures of unemployment and poverty. These people, desperate
from poverty, have little regard for fragile indigenous communities
living in the last reaches of the natural ecosystems of the world.
The equation is: short term economic gain based upon consumption,
traded for the long term health and welfare of our grandchildren.
They will be the ones to pay for the market-driven forces of
We have all heard these words before, and by now it is regarded
as the rhetoric of environmentalists and "unrealistic"
advocates of world peace and harmony.
What then are the ethics of your organization, regarding development
of these projects? Who makes the decisions on these projects?
What are the consultative processes with regard to indigenous
peoples, their communities and their leaders? More to the point,
do they have anything to say in this final determination of projects
that impact indigenous peoples directly? Past performance by
the World Bank says not.
I ask again what are your ethics regarding the rights of self-determination
and the recognition of the homelands of indigenous peoples?
From whence do you derive your authority when you determine
projects impacting indigenous peoples and lands? Is there in
the lexicon of your organization a "moral" standard
for indigenous peoples and their lands? Are there moral and ethical
standards for any lands and natural resources?
There is a spiritual aspect to all of this from our, the indigenous
peoples, perspective. Is there one from yours? If not, why not?
Do you feel you need one? If you do then you acknowledge the
jurisdiction of a higher authority.
I will make a simple illustration: We can agree that the new
President of the World Bank is a good and just man who had done
fine and good things for his human family, and even better for
the natural world that provides for us all.
This merits recognition and we agree that there must be some
way to reward him. We gather ourselves and agree that in carrying
out his duties he must travel far and wide, and often finds himself
in adverse conditions. We agree that since water is the first
law of life it would be to his greatest interest never to have
to worry about water for himself no matter where he is.
In total agreement with the highest authorities of nations
and states we decree that with this diploma we have all endorsed:
He will no longer have to drink water.
Happily he receives this decree and goes about his business.
Several days later he is back severely perplexed and very thirsty,
saying the decree does not work. Why? The answer is quite simple:
We have exceeded our jurisdiction.
There is a higher authority and we are subject to its laws.
There are no appeals courts for these laws. There is only the
law and we will suffer in direct proportion to our transgressions
Good people, we now talk about the ultimate authority, that
law that governs all life on this planet. "This lonely blue
dot on the fringes of a great galaxy" as my good friend
Carl Sagan puts it.
A thousand years ago or more we the Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois,
the rules and processes of democracy. The principles of this
democracy are: Peace in mind and community, Equity,
which is justice for the people, and the power of the good
minds, which embodies good health and reason.
This democracy established power in the people who joined
of their own free will. It established the process of informed
consent. It balanced the duties of governance between men and
women. It gave women the duty of choosing leadership, that was
then ratified by consensus of the people. It also gave women
the power of recall. It provided the principle of representation
of people in government, as well as accountability by leadership.
It established respect as a law. It established access to
all leaders and an open forum on all issues, and it did not discriminate
on the basis of gender or age. It promoted freedom as a responsibility
and above all it was based upon the spiritual laws of nature.
This was a seamless government that inspired Benjamin Franklin
to say "...this is a government that seems indissoluble."
It inspired the roots of western democracy that we know today.
All this from indigenous peoples.
This Democracy is all inclusive. Democracy is direct access
to leadership. Democracy is equal protection under law. True
democracy does not abide privilege, nor centralized control of
power. Leadership is privileged only to serve. And the leaders
needs come last after the people.
The democratic laws of most indigenous peoples arise from
their understanding of the natural law and the regenerative powers
that sustain life.
Therefore, "sustainable" in our terms means working
with these laws that could be termed spiritual.
We were instructed to make all of our laws in concert with
these principles thus insuring life in endless cycles. To challenge
these cycles and the interdependent processes of life that sustain
us will insure our defeat and demise on this Earth. We human
beings can be productive and supportive to this network or we
can be parasites. Right now we are parasites.
And we are, by sheer numbers and behavior, extinguishing other
life forms. The natural laws says that no one entity can grow
unchecked. There are forces that will check this unbridled growth,
such as disease and lack of food and water. Privilege will not
There can be no peace as long as
make war on Mother Earth.
