30 April 2008
Economic and Social Council

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Seventh Session

11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)



Indigenous peoples were facing a growing crisis as climate change, unchecked economic growth and discriminatory national laws forced them from their lands into urban areas that offered them insufficient social services, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues heard today during a full-day debate devoted to, among other themes, urban indigenous peoples and migration and indigenous children and youth.

During the full-day session, which also focused on the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, the future work of the Permanent Forum, and customary laws pertaining to traditional indigenous knowledge, several delegates emphasized the troubling effects of climate change on rural-to-urban indigenous migration patterns.

Mass migration to urban areas was the biggest threat to indigenous peoples all over the world, a representative of the Indigenous People’s Survival Foundation told the Forum.  Indigenous areas like his in Pakistan’s north-west region -- an area of high, barren mountains dissected by fertile valleys -- were changing rapidly as a result of pressure from outsiders’ unyielding search for commercial gain and the ravages of climate change. 

Lamenting the fact that indigenous peoples were only rarely consulted in discussions on climate change, Norway’s representative emphasized their role as primary actors on the frontlines of climate change and fragile ecosystems.  They should be included in climate-change planning as their traditional knowledge could aid in confronting the challenge of widespread environmental degradation. 

Elaborating on the rising urban indigenous populations, a representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said factors including education and employment opportunities were part of what drew indigenous peoples to urban areas.  But once there, their access to opportunities was hampered by a lack of formal education and linguistic and cultural barriers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, alienation, homelessness and poverty. 

A representative of the Continental Women of the South Organization said that, throughout their history, indigenous peoples had been able to develop resources that fostered great biodiversity and that promoted the lives of indigenous peoples.  But today, that ability was being threatened.  The loss of biodiversity due to climate change affected indigenous peoples, particularly women and children, who depended on the environment.  In many places, climate change was forcing indigenous peoples to move from rural to urban areas.  There, migrants faced very different lifestyles and Government and social policies were often unable to help them adjust to their new circumstances.

Other delegates pointed to national laws that they said actually discriminated against indigenous communities.  A representative of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said the Canadian Government’s discriminatory Indian Act had divided individuals, communities and families, and excluded some aboriginal groups, such as the Métis.  The Act specifically discriminated along gender and race lines, against indigenous peoples.  Moreover, while many of Canada’s aboriginal peoples had left reserves to, among other things, obtain medical services, education or escape violence or joblessness, he said that relocation meant they ended up losing their rights. 

In the United States, Native Americans had the highest unemployment rates in the country largely due to the legacy of laws enacted in the 1950s and 1960s that had forced many of them to migrate to urban areas, a Forum member from North America said.  While 64 per cent of Native Americans lived in cities and metropolitan areas, the majority of federal funding in the United States went to rural areas and reservations. 

There was widespread agreement among delegates and Forum members that the United Nations generally, and the Forum in particular, must do more to address the pressures faced by urban indigenous populations.  A Forum member from China suggested that indigenous issues be mainstreamed into the United Nations system, calling for the development of action plans and projects on the basis of the objectives of the Second International Decade. 

The Deputy-Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) said that, as a starting point, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN-Habitat were undertaking a review of policies, programmes and practices, with the latter body taking a lead role in developing a policy guide on housing issues for indigenous urban dwellers.  She hoped to present that guide at the forthcoming Fourth World Urban Forum.

Suggested themes for the Forum’s future work included issues of water and the impact of mining and extractive industries on indigenous populations.  One delegate proposed that the procedure be reviewed for the possibility of granting permanent observer status for the world’s indigenous peoples to the General Assembly.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam.

Representatives from the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, UN-HABITAT, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 2008 Indigenous Fellowship Programme also spoke.

Other speakers during the dialogue included representatives from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples; Continental Women of the South; International Indian Treaty Council; Red de Mujeres Indigenas Wayuu de Venezuela; Flying Eagle Woman Fund and the Foundation Rigoberta Menchu Tum; National Association of Friendship Centres; International Indian Treaty Council; Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council; Innu Council of Nitassinan and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation; Kus Kurra, the Central American Indigenous Youth Network and the Indigenous Youth Caucus; Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador; Coordination Autochtone Francophone; Koi San Heritage Council/Fincasa; Elders Council of the Khakass People; Global Women’s Caucus; CSUTCB, CSCB, FNMICB-BS, CIDOB, CONAMAQ; Australian Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus; Asian Indigenous Women’s Network; Arctic Caucus; and International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

Also:  Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), Internationale Touareg; Australian Indigenous Youth Delegation; Indigenous Environmental Network; Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation; Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas de Qullasuyo (CONAMAQ); Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA); Indigenous Youth Council of Ireland; Herri Topa; Parlamento Indigena de America (PLA); International Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (BATANI); World Indigenous Water Caucus; Assembly of First Nations; Asia Caucus; Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation and the Innu Council of Nitassinan; Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network; Fundacion Reino Maya; Amazigh Caucus; Mundari Literary Council; Comision Juridica Para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios (CAPAJ); New South Wales Land Council; Shubenacadie Band Council; Muskogee and Yamasi People; National Native Title Council of Australia; Indigenous People’s Survival Foundation; and Balochistan People’s Party.

The Permanent Forum’s Rapporteur presented a summary of a paper on customary laws pertaining to indigenous traditional knowledge.

The Permanent Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 1 May, to conclude its debate.


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continued its seventh annual session today continuing with its focus on:  indigenous children and youth; the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People; and urban indigenous peoples and migration.


FRED CARON ( Canada) said his country was keen to enhance bilateral dialogue with other States, and towards that goal, Canada had hosted a meeting last week to discuss initiatives to benefit those dialogues with United Nations agencies, Member States and indigenous peoples’ representatives.  He encouraged States, United Nations agencies and indigenous peoples’ organizations to support the United Nations Human Settlements Programme’s (UN-HABITAT) efforts towards the elaboration of policy guidelines and materials to improve living conditions in urban areas.

