Fifty-sixth General Assembly
25th Meeting (AM)
STABLE FINANCING NEEDED FOR SMOOTH FUNCTIONING OF INDIGENOUS
PEOPLES' FORUM, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
Committee Also Hears Introduction of Seven
Draft Resolutions on Women’s Issues, Two on Crime
Although the new Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples was a welcome addition to the United Nations structure that would ensure that indigenous populations had their views heard within the system, certain commitments were needed to make it work effectively, several countries with significant indigenous populations told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning.
It was imperative for the financing of the Forum, some speakers said, to come from a stable revenue stream, like the United Nations' regular budget, to assure the smooth operation of the Forum. The debate came as the Committee wrapped up two days of discussion surrounding the programme of activities of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.
The representative of Guatemala said financial support was one of the most important issues covering the Forum’s work. The allocation of funds from the United Nations' regular budget was essential to fund the Secretariat, as well as the travel and subsistence expenses of the 16 experts, eight governmental representatives and eight representatives of indigenous groups that made up the Forum. Further, she said, it was important that provisions be made to expand the terms of reference of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations so that its resources could be used to finance the participation of indigenous organizations in the work of the Forum.
The Forum was created by a resolution of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000. Its first session is scheduled to take place from 6 to 17 May 2002.
Others took the floor to emphasize that the creation of the Forum did not mean that the Working Group on Indigenous Populations should be disbanded. The Working Group, which operated under the auspices of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, had for several years struggled to reach consensus on a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The delegate from Belize, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Working Group had brought together United Nations agencies, governments and academic institutions to review the latest developments on several issues pertaining to indigenous peoples, including topics relating to land, education and health. She and other speakers said the Working Group should proceed with care. Once the Permanent Forum had become operational, there should
be a transition period and an evaluation to determine its effectiveness. The future of the Working Group should not be prejudged at this time.
It was important, others continued, to ensure that a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples be adopted before the end of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The representative of South Africa, for example, urged the international community to work together to adopt the declaration before 2004, when the Decade came to a close. And the delegate from Mexico noted that while much progress had been made during the Decade, the expectations had been greater than the achievements.
When deliberations opened Monday afternoon, various speakers lauded the Forum as the first United Nations body consisting of both indigenous and governmental experts. The representative of China praised its establishment as a high point in efforts to achieve the objectives of the Decade. He added that the Forum represented an important step towards the partnership the United Nations was building with indigenous groups.
Noting the Forum’s historic first session was a short six months away, the representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic Countries, said on Monday that one of its major tasks would be to harmonize a range of issues, including human rights, development, environmental, cultural and social. Consolidating a variety of issues under one body was a way to ensure that indigenous matters were addressed in a comprehensive manner throughout the United Nations system.
Also participating in the discussion this morning were the representatives of Argentina, Peru, Fiji, and Suriname.
The representative of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also spoke.
Earlier in the meeting, the Committee heard the introduction of seven draft resolutions on items related to the advancement of women.
The representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Suriname, Australia (on behalf of CANZ), Netherlands, Jamaica, Finland and the Philippines, respectively, introduced texts on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW); the integration of older women into development; improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system; traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls; the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and on violence against women migrant workers.
On items related to crime prevention and criminal justice, the representatives of the United States and Italy introduced texts on combating the criminal misuse of information technologies, and strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical capacity, respectively.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., to begin its consideration of items related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and items related to the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) met this morning to conclude consideration of issues related to the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of nine draft resolutions on items related to the advancement of women and crime prevention and criminal justice.
On matters concerning the advancement of women, the Committee had before it seven texts.
The representative of Iran introduced a resolution on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)(document A/C.3/56/L/20), by which the Assembly would urge the Secretary-General to appoint a Director of the Institute as soon as possible in order to provide it with the required leadership, in particular throughout the period of restructuring; to ensure that the Secretariat provide the Task Force with support it requires for the undertaking of its work; to continue to encourage Member States to support the Institute by making voluntary contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for the Institute.
The representative of Suriname introduced a resolution on the integration of older women into development (document A/C.3/56/L.21), by which the Assembly urges that the special problems faced by older women, such as income security, employment, housing, health and community support services, should be given explicit and full attention by the Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held in Madrid in April 2002, and should be addressed in the International Plan of Action on Ageing to be adopted by the Second World Assembly.
