|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
Implementing Declaration on Indigenous Rights Will be Difficult or Impossible
Without Greater Awareness of Human Rights Values, Third Committee Told
Special Rapporteur, Under Secretary-General Voice Concern in Opening Remarks
Without greater awareness of the human rights values and concerns encompassed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its implementation would be “difficult, if not impossible”, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began its general discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Declaration’s adoption by the General Assembly in 2007 had marked a “historic moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples”, James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in his introductory remarks. Despite the expression of commitment by States, however, the Declaration’s validity had been debilitated by repeated assertions that it was not legally binding and as such it was “merely aspirational”. Even if that was the case, however, “States should aspire to implement it”, he urged.
Indigenous women, in particular, often faced “triple-discrimination on the basis of their indigenous identity, gender and economic status”, said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In a statement delivered on his behalf by Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said they could face discrimination both within the indigenous community and the broader one at large.
Echoing that sentiment, the representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, noted that indigenous populations constituted about one third of the world’s poorest and most marginalized peoples. Within that grouping, the situation of indigenous women and girls was ever more acute as they faced multiple forms of discrimination, based on their gender and ethnicity. They were usually the segments of the population most subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to land, non-existent or poor health-care, and violence.
The representative of the European Union Delegation emphasized the bloc’s support for the three core United Nations mechanisms addressing indigenous issues: the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He also underlined the European Union’s engagement in preparations for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Noting the importance of indigenous issues and peoples in relation to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, he called on the United Nations to address the wide gap between the Declaration and the reality of its application on the ground.
Delegates representing Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Venezuela and Mexico called attention to the responsibility of States to consult with indigenous peoples before adopting measures affecting them; violence against indigenous women and girls; the rights of indigenous peoples to education, their own languages and health practices; and their access to justice.
China’s representative stressed the international community’s duty to ensure that indigenous peoples shared the fruits of socioeconomic development, to protect their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to preserve their natural environment and the traditional cultures essential for their survival. Delegates representing Japan and Ecuador mentioned some of the measures adopted by their Governments in integrating and honouring indigenous cultures such as the Ainu, as well as the Afro-Ecuadorean and Montubio peoples, respectively.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Philippines, United States, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Chile, Cuba, Peru, Guyana, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and Congo.
Officials representing the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Labour Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development also delivered statements.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 October, when it is expected to begin its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous people. Before it was a note by the Secretary-General dated 14 September 2013 transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/68/317).
Introductory Remarks by Special Rapporteur
JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said he had devoted his tenure to refining working methods, with a particular emphasis on building a constructive dialogue with Governments, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies. The refined working methods had resulted in increased responsiveness to the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples and to helping States and other stakeholders address those concerns, he said, adding that his areas of focus had been the promotion of good practices, country reports, alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.
Special attention had been devoted to the question of extractive industries operating within or near indigenous territories, he continued. While indigenous peoples had often suffered negative or even devastating consequences of the industry’s activities, it should not be assumed that the interest of such industries was entirely or always at odds with those of indigenous peoples, he cautioned, noting that they were open to discussions about the extraction of natural resources. In that context, a greater understanding of the rights of indigenous peoples to land and resources was needed.
He said that advocacy to advance commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, was central to his work. The Declaration’s adoption had marked a “historic moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples”. Despite the expression of commitment by States, however, its validity had been debilitated by repeated assertions that it was not legally binding. For example, some States had objected that the right to self-determination affirmed in the Declaration was different from that defined under international law. Such positions were “flawed”, he said, noting that he pointed that out in his concluding report to the General Assembly.
There was a need for greater awareness of the human rights values and concerns represented by the Declaration, in the absence of which the path forward would be “difficult, if not impossible to implement”, he continued. While there had been encouraging positive developments in many places, the reality of ongoing struggles and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights all over the world remained a cause of concern. He said that, until the end of his mandate, therefore, he would continue to stress the need for resolve and decided actions to make the vision of human rights and fundamental freedoms represented by the Declaration a reality, while looking looked forward to welcoming his successor.
Delegations asked about the possibility of changing the name of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; the development areas identified by the Special Rapporteur during his mandate; the role played by the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; increased participation by indigenous peoples in the work of the United Nations system; and how to better coordinate the work of United Nations entities dealing with indigenous issues.
