|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
ACTION PROGRAMME FOR SECOND INDIGENOUS DECADE LAUNCHED, AS UN FORUM
OPENS TWO-WEEK SESSION AT HEADQUARTERS
Secretary-General Calls for Programme to Be Translated
Into a Change for the Better in Life of Every Indigenous Person
Indigenous peoples’ representatives in their colourful traditional attire, senior United Nations officials and members of non-governmental organizations gathered in the General Assembly Hall this morning for the opening ceremony of the fifth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which also launched the Programme of Action of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
Building on the achievements of the first such event (1995-2004), which placed a spotlight on the needs of indigenous peoples, the Second Decade seeks to further strengthen global cooperation for the achievement of indigenous peoples’ goals in the areas of culture, education, health, human rights, the environment and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programmes and specific projects, increased technical assistance and relevant standard-setting activities.
The end of the Second Decade in 2015 coincides with the year benchmarked for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, building a close overlap of the two issues. The Goals represent a set of internationally agreed objectives, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, all by the target date of 2015. The Permanent Forum this year will focus on key developmental concerns through this year’s theme “Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: redefining the Goals”.
In a video message to the Forum, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the Programme of Action was meant to give practical effect to the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit “for the benefit of all indigenous peoples -- from the northern reaches of the Arctic to the pastoralist communities of Africa”. The Summit had reaffirmed Member States’ commitment to preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities. During the Summit, Member States had recognized that sustainable development of indigenous peoples was crucial in the fight against hunger and poverty. They pledged to keep advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples, and to present for adoption a United Nations declaration on indigenous peoples’ rights as soon as possible.
“Today, I call on all States to work with indigenous peoples to translate the Programme into reality on the ground”, he said. “Let us aim to make it mean something positive -- a change for the better -- in the life of every indigenous person, wherever he or she may live.”
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, said that, as the Coordinator of the Second Decade, he would insist on creating synergies of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the overarching goals of the Second Decade by means of particular projects. The international community was making progress, but to reach the goals of the Second Decade and the Millennium Goals by 2015, it was necessary to translate international commitments into concrete programmes and projects. He urged all the stakeholders to implement specific programmes for the Decade and contribute to the Trust Fund for indigenous issues. As Coordinator of the Decade, he was looking forward to building a meaningful partnership to promote the well-being and dignity of indigenous peoples.
Delivering a message on behalf of the General Assembly President, the Acting President of that body, Eladio Loizaga ( Paraguay), also highlighted the need to protect the environment and safe use of natural resources for the benefit of indigenous peoples. Since history had always been made in the General Assembly Hall, he also expressed hope that one day soon the Assembly would gather to adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
Noting that the work on the draft declaration had finally wrapped up in February 2006, after 11 years of work, the Forum’s Chairperson, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said that the creation of a set of legal standards at the international level would ensure respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. In some countries, where the rights of indigenous peoples had been barely acknowledged in the past, the declaration would be particularly important. She hoped that the draft would be part of the agenda of the first session of the newly established Human Rights Council and that it would be adopted by the Assembly before the end of the year.
With the special theme of the session devoted to the “Millennium Development Goals and indigenous people”, several speakers today focused on the need to redefine those Goals with special emphasis on full participation of indigenous people. Milialani Trask, representative of the Indigenous Caucus, said such a review would require taking a hard look at systematic racism, discrimination and non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ human rights. Political, social and environmental injustices perpetuated poverty among the world’s indigenous people. She called urgently for the social indicators on which the Goals had been based to be redefined, so that they were not framed by market and cash-based analyses.
Indeed, the much-discussed “one-dollar-a-day” parameter did not begin to adequately measure poverty in the world’s vast and varied indigenous communities, she stressed. That figure did not show whether there was adequate education, health-care coverage or even food and clothing for indigenous people. The key goal for indigenous people gathering in New York was to work with the Forum to find more culturally appropriate indicators for the international development agenda.
Leading off the Forum’s consideration of the status of the Millennium Development Goals, Bolivia’s Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca Cepedes, recalled that, after five centuries of marginalization, exploitation and pillaging of their natural resources, his country’s indigenous populations had been able to appoint an indigenous person as President of Bolivia last December. Now, with the help of all the indigenous people of the country, continent and the world, Bolivia’s new Government intended to show that a new life of harmony and peace was dawning for indigenous people, as well as all the people of the world. Indigenous people continent-wide were rising up to practise or resurrect their languages and cultures, celebrating their traditions openly and actively seeking brotherhood with other peoples, nations and the cosmos.
