14 May 2003


Press Release

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Second Session

5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)                              



Importance of Self-Determination,

Right to Consent on Development Projects Also Cited

“Sustainable development is achievable only if it is based on the cultural foundation and management capacity of the indigenous people involved”, said a representative of the Inter-American Development Bank as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues began its discussion on economic and social development today.

Despite material poverty, discrimination, and environmental degradation, indigenous peoples were defining new avenues for more durable, balanced and inclusive development, he said.  The Bank was proud to support these new approaches, while attempting to recognize past mistakes and establish processes of genuine dialogue to overcome distrust, ethnocentrism and prejudice. 

A representative of the Partnership for Indigenous Peoples Environment said the most important right for indigenous communities was the right to self-determination.  While he welcomed partnerships with institutions such as the World Bank, it was essential that indigenous peoples became equal partners in these relationships.  The Permanent Forum should recommend that States implement the right to self-determination because of its direct link to the right for social and economic development.

The representative of the Philippines said the Forum should continue to place the utmost importance upon ensuring respect for the right of indigenous peoples in the planning and implementation of economic and social development projects.  Towards that end, the Philippines had taken steps to include the voice of indigenous peoples in the planning and implementation of socio-economic projects and had recognized indigenous communities as equal partners in shaping, crafting and implementing development programmes.

Although indigenous people must adapt to the modern system, they must do so in traditional ways, remarked a representative of the Parlamento del Pueblo Qullana Aymara.  Indigenous people had become almost completely dependent on non-indigenous economic systems, due to the failure of projects aiming to help them.  He asked well-meaning organizations to assist indigenous people in reviving traditional economic systems.

While applauding recent World Bank policies and initiatives, such as a recently established small-grants facility for indigenous people, several speakers remarked that the Bank had lent millions of dollars for projects that had led to the destruction of indigenous communities and environment.  Indigenous communities had asked for compensation in return for that destruction, and speakers hoped that that issue would be addressed.

It was also felt that certain policies pursued by the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund had impacted negatively upon indigenous populations.  Speakers called for the re-establishment of the right to free, prior and informed consent for development projects affecting indigenous peoples and the prevention the involuntary resettlement of indigenous peoples.

Other speakers lamented the fact that the interests of indigenous peoples were subordinate to the interests of the private sector, often resulting in the devastation of their natural environment.  They called for governments to implement policies that respected the systems and lives of the indigenous peoples, and to create conditions to strengthen juridical security for their territories.

During a question-and-answer period in the meeting, Forum members asked whether United Nations agencies had specific policies on indigenous people, and whether the Inter-American Development Bank had a mechanism allowing dialogue with indigenous people.

The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme

(UN-HABITAT) said his organization had a policy addressing disadvantaged groups, which included indigenous peoples, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said it had incorporated indigenous needs into its programming stages.  The representative of the Inter-American Development Bank said the Bank had a specific mandate dealing with indigenous peoples and also had an indigenous unit within the Bank.

Also speaking were the representatives of Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

Speakers also included representatives of the Permanent Forum on Forests and the World Bank.

Representatives of Saulteau First Nations, Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazonica, Centro de Estudia Aymaras of Bolivia, Consejo Internacional de Trafados Indios, Fundación para la Promoción de Conocimiento Indígena, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, American Indian Community Health, Comisión Jurídica, and Indigenous Peoples Caucus on Sustainable Development, and Bethechilokono (Indigenous People of Saint Lucia) also spoke.

In addition, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, Indigenous and Nations Coalition, Pacific Caucus, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, Lumad Peoples Movement for Peace, Hill Watch Human Rights, Consejo de Pueblos y Organizaciones Indígenas del Ecuador, Council of Spiritual Elders of Mother Earth, Asian Indigenous Peoples Caucus, Association of Limbu Shamans, Pimichikimak Indigenous Nations, Seventh Generation and Grass Roots made statements.

The Forum will meet again on Thursday at 10 a.m. to conclude its discussion on economic and social development.


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met this morning to begin consideration of its mandated area of economic and social development.  (For background information see Press Release HR/4658 of 8 May.)


PEKKA PATOSSARI, Director of the Permanent Forum on Forests, said his organization had been created to offer indigenous people an opportunity to effectively participate in global deliberations on forests.  Key issues of the Permanent Forum on Forests paralleled developments in forest policy discussions, and much could be learned from the process.  The Permanent Forum on Forests had recently expanded its efforts to include youth partners in its deliberations through multi-stakeholder dialogues.

