DELEGATIONS IN THIRD COMMITTEE PRAISE LAUNCH OF PERMAMENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES

17 October 2002
GA/SHC/3703

DELEGATIONS IN THIRD COMMITTEE PRAISE LAUNCH OF PERMAMENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES

17/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3703

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

22nd Meeting (AM)

DELEGATIONS IN THIRD COMMITTEE PRAISE LAUNCH OF PERMAMENT FORUM

ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES

Committee Approves Five Drafts on the Family, Literacy,

Youth Employment, Social Development, Ageing; Six Drafts on Women Introduced

Delegations this morning praised the launch on 13 May 2002 of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as a true vehicle for advocacy and recognition of the rights of indigenous people, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) began consideration of the programme of activities of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, which will end in 2004.

The establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2002 was a milestone in the advancement of the aspirations and rights of indigenous peoples worldwide, said the representative of Norway, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries.  It would allow international recognition of the rightful place of indigenous peoples and their rights within the United Nations.  The Permanent Forum was a place where they could discuss common challenges and voice their concerns on an equal footing with Governments. 

The representative of New Zealand stressed, however, that if the Permanent Forum was to be effective in its role, it was essential that it received full support and involvement of both States and the relevant specialized agencies, including the provision of necessary technical and financial support.  The effective functioning of the Forum would depend on its secretariat, he said.  If this Committee failed to follow through on its commitments, all Member States would be held to account by the world’s indigenous people.

The world’s 350 million indigenous and tribal peoples were frequently the most impoverished and disadvantaged groups in any country, said the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).  The situation was exacerbated by the fact that they were often in a numerical minority living under national laws that did not address their specific situations, characteristics and needs.  Indigenous peoples needed their rights as workers and their right to decent work promoted and protected, as well as their right to be protected from all forms of exploitation and discrimination.

The Committee began its work today by approving five draft resolutions on social development questions.  Throughout the texts, the Committee maintained its conviction that the Assembly should reaffirm its commitment towards further action

22nd Meeting (AM)                                      17 October 2002 

and initiatives that would accelerate social development for all and place people at the centre of concerns for social development.

The draft resolution on preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 would have the Assembly call upon the Secretary-General to launch the tenth anniversary in early December 2003, as well as emphasize that equality between men and women and respect for the human rights of all family members was essential to the well-being of families and society at large.

The draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade:  education for all, would have the Assembly reaffirm that a basic education is crucial to nation-building and that creating literate environments and societies is essential for achieving such goals as the eradication of poverty, achieving gender equality, ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.

Other draft resolutions approved today covered promoting youth employment; implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, and follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons:  Second World Assembly on Ageing.  All drafts will be submitted to the General Assembly for final adoption later in the session.

Also this morning, the Committee heard the introduction of six draft resolutions on matters related to that advancement of women. 

One of those texts -- on the future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) -- had been at the heart of a spirited debate in the Committee earlier this week.  At that time, delegations stressed the importance of the Institute's work, and that the ultimate decision of its future operations lay in the hands of Member States.

Recapping many of those concerns today, a representative of the draft's main sponsor -- Venezuela on behalf of the group of 77 developing countries, China and Mexico -- stressed that the importance of the Institute's work should not be considered in a vacuum, but within the broader context of the United Nations machinery for the advancement of women.  It was clear, she said, that INSTRAW must remain operational, whatever the cost.

The representatives of the Philippines, Sweden, Netherlands, New Zealand and Pakistan, respectively, introduced the remaining texts on:  trafficking in women and girls; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women; working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour; improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system, and on the elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of “Women 2000”.

Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports before the Committee on indigenous people.

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22nd Meeting (AM)                                      17 October 2002 

Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico and Chile.

The representative of the International Labour Organization also spoke.

The Committee will reconvene Monday, 21 October, at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of matters related to the programme of activities for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of indigenous issues, including the programme of activities for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.  It is also expected to hold a dialogue with Bacre Ndiaye, Director, New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Also today the Committee is set to take action on a number of resolutions on matters related to social development, including questions related to the world social situation, ageing, children, youth and the family.  (For background, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3700 of 14 October.)

Delegations are further expected to hear the introduction of a number of resolutions on the advancement of women and follow-up to the implementation of the outcome of the General Assembly special session on women, “Women 2000”.

