|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)
World Bank Pledges to ‘Listen with Heart and Soul’ to Indigenous Peoples,
But Intergovernmental Organizations, Permanent Forum Members Sceptical
In Unprecedented Meeting, Forum Exchanges Views with Dozens of Bank Officials
The World Bank promised to “listen with heart and soul” to the voices of indigenous people, its newly appointed Senior Adviser for Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minorities told the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today, as meeting participants scrutinized the expressed commitments and project portfolios launched and supervised by global and regional financial institutions.
“This is the first Forum session dedicated” to dialogue with multilateral development banks and to assessing their operational policies and impacts, declared Forum member Eva Biaudet. With 28 delegates from the banks in attendance, she said — welcoming representatives from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank — “they have begun to take indigenous issues seriously”.
The fact that the banks’ delegates showed up in force distinguished the current session from past sessions, she said, noting that under review were the banks’ safeguard policies on their investments, aimed at minimizing the harm their investments could do to indigenous peoples and their environment. One million people were affected by projects financed by the World Bank alone, and at the heart of the operational policies were free, prior and informed consent, and customary rights to land and resources — of keen importance to indigenous peoples.
Senior World Bank Adviser Luis Felipe Duchicela said that the Bank was at a moment in which it was trying to align its interest with that of indigenous peoples. In fact, the Bank “has a genuine interest” in working with indigenous peoples, he said, citing an operational policy clause that included full respect for the dignity, human rights, economies and cultures of indigenous peoples. An upcoming policy review would update the old policy, bringing in line the Bank’s policies and practices with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Indeed, indigenous people had been involved in designing the review process, he said. During those consultations, they had pointed out problems in the implementation of the Bank’s operational policies, and they had presented their own vision for the future regarding development.
Along those lines, the representative of the African Development Bank said indigenous peoples had met with the Bank’s President last year and, following their request that the Bank establish a stand-alone policy on indigenous peoples, the regional institution organized a forum on indigenous issues attended by high-level Bank staff, Government ministers, civil society organizations and others. It also commissioned a study on indigenous peoples in Africa to better understand how the Bank and Governments interacted with them.
Keeping in mind that the Bank was a regional entity, she said, one difficulty in instituting policies on indigenous rights was confusion on the continent regarding the concept of “indigeneity”. Nevertheless, the Bank aimed to strike a winning partnership with the indigenous peoples of Africa.
Following those and other presentations, several Forum members and representatives of the many indigenous groups participating in the session held the banks to task, asking such questions as whether they recognized indigenous peoples’ collective ownership to their lands, territories and natural resources. One key question concerned the process of obtaining consent from indigenous peoples whose livelihoods were directly impacted by bank-financed projects.
Some speakers, including from the International Indian Treaty Council, said there was a difference between free, prior and informed “consent” and free, prior and informed “consultation”. In that vein, a Forum member called the World Bank a “holdout”, asserting that the right to free, prior and informed consent was particularly important in involuntary resettlement. The updated indigenous peoples’ policy must use the language of the Declaration, speakers said.
The gap between the banks’ policies and their implementation on the ground remained wide, many from the indigenous community said. A representative of the Asian Caucus said many indigenous communities had been displaced by World Bank projects implemented without their participation. The Bank’s absence of a human rights-based approach, she said, contravened the Declaration and ILO Convention no. 169, while senior management lacked the political will to enforce the requirements in the operational policy framework. She recognized the Bank’s efforts to organize an expert workshop on free, prior and informed consent, but she was frustrated by the lack of a more meaningful engagement with indigenous peoples.
In the no-holds-barred meeting, the banks responded in kind, describing ways they were striving to meet the concerns. In one of several responses, the World Bank, said its representative, was now considering whether to expressly refer to free, prior and informed “consent” in its new safeguard policies. Regarding gaps in implementation, he said implementation was not fully the responsibility of the World Bank; borrower countries and beneficiaries also needed to take responsibility. As for land tenure and natural resources, those were of “top importance” to the Bank, which recognized those rights of indigenous peoples.
Along those lines, the Asian Development Bank would not finance projects that did not comply with its safeguard policy, said its representative, citing a 2009 guideline. The representative of the Inter-American Development Bank, when asked whether bank policy was consistent with the indigenous peoples’ Declaration, said her institution’s policy complied with the Declaration, but it planned to study how it was applied in all cases.
The Forum also exchanged views with the United Nations funds and programmes comprising the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues.
The representative of the Food and Agricultural Organization said that the agency considered indigenous and tribal peoples, with their ancestral knowledge, “key partners in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity”. The speaker also noted that voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of land tenure, fisheries and forests were adopted in May 2012, recognizing the economic and environmental value and also the social, cultural and spiritual value of those resources for indigenous people.
“Human development is more than just economic growth”, stressed the representative of the United Nations Development Programme. The entity continued to engage strategically to advance indigenous issues and realize indigenous rights, the official said, noting that the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean strengthened indigenous youth groups and networks, while the Asia-Pacific Regional Centre had assessed communication and information needs of indigenous peoples in Nepal and the Philippines.
Reidar Kvam, Manager, Environment, Social and Governance Department, International Finance Corporation, also made a presentation during the dialogue.
Forum member Ms. Biaudet introduced the review of World Bank operational policies. Bertie Xavier introduced the study on indigenous peoples’ rights and safeguards in projects related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forests degradation.
Speaking as observers were the representatives of Denmark, Chile, Canada, Brazil and Australia.