Some 60 million indigenous people lived in and depended on forests for social and economic well-being, he continued.  Forests provided food, medicine, a cash income and jobs and, indirectly, were responsible for maintaining water and soil quality.  The sustainable management of forests was clearly a key issue for many indigenous people, especially in eliminating poverty and improving the quality of life for forest-dwelling people.

The Permanent Forum on Forests, he said, was committed to realizing Millennium Goals as the commitments of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  As a universal body, the Permanent Forum on Forests served as a key intergovernmental mechanism for implementing forest management goals at the international, national and regional levels.  It was important for the Permanent Forum on Forests to work closely with all major groups, including indigenous people.

SELMAN ERGUDEN, Coordinator of the United Nations Housing Rights Programme, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said that, as humankind was becoming increasingly urbanized, the concerns of indigenous peoples were also increasingly taking on an urban dimension.  Experiences from cities and towns all around the world indicated that modern urban lifestyles were already quite difficult for large numbers of indigenous peoples.  In this clash of cultures and lifestyles, indigenous peoples, particularly children and youth, faced formidable challenges in their quest to retain their traditional culture.  UN–HABITAT undertook activities related to indigenous peoples primarily within three initiatives; namely, the “Global Campaign on Urban Governance”, the “Global Campaign for Secure Tenure” and the “United Nations Housing Rights Programme”.

The first stage of the United Nations Housing Rights Programme had a specific focus on the needs of indigenous peoples, he said.  Consequently, the Programme had initiated a study entitled “Indigenous peoples’ housing rights”.  Its objective was to identity the current status of, obstacles to and practical solutions for greater protection and promotion of housing rights of indigenous peoples.  Specific attention would be paid to the various elements of the right to adequate housing, such as homelessness, security of tenure, accessibility, affordability and cultural adequacy, which would be analysed in the context of indigenous peoples.  The principles of equality and non-discrimination would be linked to each of those elements throughout the research project.  It would also have a particular focus on indigenous women, children and youth.

The beneficiaries of this research initiative would be policy makers dealing with the rights of indigenous peoples in general and housing rights in particular, researchers, practitioners and organizations involved in related issues.  He said the ultimate beneficiaries were the indigenous peoples themselves, particularly indigenous women, who could use the findings and recommendations of this study for the improvement of their living conditions.

ANA ANGARITA, Reproductive Rights Adviser of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Geneva, said indigenous people often lacked access to basic social services, including education and sexual and reproductive health services and information.  Several factors determined the level of access, including physical accessibility, affordability, cultural beliefs and discrimination, including gender-based discrimination.

The poor situation of many indigenous people had encouraged the UNFPA to take action, especially in promoting reproductive health and rights, she said.  The UNFPA emphasized that access to reproductive health care was a right and should apply to all people, without discrimination.  Moreover, effective sexual and reproductive health programmes safeguarded other rights, such as the rights to life, health, to freely decide the number and spacing of children, to an adequate standard of living, to information and education, and to freedom from sexual violence and coercion.  The UNFPA had attempted to incorporate the perspectives and specific needs of indigenous communities into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the population, development and environment programmes that affected them.

CHRISTOF KUECHEMANN, Deputy Manager, Sustainable Development Department of the Inter-American Development Bank, said that, despite material poverty, discrimination, and environmental degradation, indigenous peoples were showing, with more strength every day, that sustainable development was achievable only if it was based on the cultural foundation and management capacity of the people involved.  In this regard, the indigenous peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean were defining new avenues for a more durable, balanced and inclusive development.  The Bank was proud to support these new approaches, while attempting to recognize past mistakes and to establish processes of genuine dialogue to overcome distrust, ethnocentrism, and prejudice.

He said a main goal of the Bank’s action was promoting development with identity for indigenous peoples, which entailed a three-pronged approach -– the strengthening of the indigenous economy as a basis for sustenance of the family; reduction of discrimination in the labour markets and increased access to social and economic services; and the promotion of an intercultural economy that drew on the comparative advantages of the indigenous cultural, natural and social assets.  Indeed, in a globalizing world, there was more and more demand for indigenous goods and services, such as renewable and non-renewable natural resources, arts and handicrafts and ethnotourism.  This would improve living conditions for indigenous peoples, as well as strengthen their assets, provided that progress be made in the definition and implementation of effective measures to protect their intellectual property rights. 