Indigenous People

The Committee will have before it a report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations (document A/57/296) which updates the previous biennial report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Fund.  The previous report contained information on the activities undertaken with the resources of the Fund and showed income and expenditure as well as the pledges and payments made to the Fund.  The present report updates the information contained in that report and provides information on the fourteenth and fifteenth sessions of the Board of Trustees, held in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

Delegations will also consider the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of activities of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (document A/57/395).  It provides information on the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (13 to 24 May 2002) and the submission of the first report of the newly appointed Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights of indigenous people.  During the reporting period, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights continued to promote inter-agency cooperation through collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) within the framework of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.

Further to the report, collaboration led to initiatives such as the workshop on indigenous peoples, private sector natural resource, energy and mining companies and human rights, held in Geneva from 5 to 7 December 2001.  Ongoing programmes of the Office include the establishment of an indigenous media network; the third workshop on Multiculturalism in Africa; indigenous-led human rights training; indigenous aspects of technical cooperation programmes in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico; and the Indigenous Fellowship Programme.

Drafts on Social Issues

Also before the Committee is a text submitted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Preparation for the observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/57/L.6), by which the Assembly would decide that major activities for the tenth anniversary in 2004 should be concentrated at the local, national and regional levels.

It would also call for a concerted promotional, informational and media campaign on behalf of the anniversary and call upon the United Nations and its agencies and funds as well as family oriented organizations from civil society to make every possible effort towards the implementation of the objectives of the anniversary by implementing the family perspective into planning and decision-making processes.

Drafts on Women’s Issues

The Committee will have before it a draft text on the future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/C.3/57/L.16), which would have the Assembly endorse the recommendations of the working group on the Institute’s future operations, and therefore have the Assembly decide to link the Institute to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations Secretariat.  The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs would have direct responsibility for the Institute.

The draft would also have the Assembly decide to establish a liaison unit of the Institute within DESA, create the post of Deputy Director with specific fund-raising responsibilities, allocate some $500,000 from the regular budget to finance the Institute’s core activities, and maintain the Institute’s Headquarters in the Dominican Republic.

There is also draft on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/57/L.17), by which the General Assembly would urge Governments to take appropriate measures to address the root factors, including external factors, that encourage trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and other forms of commercialised sex, forced marriages and forced labour, in order to eliminate trafficking in women.  States would be urged to strengthen existing legislation with a view to providing better protection of the rights of women and girls and to perpetrators, through both criminal and civil measures.

The text would have the Assembly call upon all Governments to criminalize trafficking in women and children, and to condemn and penalize all those offenders involved, including intermediaries, while ensuring that the victims of those practices were not penalized.  It would call upon Governments to take steps to ensure that the treatment of victims of trafficking are applied with full respect for the human rights of those victims and are consistent with internationally recognized principles of non-discrimination.

A draft on the situation of older women in society (document A/C.3/57/L.18) will also be introduced.  That text would have the Assembly urge Governments to take measures to enable all older women to be actively engaged in all aspects of life by assuming a variety of roles in communities, public life and decision-making, and to develop and implement policies and programmes in cooperation with civil society to ensure that older women can achieve their full enjoyment of human rights and quality of life, with a view to contributing to the realization of a society for all ages.

The Assembly would call upon the international community to fully address the link between older women and development and invite Governments and the wider international community to consider, in their development planning, the increasing responsibilities of older women in providing care and assistance for victims of HIV/AIDS.

The resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/57/L.19), would have the Assembly express its concern at the great number of reports that are overdue and continue to be overdue, in particular initial reports, which constitutes an obstacle to the full implementation of the Convention.  It would also have the Assembly encourage the Secretariat to extend further technical assistance to States parties, upon their request, in the preparation of reports, and invite Governments to contribute to those efforts.

There is also a draft resolution on working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour (document A/C.3/57/L.20).  By the terms of the text the Assembly would call upon all States to continue to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate crimes against women committed in the name of honour by using legislative, administrative and programmatic measures; to investigate promptly and thoroughly, prosecute effectively and document cases of crimes against women committed in the name of honour and punish the perpetrators; to encourage the efforts of the media to engage in awareness-raising campaigns; and to establish, strengthen or facilitate support services to respond to the needs of actual and potential victims by providing appropriate protection for them.

The Committee will also have before it a draft resolution on improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/C.3/57/L.21), would have the Assembly, taking into account the continuing lack of representation or under representation of women from certain countries -- in particular from developing countries –- express its regret that the goal of 50/50 gender distribution was not met by the end of 2000, and urge the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to realize significant progress toward that goal.