Representatives of the following United Nations entities also spoke: United Nations Children’s Fund, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Pan American Health Organization, United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Population Fund.
Also addressing the Forum were representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, Pacific Caucus, African Caucus, Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Indigenous Disability Caucus, Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia, International Indian Treaty Council, Comision Juridica de los Pueblos Andinos, Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership in Climate Change and Forest, International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Amerindian Peoples Association and Guyanese Organization of Indigenous Peoples, and the Indigenous Education Fund.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 May, to continue its work.
The Permanent Forum met today to hold comprehensive dialogue with international development banks and United Nations agencies and funds. It had before it the report of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues annual meeting for 2012 (document E/C.19/2013/4), as well as the Secretariat’s notes on review of World Bank operational policies (document E/C.19/2013/15) and on indigenous people’s rights and safeguards in projects related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (document E/C.19/2013/7).
Dialogue with International Development Banks
The Forum heard presentations of Eva Biaudet, Forum member; Luis Felipe Duchicela, World Bank; Indira Simbolon, Asian Development Bank (ADB); Reidar Kvam, International Finance Corporation; Annah Rutebuka, African Development Bank (AfDB); and Judith Morrison, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).
Ms. BIAUDET said that “this is the first Forum session dedicated” to dialogue with multilateral development banks and to assess their operational policies and their impacts on the ground. Noting that 28 delegates from those banks were in attendance, she said that the big presence of representatives from international financial institutions distinguished the current session from the past ones. “International financial institutions have begun to take indigenous issues seriously,” she declared.
She also underscored the importance of the safeguard policy of those banks to minimize the harm their investments could do to indigenous peoples and their environment. Such guidelines could also help those communities to realize their rights and result in poverty reduction. In that vein, it was important to note that 1 million people were affected by projects financed by the World Bank alone. Two issues concerning free, prior and informed consent, as well as customary rights to land and resources, were at the heart of the operational policies of those banks.
Mr. DUCHICELA said that the World Bank was at a moment in which it was trying to align its interest with that of indigenous peoples; in fact, the Bank had a genuine interest in working with indigenous peoples. Its operational policy 4.10, established in 2005, was progressive, particularly concerning the safeguards. The Bank was about to launch a “dedicated process of review” of that policy in July.
In order to design the process, he said, the Bank had consulted with indigenous peoples since March on how best to conduct the review. The Bank had asked them how they would like to contribute to the review process and how they wanted to have a say in other policies of the Bank in the areas of emerging issues of importance to them, such as human rights, gender and climate change. During those consultations, indigenous peoples pointed out problems in the implementation of the Bank’s operational policies. They also had presented their own vision for the future regarding development. The Bank agreed that those were good topics to discuss and promised it would continue to “listen with heart and soul”.
The ADB, noted Ms. SIMBOLON, had adopted safeguard guidelines in 2009 to avoid adverse impacts of their projects on the environment and people in indigenous communities. Those guidelines helped borrowers and clients strengthen their capacity for development and risk management. The ADB operated on some main principles, including those of paying adequate compensation for physically displacing the affected dwellers and conducting meaningful consultations with stakeholders, including indigenous peoples. Its operational manual clarified issues throughout project cycles.
Continuing, she said that the ADB was also seeking to disseminate its policy both internally and externally, informing, not only bank personnel, but also resident missions, borrowers, clients, project partners and consultant. In 2012, it had issued a working document that provided guidance and recommendations. It would be updated to include best practices, such as on technical assistance to projects in Bangladesh, China and the Philippines. Since adoption of the safeguard guidelines, the ADB had learned a lot from applying the policy.
Mr. KVAM said he managed environmental and social policy standards for the International Finance Corporation, including performance standards on indigenous peoples. The Corporation was the part of the World Bank Group that worked with private-sector companies. Its updated Sustainability Framework had become effective in January 2012, after nearly two years of extensive consultations globally with a wide range of stakeholders. “I am here today because we recognize that establishing good policy language is only the beginning,” he said, stressing that “the real challenge lies in implementation”. Adoption of the updated Framework was an important milestone, as those standards had become a global benchmark for environmental and social performance and used by a wide range of financial institutions and, increasingly, as a reference point for Governments.
Performance Standard 7 on Indigenous Peoples, he said, confirmed and strengthened the objective of ensuring that the development process fostered full respect for the human rights, dignity, aspirations, culture and natural resource-based livelihoods for that population group. The updated Performance Standard now required free, prior and informed consent in certain circumstances affecting indigenous peoples. The first project to apply that principle -— an infrastructure project in Colombia — had been approved by the Board two weeks ago.
Another key element in the Framework was the explicit recognition of the private sector's responsibility regarding human rights, he said. The Framework incorporated the principles of the recently adopted United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Corporation’s Performance Standards required that business should “avoid infringing on the human rights of others and address adverse human rights impacts business may cause or contribute to”. In certain high-risk circumstances, it might be necessary for users of the Performance Standards to undertake specific “human rights due diligence”, he said. “There are many challenges in translating overarching policy principles into practical application on the ground,” he said, adding: “It requires commitment, capacity and clarity, and, above all, continued transparency and sharing of information and learning.”
Ms. RUTEBUKA said that, in 2012, representatives of indigenous peoples met with the Bank’s President, and asked that the Bank establish a stand-alone policy on indigenous peoples. The Bank then organized a well-received forum on indigenous issues attended by high-level Bank staff, Government ministers, civil society organizations and others. It also commissioned a study on indigenous peoples in Africa to better understand how the Bank and Governments interacted with them.
