INDIGENOUS FORUM CLOSES THIRD SESSION WITH ADOPTION OF RECOMMENDATIONS ON WOMEN, EDUCATION, CULTURE, HUMAN RIGHTS, ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, DEVELOPMENT

21 May 2004
HR/4762

INDIGENOUS FORUM CLOSES THIRD SESSION WITH ADOPTION OF RECOMMENDATIONS ON WOMEN, EDUCATION, CULTURE, HUMAN RIGHTS, ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, DEVELOPMENT

21/05/2004
Press ReleaseHR/4762

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues                       

Third Session                                              

16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)

INDIGENOUS FORUM CLOSES THIRD SESSION WITH ADOPTION OF RECOMMENDATIONS ON WOMEN,

EDUCATION, CULTURE, HUMAN RIGHTS, ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, DEVELOPMENT

Indigenous women made unique contributions to the family, community and nation, as well as at the international level, yet faced multiple forms of discrimination based on gender and race/ethnicity, stressed the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in one of eight sets of recommendations and six draft decisions approved today at the close of its third session.

In the text addressing the session’s theme of indigenous women, the Forum encouraged relevant United Nations bodies to integrate the human rights of indigenous women into their programmes and policies, including through compiling and integrating disaggregated data on indigenous women’s issues in their annual reports.  Among other things, it recommended that a meeting be convened to develop a general recommendation on indigenous women.

A workshop on “migration of indigenous women” should also be held to highlight the urgency and scale of that issue, with a focus on trafficking of indigenous women, according to the same text, contained in document E/C.19/2004/L.3 and adopted as orally revised.  Moreover, the Commission on Human Rights should appoint a rapporteur to study genocidal and ethnocidal practices against indigenous peoples.

The other seven texts included recommendations on education (document E/C.19/2004/L.4) and culture (document E/C.19/2004/L.5), both approved as orally revised.  The Forum also approved recommendations focusing on human rights, environment, health and the body’s future work –- as orally revised –- and on economic and social development -– as written -– which would later be issued as official documents.  All of the recommendations and draft decisions would be submitted to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for adoption.

Of the six draft decisions approved by the Forum, the first would have the ECOSOC authorize, on an exceptional basis, a three-day inter-sessional meeting of the Permanent Forum in 2005 to prepare for the body’s fourth annual session, in cooperation with the Inter-Agency Support Group.

The second draft decision would have ECOSOC authorize a technical three-day workshop on “The Millennium Development Goals and Indigenous Peoples” and request the workshop to report to the Forum during its fourth session, while the third recommended that ECOSOC authorize a technical three-day workshop on free, prior and informed consent.

By the terms of the fourth draft decision, the Forum recommended that the provisional agenda of the body’s fourth annual session be approved by ECOSOC.  The fifth draft decision would have ECOSOC authorize holding the Forum’s fourth annual session at United Nations Headquarters in New York, from 9 to 20 May 2005, and consider holding the Forum’s 2006 or 2007 session in Geneva, or in another part of the world.

The ECOSOC, by the terms of the sixth draft decision, would recommend to the General Assembly the declaration of a second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, to follow the conclusion of the present International Decade in 2004.

Also today, the Forum adopted its third report (document E/C.19/2004/L.6), approving the provisional agenda for its fourth session, which will focus on the “Millennium Development Goals and Indigenous Peoples”, with emphasis on the Goals related to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and the achievement of universal primary education.

At the top of the morning meeting, the Permanent Forum concluded its consideration of its future work as indigenous delegates reiterated the United Nations responsibility to promote harmony between indigenous communities and the dominant societies with which they must coexist.  Thus, the United Nations was urged to provide additional resources for the establishment of follow-up mechanisms to Forum recommendations, while the Forum was urged to facilitate, in conjunction with the host country, indigenous delegates’ participation in Forum sessions.  The Forum should also contribute to the collection and disaggregation of statistical data on indigenous peoples.

In remarks at the closing of the Forum’s session this afternoon, General Assembly President Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia) noted that too many indigenous peoples faced challenges with respect to their land, culture, language, livelihoods, and that too many suffered from poverty, racial discrimination and endemic disease.  Yet, as the International Decade for Indigenous Peoples came to a close, indigenous peoples could be assured that the Forum would work for continuity and progress.  They could also rely on the General Assembly, known as the “House of Mica” in an ancient Hopi prophecy, to continue to welcome them and celebrate their civilizations, to listen to their voices and learn from them.

Forum Chairperson Ole Henrik Magga said the Forum should be proud of all that it had accomplished in the relatively short period of three years.  It had established the body’s secretariat and, despite having devoted much time to logistics, it had been able to begin to address the six mandated areas, adopting many recommendations on indigenous issues.  It had also done much to raise awareness of indigenous issues within the United Nations system in general.  As the Secretary-General had recognized in his opening address, the Forum had begun to create a home for itself within the United Nations system.

The third session of the Permanent Forum was then closed as Forum Rapporteur Willie Littlechild recognized its outgoing members, and Forum member Ayitegan Kouevi sang a traditional Saami song in tribute to the outgoing Chairperson.  A traditional Hawaiian chant was performed by a representative of Na Koa Ikaika o Ka Lahui Hawaii; a traditional song was performed by a group of representatives of indigenous North American nations; and a final prayer was delivered.

