|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)
Impact of Economic Crisis on Indigenous Peoples, Incarceration of Indigenous
Youth, Corporations, Among Issues Addressed in Reports to Permanent Forum
Also Considers Reports on Climate Change Policies,
Indigenous Fishing Rights, Mother Earth Rights, Reindeer Herding
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today tackled emerging issues and matters related its future work, grappling with how to change a host of discriminatory policies ‑‑ and attitudes ‑‑ that had landed high numbers of indigenous youth in prison, perpetuated cyclical unemployment, favoured corporate interests over indigenous land rights and generally ignored native peoples’ vulnerability to climate change.
As a starting point for the day’s discussions, Forum members provided insights from seven reports and studies undertaken within the last year to spotlight indigenous peoples’ realities. Those reports examined the themes of: the impact of the financial crisis on indigenous peoples; indigenous youth in detention; indigenous peoples and corporations; climate change policies vis-à-vis the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; indigenous fishing rights; Mother Earth rights; and the impact of climate change on reindeer herding.
Discussing the report on the International Expert Group on Indigenous Children and Youth in Detention, Custody, Foster-Care and Adoption, Andrea Carmen, Rapporteur of the Expert Group Meeting, said that the cycle for indigenous peoples often began with foster care, continued to youth detention and went on to custody in the adult criminal justice system. Experts at the Meeting, which was held from 4 to 5 March, also noted the high numbers of indigenous youth in criminal detention in many States, versus the rest of the population. There was an urgent need for rehabilitation programmes that were culturally relevant and reflected indigenous spiritual and cultural practices.
In the discussion that followed, Neil Gillespie, of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in Australia, proposed a focus on justice reinvestment programmes, which would divert funds from incarceration and towards reducing the incentives to offend. States should use detention only as a matter of last resort and consult with indigenous peoples to identify both causal factors and strategies to address the over-representation of indigenous youth in justice systems. It was also important to increase the participation of indigenous youth in the United Nations, including through an international complaint mechanism.
Presenting the report on Mother Earth rights, Bartolomé Clavero, Forum member from Spain, said it aimed at recovering the suggestion that certain principles and ethics were in harmony with Mother Earth. He recalled that the resolution adopted last year by the General Assembly on harmony with nature, originally had been entitled “Harmony with Mother Earth”, which translated the idea of “Pachamama”.
Adding to that, Carlos Mamani, Forum Chairperson and member from Bolivia, discussed the Andean idea of Mother Earth, saying that “Pachamama” translated to “the fruitful Mother Earth” in its most universal expression. However, such expression was considered idolatry for missionaries ‑‑ something to be eliminated by conversion.
Those attitudes had, in some regions, all but decimated traditional practices, speakers said in response, and had crushed indigenous peoples’ resistance to an imposed vision of the world. The indigenous view of development celebrated Mother Earth and supported its symbiotic relationship with humanity. Decrying the dumping of garbage on his people’s territorial lands, Jorge Quilaqueo, of the Centro de Cultura Pueblo Nacion Mapuche Pelonxaru, denounced such practices as a form of “environmental racism”.
“We all talk about justice because we must respect Mother Earth,” added Isabel Ortega, Vice-Minister of Justice of Bolivia, one of a handful of countries represented as observers in today’s meeting. Mother Earth was ailing and under continuous attack from multinational corporations spewing pollutants, levelling trees and digging vast holes in the ground. Capitalist systems did not care about the land; Mother Earth was seen as only a source of raw goods to be devoured or wasted.
Addressing that point from another perspective, Paimaneh Hasteh, Forum member from Iran, who co-presented the Forum’s study on whether climate change policies adhered to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said climate change law or policy attempting to limit indigenous peoples’ use of their resources could be perceived as undermining their self-determination. Further, the right to free, prior and informed consent was closely related to that for self-determination. “Free” meant that indigenous peoples should not face coercion or intimidation. “Prior” meant that their consent must be sought sufficiently in advance of the start of any activities. It also should include accurate information about the nature and reversibility of any project.
Throughout the day, speakers zeroed in on the vast economic, social, cultural and educational discrepancies between indigenous peoples and their non-indigenous counterparts. In the area of education, a heavily debated emerging issue, the Forum was urged to request action plans from States to reduce the gap between education for indigenous and non-indigenous youth. One speaker asked that it work with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to empower future indigenous leaders.
