SPEAKERS IN PERMANENT FORUM HIGHLIGHT VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, DURING HUMAN RIGHTS DISCUSSION

HR/4673
20 May 2003

SPEAKERS IN PERMANENT FORUM HIGHLIGHT VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, DURING HUMAN RIGHTS DISCUSSION

20/05/2003
Press Release
HR/4673


Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Second Session

13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)                   


SPEAKERS IN PERMANENT FORUM HIGHLIGHT VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS

OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, DURING HUMAN RIGHTS DISCUSSION


As the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues began its discussion of human rights, speakers stressed the importance of clear international guidelines on the human rights of indigenous populations, and called for the urgent adoption of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.


The representative of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations expressed her disappointment that the draft declaration had been pending for nine years before the Commission on Human Rights.  That was unacceptable, she said.  It was clear that certain organizations and governments were not interested in cooperating on that matter and were impeding the completion of the process.  She asked that every effort be made to adopt the draft declaration as soon as possible. 


Norway’s representative also stressed the importance of the draft declaration, whose adoption would contribute greatly to the realization of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.  Its adoption was also essential, he noted, for eliminating discrimination directed against indigenous peoples.


Various speakers highlighted the flagrant abuses of indigenous peoples’ human rights occurring all over the globe.  A representative of the Batwa pygmy people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that her people had been dispossessed of their lands, and their economy, which had been based on the forests, no longer existed.  They survived by begging and were regularly exploited by other groups.  Women were being raped, and her people were being hunted down, massacred and even eaten.  Their culture was disappearing and no steps were being taken to preserve it. 


The representative of the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum said that the original inhabitants of his country were not only treated as encroachers but as serfs.  They were not only discriminated against as indigenous people, but as linguistic and religious minorities.  Hundreds of thousands of non-indigenous people had settled on indigenous land, and displaced indigenous people had not been able to regain their land.


Other speakers highlighted the need to accord indigenous peoples the right of permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.  Indigenous peoples were colonized in the historical, economic and political sense, and they suffered from unfair economic arrangements.  Guaranteeing them rights to their land and resources was necessary to level the economic and political playing field, and to provide protection against exploitative economic arrangements.


At this morning’s session, the Forum concluded its discussion on health.  Speakers stressed that health projects must be tailored to the culture of indigenous peoples, and highlighted the importance of respecting indigenous health-care systems.  States and international organizations must make the best use of indigenous health practices and modern medicine.


Forum members recommended that United Nations agencies design and implement mental health programmes for children and youth, as well as devise programmes to reduce mortality and morbidity rates.  All new and existing programmes should safeguard and salvage the medical knowledge of the indigenous peoples, they stressed.


The representative of the World Bank also spoke this morning, as did representatives of the Retrieve Foundation, Fundación de Gente Indígena Yanomami of Venezuela, Health Unlimited of Guatemala, Awaete Kaiwa, Jharkhandis Organization for Human Rights, Continental de Mujeres Indígenas, Casa Nativa Tampa Allgo Perú, and the Navajo Nation Council.


Addressing the Forum this afternoon were the representatives of Mexico, Nigeria, and Finland, as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 


In addition, statements were made by representatives of the Indigenous Peoples Participants in the World Bank, Asian Indigenous Network, Pacific Caucus, Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition and Wa Koa Ikaika oka Lahui Hawaii, Asian Indigenous Second Tribal Peoples Network, Faira Aboriginal, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordination Committee, Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, International Alliance against Racism, Parlamento Rapa Nui and associated indigenous groups, Asia Caucus, and the Bambouti Pygmy Community of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 May to take up its agenda item on culture.


Background


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met this morning to conclude its discussion on health.  It was also expected to take up its agenda item on human rights.  (For background information see Press Release HR/4658, issued on 8 May.)