“We must decide for ourselves what we want and how we want to live”, he said, calling for indigenous peoples to return to their traditional lands in order to better manage efforts to improve water and air quality, and promote or generate more targeted socio-economic policies.
Speakers in the afternoon discussion expressed deep concern over the fact that the Millennium Development Goals process did not take into account the real situation of the indigenous people, which included the lack of voice in political systems, the lack of recognition of their collective rights, their removal from ancestral lands, and their lack of access to basic infrastructure and social services. It was pointed out that making up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples comprised 15 per cent of the world’s poor.
In that connection, the Assistant President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Phrang Roy, said that unless the strategies in support of the indigenous peoples were redefined, international initiatives could become meaningless to them or could even lead to accelerated loss of their lands, natural resources and cultures. Experience showed that indigenous peoples did not see poverty solely as the lack of income -- they associated it with a trampling of their dignity, humiliation and powerlessness. Displacement of their communities from their traditional lands, the marginalization of their traditional institutions and militarization of the territories were some of the realities of their poverty and powerlessness.
“We must together work for a world where indigenous peoples would have the right to grow old, have the right to live and die in their restored lands and territories, and where our children will be able to imagine a future with dignity and rights”, the Chairperson of the Forum said.
Also participating in the discussion were Carmen Maria Gallardo Hernandez, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women; Juan Leon Alvarado, Chairman of the Working Group on the draft declaration on indigenous peoples of the Organization of American States; and Marisela Padron Quero, Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Rapporteur of the Forum, Michael Dodson from Australia, reported on the work of the International Expert Group Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, Indigenous Participation and Good Governance.
Also taking the floor were members of the Forum: Wilton Littlechild, of Canada; Hassan Id Balkassm, of Morocco; Ida Nicolaisen, of Denmark; Nina Pacari Vega, of Ecuador, Liliane Muzangi Mbela Liliane, of the Congo, Otilia Lux de Coti, of Guatemala; Eduardo Aguiar De Almeida, of Brazil; Merike Kokajev, of Estonia; and Pavel Sulyandziga, of the Russian Federation.
The opening ceremony also featured a welcome by Clint Shenandoah on behalf of Sid Hill, the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, and performances by indigenous dancers, singers and musicians, including P. Town Boyz from Red Lake Nation, United States; Elvel Band from Kamchatka, Russian Federation; Saami musicians, Norway; and Native American musician, Robby Romero, as well as an indigenous dance group from Australia.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established by the Economic and Social Council in July 2000. It was called upon to provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the United Nations system through the Council; raise awareness and promote the integration and coordination of relevant activities within the United Nations system; and disseminate information on indigenous issues. The Forum is comprised of 16 independent experts, functioning in their personal capacity. The Council appoints the members, eight of whom are nominated by Governments and eight directly by indigenous organizations in their regions.
The United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues today opened its fifth annual session, which is expected to launch the Programme of Action for the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (2005-2015). The session, which runs through 26 May, is also expected to examine the status of worldwide implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, as they relate to indigenous peoples and communities. [For further details, please see Pres Release HR/4887, 12 May 2006.]
Opening of Session
Welcoming the participants and opening the day’s events were Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s indigenous People, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, in a video message, called today a day of celebration. “We have gathered to welcome the General Assembly's adoption of a landmark document -- the Programme of Action for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People”, he said, adding that the Programme reflected rich and diverse input from Member States, Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum and many parts of the UN family.
It offered specific recommendations in the areas of development, the environment, education, health and human rights. It seeks to help indigenous people build better lives through full participation and partnerships. It aimed to enable them to win respect for their identities, their languages and their cultures.
In the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities, Mr. Annan said. They recognized that the sustainable development of indigenous peoples is crucial in the fight against hunger and poverty. They pledged to keep advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples, and to present for adoption a UN declaration on indigenous peoples’ rights as soon as possible.
The Programme of Action for the Second Decade was meant to give practical effect to those words, for the benefit of all indigenous peoples -- from the northern reaches of the Arctic to the pastoralist communities of Africa.
“Today, I call on all States to work with indigenous peoples to translate the Programme into reality on the ground. Let us aim to make it mean something positive -- a change for the better -- in the life of every indigenous person, wherever he or she may live”, he said.