Adequate financial support for education in traditional languages was also needed, several speakers stressed. Describing the situation of the Basque people, Jean Georges Bidart, of Traits d’Union Garabide Elkartea, said that when language disappeared, people disappeared with it. “What is the use of having economic development if we don’t help people survive?” he asked. His language, like others, was severely ill and would die without care.
During the morning, the report on the impact of the economic crisis was presented by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Forum member from the Philippines.
Co-presenting the report with Ms. Carmen on the International Expert Group on Indigenous Children and Youth in Detention, Custody, Foster-Care and Adoption was Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Forum member from the United States.
Co-presenting with Ms. Hasteh the study on “the extent to which climate change policies and projects adhere to the standards set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” was Hassan Id Balkassm, Forum member from Morocco.
Pavel Sulyandziga, expert from the Russian Federation, presented the study on corporations and indigenous peoples.
In the afternoon, Carsten Smith, Permanent Forum member from Norway, presented the report on Indigenous fishing rights in the seas, while Forum member Mick Dodson, of Australia, introduced an Australian case study on that topic.
Introducing the day’s final report, on the impact of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures on reindeer herding was Lars Anders-Baer, Forum member from Sweden.
Members of the Permanent Forum from Russian Federation, Morocco, Bolivia, United States, Philippines, Spain, Uganda, and Australia took part in the question-and-answer periods following the presentations.
The representatives of the following indigenous peoples’ groups and caucuses participated in the discussion on the various issues: International Tuareg; Parliamentarians of Peru; World Youth Caucus; Pacific Caucus; Youth Association of Finno-Ugrik Peoples; Asia Pacific Youth Network; Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia; Saami Council; Saami Parliamentarian Council; Indigenous World Association; Foundation for the Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge “Land is Life”; Ethiopian World Federation; Indigenous Caucus of Asia; and Confederation of Amazon Nations of Peru.
The Chairperson of Indigenous Land Cooperation of Australia also took the floor.
Also speaking were the representatives of Viet Nam, Finland and Sweden.
The Chief Counsel in the Environmental and International Law Unit of the World Bank also spoke.
The Permanent Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 April, to continue its discussion of matters related to the future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to take up its agenda item entitled “Future work of the permanent Forum, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues”. For its discussion, the Forum was expected to take up reports on: the impact of the global economic crisis on indigenous peoples; indigenous peoples and corporations; indigenous fishing rights in the seas; the impact of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures on reindeer herding; and consideration and recognition of Mother Earth rights.
Introduction of Reports
Introducing the report on the impact of the economic crisis, VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Forum member from the Philippines, said the report synthesized the short- and long-term impact of the crisis on indigenous peoples, and was linked with the Forum’s special theme on indigenous peoples’ development, culture and identity. “We are now witnessing the most severe global recession since the 1930s”, she said, citing Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz’s conclusion that it was also the first serious global downturn of the modern era of globalization. The Commission of Experts of the President of the General Assembly on reform of international monetary and financial regulation had analysed the origins of the crisis, determining that its spread from developed countries to the global economy provided tangible evidence of the need to reform the international finance and trading systems.
One common conclusion was that the financial market self-correction had failed, she said. While there were claims of recovery, evidence showed that nations were still in decline. Indigenous peoples viewed the crisis as just one side of the coin; the other side was the global crisis of biodiversity laws, climate change and environmental degradation ‑‑ all of which stemmed from an economic model that fostered over-consumption and production. Absolute consumption had only increased, with growing populations and gross domestic product (GDP). It was clear that social inequalities were not being reduced. The extent of the impact on indigenous peoples depended on how well indigenous peoples had been integrated into their countries’ populations.
Turning to the United States, she described the social impacts on Native Americans. Between 1990 and 2000, the poverty rate among them was more than two times the average for all United States citizens. Cyclical unemployment, rising food, energy and health-care prices had only worsened their situation. Further, gaming revenues had declined by 9 per cent, affecting 60 or 70 tribes with lucrative casinos. In 2002, nearly 3 in 10 Native American-owned businesses were in the timber sector, which was among the hardest hit by the crisis. The United States’ decision to formally review its position on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was very much welcome.