Evolution unfolds and has no interest in past or future states.
There is just one Nature and the reality is now.
If quality of life is going to be considered on the basis
of creature comforts, material accumulations, and the "free
market", then the values of family, service, sharing, and
responsibility to society become secondary and subordinate to
personal gain, personal wealth, and the consolidation of power.
So we again pose the question: From whence do you derive your
authority? What are the principles of your governance? Are the
ethics of your governance based upon laws of man or laws of nature?
Is there a relevance between the two? We ask you.
At the World Bank some things are improving. The World Bank's
Vice Presidency for Environmentally Sustainable Development and
its Division for Social Policy and Resettlement have undertaken
several initiatives in recent years to improve the Bank's approach
towards indigenous peoples. The Bank has begun Social Assessments
to better identify indigenous peoples and other minority communities
in the countries where the Bank has an active lending program.
In Latin America, several training workshops have been held with
indigenous peoples to strengthen their capacities to engage in
designing development programs for the benefit of their own communities.
These divisions, and especially Vice President Serag el Din,
have often pressed inside the Bank causes and demands voiced
by indigenous peoples affected by Bank-supported projects, such
as the forgotten Batwa people of Rwanda, or the native people
of western Siberia.
We would like to encourage the Bank to continue in this direction.
We believe that small loans and direct funding to communities
and indigenous peoples is a positive step for empowering indigenous
peoples and others at the grass-roots level. This process will
engage their genius for their own development. It empowers indigenous
peoples in poverty-stricken communities immediately. We should
not underestimate the uplift of spirit and empowerment that direct
assistance brings to indigenous peoples and impoverished communities.
The principle of informed consent with full participation
in planning, strategy, and implementation by indigenous peoples
is essential for success in all proposed projects.
We understand that present World Bank policy excludes the
participation of indigenous peoples of North America. This policy
is particularly uninformed, insensitive, and debilitating to
the efforts of American Indian nations' needs and realities.
The disregard for treaties and the obligations therein, place
Indian nations and peoples without options, and in despair. It
is important to note that there are many worthy development projects
by Indian nations that have no hope for fruition due to a wholesale
lack of resources. And the disenfranchisement of North American
native peoples by the World Bank's policy of not funding North
American indigenous projects frustrates the development of sincere
initiatives to develop sustainable standards of living on Indian
One project dealing with sustainable development is the Renewable
Energy Project of the Navajo Nation, in partnership with the
Center for Resource Management. The need for support of Indian
fisheries in northwestern North America, is vital.
A recent federal study cited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,
home to the famous Lakota people, as the poorest peoples in North
America. Recent federal cuts in Indian programs of health, education,
and subsistence of up to 60% are going to leave already destitute
people without hope. In addition, the current momentum and ideology
of a very hostile US Congress underscores the vulnerability of
Indian nations to the whims of special interests driving federal
policies. Many bills being enacted by the US Congress are frankly
undemocratic. These bills uniformly pre-empt one's right to legal
redress, and pre-empt one's right to know. As with an indigenous
nation or peoples, a fair and equal opportunity to develop using
the spiritual values inherent in their societies, could provide
a meaningful example of an approach to development consistent
with family values and democratic principles.
With this in mind, we ask that you consider the following
project that was a total grass-roots North American Indian initiative
based upon a commitment to act by the United Nations to indigenous
peoples as stated in Agenda 21, Chapter 26, Recognizing and Strengthening
the Role of Indigenous People and Their Communities.
Restoration: An Indigenous Strategy
for Human Sustainability
To take responsible position in this idea of "sustainable
development" the Haudenosaunee empowered The Haudenosaunee
Task Force on Environment to do an assessment of our remaining
We abided by your rules of science and government and established
this study under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations
Environment Project (UNEP). We have gained the support of the
US EPA and the support of the New York State Environmental Conservation
Department. The study operates under the guidelines set forth
in President Clinton's Executive Order for Environmental Standards
on Indian Territories.