Poverty reduction and sustainable growth were the central objectives of the Bank, he continued.  The Bank had been concerned with indigenous issues for more than 20 years, and by the end of 2002, comprised around 20 per cent of the total number of projects approved by year.  Although this represented significant progress, these projects had not always resulted in real improvements in the quality of life of indigenous families, he said.  The Bank had learned that sustainable processes were only achievable when there was real participation of indigenous people in the conceptualization, design and execution of the projects.  Based on these lessons learned, the Bank has started to support a new generation of projects that recognized the leadership of beneficiaries in the definition of their problems and solutions and that promoted territorially-based integrated and participatory development of indigenous communities.

Questions and Comments

During a discussion portion of the meeting, Forum members asked whether United Nations agencies had any policies on indigenous people, and whether they had designated a focal point for mainstreaming indigenous issues in the United Nations system.

They asked the Inter-American Development Bank to ensure that other regional banks, such as the African and Asian Development Banks, could participate in the Forum’s dialogue process.  They also asked him whether any mechanism was being set up to allow true dialogue with indigenous people, which was necessary at a time when the Bank was preparing guidelines on indigenous matters.

Other members asked the representative from the Permanent Forum on Forests whether indigenous people would be able to participate in the upcoming international summit on forests.  Members also asked the UNFPA whether it had any programmes in Africa and, if not, whether it was planning to engage in any.  They proposed that the UNFPA carry out a census on the numbers of indigenous people in Africa, because it currently only had estimates.

One member asked UN-HABITAT whether it had future plans to address the plight of street children.

Another commented that United Nations agencies collected data in various nations, and the Forum could benefit with more coordination with such agencies.  In that respect, was UN-HABITAT planning to hold any methodological seminars with respect to data collection?

Responding to questions from the floor, the representative of the Permanent Forum on Forests said it was not an agency; it was an intergovernmental mechanism with universal membership, which collaborated with all agencies and secretariats of forestry-related conventions.  Based on the discussions that had taken place so far, he was confident that the Forum on Forests would be able to develop a strategy for indigenous issues.

The representative of UN-HABITAT said his organization had no specific policy on indigenous peoples, but had a policy addressing disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, which included indigenous peoples.  Concerning street children, UN-HABITAT had a specific programme to address this problem, he said.  On whether UN-HABITAT was planning regional seminars concerning the United Nations Housing Rights Programme, he said there were insufficient resources to do so.  However, there would be three regional consultations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The representative of the UNFPA said that in every programming stage the organization incorporated the needs of indigenous peoples and had mandates to address issues such as gender equality and empowerment.  The UNFPA had ongoing initiatives in a couple of African countries and was currently developing a regional strategy in Latin America on population issues.  The UNFPA endorsed the idea of a High-Level Segment on indigenous women at next year’s Forum, she said.

The representative of the Inter-American Development Bank said that the Bank had a specific mandate going back to 1994 to deal with the problems of indigenous peoples and also had an indigenous unit within the Bank.  It wished to cooperate with United Nations agencies.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative said her Organization did have a policy on engagement with indigenous peoples, which had been launched at the World Conference Against Racism in 2002.


A representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said his department serviced various intergovernmental bodies that could assist the Forum.  The DESA was also a crucial player in the coordinated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits.  It was heavily involved in coordination with United Nations agencies, and could assist the Forum in that respect.

A participant made a statement on behalf of the Saami Council; the Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network; the Tebtebba Foundation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission, and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.  He recommended that the Forum take note of the future mandate of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge.  He expressed the wish that the Committee’s mandate have as its clear objective the preservation of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and expression of culture of indigenous peoples at national, regional and international levels.

He called upon WIPO Committee to continue to cooperate with agencies of the United Nations system.  He welcomed the active involvement of indigenous people on the WIPO Committee and called for such involvement to be enhanced through greater use of position papers and information materials, among other things.  He endorsed the Johannesburg Programme of Implementation, and the Millennium Goals, especially with respect to indigenous people, and recognized the importance of transforming goals affecting indigenous peoples into realities.