Statements


MARGARET CONNOLLY, representative of the Retrieve Foundation, Ireland, said that the Foundation had been founded to promote and support the indigenous Celtic heritage.  Celts had survived colonization and neglect from the elected Government of Ireland, she said.  For 2,000 years, her people had been forced to adapt to a culture that was foreign to them.  Drugs and alcohol were the tools of an oppressive society that had conditioned the Celtic people.  Too many young Celts were on drugs and alcohol, and were committing suicide.  Today, she was asking for the acknowledgement of her people’s existence under the Indigenous Charter by the Government of Ireland.  To that aim, she asked for the Permanent Forum to make a representation on their behalf.  The Forum’s acknowledgement and authority would assure the cooperation of Ireland.


NEURO GALBAN, of the Fundación de Gente Indígena Yanomami of Venezuela, said the Yanomami was considered one of the most ancient and largest indigenous groups on the South American continent.  The group had conserved its cultural patterns, and its livelihood was mainly based on agriculture, fishing, and hunting.  However, such major diseases as malaria and hepatitis B were now affecting 80 per cent of the population.  Unfortunately, only 20 per cent of the population lived in areas close to the health-care centres, where they could be treated.  As a result, the Yanomami was experiencing high rates of morbidity, and various health problems.  No preventive control for diseases existed in the region, and there was a desperate need to increase health coverage.


In 1999, constitutional reform had led to the participation of indigenous peoples in areas regarding health and other rights, demonstrating political will to improve the health situation of indigenous peoples.  He recommended that the Forum encourage the World Health Organization (WHO) to create a model for differentiated health care for indigenous peoples to guarantee the universal right to health.  It should also provide advice to United Nations bodies in the field regarding the creation of a multi-disciplinary group to prepare policies and programmes, and ensure that the group discussed those policies with local people.


MANUELA IXTOS, of Health Unlimited of Guatemala, recommended that the Forum consider establishing another forum or have special meetings in the region, in collaboration with an organization with experience in issues pertaining to children and youth.  Regarding the World Bank, she appealed for the necessary resources to enable the full participation of indigenous peoples in planning poverty-reduction strategies.  In addition, donors should follow a strategy to enhance and expand non-governmental organization networks and entities providing primary health care in areas not covered by the Government.  She also recommended that future sessions of the Forum involve higher levels of governments, since they would be making decisions on priorities and allocation of funds.


IVO MATHIAS, representative of Awaete Kaiwa, Brazil, said that the health problems of indigenous peoples were real and States had entirely overlooked those needs.  It was not only a matter of poverty, there were other factors creating health problems among indigenous peoples.  Problems could be avoided if there were a strengthening of the underlying infrastructures all over Brazil.  Societies that looked on and did nothing could not be classified as “civilized”.


The representative of the Jharkhandis Organisation for Human Rights expressed his concern about the harmful effects of uranium on indigenous peoples, particularly since such harmful activities were often wilfully carried out by governments or companies under the pretext of defence or national security.  The use of polluted topsoil, subsoil and water sources for agriculture also had a detrimental effect on the health of indigenous peoples.  Often the reproductive capacities of women and men were seriously affected, leading to multiple stillbirths or births with very serious congenital deformities.


MARGARITA GUTIERREZ ENLACE, of the Continental de Mujeres Indígenas, stressed that indigenous women were in a particularly worrying situation.  Some States recognized their right to health, but others had policies running counter to that right.  In many cases, indigenous women had no access to education or health services.  She recommended that the World Bank include indigenous women in health programmes.  Otherwise, no account would be taken of the vision and viewpoints of indigenous women.


She hoped that traditional medicines and practices would be considered in health-care programmes for indigenous peoples.  Studies should be carried out, and guidelines should be drawn up on traditional indigenous medicine.  The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) should study medicinal plants and their ownership, so that intellectual property was recognized.


MAGDA GUTIERRES, of the Casa Nativa Tampa Allgo Perú, said people in her indigenous group had no access to health care, medicines or emergency services.  She recommended that the Peruvian Government train indigenous youth in indigenous medicine, which was vital for indigenous peoples and their economies, since modern medicine was so expensive.  Although indigenous peoples often lived far from other established communities, they all had needs and must be assisted.