Closing Statements

JULIAN ROBERT HUNTE (Saint Lucia), President of the General Assembly, noted that too many indigenous peoples faced challenges with respect to their land, culture, language, livelihoods, and that many suffered from poverty, racial discrimination and endemic diseases.  Too many remained on the outside of the national decision-making that affected their daily lives.  The decision of the Forum to focus on indigenous women at the current session was both appropriate and timely, as women were essential actors in economic and social processes, and contributed to all spheres of their societies.  However, indigenous women also faced marginalization, extreme poverty, discrimination and violence.  They must be recognized for their significant contribution to society, so that States could take critical decisions that would ensure gender equality.

The creation of the Forum in 2002, ongoing initiatives of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, the proclamation of 1993 as the International Year of Indigenous Peoples, and the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004) had directed United Nations work and established cooperation between indigenous peoples and the Organization.  Now, as the Decade came to a close, indigenous peoples could be assured that the Forum would work for continuity and progress.  When the Commission on Human Rights completed the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, it would be a specific international instrument on human rights and fundamental freedoms that should promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples could rely on the General Assembly, called “House of Mica” by an ancient Hopi prophecy, to continue to welcome them in good faith, celebrate their civilizations, listen to their voices and learn from them.

Leading off the closing ceremony were the Indigenous Women of the Americas, who performed a traditional song.

JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that the session had been attended by more than a 1,000 people from all over the world, and had issued an impressive set of recommendations on indigenous women.  Its lively meetings had been complemented by 42 side events and two pre-sessional training courses.  The Forum had stressed this year the need for prioritization, implementation, monitoring and coordination, and had set the foundation for a multi-year programme of work.

Through its recommendations, the Forum had wisely stressed the importance of approaching indigenous issues at the regional level to bring increasingly more concrete solutions to indigenous communities, he said.  It had also used innovative methods, such as high-level panels, expert reports and cross-cutting thematic approaches, and had dealt gracefully with the time constraints of its challenging tasks.  The Forum had shown vision by decisively selecting the Millennium Development Goals as the theme for the next two years, ensuring that the pillars that would be prepared this year and next would not leave indigenous peoples in the margins.  Concluding, he praised the Forum’s Chairman, Ole Henrik Magga, for being a unique leader, who had steered the Forum through the challenges of its first steps, raised its profile and brought it closer to indigenous communities.

Speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, the representative of Brazil noted the long road that had been travelled in drawing world attention to indigenous rights.  He urged States to make needed compromises and adopt the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.  It was vital to increase the economic and cultural participation of women, and ensure that they were protected against violence.  Political, civil and development rights should be guaranteed for indigenous peoples, and more effort should be made to improve their education and training.

Forum Chairperson OLE HENRIK MAGGA noted that he and a number of other Forum members would complete their terms at the end of 2004.  At its beginning three years ago, the Forum had comprised only 16 members with little experience, no resources and no rules of procedure or guidelines as to how to conduct their affairs.  The Forum had been a new and unique body, with which the international system had not known how to interact.  It should be proud of all that it had accomplished in the relatively short period of three years.

The Forum, he said, had established the body’s secretariat and, despite having devoted much time to logistics, had been able to begin to address the six mandated areas, adopting many recommendations on indigenous issues.  The Forum had also done much to raise awareness of indigenous issues within the United Nations system in general, which constituted the primary thrust of its work.  As the Secretary-General had recognized in his opening address, the Forum had begun to create a home for itself within the United Nations system.

The support of Member States, United Nations agencies and indigenous organizations had been essential during the body’s early years, he added, and would continue to be.  Those States and United Nations agencies that had not yet joined the Forum were urged to do so.  Next year, those attending the Forum would note that the session’s structure had been revised to facilitate the carrying out of its mandate.  Yet, it remained imperative to seek out methods of work that would allow members to more effectively interact with United Nations agencies and to respond to reported human rights violations against indigenous peoples. Finally, all those present should remember that the vast majority of indigenous peoples had no opportunity to visit the United Nations to share their experiences.  They must always be the focus of the Forum’s activities.

Highlights

This year’s session began with a high-level panel discussion on indigenous women, which was opened by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and attended by some 1,500 participants from more than 500 indigenous groups worldwide.  Speakers during the discussion noted that indigenous women still suffered from oppression, subordination, and patriarchal gender orders in their homes, communities and State institutions.  To resolve that imbalance, several participants stressed that indigenous women should be integrated into all levels of decision-making, recognized as vital contributors to development, ensured equal access to education and resources, and provided with security during armed conflicts.

During subsequent discussions in the Forum’s mandated areas, participants observed that indigenous people had made some progress over the past decade, but still suffered from prejudice, marginalization, poverty and armed conflicts.  Several emphasized the immediate need to complete the draft declaration on indigenous rights, and to ensure greater respect for indigenous lands, resources, languages and cultures.  Other participants underscored the importance of protecting the environment and preserving biological diversity, promoting an educational system that incorporated indigenous knowledge, and preserving traditional medicinal practices.

(For background information on the Permanent Forum, see Press Release HR/4741 of 4 May 2004.)

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For information media. Not an official record.