Mr. ANAYA said the future name of the Permanent Forum was an issue to be discussed within that body, but priority should be given to strengthening its mandate rather that its name. However, it was appropriate to include the reference to “indigenous people” in the Forum’s name. On the question of gaps identified during his mandate, he said development was the area most in need of attention, which should not be based solely on economic considerations. As for the World Conference and the related Outcome document, he emphasized that the latter stood as a reference text in its own right, regardless of its relationship to the Conference, even though it would obviously include additional issues that may result from the Conference itself.
Referring to the participation of indigenous peoples in the work of the United Nations, he said that was complicated by the particular distinct status of indigenous peoples, and he would, therefore, welcome a “new regime” to govern their participation on the basis of that status. There were precedents in that respect, and the way ahead could be found in building upon those precedents, he said.
In response to a statement by the representative of the Russian Federation about the fact indigenous peoples in that country had not been subjected to colonization, unlike those in other countries, he said that, while that was true, indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation still shared many issues with those of other regions, such as marginalization and other struggles arising from their minority status. International standards relating to indigenous peoples, therefore, applied to those in the Russian Federation as well.
Reiterating that some States ignored the Declaration on the grounds that it was not legally binding, he said they often described it as “merely aspirational”, whereas it reflected principles encompassed in globally recognized documents such as the United Nations Charter, and legally binding instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Besides, the Declaration had its own validity despite its legal technical status, and if it were “merely aspirational, States should aspire to implement it”, he added, inviting the objecting States to elaborate further on the subject.
Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Mexico, Guatemala, European Union Delegation, United States and Chile.
Statement by Under-Secretary-General
DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, read out a statement by Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Acknowledging the generous contributions made by Member States to the Trust Fund for the Second International Decade, she said the activities supported by the Fund were vital for implementing the Permanent Forum’s mandate and for supporting indigenous initiatives through the small grants programme as well as the objectives of the Second Decade.
Reporting that the Permanent Forum’s Expert Group meeting in January had focused on indigenous youth, she said the approximately 67 million indigenous youth around the globe lagged behind their peers in both educational opportunities and achievements. They lacked equal access to health-care services, experienced higher unemployment rates and had lower incomes compared with their peers. When uprooted from their communities and prevented from using their own languages, their identity and cultures were threatened.
Indigenous youth wished to play a more significant role in decision-making within their communities, in national governance institutions and at the international level, she continued. “The situation of indigenous youth demands our attention,” she emphasized. “It should be a priority for all of us.” She went on to highlight the needs of other vulnerable groups, such as indigenous persons with disabilities and indigenous women. “Indigenous women often face triple discrimination on the basis of their indigenous identity, gender and economic status.” They could face discrimination both within the indigenous community and within the broader community.
She also underscored the importance of building alliances, stressing that it was vital for Member States to address the challenges facing indigenous people in terms of honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements as a key element of advancing sustainable peace, security and dignity. Despite indigenous peoples’ increased political influence, there was still room for progress. In many situations around the world, they were not able to participate equally in development processes, and did not share fully in the benefits of development. Further, they were often not adequately represented in national social, economic and political processes directly affecting them. In that regard, the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 would be important in defining the future global policy agenda on indigenous peoples, she said.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of the United States asked about effective ways to coordinate the activities of different United Nations bodies involved in indigenous issues, and about the implications of changing the Permanent Forum’s name.
Ms. BAS said that an inter-agency mechanism would meet tomorrow to discuss six topics, with an agency leading dialogue on each topic. All agency inputs would then be consolidated into a background report to be submitted for consideration at the World Conference. She declined publicly to share her personal view of the proposed name change, explaining that, if given a mandate, her office would conduct research on the implications.
LOIS MICHELLE YOUNG (Belize), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored the bloc’s commitment to developing and incorporating, nationally and regionally, laws and policies relating to indigenous peoples, as well as to seeking technical assistance in developing legislation and protocols on the protection and promulgation of their rights. Acknowledging the many contributions made by indigenous and tribal peoples through the sharing of their traditional knowledge and rich legacy, and through the promotion of their cultural identity, she said it was imperative that they fully enjoy their human rights and be consulted and supported by Governments in matters impacting them.
“Indigenous populations constitute about one third of the world’s poorest and most marginalized peoples, and within this grouping the situation of indigenous women and girls is ever more acute as they face multiple forms of discrimination, based on their gender and ethnicity,” she said. They were usually the sections of the populations most subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to lands, non-existent or poor health care and violence, she said. CARICOM called for additional funding and contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, which would enable them to participate in United Nations meetings, ensuring that their voices were heard.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, reaffirmed the bloc’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, describing it as an important instrument for promoting human rights, as well as a versatile tool for strengthening partnerships and cooperation between Governments and indigenous peoples. The European Union provided direct support to civil society organizations working on indigenous issues, in addition to providing financial support to indigenous delegates at United Nations bodies.