Currently, she continued, the Bank was finalizing its review of environmental and social safeguard systems during which, aided by numerous consultations, the situation of indigenous peoples had been widely discussed. The Bank was committed to addressing the concerns in a manner that harmonized with other international organizations. Safeguards on social development, involuntary resettlement and environmental issues focussed specifically on indigenous rights, including the right of free, prior and informed consent.
Among other proposals under consideration at the Bank, she noted, were design-differentiated policies relating to involuntary resettlement on Bank-financed projects and design of programmes explicitly aimed at indigenous development. Keeping in mind that the Bank was a regional institution, she noted that one difficulty in instituting policies on indigenous rights was confusion on the continent regarding the concept of “indigeneity”. Nevertheless, the Bank aimed to strike a winning partnership with the indigenous peoples of Africa.
Ms. MORRISON said that, since its beginning, the IADB had discussed indigenous issues. The Bank had environmental and social safeguards, which took responsibility for safeguarding indigenous peoples and had developed an operational policy and strategy that had established obligatory objectives and rules to that end. Both had been reviewed in 2010, with the aim of promoting identity-based development. Indigenous peoples were an integral part of the Bank’s priorities, she added.
One Bank policy, among many, required that it report on the participation of indigenous peoples in several key areas, including health and sanitation, she said. Noting that indigenous women often found themselves in positions of inequality, she said that gender was a cross-cutting theme of Bank policies. In cooperation with indigenous organizations, the Bank was seeking ways to empower indigenous girls, as well as to prevent violence against women and girls and provide quality services to victims of such violence.
Policy implementation, however, was complex, she continued. There were guidelines on working with indigenous populations, for example, but the meaning of a consultation process needed to be clarified. That process should be ongoing rather than a one-time event. Talks continued with indigenous leaders and academics, and she hoped that they would lead to harmonization with the policies of other organizations.
She then spoke of how environmental and other Bank programmes harnessed traditional knowledge, which had a special role in the Bank’s biodiversity and ecosystem partnership. The Bank was also working on community-level tourism, among other areas. In closing, she cited an initiative with statistical regional institutions to improve data on the conditions of indigenous peoples in order to promote development with identity throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
Making a brief comment on the panel presentations, Ms. BIAUDET stressed the importance for multinational banks to update their policies, consistent with the language of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as suggested by Special Rapporteur James Anaya. She would like to hear from the World Bank on how it intended to address the wide implementation gap it indentified, especially on what to do about the land rights of indigenous peoples, which the Bank had not recognized. The issue of land rights was central, not only to indigenous peoples, but also to the Bank’s development agenda. Multilateral banks were weak in recognizing those rights. She also drew attention to the impact of the extractive industry, such as oil, gas and mining, on indigenous peoples and their communities. That issue preoccupied the indigenous mechanism, including two other instruments — the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Group, which were investigating cases involving the extractive industry.
ALVARO ESTEBAN POP, Forum member, asked the panellists about the answers that had been given vis-à-vis consultation mechanisms in Latin America and other regions. Specifically, he asked about the Bank’s opinion on consultations that had taken place regarding established projects. Also, regions had received complaints about populations that had been dislodged, due to construction of hydroelectric plants or mining operations. He asked the institutions for their opinions on such activities.
ELSEBETH TARP (Denmark) said it was paradoxical that several United Nations agencies had reduced their focus on indigenous issues, a daunting conclusion in a recent review commissioned by Denmark on how indigenous peoples rights were operationalized in four selected United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Denmark strongly urged the World Bank to make the standards in its Indigenous Peoples Policy fully consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, particularly the standard of free, prior and informed consent, and to generally institutionalize and operationalize a human rights agenda. Denmark strongly encouraged the Permanent Forum to keep closely monitoring the implementations of the recommendations addressed to United Nations agencies.
The representative of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network drew attention to the culture of impunity surrounding the land and territories, as well as the lives of indigenous women. Indigenous peoples who had stood against foreign mining operations had been vilified by the State. Some had been charged with “trumped up” claims. In Bangladesh, rape and other violence against women occurred daily by State military forces. More broadly, she said the loss of land, water and forests through State policies deepened their poverty. She hoped financial institutions would stop supporting interventions that impeded the rights of indigenous peoples. While operational principles existed, their implementation was very weak in the countries concerned.
A representative of the Pacific Caucus requested the Forum to consider States’ enforcement of corporate tax payments in the context of fulfilling their obligations to protect and promote indigenous peoples’ rights. The Forum should also consider States’ role in enabling corporate entities to commit tax avoidance and evasion. Her people would not cooperate with the “commodification of life and land”, as represented by capitalistic practices and secret trade negotiations. They invoked their right to free, prior and informed consent. She urged the Forum to seek updates from the Bank on its plans to comply with the Declaration, International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention no. 169 and the principle of free, prior and informed consent in the implementation of all projects. The Forum, the Bank and the Special Rapporteur should study the resettlement of indigenous peoples in areas where the Bank funded projects. The ILO should research the nature of technological redundancy and its impact on indigenous peoples.
MATIAS ABOGABIN ( Chile) noted that his Government had been studying the needs of indigenous peoples over the last four years in cooperation with various international agencies to ensure that policies were designed with the participation of indigenous people. His Government ventured into measuring the achievement rate of Millennium Development Goals among indigenous communities. The conclusions of that undertaking would be helpful in devising national policy, and the outcome should be discussed at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. His delegation would share the outcome at a side event today.