Focusing on the forthcoming Fourth World Urban Forum, he said that the utmost should be done to ensure that indigenous issues remained an integral component of that and future forums.  Canada had implemented urban programmes and, in May 2007, the Government had renewed its Urban Aboriginal Strategy, with a $68.5 million budget, and opened, in October, the thirteenth urban indigenous centre.  Between 2003 and 2007, some of the Strategy’s 308 funded projects had included the “Just Say YES” youth employment programme in Calgary.

MILDRED KARAIRA, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean, said that the majority of United Nations agencies were still not giving attention to the Caribbean region -- a practice that was contrary to the goals of the Second Decade.  Noting that the Second Decade’s plan of action contained specific reference to that region, she recommended that the Permanent Forum organize a special regional consultative session to focus on the unique situation of Caribbean indigenous peoples.  The special session should be held on the island of Dominica and should aim to strengthen cooperation, coordination and capacity-building among indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.  The Forum should also ensure that any special regional session provide equal funding opportunities for participation and follow-up for indigenous peoples from Non-Self-Governing Territories in the region.  For example, indigenous peoples from Puerto Rico were continuously denied funding by the United Nations Voluntary Fund to participate in meetings and consultations.  That practice was discriminatory and must end.  She also urged the Forum to invite several organizations, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Rio Group and the Association of Caribbean States and the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas, to work with Caribbean Governments to finance and implement the recommendations focusing on the Second Decade.

AMY MUEDIN, programme specialist with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said factors including education and employment opportunities were part of what had drawn indigenous peoples to urban areas.  But lack of formal education and linguistic and cultural barriers were among factors hampering access to opportunities, leaving those peoples vulnerable to exploitation, alienation, homelessness and poverty.  Experts acknowledged that life in their territories based on subsistence agriculture no longer remained viable, and for indigenous peoples to benefit most from urbanization, migration should be based on well-informed choice. 

She noted that, with support from the Canadian Government, an expert group last year held a meeting in Chile on the topic of urban indigenous peoples and migration.  It resulted in recommendations that invited the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues to consider elaborating policy guidelines for Governments and local authorities.  That effort was being led by UN-Habitat, and the International Organization for Migration was providing a migration perspective.

ALEXANDER SIRCHENKO ( Russian Federation) said that Russia had been the first State to proclaim its participation in the Second Decade.  The Russian Government had adopted a set of priority measures for protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.  Those priorities focused on education for indigenous communities and on maintaining their cultural inheritance.  Russia had created an organizational planning committee to coordinate events for the Second Decade.  In addition, a group had been set up to advise the Government on creating and passing legislation that affected the country’s indigenous peoples.  Protecting indigenous life in the various parts of the Russian Federation was a main priority of the Government, and a methodology had been created to measure and compensate for any losses to the indigenous population.  In addition, regional plans were being prepared for the celebration of the Second Decade. 

PATRICK BRAZEAU, speaking on behalf of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represented aboriginal peoples in Canada, said the majority of aboriginal peoples in his country lived off reserves.  The Canadian Government’s discriminatory Indian Act had divided individuals, communities and families, and excluded some aboriginal groups, such as the Métis.  Many people had left reserves to, among other things, obtain medical services, education or escape violence or joblessness, and thereby, had lost their rights.  The Indian Act specifically discriminated along gender and race lines, against indigenous peoples.  There was a great debate about those issues in Canada and he stood firm that Canada should sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  One issue was the Indian Act and the reluctance of aboriginal leaders to force compliance with human rights law.

TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said the Fund’s mandate had been expanded to lend assistance to indigenous peoples to participate in various forums.  In that connection, it had rendered assistance to more than 1,100 indigenous representatives who had recently taken part in decision-making forums and related activities.  Their presence at those debates and events had helped them to stay in touch with relevant organizations.  However, the growing number of requests and the limited amount of funds meant grant assistance had to be selective.  For instance, 301 requests had recently been received, and only 78 subsidies had been granted.  In 2008, the Fund’s board recommended to the Secretary-General to distribute $537,000 among 155 applicants to participate in upcoming forums. 

MELANIA CANALES POMA, speaking on behalf the Continental Women of the South Organization, said that, throughout their history, indigenous peoples had been able to develop resources that fostered great biodiversity and that promoted the lives of indigenous people.  But today, that ability was being threatened.  The loss of biodiversity due to climate change affected indigenous peoples, particularly women and children, who depended on the environment.  Extreme climate change particularly affected the living conditions of local populations in the south.  As temperatures changed, crops were affected, which greatly impacted the health of local people.  Global warming was contributing to the loss of ice and snow in the Andean mountains and in the foothills where indigenous peoples lived, and lakes and rivers were drying up.  In many places, climate change was forcing indigenous peoples to move from rural to urban areas.  There, migrants faced very different lifestyles and Government and social policies were often unable to help them adjust to their new circumstances.  Maintaining a balance between past, present and future was not only an economic need, but it affected the entire indigenous culture.  The Permanent Forum should consult the recommendations of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum.

ANDREA CARMEN, speaking on behalf of the International Indian Treaty Council, said that one goal of the Second Decade was to include indigenous peoples in any decision that affected their lives under the right of “free, prior and informed consent”.  That right was now the operative human rights framework for concluding new nation-to-nation treaties, as well as for negotiations pertaining to agreements and other constructive arrangements between States and indigenous peoples. The Decade’s objectives also called upon all parties to move away from past failed models for arbitration and reparation based on unilateral processes.  In its place, the United Nations report on Treaties, Agreements and Constructive Arrangements recommended establishing a “new jurisdiction” for the resolution of disputes and the redress of violations, including those related to treaty implementation.  The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provided the necessary framework for that new jurisdiction model.  The basis for all processes and decisions in which treaties and treaty rights were involved must be article 37, which affirmed indigenous peoples’ unequivocal rights.  She recommended that the expert mechanisms for the recognition of indigenous human rights as well as the treaty to monitor the implementation of treaty rights by State parties develop models and mechanisms to implement that “new jurisdiction”.

