THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS
HIS EXCELLENCY MR JULIAN R. HUNTE
SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES
UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
FRIDAY 21 MAY 2003
Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Permanent
Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ladies and Gentlemen:
am greatly encouraged that the priorities we have set
for the Presidency of the Fifty-eighth session of the
United Nations - Development, United Nations Reform, and
Peace and Security - are all in accord with issues of
concern to this Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
was pleased, therefore, to accept the invitation of the
Chairperson to participate in the Opening Ceremony of
this third Session of the Permanent Forum, even as I look
forward to receiving reports on its deliberations and
conclusions. Regrettably, circumstances did not permit
me to participate in the Opening Ceremony. I am therefore
pleased to have the opportunity to address you now, for
which I thank your Chairperson.
have been following the Permanent Forum's deliberations
over the course of its session. Every indication is that
you have taken a dynamic and practical approach to your
work, bearing in mind that successful policy-making and
implementation requires careful consideration of the issues,
well-conceived strategies and an effective management
process to achieve agreed objectives.
my view, your accomplishments underscore the value of
this important Permanent Forum to the goals and aspirations
of the world's indigenous peoples.
am mindful of the prominent role that indigenous peoples
themselves play in this Permanent Forum, which puts them
at the forefront in representing their own interests,
articulating their concerns and proposing solutions to
this Permanent Forum - charged with advising the Economic
and Social Council on issues related to economic and social
development, culture, the environment, education, health
and human rights - a sober evaluation of the situation
of Indigenous peoples comes more clearly into focus. It
is evident from this evaluation that the world's indigenous
peoples face many threats and challenges.
must concede that today, too many indigenous peoples confront
challenges in respect of their land, their culture, their
language, their livelihood and indeed, their very existence.
Poverty, racial discrimination and endemic diseases are
also a fact of life for many. Too many remain on the outside
of the national decision-making that affects their daily
decision of this Permanent Forum to focus on a particularly
vulnerable group, "Indigenous Women", at this
session is both appropriate and timely. I believe that
the launching of the "Indigenous Women" theme
at the high-level panel and dialogue caused us to look
realistically and pragmatically at the situation of indigenous
women, - women whom we saw as essential actors in economic
and social processes. We saw them as agents of change.
We saw them as both the agents and beneficiaries of the
goals and objectives of the Beijing Platform of Action.
We recognised their contribution in all spheres of life
of their societies and communities. At the same time,
we saw their many vulnerabilities - marginalisation, extreme
poverty, discrimination, other human rights violations
including violence against them, - all these impact especially
heavily on indigenous women.
must recognise indigenous women for their significant
contribution to their societies and communities, so that
as states and the global community, we can take the critical
decisions on their behalf that will ensure gender equality.
United Nations system has taken decisive steps to emphasise
inclusiveness in respect of indigenous peoples, to the
benefit of all. In fact, the United Nations has played
an important role in the unique partnership being built
among member states, indigenous peoples and the United
of the more than thirty years of United Nations activities
delivers a powerful statement on how the organization
views the rights of the 370 million indigenous peoples
living in 70 countries worldwide.
ongoing initiatives of the Working Group on Indigenous
Population, the proclamation of 1993 as the International
Year of Indigenous peoples and the International Decade
of Indigenous peoples 1995-2004 and this Permanent Forum,
created in 2002, have given direction to the United Nations
work and established cooperation between indigenous peoples
and the organisation.
as the Decade comes to a close, indigenous peoples can
be assured that this Permanent Forum, strategically placed,
will work for continuity and progress.
the Commission on Human Rights completes the Draft Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, it will be a specific
international instrument that together with other general
instruments on human right and fundamental freedoms and
related issues, should promote and protect the rights
of indigenous peoples.
peoples should also benefit from the implementation of
the Millennium Development Goals; and the review of 2005
and 2015 will tell if the international community is meeting
its commitments in this regard.
President of the General Assembly, I am pleased with the
role the Assembly has played over the years in promoting
the rights of indigenous peoples. I recall, in this regard,
the historic opening of the General Assembly Hall to indigenous
leaders for the first time in December 1992 for the launch
of the International Year and again in 1994 for the launch
of the International Decade.
peoples can rely on the General Assembly, called "House
of Mica" by an ancient Hopi prophecy, to continue
to welcome them in good faith, celebrate their civilizations,
listen to their voices and learn from them.
me conclude by commending the Chairperson and all members
of this Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for your
resolve in carrying out your mandate as the global mechanism
for monitoring the situation of indigenous peoples around
the world. You have a unique mission - to create a setting
in which we can all walk together on a path to a better
world and "to enjoy better standards of life in larger
freedoms", as extolled in the Charter.