ALBERT DE TERVILLE, Chairperson of the Aldet Centre-Saint Lucia, on behalf of the Bethechilokono (Indigenous people of St Lucia), said that the livelihood of indigenous peoples in Saint Lucia was based on traditional arts and crafts.  Families were working together side-by-side and perpetuating the culture.  There was no official policy to assist them in their way of life, however, and indigenous peoples in Saint Lucia required assistance from United Nations agencies, as well as their own government.  Indigenous youth were showing disinclination towards the perpetuation of the arts and craft industry; therefore, modern technology should be used to encourage them to perpetuate their traditions.

DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) said his Government was devising programmes based on dialogues with indigenous people to assist them with projects satisfying their own aspirations and hopes.  Indigenous people had been shunted aside in Mexico, and were the most abandoned group.  In 2002, Mexico had developed a programme to assist them, which included rural investment projects in marginalized areas of the countryside.  Funds had also been earmarked for regional development projects, which would help finance viable production and sustainable development projects.

ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines) said the Forum should continue to give the utmost importance to ensuring respect for the right of indigenous peoples in the planning and implementation of economic and social development projects.  Toward this end, the Philippines had taken steps to include the voice of indigenous peoples in the planning and implementation of socio-economic projects.  Furthermore, in preparing a blueprint for sustainable development, the Philippine Government had recognized indigenous cultural communities as equal partners in shaping, crafting and implementing development programmes, as well as in creating a healthy and safe living environment.

Dialogue between Member States and indigenous peoples at the national and international levels must be encouraged, he continued, especially regarding human rights and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity.  The Philippine Commission on Human Rights and the Presidential Human Rights Committee were addressing, preventing, investigating and prosecuting violations of human rights in the context of indigenous cultural communities.  The Philippine Government hoped that the enthusiasm emanating from this session would be translated into specific recommendations aimed at enhancing and improving the lives of indigenous peoples.

NICOLE HETU, of the Saulteau First Nations of Canada, said her community continued to maintain a relationship to the Treaty 8 territory in British Columbia, Canada.  To this day, it had continued to remember, honour and fulfil the promises that its ancestors had made to the Crown.  The State, unfortunately, had elected to forget the binding commitments that the Crown had made.  The Saulteau urged the federal Government to implement Treaty 8 with the direct and active involvement, and according to the aspirations of, indigenous people.  Government and corporate entities seeking to engage in development activities within Saulteau territories must seek the free, prior and informed consent of its indigenous leaders before commencing any projects within the traditional territories.

The Saulteau endorsed the recommendation that an external international body must act as an observer to ensure that the implementation of the Treaty happened, she said.  The current relationship maintained by the Government with the “Indian bands” remained colonial in nature.  That relationship must change as the nations saw fit, based on a respectful “nation-to-nation” relationship, according to terms accepted by the indigenous peoples.

SEBASTIAO HAJI MANCHINERI, representing the Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica (COICA), said economic development had to be based on principles and human values and approached in a holistic way; after all, people were intimately related to their own lands.  The consequences of economic indebtedness must not be forgotten, and indigenous peoples must make sure that their grandchildren would not inherit a world where they must pay the debts that this generation had created for them.

The situation for indigenous peoples was a desperate one, he continued.  Nature had been polluted into a hellhole, and material well-being was deteriorating.  Furthermore, the interests of the indigenous peoples were subordinated to the interests of the private sector.  He recommended that Governments take measures to repair the damage that had already been done, and asked the Colombian Government in particular, to stop fumigation in his territories.  Governments should implement State policies that respected the systems and lives of the indigenous peoples, and should also create conditions to strengthen juridical security for their territories.  Most importantly, it must be ensured that indigenous peoples themselves made the decisions about matters that concerned them.

MARIA EUGENIA CHOQUE, Centro de Estudia Aymaras of Bolivia, said her people had been shunted aside and hit hard economically, falling far short of development aspirations.  Fortunately, no one was suffering from hunger, since the group’s lifestyle was based on solidarity, justice and fairness.  She urged national and international bodies to promote and foster production and market access for foodstuffs in her region.

She stressed that indigenous people must be direct players and actors participating in their own development, which would ensure their cultural identity.

GOODLUCK DIIGBO, President of the Partnership for Indigenous Peoples Environment, said the Forum should recommend that indigenous peoples become equal partners in international trade.  The twentieth century had been 100 years of colonialism and disempowerment for indigenous peoples, and he hoped that this Forum would be able to restore the balance.  The United Nations had done much to this end, but much remained to be done.  The international community needed a new heart and a new spirit to create opportunities for indigenous peoples.