Welcoming the participants of the Forum on behalf of the Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Sid Hill, CLINT SHENANDOAH said it was his people’s tradition to open all gatherings, large and small, with a greeting and acknowledgement to the Creator and Mother Earth. Paying tribute to the people and the children of the Earth, he thanked the animals and the birds, the medicine plants, the water, the trees, the peaceful winds, the Sun, the Moon, the stars and everything else that surrounds us as we move through life. “Let us carry on this meeting with good minds for the generations coming”, he said.
In his opening statement, Mr. OCAMPO said that the meeting was taking part at a time when the 2005 Summit had injected new momentum into the work of the Forum. The participation of indigenous peoples was crucial for the fight against hunger and poverty. Enhanced participation of indigenous and local communities was needed to strengthen integrated and coordinated implementation of the internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Human rights and participatory governance were essential elements of the international agenda. Among other things, the Summit Outcome had committed all Member States to make progress in the advancement of the world’s indigenous peoples at all levels, including through consultation and collaboration with them.
The history and reality of indigenous peoples clearly required that promotion of their human rights continue to be high on the agenda. Today’s launching of the Programme of Action of the Second Decade was of particular importance for the achievement of the aspirations of the indigenous peoples. They were bold initiatives and, as the Coordinator of the Decade, he would insist on making synergies of achieving the Millennium Goals and the overarching goals of the Second Decade in such areas as culture, education, health, environment and socio-economic development by means of particular projects.
Clear guidance was provided by the five objectives of the Decade, which reflected the goals of the Forum, he said. The first goal was to promote non-discrimination and inclusion of indigenous peoples in the implementation and evaluation of international, regional and national efforts regarding laws, policies, resources, programmes and projects. The goals also focused on the promotion of full and effective participation of indigenous people in decisions which directly or indirectly affected their lifestyles, traditional lands and territories, as well as their cultural integrity.
Among other goals were redefining development policies that departed from a vision of equity and developing policies that were culturally appropriate; adopting targeted policies, programmes, projects and budgets for the development of indigenous peoples, including concrete benchmarks, and particular emphasis on indigenous women, children and youth; and developing strong monitoring mechanisms and enhancing accountability at all levels regarding the implementation of the frameworks for the protection of indigenous peoples and the improvement of their lives.
The Forum’s outcome this year would redefine the Millennium Development Goals with special emphasis on full participation of indigenous people, he concluded. It should assist the Member States in implementing the commitments set out in the Summit Outcome. Analysis showed an increase of effective participation of indigenous peoples in various international processes, as well as development efforts. Member States were reporting to the Forum on the activities at the national and international level. An increasing number of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes were also focusing on the indigenous peoples’ needs and participation. “We are making progress”, he said. Nonetheless, to reach the goal of the Second Decade and the Millennium Goals by 2015, it was necessary to translate commitments into concrete programmes and projects. He urged all the stakeholders to implement specific programmes for the Decade and contribute to the Trust Fund for indigenous issues. As Coordinator of the Decade, he was looking forward to building a meaningful partnership to promote the well-being and dignity of indigenous peoples.
ELADIO LOIZAGA ( Paraguay), Acting President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden, said he was encouraged that participants from all over the world had come to this fifth session of the Forum. He noted that even during the time of the League of Nations, steps were being taken at the intergovernmental level to address indigenous issues. The Assembly had launched the First International decade in 1995, aware, as it was today, of the problems faced by indigenous communities to have their traditional practices, culture and environments protected and preserved.
The 2005 Summit recognized that all cultures and civilizations contributed to humanity. The Summit also recognized the need to stimulate dialogue among different cultures and peoples, as well as the fact that the sustainable development of the world’s indigenous communities was critical to global efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Finally, he also recognized the need to protect the environment and to encourage and promote the participation of indigenous peoples in such preservation, as well as in the benefits that could be derived from the safe and efficient use of natural resources. He hoped that the Second International Decade would be an opportunity to implement positive changes regarding human rights and help in improving the daily lives of the world’s indigenous peoples. Noting that history had always been made in the Hall, he said he also hoped that one day soon the Assembly would gather to adopt an international Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people.
Following a cultural performance by the P. Town Boyz, from Red Lake Nation, MILIALANI TRASK, representative of the Indigenous Caucus, said today marked a historic event -- the world’s indigenous people had been welcomed into the Assembly Hall. Indigenous people and representatives of the world’s nations were sitting side by side at the United Nations for the first time. That was even more important because the Forum this year had a serious agenda: it would set out to review the status of the Millennium Development Goals. That would require taking a hard look at the systematic racism, discrimination and non-recognition of human rights that indigenous people faced. Indeed, political, social and environmental injustices were what perpetuated poverty among the world’s indigenous people.