Describing the impact of the crisis elsewhere in the world, she said that overseas workers in developing countries had been severely affected. In Tonga, for example, remittances contributed to between 55 and 60 per cent of GDP. Fiji’s decrease in tourism had brought down the average retirement age, while Thailand’s hill tribe people also had been affected. The downturn had also hit farmers in Thailand, Viet Nam and other exporting countries. Their loss of income, and an increase in food commodity prices, had led to food insecurity. The same was true in Africa. She recommended that stimulus packages be used to redesign development priorities and bring them in line with indigenous culture and values. Safety nets for indigenous peoples should be increased, while rights and accountability mechanisms of States and intergovernmental organizations should be put in place. National institutions should change their policies to be inclusive of indigenous peoples. While the crisis had been devastating, it was an opportunity for indigenous peoples to bring into the fore their vision for social and economic development.
Presenting the next issue, TONYA GONNELLA FRICHNER, Forum member from the United States, provided highlights from the report on the International Expert Group on Indigenous Children and Youth in Detention, Custody, Foster-Care and Adoption. She said that the 4 to 5 March Expert Group Meeting, had, among other things, urged Governments to ensure protection of such children while in detention and to provide rehabilitation. It had also urged the Permanent Forum and United Nations agencies to collect and disseminate disaggregated data on the matter.
Next, ANDREA CARMEN, Rapporteur of the Expert Group Meeting, which had been held in British Colombia, Canada, said that, as that meeting got under way, a human rights framework had been presented for the discussions, including drawing from the preambular paragraph of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as other core international instruments, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
She said that local experts had noted that 50 per cent of the children in government care in British Columbia ‑‑ foster care and detention ‑‑ were aboriginal, and in the northern part of the province that number was close to 75 per cent. Poverty and poor housing conditions were considered major causes, and those rights also needed to be addressed. The participants were asked to consider, among other questions: How could those numbers be reduced? How can indigenous children be kept in their own communities? And what could be done to ensure that children who were already in custody stayed connected to their communities and cultures?
With that as a starting point, the meeting touched on some tough issues, including the continued legacy of removal policies in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Several experts had addressed the ongoing impact of economic marginalization and racial discrimination on indigenous children and had expressed the need to ensure the direct involvement of indigenous representatives in all matters regarding the placement of indigenous children, she said.
They had also suggested ways to ensure that such children stayed with their families. Further, she said the participants considered the freedom to exercise indigenous spirituality and religion on an equal basis to other religious and spiritual traditions as essential in preparing indigenous youth, their families and communities for their return home. That was a basic human right that was too often violated, or denied for incarcerated indigenous youth.
At the close of that meeting, the experts had agreed to a number of recommendations and conclusions, among them that discrimination, economic inequalities and racially discriminatory policies and practices continued to play a major role in the disproportionate placement of indigenous children and youth in detention, custody, foster care and adoption in many countries.
She said the examples of that included, among others: defining suitable households for caregiving primarily based on economic factors, both in justifications for the removal of children and in determining placements for children in foster or adoptive homes; significant disparities in funding levels and services provided to indigenous communities; border security laws that failed to acknowledge the specific needs and rights of indigenous children and youth; and blaming the over-representation of indigenous youth and children in custody and care on indigenous peoples themselves, rather than on State systems and policies.
Continuing, she said the experts agreed that solutions to the systemic barriers leading to the over-representation of indigenous youth and children in detention, custody, foster care and adoption must also consider the particular impacts on, and effects of discrimination experienced by indigenous women. Those included lack of support provided to single-parented, low income families, the majority of which are headed by Indigenous women. That contributed to the over-representation of indigenous children in the child welfare system, as well as to the criminalization of indigenous girls who are sexually exploited at a young age.
The experts also recognized that the cycle of institutionalization for indigenous peoples often began with foster care, continued on to youth detention programs and then to custody in the adult criminal justice system. She said that cycle was often repeated for the children of incarcerated adults. Experts also noted the disproportionately high numbers of indigenous youth in criminal detention in many States, compared to the rest of the population. For indigenous youth already in detention, there was an urgent need for rehabilitation programmes and policies, developed in conjunction with indigenous families, youth, communities and indigenous leaders that were culturally relevant and reflect indigenous spiritual and cultural practices.
HASSAN ID BALKASSM, Forum member from Morocco, presented the Study on the extent to which climate change policies and projects adhere to the standards set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2010/7). The six-part study relied on the definition of climate change as the change of climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that altered the composition of the global atmosphere. It was mainly caused by greenhouse gas emissions, largely resulting from fossil fuel combustion. Its impacts included the contraction of snow-covered areas, sea level rise and increased intensity of severe weather events. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aimed to stabilize emissions at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate. International law revolved around the concepts of mitigation and adaptation.