The representative of the African Caucus said the World Bank President and the United Nations Secretary-General were currently in the Great Lakes region committing $13 billion to that area, almost half of which would be used for hydroelectric projects. The Forum should survey the impact of that project on indigenous peoples. In 2012, the Bank had implemented its social and environmental safeguard policies, which were essential to guaranteeing that indigenous peoples’ rights were respected in project planning and implementation. She urged the Bank to guarantee that in the implementation of its safeguard policies, which must be aligned with existing human rights norms and take into account the Declaration, ILO Convention no. 169 and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Bank must also recognize indigenous rights to lands and resources. It had yet to integrate the principle of free, prior and informed consent into its safeguard policies.
VIKTORIA TUULAS, Forum member, asked if the Bank planned to align its policies on indigenous peoples with international human rights instruments, especially the Declaration.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noted that today marked the first time all regional development banks had gathered at the Forum. On behalf of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said many people who had been unable to attend the Forum had attended the Geneva-based Expert Mechanism. He urged regional development banks to move from calling for free, prior and informed consent — to achieving it. In considering financial assistance to corporations, he urged development banks to ensure the Declaration’s implementation, especially for corporations seeking financial assistance. They should ensure that all corporations respected the “Ruggie Framework”, which had been unanimously adopted by the Human Rights Council, and he called on those banks to include a specific reference to indigenous peoples’ rights.
A representative of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of eight organizations, recommended that the construction of both the Lower Sesan 2 dam in Cambodia and the Baram dam in Malaysia be immediately stopped, that financing be withdrawn and that the projects be cancelled. He also recommended that United Nations agencies participating in the United Nations Global Compact’s work with the Cambodia and Malaysian Governments begin a thorough analysis of their national energy development plans. Those reviews should include the full participation of indigenous peoples as rights-holders, and the analysis should seriously consider alternative, smaller approaches to energy development. In a final recommendation, he urged the China Development Bank and other Global Compact members to change their policies and practices surrounding the financing of large hydropower projects, develop alternative strategies through discussions with indigenous peoples and incorporate human rights and the rights of Mother Nature into those endeavours.
Next, several forum members posed several questions to the bank representatives, including how the financial institutions recognized the customary rights of indigenous peoples to land and resources, how they could ensure that borrowers undertook sufficient consultations with indigenous and how they ascertained free, prior and informed consent. They also wondered if indigenous peoples were taken into account in bank-led projects and if their operational policies were consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In response, Mr. DUCHICELA said the Bank was currently reviewing its safeguard policies and its dialogue with indigenous peoples around the world would begin in July. It was important to keep in mind that the Bank’s Operational Policy 4.10 was created in 2005; the Declaration came into being in 2007. The first paragraph of Operational Policy 4.10 mentioned full respect for the dignity, human rights, economies and cultures of indigenous peoples. It was one of eight safeguard policies and the Bank needed to determine how the Declaration impacted them, with the goal of making its policies more consistent with the Declaration.
Regarding free, prior and informed consent, he said the Bank had formed an expert focus group, which had met on 21 March in Manila, Philippines, as well as an internal group on that topic. The Bank was now considering whether to expressly refer to “free, prior and informed consent” in its new safeguard policies. The ongoing review process would pass through several layers of approval, with ultimate approval given by the Board of Directors. The main challenge lay in policy application, and the Bank was willing to explore the problems related to implementation.
To questions posed by Mr. ESTEBAN POP, he said that in fiscal year 2012, 45 of a total 228 Bank projects had triggered “OP4.10” — or about 20 per cent — which was a large number of projects. He added that many indigenous people had not realized the Bank had a policy that took their issues into consideration.
Ms. BIAUDET said those comments were evidence of how crucial it was that safeguards provided results, which protected indigenous peoples. She asked how the Bank would address implementation gaps, particularly over land rights.
In response, Mr. DUCHICELA said the policy contained a section on land rights, which stated clearly that the borrower must pay attention to customary rights pertaining to traditionally owned or occupied land. It also recognized the need to protect those lands against illegal intrusion. The motivation behind holding the dialogue was to understand how the policy could be consistently applied. The Bank worked in more than 180 countries and was determined to work with indigenous peoples as partners to improve its policy implementation.
With that in mind, he announced that, on 10 May, the Bank had endorsed the formation of an indigenous peoples advisory council, which would replace the direct dialogues it held biannually with indigenous peoples. He asked the Forum for recommendations of experts it could work with in planning the council. The goal was to better communicate with indigenous peoples and ensure the application of the Bank’s policies.
The Chair stressed that years had passed since the 2007 creation of the Declaration. Yet, substantive progress had not been made in reforming Bank policy. “The concern is quite reasonable,” he said, adding that it had taken much too long. He requested a formal letter from the Bank to the three mechanisms that worked on indigenous issues, so that efforts could be carried out in a transparent manner.
For her part, Ms. SIMBOLON said it was important for the ADB to strengthen policy implementation, citing two projects that required formal consultations. “We really need to learn how to strengthen consultations,” she said. She cited paragraph 47 of the 2009 policy statement, which outlined that the bank would not finance projects that did not comply with its safeguard policy.
At that point, Ms. BIAUDET asked what was done when the Bank’s policies were stronger than those of the country in which it was operating.