She called urgently for the social indicators on which the Goals had been based to be redefined, so that they were not framed by market and cash-based analyses. Indeed, the much-discussed “one-dollar-a-day” parameter did not begin to adequately measure poverty in the world’s vast and varied indigenous communities. That figure did not show whether there was adequate education, health-care coverage, or even food and clothing for indigenous people. She reiterated that the key goal for indigenous people gathering in New York was to work with the Forum to find more culturally appropriate indicators for the international development agenda, adding that one of the Goals’ key weaknesses was that they did not address the political, social and cultural causes of indigenous people’s poverty.
The Caucus supported a development framework that included the participation of all people, from all lands and communities. The Caucus also called for free prior informed consent in international decisions made on indigenous issues. She stressed that that consent must be based on decisions that had been made by and within indigenous communities “free” from external manipulation and coercion. She stressed that this meant the global information and discussions on issues involving indigenous people must be provided in the languages of indigenous communities. The world’s indigenous people wanted to be partners in the attainment of the Goals and were working hard to ensure that the benefits of the implementation of those goals were brought to their communities.
It was the commitment of the international community, the United Nations system, and the indigenous people themselves that all stakeholders accepted to take a human rights-based approach in addressing the Goals. Indeed, if the global initiatives launched towards the achievement of those Goals were firmly grounded in such an approach, the outcome would have a true and honest meaning. She also stressed that the time had come to adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people. The representatives of the indigenous caucus in all regions of the world were bringing statements to the floor of all members of the Forum on the matter, so that by the next meeting the Assembly could take action on the declaration.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Chairperson of the Forum, noted that the fifth session had devoted its special theme to the “Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: redefining the Millennium Development Goals”. The Forum members had engaged with various processes at the national, regional and international level to raise awareness on issues important for indigenous peoples. They had also tried very hard to promote, as part of good governance and a human rights-based approach to development, indigenous peoples’ participation. Their effective participation in designing and implementing policy and programmatic framework, as well as projects, remained a key challenge. Representatives of indigenous peoples’ organizations and nations, the members of the Inter-agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues and the Governments had also done their share in helping implement the Forum’s recommendations.
Recalling Assembly resolutions that had proclaimed the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and its Programme of Action, she said that they were direct results of the lobbying by indigenous peoples and the recommendations of the Forum and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. One significant point to note in resolution 60/142, which had adopted the Programme of Action, was that it had used the phrase “Indigenous Peoples” without any qualifications. That move had finally put to rest the debate on whether “indigenous people” or “indigenous peoples” should be used. Indigenous peoples had insisted on that term from the start, saying that they were subjects of international law. The resolution had confirmed that.
“Let us take this opportunity to pledge to dedicate our best efforts to achieve the goal and objectives of the Second Decade and implement its programme of action”, she stressed. The year since the last session of the Forum had been “an interesting one”. The draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had finally wrapped up in February 2006, after 11 years of work. The creation of a set of legal standards and rules at the international level would ensure respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. In some countries, where the rights of indigenous peoples had been barely acknowledged in the past, the declaration would be particularly important. She hoped that the draft would be part of the agenda of the first session of the newly established Human Rights Council and that it would be adopted by the Assembly before the end of the year.
The year had also seen a record number of seven “satellite meetings” hosted by or for the Forum, she continued. Among those were the annual session of the Inter-Agency Support group on Indigenous Issues; the International workshop on visions of partnerships with indigenous peoples in Greenland; and the Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Poverty, which had been hosted by the World Bank just a few days ago. Those processes were crucial for a more in-depth discussion of the issues raised during the Forum.
Continuing, she reiterated the main objectives of the Decade, adding: “Let us pledge in this Hall of the United Nations General Assembly our commitment to achieve these objectives, so that in the year 2015 we will come back and be proud of what we have achieved in terms of ending discrimination, marginalization, oppression and extreme poverty of indigenous peoples, because we took seriously the challenge to create partnerships for action and dignity.”
At the opening of the afternoon session, the Forum agreed on its provisional agenda and elected Victoria Tauli-Corpuz as the Chairperson of the fifth session of the Permanent Forum, by acclamation. Otilia Lux de Coti, Aqqaluk Lynge, Liliane Muzangi Mbela and Ida Nicolaisen were elected as the Forum’s Vice-Chairpersons. Michael Dodson became the Rapporteur of the Forum, also by acclamation.
