|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)
Implementing Declaration on Indigenous Rights Will Bring ‘Historical Justice’,
Develop Stronger, Democratic, Multicultural Societies, Third Committee Told
Special Rapporteur James Anaya Addresses Committee for First Time,
Describes Work in Four Interrelated Areas since Taking Up Mandate in May 2008
Implementing the two-year-old United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would both bring historical justice to that too-often ignored segment of humanity and develop stronger democratic, multicultural societies, the Special Rapporteur on indigenous issues told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.
Addressing the Committee for the first time in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya said the Declaration provided a clear normative framework for promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, which had historically been denied.
Rather than establishing new or special human rights for indigenous peoples, the Declaration took basic human rights principles that were applicable to all, and elaborated on them in specific, historical, cultural, political and social contexts. To this end, it was a “fundamentally remedial” instrument that aimed to overcome the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous peoples had systematically faced across the world due to colonization, conquest and dispossession. It also served as a reminder that those processes and their legacies persisted, and were even reproduced, in various forms today.
In detailing his own work across four, interrelated areas -- promoting good practices, conducting thematic studies, making country reports, and responding to cases of alleged human rights violations -- he highlighted the latter as his principal focus. Indeed, since undertaking his mandate in May 2008, he had heard allegations of such cases on every continent. Typically, these cases involved infringements or denials of a variety of rights of indigenous peoples, including the right to free, prior, and informed consent, especially regarding resource extraction or rights to lands and resources.
He also sought to proactively prevent human rights violations from arising or escalating. This required active engagement with Governments, indigenous peoples and other actors to closely monitor and evaluate the situations and their underlying causes, and develop practical recommendations. He was also working to identify models of reform that could be applied in various contexts, and hoped to detail those models in his future reports.
Underlining the suffering of indigenous peoples as compared to non-indigenous populations, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who serves as Coordinator for the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, said that, while they constituted approximately 5 per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples made up 15 per cent of the world’s poor.
In some countries, he said life expectancy for indigenous peoples, who had higher levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and diabetes, was as many as 20 years lower than the general population. The status of indigenous peoples was further worsened by the food, economic and financial crises, as well as the harsh effects of climate change, which they suffered from sooner, and to a greater degree, than others. Many also faced persecution for their work to defend their human rights, especially for protecting their lands and natural resources.
Against that backdrop, he, too, underscored the increasing use by Member States and indigenous peoples of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to find solutions to these problems. But he stressed that more needed to be done by Governments and within the United Nations system to engage the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in matters affecting them. Further, the Third Committee should play a role in promoting the Declaration’s implementation, through public debate and its support and review of the Second International Decade, which will reach the halfway mark next year.
In the ensuing discussion, a number of speakers voiced concerns over the variety of bodies and mechanisms addressing indigenous issues within the United Nations system. Many applauded the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to avoid duplication and enhance cooperation among the relevant actors and between the Organization and indigenous peoples.
The representative of the United States suggested, however, that overlapping mandates could frustrate efforts to bring to light and address allegations of human rights abuses. Building awareness of differences among mandates would hopefully reduce frustration when requests for assistance on possible human rights violations were directed to a wrong part of the system.
Echoing others, the representative of Belize, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said more clarity was needed on ways to allow the active participation of indigenous peoples in the Organization’s work, in general, and in the context of the three indigenous mechanisms.
Others touched on an ongoing debate about the Permanent Forum, with the majority expressing support for its work. Malaysia’s representative stressed, however, that the cause of indigenous rights was not assisted by a de facto attempt of the Permanent Forum to change the legal understanding of the Declaration and its mandates through its General Comment at its May session. While the Forum’s intention in issuing that comment was noble, it had triggered debate on its credibility, as well as it roles and responsibilities. That debate harmed and delayed acceptance of the Declaration as a set of principles, ideals and rights that all Member States could fully accept.
Reinforcing the Declaration’s widening acceptance, as well as its utility in promoting indigenous rights, the representative of Samoa took the opportunity to officially announce her Government’s decision to formally endorse the Declaration. That decision, which was being simultaneously conveyed to other relevant United Nations bodies, had been made as a sign of Samoa’s commitment to the human rights of indigenous peoples at both the domestic and international level. It believed that the Declaration had to be fully implemented for its benefits to be enjoyed by all indigenous peoples.
Also speaking were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation, Colombia, Norway, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Peru, Nepal, Australia, Guatemala, Ecuador and the Congo.
The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also participated in the discussion, as did a representative of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 20 October, to begin its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights. It is expected to address the implementation of human rights instruments and the comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to discuss indigenous issues and had before it a report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, transmitted to the Committee through the Secretary-General (document A/64/338). It is the first report to the Assembly from Special Rapporteur James Anaya of the United States, and discusses country visits made by the Special Rapporteur, seminars attended, collaborations undertaken with non-governmental organizations and indigenous experts, and other activities connected to the implementation of his mandate.
Since the start of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur has visited Brazil, Nepal, Botswana and Australia to report on those countries, and he has conducted follow-up visits to Chile and Colombia to evaluate their progress in implementing the recommendations in the reports of his predecessor. In addition, the Special Rapporteur will be visiting the Russian Federation in October 2009 and has received positive indications from the Republic of the Congo for a forthcoming visit. The Special Rapporteur has outstanding requests for visits to India and Indonesia, which he hopes will be considered favourably in the near future.
The former Special Rapporteur carried out a number of thematic studies to identify major issues and to provide a foundation for subsequent positive practical action and reform, including on the impacts of development projects on indigenous communities, the implementation of domestic laws and international standards to protect indigenous rights, indigenous peoples and the education system, the relationship between formal State law, and customary indigenous law and international norms concerning indigenous peoples. But, taking into consideration the establishment of an expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples under the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur’s role is complementary to the expert mechanism’s work. For example, early in 2009 he provided information for the expert mechanism’s current study on the right of indigenous peoples to education.
Coordination with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples is an important aspect of the implementation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The report says that the respective mandates of those three mechanisms, which were created at different times and in response to different moments in the international movement to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, are complementary, but also overlapping in certain ways. Ongoing efforts at coordination among the three mechanisms should be strengthened and consolidated into a permanent feature of their work, both jointly and separately.
The report notes that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples represents an authoritative common understanding, at the global level, of the minimum content of the rights of indigenous peoples, based on various sources of international human rights law. The Special Rapporteur has emphasized that measures required to operationalize the Declaration need to reach existing local institutions, which, in some cases, may have to be reformed to accommodate the particular needs of indigenous peoples, as underlined in the Declaration. This is particularly important in areas that are enmeshed with indigenous peoples’ rights, such as in the areas of natural resources, education, culture and health, and national development.
Statement by Coordinator for Second International Decade of World’s
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who is the Coordinator for the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, said all indicators of well-being demonstrated that indigenous peoples suffered disproportionately compared to non-indigenous populations. It was a major theme emerging from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ forthcoming publication, State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. While they constituted approximately 5 per cent of the world’s population, they made up 15 per cent of the world’s poor. In some countries, life expectancy was as many as 20 years lower than the general population, with higher levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and diabetes. In some cases, tuberculosis rates were as much as 45 times higher compared to non-indigenous people.