Ms. SIMBOLON said that, in situations where countries might not have policies recognizing indigenous peoples, the Bank would apply “identity” of indigenous peoples in the project context, using the definition provided under its safeguard policies. Both the requirements of its policy and of the country would be fulfilled. In Asia, only two countries had ratified ILO Convention no. 169 — Nepal and Fiji. As such, it could not expect other countries to follow ILO conventions.
Mr. KVAM, of the International Finance Corporation, commented on the incorporation of indigenous peoples’ collective rights into environmental assessment processes. “This is a very weak issue in terms of international practice standards.” The entire development community sought to strengthen those standards, but was often frustrated by countries’ limited capacity to do so.
Ms. RUTEBUKA said the AfDB consulted the Declaration and other conventions in drafting its safeguard system. It had been proposed to senior management that provisions should be enhanced to better protect indigenous rights. More broadly, she said the Bank promoted meaningful consultation, not only in project preparation, but also in country strategic planning.
In situations when countries did not recognize indigenous peoples, the safeguard system, once approved by the Board, would be a legally binding instrument, she said. The Bank would not finance any project that did not comply with its indigenous peoples’ provisions. At this point, the Bank was not considering an explicit indigenous peoples’ policy. “But, that doesn’t rule it out,” she said, noting that it had commissioned a study on indigenous issues, which would inform its decisions on a stand-alone policy.
Rounding out the responses, Ms. MORRISON, of the IADB, said the Bank’s policy complied with the Declaration, but it planned to study how it was applied in all cases. A key aspect of its framework document offered guidance on “development with identity”. In addition, the Bank was looking at developing guidelines that would better respond to indigenous peoples’ requests. Its guideline on consultations would come out this year.
On free, prior and informed consent, she said the Bank used that principle in addressing settlement issues, as well as in “category C” operations. To questions about indigenous peoples’ participation in processes, she cited work on autonomous regions in that regard. In preparing technical notes on strategy processes, the Bank included a section on land titling. The Bank’s formal mechanisms included a civil society consulting group, which comprised indigenous organizations, as well as an annual dialogue. In 2012, a mechanism had been created for indigenous peoples to address their concerns with the Bank.
Introduction of Reports
BEATRICE DUNCAN, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presenting the report of the 2012 annual meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues (document E/C.19/2013/4), said the meeting was attended by focal points of UN agencies that made up the Support Group who shared ideas on how the agencies might collaborate more closely to support indigenous communities to prepare for the World Conference. The Group aimed to help indigenous peoples realize their rights. As one example of its work, five United Nations agencies, prompted by the 2011 meeting, which had taken up issues of violence against women and girls, had come together for a study on the matter.
She said that the focus of the 2012 meeting had been on positive actions to coordinate across the United Nations system, among other ways, by creating a web-based repository and by sharing ideas on how best to prepare for indigenous participation in the post-2015 development agenda. In the immediate future, the Group would support the Forum in the lead-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Issues. “We must not miss that boat,” she said in closing.
Ms. BIAUDET then said, as she introduced the review of World Bank operational policies (document E/C.19/2013/15), that many indigenous peoples’ representatives and civil society organizations were highly critical of World Bank projects that affected them. The Bank had lost its position as a development leader; its operational policy on indigenous peoples needed improvement; and the current review process of its Environmental and Social Safeguard Policies presented a unique opportunity to ensure that Bank policy and practices met the standards of the Declaration, particularly in connection with indigenous rights to land and resources. The prominence of land was evident across all Bank sectors.
On the matter of free, prior and informed consent, she said that almost all development banks had accepted the standard. The World Bank was a holdout. The right to free, prior and informed consent was particularly important in involuntary resettlement. The Bank’s policies had failed when it used consultations without community support. The World Bank should regain its leadership position. The updated indigenous peoples’ policy must use the language of the Declaration.
In that connection, she urged an examination of the gap between policy and implementation and the reasons for it, up front, in design and in post-project mechanisms. Any new measures must include a chapter on implementation. Two issues, in particular, affected implementation: failure to recognize that a safeguard should be triggered and that, even when triggered, the policies either were not applied or were applied imperfectly. More robust oversight measures were needed. The effectiveness of the Bank’s indigenous policy could only be determined by how it was applied on the ground. Further, all 10 of its policies on the topic were limited to land investment holdings and did not cover other financial instruments. Updated safeguards should cover all such instruments, she concluded.
BERTIE XAVIER, Forum member, introduced the study on indigenous peoples’ rights and safeguards in projects related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forests degradation (document E/C.19/2013/7), saying that such activities could profoundly impact the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. The report summarized the activities of the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and considered how they could benefit indigenous peoples. “REDD+” was a proposed performance-based mechanism being negotiated, by which developed countries would compensate developing countries for deforestation emissions.
He went on to say that many participants agreed that a national performance-based mechanism in participating countries would unlikely be fully operational before 2020. In the meantime, the type and scope of REDD+ activities had expanded to the point where their impact would not depend on the outcome of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations. There was a growing awareness that national climate change action was driven by a country’s development priorities, as had been seen in agriculture or transport policies.
He acknowledged that sustainable forest management had led to emissions reductions, which had restored forests’ prominence on the global policy agenda. REDD+ outcomes could benefit forests while delivering climate change mitigation benefits. For indigenous peoples, REDD+ could promise a new policy environment to enable the full realization of their rights. That would depend on the nature of safeguards applied at national and international levels. The safeguards systems should adopt a rights-based approach taking into account the Declaration and International ILO Convention no. 169. He also underlined the need to increase indigenous peoples’ knowledge so they could advance their interests in REDD+.