On the organizational arrangements, the Chairperson said that this year, the Forum would hold three specific dialogues on the special theme of the session: Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: redefining the Goals. The dialogue with indigenous peoples would be held tomorrow morning, to be followed by the dialogue with the agencies. The dialogue with Governments is to take place on Wednesday, 17 may.
Turning to the theme of the session, Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ said that nearly five years had passed since world leaders had adopted the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals as part of their commitment to eradicate poverty and promote human rights, democracy and respect for nature. This session would focus on Goals 3 to 8, which related to gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability, and development of a global partnership for development.
The indigenous peoples would like to achieve the Goals, she continued, but she was deeply concerned that the process did not take into account their situations and participation. For example, in the Millennium Goal country reports, indigenous peoples were often invisible, “hidden under the general national averages, which do not reflect the differentiated realities for specific groups”. If the Goals were met, there was no doubt that some effects would trickle down to some of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples, the majority of whom lived in poverty.
Among the indigenous peoples’ concerns about the Goals, she highlighted the one about the way poverty was defined, and poverty indicators in the Goals. Those parameters did not adequately reflect the realities of many indigenous peoples. Important non-income indicators included: the lack of voice or power in political and bureaucratic systems; the non-recognition of the collective rights of indigenous peoples; their removal from ancestral lands; and their lack of access to basic infrastructure and social services, quality of environment, and quality of social capital. However, even with traditional measurements on poverty, one could see the highly disproportionate percentage of indigenous peoples among the extremely poor. A recent study in five countries in Latin America had shown the incidence of poverty remained severe and deep among indigenous peoples. Poor results had also been shown by a study in India, as well. The Strategic Framework on Indigenous Peoples of the Inter-American Development Bank said that poverty maps in several countries showed a high correlation between ethnicity and the rates of poverty.
It was important to frame the Millennium Development Goals as a human rights-based agenda, she continued. For indigenous peoples, it was difficult to talk about development without talking about basic rights to lands and resources, culture and identity, and self-determination. There was no way that the Millennium Goals could be achieved for indigenous peoples if they were not linked with how Governments were complying with their obligations to international human rights law. Thus, dealing with gender-related goals, the Forum should look at how women’s rights recognized in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action were being achieved. Health goals needed to be seen in terms of how the right to health was being realized.
Another concern was the compartmentalized approach of the eight Millennium Development Goals, she said. That was not in accordance with indigenous peoples’ more holistic view of development and did not capture their priorities. Also highlighted in several studies was the invisibility of indigenous peoples in the Millennium Goal reports, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and even the Common Country Assessment and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) documents. Another concern was the way the Goals were used to address the situation of indigenous peoples in developed countries. The five objectives of the Second International Decade should be used as guiding principles for addressing the issues of the Goals, indigenous peoples and good governance.
She expressed hope that, in the next two weeks, the Forum would adopt strong recommendations as to how to improve the system of implementing the Millennium Goals, so that indigenous peoples could benefit from them. Hence, the involvement of indigenous peoples in the monitoring and implementation of the Goal processes would also be crucial. One of the concerns that would be raised in the session was HIV/AIDS. “As indigenous peoples, we must move to stamp out discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, because they are our brothers and sisters, members of our families and our communities.”
“We must together work for a world where indigenous peoples would have the right to grow old, have the right to live and die in their restored lands and territories, and where our children will be able to imagine a future with dignity and rights”, she said.
Leading off the Forum’s consideration of the status of the Millennium Development Goals discussion, DAVID CHOQUEHUANCA CEPEDES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, greeted the Forum on behalf of his country’s indigenous populations, who last December had decided to participate in the elections and govern the country after five centuries of marginalization, exploitation and pillaging of their natural resources. They had been able to appoint an indigenous person as President of Bolivia. With the help of all the indigenous people of his country, continent, and the world, Bolivia’s new Government intended to show the world -- and teach the world -- that a new life of harmony and peace was dawning for indigenous people, as well as all the people of the world.
With this triumph for Bolivia, the indigenous people of the entire continent were rising up to practise or resurrect their languages and cultures. They were practising their traditions openly and were seeking brotherhood with other peoples, nations and the cosmos. Here, he noted that Mother Earth was being poisoned with waste from industry and multinational corporations, poisonous gases were destroying the ozone layer, and strip mining was destroying the land. Those trends and practices were destroying indigenous communities, and everyone must work together to restore the Earth. Further, at all costs, humanity must avoid resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction to perpetuate the rapacious consumption of the West.