LAWRENCE MORGAN, representative of the Navajo Nation Council, said that there were only six hospitals in the Navajo territory, and, therefore, medical conditions that would not be a problem in an urban area became far more serious in Navajo territory.  The distances between hospitals were too far and life-saving equipment was not readily available.  Many Navajo people lived without the benefit of electricity, sanitation and running water, contributing to the disproportionately high rate of disease.  There were several solutions to these health problems, however.  He recommended that the Forum support the Navajo nation, as well as making the budget for Indian health care a mandatory measure. 


NAVIN RAI, representative of the World Bank, said that health, nutrition and population were critical sectors of the World Bank’s programmes.  Of the projects under preparation for indigenous peoples, six were directly related to health.  Experience had taught the Bank that special measures were often needed to ensure that indigenous peoples were included in health projects.  Indigenous peoples were often geographically and socially isolated and far from centralized health facilities.  These factors needed to be taken into account to overcome exclusion.


Health projects must be tailored to the culture of indigenous peoples, he continued.  Attention needed to be paid to the special circumstances of indigenous peoples so that projects would be culturally appropriate.  For example, the impact of HIV/AIDS could make indigenous peoples more vulnerable, and the illness needed to be treated differently in indigenous communities.  That could be done through the use of indigenous languages in medical treatment to overcome lack of information and social stigma.


It was also important to respect indigenous health-care systems, he said.  For example, the World Bank’s International Indian Tuberculosis Project was approaching healers and engaging tribal peoples in order to advance treatment.  States and international organizations must make the best cooperative use of indigenous health practices and modern medicine. 


Comments from Forum


A Forum member noted that the majority of the Millennium Goals addressed health in connection with the reduction of poverty, which had also been a focus of the Forum.  She recommended that States sign the Stockholm Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and focus particularly on the negative impacts to children’s health arising from environmental pollutants.


The Forum member from Canada said the elders of Treaty No.6 Territory of Western Canada had always maintained that there was a Treaty Right to Health.  However, the Crown in the right of Canada had disagreed with that over time, which was compounded by the fact that elders relied on oral testimony and the Crown’s honour.  The Treaty Right to Health, as understood by indigenous peoples in Treaty Territories, was one that must be addressed by the Special Rapporteur on Health.  He recommended that the Treaty Right to Health be included in the Rapporteur’s Report on the Right to Health.


Another Forum member noted that many statements had suggested that health was a priority for indigenous people.  Many indigenous communities lacked health facilities, and government programmes in those countries did not consider indigenous peoples in their health programmes.  Non-governmental organizations and civil society could not make up for the lack of governmental action.  He recommended that an inquiry be made among indigenous peoples to fill the present gaps in information about health.


It was necessary, stated one Forum member, to establish programmes for the comprehensive health care of children and youth.  Governments should implement health-care systems in their countries by promoting prevention and nutrition programmes.  United Nations agencies should design policies and implement mental health programmes for children and youth and devise programmes to reduce mortality and morbidity rates.  She invited the United Nations agencies to ensure that programmes safeguarded and salvaged the medical knowledge of indigenous peoples.


Another Forum member highlighted the importance of ancestral medicine.  Failing to preserve those practices could spell the beginning of a new chapter of poverty.  Special attention should be paid to women, as women decided to bring lives into the world.


Enjoying physical and mental health was an inalienable human right, noted one member.  In recent years, the Human Rights Commission had passed resolutions related to the right to health.  The international community should strengthen cooperation and promote the development of health care amongst indigenous communities, he said.


Other Forum members stressed the importance of traditional medicines and knowledge, which were intimately linked to the environment.  Losing that aspect of their cultures would constitute a severe blow to indigenous culture, in general, as well as to their identities.  It was important to use indigenous peoples’ knowledge about their own bodies and how to treat them as the foundation of policies and programmes aimed at indigenous health.