The most important right was the right to self-determination, which was the backbone of human dignity, he said.  While indigenous peoples welcomed partnership with World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it was essential for indigenous peoples to become equal partners.  This Forum, he said, should recommend that Member States implement the right to self-determination because of its direct link to the right to social and economic development.

JORGE GOMEZ, of the Parlamento del Pueblo Qullana Aymara, said indigenous people had become almost completely dependent on non-indigenous economic systems, due to the failure of projects aiming to help them.  Indigenous people needed cooperation without monetary transactions.  They needed community assistance, reciprocity, and freedom from the slavery of the dollar and other monetary systems.  That sort of economy was a historical necessity.

He asked non-governmental organizations and United Nations entities to shift their focus from monetary initiatives, which could be world killers of indigenous cultures.  He asked well-meaning organizations to assist indigenous people in reviving traditional economic systems.  Although indigenous people must adapt to the modern system, they must do so with traditional ways.  Being indigenous was not just dressing in colourful clothes.  Being indigenous was in the depth of the soul.

The representative of the Consejo Internacional de Trafados Indios recommended the Forum express its disappointment that the World Bank did not take fully into account the wishes of indigenous peoples into its policies.  He said the Forum should ask the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to recommend to the World Bank that it include a safeguard in its policies to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Commission for Sustainable Development should address the need for a rights-based approach for the sustainable development of indigenous peoples, he said.  Given the present state of indigenous peoples, the Forum should call upon United Nations agencies to recommend and ultimately declare a new decade for indigenous peoples to finish the work of the first decade that obviously remained undone.

A representative of the Fundacion para la Promocion de Conocimiento Indigena suggested that the Forum recommend to ECOSOC and United Nations agencies that States and United Nations agencies reaffirm the vital role of indigenous people in sustainable development.  It should also recommend that ECOSOC adopt the action plan of indigenous people, as drawn up in Kimberly.  In addition, he called for immediate action on the draft declaration of Indigenous people.

In the current era of globalization, indigenous people were subjected to the extraction and marketing of their natural resources without their consent.  No international instrument existed to guarantee the control of indigenous people over their natural resources.  The survival of and respect for indigenous rights was jeopardized by unsustainable development and the loss of lands.  Indigenous people were being shunted to the sidelines, and then exposed to genocide, the seizing of their lands, destruction of their economies and loss of their cultures.

The representative of Brazil said that in his country, there was a meaningful dialogue between the Government and indigenous communities.  The evolving discussion of indigenous issues was a chance to reinforce commitments at home, and the Permanent Forum needed to act as a catalyst for the implementation of projects to improve conditions for indigenous peoples.  The Millennium Development Goals were a suitable blueprint for action.

The alleviation of poverty for indigenous peoples in Brazil was a top priority for his Government, he continued.  In January 2003 a programme had been set up in his country called “zero hunger”, which provided access to food for millions for Brazilians.  The specific needs of indigenous peoples were recognized in the programme’s mandate.  Also, international cooperation to direct funds to help indigenous peoples in developing countries must increase.

LEGBORSI SARO PYAGBARA, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, of Nigeria, said the situation of the Ogoni people had gone from bad to worse in recent years.  Despite the country’s 100 oil wells, a petrochemical complex, refineries, a fertilizer complex, an ocean terminal and an export-processing zone, none of them employed Ogoni people in any serious positions.

The most appalling situation at the moment was the ongoing, unjust dismissal of Ogoni employees in the services of the Government and companies in the country, without recourse to due process.  Moreover, 8,000 of the 10,000 petitions received by the Human Rights Violations Investigation Panel in 1999 had come from Ogoni.  Most referred to horrendous abuses of Ogoni rights that had occurred under the military and were still continuing.

Nigeria, he said, had an external debt burden of about $30 billion.  The IMF and the World Bank had recommended intensified exploitation of oil and gas, which constituted over 90 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.  None of those debts had been incurred by Ogoni projects, or had been even remotely beneficial to the Ogoni.  More exploitation of oil and gas would mean increased degradation of the environment, the basis of the Ogoni’s economic and social well-being.

JOHN SINCLAIR (Canada) said his country’s market-driven approach to aboriginal economic development was having some success.  There were now over 30,000 businesses in Canada owned and operated by aboriginal people.  Those businesses had an annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent, which was four times the national growth rate for Canada as a whole.  Federal initiatives supporting greater aboriginal participation in the economy were based on enhancing sectoral and local planning and support capacity; addressing access to capital needs; strategic investments in partnerships; and promoting an attractive business climate by resolving statutory and regulatory impediments.