YAMINA DJACTA, Deputy-Director of UN-Habitat, said that the recommendations of the 2007 expert group meeting in Chile included the elaboration of policy guidelines, covering such issues as employment, education and housing.  Those guidelines aimed to assist national Governments and local authorities in coping with accelerating migration.  They could also be used as a tool for human rights.  The Inter-Agency Support Group had begun the implementation of those recommendations, with UN-Habitat called upon to assist.  The consultations stressed the importance of the participation of indigenous groups in the process.  As a starting point, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN-Habitat were undertaking a review of policies, programmes and practices, with the latter body taking a lead role in developing a policy guide on housing issues for indigenous urban dwellers.  She hoped to present the guide at the forthcoming Fourth World Urban Forum.

RENILDA MARTINEZ, speaking on behalf of the Red de Mujeres Indigenas Wayuu de Venezuela, said that indigenous women were exposed to education systems that caused the loss of ancestral languages and cultures.  She recommended the provision of multicultural education, emphasizing the importance of retaining language and culture.  To meet that goal, indigenous peoples must have the opportunity to disseminate and implement the full scope of the Declaration of indigenous peoples.

MAKI EL ISI, speaking on behalf of the Flying Eagle Woman Fund and the Foundation Rigoberta Menchu Tum, said the removal of children from their communities was a well-recognized and well-defined violation of international human rights laws.  Those widespread human rights violations were the result of legally sanctioned practices through State-sponsored foster care and youth incarceration programmes and policies in the United States and Canada.  Decades of disproportionate detainment and incarceration of indigenous youth had resulted in inter-generational trauma, extremely high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and violence.  Those youths, isolated from their communities, were often subjected to forced hair cutting and removal of cultural and spiritual items.  Indigenous youth were denied equal access to their spiritual practices and freedom of religion.  Many indigenous leaders in Canada believed that the high rates of suicide of indigenous youth were directly related to those practices.  The Permanent Forum must prioritize the issue of indigenous children under State detention and custody in North America and other regions for follow-up study, research and action.  Perhaps it could organize an expert seminar next year.

VERA PAWIS TABOBONDUNG, President of the National Association of Friendship Centres, said her organization’s goal was to increase the emphasis on aboriginal distinctiveness.  It coordinated indigenous peoples’ centres in urban areas to provide health and social services to indigenous populations.  The association was committed to generating measurable, concrete results.  Its network began in the 1950s as drop-in centres where new arrivals from rural areas could seek advice from those who were already established in urban areas.  Because the Canadian Government was unable to meet the needs of urban indigenous peoples, itbegan several decades ago to provide assistance to the friendship centres.  Other support had come both nationally and internationally.  In Canada, the centres were the front-line delivery systems for social services for urban indigenous peoples.

QIN XIAOMEI, Forum member from China, said the Forum should take an important role in furthering the rights of indigenous peoples.  To accomplish that, the Forum could, among other things, raise the visibility of the cause, strengthen communication among stakeholders to avoid duplication while considering how to combine work on the issues along with periodic review, and indicate priorities within the United Nations system, for instance a timeframe that integrated that of the Millennium Development Goals with indigenous issues.  Regarding urban issues, UN-Habitat and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would submit a guide to urban housing at the upcoming Nanjing forum.  That would be a step forward for Governments to use those guides.

CELESTE MACKAY, speaking on behalf of the International Indian Treaty Council, said participants expressed strong concerns about climate change on future generations and about the current foster care system in Canada.  The Canadian Government had stated that 1 in 18 indigenous children were currently in foster care.  Other concerns focused on youth, which faced disproportionately high levels of teen pregnancy and abuse, and the need for programmes to address health and related issues.  Migration and international borders had also affected indigenous rights.  Migrants were subjected to discriminatory immigration laws and had been forced to leave their lands.  She called on the Forum to provide updates on grave human rights injustices, underlining the high rate of rape, murder and trafficking of migrant women.

KATHLEEN MCHUGH, representing the Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council, proposed that a culturally relevant, gender-balanced analysis be applied to the issues before the Forum.  She also urged the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council to conduct a thematic study on climate change that adopted a rights-based approach consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  She called on the Permanent Forum to include in its final report a recommendation that Governments submit their budgetary outlays to women’s programmes and to indigenous peoples’ programmes.  It should also include a culturally-relevant gender-balanced analysis focusing on human resource development in its final report, in order to encourage the creation of employment opportunities for indigenous women.  Another focus should be on establishing partnerships within the United Nations agencies to train indigenous women.  She urged the Forum to study her organization’s framework for a gender-balanced analysis mechanism that balanced individual rights with collective rights.

EVA OTTAWA, speaking on behalf of the Innu Council of Nitassinan and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation, noting the existence of Canadian policies to extinguish the rights of its indigenous peoples, said that the fate of the indigenous was Canada’s most urgent problem.  If indigenous peoples did not have greater resources, their institutions would be unable to function.  All people should be in a position to take charge of their wealth and resources.  Moreover, the natural right of indigenous peoples as presently practiced was not consistent with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The inherent constitutional rights of the indigenous peoples were inalienable; they could not be relinquished.  Canada’s policies were frequently denounced by the United Nations.  At the end of the Second Decade, Canada must abandon the practices of denying its indigenous peoples their rights.

ALANCAY MORALES GARRO, speaking on behalf of the Kus Kurra, the Central American Indigenous Youth Network and the Indigenous Youth Caucus, said that the Indigenous Youth Empowerment for a Borderless Region project, of which he was director, reached 12 indigenous groups and 150 young people.  At past forums, his group had recommended enhanced youth participation.  The reality was that the active and aware participation of youth had been handled by adults, but improving youths’ roles would bring about greater personal growth for future leaders.  Priority areas included leadership issues, and his project aimed to empower youths.  His group’s experience in South American should be shared to bolster the replication of those experiences in other regions.