He also expressed the bloc’s support for the three core United Nations mechanisms addressing indigenous issues: the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She also underlined the European Union’s engagement in the preparations for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Noting the importance of indigenous issues and indigenous peoples in relation to the elaboration of the post-2015 development framework, he called on the United Nations to address the wide gap between the Declaration and the reality of its application on the ground.
TINE MØRCH SMITH (Norway), speaking for the Nordic countries, called attention to the following topics: the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples and obtain their consent before adopting measures affecting them; the responsibilities of corporations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples; violence against indigenous women and girls; and the rights of indigenous peoples to education, their own language and culture; the right to participate in decision-making aspects of implementing the Declaration; and their access to justice. Welcoming the preparatory process for the upcoming World Conference, she proposed formal United Nations status for the Alta outcome document, saying it would be important when considering the specific themes for the round-tables and interactive segments of the World Conference.
Regarding the development theme in the Alta document, she went on to say that both States and indigenous peoples would have to engage with the sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda processes to improve the situation for indigenous peoples globally. The Nordic countries were among the most active donors to the United Nations system on issues affecting indigenous peoples, she said, noting that they contributed through several channels, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Trust Fund, the United Nations-Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, as well as various civil society organizations.
LIBRAN N.CABACTULAN ( Philippines) emphasized that his country’s constitution contained specific provisions relating to indigenous peoples. It recognized, respected and protected the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions, and considered those rights when formulating national plans and policies. “Indigenous peoples have rightful access to mainstream their rights to self-governance,” he said, adding that the Local Government Code addressed that situation with the aim of upgrading their socioeconomic development, providing them with adequate educational and health services, as well as guaranteeing their physical security and welfare. At the international level, the Philippines hoped that the outcome document from the World Conference would be short and concise, complementing existing normative frameworks on the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS ( United States) said the newly established White House Native American Affairs Council provided more frequent opportunities for consultation on such issues as tribal economies, health and nutrition, education and natural resource protection and environment. In the multilateral arena, she said, North America was unique in the official nature of the relationship between indigenous peoples, represented by tribal governments, and the Federal Governments of the United States and Canada. The United States looked forward to refining the language agreed in the modalities resolution on the World Conference to allow the participation of elected and traditional representatives from the region.
YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) said her Government had adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007, and in 2008 it had recognized the Ainu people, who had lived on Hokkaido Island, as indigenous people with a unique language as well as a distinctive culture and religion. A specific Advisory Council had been established to make recommendations on measures in the areas of education, revitalization of Ainu culture and promotion of industrial development. Several concrete measures had also been adopted to promote and protect the rights of Ainu indigenous peoples, such as the establishment of a Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, including an Ainu museum, traditional Ainu houses and studios. A nationwide survey on the living conditions of Ainu people residing outside Hokkaido and additional awareness-raising measures, such as including Ainu topics in elementary schools textbooks, had been adopted to ensure the protection of their rights.
CHRIS BACK, Senator from Australia, said indigenous Australians deserved a better future with improved education, more job opportunities, empowered individuals and communities, and higher standards of living. To ensure that Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders were involved in decisions affecting them, the Prime Minister had established an Indigenous Advisory Council, which informed the Government’s implementation policy. The Government should properly honour the contribution of indigenous peoples to the country, he said, adding that it was drafting a constitutional amendment to that end.
VÉRONICA CALCINARI VAN DER VELDE ( Venezuela) said that indigenous peoples were suffering the consequences of historical injustices, namely colonization, land and resources dispossession, oppression, discrimination and lack of control over their lives. Despite accounting for 5 per cent of the global population, indigenous peoples constituted 15 per cent of the world’s poor. Venezuela counted on up-to-date legislation on indigenous peoples, which promoted their human rights and fundamental freedoms such as official use of their languages, the right to benefit from the natural resources present in their territories, the right to “ethnic identity”, namely sacred places as well as intercultural and bilingual education, among many others.