The representative of Australia introduced a resolution on the Improvement of the Status of Women in the United Nations System (A/C.3/56/L.22), by which the Assembly would strongly encourage the Secretary-General to renew his efforts to appoint more women as special representatives and envoys to pursue good offices on his behalf, especially in matters related to peacekeeping, peace-building, preventative diplomacy and economic and social development, as well as in operational activities, including appointment as resident coordinators, and to appoint more women to other high-level positions.
The representative of the Netherlands introduced a resolution on the Traditional or Customary Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Girls (document A/C.3/56/L.23), by which the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to make his report available to relevant meetings within the United Nations system, and to report to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session on the implementation of the present resolution, with a special focus on recent national and international developments, including examples of national best practices and international cooperation.
The representative of Jamaica introduced a resolution on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/C.3/56/L.25), by which the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women and its learning component to extract and share good practice in eliminating violence against women, and would reiterate the call to Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the public and private sectors to consider contributing or increasing contributions to the Trust Fund.
The representative of Finland introduced a resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/56/L.26), by which the Assembly would urge States parties to the Convention to make every possible effort to submit their reports on the implementation of the Convention in accordance with article 18 thereof and with the guidelines provided by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and to cooperate fully with the Committee in the presentation of their reports.
The representative of the Philippines introduced a resolution on Violence against Women Migrant Workers (document A/C.3/56/L.27), by which the Assembly would urge concerned Governments, in particular those of the countries of origin and destination, to strengthen further their national efforts to protect and promote the rights and welfare of women migrant workers, including through sustained bilateral, regional, interregional and international cooperation, by developing strategies and joint action and taking into account the innovative approaches and experiences of individual Member States, and to establish and maintain continuing dialogues to facilitate the exchange of information.
On items related to crime prevention and criminal justice, the Committee had before it two draft resolutions.
The representative of the United States introduced a resolution on Combating the criminal misuse of information technologies (document A/C.3/56/L.15/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would decide to defer consideration of this subject, pending work envisioned by the plan of action against high-technology and computer-related crime of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
The representative of Italy introduced a resolution on Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/56/L.17/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would encourage relevant programmes, funds and organizations of the United Nations system, in particular the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), international financial institutions, in particular the World Bank, and regional and national funding agencies, to support the technical operational activities of the Centre; and urge States and funding agencies to review, as appropriate, their funding policies for development assistance and to include a crime prevention and criminal justice component.
Statements on Indigenous People
ALEJANDRA AYUSO (Argentina) said that according to recent estimates, Argentina’s indigenous population numbered some 800,000. The country’s 17 indigenous groups, which made up 1.5 per cent of the population, were protected by the Constitution. The Constitution elaborated a number of important safeguards for indigenous persons, namely those against the seizure of land, protection of traditional cultures and the promotion of their overall rights. The President had also promoted broad legislative efforts to ensure that Argentina’s indigenous populations were fully integrated into the country’s social and economic development efforts.
She said that polices and programmes had also been established to ensure education, training and healthcare for indigenous peoples. Further, in 2002, Argentina would complete its indigenous census. At the international level, Argentina would continue working to promote strengthening of the rights of indigenous people throughout the world.
CONNIE TARACENA (Guatemala), on behalf of the Central American countries, said much had been done to raise awareness about the indigenous peoples of the world, and there was no doubt that work was bearing fruit. Thus, the most important event of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People was the establishment of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous People as a subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council. The Forum would hold its first session in New York from 6 to 17 May 2002. That session would address the challenges faced by the indigenous peoples in the world. It would make it possible to define their requirements clearly and to adopt concrete responses to those needs. The creation of the Forum was an accomplishment to which substantial contributions had been made by the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic, both in Geneva and in New York.
She said a most important aspect of the work of the Permanent Forum was its need for financial support. In that regard, it was important that provisions be made to expand the terms of reference of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations so that its resources could be used to finance the participation of indigenous organizations in the Forum’s work. The allocation of funds from the United Nations regular budget was essential to fund the secretariat, as well as the travel and subsistence expenses of the 16 experts, eight governmental representatives and eight representatives of indigenous groups who made up the Forum. At the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa in August and September, several decisions were taken in favour of indigenous peoples, including a recommendation that the Secretary-General evaluate the results of the Decade and make recommendations for the implementation of the programme of activities for the closure of the Decade.