JEAN-CHARLES PIETACHO, speaking on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, said that in Canada some people were kept in conditions comparable to developing country standards.  More than 60 per cent of indigenous families lived below poverty lines.  He asked how it was that in a country as rich as Canada the suicide rate was 8 to 10 times higher for indigenous people, and eight times more indigenous people left their natural environments due to lack of resources.  Since 1999, the indigenous situation had been deemed crucial.  A decade later, the situation had worsened, requiring radical changes on the part of the Canadian State.  The necessary means and territories, and an investment in youth, were needed to address those issues.  He called upon the Permanent Forum members to give priority to children, because they were the future.

MOHAMED HANDAINE, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Autochtone Francophone, said that the fate of indigenous youth globally continued to deteriorate because of neglect of their communities.  He welcomed the recognition of indigenous languages in Morocco and Algeria, as that helped to encourage indigenous youth to attend school.  Unfortunately, however, their ability to attend school did not guarantee their social development or their identity.  Indeed, through the Sahel, many indigenous cultural identities were endangered.  Many indigenous youth had no access to health services or schooling, and young people who did not study their native language were often isolated.  To combat that, the ability of indigenous organizations to aid young people and make them proud of their identity should be strengthened.  He urged the Forum to translate the Declaration into indigenous languages.  He also asked it to encourage the introduction of indigenous languages in education systems and in the media.

ACHMAT JACOBS, speaking on behalf of the KhoiSan Heritage Council/Fincasa, said his people were the first in South Africa to be dispossessed of their land with the arrival of white people.  Since then, the languages and cultures of South Africa’s indigenous peoples had been under constant threat.  Yet little had been done to address the injustices that had been committed against them.  As a result, his people faced high levels of teenage pregnancies, suffered from drop-out rates among students who often joined gangs, and had been displaced, owing to forced migration.  Drugs -- particularly a new, poisonous drug that was often life-threatening -- were also a primary concern.  He appealed to the Forum to look at that situation and create a mechanism that would encourage the South African Government to ensure the rights of his and other indigenous peoples.

VLADISLAV TOROSOV, speaking on behalf of the Elders Council of the Khakass People, said that, while his nation comprised 85,000 inhabitants of southern Siberia, they were a minority on their own land facing difficulties preserving language, customs, traditions and culture.  Those problems had worsened over the past decade when a forced suppression of the Khakass language had become a semi-official State policy.  Khakass schools were in emergency conditions.  In addition, environmental damage due to aluminium production had tripled cancer rates in the past 20 years.  The Elders Council was currently financing projects, but sought additional development funds to support publishing Khakass language materials, create a media centre, and expand an already successful programme on indigenous animal herding and land cultivation methods.

MYRIAM SANCHEZ, speaking on behalf of the Global Women’s Caucus, said priority issues included indigenous children, youth and climate change, with the latter wreaking havoc on indigenous communities and forcing migration to urban centres.  She stressed the need to raise awareness of the conditions of women and children, and suggested a task force be created to enable the compilation of data on children, young people and women for use by United Nations agencies.  That data would shed light on living conditions in agricultural and urban areas, and would subsequently urge States to respect international standards, including international labour standards, to combat the growing criminalization of migrant indigenous families.  She urged immediate implementation of the right to appropriate and safe housing for indigenous peoples.

IRENE MAMANI, speaking jointly on behalf of several Bolivian groups, said the people of Bolivia (CSUTCB, CSCB, FNMICB-BS, CIDOB, CONAMAQ), in concert with their President, said the groups had led the world’s movements for indigenous peoples.  She recommended that the Special Rapporteur submit an annual report on every country every year so that progress could be measured.  She also invited the incoming Special Rapporteur to visit her country, and she urged the Forum to assess the situation of children worldwide.  In Bolivia, indigenous peoples had engaged in international dialogue in order to aid the world’s children.  Concerning the environment, the only way to protect it was to use the age-old technology of the people.  Finally, she stressed that the decades-old debt from the damage done to indigenous peoples should be paid.

TONYA GONNELLA FRICHNER, Forum member from North America, said a majority of indigenous peoples in the United States lived in urban areas.  Native American people also served in the United States military at much higher levels than other citizens.  Native Americans had historically been mistreated and their suffering had led to high levels of drug abuse and higher than normal levels of poverty.  Despite the fact that 64 per cent of Native Americans lived in cities and metropolitan areas, the majority of federal funding in the United States went to rural areas and reservations.  Native Americans also had the highest unemployment rates in the country as a result of laws enacted in the 1950s and 1960s in which many of them had been forced to migrate to urban areas.

BRIAN WYATT, speaking on behalf of the Australian Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, highlighted the need to develop a national framework for the protection of the rights of indigenous children, which integrated health, education and social support, among other needs.  He reiterated the Caucus’ support for the Second International Decade, underscoring the urgent need for global cooperation and strengthened cooperation between States and indigenous peoples.  He congratulated the Australian Government’s commitment to complete a “national report card” on indigenous peoples, but said the Government must recognize the central role indigenous peoples could play in developing policies affecting their lives. 

He said that migration was a crucial issue.  Removal of indigenous children from their families was “merely a hybrid” of past Governments’ forced assimilation policies.  Formal apologies for actions of past Governments should now be followed by policy development.  He recommended, among other things, that the Forum urge States, relevant United Nations agencies and indigenous peoples’ groups to include youth in preparing future forums.  The Forum should also strongly urge Member States to implement the principles and goals of the Declaration.

DICTAAN-BANG OA, speaking on behalf of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network,  recommended, among other things, intensive information activities on international human rights laws, strengthening women’s and youth’s roles, establishing strong mechanisms and tools in defining programmes, and the support of United Nations agencies and national organizations for the upcoming Asian indigenous women’s conference.  She called on all States to include gender and development issues, such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals, in programmes for indigenous peoples.  Security of land and protection of natural resources were also needed, keeping in mind the perspective of women and youth.

KRISTINA NORDLING, speaking on behalf of the Arctic Caucus, said that very limited research had been carried out in the Arctic countries on the health situation of the Inuit and Saami people residing in urban areas.  There was also a dearth of data separating the indigenous population from the majority population.  Yet it was clear that mental illness was common among indigenous peoples living in urban areas.  Often exacerbating the mental illness were identity crises and a lack of a community safety net.  State programmes for indigenous populations were often directed towards rural areas rather than urban dwellers and language rights did not extend to indigenous communities in cities.  In light of that, she recommended that the Permanent Forum call on all relevant United Nations agencies to pay particular attention to the situation of indigenous peoples living in cities.  It should also call on all States to report back to the Forum on activities they had undertaken to disaggregate health data on the majority population and the indigenous population.