LIANG HENG ( China) said that, as a special group in human society, indigenous peoples had made valuable and unique contributions to the diversified development of civilization. However, due to certain historical and factual reasons, many of them were still living at the bottom and on the margins of society, with a lack of full recognition of and respect for their legitimate rights. “The international community is thus duty-bound to ensure that indigenous peoples get to share the fruits of socioeconomic development, to protect their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to preserve their natural environment and traditional cultures essential for their survival,” he emphasized.
ERIKA ALMEIDA WATANABE PATRIOTA ( Brazil) recalled that during the Rio+20 Conference, indigenous peoples had been represented among the major groups with a direct interest in promoting sustainable development. They had made contributions on the need for greater coherence among the interconnected objectives of economic growth, social justice, the protection of nature and the sustainable use of natural resources. The Conference had provided space for indigenous peoples to have a say in global, regional and national sustainable development strategies. At the national level, specific policies on rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable use of indigenous lands and natural resources had been adopted, she said. Consultations with indigenous peoples had also been undertaken on public or private projects launched in their territories and which could affect their way of life or resources.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said the principles and aspirations of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples underpinned the continuing dialogue between the Maori, his country’s indigenous peoples, and the Government. Specific domestic laws and policies supported Maori efforts to develop social, cultural and economic capacity, and created opportunities for them to work in partnership with the Crown on more effective social policy solutions. For example, the use of the Maori language in education was a defining feature of New Zealand as the only country in the world with national curricula in two languages that were not direct translations of each other. Despite such positive development, however, challenges persisted, including the over-representation of Maori in the criminal justice system, as well as the domestic violence and health problems they faced. “The Government remains committed to addressing these issues by improving social and economic conditions for Maori,” he said.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said that her country, aware of the disadvantaged situation in which indigenous persons found themselves, had enacted public policies to eliminate structural barriers generating their exclusion. For example, Mexico had endorsed a special protocol applicable only to indigenous peoples when they encountered challenges in accessing the justice system. Similarly, the Government had put a programme in place for indigenous prisoners, which took cultural aspects into consideration when processing cases involving them. Such programmes also envisaged the use of interpreters to help judges. The Government considered the role of indigenous women to be indispensable, particularly in designing public strategies concerning them, and for that reason, Mexico had created the Indigenous Women’s Centres (Casas de la Mujer Indígena, or CAMI) as facilities managed by indigenous women to prevent and address cases of violence.
JORGE RETAMAL RUBIO ( Chile) said his Government accorded priority to consultations with indigenous peoples before making policy decisions, in line with International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, he said, noting that Chile had developed a consultation mechanism in March 2011, and the process subsequently had been “fine-tuned”. About 150 workshops had been conducted as part of the process, with indigenous peoples submitting counterproposals, and the Government had made major efforts to include all indigenous communities. He also stressed the urgent need to preserve indigenous cultures, saying his Government had launched an initiative to revitalize all indigenous languages, because culture was lost when a language disappeared. Land transfers must take place in a transparent manner to ensure that indigenous peoples could use their ancestral lands. Measures were being undertaken to restore land for indigenous people as quickly as possible.
XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA ( Ecuador) said his country was an independent, intercultural, plurinational State devoted to guaranteeing the fulfilment of the goal of “living well, or sumak kawsay”. Ecuador’s Constitution recognized indigenous peoples such as the Afro-Ecuadoreans and the Montubio as an integral part of the Ecuadorean State, united and indivisible. The National Plan for Good Living sought to deepen the inclusion and social cohesion of indigenous peoples. On intercultural health, he said his country had developed the Programme for Development and Cultural Diversity, establishing delivery rooms with specific characteristics respectful of indigenous traditions in areas highly populated by indigenous peoples. In 2009, Ecuador had counted for the first time on the valuable contribution of an indigenous woman as a diplomat, he said.
LISANDRA ASTIASARÁN ARIAS ( Cuba) said indigenous peoples had historically been vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and forced labour, which had led to their near extermination during the first century of Cuba’s colonization. “Numbering over 370 million, indigenous people in the world have the right to maintain their tradition and culture,” she said. Despite the adoption of the Declaration in 2007 and the victory it symbolized for their ancestors’ rights, much remained to be done, she said. However, the General Assembly’s adoption of the resolution on the World Conference had shown that issue’s heightened importance on the United Nations agenda. The World Conference was therefore welcome as a forum for sharing best practices and lessons learned in defending the rights of indigenous peoples, she said.