This project meets this World Bank's criteria for science
and scholarship. We ask you to fund this project as one that
has been initiated by indigenous peoples, with the cooperation
of the State of New York, United States, and United Nations Agencies.
What more would you need?
In contrast to the positive foregoing project, we bring before
you an illustration of what we consider to be one of the worst
market-based intrusions, and violations of indigenous peoples
human rights by science: namely the Human Genome Diversity Project.
This unethical project embodies the attitude of inherent racism
underlying many high tech economic ventures that violate intellectual
property and the very genetic fabric of indigenous peoples.
Ethics and the Human Genome
Within the last three years a group of anthropologists and
geneticists from the US have set about trying to organize and
seek funding for a project which has come to be known as the
Human Genome Diversity Project. The project is international
in scope, and is estimated to cost $25 million in US dollars
over a five-year period. In 1994 the Human Genome Organization,
otherwise known as HUGO, brought the Human Genome Diversity Project
under its auspices. At present, the Human Genome Diversity Project
is undergoing review by the National Academy of Sciences Board
of Biology in Washington, D.C. Project members are seeking formal
approval from the National Academy of Sciences, after which monies
will be sought from the US National Science Foundation (NSF),
the US Department of Energy (DOE), and the US National Institutes
of Health (NIH).
The goals of the project are as follows:
- Understand the diversity of human genomes within the human
- Clarify the history of specific indigenous populations around
the globe, from a genetic perspective. Populations will learn
what science believes to be their origin and history.
- Preserve ("Immortalize") DNA cell lines of indigenous
populations before these populations and/or their cell lines
become extinct either through intercultural marriage, or through
the literal demise of the population in question. Consequently,
the Human Genome Diversity Project seeks to collect samples of
blood, saliva, cells, hair roots, and other biological materials
from 500 indigenous populations.
During the evolution of the Human Genome Diversity Project
the National Science Foundation provided $1 million (US dollars)
for convening four to five planning meetings around the world.
Indigenous peoples were not invited to any of these planning
sessions, nor were the substance and goals of this project ever
made known to indigenous peoples. Yet in spite of this fact,
the Human Genome Diversity Project is in the final stages of
formal approval by the US National Academy of Sciences and several
US funding agencies.
How is it that indigenous people can be deliberately precluded
from discussions concerning their own bodies and their very genetic
make-up? Why was the inclusion of indigenous peoples in discussions
up front not the first order of business for the Human Genome
Why too are indigenous peoples not a party to the National
Academy of Sciences' review of this project currently underway,
despite the fact that US Senator Daniel Inouye specifically requested
that the National Academy of Sciences' review of the Human Genome
Diversity Project include indigenous peoples and indigenous perspectives?
How is it that Anglo-European ethicsts who embody Anglo-European
perspectives and values, can be an integral part of the National
Academy of Sciences' review of the Humane Genome Diversity Project,
while indigenous values and perspectives are disallowed?
Indigenous peoples did not call for a Human Genome Diversity
Project. Anglo-European anthropologists and geneticists initiated
this project, and did so without consultation with indigenous
Anglo-European anthropologists, geneticists, lawyers, and
ethicists are eager to "Immortalize" (preserve forever),
DNA sequences of indigenous peoples on the verge of extinction
(according to the Human Genome Diversity Project), yet remain
unconcerned with preserving indigenous peoples and cultures.
What would the reaction have been if indigenous peoples planned
to sample the DNA of all non-indigenous peoples worldwide, without
broad participation and discussion, and without approval and
involvement from the very beginning?
How is it that the Human Genome Diversity Project intends
to look at the full measure of the human genetic diversity solely
within the human genomes of indigenous peoples? Do indigenous
peoples house the sum total of human genetic variability or diversity?
That cannot be.
Furthermore, with a budget of $25 million US dollar worldwide,
over a five-year period, how is it that the Human Genome Diversity
Project can hope to explore the whole range of genetic diversity
in human populations in light of the fact that it will have taken
the Human Genome Project (HUGO) 15 years and $3 billion US dollars
to construct a single human genome, that of an average Anglo-European?