JOJI CARINO, speaking on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, said significant advances had been made by its working group on indicators.  In its recent report, the working group had recommended the adoption of a final set of indicators.  One indicator proposed for adoption concerned “status and trends in traditional professions”.  Other indicators addressed linguistic diversity and language patterns.  Data gathering was the next step in the process.  The working group was preparing to hold a technical workshop on indigenous peoples and indicators, at which it intended to plan for possible pilot projects in a number of countries.  She invited the Forum to contribute to that meeting as there was enormous potential to use the group’s work in implementing change in indigenous communities.

THOMAS FORTUNE, speaking on behalf of IPACC (Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee), Internationale Touareg, said the situation of the Touareg people in Mali and Niger was bleak.  The Touareg had been marginalized and divided among five States, and thus, had lost their voice and right to self-determination.  Conflicts had broken out in Mali in 2006 and in Niger in 2007 between rebellious movements and those Governments.  Among other things, Niger had launched a natural resources project in Touareg territory without prior consultations.  The army had been carrying out arrests and detentions.  In Mali, livestock and villages had been destroyed.  He urged the international community to recognize the reality in Mali and Niger, and he called for a truce, the liberation of political prisoners and a halt to the exploitation of northern Niger.

LINDSAY URQUHART, speaking on behalf of the Australian Indigenous Youth Delegation, said health, identity and education were critical current issues.  Lower rates of life expectancy, high rates of chronic disease and high infant mortality would haunt future generations unless those issues were addressed now.  Racism, low school attendance and low expectations plagued youths.  Nothing was taught in schools about the eradication of indigenous culture, but rather how Australia had been colonized.  The delegation supported policies to affect change and recommended that the Forum encourage States to include representation of indigenous peoples.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies should focus on developing culturally-aware education curricula.  There was no single solution; only a holistic approach would be effective.

CHELSEA CHEE, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said indigenous cultures were in crisis, and climate change must urgently be addressed for the benefit of indigenous children and youth.  More than 60 per cent of indigenous peoples in the United States lived off the reservations and in urban centres.  There they were burdened by poor air quality and were twice as likely to be uninsured for health care as whites.  Yet those communities were ever more vulnerable to climate-change related ailments, such as asthma and other respiratory diseases.  Climate change was creating health impacts for indigenous peoples, threatening their food systems and affecting their ability to practice traditional ceremonies. 

She said that the answer to climate change was not the continued use of fossil fuels or nuclear power, or large-scale use of biofuels or the instigation of international carbon trading plans.  She demanded a worldwide moratorium on new exploration, extraction and processing of fossil fuels on indigenous lands, which was not included in the Forum’s draft report on climate.  More time was needed to bring indigenous peoples and the United Nations together to discuss those issues.  Stressing that climate change was a human rights issue, she called on the United Nations General Assembly to convene an emergency session to explore the multiple impacts of climate change. 

HASSAN ID BALKASSM, Forum member from Morocco, said the present dialogue had made it possible to identify important issues that concerned the rights of indigenous peoples.  Yet he expressed regret that there was no parallel dialogue at the governmental level in individual countries, particularly in Africa.  A large number of African countries were at the bottom of the list in terms of human development, and many indigenous communities in Africa had been marginalized and isolated from the debate.

He said that indigenous peoples and children living in urban areas suffered because they had been removed from their cultural lands and communities.  Their location in urban areas weakened their traditional identities.  The laws and policies of their countries often contributed to that deplorable process.  While the Second Decade had enshrined collective efforts to reverse the situation, and many States had striven to comply, countries should do more to incorporate the Second Decade’s recommendations in their legislation and policies. 

In addition, authorities must begin to incorporate indigenous communities in decision-making processes, he said.  Without real power sharing, there would be no real change.  Real cooperation and dialogue were needed between the communities and the Governments.  Indigenous values should be made part and parcel of national legislation so that a legislative framework could foster harmonious coexistence between all communities in a society, particularly those that were indigenous.

MICK DODSON, the Permanent Forum’s Rapporteur, presented a summary of a paper on customary laws pertaining to indigenous traditional knowledge by the secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  He noted that he was using a working draft that was completed prior to the release of his report.  It urged the consideration of a new legally-binding framework to entrench customary laws and traditional practices in legislation.  Traditional knowledge should be protected by using customary law, which would provide guidance to States and ensure protection of traditional knowledge at a national level.  The draft pointed out the inadequacy of current Western legal frameworks for protecting traditional knowledge.  A “supportable rationale” was necessary for this to take place on a widespread basis, he said.

He also summarized five responses to the report of the Secretariat on Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (E/C.19/2007/10) presented at the Forum’s sixth session.  The submissions came from Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (Australia); Luigi Palombi, Regulatory Institutions Network, Australian National University (Australia); Jigyansu Tribal Research Centre (India); Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (USA); and Teresa Ryan, a Gitlan and Tsimshian person (Canada).  The main argument was that traditional indigenous knowledge was generated from an entirely different world view than what was at the heart of State laws.  It held that it was important to protect, rather than simply treat, traditional knowledge as another piece of intellectual property.  The five submissions would be posted on the Permanent Forum’s website.

PAVEL SULYANDZIGA, a Forum member from the Russian Federation, reported on the outcome of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues International Workshop on Perspectives of Relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Industrial Companies, held in the Russian Federation in July 2007.  The Forum had a number of appeals from indigenous peoples about the unfairness of private companies that worked on indigenous territories.  Many communities had been created by industrial companies that had used natural resources on indigenous lands.  The seminar had focused on issues related to indigenous peoples and private companies.  A lack of standards on the relationship between private industry and indigenous peoples, as well as international mechanisms to, among other things, settle disputes, were noted.  There was also a lack of ability to plan, facilitate and monitor projects on the territories of the indigenous. 