To avoid such occurrences, the world’s indigenous people would promote a culture of life, dialogue and cooperation towards the generation of alternate proposals that would restore the balance of the planet and cosmos. He said that, while Western cultures promoted capitalism, what were most important were humankind and the spiritual needs of the people of the planet. And while that was the main view of socialism, the world’s indigenous people also believed in life and the unity of all things -- plants, rocks, humans. “As we all depend on Mother Earth and her health and well-being, we are all brothers and sisters.” The indigenous people of Bolivia and the world would reject oil-based living.
As first nations, they would forge their own destinies with their own hands and hearts, he said. It was time to save the planet for the children of the future. While the West wanted to “live better”, indigenous people wanted to “live well”, exchanging what they produced on their lands competitively and existing in harmony with the land and the larger planet. Indigenous people would also seek to strengthen their local governance in order to achieve national self-sufficiency and, ultimately, to ensure the renewal of Mother Earth. They would bring together city and country, drawing on the best each had to offer to curb hunger and build up infrastructure. “We must decide for ourselves what we want and how we want to live”, he said, calling for indigenous peoples to return to their traditional lands in order to better manage efforts to improve water and air quality, and promote or generate more targeted socio-economic policies.
CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO, Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, said indigenous women made significant contributions to their families, communities, nations and the international community. At the same time, they faced multiple forms of discrimination -- not only gender based, but also discrimination based on ethnicity and race. She said that the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action had identified indigenous women as among those who encountered specific barriers to full equality, both as women and as members of their respective communities. Those included a particular vulnerability to violence and obstacles hindering the full enjoyment of their human rights.
Noting that the five- and 10-year reviews of Beijing had called for special initiatives on behalf of indigenous women, she said it was critical, therefore, to implement comprehensive measures to address all forms of discrimination, marginalization and exclusion, as well as the effects of globalization, among others, which kept indigenous women from fully enjoying all their fundamental rights. She also stressed that the Forum’s decision to consider the status of the Millennium Development Goals this year provided an opportunity to address the challenges facing indigenous women.
The Millennium Project Task Force on Education and Gender Equality (Goals 2 and 3, respectively) had recommended several strategies priorities for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, such as strengthening opportunities for post-primary education for girls, guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health and rights, and investing in infrastructure. She added that women were not fully participating in the planning, implementation and evaluation of development policies and also had very little input in efforts aimed at implementing the Goal. That must change, and women must participate in all stages of policy design, implementation and decision-making. Cooperation and coordination with non-governmental and indigenous women’s organizations working to enhance the situation of such women should be pursued as a matter or priority.
JUAN LEON ALVARADO, Chairman, Organization of American States (OAS) Working Group on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that, in the last 30 years, the presence of indigenous peoples had become an important factor on the international arena. On the regional level, the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was being prepared at the request of the General Assembly of the OAS, and was part of an ongoing trend in the development of international human rights to address the inadequacies of existing human rights mechanisms vis-à-vis the complex survival needs of indigenous peoples. Transparent and equitable participation of indigenous peoples in that work was very important. Participating in the negotiations were indigenous coordinators from the main Latin American regions. During a recent seventh negotiation meeting in Brazil, consideration of the consolidated Chair’s text had been concluded. He hoped that agreement would soon be reached on the final text of the declaration.
The draft declaration represented a unique opportunity to include indigenous peoples in a participatory and democratic way, he said. The proposal recognized that the indigenous peoples of the Americas constituted an organized, distinctive and integral segment of the Americas’ population and were entitled to be part of the national identity of the countries involved. They had a special role to play in strengthening the institutions and in establishing national unity based on democratic principles. He was convinced that the new instrument would contribute to international efforts to promote the rights of indigenous peoples, which had been marginalized for hundreds of years.
PHRANG ROY, Assistant President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that the marginalized conditions of many of the
300 million indigenous people did not figure prominently in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and related Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers debates. Indeed, what little progress had been made resulted primarily from indigenous peoples’ own struggles and efforts. Today, indigenous people made up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but they comprised 15 per cent of the world’s poor. That disparity was even greater in Asia, where indigenous peoples comprised up to 40 per cent of the extreme poor. There was, undoubtedly, something wrong with the existing development approach to indigenous peoples. Unless the strategies in support of those peoples were redefined, international initiatives could become meaningless to them or could even lead to accelerated loss of their lands, natural resources and cultures.
