14 May 2009
Economic and Social Council

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

Background Release




Also on Agenda: Impact of Extractive Industries, Land Tenure Issues, Arctic Region

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will meet at Headquarters from 18 to 29 May to discuss ways to further implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which gained momentum last month, when Australia officially endorsed it after previously having voted against it.

Some 2,000 indigenous representatives from all regions of the world are expected to participate in the eighth session of the Forum, as are representatives of Member States, civil society, academia, some 35 United Nations system bodies and other intergovernmental organizations.

The Forum will also discuss the relationship between indigenous peoples and industrial corporations, and the need to promote corporate social responsibility.  A report submitted to the Forum notes that industries such as mineral, oil and gas extraction disproportionately impact indigenous peoples.  Other issues on the Forum’s agenda include climate change, the Arctic region and land tenure.

Towards Implementation of Declaration

After more than two decades of negotiations, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.  The landmark document recognizes the rights of the world’s nearly 400 million indigenous peoples as human rights, and outlaws discrimination against them.  It emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions.

“Now that it’s adopted, the biggest challenge is how to get the Declaration implemented by States, UN bodies, by indigenous peoples themselves and by society at large,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum.

Focus on Arctic Region

On Thursday 21 May, the Forum will hold a half-day panel discussion on the situation of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, including the impact of climate change on the region.  Panellists will include Louis Tapardjuk, a Minister in the Government of the Territory of Nunavut in Canada.

Permanent Forum

The Permanent Forum was established by the Economic and Social Council in 2000 with a mandate to “discuss indigenous issues within the mandate of the Council relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights”.  It comprises 16 independent experts, functioning in their personal capacities.  Eight of the members are nominated by Governments and eight directly by indigenous organizations in their respective regions.

Note to Editors

A press conference with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and other indigenous representatives, will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, 18 May, in Room S-226.

For interviews with United Nations officials and indigenous leaders, please contact François Coutu, Department of Public Information, tel: +1 917 367 8052, e‑mail: coutu@un.org; or Charlotte Scaddan, Department of Public Information, tel: +1 917 367 9378, e-mail: scaddan@un.org.

For the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, please contact Broddi Sigurdarson, tel: +1 917 367 2106, e-mail: IndigenousPermanentForum@un.org.

For more information on the eighth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, including documents and details of more than 60 side events, please visit http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/session_eighth.html.

For the full text of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, please see http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/declaration.html.

For more information on the United Nations system’s work on climate change, please visit http://www.un.org/climatechange/index.shtml.

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For information media • not an official record