He said illiteracy was prevalent in indigenous communities, and school enrolment rates for children were lower and drop-out rates higher. Once out of school, they could expect higher rates of unemployment and significantly lower wages -- the direct outcome of poverty, marginalization and discrimination, and poor access to services that were frequently under-funded. Their status was further worsened by the food, economic and financial crises combined with the harsh effects of climate change. They suffered the consequences of global warming sooner and to a greater degree than others. He welcomed the joint crisis initiatives uniting the United Nations system to address the social effects of those global challenges, saying attention given to vulnerable groups should encompass indigenous peoples.
He said, in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate change conference, it was important for indigenous peoples’ voices to be heard. They experienced the impacts of climate change directly and had expressed that knowledge in the Alaska Declaration, adopted April 2009 at the conclusion of their own global summit.
He said the belief systems, cultures, languages and ways of life of indigenous peoples were under threat, in some cases, of extinction. Language specialists predict that up to 95 per cent of the world’s languages were likely to become extinct by the end of the century. That would be a tragedy for indigenous peoples and indeed the world. More than 4,000 of the approximately 7,000 languages were spoken by indigenous people.
He added that, in terms of human rights violations, many faced persecution for their work in defence of human rights, especially when protecting their territories and natural resources. More needed to be done by Governments and the United Nations system to engage the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in matters affecting them. The reasons for the persistent problems faced by indigenous peoples were various -- lack of awareness on indigenous issues by others; lack of political will; socio-economic “complexities” at the national level; armed conflict; inadequate capacities in institutional and governance systems; and lack of clear normative guidance by the international community.
He pointed out that the Member States and indigenous peoples were increasingly using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the solution to some of those problems. He welcomed its endorsement by Australia and Colombia last year, saying he looked forward to concrete measures to advance implementation. His Department was helping build national capacity to that end, drawing on the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. The Third Committee also had a role to play in promoting implementation of the Declaration, through public debate and its support and review of the Second International Decade, which will reach the halfway mark next year. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had already conducted a preliminary review in May.
He voiced appreciation to the Governments of Algeria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Germany and Mexico for their contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, and to the Government of Norway for hosting a pre-sessional meeting of the Permanent Forum. Pledges were made by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Japan.
Presentation of Report of Special Rapporteur
JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said his first report to the General Assembly described his mandate and the range of activities he had undertaken since that mandate began in May 2008. Among other things, it highlighted his efforts to coordinate work with other United Nations mechanisms and with relevant regional institutions. A large part of the report was also devoted to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly two years ago.
He was cooperating with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to minimize duplication of efforts and maximize his mandate. He participated in a seminar in Madrid in February with members of the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum, along with other experts, to discuss coordination methods. He had also sought to cooperate with agencies of the United Nations Secretariat, specialized agencies and regional human rights institutions.
His work to monitor the human rights conditions of indigenous peoples worldwide and to promote the means of improving those conditions fell into four, interrelated areas of work: promoting good practices; undertaking thematic studies; making country reports; and responding to cases of alleged human rights violations.
To promote good practices, he had worked to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic level to implement standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments. Such reform was no small task, but was full of all kinds of complexities and required a strong financial and political commitment from Governments. Moving forward, he would promote positive developments and identify models of reform that could be applied in various contexts. He anticipated detailing those models in subsequent reports.
By conducting or participating in studies on issues or themes of interest to indigenous peoples across borders and regions, he contributed to the development of good practices in specific country situations. He had participated in several thematic seminars organized by various United Nations agencies and civil society. His second annual report to the Human Rights Council was devoted to the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples on matters affecting them. His aim was to offer practical insight on the nature of that duty and how it might be implemented. The duty to consult had strong normative and legal foundations. It corresponded with general principles of democracy and was coupled with the widespread recognition of the special concerns of indigenous peoples. The failure of States to adequately comply with that duty was one of the main issues he had been confronting in relations to country-specific situation around the world. Concerted efforts were needed to reverse that pattern of inadequate compliance or non-compliance.
He also investigated and reported on the overall human rights situations of indigenous peoples in selected countries. The resulting country reports that he issued typically included conclusions and recommendations aimed at strengthening good practices, identifying areas of concern, and improving the human rights situation under study. Those studies frequently involved on-site visits with Government representatives, indigenous communities and a cross-section of civil society. To date, reports had been concluded after his visits to Brazil and Nepal, as well as a report resulting from a follow-up trip to Chile. Missions to assess indigenous peoples’ conditions had been conducted to Australia, Botswana and the Russian Federation, and he had made a follow-up visit to Colombia. Reports on those countries would be forthcoming.
He said the principal area of his work, however, involved responding on an ongoing basis to alleged violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples in specific cases. He had heard allegations of such cases on every continent since taking up his mandate. In response, he had sent numerous communications to Governments about those situations.
Those cases often involved infringements on the right to free, prior, and informed consent, especially regarding resource extraction or the displacement or removal of indigenous communities; denial of the rights of indigenous peoples to lands and resources; the situation of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation; incidents of threats of violence against indigenous peoples and individuals; and concerns about constitutions or legislative reforms in indigenous subject matter. In some cases, he had issued public statements calling attention to, or expressing concern over, the alleged violations. In two cases, he also had in-depth observations with analysis and recommendations that he hoped would be useful to the Governments and indigenous peoples concerned, as they attempted to address the relevant situations.
He said he had also endeavoured to be proactive in preventing human rights violations from arising or escalating. That required active engagement with Governments, indigenous peoples and other actors to closely monitor and evaluate the situations and their underlying causes. He worked to promote action that built on advances already made and to develop recommendations that were practical. While he was grateful to the Governments that had responded to his inquiries in specific cases, he urged those that had not responded to do so in the future.
Noting that he was called on in his mandate to promote the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said that Declaration provided a clear normative framework of reference for promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Its adoption two years ago by the General Assembly marked the culmination of three decades of a standard-setting process. It provided broad recognition of indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights under the overarching thrust of the rights to equality and self-determination. It also affirmed a number of rights of special significance, including self-government and participation; cultural and spiritual heritage; lands, territories and natural resources; consultation and consent; and development and social services.
He stressed that the Declaration did not, however, establish new or special human rights for indigenous peoples. Its standards connected to already existing legal obligations under human rights treaties of general applicability. It took basic human rights principles that were applicable to all, and elaborated on them in the specific, historical, cultural, political and social context of indigenous peoples. Thus, it was a fundamentally remedial instrument, aimed at overcoming the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous peoples had systematically faced across the world as a result of an historical process of colonization, conquest and dispossession. It was also a reminder that those processes and their legacies persisted and were reproduced today in various forms. It further called on States and the international community to put an end to those processes and undertake affirmative measures to implement the human rights that indigenous peoples had been denied.
Promoting respect for, and full application of, the Declaration was, therefore, a complex process that required sustained efforts involving myriad State and other actors. The Declaration’s adoption already signalled the strong commitment of the international community to remedy the historical and ongoing denial of the rights of indigenous peoples. It provided a framework for mutual understanding and cooperation between indigenous peoples and States. Implementing it would not only bring historical justice to this too often ignored segment of humanity, but it would develop stronger democratic, multicultural societies that could profit from the extraordinary wealth of knowledge of indigenous communities.