JOSÉ ANTONIO DOIG ( Peru) said the President of his country had been the first to implement the right of consultations for indigenous peoples, as recommended by ILO. In addition, Peru had put specific measures in place to benefit indigenous peoples, including by compiling an official database, preparing a meteorological guide and developing training programmes as part of overall technical assistance to defend the rights of indigenous peoples. He said the upcoming World Conference would be “a valuable opportunity to exchange views, good practices and experiences”. As a co-sponsor of its establishing resolution, Peru underlined the importance of regional preparatory meetings and called on the United Nations to assist in organizing them, as they facilitated the exchange of opinions. Since the conference outcome would feed into the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda, the draft outcome document should be made available to ensure broad and inclusive consultations, he said.
SHIRAZ ARIF MOHAMED ( Guyana), associating himself with CARICOM, said the Amerindian Act of 2006 provided full recognition of Amerindian rights to ownership and titling of land. Of the 100 Amerindian communities existing today, 98 had been titled and awarded absolute grants and 77 of those were demarcated. The 2013 budget allocated 77.8 million Guyana dollars for the titling of 12 communities and the demarcation of eight titled villages, he said. The Special Rapporteur had indicated that a preferred model for resource extraction and development should be through the initiatives and enterprises of indigenous peoples themselves, he said, adding that those in Guyana retained the authority to make decisions and grant approval as stipulated by law governing mining.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said Article 77 of his country’s Constitution provided for the maintenance of indigenous cultures, adding that Costa Rica had supported the Declaration since its adoption. While the Supreme Court had confirmed the rights of indigenous peoples to land, drinking water and health, legal frameworks were not enough. They must be accompanied by actions and implementations. Since the Speical Rapporteur’s visits to Costa Rica, a round table involving indigenous peoples had been established and met regularly to discuss concerns arising from a hydropower project. The Government had taken measures to address issues relating to indigenous territories and had increased the level of patrols to prevent aggression. Education reform was also under way, including a decree recognizing seven indigenous languages, he said.
INGRID SABJA ( Bolivia) said her country had incorporated the Declaration into its Constitution in 2009 and sought to create a single socialist pluralistic State with many autonomous communities. Outlining progress made in education, housing and basic services, she said three universities had been established for indigenous youth, for example. The Government had also taken measures to fight racism and xenophobia. Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, she said Bolivia had able to move 10 per cent of its population into the middle class, through a long-term policy devised to eliminate extreme poverty. Recalling that colonizers had stigmatized and even penalized the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, she emphasized that coca leaves were not harmful to human health. The preparatory process for the 2014 World Conference was an opportunity to involve indigenous peoples, she said, expressing hope that the meeting would adopt an outcome document incorporating the needs of indigenous peoples. She expressed disappointment over the delay in renaming the Permanent Forum.
MARIÁ CLARISA SOLÓRZANO-ARRIAGADA ( Nicaragua) said her country’s national laws had been reformed to ensure the protection of cultural languages and ethnic roots, while guaranteeing food security and governance for indigenous peoples. At the municipal level, they were involved in designing implementing plans aimed at protecting their rights to food security and sovereignty. The Government remained fully involved while working at the national, regional and municipal level, underlining its accountability for free and informed proper consultations. “Proud of its afro and indigenous roots, Nicaragua supports fully the organization of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous People,” she said.
MARCELO ELISEO SCAPPINI RICCIARDI ( Paraguay) said indigenous people had been “unfairly marginalized in all countries”, and his country had therefore invalidated the doctrine of “discovery” in 1992, recognizing the existence of indigenous peoples prior to the creation of the Paraguayan State. The clear sign of the Government interest in protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples was the increased budgetary allocations to the restoration of indigenous lands, he said. “The State is determined to promote human rights,” he emphasized, adding that it recognized tribal and indigenous traditional practices, as well as indigenous languages. Recognizing also the importance of health care, it had invited indigenous peoples to participate and co-manage health-care services and formulate action-oriented health policies for the prevention and control of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
ESHRAGH JAHROMJ ( Iran) said that there was still much to be done to further improve the situation of indigenous peoples. Iran considered the Declaration to be the most important document and a primary part of the normative framework that needed promotion. Welcoming the preparatory process for the upcoming World Conference in 2014, he said the meeting would present an important opportunity to bring the various issues relating to indigenous peoples to the attention of the world in a more comprehensive manner.