ANDRÉ ALBUQUERQUE, National Indian Fund of Brazil, acknowledged the positive provisions of the REDD+ initiative, saying that the Indian Fund closely monitored agreements in that respect and was working to avoid violating indigenous people’s rights. He recalled that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — Rio+20 — had outlined two key concerns: eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development. He cited a recent decree, which aimed to promote the rehabilitation and conservation of indigenous lands and territorial natural resources. By granting land rights to indigenous peoples, the Fund played a critical role in promoting sustainable development. It also was working to improve hygiene, and protect natural resources and traditional lifestyles.
United Nations Bodies, Specialized Agencies
SHIREEN SAID, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said “human development is more than just economic growth”, stressing that UNDP continued to engage strategically to advance indigenous issues and realize indigenous rights. New developments included a revised strategy for civil society and civic engagement, which took into account the need for dialogue and capacity-building for indigenous people. Earlier this year, the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation initiative launched the Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
At the regional level, he said examples of projects, including ongoing work by the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen indigenous youth groups and networks, while the Asia-Pacific Regional Centre had assessed communication and information needs of indigenous peoples in Nepal and the Philippines, among other countries. In Boliva, the Programme was implementing a project to strengthen public administration capacities, and in Costa Rica, it was working with both indigenous leaders and Government authorities towards conflict resolution in connection with the hydroelectric project, with a view to guaranteeing indigenous rights. In sum, the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Issues and the post-2015 process were opportunities to advance indigenous rights.
The representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus took issue with the World Bank policy requiring borrowers to secure legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ customarily used and occupied lands only where a project involved land titling or acquisition. For unrecognized nations and peoples, that disregarded their rights under the Declaration’s article 39. For their part, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes were disconnected from the needs of indigenous youth. “How are programmes supposed to be successfully implemented without basic indicators and statistics of indigenous peoples?”, he asked. Those entities should amend their policies to comply with the Declaration’s article 11, on the right to free, prior and informed consent. They should not require State-recognized non-governmental organization status for an indigenous nation as a prerequisite for enjoying benefits. Finally, United Nations agency programmes only benefitted indigenous nations in developing countries; those in developed countries also required such programmes.
ANTONELLA CORDONE, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that last year, IFAD had approved several projects that built on the skills and knowledge of local peoples, and grants had been developed specifically for indigenous peoples. A detailed list of those projects could be found in IFAD’s report submitted to the current Forum session. She noted that from 11-12 February, IFAD, for the first time, had hosted a global meeting of the Forum, where representatives of indigenous peoples underscored their commitment to working with the Fund, pointing out that there could be no rural development without them. Among other things, they had called on Governments to recognize their rights.
Among good practices identified in case studies, she continued, it had been noted that IFAD had improved participatory planning at the village level, had empowered indigenous women and supported their participation in decision-making processes. In preparation for the global meeting, three regional workshops had been held in 2012, with an average of about 50 participants at each. Delegates had made recommendations on how IFAD could enhance its assistance to indigenous people. It also was looking for ways to further support indigenous peoples in the lead-up to the World Conference in 2014 and beyond.
EDWARD JOHN, Forum member, said that to know and understand human rights meant being able to exercise and defend them. A small, but important step had been taken by the Forum in collaboration with UNICEF, the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus and other indigenous youth groups, which had created a book called Know Your Rights, written by young people from those organizations. He called on national and indigenous Governments and organizations to promote dissemination of the document, and he requested support to translate it into indigenous languages, as the northern Sami people had already done. He suggested that UNICEF, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other agencies promoted the document as part of their efforts.
MIRNA CUNNINGHAM KAIN, Forum member, drew attention to several positive efforts, including the allotment of the IFAD for small projects, steps by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to implement its policy on indigenous people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and other initiatives by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In addition, the World Bank’s Climate Investment Fund had incorporated a Forum member in its decision-making body and increased indigenous peoples’ participation in the clean technology component. “This type of progress is what we need in each of the agencies of the United Nations system”, she said.
She noted that she had met with the Mexican and American team of the International Finance Corporation, a practice that should expand into other areas of the world, especially given the increasing conflict in indigenous territories and the role of foreign investment in the extractive sector.
A representative of the Indigenous Disability Caucus said many indigenous peoples with disabilities had travelled very far to participate — for the first time in United Nations’ history — in bringing forward the many issues they faced. There were an estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities globally — 15 per cent of the world population. That meant there were 54 million indigenous peoples with disabilities. The prevalence of disability in most regions was high and many of their needs had not been met. Still, such statistics and data required better research. Indigenous people with disabilities faced additional barriers to participation and equality. “We need to be included in all aspects of United Nations processes, funding and programmes,” she said, expressing hope that they would not be forgotten in discussions on indigenous issues.
YON FERNANDEZ DE LARRINOA, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), considered indigenous and tribal peoples, with their ancestral knowledge, key partners in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. The FAO was working towards broad objectives, which could only be achieved in partnership with key allies. The Corporate Strategy for Partnerships with Civil Society Organizations, for example, recognized the unique contribution of indigenous agri-food systems and the traditional knowledge that supported them. The organization was intensifying efforts to meaningfully involve indigenous peoples in its country programming frameworks, which identified national priorities in food security.