He noted that proposals and recommendations had been drawn up, including a request of the Forum to appoint a special rapporteur, to evolve a global agreement and to participate in the Global Compact.  Participants in the Workshop had called on international financial institutions to take a human rights-based approach to indigenous peoples.  There had been 80 participants in all, including 13 Forum members.

JANE NAINI MERIWAS, speaking on behalf of several participants in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 2008 Indigenous Fellowship Programme, said it was through that Programme that she and others had learned how to use the United Nations system and mechanisms to defend the rights of their peoples.  The Programme, created within the context of the First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, now stood to be strengthened in the Second International Decade.  She asked that the Forum consider that the Programme be provided with additional funding to allow more individuals to participate and that the Forum participate in the promotion of the Programme by disseminating information and allocating funds to guarantee the attendance of indigenous fellows at the Forum this year.

SOMALIN MENG THACH, speaking on behalf of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, said all that her organization had ever wanted was for the Vietnamese Government to affirm her peoples’ rights.  Although Viet Nam had accused them of pursuing a separatist agenda, she asked how her people could separate from their homeland.  They had been there before and were still there after colonialism.  Viet Nam had said the “KKF” were separatists, yet the Government would not even agree to meet with their group despite their requests.  The statement made yesterday by a representative of Viet Nam suggesting that the “KKF” and the Montagnard Foundation were wasting the Forum’s precious time had been insulting.  She asked for the support and solidarity of the world’s indigenous peoples and of the Forum’s members.

TOMAS HUANACU TITO, speaking on behalf of Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas de Qullasuyo (CONAMAQ), said the pressures put on parents to adopt religions were unreasonable.  In the indigenous cultures, the names came from nature.  He believed parents were committing a crime when their children moved away from their culture.  He proposed that an educational system be designed with indigenous cultures in mind.

EGBERTO TABO, speaking on behalf of the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA), said studies had shown that his region had high rates of poverty exacerbated by today’s system, which had kept the people marginalized.  Those few occasions when their concerns had been heard had been rare.  Regarding indigenous children, it was outrageous that the United Nations had many programmes for children, but those seemed to focus on cities and not on indigenous children.  He did not want to complain, but instead to explain, on behalf of thousands of indigenous children, that they were not given priority.  He recommended an appropriate place for a focus on indigenous children’s rights.

LISA DEMPSEY, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Youth Council of Ireland, requested that the Forum ask the governments of north and south Ireland to acknowledge the indigenous teachings of their spiritual elder and the Retrieve Foundation.  She requested an open discussion in Geneva between indigenous spiritual leaders of Europe and the European Parliament on the Declaration, and what it meant to the indigenous youth of Ireland and Europe.  Indigenous youth had a right for their voices to be honoured and listened to, she said. 

AUDREY HOC, speaking on behalf of Herri Topa, noted that the Basque language in France had no legal status, and said that it survived today thanks to the efforts of a few thousand activists.  Several organizations ensured that Basque children were taught in their language in a small number of Basque schools.  Laws requiring French to be its citizens’ primary language meant that Basque children had to be multilingual.  She urged the Permanent Forum to call on France to recognize the indigenous languages on its territory.  On 7 May, there would a historical moment in the National Assembly in which the Government could recognize the Basque language.  As the Forum chose a member from Western Europe, she urged it to consider naming a Basque expert to the post.

JOHAN LOVALD ( Norway) said indigenous peoples were, regrettably, only rarely consulted in discussions on climate change, although they were primary actors on the frontlines of climate change and fragile ecosystems.  The Arctic was one region being impacted by climate change, and a number of indigenous groups there were affected by that global phenomenon.  Thus, indigenous peoples had to be included in climate-change planning.  Due regard should be paid to their traditional knowledge and socio-economic needs.  With that in mind, the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups was now being catalogued in Norway.  Unique ecosystems around the world were already being profoundly impacted by climate change and traditional knowledge could aid in confronting that challenge.

He said his country was cooperating in global efforts to combat climate change, and as such, it supported a number of environmental projects in developing countries as part of its commitment to the Bali Action Plan.

Noting that this was the Forum’s first session since the adoption of the Declaration, he cautioned that adoption was only a first step.  The Declaration should be seen as a framework for policies to ensure the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.  Moving forward, a viable mechanism was needed to coordinate the work of the Forum, the Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur.

HILARIA SUPA HUAMAN, speaking on behalf of the Parlamento Indigena de America (PIA), said that she had received many reports over the past few days about children who had become ill from pollution in mining towns.  The Peruvian Government had said development was important.  But that was external economic growth.  People in her country were becoming ill.  The water needed to be protected as well.  She invited the Forum members to visit Peru and the affected areas.  She voiced a concern that the Parliament was allowing United States military personnel to enter the country to train Peruvian soldiers.  Since the Earth was sacred, she did not wish to see it contaminated by multinationals.  She wanted to live in harmony with Mother Earth.  Five-star hotels and restaurants were being planned.  That was not development.  The coca leaf was a foodstuff.  She rejected drug trafficking, but farmers were being prosecuted.  She recommended that the coca plant be studied, with the dignity of her communities in mind.  Many other communities were undergoing the same difficult circumstances as her region.

YANA DORDINA, speaking on behalf of the International Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (BATANI), said that the goal of her organization was to establish relations between private companies and indigenous communities to propagate partnerships and understanding.  That was an important issue in the Russian Federation, and she recommended that the Forum pay special attention to it and related topics.

Mr. HANDAINE, taking the floor again also on behalf of theCoordination Autochtone Francophone, said that, in terms of the Forum’s future work, he wished the Forum could frankly discuss how the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples could be ensured.  Conflict -- particularly in the Sahel -- should be among the topics addressed.  Also, funds should be set aside to translate the Declaration in indigenous languages.  The Special Rapporteur should be invited to visit more States.  The Forum should also set aside funds to support the participation of indigenous peoples in international forums that touched on their rights.  He proposed that the relationship between indigenous peoples and official authorities should be one of the next session’s major themes.