The competing interests behind climate change positions translated into contention over issues, especially scientific assessments of impacts, he explained. Developed States were concerned at the financial burden of such efforts, while developing States sought not to be hampered in their energy use, especially as developed States had not been so in the past. The lowest carbon emitters with the greatest vulnerability to climate change were among the States calling for strong commitments. Oil producers were concerned at lower oil use resulting from climate change measures.
He then gave the floor to PAIMANEH HASTEH, Forum member from Iran, who said indigenous peoples had participated in the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. Importantly, reference to community engagement was included in the draft Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) agreement. Some climate change impacts were, as yet, unknown and law was evolving. Indigenous peoples’ right to participate in law formation was outlined in various articles of the Declaration, including 3, 4, 5, 18 and 20. Indigenous peoples’ rights to participate in decisions that affected them were particularly stated in article 18. Moreover, the United Nations REDD Commission report stated that consultation with indigenous peoples, among other stakeholders, was necessary to maintain the legitimacy of any national or subnational REDD scheme.
Despite such provisions, indigenous peoples had not been adequately consulted during the creation of the UNFCCC or the Kyoto Protocol, she said, stressing that other requests for participation had been rejected. But climate change law could support indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. For example, if REDD funding was channelled through a State that did not recognize indigenous peoples’ authority over forests, indigenous peoples’ self-determination could be perceived to be undermined. Likewise, climate change law or policy attempting to limit indigenous peoples’ use of their resources could be perceived as undermining their self-determination.
Turning to the right to land, territories and resources, she said the report discussed securing ancestral lands and waters in a manner that provided the basis for indigenous peoples’ economic, social, cultural and spiritual development. Those areas were particularly vulnerable to climate change policies and laws. Policies and laws that sought to build dams and wind farms, or to plant biofuels, for example, could create incentives for relocating indigenous peoples and denying their rights. The right to free, prior and informed consent was closely related to those for self-determination participation. “Free” meant that indigenous peoples should not face any coercion or intimidation. “Prior” meant that their consent must be sought sufficiently in advance of the start of any activities. It also should include accurate information about the nature and reversibility of any project. Indeed, opportunities had to be provided for indigenous peoples to debate any proposal that might affect them.
Next, PAVEL SULYANDZIGA, expert from the Russian Federation, presented the Study on Corporations and Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2010/9), saying this was a difficult time for most indigenous peoples, because “mega projects” were under way across the globe and were corrupting ancestral lands and threatening the spiritual and ethnic survival of those peoples. The future of many such cultures would require the joint efforts of tribal governments and State structures to ensure the recognition of indigenous rights.
More than ever, he continued, the issue was affecting the economic relations between indigenous peoples and States. Industrialized countries were implementing policies of paternalism and domination and the result was acute social problems, including alcoholism and high suicide rates in indigenous communities. It was almost impossible for indigenous people to overcome such practices because, by and large, they did not have the “voice”, money, education or training to face down multinational corporations. Efforts must be made to ensure that indigenous people were able to manage their own lands.
Some progress had been made in Canada, where indigenous and aboriginal corporations were on the rise. That movement had put a spotlight on indigenous entrepreneurship and raised general awareness about the need to protect the rights of native communities when major industrial projects were launched on traditional lands. Citing another example of progress, he said that, in the Russian Federation, indigenous peoples were now being included in project management in the northern region, and were also being asked to participate in studies examining the social and ecological impact of projects on indigenous communities.
Further progress would require bolstering international standards on the rights of indigenous peoples and their relations with multinational corporations. Also, national Governments must act as guarantors of indigenous peoples’ rights when contracts with such corporations were signed. He said that the tenets of the United Nations Declaration and relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on protecting the rights of indigenous must be integrated into the framework of national laws concerning contracts, project management and corporate responsibility.
Finally, regarding relations between indigenous peoples and the multinationals themselves, he said there were indications that some companies were beginning to implement policies that helped improve the socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, all efforts should not be based on paternalism. Rather, they must recognize that past policies had been unfair and that indigenous economic, community and governance structures should be considered on an equal footing with State structures, especially when projects under consideration had an impact on indigenous lands and territories.