The representative of Sweden asked Mr. Anaya on the promotion of good practices, and his offer of technical and advisory assistance to Government and companies to establish programmatic initiatives in indigenous matters. What were some examples of good practices that private sector companies could follow? Also, did he plan to conduct any studies related to indigenous women’s issues? She noted the good working relationship between him and the Expert Mechanism and other agencies within the United Nations system. But, what was being done to increase coordination between the Special Rapporteur and the Permanent Forum?
The representative of Iran asked what was being done to encourage dialogue between indigenous communities and Governments on their particular vulnerabilities. Also, what was his role in the work of the Expert Mechanism? Was he providing information on its study on the rights of indigenous peoples to education? What help had he received from other special rapporteurs? Did he see the limitation of funds as preventing him from doing his job? How was he coping in terms of his reporting to two separate bodies -- the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly?
The representative of Venezuela asked about the situation in Colombia, which was reportedly grave and worrying. Armed conflict in that country had led to forced displacement, homicide and lack of food. As a result, indigenous peoples were threatened by physical and cultural extinction. Between 1998 and 2008, 1,980 indigenous people were killed and a further 10,000 were displaced. Some suffered from sexual violence, especially women. She feared that paramilitary groups from Colombia, who were responsible for those acts, were crossing the border into Venezuela. The Colombian Government was hosting seven United States military bases in its territory. United States troops had immunity under Colombian law. Did the Special Rapporteur think that a foreign military presence in Colombia might compound the negative effects of armed conflict there? Wouldn’t the use of military forces lead to further internal displacement and violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples? How would the immunity enjoyed by the military and that of its civilian contractors affect the situation in neighbouring countries? How could the United Nations deal with human rights violations committed by the paramilitary groups?
The delegate of Malaysia noted that a mechanism for dealing with the human rights of indigenous persons were relatively new. He asked how the Special Rapporteur intended to coordinate his work with that of the Permanent Forum and the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism. Also, given the manner in which the Declaration was adopted, did it have the same legal basis as other instruments? Was it possible for any treaty body to interpret it without going through an intergovernmental process?
The representative of Bolivia noted that Mr. Anaya’s predecessor had visited his country. What did he recommend that the Government do to improve the situation of its indigenous peoples? Were the mechanisms under the United Nations appropriate for dealing with indigenous issues, in Mr. Anaya’s opinion?
Australia’s representative noted Mr. Anaya’s recommendations to her Government with regard to the Declaration on indigenous rights, and thanked him for his positive comments on Australia’s announcement of its endorsement of that document. That endorsement had been an important step in resetting the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The Australian human rights commission and the aboriginal commissioner had been invaluable in promoting those rights. Regarding Mr. Anaya’s suggestions on raising awareness and technical training -- how would they be applied to the workplace? Were there any examples of best practices that took account of the need of women, children and people with disabilities? She asked for feedback on the Asia Pacific regional consultation on violence against women attended by Mr. Anaya, because that was an important subject to Australians.
The representative of Norway noted that the Human Rights Council and the Permanent Forum were integral to the work of the United Nations. Would it be possible to improve access by indigenous peoples to those debates?
Canada’s delegate asked Mr. Anaya to comment on the resources available for the conduct of his work, particularly in coordinating with Governments. Was he considering steps to coordinate his activities with regional bodies, such as the Organization of American States (OAS)?
The representative of Guatemala said the global crises had had a great impact on indigenous peoples, especially the food crisis. How should States raise awareness among civil society and the media so that the public would recognize the contribution of indigenous people to the environment and in attaining food security?
Chile’s representative said when there were differences between communities, dialogue and mutual trust were the only way to reach a solution. His Government was committed to dialogue with communities where disputes might exist. He repeated his Government’s invitation to Mr. Anaya to visit Chile.
The representative of the Russian Federation clarified some details of Mr. Anaya’s visit to his country, which took place from 5 to 16 October. At the time, the Special Rapporteur met representatives of the executive and legislative powers, as well as civil society. He visited various parts of the country, where he got to know Russian autonomous peoples. The visit had been an important one. The Government intended to continue cooperating with the Special Rapporteur and looked forward to receiving practical suggestions on improving the lives of indigenous Russian peoples.
Colombia’s representative thanked the Special Rapporteur for his recent visit to Colombia. It had been a productive one. His Government looked forward to receiving his recommendations. For many years, his country had been beset by violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups funded by drug trafficking. They were recognized as terrorist groups by the Colombian Government and others. Through its democratic security policy of 2002, the Government had reduced the extent of that crime. Another delegation today had drawn attention to experiences of the past, not taking into account the reduction in violence, even if other members of the international community had recognized the reduction. The Government did not hesitate to investigate and take measures to prosecute those responsible, including the recent attacks in February and August. In addition, the Constitutional Court had handed down decisions relating to the displacement and violence and had published a report in January. The Government had complied with the recommendations in that report, and was formulating plans to protect the 34 most vulnerable communities, as identified by the Court. He thanked various Governments for their support to Colombia to counter the drug trade, which was a major cause of the violence faced by its citizens, including indigenous populations. All States should do as much as possible to cooperate with one another to combat transnational crimes.
Responding, Mr. ANAYA said the questions helped him reflect on his mandate. One set of questions had to do with his efforts to promote good practices. Sweden’s delegate had asked if that included engaging with companies, and he had engaged directly with companies on specific issues. One example was with a company in Panama, whose construction of a dam was affecting indigenous peoples. He had also engaged with private companies during a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-sponsored seminar that looked at the effects of extractive activities on indigenous peoples’ lands. Indeed, that was a significant concern to indigenous peoples worldwide and, correspondingly, it was a main concern of his. He would continue to work in that regard vis-à-vis specific situations, as well as thematically.
Regarding Iran’s question, he said he was consulting with Governments on reform on an ad hoc basis and during the country visits he made for reporting ends. He offered his recent visit to the Russian Federation as one example. Those consultations often related to legislative reform.
He noted the good practices that Chile had mentioned and said other countries had engaged in similar initiatives that, if not as far-reaching, were good points of reference.
Regarding questions on his work to coordinate with the Permanent Forum, he said that had been a particular area of concern, especially in relation to company activity in extractive industries. Indeed, the Permanent Forum had, in its 2008 report, asked him to look into that area.
With respect to the Expert Mechanism, he noted that it had the primary function of engaging in research-based studies of indigenous peoples' rights. He used the Expert Mechanism in that way, most recently regarding the human rights of indigenous peoples and the right to education. That request had been coordinated with the Expert Mechanism’s subsequent report to the Human Rights Council. He noted the Mechanism was now engaged on the right of indigenous peoples to participation.
He was also working with regional groups, such as the Inter-American Commission. He had sought to pass information to the Commission on cases it was reviewing for specific allegations of violations, and vice versa. So far, that work had been on an ad hoc basis, but discussions to make that interaction more formal and effective were ongoing.
He noted that funding was a limitation on his work, as well as a considerable issue for the Expert Mechanism. Regarding his mandate, the limited resources particularly hampered his ability to respond to specific allegations of rights violations. Generally, given how broad and demanding his mandate was, funding would remain a challenge in meeting its requirements and needs, and whatever measures could be undertaken to address those limits would be appreciated.
The idea of a study on indigenous women was justified, he said, noting that he would look first to the Human Rights Council and the Expert Mechanism to launch such a study. He hoped to mainstream gender issues, as well as those related to children, in all parts of his work. He went on to say, in response to Australia, that he had indeed recognized good practices on women and children in, among other countries, Australia. Women there often led programmes and that leadership often resulted in good practices. He would be highlighting this, as he completed his Australia report.
