Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)
PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION, APPROVES
NINE SETS OF RECOMMENDATIONS, SEVEN DRAFT DECISIONS
Urges United Nations Bodies to Address Matters
Related to Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation of Indigenous Girls
United Nations bodies should address issues related to the trafficking and sexual exploitation of indigenous girls, according to one of nine sets of recommendations and seven draft decisions adopted by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as it closed its second session in two meetings today.
By the orally revised text, addressing the session’s theme on indigenous children and youth, the Forum also urged States to set up rehabilitation programmes for indigenous girls. In addition, highlighting the massive exodus of indigenous youth to cities worldwide, it recommended that the World Bank and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) carry out an in-depth study of legal frameworks and social programmes for indigenous youth in selected countries.
Of the Forum’s remaining eight sets of recommendations, seven were adopted as orally revised, focusing on the environment, economic and social development, health, human rights, culture, education and the Forum’s future work, while the eighth, on methods of work with the United Nations system, was adopted as written. All of the recommendations and draft decisions will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Addressing the draft on economic and social development, Forum members supported the workshop proposed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on free, prior and informed consent, as it related to indigenous land and resources, and stressed the importance of the UNDP human development reports in its work. They also noted that the UNDP could assist the Forum with data collection and its work towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Of the six draft decisions, introduced by Forum Rapporteur Willie Littlechild (Canada), the first (document E/C.19/2003/L.5) would have ECOSOC authorize the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to convene a three-day workshop on collecting data about indigenous peoples. A second draft (document E/C.19/2003/L.7) would have ECOSOC devote the high-level segment of its substantive session of 2006 to indigenous issues, and invite the Forum Chairperson to participate.
The terms of a third draft decision (document E/C.19/2003/L.8) would confirm the participation of members of the Permanent Forum in meetings of subsidiary bodies of the Council, as one of the Forum’s methods of work. According to a fourth draft (document E/C.19/2003/L.9), ECOSOC would confirm the practice of designating six members for the Forum’s bureau as a method of work of the Forum. A fifth draft decision (document E/C.19/2003/L.10) would have ECOSOC hold the third session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 May 2004. The final draft (document E/C.19/2003/L.11) would have ECOSOC approve the Forum’s provisional agenda and documentation for the third session.
Also at today’s meeting, the Forum adopted its report (document E/C.19/2003/L.19 and Add.1), and its agenda for the third session, which will focus on indigenous women, with emphasis on their status and participation at the national and international levels.
In addition, it took note of the Chairperson’s summaries on methods of work of the Forum with the United Nations system, environment, health, human rights, culture, and education (document E/C.19/2003/L.2/Add.1 to Add.7, respectively), and decided to annex them to its report.
In concluding remarks, Forum Chairperson Ole Henrik Magga (Norway) noted that interactive dialogue between Forum members and United Nations bodies had intensified, but added the Forum must channel its recommendations down to have a true effect at the grass-root level. It must also cooperate with regional organizations to reach the poorest, most marginalized peoples. To that end, the Forum was currently establishing formal cooperation with the European Union. He nd urged other regional intergovernmental organizations to attend Forum sessions.
Agreeing that the regional dimension had potential in the Forum’s work, ECOSOC President Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) pointed to the commonalities of indigenous peoples of every region. Some activities could be promoted at the regional and even sub-regional levels, he observed, which could then feed into the Forum’s work.
Also closing the Forum was a community peacemaker from Kenya’s Maasai tribe, Koimairish Ole Mulo, who gave a traditional blessing in his language.
In the area of indigenous children and youth (document E/C.19/2003/L.1/Rev.1), the Forum recommended that United Nations bodies address issues related to the trafficking and sexual exploitation of indigenous girls, and urged States to create rehabilitation programmes. In view of the massive exodus of indigenous youth to alien cities worldwide, it also recommended that the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and UNICEF carry out an in-depth comparative study of legal frameworks and social programmes for indigenous youth in selected countries.
The Forum also recommended that governments and United Nations bodies prepare specific policies and implement programmes for indigenous children and youth to promote their human rights, strengthen, recover and conserve their languages, promote their culture and education, reaffirm their traditional knowledge, and contribute to their self-esteem. In addition, considering the large number of incarcerated indigenous children and youth, it recommended that ECOSOC urge governments to ensure greater protection and humane treatment for those imprisoned individuals, and take steps to rehabilitate them.
With respect to health (document E/C.19/2003/L.15), the Forum urged the relevant United Nations bodies to incorporate indigenous healers and cultural perspectives on health and illness into their policies, and to undertake regional consultations with indigenous peoples on those issues. It also urged States to expand their national health systems to provide holistic health programmes for indigenous children. In addition, States should address malnutrition in indigenous children by adopting special measures to ensure and protect the cultivation of traditional food crops. The Forum also recommended that the World Health Organization (WHO) undertake a study on the prevalence and causes of suicide among indigenous youth.
Regarding its methods of work with the United Nations system (document E/C.19/2003/L.4), the Forum recommended that the Inter-Agency Support Group extend its membership to other United Nations bodies to promote larger participation in the Forum’s work. It also requested that the World Bank’s final draft policy on indigenous peoples be made available to the Forum before being presented to the Bank’s Board, and that a permanent dialogue be held among indigenous peoples, the Bank and the Forum.