AMANDA MKHWANAZI ( South Africa) said that the Declaration encompassed elements that had legal implications such as the principle of non-discrimination, self-determination and cultural rights. “Should countries challenging the status of the Declaration call for a treaty, a covenant or a convention on the rights of indigenous peoples, South Africa stands ready to support efforts towards the elaboration of a legally-binding instrument,” she emphasized. Consolidated outcomes emanating from intergovernmental processes, as well as indigenous peoples’ meetings in preparation to the 2014 World Conference should focus on implementation of the goals of the Second International Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples, she said, adding that its Programme of Activities entailed comprehensive, action-oriented and forward-looking activities addressing culture, education, heath, human rights, environment, social and economic development. She concluded by stressing that transnational corporations and extractive industries should be held accountable for violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and their territories.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) reiterated his country’s interpretative statement, made during the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stressed that “given the fact that the entire population of Indonesia at the time of colonization, independence and successors remains unchanged, and the fact that Indonesia is a multicultural nations that is not discriminate its peoples on any grounds, therefore the rights stipulated in this declaration accorded exclusively to indigenous peoples are not applicable in the context of Indonesia”. He continued: “We, however, are of the view that this declaration is very instrumental for the promotion and protection of human rights of peoples whom this declaration is intended to be applicable”. As the largest archipelago State and one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, Indonesia had continually aspired, and remained steadfast in its efforts, to enhance democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, he emphasized. Based on those principles, Indonesia continued its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of all its citizens, including those belonging to traditional communities, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.
RAJA REZA BIN RAJA ZAIB SHAH ( Malaysia) said that since his country aimed to achieve high-income status by 2020, the Government had ensured that all members of its multicultural and multifaceted society, including indigenous peoples, enjoyed the benefits of development in an equal manner. For that reason, Malaysia had allocated more than $29 million to develop the infrastructure of indigenous communities and improve the quality of life for all rural peoples. In addition, it continued to take measures to widen their access to food, shelter, health, education and employment. Malaysia had introduced income-generating programmes in the form of agropolitan projects for the advancement of indigenous peoples. It had also agreed to consult with them in formulating policies, promulgating legislation and drawing up programmes and implementing projects. By committing sufficient technical and financial resources to advancing its more than 150,000 indigenous peoples in the country, Malaysia was safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples, including their right to development and their cultural rights.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo) stressed the importance of seizing the opportunity to evaluate what had been done in addressing indigenous issues and setting the course for the future in the lead-up to the 2014 World Conference. Congo still had barriers to equal opportunity in education and other areas, but the Government had established a legal framework to support indigenous peoples, a good example for other African countries. Today, the law had been promulgated, and the Government, in partnership with United Nations entities and other stakeholders, had held a workshop to build the capacity for its implementation. As a State party to many human rights instruments, Congo had integrated the rights of indigenous peoples into public policy, empowering them through social policy, he said.
SHARON BRENNEN-HAYLOCK, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said the agency considered indigenous and tribal peoples, with their wealth of ancestral knowledge, key partners in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. Through their on-farm/in situ conservation and management of resources, farmers, pastoralists/herders, fishers, foresters, foragers, gatherers, mountain people and other communities following traditional lifestyles actively maintained high levels of biological diversity, including genetic resources for food and agriculture. “These practices and knowledge create an important basis for the food security of present and future generations worldwide,” she emphasized. FAO looked forward to working closely with all to promote new, inclusive and pluralistic ways to produce, distribute and consume food, in which indigenous peoples and their invaluable knowledge must be at the frontline, she said.
KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that 2014 would mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the agency’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention in 1989 (No. 169), a treaty developed in cooperation with the United Nations system. The Convention represented a consensus reached by the ILO’s tripartite constituents and called on Member States to build partnerships with indigenous peoples through consultation and participation in decision-making processes on matters affecting them. It was encouraging that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169 were being recognized, more and more, to be complimentary instruments whose implementation at country level were mutually reinforcing. He welcomed the wider ratification of the Convention, which currently stood at 22 States.
ZACHARY BLEICHER, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that the Fund was committed to addressing development of indigenous peoples as part of poverty reduction in rural areas of developing countries. Today, IFAD funded about 240 on-going projects, with about 30 per cent of those supporting indigenous peoples’ communities in 38 countries for a total investment of about $800 million. In 2009, the Fund approved a policy on engagement with indigenous peoples and established nine principles, including free, prior and informed consent. In addition, it recently had approved a grant of about $1 million to support indigenous peoples in the processes leading up to the World Conference and beyond.
* *** *For information media • not an official record