Ms. Taracena said it was also important to refer to the future of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on Human Rights. The Working Group elaborated the draft declaration on the right of indigenous peoples. Some delegations held the view that since the Permanent Forum existed, the Working Group should be discontinued. The Central American countries felt that the Working Group should proceed with care. Once the Permanent Forum had become operational, there should be a transition period and an evaluation. The future of the Working Group should not be prejudged at present.
Continuing on behalf of Guatemala only, she said representatives of Guatemala had been very active in the United Nations bodies that had dealt with the adoption of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Although this declaration had not yet been adopted, the representatives considered the establishment of the Permanent Forum as an important step towards the promotion of all the objectives of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The Forum should serve as an advisory body with the mandate to discuss indigenous issues within the scope of the Economic and Social Council.
XOCHITL GALVEZ RUIZ, Minister of Indigenous Affairs of Mexico, said her Government was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples in Mexico. Indigenous peoples made up 12 per cent of the country’s population. Mexico was ready to lay the basis for a new cooperation between indigenous peoples, the Government, and the population at large. Her Government was ready to recognize their rights to self-determination.
She said there were still problems. Hunger, poverty, discrimination and premature death still plagued indigenous peoples. The establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous People internationally would help address issues that affected all indigenous peoples, and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peopls would provide support for them as well. But the end of the International Decade was close, and there was still much work to be done on the declaration. The expectations had been greater than the achievements.
In the new century, the problem was not diversity, but inequality, intolerance and poverty, she said. The Special Rapporteur said the Latin American democracies would have to develop ways to confront the multiculturalism of their societies to make sure that everyone's rights were respected.. That was the approach being taken by the Government of Mexico, which aimed to ensure all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all indigenous peoples. It hoped that those would not just be words in committees and working groups, but rather translated into real activities on the ground.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru) said that States in his region had recognized that the unique character of indigenous people required the adoption of special measures. It had also been recognized that the inclusion of the input of indigenous populations in the work of national agencies and local organizations would not only ensure the promotion and protection of their rights, but would also strengthen the social, cultural and economic development of societies and communities as a whole. Although progress had been made, much remained to be done.
He went on to say that contributions of Peru’s indigenous populations were reflected in the country’s overall multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature. Peru’s political system was based on the values of democracy and the promotion of human rights. Since poverty was the major impediment to the growth of societies as a whole, it was necessary to protect the human rights of total populations, particularly vulnerable groups. Ensuring basic health services and education were but two of the best ways to enhance the participation of such populations in broad efforts aimed at social and economic development. He added that his Government recognized all indigenous groups and had initiated many programmes which, among other things, enhanced self-esteem and self-respect.
DINA SHOMAN (Belize), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), said that while there had been improvements in the quality of life of indigenous peoples, the international community had to remain vigilant and expend additional energies to counter the new difficulties that this portion of the population faced. Keen attention would continue to be paid to the work that was being undertaken by the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights. The objective was to arrive at a draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people that included their right to development and their right to participate in development that affected them.
He said the nineteenth session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on Human Rights, which was held earlier this year, brought together United Nations agencies, governments and academic institutions to review developments, including on issues ranging from land to education to health. It also included a review of indigenous peoples' relationship with natural resources, energy and mining companies.
Education, he continued, was also a critical component for the future promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous populations. The CARICOM commended the Office of the High Commissioner for its efforts in the Indigenous Fellowship Programme. That Programme, which also saw the involvement of many of the other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, gave indigenous individuals the opportunity to gain experience in human rights and the United Nations system, and to serve as resource persons in their communities. Programmes like that would greatly enhance the knowledge of indigenous communities on human rights issues that affected their right to development. Countries in the Caribbean were aware of the importance of strengthening the human and institutional capacities of the indigenous peoples to actively participate in the decision-making process, and therefore attached great importance to the success of that Programme.
AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) said his delegation hoped that during the three-year term of the Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, efforts to synergize ongoing discussions in the Working Group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People could be accelerated. He urged that Working Group to step up its efforts as well. Since it was fair to say that most of the international consideration of indigenous issues had been marginal at best, the elaboration of such a draft -- particularly during the International Decade -- would be a sure way to give voice to those issues as global partners sought solutions to the political, economic and cultural challenges of the day.
He went on to say that the Workshop on Multiculturalism in Africa had been a welcome initiative in efforts to address the concerns of indigenous populations. There was a need to extend the support of such programmes to other regions, including for peoples of the Pacific. Indigenous concerns in his region were tied to genuine fears and concerns over land ownership, resource management, human rights challenges, political control and sustainable development, among others. Most of those issues hinged on the elaboration of a comprehensive draft declaration. Until that was accomplished, Fiji would welcome strategies that would address real concerns and help guide its national policy development. To that end, Fiji hoped the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples would address global concerns and commitments.
IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KING (Suriname) applauded the indigenous fellowship programme in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since its creation in 1997, four indigenous persons had participated in six-month human rights training courses. That programme was an important vehicle to raise awareness of human rights and to promote human rights education.
She said that indigenous populations in Suriname were major stakeholders in the protection and use of their lands and natural resources, particularly eco-tourism, bio-prospecting and exploration. Still, the real participation and integration of indigenous people in all levels of development needed to be enhanced. They were the members of society that were most vulnerable to environmental catastrophes, and they often were economically marginalized. She praised the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as an important tool for addressing the specific issues and concerns of indigenous people.
LUVUYO NDIMENI (South Africa) said for centuries of oppression under colonial and apartheid rule, the rights of indigenous peoples in South Africa had been grossly and systematically violated. But the country's first democratic elections in 1994 had marked a turning point on the question of respect for the rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Since 1994, many ancestrally-owned lands of indigenous peoples had been gradually restored, along with rights pertaining to tradition, language and culture.
He said the Government was in the process of drafting legislation to protect collective intellectual property rights and indigenous knowledge systems. The legislation would endeavour to ensure that all South Africans would be able to rely on a legal system to protect their intellectual property rights, and cultural and intellectual heritage. The new legislation could potentially be a useful contribution to the international debate on collective intellectual property rights.
Although the delegates had appreciated the progress made at the last session of the Commission on Human Rights by appointing the Special Rapporteur, his Government was concerned that as the end of the International Decade neared, the declaration on the rights of indigenous people remained elusive for the international community. It was hoped that in the remaining time, consensus would be reached on those important issues, he concluded.
OROBOLA FASEHUN (World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)) said significant developments in the area of biotechnology had brought to the fore the importance of traditional knowledge, a knowledge system found practically in all countries of the world. That knowledge system was of particular interest to indigenous peoples and developing countries whose possession of biodiversity held great promise for economic development. The WIPO's work in the area of traditional knowledge was over two decades old. In cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), WIPO, in 1978, had focused on the protection of expressions of folklore, an aspect of traditional knowledge. The collaboration with UNESCO led to the adoption in 1982 of the "Model Provisions for National Laws on the Protection of Expressions of Folklore Against Illicit Exploitation and Other Prejudicial Actions". In recent times, WIPO and UNESCO had conducted regional consultations on the Protection of Folklore. One outcome of the consultations was the recommendation for the establishment within WIPO of a separate committee on folklore and traditional knowledge.
He said WIPO Assemblies subsequently had established an Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. At its first meeting last April, member States of the Committee had expressed their wish to consider the development of a guide of contractual practices. The WIPO's work in the area for traditional knowledge had been advanced further with a series of fact-finding missions on the intellectual property needs and expectations of holders of such knowledge. The report found, among other things, that traditional knowledge holders expected access to the
international intellectual property system so they could use and enforce their rights.
WIPO, he said, had also undertaken other activities aimed at expanding awareness of the principles of intellectual property systems and how these could be applied to the protection of traditional knowledge. Among those activities had been workshops held in Suriname, Jamaica and Australia in the past year. Under the guidance of its member States, WIPO would continue to examine how the intellectual property system could be used to protect traditional knowledge. Indeed, the recently approved biennium WIPO programme budget for 2002-2003 continued to give priority to the issue of traditional knowledge.
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