The text would further have the Assembly strongly encourage Member States to, among other things, support United Nations efforts to achieve the goal of 50/50 gender distribution, identify women candidates for assignment in peacekeeping missions, and identify and nominate more women candidates for appointment or election as judges or other senior officials in international courts or tribunals.

Also before the Committee is a draft resolution on the elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of the twenty-third special session on the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000” (document A/C.3/57/L.22).  It would have the Assembly call upon States to fulfil their obligations under the relevant human rights instruments and implement the Beijing Platform for Action as well as the outcome of the special session.

That text also would have the Assembly express deep concern at the persistence of various forms of violence against women and girls especially all forms of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as economic exploitation, including trafficking in women and children, female infanticide, crimes committed in the name of honour, crimes committed in the name of passion, racially motivated crimes, the abduction and sale of children, dowry-related violence and death, acid attacks and harmful traditional or customary practices, such as female genital mutilation and early enforced marriages.

Action on Drafts

The Committee first took up draft resolutions on matters related to social development, including the world social situation.

It then approved a draft on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/57/L.14/Rev.1), without a vote.

The Committee approved without vote a text on Preparation for the observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/57/L.6).

It next approved without vote a draft on promoting youth employment (document A/C.3/57/L.12).  [Prior to the unanimous adoption of the text, the representative of Senegal, its main sponsor, announced some minor technical amendments.]

A draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all (document A/C.3/57/L.13/Rev.1) was also approved without a vote.

Following that action, the Committee decided to take note of two reports of the Secretary-General on preparations for the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 (document A/57/139 and Corr.1), and on the International Year of Volunteers: outcomes and future perspectives (document A/57/352).

A draft text on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (A/C.3/57/L.15/Rev.1) was also approved without a vote.

Introduction of Drafts

Before the Committee took up matters related to indigenous populations, it heard the introduction of six draft texts on the advancement of women.

The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing countries, China and Mexico, introduced the draft resolution on the future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/C.3/57/L.16). 

She highlighted the difficulties the Institute had faced over the years -- from lack of funding to a leadership void -- but stressed that the importance of its work should not be considered in a vacuum, but within the broader context of the United Nations machinery for the advancement of women.  She also expressed the frustration of many States that recent decisions concerning Institute's operation had been taken without explanation or deliberation by the wider Assembly.  What was clear was that INSTRAW must remain operational, whatever the cost.

A draft text on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/57/L.17), was introduced by the representative of Philippines.

She drew the Committee's attention to the draft's request of the Secretary-General to include in his report to the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly, proposals for a future international/United Nations year against trafficking in persons, especially in women and girls, in order to protect their dignity and human rights.

The representative of Sweden introduced the resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/57/L.19).

The representative of Netherlands then introduced a text on working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour (document A/C.3/57/L.20).

A draft resolution on improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/C.3/57/L.21), was introduced by the representative of New Zealand.

The final text before the Committee today is a draft resolution on the elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000” (document A/C.3/57/L.22) -- was introduced by the representative of Pakistan.

Introductory Statement on Indigenous Issues

BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report on the implementation of the programme of activities of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.  During the reporting period, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had been established.  The proposal to consider establishing a Permanent Forum had been made at the Vienna World Conference, and the launch of this new body was an important contribution to the many other activities carried out within the decade.  The report also contained the first report of the newly appointed Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights of indigenous people. 

He said that during the reporting period, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights continued to promote inter-agency cooperation through collaboration with UNCTAD and the ILO within the framework of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.  Collaboration had led to initiatives such as the workshop on indigenous peoples, private sector natural resource, energy and mining companies and human rights, held in Geneva from 5 to 7 December 2001. 

Ongoing programmes of the Office include the establishment of an indigenous media network; the third workshop on Multiculturalism in Africa; indigenous-led human rights training; indigenous aspects of technical cooperation programmes in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico; and the Indigenous Fellowship Programme.

ANDREW BEGG (New Zealand) said the role of the Forum was not to duplicate, but to enhance the work of agencies by promoting coordination between agencies and awareness of indigenous issues.  To assist United Nations agencies in their work, the Forum would provide information, advice and recommendations on indigenous perspectives.  If the Permanent Forum was to be effective in its role, it was essential that it received full support and involvement of both States and the relevant specialized agencies, including the provision of necessary technical and financial support.  The effective functioning of the Forum would depend on its secretariat.  If this Committee failed to follow through on that commitment, all Member States would be held to account by the world’s indigenous people.