To provide needed tools for economic and social development on reserves, the First Nations were leading the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act Initiative, which would establish a suite of four institutions, including a finance authority, a tax commission, a financial management board and a First Nations statistical institute.  Measures to strengthen aboriginal women’s participation in the economy had been a particular focus over the past year.  Their participation in the labour force was currently being reviewed, and a business-planning guide for aboriginal women entrepreneurs was currently in production.

CATHERINE THUNDERBIRD, of American Indian Community Health, said that the indigenous American youth of yesterday had grown up without their native health and culture.  She hoped that situation would change, with the help of the Forum.  Alcohol and drug addiction, and physical and mental abuse were now a way of life.  Given that, what lay ahead for indigenous children?  She called on the Forum to take action before indigenous American people lost any more of their youth.

Referring to Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, she said the reserve suffered from a lack of nourishment, decent shelter, and educational opportunities.  Pine Ridge was the poorest reservation in the nation, where people lived in total devastation.  How could its children overcome the obstacles that lay before them? There, and on other reserves, indigenous people were succumbing to epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

The representative of the World Bank said that, as an institution committed to poverty reduction, the Bank could not ignore data showing a high correlation between poverty and the indigenous.  It was a sad fact that indigenous people worldwide had faced discrimination in terms of access to basic services and conditions essential to maintaining their ways of life.  The Bank was working to help indigenous people further their development objectives in a variety of different ways.

The Bank was working to strengthen the technical capacity of self-managed sustainable development, and to create a learning partnership between indigenous peoples, donor organizations and governments.  The Bank had a growing portfolio of projects with regard to indigenous peoples, including support for indigenous capacity-building, alleviating poverty amongst indigenous peoples, and strengthening social capital in indigenous communities.  The Bank was also disseminating the experience learned from development initiatives to national governments, and developing training and research programmes to increase Bank staff and borrower-government understanding of the critical importance of indigenous peoples.  The Bank was taking an active role in listening and learning from the meeting.

TOMAS ALARCON, representative of the Comision Juridica, said that indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean were victimized by the improper economic policies of the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and were the most impoverished people on the continent.  The economies set up in those lands had created a situation where indigenous peoples could barely scrape by.  There was no reason why indigenous peoples should continue to live in poverty, merely because of the inefficient policies of ECLAC.  The Commission should provide a fresh framework for its own economic policies and provide fresh data and research to benefit the indigenous peoples of the region.

VICTORIA TAULI, of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus on Sustainable Development, noted that extraction industries on indigenous lands were meant to bring development, economic growth and reduced poverty.  Rather than bringing development, however, they had brought more poverty and misery to indigenous people.  Case studies in several communities in seven countries had shown that those industries had threatened the survival of indigenous people, and led to human rights violations and conflicts.  Mining and oil and gas development projects were ruining the basic means for existence of indigenous people, and poisoning hope for future generations.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was one of world’s most powerful multilateral organizations, she continued.  It was not a body that reported to the Forum.  She noted that indigenous people had been adversely affected by WTO agreements, with some leading to the destruction of their lifestyles.  She recommended that the WTO address the Forum, and explain how it was responding to indigenous concerns.

With regard to a small-grants facility for indigenous people recently announced by the World Bank, she respected and applauded it.  However, the World Bank had lent millions of dollars for projects that had led to the destruction of indigenous communities and their environments.  She would like to see the issue of compensation for that destruction addressed by the Bank.  The small grants facility should not be used in exchange for those demands.

A representative of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference said that for the past 25 years, the Conference had been involved in many issues that affected the world community.  Unlike many communities, the Inuit did not look at the economy as separate from all other aspects of their lives.  Perhaps that was why Inuit society had often been portrayed as primitive in the western media.  Inuit had always had, and continued to have, a thriving economy that remained embedded in Inuit society.  However, Inuit were not immune to the successes of modern society, and were a practical people.  The impact of global economic conditions on the Inuit was evident, and many Inuit youth were losing their way.  The Inuit must continue to protect their economy from devastating influences, such as global warming.  They would not be able to build upon their traditional economy, if that economy was swept away from them.