The speaker noted that, following negotiations that included the active participation of indigenous peoples, Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, were adopted in May 2012. They recognized the economic and environmental value and also the social, cultural and spiritual value of those resources for indigenous people. Further, FAO was moving towards more inclusive models in policymaking, with consideration for indigenous rights, including for free, prior and informed consent. The speaker asked the Forum to help identify key partners at regional and national levels, and to assist in identifying experts who could work with FAO’s technical teams in food and nutrition security matters.
A representative of the Asian Caucus said many indigenous communities had been displaced by World Bank projects implemented without their participation. The Bank’s absence of a human rights-based approach contravened the Declaration and ILO Convention no. 169, while senior management lacked the political will to enforce the requirements in the operational policy framework. While recognizing the Bank’s efforts to organize an expert workshop on free, prior and informed consent, she was frustrated by the lack of a more meaningful engagement with indigenous peoples. She urged the Bank to be more proactive, by ensuring indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation in decision-making and taking into account their diverse languages. She also called for an indigenous peoples’ policy that was in line with international standards and respected the peoples’ rights to lands and resources, including customary lands they used or managed. The measure should ensure their full and effective participation in all projects affecting them, prohibit their forced relocation from their territories and respect traditional knowledge.
MANDY DOHERTY ( Australia) said that some 8,500 people lived in the Torres Strait’s 20 island communities situated between Australia and Papua New Guinea. With some of those islands already inundated by king tides, a range of key social, economic and environmental services was provided to them, through the Torres Strait Climate Change Strategy, which was coordinated and implemented by Australia. Noting her country’s clean energy legislation, she said that complementary to the need to reduce emissions was support to the most vulnerable communities to adapt to anticipated impacts. Climate change multiplied many existing challenges facing indigenous communities. A comprehensive approach would help communities build resilience and capacity to respond to them.
The representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) discussed two priorities, the first being access to health services — including health education, promotion and rehabilitation services — all of which were equally important to attaining the highest health standards. The second related to the improvement of health information systems. The “ethnic variable” was needed in all such systems. Her organization was working with Latin American and Caribbean countries in developing indigenous health information systems and identifying epidemiological patterns in the region. It also had a new strategy on cultural diversity, which was in a consultation stage.
She went on to say that the organization was aware of the need to incorporate an intercultural approach to health services, and added that guidelines were being developed. The integration between traditional and Western health services was also critical and work was under way with indigenous universities to include traditional medicine in their curricula. Other activities included a meeting in Bolivia, during which health ministries and indigenous groups exchanged ideas on promoting “evidence-building” in health. Another meeting in Peru would focus on the cultural diversity strategy.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, welcomed the participation of the Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Caucus in the Forum today. He stressed the need to find ways for them to participate in the Forum’s future work.
A representative of the Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia said the 2010 World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in Tiquipaya, Bolivia, had condemned the use of market mechanisms, such as REDD. In October 2010, the Bolivian President, in a letter to the world’s indigenous peoples, expressed the need to preserve forests and rejected the marketing of them. In 2011, expanded consultations in Bolivia on an alternative to REDD were held, which had led to a proposal called “Sustainable Life of the Forest”. That proposal called for a halt to the marketing of forests and highlighted the needs of Mother Earth. It promoted conservation and restoration. Bolivia supported the “Tiquipaya proposal” as an alternative to REDD, which was not good for indigenous peoples, as it supported the “marketing of nature”. Indigenous organizations could not support “carbon marketing”, the speaker added.
LAETITIA ZOBEL, Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch, Division of Regional Cooperation, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), discussed various events of interest to indigenous peoples. World Environment Day 2013 would be hosted by Mongolia and focus on the new UNEP and FAO campaign: “Think. Eat. Save. Reduce Your Foodprint.” Among the fastest-growing countries in the world, Mongolia did not significantly waste food. The nomadic life of many of its people offered ancient answers to the modern-day challenge of food waste.
She said that the SAVE FOOD initiative’s “Food Waste” campaign sought to add its voice to those efforts by fostering an exchange of ideas. Another important initiative — the Second Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections — would be held in Jamaica, in October. It aimed to strengthen partnerships and raise public awareness about the global agenda. It also would address the negative impacts of — and opportunities presented by — maritime litter, wastewater and nutrients.
A representative of the International Indian Treaty Council affirmed the right to self-determination, to land, territory, resources and a future as a people. In assessing World Bank activities, the United Nations must promote full implementation of article 42 of the Declaration, she said, also urging that World Bank policy guarantee and accept treaties between nations. On development and climate, she said that financial institutions, including the World Bank, spoke of building safeguards, when “what was needed was a guarantee of our rights”. There was confusion between the right to free, prior and informed consent with free, prior and informed consultation. Free, prior and informed consent was a minimum standard for the right to land, water, air and other resources. A mechanism was needed by which indigenous communities could file complaints for reparations to those that had been damaged by World Bank projects.
Mr. DUCHICELA, responding to some references made about the World Bank, said that issues of land and natural resources were of top importance to the Bank, which recognized the land tenure and resource rights of indigenous peoples. The results of two focus groups, one on free, prior and informed consent and another on land tenure and resources would soon be posted on the Bank’s website. He urged the indigenous peoples’ groups to check the website where they could make comments on those issues.
Regarding gaps in implementation of the Bank’s indigenous policies, he said: “We need to take into account that the implementation of the policy is not fully the responsibility of the World Bank.” Borrower countries and beneficiaries also needed to take responsibility for implementation, which was a joint effort of all stakeholders. It was not productive to assign that task to a single party when complex projects with many stakeholders were involved. He urged indigenous peoples and Permanent Forum members to participate with safeguards teams working around the world to analyse and consider ways to improve application of those policies.