Following those presentations, speakers representing a range of indigenous peoples called for urgent action to address the impact of climate change on Mother Earth. To that end, HILARIASUPA HUAMAN,a speaker representing the Parliamentarians of Peru, said that the Permanent Forum must pressure States to implement international agreements on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. Pleading with the Forum for help, she said that, when native peoples protested against environmental degradation, they were not met with understanding and dialogue; they were met with force and incarceration. There were other passionate calls to monitor countries that emitted the most pollution. Regulations must be defended and new agreements signed to implement laws that responded to the world view of indigenous peoples.
Offering one way forward, SANDRA MILLER, Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, pressed the Forum to develop a mechanism on corporate social responsibility to encourage States to protect the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples were under pressure from extractive industries to gain access to resource-rich lands. She applauded Canada’s move to appoint a Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor to review extractive companies operating outside Canada, saying that traditional land owners called for developing accountability systems to ensure that best practice prevailed in the extractive and other industries.
Among the emerging issues heavily discussed was education. One speaker described the long hours and taxing conditions under which youth were forced to work, which denied them their right and ability to access education. The Forum was urged to work with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to empower future indigenous leaders, and request action plans from States to reduce the gap between education for indigenous and non-indigenous youth. Adequate financial support for education in traditional languages was also needed, several speakers stressed. States should develop benchmarks on education that took into account indigenous knowledge of culture and values. Technology should be developed and used to help people in rural areas to access education.
Dovetailing such efforts should be those to prevent recidivism, other speakers noted. To break the cycle of crime and growing incarceration rates, NEIL GILLESPIE, of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in Australia, focused on justice reinvestment, which diverted a portion of funds intended for incarceration to efforts to reduce the incentives to offend. The Forum should urge States to use detention only as a matter of last resort and consult with indigenous peoples to identify causal factors and strategies to surmount the over-representation of indigenous youth in the justice system. States should empower indigenous organizations to implement culturally appropriate programmes to rehabilitate youth through counselling, employment and cultural and family reconnection programmes. Finally, he urged the Forum to identify ways to increase the participation of indigenous youth in the United Nations, including through the creation of an international complaint mechanism.
Safeguarding traditional languages should also receive high priority, speakers said. JEAN GEORGES BIDART, Traits d’Union Garabide Elkartea, describing the situation of the Basque people, underscored that comprehensive development began with collective experience and identity. When language disappeared, people disappeared with it. “What is the use of having economic development if we don’t help people survive?” he asked. His language, like other indigenous languages, was severely ill and would die without care.
When the Permanent Forum began its work in the afternoon, CARSTEN SMITH, Permanent Forum member from Norway, presented the report on Indigenous fishing rights in the seas (document E/C.19/2010/2). He said that, in international law, there were no rules or principles dealing with indigenous peoples’ rights to salt sea fishing. Those legal rights must, therefore, been derived from various international instruments regarding coastal waters and protection of indigenous cultures, chiefly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ILO convention 169. The Forum supported the view that longstanding traditional coastal usage together with the Covenant protected the right to fish “when it was an essential part of the culture”.
Presenting a case study on the situation in Norway, he said that, while many people thought that reindeer herding was the dominate feature of Saami life, fishing had always been the main livelihood for coastal Saami communities. State regulation of sea fisheries had undergone great changes in the 1980s, when quotas had been placed on cod catches, based on the amount of fish caught in the previous season. Since that system was based on batches, most small-scale Saami fishermen fell outside the new rules. A statute drafted by the Coastal Fishing Committee had recognized that Saami did have rights to fish in relation to allowable catches and exclusive rights in some areas and fjords. Yet, large trade organizations and corporations had campaigned against the draft statute, while indigenous peoples’ groups and local leaders had been in favour of it.
He said that the Attorney General had issued its initial response to the report of the Coastal Fishing Committee, which had backed that draft legal right to fish coastal waters. That State official’s response “is negative towards the Committee’s report, both regarding its international law analysis and statutory proposals”. For his part, the head of the Committee said that reasoning was negligent: the principle elements of the argument remained Saami rights to the material basis of their culture and to necessary special measures. Subsequently, the Ministry of Fisheries had announced that it would propose certain fishing rights ‑‑ but far less than the draft ‑‑ to the Norwegian Parliament, but would not recognize the international law position, nor accept any preferential fishing rights to specific areas.
He said that Saami Parliament was now likely to fight for a result that better approximated the draft statute, and especially for recognition of the international law basis. Fishing was essential for securing Sea Saami culture, which was currently in a “critical state”, he added.