With respect to economic and social development (document E/C.19/2003/L.13/Rev.1), the Forum stressed the need to create a three-year working group on free prior and informed consent and participatory research guidelines, under the aegis of the Forum, with funding from the regular budget. It also recommended that States and the United Nations system implement projects on agriculture, fishing, forestry and crafts to diversify production and income sources, contribute to reducing the levels of internal and external migration of indigenous peoples, and provide capacity-building in those areas.
In the area of the environment (document E/C.19/2003/L.14), the Forum requested the United Nations system organize a workshop on resource extraction and indigenous peoples to further dialogue on corporate accountability and the rehabilitation of mined-out areas, polluted water bodies, compensation of adversely affected communities, and sustainable development and land rights, with a view to developing a mechanism to address those issues. The Forum also recommended that an international ethical code on bio-prospecting be set up to avoid bio-piracy and ensure the respect for indigenous cultural and intellectual heritage.
Regarding education (document E/C.19/2003/L.18), the Forum recommended creating academic institutions to train indigenous leaders, and urged public and private universities to develop curriculum on indigenous peoples. It also recommended that States reduce illiteracy rates, truancy, and drop-out rates, and promote primary education in States where indigenous people lived. In addition, the Forum should rescue, foster and divulge the history and culture of indigenous peoples in education systems to strengthen their identity.
In the area of culture (document E/C.19/2003/L.17), the Forum recommended that governments introduce indigenous languages in public administration in indigenous territories wherever possible, and that governments and United Nations bodies support indigenous media and promote the engagement of indigenous youth in indigenous programmes. It also called for the increased participation of indigenous representatives in World Intellectual Property Organization sessions.
Regarding the future work of the forum (document E/C.19/2003/L.12), the Forum called on governments, foundations and others to give generously to the Voluntary Fund to promote the Forum’s work, and hoped that additional resources would be made available for the Forum secretariat in 2004-2005.
It also recommended that a workshop be convened to develop innovative working methods for future Forum sessions, and decided to create a database for recommendations proposed by Forum members and observers during those sessions.
In the area of human rights (document E/C.19/2003/L.16), the Forum underlined the importance of country-specific Special Rapporteurs, experts and representatives of the Commission on Human Rights paying special attention to the situation of indigenous peoples in their respective fields. It requested the Secretary-General to prepare an analytical study on ways indigenous issues had been addressed in United Nations bodies, and called on States to adopt the draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples before the end of the decade.
In a series of interactive dialogues and open debates, speakers throughout the session stressed the importance of educating youth in their own cultures and languages, encouraging them to stay in school, and improving their access to decent education. Many pointed to the high suicide rate among indigenous youth, brought on by miserable living conditions, racism and unemployment.
Others emphasized the grave risks posed by alcohol, drugs and industrial pollutants to the health of indigenous peoples, especially youth, and outlined the lack of modern health-care services to meet their needs. The importance of maintaining traditional medicines and healing practices, and passing them on to the next generation, was also stressed.
Speakers also highlighted the need to immediately adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, preserve indigenous languages and sacred sites, and accord permanent sovereignty over indigenous lands and natural resources. Development, mining, climate change and the production of genetically modified food and seeds were severely damaging indigenous lands, polluting water systems and destroying unique ecosystems.
Indigenous peoples should be compensated for damage to their lands, they stressed, and accorded the right to free, prior and informed consent for development projects. Sustainable development must be based on the cultural foundation and management capacities of the indigenous people concerned. They urged governments to strictly control the access of foreign lumber and oil companies to their lands.
Rounding out the session were several films, presentations, exhibitions and panel discussions, focusing on such topics as youth, genetic technologies, labour rights, electronic connectivity, indigenous communications and journalism, mining, traditional knowledge and peace-building. In addition, the Exhibition for the Permanent Forum was opened during the session.
Background of the Forum
The Forum is the first official United Nations body where indigenous voices nominated by indigenous peoples can be heard as members. In an arena of indigenous leaders, civil society and United Nations bodies, the Forum advises and makes recommendations to the Economic and Social Council on economic and social development, culture, human rights, the environment, education and health.
The Forum, which meets once a year for 10 days, has also been asked to raise awareness, promote the integration and coordination of activities relating to indigenous issues within the United Nations system, and prepare and disseminate information on indigenous issues. States, United Nations bodies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and organizations of indigenous people may take part as observers.
The Forum has 16 independent members serving three-year terms in their personal capacities, of whom eight are nominated by indigenous people and eight by governments.
Indigenous-nominated members for the 2003 session were: Antonio Jacanamijoy (Colombia); Ayitegau Kouevi (Togo); Willie Littlechild (Canada) who is also Rapporteur for the session; Ole Henrik Magga (Norway); Zinaida Strogalschikova (Russian Federation); Parshuram Tamang (Nepal); Mililani Trask (United States); and Fortunato Turpo Choquehuanca (Peru).
Government-nominated members were: Yuri Boitchenko (Russian Federation); Njuma Ekundanayo (Democratic Republic of the Congo); Yuji Iwasawa (Japan); Wayne Lord (Canada); Otilia Lux de Coti (Guatemala); Marcos Matias Alonso (Mexico); Ida Nicolaisen (Denmark); and Qin Xiaomei (China).
Officials of the bureau for the current session were Ole Henrik Magga (Norway), Chairperson; Njuma Ekundanayo (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Antonio Jacanamijoy (Colombia), Parshuram Taman (Nepal) and Mililani Trask (United States), Vice-Chairpersons; and Willie Littlechild (Canada), Rapporteur.
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