It seems clear that from the perspective of time and money
alone, the Human Genome Diversity Project cannot explore the
full measure of human genetic diversity, especially by confining
their efforts to indigenous peoples of the world, who also happen
to be the least protected people on Earth.
Consequently, it seems clear then that the Human Genome Diversity
Project will, of necessity, have to confine its efforts to sampling
and analyzing sequences of indigenous DNA known to govern the
function of specific genes or genetic function, by analogy with
the Anglo-European human genome. Yet these very sequences of
DNA which govern gene function are the very DNA sequences for
which patents have been sought.
What does it mean, for example, that the US courts have decided
that it is now legally permissible for individuals and corporations
to patent DNA sequences obtained from other human beings? Do
we no longer own our sacred bodies? Are we no longer the owners
and stewards of our very genetic makeup?
What does it mean, practically, ethically, and legally, for
an indigenous person to consent to give DNA samples to the Human
Genome Diversity Project? Does this consent open the doors for
others to patent sequences of his or her DNA? How would one know
if part of one's DNA sequence has been patented at some point
in the future? What recourse would one have nationally and internationally,
if one discovered that part of his or her DNA was subsequently
Whose property is one's DNA, and does consent to give a blood
sample or a DNA sample constitute relinguishing one's right of
ownership of his or her DNA?
Who will have access to one's DNA, if one agrees to have one's
What are the ramifications of the insurance industry, the
law, one's employer, and others having access to one's DNA or
genetic information? What about discrimination on the basis of
genes and sequences of DNA?
In England and Wales people suspected or convicted of certain
offenses, are now required to give a sample of blood or tissue
for DNA analysis. This information will then be filed for future
What are the implications of the case of John Moore versus
the University of California over the ownership of cell lines
taken from John Moore during a routine medical examination, and
subsequently patented and used commercially by others, for profit?
Partial Chronology of
In the 1970's Dr. Cesare Sirtori of the University of Milan
discovered that some residents of a small Italian village were
carriers of a gene that makes them produce low levels of high
density lipoprotein (HDL), which protects them from heart disease.
This discovery led to the patenting of this gene. Dr. Sirtori
now works for Kabi Pharmacia of Sweden which hold US and European
patents on the AI-Milano gene with plans to commercialize it.
In 1991 the US National Institutes of Health applied for patents
on more than 2,800 genes and DNA fragments found in the human
brain. Between 1991 and 1992 researchers at the US National Institutes
of Health (NIH) filed for patents on nearly 7,000 partial DNA
sequences for human genes. The patents were ultimately rejected
by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and NIH abandoned the
patenting of human gene sequences. Subsequently, leading genome
researchers such as Craig Venter (NIH) and David Galas (US Department
of Energy) joined private genomic companies. In 1993 Venter became
part-owner of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., while Galas joined
Darwin Molecular Genetics.
In 1993 SmithKline Beecham (USA) signed a deal with Human
Genome Sciences, Inc. (HGS) worth (US) $125 million. SmithKline
will get first right to develop and market drugs, vaccines and
diagnostic products and services based on human gene sequence
data discovered by HGS.
In 1994, William Gates and Paul Allen, billionaire co-founders
of Microsoft Corporation, invested (US) $10 million in Darwin
Molecular Technologies, Inc.
In August of 1993 the US government applied for US and world
patents on the cell line of a 26-year old Guaymi Indian woman
from Panama. Under mounting international pressure the US withdrew
its claim in November, 1993.
In January, 1994 the US Department of Health and Human Services
and the US National Institutes of Health filed a patent application
for the human T-cell line of a Papua New Guinea individual. Blood
samples were originally taken in 1989 from 24 people belonging
to the Hagahai people of Madang Province, New Guinea. The cell
line is potentially useful in treating or diagnosing individuals
with an HTLV-1 variant virus. This virus is associated with adult
leukemia and with a chronic degenerative neurological disease.