With IFAD established with the very specific mandate of working with the rural poor, its staff spent considerable time in remote rural areas, where they saw indigenous peoples’ efforts to keep control over their lands and institutions, to have their views respected, and to be active participants in the creation of their own development visions and plans. Initially, IFAD had supported indigenous peoples through development projects for their ancestral lands and territories. Today, it had come to acknowledge that, if the Millennium Goals were to be meaningful to indigenous peoples, then development initiatives in those lands must have their free, prior and informed consent. “I sincerely hope that we will have the courage and the humility to listen to that call from the indigenous peoples”, he said.
The IFAD had so far provided about $1.03 billion in loans in support of indigenous peoples in Latin America and Asia, he added. In 2005 alone, some $62.2 million had been approved in loans and $500,000 in grants. Experience showed that indigenous peoples did not see poverty solely as the lack of income -- they associated it with a trampling of their dignity, humiliation and powerlessness. Displacement of their communities from their traditional lands, the marginalization of their traditional institutions and militarization of the territories were some of the realities of their poverty and powerlessness. Poverty for them was entwined with the lack of respect for their political, cultural and economic rights, as well as a lack of respect for their abilities to identify problems and solutions concerning their own communities.
If “Development with Identity and Dignity” were to become a reality during the Second Decade, it was necessary to ensure that priority attention was paid to the poor and marginalized among the indigenous peoples. Some necessary aspects include: the transformational role of indigenous women in community affairs; recruitment of professionals from amongst indigenous peoples by United Nations agencies and development institutions; mechanisms for more direct funding; development of local institutions that would work with indigenous peoples; and opportunities for grass-roots actors to periodically assess the implementation of the “Development with Identity and Dignity” approach.
MARISELA PADRON QUERO, Director, Latin America and the Caribbean Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said indigenous organizations, including women’s organizations, were playing an increasing role in changing conditions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and elsewhere. At the same time, globalization was seriously pressuring indigenous lifestyles. Indeed, the increasing “clash of cultures” had made indigenous women particularly vulnerable. But, she stressed that everyone should ensure that the human rights and human potential of all indigenous peoples received due attention. The starting point of what must be a cooperative effort was the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.
And while that objective had been widely discussed and international momentum had built towards its achievement, its parameters did not emphasize the particular needs of indigenous groups and communities. Overall, progress towards achieving the Goals in the Americas had been encouraging, but gaps continued to surface, largely because of the inconsistent or unreliable data and information. Good information was a critical policy tool for decision-makers, she said, adding that it was also necessary for ensuring that indigenous groups participated in the global development agenda. She went on to say that migration and its effects on indigenous populations was also one of the Fund’s concerns. Fears were also rising about trafficking involving indigenous women and girls. In both those areas, she stressed, it was crucial to have current and reliable information.
On other issues that were of interest to the Fund, she said that children of poor women were at higher risk of disease, infection and malnutrition, and the need for providing medical and preventive care to all populations in need was particularly true in indigenous communities. She said that addressing gender and cultural issues with indigenous populations required an attention to certain sensitivities. Indeed, while it reverberated throughout the United Nations, the language of rights might not have the same resonance among indigenous populations. But, at the same time, more and more indigenous women were joining with non-governmental organizations to work towards the promotion and protection of women’s health, reproductive and other rights.
Reports on Relevant International Workshops on Indigenous Issues
Mr. DODSON, the Forum’s Rapporteur, updated the panel on the International Expert Group meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, Indigenous Participation and Good Governance, held in New York, from 11 to 13 January. He said that special emphasis had been given to Africa, indigenous people’s home-grown governance structures, urbanization, and rural development. Among others, participants had pointed out the needs to ensure broad participation in all decision-making and dispute resolution processes.
The CHAIRPERSON then familiarized the Forum with the work of the Workshop on Traditional Indigenous Knowledge, saying that, while 11 international bodies dealt with that subject, none of them treated it in a comprehensive manner. The Workshop had taken place in Panama and was hosted by the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with participation of international agencies, indigenous experts and States. The objective was to identify the indigenous perspective, gain a better understanding of various policies and programmes of the United Nations system in relation to indigenous knowledge, and elaborate recommendations on the matter to the Forum. The event concluded that indigenous traditional knowledge represented an integral part of indigenous peoples’ identities. It was recognized that adequate protection of such knowledge involved respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and the application of the principle of non-discrimination. The recommendations of the event concerned such issues as the need to coordinate intergovernmental efforts to preserve indigenous knowledge and promote awareness of the work in the field of traditional knowledge.
WILTON LITLLECHILD, of Canada, said that free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples was an essential prerequisite for development. Good governance was also of great importance. He also referred to a number of expert meetings and negotiations on the standards and principles of the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, saying that if the goals were redefined from the indigenous perspective, it was necessary to speak about the Millennium Development Goals, development, education and consent.