He remained concern about the situation of Colombia’s indigenous peoples and had initiated what he considered to be a fruitful dialogue during his visit there. That was also true regarding the indigenous peoples of Venezuela. Yet, he would not comment further on the situation in Colombia, since the report was still being developed, and he continued to be engaged with the Colombian Government concerning particular aspects on situations in that country.
CHARLOTTA SCHLYTER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said lengthy negotiations among States and representatives of indigenous peoples had borne much fruit: the establishment of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2002; the adoption of the United Nations Declaration two years ago; the establishment of an Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Human Rights Council; and the renewal of the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. And yet, the situation facing that community was still dire. Many indigenous peoples lived in poverty, were marginalized and made victims of discrimination, including of racism and related intolerance.
She said, as the world approached the Copenhagen summit on climate change, it was important to remember the severe effects of climate change on indigenous peoples. It was affecting their lifestyle and culture, and was threatening the survival of many indigenous people. That was the case with indigenous peoples in northern Europe. Governments had a key role to play in ensuring that different actors were aware of the Declaration and that its provisions were understood. The European Union encouraged all States to facilitate implementation of the Declaration, including by translating it into the languages of indigenous peoples in their respective countries.
GRIGORY LUKIYANTSEV ( Russian Federation) said his country was one of most multicultural nations in the world, with over 160 different peoples living with individual cultural and spiritual heritages of their own. Russian legislation enshrined the status of its indigenous peoples, thereby providing the Government with a solid legal basis for promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. That legislative foundation continued to be improved through the impact of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. The Russian Federation had also worked out, and was implementing, a range of high-priority measures for holding its own Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples. Among other things, those efforts involved improving the health and basic services provided on the lands of those peoples. It had prepared a document on the indigenous peoples of the northern Siberian regions that would be implemented in three stages, from 2009 to 2025, with each stage in keeping with a range of different efforts.
He further stressed that work to improve legalisation was ongoing. In May, a list for traditional economic activities among indigenous populations had been enacted that reaffirmed the list of traditional lands, as well. Another important legal document was being drafted to address the use of lands and a means of compensation for indigenous peoples for damages suffered in their lands. Moreover, the Russian Federation was working in cooperation with other States. It was also continually promoting cooperation with non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples. Under the aegis of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a seminar had been held recently on serious problems that created obstacles for business and indigenous peoples. Further, the Special Rapporteur had concluded his visit and it was hoped that the dialogue with him would continue.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said her country was widely recognized for its diversity. According to the recent population census, there were 87 indigenous groups and 65 indigenous languages with official status in their territories. The promotion and protection of the rights and cultures of indigenous people had been progressively enhanced by a strengthened legal system and through affirmative action policies. There were various mechanisms to encourage the participation of indigenous persons. Also, the Government had duly recognized the land titles held collectively by indigenous communities, covering 29 per cent of the national territory, and was working to increase the budget allocation to those areas.
She said the Constitution recognized traditional authorities in traditional jurisdictions. The Superior Judicial Council had worked to harmonize traditional systems with ordinary courts in 18 communities. The Government engaged in a consultation process on projects that affected indigenous communities, having conducted 53 consultations. In the second half of 2009, it was planning broad consultations on a new draft law to redefine the consultation process to include both the public and private sector. In addition, 1.17 million indigenous persons were insured through the public health system. Their children had priority access to free education programmes. Also, the Government had expanded its food security network, as well as the “forest range families” initiative to pay those families to maintain the forest, in addition to other cash transfer programmes. The Indigenous Council had formulated micro and small business support programmes, as well.
In February 2009, she said a massacre by the FARC terrorist group against the Awa indigenous people had elicited strong national and international condemnation. In August, the murder of more Awa people was mourned by the international community. Four alleged murderers were arrested; they had drug trafficking links. The Democratic Security Policy and the demobilization of illegal armed groups had allowed for the strengthening of public protection. The Government would now develop plans to safeguard the rights of 34 communities, to protect against violence and displacement. Last April, the Government announced its decision to support the Declaration of indigenous peoples’ rights. The Government reiterated its support for the principles of respect for diversity and non-discrimination underlying that text. It looked forward to receiving the report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to Colombia, and would continue to cooperate with him in future.
MONA JUUL ( Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, welcomed the emphasis placed by the Special Rapporteur on establishing a dialogue with all stakeholders. All Nordic countries had extended an open, standing invitation to all United Nations special rapporteurs, including Mr. Anaya, and they urged all Member States to do the same. She underscored Mr. Anaya’s analysis of the various mechanisms within the United Nations system and their complementary work. She highlighted the importance of the thematic studies, including the first, which had focused on the right of indigenous peoples to education. It was of the utmost importance that indigenous peoples be able to present themselves in their own voices during debates in the General Assembly, the Permanent Forum and other United Nations forums. The Nordic countries were working to translate the Declaration into their indigenous languages, and believed that doing so for other indigenous languages around the world would further aid in the Declaration’s widespread implementation.
JORGE TAPLE ( Chile) said his Government had signed ILO Convention 169 [on the consultation and participation of indigenous peoples], and established a marine coastal space for indigenous people. A bill was before Congress to define the status for Easter Island. The Government had provided grants and housing to indigenous students. In the health sector, it had worked harder to clarify the needs of that community and to ensure better access to medicine, including through the establishment of “medicinal gardens”. To promote indigenous medical techniques, the Government had a system of “cultural facilitators” in medicine. It had also opened kindergartens and established an indigenous housing programme. To mainstream the gender perspective, the national corporation for indigenous development had established a women’s unit.
He said the Government was planning to establish a Ministry for Indigenous Affairs and a Council for Indigenous Peoples to design and implement policies at the highest level of government, in consultation with indigenous people. The Council would forward the community’s demands to Government, and was a representative body within the State that would help ensure the legitimacy of elected traditional authorities, and would enable them to operate with autonomy. Through ILO Convention 169, the Government had introduced mechanisms to implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, by initiating a framework of political and economic dialogue. To guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, the Government would turn to a new social pact to draw a link between the State and indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples’ concerns were a concern to all sectors of society, not just Government. The social pact was intended to generate cultural change, and to foster trust between the indigenous community and the State. It was only through dialogue that society would achieve progress and peace.
YANEISY ACOSTA HERNANDEZ Cuba) said the Declaration’s adoption was an historic victory in the fight of the world’s indigenous peoples to achieve the recognition of their ancient rights. During the First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004), significant results were obtained towards finding solutions to the problems faced by indigenous peoples. Those included the contributions of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, and the creation of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and its secretariat.
The contribution of the Working Group of the former Subcommission of the Commission of Human Rights, which completed the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, should be highlighted. That Declaration was one of the United Nations’ most important contributions to remedy the centuries of discrimination suffered by indigenous societies, she said. Cuba believed the adoption of the Declaration should not be the end of the process, but the start of a new stage in which the international community worked closely for the recognition of the equality and right to self-determination of more than 370 million indigenous people in the world. That would include their right to have their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions.
Cuba reiterated that the purpose of the United Nations in the Second Decade must not be limited to defining the rights of indigenous peoples, or attempting to integrate them according to development parameters rejected by nearly all those people for being alien to their vital needs, she said.