He said the Treaty of Waitangi was a founding document of New Zealand and continued to guide both Maori and the Government in their dealings with one another.  The Government remained firmly committed to fulfilling its obligations as a treaty partner.  It also remained committed to reducing inequalities between Maori and non-Maori.  When reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this year, the Committee had been pleased with progress made in New Zealand, especially with the settlement of historical grievances, efforts to address the specific needs of Maori, and policies for the revitalization of the Maori language.  The Committee had also made a number of recommendations for further action, which would, of course, be carefully considered by New Zealand. 

WEGGER C. STROMMEN (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was the result of a decade of dedicated work by indigenous peoples in cooperation with Governments, and it constituted a milestone in the realization of one of the major objectives of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.  It was a significant milestone in the advancement of the aspiration of indigenous peoples worldwide and in the international recognition of the rightful place of indigenous peoples within the United Nations -- a place where they could discuss common challenges and voice their concerns on an equal footing with Governments. 

The Forum of experts, representing indigenous peoples as well as Governments, therefore had the capacity to address the economic, cultural, social, educational, health and human rights concerns of indigenous peoples and to do so by assisting in the increased coordination between the various United Nations institutions that dealt with indigenous issues.  It was important to recognize the potential of the Permanent Forum to address and facilitate the resolution of the problems faced by indigenous peoples around the world, he said. 

ALEJANDRO NEGRIN (Mexico) said the situation of Mexico's indigenous population had been a high priority for President Fox.  The promotion of all their rights was based on the country's support and promotion of a pluralistic society as well as the design of unique and targeted policies that affected more than 10 million people.  A major initiative put forward by the president had been the National Plan for Indigenous Populations (2001-2006), which focused on, among other things, health, education, housing culture and economic development. Mexico had also begun a programme which distributed free textbooks in indigenous languages and promoted the enhancement of education for indigenous populations.  A basic infrastructure programme focused on environmental issues.

Last year, he said, the Congress had approved a programme of constitutional reform on indigenous development and culture, which recognized and guaranteed the rights of indigenous communities to self-determination.  While that reform had

not satisfied the needs of all Mexico's indigenous people, its overall objectives were still being deliberated and shaped.  Mexico would continue to work through dialogue in order to ensure institutional development, respect for cultural diversity and equality between all members of Mexican Society.

On the International Decade, he said it was important to address the open issues regarding the programme of activities, particularly to ensure the continued operation and success of the Permanent Forum.  It was also important to ensure that the international community remained seized of indigenous issues once the Decade came to an end.

CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said Chile believed the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues were essential to the achievement of full recognition for the rights of indigenous peoples.  Chile’s indigenous policy was based on the Nueva Imperial Agreement through which the Government guaranteed the effective recognition in the Constitution of Chile’s original peoples and the establishment of a National Indigenous Development Corporation.  The Agreement marked the end of the policy of division of communities and assimilation of the indigenous population into the broader society.  As an act of historical reparation and profound symbolism, the Government had tabled in the National Congress a draft constitutional reform whereby Chilean society would recognize the value and diversity of the cultures and heritage of its indigenous peoples.

Chile was very conscious of the special relationship between indigenous peoples and the earth, and one of the most important Presidential commitments in this respect was therefore the transfer of 150,000 new hectares of land to indigenous communities, he said.  From 1994 to 2001, more than 215,449 hectares had been transferred -- benefiting some 5,000 indigenous families.  

CAROLINE LEWIS, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the world’s 350 million indigenous and tribal peoples were frequently the most impoverished and disadvantaged groups in any country.  They were often in a numerical minority living under national laws that did not address their specific situations, characteristics and needs.  ILO believed that indigenous peoples needed not only their rights as workers and their right to decent work promoted and protected, but also their right to be protected from all forms of exploitation and discrimination.  ILO Conventions 107 and 169 established minimum standards with respect to the civil, political, social and economic rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.  Convention 169 particularly provided for equality in the treatment of and opportunities offered to, indigenous peoples.

At the same time, it recognized the right of indigenous peoples to retain their own culture and customary laws including self-identification, traditional land rights and language.  She outlined some of the initiatives undertaken by ILO concerning indigenous peoples and said the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was a true vehicle for the advocacy of indigenous peoples’ rights and a chance for indigenous peoples and governments to meet on an equal basis to address mutual concerns. 

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For information media. Not an official record.