They also recommended that modern health systems, as well as international agencies, should make an effort to recognize traditional indigenous practices.  Some noted that few actions directed at indigenous health had been carried out by WHO and other agencies, and recommended that such agencies focus on preventive health, bearing in mind the full context of traditional medicine.


Discussion on Human Rights


OTILIA LUX DE COTI, Forum member from Guatemala, recommended that indigenous women be considered as a theme for the Forum’s third session, and that governments and United Nations bodies provide support for the Fourth Continental Meeting for Indigenous Women of the Americas, which would take place in Lima, Peru, in March 2004.


MIGUEL ALFONSO MARTINEZ, Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, introduced the report the Group had submitted to the Subcommittee on the Protection of Human Rights.  The report, based on the Working Group’s twentieth session, was structured differently than previous reports, reflecting the Group’s reassessment.  For 20 years, the Group had been the only forum for indigenous peoples in the United Nations.  Now, indigenous peoples also had the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.  The existence of those two bodies had encouraged the Working Group to rethink its nature and work, so that it could enhance its working methods and fully participate in the joint struggle to eliminate discrimination against indigenous peoples.  It was necessary to determine how the three currently existing bodies could coexist in a constructive fashion, and act towards the same end goal.


This year, the Working Group had submitted new considerations in its report on how it viewed its future work, he said.  The report noted that previous debates in the Working Group had focused more on listening, taking notes and making recommendations, than with making interventions.  The Group had now decided that it was more useful to allow governments and observers to present their points of view.  This year, the report included a section devoted to ensuring that readers became more aware of views on problems put forward by the Working Group.  In addition, the Subcommittee had asked all members of the Working Group to propose action-oriented sets of programmes.


ERICA DAER, member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, said that the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources had become an essential aspect of self-determination.  The principle that peoples and nations had permanent ownership of and control over their natural resources should now be applied to the world’s indigenous peoples.  In today’s world, practically every State claimed for itself sovereignty over natural resources while denying that right, in whole or in part, to indigenous peoples.  The international community should begin to discuss that issue, in order to accord indigenous peoples the right of permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.  Denying them that right would be contrary to the Charter of the United Nations.


The United Nations had adopted 80 resolutions relating to permanent sovereignty over natural resources, she said.  However, that principle had not yet been duly analysed or considered, in particular, in the context of indigenous peoples.  That basic principle should apply to indigenous peoples for several reasons.  Indigenous peoples were colonized peoples in the historical, economic and political sense, and they suffered from unfair economic arrangements.  The principle was necessary to level the economic and political playing field and to provide protection against exploitative economic arrangements.  Natural resources originally belonged to the indigenous peoples and had not been freely and fairly given up. 


JULIAN BURGER, representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Forum had an opportunity to be a strategic think tank on human rights and indigenous peoples.  In the area of policy development, the Forum could play an active role in cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanism, by looking at how indigenous rights could be included within the overall human rights approach.  The Forum could also enhance the outreach and output of the Office’s development.  This year, for example, the Office would organize a seminar on the administration of justice and indigenous peoples.  The independent experts on the Forum could provide specialized information and follow up on recommendations.


The Forum could play a critical role in underlining and seeking greater prioritization of indigenous issues, he continued.  The Office was ready to discuss possible proposals with Forum members in that regard.  The Forum also needed to address the issue of human and financial resources.  Money remained, and would remain, a critical question.  The Office was conscious of its own limitations and there was no capacity for new tasks unless governments provided the necessary resources.  The Forum could look together with the Office at how to secure long-term financial support. 


Forum members underlined the importance of the three bodies supporting indigenous peoples –- the Permanent Forum, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations.  The Working Group had played a vital role, identifying issues that concerned indigenous peoples.  Now was the time for all three bodies to act, rising above mere theories to achieving results in the area of human rights.