Introducing the Australian case study, Permanent Forum member MICK DODSON of Australia, said his country’s indigenous people had a long and historical connection to the sea. They saw no difference between landscape and seascape. Obviously, that varied widely from the State’s view, which was based on land and sea demarcations. Despite changes in native title laws over the years, there had been no recognition of exclusive indigenous rights to native “sea-country”.
He said the Torres Strait water and islands covered some 39,000 square kilometres. Native title to land in that region had been recognized in 1992. Yet, national laws vested all rights to offshore fishing and fisheries management in the State. He proposed that the Forum recommend that States where indigenous peoples’ livelihoods were based on fishing recognize their rights to fish in the seas, based on traditional usage and on international law.
Presenting the report on Mother Earth rights, BARTOLOMÉ CLAVERO, Forum member from Spain, recalled that, last year, the General Assembly had dealt with several issues, including the environment, biodiversity and climate change, and adopted a resolution on harmony with nature. That draft had been sponsored by Bolivia, entitled “Harmony with Mother Earth”, which, in its original form, had translated the idea of “Pachamama”. The report on Mother Earth rights aimed at recovering the suggestion that certain principles and ethics were in harmony with Mother Earth.
Tracing the vast history of environmental policy, he said that a document as important as the World Nature Charter (1982) had ignored the indigenous peoples’ presence, even though it had incorporated their vision of nature. The Charter expressed the belief that all forms of life were unique and deserved to be respected, whatever their utility. In 1987, the international paradigm on nature was outlined, which recognized the concept of sustainable development. States had decided on it, with no recognition of indigenous peoples.
Other forums and instruments, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and the Biological Diversity Convention, had discussed development without much reference to autonomous sustainable development for indigenous peoples, he said. States continued to make decisions related to humanity’s relationship to nature. In the same vein, the Kyoto Protocol also ignored the rights of indigenous peoples, who had been notoriously hurt by climate change, as well as the policies adopted to stop it.
For all such “burning” issues dealing with the environment, sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change ‑‑ the key issues were linked to rights acknowledged by the Declaration, he said, beginning with the basic right to self-determination on political, economic, social and cultural levels. The Declaration acknowledged indigenous peoples’ rights to use material resources, in line with their development priorities, which included their symbiotic relationship to nature.
Presenting the second part of the report, CARLOS MAMANI, Forum member from Bolivia, discussed the Andean idea of Mother Earth, saying “Pachamama” translated to “the fruitful Mother Earth” in its most universal expression. “Nature provides sustenance,” he explained. A chronicler of the sixteenth century had used the same concept. However, such expression was considered idolatry for missionaries ‑‑ something to be eliminated by conversion.
The Earth was also considered as the defender of pregnant women, he said, and the spilling of water had made it fertile. Another concept described “the good life”, personified by “Camidi”, who was the “walker of the good life”. He was the possessor of resources ‑‑ one who knew of the sun and the earth. The miserable person was miserable towards the world ‑‑ he who did not know how to live. The Mapucha people considered themselves sons and daughters of the Earth, whose duty it was to recover lands confiscated during colonist endeavours. In closing, he voiced support for what Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Mother Earth Day, celebrated on 22 April: that the rights of any species should never be eliminated by irresponsible action.
Introducing the day’s final study, on the impact of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures on reindeer herding (document E/C.19/2010/15), LARS ANDERS-BAER, Forum member from Sweden, said that climate change affected all aspects of the traditional lifestyles and cultures of indigenous peoples of the Arctic, including reindeer husbandry. Reindeer was the primary livestock in the Arctic, but pastures and grazing ranges were under pressure from climate change, ecological degradation and human development.
Continuing, he said that, after the recent Copenhagen meeting of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it was expected that efforts to mitigate climate change by increased use of renewable resources, such as windmills and hydroelectric dams, would intensify pressure on grazing lands. In the north of Sweden, a Swedish-German joint venture was planning the construction of a windmill park within the reindeer grazing lands of the Östra Kikkejaure Saami community. That was the biggest windmill park planned to date, and the Swedish Government will soon give the go-ahead to the project. The project would have a mainly negative effect on reindeer husbandry in the concerned Saami community, she said, adding that Sweden was the only Government that had carried out such an impact study.