ROBERTO DE LEON HUERTA ( Mexico) said his country’s development plans specifically focused on the development of indigenous peoples. The Government had also made considerable progress in guaranteeing the protection and promotion of indigenous peoples. In article 2 of the Constitution, recognition was given to those peoples, and legislative reforms at local levels had been undertaken to recognize indigenous rights in 22 State constitutions. At the international level, Mexico had promoted the establishment of the Permanent Forum, as well as the adoption of the Declaration. It provided voluntary contributions to the Special Rapporteur, as evidence of its support for his work, and, in that regard, he welcomed the way Mr. Anaya had promoted the Declaration’s implementation in his first report.
He stressed that it was essential for Mexico to promote equality between men and women and to eliminate violence against women, specifically indigenous women. It had also adopted affirmative action to promote women’s participation in local government and decision-making processes. It was working to promote the dissemination of information on reproductive health to that population. Stressing that one of the main problems that continued to face indigenous women was their absence from decision-making forums, he said that also applied to the Permanent Forum. Space should be opened to them to make their voices heard. He went on to note that Mexico was working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for indigenous peoples, in particular. To that end, it was undertaking a census to identify indicators that would then inform future policymaking in that regard.
RON GODDARD ( United States) said his country welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur for its analysis of the overlapping mandates of indigenous mechanisms at the United Nations. He applauded the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to avoid duplication and enhance cooperation through informal dialogue among relevant actors. Building awareness of differences among mandates would hopefully reduce frustration when requests for assistance on possible human rights violations were directed to a wrong part of the system. He noted that the Special Rapporteur was tasked with attending to specific cases of rights violations, and yet continued to contribute to the thematic studies of the Permanent Forum and Expert Mechanism.
He said the United States Government was encouraged by the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to maximize the participation of indigenous groups, and was interested to learn the models he was planning to use to promote positive policy outcomes. It supported his efforts to promote positive development by highlighting best practices, and by providing technical and advisory services to Governments, companies, indigenous peoples and others. It agreed with him that the character of consultation should be shaped by specific situations. Adequate consultation was key to effective implementation of Government programmes. It also strongly agreed that consultation did not accord indigenous peoples general veto power over decisions that might affect them. For its part, the United States solicited tribal government views on how to improve government-to-government relations relative to federal decision-making. When properly carried out, consultations contributed to better confidence-building and effective policies.
CARLOS PEREZ ( Brazil) said that, according to the 2000 census, his country was home to 735,000 indigenous peoples from 230 ethnic groups. Government policies for indigenous peoples had sought to improve their access to basic services, as well as to improve their land and preserve their languages and cultural heritages. There were currently 611 indigenous areas at varying degrees of identification. Together, they represented 12 per cent of the Brazilian territory. Indigenous peoples were also being consulted in the development of Government policies, in particular since ILO Convention 169 was enacted.
He said Brazil had fully participated in the world’s efforts to address the rights of the indigenous peoples, including by working to promote the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Mr. Anaya’s remarks on the implementation of the Declaration and his coordination with the various mechanisms within the United Nations had been particularly helpful. Moreover, country reports were particularly relevant in assessing the status of indigenous peoples within a country, and Brazil welcomed its 2008 report. He noted the work of the Expert Mechanism to undertake studies and supported the assessment of the Special Rapporteur that his input should be secondary, in that regard. Brazil believed that innovation was most needed in the promotion of good practices. A repository of such practices could prove valuable. Moreover, the Permanent Forum was conceived as a venue where indigenous peoples could voice their concerns, but its role as forum for dialogue could also be useful. Thus, observer States should be encouraged to share their experiences.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said speaking on this agenda item was more than an intellectual exercise. The Holy See had long been committed to addressing the social, personal and spiritual needs of the world’s over 370 million indigenous peoples. To revitalize activities of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Holy See believed that it would be important to respect the cultural traditions of indigenous peoples, their religious consciousness, and ability to decide and control their development. The international community needed to work harder to make indigenous peoples aware of their human dignity and to empower their communities to shape their lives according to their traditions. Due consideration should be given to models of development that avoided destroying land and water and committed other forms of environmental degradation. The Holy See urged corporations to conduct their enterprise in a way that did not harm the rights of indigenous peoples and promoted the responsible use of the environment.
He said “traditional networks of solidarity” had more to do. The promotion of indigenous initiatives to defend their rights must be honoured. Interaction between cultures should be effected through intercultural dialogue, not by domination or subjugation. In the Second Decade, the problem of food security needed to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that gave rise to it and by promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. Agricultural reform required greater investment in rural infrastructure, irrigation systems, transportation and market organization. It also required greater access to agricultural technology. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People had focused on HIV/AIDS. In the Second Decade, there must be attention to health education. It was also necessary to cultivate a public conscience that recognized food and access to water as rights. He noted that indigenous communities were deeply rooted in respect for the Earth and openness to life. He urged that those concepts not be lost.
JORGE VALERO (Venezuela) said that indigenous peoples had had their rights violated throughout history by imperial peoples and called attention to “The History of the Indes”, which was penned in the early 1600s, and recounted the horrors experienced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. For that reason, Venezuela celebrated the “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in early October, to commemorate those indigenous people who died in defiance of the imperialists. Indeed, the so-called discoveries of the Americas were not celebrated, since the indigenous peoples had already existed here, having built strong, advanced societies.
He went on to underline the recognition in the Constitution of Venezuela of the rights of indigenous peoples. This “Magna Carta”, which had been translated into several different languages, devoted a full chapter to indigenous peoples. Among other things, it recognized their rights to their own lands, as well as the right to collective ownership of those lands. It also stipulated that the demarcation of that land would be undertaken with full participation. It also recognized the right of indigenous peoples to participate in Government at all levels. The National Assembly had been drafting laws to guarantee the constitutional rights of indigenous people, while other laws embodied the rights of indigenous peoples, including the new framework education law that guaranteed bilingual education. The social missions undertaken by the Government sought to promote the rights of indigenous peoples on a variety of fronts and to ensure their participation in the nation’s development. To that end, over 15,000 indigenous peoples had been enrolled in universities since 2008, including at the “alma mater” university, which they had actually helped build.
He noted that further provisions had been made for the National Commission on Indigenous Languages. An indigenous health directorate also made health services available. Moreover, indigenous communities benefited from an initiative that aimed to provide food security. With a culmination of its initial land-demarcation phase, the Government had also been able to turn to cancelling the historical debts of those indigenous communities. In the context of the work by UNESCO, Venezuela had recommended that indigenous languages that were in danger of distinction be protected.
FREDDY MAMANI ( Bolivia) explained that Bolivia had incorporated the Declaration on indigenous rights into its national legislation as Act 3760. Moreover, through a referendum, the country acknowledged that it was a plurinational entity that was intercultural and decentralized. That philosophy was reflected in the “Living Well” concept promoted by the State as a way to humanize development. Development should be based on collective decision-making, where individuals were active subjects, rather than passive recipients.
He said, of the country’s total oil revenue, 5 per cent was allocated to indigenous people through an indigenous development fund. The country had a law on community agrarian reform to redistribute land, resulting in 9 million hectares being handed over to indigenous communities between 2006 and 2009. Since the new Constitution provided for basic services, like water, as a right, there were programmes in place to provide drinking water, irrigation water and piped water to indigenous people. “Intercultural education” was promoted through popular participation in school curriculum design, and through three indigenous universities. Thousands participated in the national literacy programme, resulting in Bolivia being ranked third in reducing illiteracy in Latin America. Over 30 radio stations were being broadcast in indigenous languages.