SYLVIA ESCARCEGA, speaking on behalf of the World Indigenous Water Caucus, said that billions of people still lacked safe drinking water and adequate sanitation worldwide.  The Permanent Forum should urge all United Nations agencies that deal with water, as well as all its Member States, to provide full financial support for a world indigenous forum on water and peace.  She also urged Member States to include the Declaration in their constitutions and recognize the indigenous peoples’ governance of water at all levels of Government.  She called on the United Nations World Heritage Committee and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites to recognize the critical role of indigenous peoples in protecting sacred sites of water.  She further called for support of a world indigenous forum on languages and urged that education programmes include the study of traditional values.  She further called for a moratorium on the privatization of water.  Signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea should be encouraged to understand their responsibility to protect all waters.  In terms of the Forum’s future work, she urged it to adopt water as a theme for its next session.

WILTON LITTLECHILD, speaking on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, invited the Forum to attend the upcoming World Indigenous Sports Games in Manitoba, Canada.  He said a series of sports conferences had garnered widespread support and urged the Forum to encourage Member Sates to promote positive lifestyle choices for indigenous youth. 

Mr. TABO, speaking on behalf of COICA, said it was crucial that the Forum became a place of dialogue between indigenous organizations and States.  The importance of requests from the regions should be noted.  He was concerned about the case on customary laws respecting the spirituality of each other’s organizations.  He was also concerned that many Governments were not fulfilling their promises under the Declaration.  There should be a proper follow-up regarding denouncements made by various organizations.  For instance, in Bolivia, as in Peru and elsewhere, the indigenous peoples were affected by ongoing events, and those events should be the subject of reports.

SANJEEB DRONG, speaking on behalf of the Asia Caucus, suggested that the Forum’s future work should address the impact of the mining and extractive industries, which comprised a significant threat to the livelihoods and well-being of indigenous peoples around the world.  An expert workshop on that theme should be held, as such a focus would open up dialogue and collaboration between indigenous groups, Governments and United Nations agencies.  Input from indigenous peoples should be solicited for the upcoming forum on sustainable development.

LUCIEN WABANONIK, speaking on behalf of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation and the Innu Council of Nitassinan, said that for too long indigenous peoples had been invisible to outsiders and, particularly, to the Governments of Canada and Quebec.  They had not been part of any concession from the State.  His people did not want to be invisible any longer, even here at the United Nations.  In that regard, he requested that, in its future work, the Forum would evaluate the procedure to allow indigenous peoples to be granted permanent observer status in the General Assembly, either by special procedures and mechanisms, or by a State-sponsored resolution.

ATHILI SAPRINA, speaking on behalf of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, said that, in order to strengthen regional coordination, a conference had been held in the Philippines last year.  Solutions to development among indigenous youth did not always rest in current systems.  For instance, the Indo-Naga issue, which began in 1997, had not moved forward.  He hoped nation States would take actions to promote peace.  He urged, among other things, Governments and non-governmental organizations to provide data on children and youth, support biennial indigenous youth conferences, the transfer of traditional knowledge, and a visit to Naga by the Special Rapporteur.

QIN XIAOMEI, Forum member from China, citing gains made by the Forum, recalled the signing in 2007 of the Declaration, which constituted an enormous achievement.  Still, institutional reforms were among the challenges that faced the Forum, for which a multi-pronged approach should be adopted.  Indigenous issues should be mainstreamed into the United Nations system, and, based on the request for a Second Decade, action plans and projects should be developed.  Governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector should contribute to a fund for those activities.

Chief GHISLAIN PICARD, speaking on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, welcomed the adoption of the Declaration, which had not been the end of a process, but the beginning.  Indeed, urgent action was needed.   Quebec and Canada formed a rich and progressive society in which people could be employed and receive social and health services.  Given that, he asked how the marginalization of indigenous peoples in Canada could be explained.  The answer, he said, was that colonialism was still alive.  Canada’s stance was aimed at extinguishing its indigenous populations.  As a result, the future prospects of indigenous youth were diminishing.  His people, however, did not have the option of failing its youth.  For that reason, he proposed that the Forum stress the implementation of the Declaration, particularly the provisions guaranteeing the right to self-determination.  All indigenous peoples had rights, and it was time to ensure that they were recognized and respected.

SILKE GRASREINER, speaking on behalf of Fundacion Reino Maya, said the person for whom she was speaking could not deliver his intervention because he was Mayan and could not get a passport.  Stressing that the Maya people were not recognized internationally, she said that they were often forced into national categorizations that did not correspond to their ancestral identities.  Due to that general lack of cultural and governmental recognition, the Maya people faced major social problems such as alcoholism.  In addition, Maya elders were prevented from accessing their spiritual sites.  That was a violation of their freedom of religion, as guaranteed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

ZEHRA BOUGINE, speaking on behalf of the Amazigh Caucus, said the expropriation of Amazigh territories had continued unabated.  She hoped the Amazhig would find a place in the Moroccan Parliament.  Meanwhile, a policy of “Arabization” threatened to “choke the culture” of the Amazhig in Algeria.  The Libyans continued to deny the existence of Amazhigs, and in Mali and elsewhere, the agreements signed between the Governments and the Touareg peoples were not respected.  In Mali, in particular, there had been widespread massacres between the Touareg rebellions and the regular armies.  In some cases, the Amazhig people had fled to the desert.  She reminded the Forum that those countries had signed the Declaration and other international instruments, including on the protection of women.

MEENAKSHI MUNDA, speaking on behalf of the Indian Mundari Literary Council, said migration had plagued many communities, and the Government had failed to act effectively to address those and related issues.  Lack of education and lack of employment were factors that caused migration.  As a result, there were cases of young women returning home from employment -– pregnant.  There was also a growing threat of AIDS and cases of child labourers.  The Forum should maintain a directory of groups dealing with migration issues, or a directory of names of employees to keep track of workers who migrated for employment.