He said the situation of reindeer herding communities was complex, and due to the limitations of the framework of the present study, further studies should be undertaken and strategies and programmes should be developed and implemented, based on the principles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He said that a recent development in the Russian Federation gave an example of the complexity. According to a new federal land code entering into force as of 1 January 2010, reindeer herders and their communities had to buy or rent their traditional grazing lands.
The Kautokeino Declaration, adopted by the fourth World Reindeer Herders’ Congress held in Kautokeino, Norway, in 2009 expressed explicitly the need for a federal law in the Russian Federation on reindeer husbandry, addressing reindeer herding rights, the protection of pastures and the ownership of reindeer, he said. The reindeer husbandry legislation in the Scandinavian countries was an example of such legislation.
In conclusion, he said there was an urgent need to facilitate investigation and studies within the United Nations framework on changes in grazing land in the reindeer herding areas in the circumpolar North, and to establish a holistic and integrated understanding of the ongoing rapid changes in reindeer herding communities, driven partly by climate change and globalization, in order to maintain the sustainability and resilience of indigenous reindeer herding societies and cultures in the future.
When the floor was opened to other speakers, ISABEL ORTEGA, Vice-Minister of Justice of Bolivia, said that Mother Earth was ailing and under continuous attack from multinational corporations spewing pollutants, levelling trees and digging vast holes in the ground. Such actions had sparked dire changes in weather patterns that were affecting food security in many parts of the world. Capitalist systems did not care about the land; Mother Earth was seen as only a source of raw goods to be devoured or wasted. Capitalist systems oppressed indigenous people, seeing them only for what they owned or the land they were on, rather than as human beings. Humankind must end exploitation, rapacious consumption and oppression. Humankind must defend Mother Earth with kindness.
Next, KRISTINA NORDLING, representative of the Saami Council, updated the Forum on the Swedish windmill project. She said Sweden had admitted that the project would destroy at least 25 per cent of reindeer winter grazing pastures in the Östra Kikkejaure Saami community. Yet, that Government had argued that renewable energy was more important than Saami rights. The Sammi community had learned that the German bank financing the project was in breach of its human rights obligations on Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines. The bank argued that it was following Swedish laws and it was Sweden that was the guarantor of Saami rights on its territory.
She said the bank in question had refused to meet with Saami representatives. The project, which would be the largest wind farm in the world, would eliminate a Saami village and breach international human rights laws. She said Sweden had received “harsh criticism” from many quarters of the international human rights community, including charges that it was not regulating industrial activities in the traditional lands, and not giving Saami representatives an opportunity for genuine participation in decisions affecting them.
MARGARET LOKAWUA, Permanent Forum member from Uganda, praised her colleagues and the comprehensive reports they had presented. She stressed the importance of protecting all traditional livelihoods, including nomadic ways of life. She also urged States to promulgate laws and policies that protected and nurtured Mother Earth.
Further on that point, JORGE QUILAQUEO, of the Centro de Cultura Pueblo Nacion Mapuche Pelonxaru, was among the representatives of indigenous groups decrying “environmental racism” that was crippling Mother Earth. Such colonial practices had led to the dumping of garbage and other waste on indigenous lands and in waters used by traditional fishing communities. In his own country, Chile, millions of tons of garbage was being shipped out of cities and dumped on indigenous lands, wrecking crops and killing fertile forests. He urged the Forum to press the Chilean Government to end such practice immediately.
The next speaker CHARLES DILEVA, Chief Counsel in the Environmental and International Law Unit of the World Bank, said the Bank’s management was committed to presenting to its Board a review of its policies affecting indigenous peoples, as well as on the impact of projects being financed by the Bank. The management would note the growing importance of the United Nations Declaration, although it would also note that that Declaration was not a binding document.
At the same time, any revision to the Bank’s policies must be endorsed by its Board of Directors. The view was that current Bank operational policy was not out of step with the Declaration, especially since investment projects on indigenous lands could not proceed without free, prior and informed consultation. In addition, the project leaders then must obtain broad community support.
Following that statement, members of the Permanent Forum welcomed the World Bank’s participation in the meeting, but expressed concern that its standard was “free, prior and informed consultation”, rather than the “free, prior and informed consent”, that indigenous peoples had fought so hard for. Moreover, they believed that the Bank could not interpret international law; while the Declaration might not be “binding”, there was no doubt that it was a widely accepted global treaty that set out norms in line with human rights law.
* *** *For information media • not an official record