Turning to the issue of engagement, which was related to implementation, he said that the World Bank had taken important actions and continued to do so, which demonstrated its willingness to engage. The Bank had long been engaged with the Forum and indigenous communities, which they valued. The updated indigenous policy would be free-standing. While policy revisions were under way, the Bank would continue to improve implementation of its current policy. He hoped that indigenous communities “hear our willingness to engage” in an open and transparent way. He invited Forum Members to an upcoming event to talk about planned next steps for indigenous peoples.
A representative of the Comisión Jurídica de los Pueblos Andinos said that the negative trend of Anglicization showed the extent of colonialism and Americanization. In social struggles, Western colonialists brought ideas while Indians died. The Doctrine of Discovery showed that one of the world’s worst human massacres had been perpetrated in Abya Yala. That text was the foundation of his peoples’ misery, as it had led to the unlimited extraction of resources from indigenous territories. The Doctrine of Discovery was still in effect. The foreign Indian Council did not recognize colonial States.
He went on to say that his Rapa Nui brothers on Easter Island had determined they were free from Chile. Likewise, Indian peoples demanded justice. Leaving their fate in the hands of non-governmental groups served only as a buffer to Governments. Being Indian was a spiritual attitude. Indians’ free, prior and informed consent should not be achieved through international meetings, such as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. “We will keep fighting with the strength of old tigers,” he said. “Our struggle is not to survive. It is to exist.”
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership in Climate Change and Forest, discussing the report on REDD+, clarified that her group did not support the voluntary carbon market. In fact, it had lobbied in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for ways to incentivize non-carbon markets, which she hoped would be reflected in a corrected report. She commended IFAD for holding the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum in February, which had allowed indigenous peoples to formulate a global action plan, later presented to the IFAD governing council. IFAD’s willingness to dialogue was a good model for partnership and should be emulated by other United Nations agencies. She urged that UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP) include indigenous peoples in their 2014-2018 strategic plans and identify indicators to measure progress. Indigenous peoples’ participation in Rio+20 processes was weak. The Forum should appoint some of its members to engage with the open-ended working group on sustainable development goals.
SONIA HECKADON, Regional Desk Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNFPA, said that the Indigenous Youth Caucus had spoken clearly today and she requested a copy of that statement to assist UNFPA as it formulated its plans for 2014-2018. “We need to bring [the youth] voice to our house,” she said. The Fund’s Executive Director was committed to have youth and women participate at all levels. Noting that much needed to be done to enhance youth development and the rights of indigenous women, she spoke of several UNFPA projects to that end, among them, work in the Andean region to enhance women’s health and reduce child mortality. Her full statement would be available on the Forum’s website, but she touched on a number of points, including the need for data collection and research to make visible the violence that women, youth and girls lived with; the need to respect the agreements between State institutions and indigenous groups; and to recognize that violence against women, youth and adolescent girls must be made visible.
A representative of the Indigenous Education Fund, speaking also on behalf of several other groups, said that the report on REDD+ was overly optimistic. It characterized two positions of indigenous groups, one that radically opposed REDD, in opposition to carbon exchange, and the other that saw opportunities in REDD. “Our opposition to REDD is not radical,” he said; it was not radical to insist on keeping to international standards. REDD called only for free, prior and informed “consultation” of indigenous people, which was not the same as free, prior and informed consent. Even where land rights were recognized, there was an absence of land demarcation. Further, there were REDD+ projects outside the United Nations system, which observed no safeguards at all. Assured land rights and tenure must be a precondition to all REDD projects.
Additionally, he said, REDD+ would be market-based; it was not radical to oppose projects that allowed multinational corporations to pollute the areas of the indigenous peoples of the north without protecting their rights. REDD, as a market mechanism and a tool of privatization and capitalism, would destroy the forests and lands. He recommended that the Forum conduct another study of REDD on the basis of what was actually happening in the forests and taking into account voluntary REDD projects. Such abuses should be listed in the report.
The representative of the International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts noted with dismay the inclusion of a micro-finance component in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Rural Development Project, despite the expressed disapproval of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council. The Jumma people had traditionally practised an agrarian self-subsistent lifestyle with only limited access to external markets and credit, and the risk of loan recipients “drowning themselves in debt” was high. Additionally, the speaker remained concerned about whether the Asian Development Bank would strictly adhere to its safeguard policies with regard to project components impacting lands and resources, in particular, watershed management and agro-forestry initiatives in the second phase of its project in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In light of those and other concerns, the representative made several recommendations to the rural development project and to the Asian Development Bank.
The representative of the Amerindian Peoples Association and Guyanese Organization of Indigenous Peoples said that extractive industry concessions were often granted without indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent, while court appeals were extremely slow. Aboriginal Guyanese were protesting throughout the country, especially in areas where gold miners were creating social and pollution disruptions. The top-down approach of Guyanese authorities to addressing such issues did not work. The State did not recognize the word “territory”, and as such, settling claims was a problem. Miners’ rights superseded indigenous land rights. The lack of land security was another problem. Guyana’s Attorney General had no plans to amend the 2006 Amerindian Act and hydro projects were being implemented despite indigenous peoples’ objections. Among the Act’s shortcomings were its arbitrary procedures for titling and demarcation, which lacked the means for appeal. Other problematic issues focused on donor-funded projects on indigenous lands.
* *** *For information media • not an official record