Continuing, he said indigenous medical students benefited from grants, provided with the help of Cuba and Venezuela. Other programmes included the “Operation Miracle” programme, in which eye operations were provided free of charge. Pregnant women and infants received vouchers for doctors’ visits, and to combat malnutrition there was a school lunch programme. Finally, since climate change was threatening the lives of indigenous peoples, he urged developed countries -- who were largely responsible for the phenomenon and for the financial crisis, as well -- to repay their debt to mankind. An advisory council of the Andean communities in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia was currently developing proposals for solutions, to be submitted to the Copenhagen climate change talks.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s first report, said that with Mr. Anaya’s experience and his efforts to fulfil his mandate, it was clear that the rights of indigenous peoples around the world would be better promoted and protected. At the halfway point in the Second Decade, many obstacles, nevertheless, remained. For its part, Nicaragua was proud of its indigenous roots, and the Government was determined to invert the historical exclusions to which indigenous and Afro-descendant populations had been subjected. It had established a multicultural cabinet, and nearly a dozen ministries were currently headed by indigenous and Afro-minorities. The Atlantic Coast Development Department was doing a significant amount of work, while the national Government had adopted a national development plan that would trigger discussions for regional development. A secretariat for indigenous affairs had also been established.
He noted that, in 2008, 48 indigenous territories with 30,000 inhabitants had been declared special indigenous development zones. To promote the use and protection of indigenous languages, official websites were being developed to provide information in certain original languages. The voices of indigenous peoples were also being incorporated in decision-making processes, including the development of climate change and education legislation. On the economic front, special consideration was being given to the situation of indigenous peoples, including in the “Hunger Zero” and “Poverty Zero” initiatives. Land demarcation projects were ongoing and aimed to solve some of the problems of indigenous lands. Lands had been deeded to indigenous peoples and, as Mr. Anaya had said, that action by the Nicaraguan Government could be regarded as a model for how to respond to international laws relating to indigenous lands.
KARINA BOUTIN ( Canada) said that, with regard to indigenous peoples, the Prime Minister’s first priority was for their economic development, which was even more important in the context of the current global economic situation. Indigenous Canadians were the fastest growing and youngest segment of the population, with 400,000 First Nations, Inuits and Metis projected to enter the labour force over the next 10 years. First Nations now owned or controlled over 15 million hectares of land, and the Inuit over 45 million hectares. With over $315 billion in major resource developments identified on, or near, indigenous communities, there was significant interest on the part of the non-indigenous private sector to work with indigenous businesses.
She said that, in response, the Government was working to strengthen indigenous entrepreneurship, and improving access to financial capacity and procurement opportunities. It would also invest in skills training, and enhance the value of indigenous-owned resources. It would foster partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous groups, and improve collaboration among federal departments and agencies. Increasing the economic participation of indigenous communities amounted to $200 million. That investment came in addition to $1.4 billion given to skills training, health, child and family services, housing, educational facilities, and water and waste-water systems. Of that, $365 million was for First Nations infrastructure to generate short-term employment benefits, while aiming for long-term goals such as increased student graduation rates.
She added that Canada, as part of its partnership arrangement with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), was hosting an international policy dialogue on HIV/AIDS and indigenous peoples.
TAN LI LUNG ( Malaysia) said his Government had voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and agreed with the Special Rapporteur that there needed to be greater coordination between his mandate, the Permanent Forum and the Expert Mechanism. The Government further agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the Declaration did not bestow a new set of rights, but provided context in the elaboration of general human rights principles and rights as they related to the circumstances of indigenous peoples. That concept was essential, to ensure that the positive standards in the principles did not get lost in the discourse on the legal status of the document.
He said Malaysia placed value on the Permanent Forum and the work of member States of the Forum to bring understanding and cooperation between them and indigenous peoples. But, the cause of indigenous rights was not assisted by the de facto attempt of the Permanent Forum to change the legal understanding of the Declaration and its mandates through its General Comment at its session in May. As a subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council, the basis of any new function of the Forum required consideration through the intergovernmental process of the Council. The Forum could not assume for itself a role as treaty body, since the Declaration itself was not a treaty, nor was it legally binding. While the intention of the Forum in issuing that comment was noble, it had instead triggered debate on the credibility and the roles and responsibilities of the Forum. The debate harmed and delayed acceptance of the Declarations as a set of principles, ideals and rights that all Member States could fully accept.
Turning to efforts at the national level to meet the rights of indigenous peoples, he said legal recognition of such peoples was enshrined in the Federal Constitution following independence in 1957, and later expanded to include the native peoples in two of the country’s states after the creation of the nation of Malaysia in 1963. The Government appoints senators from the indigenous communities, and basic service centres were located in areas where they lived. Agriculture extension services assisted in agriculture development. Indigenous peoples enjoyed land rights, and an inter-agency committee had been established at the national level to protect them from violence and exploitation, including sexual harassment and abuse of indigenous women.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said that, in June 2008, the Diet of Japan had adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as indigenous inhabitants of Japan, thereby recognizing their distinct language, religion and culture. He said Japan was determined to further promote its policies on the Ainu and to establish comprehensive measures for that purpose, and had established the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons on policies for the Ainu people. The Panel had transmitted a report this July, which highlighted the necessity of raising awareness and educational activities aimed at achieving greater nationwide understanding of the Ainu, as well as promoting their culture and industry.
Japan, in order to contribute to the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, had also contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, which promoted international cooperation in addressing challenges in the areas of culture, education, health, human rights, environment, and social and economic development. He hoped that the Trust Fund would provide funding for projects aimed at addressing indigenous issues throughput the world in an efficient manner, and that his country would endeavour to support efforts to address those issues, on both a national and an international level.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) stressed his country’s regard for the United Nations deliberations on indigenous issues in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, as well as the work of the Permanent Forum and the Expert Mechanism. His delegation continued to value the Declaration. It shared the observation of the Special Rapporteur that, rather than creating a new set of rights, it provided a contextualized elaboration of general human rights principles and rights as they related to the specific, historical, cultural and social circumstances of the indigenous peoples. The Declaration needed to be understood in a holistic manner and in relation to international law to ensure its correct interpretation. As a country with more than 400 ethnic groups, Indonesia cherished its diversity. That diversity did not separate society into small distinct silos, but united it. Indeed, Indonesians embraced diversity, because they understood how such diversity guided them towards a more just and civilized humanity.
He said the Government of Indonesia was committed to protecting and promoting human rights regardless of background. It worked to ensure the decentralization of its political system, enabling local government and communities to address their unique needs and socio-economic challenges. It was also strengthening its human rights mechanisms in coordination with civil society and its own Human Rights Commission. That work had been cited a good practice by the Special Rapporteur. Indonesia’s decentralization policies had been widely lauded in various forums and in the media, but it was not complacent and its efforts would not stop. It would continue to promote and protect the livelihood, cultural heritage and traditional way of life of all ethnic groups, as they constituted the nation’s identity. Indonesia would also work to contribute to the work of the United Nations on indigenous issues, including through the Permanent Forum. It was confident that the Forum would continue to bridge the real needs of the real groups of indigenous peoples and to advance indigenous issues on the international agenda, while continuing to uphold the its responsibility to safeguard the trust of Member States.