MRINAL KANTI TRIPURA, of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samit, said socio-economic development programmes in Bangladesh had included no projects for indigenous people.  In some cases, development projects had adverse impacts on indigenous people, since they were not consulted upon or involved in the programmes.  Many lived in the forests, but suffered due to the discriminatory policies and acts of the forest departments.  Due to the non-recognition of traditional laws, indigenous people were losing control of their ancestral territory.

He recommended constitutional recognition of indigenous people, traditional lands and territories, indigenous people at all levels of development and traditional, indigenous institutions.

LEZ MALEZER, representative of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, urged the Permanent Forum to consider ways to keep States and international agencies aware of the right of indigenous peoples to exercise full control over commercial development of their resources.  British and Australian law had not recognized his people’s existence until 1992 and ever since then, the Government had legislated away much of his people’s capacity to own and to manage their lands.  In the past year, the Australian courts had made decisions that severely limited their ownership of the lands.  For example, the courts said that his people did not own what lay below the lands, or what grew or existed on top of the lands.  The courts even said that his people did not have the right to exclude other people from entering or traversing their lands.  His people did not accept those assertions, which were no different to the assertions made in 1788, when their lands were stolen.

He asked that the Forum consider ways to educate and inform States, like Australia, of the right to exist as “indigenous peoples”, and asked the Australian Government to clarify its position to the Forum on such key indigenous rights, as other States had freely done during this session.

NA KOA IKAIKA O KA LAHUI, of the Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition, noted that there were cases where territories had been removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and reinstated.  In such cases, all resources should resort to the peoples of those territories.  He referred to several documents within the United Nations system regarding the right to self-determination and development.  There were already processes in the United Nations for indigenous people in the decolonization process, especially those recognized as independent.

When the Forum could not apply a sense of universality to the rights of indigenous people, or could not deal with certain situations, those cases should be passed on to powers that could, he said.  The Forum should be willing to examine all cases and give those indigenous people due process.

The representative of the Pacific Caucus said that many of the indigenous peoples in the pacific were under the jurisdiction of colonial powers that ran the world economy.  There were also those living in small island nations that were vulnerable to outside influences.  The Pacific Caucus viewed the World Bank and the WTO’s attempts to push sustainable development on them without prior agreement with great concern.  The Permanent Forum should urge the World Bank to continue consultation with indigenous peoples that would address the issues that were currently outstanding.

She acknowledged the progress made by the indigenous peoples’ representatives and the World Bank, and welcomed the development of a more sound policy to stem the adverse affects that World Bank policies had on indigenous peoples.  However, there were still contentious issues that had not been resolved.  There was a need to re-establish the right to free, prior and informed consent for development projects affecting indigenous peoples and to prevent the involuntary resettlement of indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples were more than stakeholders; they were rights holders.  They had the right to say no, especially when development initiatives affected their land, health and environment.

SUHAS CHAKMA spoke on behalf of the Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network; Lumad Peoples Movement for Peace; and Hill Watch Human Rights Forum.  He drew attention to the devastating effects of State-sponsored population transfer on indigenous communities, including their economic development.  The United Nations regularly debated and adopted resolutions to stop Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Such resolutions were often sponsored by Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Viet Nam, among other countries.  Yet, at the national level, those countries had been practicing what they opposed at the international level.

She said that because of the sponsored population transfer of over 500,000 illegal plains settlers, the indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bangladesh had been reduced to below 50 per cent of the population, thereby rendering the autonomy granted by the 1997 peace accord meaningless.  The Government sustained the conflict in the Hill tracts by providing free rations only to the illegal settlers under food security schemes supported by international donors.  On the other hand, indigenous Jummas were uprooted from their homes under various programmes, such as deforestation.  The denial of rations to the indigenous Jumma was a racist act of the Government of Bangladesh.

Institutionalized discrimination could only be addressed through the development of binding principles to ensure that indigenous peoples, who were often discriminated by their governments, were given adequate attention by the United Nations and other multilateral agencies.