TOMAS ALARCON, speaking on behalf of the Comision Juridica Para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ), said the people of the Andean region of South America were aware of how much Mother Earth had been polluted in the past few decades and were greatly concerned about how those changes were affecting children in particular.  The ability to grow and produce food was becoming harder.  Erosion and deforestation was widespread.  As a result, an accord on climate change must be adopted.  The suggestions put forward by the international community so far had been insufficient and indigenous peoples had not been treated on an equal footing as those ideas were submitted.  In fact, the suggestions of indigenous elders had been rejected.  The Forum should produce a report on climate change, which requested States to give particular attention to the effects being suffered by their indigenous peoples.

ROY AH-SEE, speaking on behalf of the New South Wales Land Council, said water aquifers, springs and stores were being depleted every second.  Indigenous peoples had inherent rights to their water.  With those rights came a responsibility to protect and conserve water.  Thus, the Forum should adopt water as its theme for the next session.  The ineffective implementation of the Declaration by Member States was an ongoing concern and should, therefore, be a major theme of the Forum’s future work.  The Forum should also request that all United Nations agencies provide reports on how they were operationalizing the Declaration throughout their work plans.  He also recommended that all United Nations funds, programmes and agencies incorporate the Declaration in their plans for the Second Decade.  Finally, he saluted the recent attention Australia’s new Government had paid to indigenous issues.

CHRIS MILLEY, speaking on behalf of the Shubenacadie Band Council, said current negotiations with the Canadian Government remained hampered by processes rooted in umbrella approaches to negotiations at the national level.  Regrettably, the adoption of those types of approaches attempted to assimilate the aboriginal cultures.  Individual nations must work together as part of the global community.  By bringing many nations together, the Forum had provided an opportunity to also exchange ideas on a bilateral basis.  Such exchanges could play an important part within communities and in dealing with national Governments.  He recommended that the Forum host regional meetings to enhance bilateral exchanges of ideas.

SIRA KIM, speaking on behalf of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Foundation, said the Khmer had borne the greatest burden of poverty in Viet Nam.  Limited access to services and lack of representation were among the realities on which the “KKF” had compiled data.  Yet Viet Nam had continued to deny the existence of the “KKF”.  The “KKF” needed dialogue and proposals, including meetings, with the support of the Forum and the Government of Viet Nam, to begin to identify indigenous peoples.

Mr. TITO, speaking again on behalf of CONAMAQ, said his people fervently believed that they should be able to exercise the right to self-determination in their territory and exercise their own government.  Their structures for self-rule, which had existed before colonialism, still existed today.  In fact, his people were currently designing their own statutes, although the Bolivian Government did not wish to see them instituted.  Rather, that Government claimed that it was the master of the territory that belonged to his people.

LORI JOHNSTON, speaking on behalf of the Muskogee and Yamasi People, said her people had traditionally lived in areas in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but because of migration, they had been dispossessed, silenced and buried in a “sea of bureaucracy”.  Their graves had even been robbed.  They were disempowered by federal structures.  They had no land to preserve their traditional lives.  She recommended that UNESCO and the Economic and Social Council work with the Muskogee and Yamasi people to create standards that honoured indigenous peoples.  If her people could take part in planning for tomorrow’s migration issues, their grandchildren would be able to survive.

BRIAN WYATT, speaking on behalf of the National Native Title Council of Australia, said that Australia had lagged behind on legislation, particularly the Native Title Act.  The Act’s preamble said that Governments should facilitate negotiations on land title cases.  However, the Act itself had failed, and the Government had paid only “lip service” for titles concerning land and its use in mining activities.  The United Nations Declaration permitted a redress of the Act.  He welcomed the new Australian Government and encouraged positive steps forward.  A native title approach through negotiations had been suggested to the current Government.  He recommended that the Forum seek a response from Australia and encourage Australia to ratify the Declaration.

PHAM HAI ANH ( Viet Nam) expressed concern that, while his Government limited it statements in many United Nations forums, the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Foundation and the Montagnard Foundation had essentially been repeating the same statement under a number of different agenda items in this Forum.  He wondered how those organizations could claim they would like to have a dialogue with his Government.  He also took issue, as he had at other sessions of the Forum, with the accuracy of those statements.  They said indigenous peoples were not represented in Viet Nam’s Government, but that could easily be seen as incorrect by simply visiting the website of Viet Nam’s National Assembly.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Forum Chairperson, acknowledging that representatives from other Vietnamese groups had in years past participated in the Forum, said she encouraged that type of participation.  It was understood that, because the speakers from the KKF and the Montagnard organization were based here in the United States, there were limits on how representative their statements could be.  However, she encouraged all indigenous groups who addressed the Forum to be accurate when presenting their statements.

ABDUL NASIR, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Survival Foundation, said his people, who hailed from the north-west area of Pakistan, faced extinction.  The United Nations should be involved in safeguarding their lives.  The area was changing because of pressure from outsiders and their unyielding search for commercial gains.  In addition, his people had recently faced harsh and unforgettable experiences because of climate change when one of their villages had been washed away by avalanches after a 1,000-year old glacier melted.  If arrangements were not made to deal with future calamities like that, his people would have to leave the area.  In conclusion, he stressed that mass migration to urban areas was the biggest threat to indigenous peoples worldwide.

MONIREH SULEMANI, speaking on behalf of the Balochistan People’s Party, called the Iranian Baloch one of the most oppressed people in the Middle East.  Balochistan was divided between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had its own language and culture.  She highlighted the arrest of a director of a non-governmental organization, Yacub Mehrnehad, and his brother, Ibrahim, and reports of alleged torture, death and prison sentences, all imposed without them having any access to a lawyer.  According to the United Nations Common Country Assessment, Balochistan in Iran had the worst.  Without control over natural resources, there was a growing economic gap between Persian and Baloch regions.  Most development expenditures in the province were geared towards military-related infrastructure, which did not benefit Baloch people.  She recommended the release and reconsideration of the death and prison sentences of the two Mahrnehad brothers and requested that a fact-finding mission be sent to analyze the existence and conditions of an indigenous population in Iran.

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For information media • not an official record