Others pointed to limitations that bodies supporting indigenous peoples faced.  For example, it was difficult to initiate immediate action in emergency situations threatening the lives of indigenous peoples.  They also stressed the need to design a new global agenda for indigenous peoples, identifying future-oriented issues that people wanted to discuss and recommend.


Many stressed that the Working Group had done much to promote the concerns of indigenous peoples.  Human rights issues, in particular, had gained increasing international attention.  In addition to individual rights, it was necessary to protect the collective rights of indigenous peoples as special social groups, and support them in maintaining their culture and traditions.


Responses


MIGUEL ALFONSO MARTINEZ, Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, said that the shortage of resources given to indigenous issues was a problem affecting all United Nations bodies.  There was a financial crisis in the United Nations, and there were certain States that owed funds to the United Nations, which was affecting all programmes.


ERICA DAER, member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, said it was a pity that the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples had been pending for nine years before the Commission on Human Rights.  That was unacceptable from every point of view.  Certain peoples and governments did not like cooperation and were not interested in completing the process.  Every effort should be made to adopt the declaration, she said.


JULIAN BURGER, representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Office was involved in several training programmes related to indigenous peoples.  There was an ongoing indigenous fellowship programme, which had been expanded this year to include a French-speaking component.  Also being piloted this year was community-led human rights training.


VICTOR KAISEPO, on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Participants in the World Bank, recommended that the Bank host a round table with indigenous peoples, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Permanent Forum to examine the responsibility of the Bank with respect to human rights law and indigenous peoples.  That responsibility should be examined in the context of policy.  The revision should be made public 90 days prior to its submission to the Bank’s Director, and highlight changes recommended by indigenous peoples that had not been made.  He also recommended that the Bank set up a permanent mechanism for dialogue about the implementation of the Bank’s policy regarding indigenous peoples.


He urged the Bank to examine its policies regarding indigenous peoples, which had kept them excluded from participating in the development of Bank programmes, as well as the benefits of Bank-sponsored projects within their territories.  Indigenous exchanges with the Bank had not led it to carry out its responsibilities with respect to the human rights of indigenous peoples.


JITEN YUMNAM, of the Asian Indigenous Network, said that States in his region had failed to recognize the inherent rights of indigenous peoples, especially the right to self-determination.  Many children and youth had been subjected to violence and other atrocities that had affected their physical and mental integrity.  The natural resources of indigenous peoples had been destroyed with the constant cycle of violence.  He called on the Forum to urge States to fully respect the rights to self-determination of all peoples, as guaranteed in international human rights treaties.  States should also adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.  In addition, all States with military bases on indigenous land must transfer that land to indigenous peoples and halt further weapons testing.


BEAU BASSETT, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Caucus, expressed his concern that the Permanent Forum’s recommendations relating to human rights had not been realized.  In particular, the Pacific Caucus supported the Forum’s request that the Secretary-General prepare a report on how indigenous issues had been addressed by United Nations bodies.  Only once such data had been collated could work begin to enhance and coordinate United Nations endeavours to address indigenous peoples’ rights.


Indigenous peoples were people under the United Nations Charter, he continued.  It was clear, therefore, that indigenous peoples had the right to self-determination under international law.  Accordingly, it was incumbent on United Nations organizations and States to heed the Forum’s call to adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples before the end of the decade.


RONALD BARNES, on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition and Wa Koa Ikaika oka Lahui Hawaii, said political recognition from the viewpoint of international law was important for the protection of indigenous land rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.  Varying levels of recognition had led to the development of national and international law, and would assist with the evolution of international law for indigenous peoples.  Recognition under international and domestic law determined how indigenous peoples would be treated by the colonial nations.  Many facets needed to be pulled out from under the colonial dirty carpet regarding the recognition of indigenous rights.


SUHAS CHAKMA, of the Asian Indigenous Second Tribal Peoples Network, said he was extremely concerned about continuing human rights abuses and impunity in Papua.  Between 1998 and 2001, there had been 136 cases of extrajudicial killing and 838 cases of arbitrary detention and torture.  He was also concerned about the continuing repression of ethnic minorities in Viet Nam.  On 31 December 2002, about 30 Ede indigenous people were arrested for allegedly planning to hold a protest in the Sao village under Madrak district of Dak Lak province of the Central Highlands.