GONAZALO GUTIERREZ REINEL ( Peru) reiterated the point made by the Special Rapporteur that the Declaration did not create special rights different from fundamental human rights, but “deepens those fundamental rights from the cultural, historical, social and economic circumstances that indigenous peoples experience”. To that end, the Declaration was a decisive instrument for the development of indigenous peoples. The Peruvian Government was aware that a number of measures were needed to guarantee access to education, health and employment of indigenous persons on the basis of equal opportunity. In response, it had established institutional and legislative mechanisms to implement national programmes for the full development of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian peoples and to promote their economic, social, political and cultural inclusion. But, challenges still remain in providing quality bilingual education and access to health services, water and sanitation, and in creating communication channels. Achieving those goals required political will and international cooperation.
He said the Government had invited the Special Rapporteur to visit Peru after the events of 5 June in Bagua, in which 33 people died, including 23 police officers and 10 civilians. During his visit, the Rapporteur entered into an open dialogue with various parties involved, resulting in a conclusion that refuted the accusations made against the Peruvian Government, ruling out any act of genocide, massacre and forced disappearance. He expressed agreement with the Rapporteur’s assessment as to the complexity of the issues underlying the violence that occurred in Bagua. In Peru, there was always a willingness to dialogue with indigenous peoples. The Government had formed a national coordination group for the development of Amazonian people, composed of four Government representatives, the regional presidents of the Amazonian departments and 10 representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest. The group sought to foster a climate of trust between the State and indigenous people, and had formed working groups to create an independent commission to investigate the events in Bagua. At the same time, the Government had formed a round table for dialogue with the Andean peoples.
SUDHIR BHATTARAI ( Nepal) said indigenous people had unique social, cultural, economic and political characteristics. Yet, after the creation of normative policies and tools at the international level, they continued to face exclusion. They deserved a better future and more honourable treatment. The adoption of the Declaration on indigenous rights was an important step towards the promotion and protection of those rights, with the Permanent Forum playing an important advisory role. Its recommendations were instrumental in raising awareness about the issue.
He said Nepal was a multi-ethnic and multilingual country and its Constituent Assembly was one of the most inclusive in the world. Its elected representatives were currently engaged in the process of writing a new constitution. The Government was committed to moving forward with laws on proportional inclusiveness for women and marginalized minorities. Special budgetary provisions were being made for a special programme to empower different castes, indigenous people, neglected groups, the oppressed, Dalit and other communities that had fallen behind on the path to socio-economic development. He noted that Nepal’s highly successful community forestry programmes owed its success to the active participation of indigenous people in forest management.
He said Nepal attached great importance to the work of the United Nations on indigenous issues and took active part in the Permanent Forum. It had ratified ILO Convention 169 and invited the Special Rapporteur for a country visit.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia) said his Government had taken significant steps to build a new relationship with its indigenous peoples based on mutual trust and good faith. On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had offered an apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples that recognized the legacy of trauma and grief they had suffered. That apology marked a beginning in which new hope was possible. To address underlying trauma in those communities, funding had been put towards a centre that would address its effects. Special Rapporteur James Anaya had recently visited the country, and the Australian Government looked forward to his forthcoming country report.
Australia’s efforts to reset its relationship with indigenous peoples had been reinforced by efforts to close development gaps between non-indigenous and indigenous communities, he said. The commitment of billions of dollars to building up community infrastructure and to providing basic health and education services were among the benchmarks that had been set. Yet, the key message today was that the Government recognized that there was still a long way to go to undo decades of neglect. Closing the gap would require a sustained commitment over the long term. To that end, it was moving the northern territory emergency response towards a sustainable development phase. It was also working to create a Government body for indigenous peoples. The native title system was also being developed to recognize native peoples’ rights and custom. A national languages policy had been announced to keep the indigenous languages alive. Finally, the Government was working to return as quickly as possible the remains of indigenous people that had been taken and collected for decades by museums and private collectors.
JANINE COYE-FELSON (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said CARICOM supported the Permanent Forum and its evaluation exercise to produce a mid-term assessment report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session. She called on States, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations and indigenous peoples’ organizations and others to submit information on steps towards the mainstreaming of indigenous perspectives in development, thus, facilitating the documentation process. She said indigenous peoples in the Caribbean were equal partners in the development process. CARICOM member States acknowledged their contributions to society, including in promoting biodiversity, crop productivity, sustainable land use and conservation. In light of the link between development and human rights, she urged States to support the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues.
She said more clarity was needed at the United Nations on ways to allow the active participation of indigenous peoples in the Organization’s work, in general, and in the context of the three indigenous mechanisms -- the Special Rapporteur’s Office, the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum. There was a continued need for genuine partnership between the United Nations, Governments, international organizations, civil society groups, private business and indigenous peoples. The international community needed to enhance awareness of the global situation facing indigenous women and girls, however. CARICOM States had taken various initiatives to ensure that human rights were being extended to indigenous peoples, and their Governments looked forward to continued cooperation with the United Nations on that issue.
CONNIE TARACENA ( Guatemala) recognized that the role played by the Special Rapporteur was decisive in promoting the Declaration and welcomed his report to the General Assembly. In the statement by the Rio Group during the general discussion on social development, the situation of indigenous peoples had been underscored. Today the financial, food and fuel crises added to their stress. That was particularly true for indigenous women. To make the Declaration effective, States had to take special affirmative measures to ensure that the various legislative and public administration institutions were working together for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. That would require a direct reform of the judicial and legislative structure. The strong commitment of the State was also needed, especially in the realm of providing the financing needed for those commitments.
She underlined the commitment of Guatemala’s President to advancing the rights of indigenous peoples. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a subdirectorate had been established for indigenous peoples. Five working groups had been set up to implement international instruments. Those international instruments were also being promoted through, among other things, cultural events and regional seminars. Strides had been made in promoting social cohesion, particularly in those regions inhabited by the country’s 23 indigenous groups. But, further action was needed to meet Guatemala’s ambitions in the areas of education, culture and health, as well as for the full implementation of the priorities of the Declaration.
MIRIAN MASAQUIZA ( Ecuador) said her Government had gone through a process of political reform to give due recognition to the rights of indigenous peoples. Through its Constitution, it had declared the plurinational nature of the State. It had had a legislative debate on the importance of obtaining the prior, free and informed consent of indigenous peoples before embarking on important social projects. Social stakeholders of various ethnicities participated in the country’s policymaking. The national development plan had provisions for promoting social integration, citizenship and affirming the national identity under the rubric of plurinationalism.
The Government recognized that indigenous peoples struggled with the problem of inequality, which was the result of the accumulation of economic and political power in the hands of the dominant social classes. Democracy and dialogue required trust and mutual respect. The Government brought various parts of society together to solve issues of mutual interest, resulting in the country’s “Ten Agreements”. Among other things, the Government would establish joint commissions to tackle issues relating to use of natural resources, territory and indigenous institutions. She repeated her Government’s invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit Ecuador. Her Government had taken note of the consultations between indigenous peoples and intergovernmental organizations at the halfway point of the Second International Decade of indigenous peoples, and voiced hope that those matters would be addressed at the General Assembly’s sixty-fifth session.