The cell line has potential value in understanding the enhancement
or suppression of an immune response to this virus.
Also in January 1994, the US Department of Commerce filed
a patent claim on the human T-cell line of a 40-year old woman
from Marova Lagoon in Western Province, and that of a 58-year
old man from Guadacanal Province, of the Solomon Islands. Blood
samples were taken in 1990. This cell line may also be useful
in producing vaccines and/or diagnosing human T-lymphotropic
virus type I. Later, US Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, dismissed
the protests of international governments, indigenous peoples,
and NGO's by stating that "Under our laws, as well as those
of many other countries, subject matter relating to human cell
lines is patentable and there is no provision for considerations
relating to the source of the cells that may be the subject of
a patent application."
In 1995 the case of John Moore versus the University of California
was still pending. In 1976 surgeons removed cancerous spleen
cells from a leukemia patient, John Moore of California. Unknown
to him at the time, Moore's doctors later developed a cell line
(MO) from a routine cell sample which was found to produce high
levels of useful proteins. A patent for this cell line was granted
in 1984. Also in 1984, John Moore filed a lawsuit claiming that
his blood cells were misappropriated, and that he was entitled
to share in the profits derived from the commercial uses of his
cells. In 1990 the California Supreme court ruled that John Moore
had no rights to the patented cell line exracted from his blood
sample. The court stated that he did not have the rights of ownership
over his cells after they had been removed. He did however, have
the right to sue his doctors for failing to inform him of the
potential commercial value of his cell line. The basis of John
Moore's so-called consent was a key issue in this case.
In 1995 a US appeal court ruled that the discovery of a novel
gene sequence cannot be described as obvious, and therefore,
can legitimately be included in a patent, thus opening the legal
floodgates to the broad patenting of human genes and partial
gene squences. At the time of this ruling Human Genome Sciences
(HGS) Inc. in Rockville, Maryland had over 70 patent applications
pending on partial and full gene sequences awaiting a ruling
from the US Patents and Trademark Office (PTO).
University-based scientists working with human DNA sequences
produced (cloned or replicated) by HGS's (Human Genome Sciences
Inc.) Institute of Genomic Research (TIGRE) must sign an "Option
agreement" with HGS, under which HGS will have an exclusive
option on any patents arising from research using their database
of genetic sequences.
In 1994 scientists from the University of Utah and a company
called Myriad Genetics Inc., discovered the first of the genes
linked with inheritable breast cancer (BRCA1). The identity of
the gene is now the basis for a diagnostic test that will then
be patented. That same year Myriad scientists also reported the
discovery of a tumor suppresser gene (MTS1) that seems to be
involved in the formation of nearly all cancers. Myriad has also
filed for patents on the gene.
More than 100 human cell lines are currently the subject of
patent claims in the United States. Some have estimated that
the US Patent and Trademark Office has now issued more than 1,250
patents on human gene sequences.
In 1994 a California-based company called Incyte Pharmaceuticals
applied for patents on over 40,000 cloned DNA templates.
On December 1, 1994, Rockefeller University researchers in
New York City announced the discovery of the "obesity gene",
and although a patent has not yet been granted, Amgen (a pharmaceutical
company based in California) has already agreed to pay Rockefeller
University $20 million for the licensing rights to the gene,
plus additional payments that could total $90 million.
In September, 1994 Sequana Therapeutics (a California-based
genomic company) announced that DNA samples obtained from 300
inhabitants of Tristan da Chunha, may provide the company with
information they need to locate, identify, and eventually patent
the gene or genes that predispose people to asthma. The company
is collaborating with the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute
of the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. If successful
in identifying the gene or genes, Sequana Therapeutics will file
for a patent in Sequana's name and share economic benefits with
the Lunenfeld Institute.
In February 1994, the Human Genome Organziaiton (HUGO), the
parent organization of the Human Genome Diversity Project, concluded
that "the patent system is the mechanism of excellence for
commercializing the results of the human genome project".
Commercialization of the human genome "does not require
reinventing the internationally proved, 200-year-old patent system,
but simply adapting it."