What was equally disturbing, he said, was that Cambodia had increasingly become a fortress that was closing its borders to stop the influx of fleeing indigenous refugees from Viet Nam.  Following the crackdown in the Dak Lak province, the Deputy Governor of Ratnakiri province of Cambodia had confirmed that, on 24 September 2002, a Vietnamese delegation, consisting of two governors and a military police chief, had visited Cambodian officials in the area to urge closure of the borders.


BILL JONAS, representative of Faira Aboriginal Corporation, said that he was concerned by the deterioration of the enjoyment of human rights by indigenous peoples in Australia.  That Government had failed to recognize indigenous peoples’ inherent and distinct rights.  In recent years, attempts had been made to codify indigenous peoples’ rights in a treaty, but the Government would not even come to the negotiating table.  Those concerns underlay the importance of the existence of clear international guidelines on rights.  He called for the adoption of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.


The representative of Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee said that human rights in Africa were marked by a worsening of the situation because of arbitrary arrests, lack of freedom and the confiscation of the lands of indigenous peoples.  The main problem was the non-observance of the human rights of indigenous peoples and their inability to take part in the decision-making process.  Indigenous peoples suffered the same problem at the international level.  The world was moving towards globalization in trade and in the economic area, but not in the human rights area.  A recommendation should be submitted to Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to Government so that political and constitutional reforms could be adopted.  It was also important that the Forum submit a recommendation to ECOSOC concerning the participation of indigenous peoples in the Human Rights Commission.


SANJEEB DRONG, on behalf of the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and other groups, said the original inhabitants of his country were not only treated as encroachers but as serfs.  They were not only discriminated against as indigenous people, but as linguistic and religious minorities.  Hundreds of thousands of non-indigenous people had settled on indigenous land, and displaced indigenous people had not been able to regain their land.


He was afraid that the situation of the indigenous people of Bangladesh would not change without their participation in appropriate policy-making bodies.  He urged the Forum to encourage reforms in the International Labour Organization (ILO) that would allow indigenous peoples to have formal access to that body and have a more direct role in certain statutes.  He encouraged governments to implement agreements between themselves and indigenous peoples.


AQQALUK LYNGE, on behalf of Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, said the American military was dumping toxic materials in Greenland, putting the health of indigenous peoples at risk.  Human rights and the right to a healthy environment were not respected.  In addition, the Government of Norway had recently proposed a new land act, which appeared to be a remnant of the assimilation era, failing to distinguish between the Saami people and the non-Saami population.  The act confirmed Governmental control over traditional land and resources, violated international law, and contradicted domestic jurisprudence.  He recommended that the Forum adopt the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as soon as possible.


ALBERT DE TERVILLE, representative of the International Alliance against Racism, said that the issue of reparations and compensation for indigenous peoples had created havoc at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, and was an issue that many States were not willing to deal with.  As a result of the Durban Conference, a number of people had formed the International Alliance against Racism.  The Alliance had decided to call an international meeting of experts in December in Saint Lucia on that issue.  The following December, he hoped that the Government of Saint Lucia would table the results of the meeting of experts to the General Assembly.  That would hopefully lead to an international conference on reparations and compensation.  He also called upon the Forum to urge the United Nations to establish multicultural studies and policy development within the Caribbean.


ARIAS MARCIAL, on behalf of the Parlamento Rapa Nui and other indigenous groups, stressed the importance of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations.  There was no duplication between their work and that of the Special Rapporteur.  The Working Group should be retained to create new norms regarding indigenous peoples.


In the twenty-first century, the international community could not continue to speak about good governance, democracy and human rights, as long as there was no fundamental recognition of the territories of indigenous peoples.  There was still widespread failure to recognize national and international agreements involving indigenous peoples.  The human rights of indigenous peoples were continuously being violated due to a lack of respect for their human rights.