RONA MELEISEA (Samoa) officially informed Member States and members of indigenous communities that her Government had decided to formally endorse the Declaration. To underscore that step, the decision was being simultaneously conveyed to other relevant United Nations bodies. Samoa believed that important progress had been made to advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the two years since the Declaration was adopted. That progress had been seen around the world, as well as in Samoa’s own region. But, while those gains were commendable, much more had to be done -- and the Declaration fully implemented -- for its benefits to be enjoyed by all indigenous peoples.
She recalled that Samoa had abstained in the vote on the Declaration due to a number of concerns. But, it was inevitable that Samoa would eventually support the Declaration. Today, she was happy to bear the news of her country’s decision to endorse the Declaration. That decision was a sign of Samoa’s commitment to the human rights of indigenous peoples at both the domestic and international level.
RUBAIN ADOUKI ( Congo) said indigenous peoples in the Congo were being given particular attention by the Government. A legal framework had been created to guarantee their rights. Every year, the country celebrated the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. In partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it was organizing “parliamentary day” for indigenous people, to encourage their participation in national institutions. It had also organized an international forum of indigenous peoples from the forests of Central Africa, following which the Government adopted a plan of action for 2009-2013 to improve the quality of life of those people. At the moment, the Government was conducting a census and was distributing birth certificates to indigenous children. It was also undertaking serious efforts to boost school enrolment among indigenous children. Around 12,000 children were enrolled in school in the 2005-2009 period.
He said the Government of the Congo would be among the first in Africa to have a full legal framework promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous people. The Government had initiated a draft law guaranteeing their participation, and guaranteeing the preservation of indigenous culture and identity. The law provided for the civil, political and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, their right to education and health, their collective and individual right to property, and their right to possess and have access to, and make use of, land and natural resources that they traditionally used. It provided for the development of a special fund to support the cause of indigenous peoples’ rights. The Supreme Court was currently considering the law’s constitutionality. Already, the Constitution prohibited discrimination based on ethnic affiliation.
ELENA GASTALDO, International Labour Organization (ILO), said her organization viewed combating discrimination based on indigenous or tribal origin as a central aspect of its efforts to end exclusion and marginalization. Since the proclamation of the Second International Decade, the ILO had scaled up its work on indigenous peoples’ issues and had further strengthened the links between its supervisory bodies and its technical cooperation programmes. A number of specific programmes within the organization addressed those issues, thus, creating synergies and further building capacity. Almost 20 years of experience in applying Convention No. 169 showed that regular, systematic and institutionalized consultation and participation mechanism at the national level should be established, in close cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned.
She highlighted, as one example of good practices in promoting non-discrimination against indigenous peoples, the comprehensive documentation of legal and constitutional provisions for such people and communities in African countries. With the Working Group of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the University of Pretoria’s Centre of Human Rights, the ILO had undertaken comprehensive research to document the situation of legal protection for Africa’s indigenous populations. Twenty-four country reports had been written and key findings complied in the Overview Report of the Research Project by the ILO and the African Commission on the Constitutional and Legislative Projection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 24 African Countries, which was adopted by the Commission in May 2009.
She went to say that the ILO had recently published a Case Book in the Application of the Convention in Latin America. It summarized the judicial decisions adopted in 11 countries, inkling the inter-American system reports and highlighted how the continent’s courts at all levels had based their decisions on that Convention. It had also recently published a practical guide to ILO Convention No. 169 on “Implementing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights”, which summarized experiences, best practices and lessons learned around the globe. It also featured all the necessary materials for a one-week course on indigenous peoples’ rights and development on its online training site (www.pro169.org) in the Training Tool Box.
RAMA RAO SANKURATHIRPAPI, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said his organization had been working since 1997 on matters of importance and interest to indigenous people: preventing the unauthorized use, abuse and misuse of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources belonging to traditional communities. In its deliberations, the intergovernmental committee dealing with those areas had referred repeatedly to the United Nations Declaration. At the WIPO General Assembly meeting that concluded on 1 October, members had extended the debate on the issue for another two years with a clear mandate: to undertake negotiations towards agreement on an international legal instrument or instruments to ensure protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. The decision also provided for three inter-sessional meetings of several working groups to take place in 2010 and 2011. The next meeting would take place in December. So far, members had discussed the policy contours and a draft text was currently being developed by the WIPO secretariat on the norm-making side. A voluntary fund had been set up to enable participation of representatives of indigenous communities in those deliberations. The WIPO would collaborate with the Permanent Forum on its endeavours and intended to present its report to that body at its 2010 spring meeting.
GABRIELA ALVAREZ, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said indigenous peoples were among the most resilient, as well as the poorest people on earth. Indigenous women, in particular, often experienced gender- and ethnically-motivated discrimination and violence, including forced pregnancy or sterilization, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and denial of legal rights and protection. Poverty and a lack of access to education and health services further eroded their economic and social rights. Over the last two decades, those women had mobilized to address the needs of their communities and made their issues visible on the international agenda. In 1995 in Beijing, they collectively issued the Declaration of Indigenous Women to demand world attentions to their particular realities. Since then, they had actively participated in United Nations and other global and regional forums.
In line with its strategic plan, UNIFEM’s work focused on enhancing the options for economically and socially excluded women, including women in indigenous communities. It was currently focusing on increasing indigenous women’s political participation and access to justice, in both formal and ancestral justice systems. During the constituent assembly process in Ecuador, it had supported an alliance of indigenous women’s groups in three communities to present recommendations on improving their access to justice. It was also working at the local level to reform the ancestral indigenous justice system in 43 kichwa communities. A set of “Rules for Good Coexistence” had been adopted and was now being implemented in those communities.
She highlighted a similar process in Bolivia, as well as a series of studies in the Caribbean region on the status of indigenous women, which had resulted in an agreement to ensure that, among other things, the expertise and perspective of indigenous women were reflected in all national development strategies. In Africa, UNIFEM had partnered with the World Bank to support result-based initiatives on women’s economic security, including by supporting Maasai women selling traditional bead work in broader markets. Finally, UNIFEM and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had recently completed a study on the gender-specific effects of climate change on indigenous women that highlighted local adaptation strategies. That partnership was also supporting Indigenous Women’s’ Resource Centres in China and India.
ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said one of the criteria for a democratic parliament was that it should reflect the social diversity of the population. The IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had launched a project to promote inclusive parliaments through the representation of minorities and indigenous peoples in parliament. First, the project aimed to gain a clear picture of the number of parliamentarians who self-identified as indigenous peoples. In many countries with large indigenous populations, the number of indigenous parliamentarians bore little relation to their actual numbers in society. It was important that indigenous parliamentarians be legitimate representatives of that community; there was nothing more unrepresentative than an indigenous member of parliament whose placement in parliament amounted to nothing more than window dressing.
She said the project also aimed to discover the relationship between presence and influence. There seemed to be a relationship between the inclusion of indigenous peoples in Government and a country’s adherence to international standards, norms and good practices on indigenous rights. In turn, indigenous parliamentarians were often the leading voices on the adoption of human rights norms. A third prong in the project was to ensure that indigenous perspectives were incorporated in the broader areas of health, education and employment. A number of parliaments had created specialized committees to address issues from an indigenous perspective, such as the Committee on Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples in the Peruvian Parliament. But, passing laws was not sufficient. Continued parliamentary oversight over indigenous and civil society organizations was necessary to ensure that laws were implemented correctly and brought about actual change in the lives of indigenous persons.
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