MARCO MURILLO, representative of the Consejo de Pueblos y Organizaciones Indigenas del Ecuador, said that he was concerned about the situation that many indigenous peoples were experiencing today.  He was also concerned at the grinding poverty that persisted amongst indigenous people.  Structural adjustment programmes had not found viable solutions or alleviated poverty amongst Ecuador’s’ poorest indigenous peoples.  The policies pursued by the World Bank and the IMF did not present an effective way out of such a terrible reality.  Indeed, poverty often went hand-in-hand with structural adjustment programs that were aimed at eliminating it.  Poverty was the greatest barrier standing in the way of the enjoyment of human rights for the indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

LEON SECATERO, of the Council of Spiritual Elders of Mother Earth, presented a resolution entitled “Our Journey on the Sacred Path to the Next 500 Years” to the Forum.  The resolution requests that the spiritual elders and the children of mother earth acknowledge that the sacred indigenous calendar was ending.  It was time to prepare for, and take possession of, the next 500-year journey, which the Council’s ancestors, wisdomkeepers, timekeepers, medicine people and elders did for it 500 years ago in accordance with the great laws, tradition, and fulfilment of sacred prophecies.

The resolution requests that the spiritual elders and leaders at the Forum initiate and focus on the sacred pathway for the next 500 years.  It further requests that the elders and leaders take into account its environment, the four elements, and its relationship to all living things.

The representative of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Caucus said that the majority of indigenous peoples in Asia remained economically marginalized and poverty-stricken.  Because of economic hardship and numerous impositions, there were many social conflicts and problems, particularly among the young.  She requested that the Forum recommend recognition of ancestral land rights, and the right of indigenous peoples to own, manage and develop their own resources.  She looked forward to the establishment of a working group on free, prior and informed consent.

SURJANA SUBBA, of the Association of Limbu Shamans of Nepal, said the indigenous peoples of her country had suffered painful and humiliating conditions from State terrorism, political subjugation, social domination, cultural destruction and economic exploitation.  They had no access to national resources, power or prestige.  They were still discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, culture, language and religion.  The State had expropriated their lands and distributed them to new settlers belonging to dominant caste groups.  It had also denied the traditional rights of indigenous peoples to their natural resources.

Unequal treatment, discrimination, socio-political exclusion and resource deprivation had placed the indigenous people of Nepal at a disadvantage, and the gap between indigenous people and dominant caste groups was rapidly increasing.  The indigenous people of Nepal were claiming recognition of their cultural rights, the right to self-government, special representation rights and special measures for the improvement of their social and economic conditions.  The Government was reluctant to accept those claims and recognize such fundamental rights for indigenous people.

She recommended that the Forum respect the human rights of indigenous people and recognize their right to self-determination; adopt the Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples without delay; declare another international decade for indigenous peoples; and set up a coordinated unit for economic and social development within the Forum Secretariat.

Chief JOHN MISWAGON, representative of the Pimichikimak Indigenous Nation of Canada, said that one of the major issues related to economic and social development was the impact of development programmes on indigenous lands.  He asked the Permanent Forum to direct Member States to respect the self-determination of indigenous peoples and to refrain from development projects on indigenous territories without their consent.  They should recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to control their own economic and social development.

ERNEST MORISTO, of the Seventh Generation and Grass Roots, called for an assessment of the status of sacred sites of indigenous nations.  That assessment should focus on the destructive effects of economic development plans upon the Himdag (Way of Life of the People), as violations of the indigenous rights of future generations.

Baboquivari Mountain, he continued, was the most important sacred site in a family of mountains, springs, and traditional altars of the indigenous peoples of the Sonoran Desert.  The Desert had been home since time immemorial to the O’Odham, whose traditional territories and sacred sites extended from Arizona into northern Mexico.

Economic and social development plans currently proposed by the local Baboquivari District Council of the tribal council system were endangering the sacred nature of the mountain and the unique desert environment surrounding the shrine.  He recommended that the Baboquivari mountains be given a high priority for an investigation by the United Nations, as part of a global assessment of the sacred sites of indigenous people.

WILLIE LITTLECHILD, a member of the Permanent Forum, reported that Adolf Ogi, former President of Switzerland, had been named Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.  The first Conference on Sport and Development had been held in Magglingen, Switzerland, in February 2003.  Development through sport was one of the most promising channels in human development today, he said.  He called upon governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, media and businesses to contribute to sport for development.

Commenting on today’s discussion, other Forum members said that the urban and rural gap was diminishing; therefore, indigenous peoples were increasingly confronted with problems such as access to adequate housing and social exclusion.  They invited governments and the United Nations system to increase their focus on this global trend and expressed concern at development practices that did not take into account indigenous communities.  They called on United Nations system organizations to establish a process of meaningful dialogue with indigenous peoples in the development process. 

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.