JANNIE LASIMBANG, of the Asia Caucus, said that the human rights of indigenous peoples in Asia were not protected.  In Asian countries, human rights groups had no control over the police and other authorities, who committed most of the human rights violations.  Since 1994, the General Assembly had adopted nine resolutions urging the military regime of Burma to engage indigenous peoples in a dialogue, but those resolutions had never been realized.  She hoped the Forum would urge Asian governments to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, and ensure that they participated in policies that could change their lives.  They should also include indigenous peoples in development projects affecting them and place a moratorium on all development projects affecting indigenous peoples.


The representative of Mexico said that the resolutions that had been adopted in the Forum were very important.  It was very difficult to have national laws reflect the content of various international provisions and orders, she said, but recently there had been changes in Mexican legislation.  For example, a new Mexican Commission on Indigenous Rights had recently been established.


The representative of Norway said that his Government firmly believed that the full realization by indigenous peoples of their human rights and fundamental freedoms was essential for eliminating discrimination directed against them.  Their contribution to the development and cultural pluralism of society was important for political and social stability and for the development of the States in which they lived.  The adoption of a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples would contribute greatly to that end.


The Permanent Forum had a broad and challenging mandate, he continued, where human rights was one of several components.  While the Forum should not become an additional human rights body, addressing and integrating human rights aspects would, in many respects, be crucial to the continued success of the Forum.


The representative of Nigeria said his Government supported the objectives and purposes of the Forum.  He was convinced that the commitment and efforts of indigenous peoples, States and the United Nations would help indigenous peoples to benefit from globalization and live in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation in the years ahead.  His Government would be a reliable partner of the Forum in furthering that goal.


Since Nigeria became democratic in 1999, it had been striving for sustainable development, democracy and good governance without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race.  Democratic elections had just been concluded in Nigeria, and the country hoped to achieve lasting peace and security.  The Government was committed to the social integration of all Nigerians in its national project of development and reconstruction.


The representative of Finland said the rights of indigenous peoples must be seen in the context of their special relationship with the land and natural resources.  Those principles were reflected in Finland’s national Constitution, which guaranteed the Saami people the right to follow their own culture and pursue their own economic development.  In addition, the Saami language had the status of a regional minority language.


She stressed that the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was a valuable tool in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.  Most of its articles were acceptable to her Government as originally proposed.


The representative of the Bambouti Pygmy Community of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that throughout the world, indigenous peoples were suffering many different kinds of discrimination.  Today, his people had no land, no recognition and no rights.  They were expelled from the forests from which they had made their living.  They were no longer able to gather honey and traditional plants or to hunt for food.  Today, his people were disappearing, culturally and physically.  Human history had talked of cruelty, massacres and genocide; his people had been hunted down, killed and even eaten.  The horrors of those atrocities had shocked the entire world.  Under the pressure of international indignation, those responsible had set up their own tribunal to “try” the perpetrators, which, of course, had found them innocent.  What was needed was an international tribunal.  The memory of those that had suffered must be honoured.  He recommended that the United Nations support the establishment of a plan to ensure the survival of the Bambouti people.


ADOLPHINE MULEY, of the Batwa Pygmy Community, said that the rights of the Batwa people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had not been recognized, nor were they respected by the State.  She highlighted the failure to recognize the right of equality for the Batwa people.  They could not participate in elections, nor could they register the birth of their children.  They were not involved in public administration in any way, and were denied the right to education.  The Batwa had been dispossessed of their lands, and their economy, which had been based on the forests, no longer existed.  They survived by begging and were regularly exploited by other groups.  The majority of the Batwa people could not read or write and they had no access to health care.  The culture of the Batwa was disappearing and no steps were being taken by the Government to preserve that culture.  Women were being raped, and her people were being hunted down, massacred and even becoming the victims of cannibalism.


* *** *


For information media. Not an official record.