HASSAN ID BALKASSM, of Morocco, said the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments had noted that poverty was a denial of human rights. The monopoly of power, wealth and resources and non-expression of indigenous values were deep-seeded root causes of indigenous people’s marginalization. There was a need to review polices that did not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. While the current model promoted material gain, it denied the rights of indigenous communities and denied their rights to water and earth. He called for comprehensive partnerships to restore indigenous peoples’ right to dignity.
NINA PACARI VEGA, of Ecuador, said that the results of the workshop had focused attention on the serious dichotomies in the Millennium Development Goals and the predominant culture for development. The indigenous peoples had a more holistic approach. To reflect their needs, it was necessary to elaborate a general principle relating to the agenda of the indigenous peoples. Among other things, she mentioned the need for disaggregated information and better knowledge about the situation on the ground, as well as redefined indicators of development. Focus on the agenda of the indigenous people would allow the international community to recognize their particular needs, including land, and the requirements for resources for their development. Little had been achieved during the first Decade, as demonstrated by the fact that there had been no specific indigenous peoples’ agenda and channelling of resources for their needs. Now, it was necessary to devote attention to those issues.
IDA NICOLAISEN, of Denmark, said she was also concerned about the lack of data on indigenous people as such data was needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It was absurd that the need to take indigenous concerns into consideration even had to be discussed. Indigenous people must be treated with mutual respect and concern. Accountability and transparency was needed in any relationship. Any effort to achieve the Millennium Goals would fail unless it took into account the human experience of indigenous people. She stressed two important issues, namely, the need to strengthen indigenous peoples’ participation and the huge number of “in-between” indigenous people, who migrated either because of circumstances or of their own account. Those people were particularly vulnerable, living in urban environments without legal rights.
LILIANE MUZANGI MBELA, of the Congo, said that, in redefining the Millennium Development Goals for indigenous peoples, it was necessary to bear in mind their main challenges, which included the denial of civil rights, cultural and political rights, expropriation of land, discrimination, illiteracy and lack of education. It was also important to think of a means of measuring the success of the policies to integrate their needs in international development efforts.
OTILIA LUX DE COTI, of Guatemala, said that defining the Millennium Goals from the point of view of indigenous peoples was very appropriate, especially given what previous speakers had said. The holistic approach was extremely important. Free, prior and informed consent was one of the main challenges and fundamental principles for the types of development models that indigenous peoples wanted. Another valuable principle was that of historical continuity. States needed to recognize the lands, territory and community areas of indigenous peoples. Current protected areas were questionable. Indigenous peoples wanted to make sure that their rights and access to land were recognized. Experts had also spoken about the need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples.
EDUARDO AGUIAR DE ALMEIDA, of Brazil, said he wished to express satisfaction at the positive way in which the Forum had begun its fifth session. The Forum had had good results in its past meetings. There had been many enriching statements in today’s meeting, particularly the ones by the representatives of Bolivia and the Indigenous Caucus. Such statements could provide a light for the path ahead.
MERIKE KOKAJEV, of Estonia, noted that little progress had been made in terms of indigenous peoples’ participation in the Millennium Development Goal process. Respect for indigenous peoples’ rights was an essential element of good governance. The involvement of indigenous people in the drafting of Millennium Goal reports was crucial. Consultations must be based on their rights of indigenous people with respect to their unique cultural backgrounds. Indigenous people were not homogenous. Increased cooperation between Governments and United Nations country teams was necessary for achieving the Goals. Indigenous people must be able to determine their own path to development. In that regard, States and the United Nations should strengthen the capacity of their staff, including by increasing awareness of indigenous people’s rights.
PAVEL SULYANDZIGA. of the Russian Federation, said that to achieve results in the review of the Millennium Development Goals, the Forum must take upon itself an obligation to be very active in its interrelations with United Nations agencies. Much research and many documents existed today on the difficult situation of indigenous peoples, but, unfortunately, there were few practical results. Much was being done, but so far, it was mostly “a lot of paper”. Thus, it was very important to say to the United Nations agencies and other international organizations that they had to propose mechanisms on how to resolve the indigenous peoples’ problems. Practical steps were needed, and the Forum should make recommendations to the agencies and ask them to come forward to resolve relevant issues. Another track that needed to be pursued related to intergovernmental cooperation. As an example, he cited cooperation on the northern territories between Canada and Russia.
* *** *For information media • not an official record