|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)
Indigenous Peoples Excluded from Political Power, Ejected from Lands, Faced
Corporations Bent on Destroying Life-Giving Forests, Permanent Forum Told
Speakers Say Indigenous ‘Must Regain the Right to Define Development’,
Forest Policies Must Be Harmonized with Declaration on Indigenous Rights
While indigenous peoples made undeniable contributions to humanity’s cultural diversity, representatives of aboriginal and native groups appealed today for help from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, saying they still faced systemic discrimination and exclusion from political and economic power, forced ejection from their ancestral lands, and depredation from profit-hungry corporations bent on destroying their life-giving forests.
The 16-member expert body’s planned discussion on the agenda for its tenth anniversary session next year was interrupted by passionate pleas from several speakers for the Forum to stand by its founding principles and provide space for indigenous peoples to express their opinions free from intimidation. This followed interventions by observer Governments of China and Bangladesh calling into question the status or existence of indigenous groups living, respectively, in “ Inner Mongolia”, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts region.
However, a Youth Caucus delegate declared that the Forum was supposed to be for all indigenous peoples, even those that were mislabelled as ethnic minorities, and asked: if indigenous people did not have a voice in the Permanent Forum, under what mechanism could their concerns be heard? Similarly, a speaker for the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus urged the Forum to provide an opportunity next year for a full-day discussion on human rights. He stressed the importance of implementing indigenous peoples’ rights in the Forum, without Government intimidation, and added: “It would be a shame if such interference was allowed to continue.”
Several experts took the opportunity to comment, with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines saying that, as an expert from the Asian region, she truly appreciated all the work China had done for the ethnic minorities in the country. But, the fact remained that the Forum had received reports regarding the arrest of a Mongolian activist who was scheduled to participate in the current session. That matter needed to be addressed, she said, adding: “We are not doing this out of political motivation. We are concerned about this person.”
Responding to some of the comments made by the representative of Bangladesh, Hassan Id Balkassm, Forum expert from Morocco, said it was up to native and tribal people to decide for themselves whether they were indigenous to a particular region. To that end, indigenous peoples had been living in Bangladesh and other countries for years practising their own acknowledged cultural traditions. He urged all States that supported the Declaration to acknowledge the rights of such peoples. If they failed to do so, large segments of their populations would remain marginalized and, in some regions, conflicts would continue.
During the discussion on socio-economic issues, land rights, funding and political recognition and participation were flagged as vital solutions to the marginalization many indigenous people faced. The participants, representing indigenous communities and caucuses from the Andes to North America and Central Europe to the Pacific, extolled their stewardship of some of the world’s most biologically diverse areas, saying their traditional knowledge about such biodiversity was invaluable.
The expert members of the Permanent Forum repeatedly urged States to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people, which most speakers declared was the framework for the protection and promotion of their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, and education, among others. They also underscored the Declaration’s importance in ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions.
A representative of Pacto de Unidad Coordinadora Organizaciones Indigenas de Bolivia, said his group sought to free indigenous lands ‑‑ in the Andean region and beyond ‑‑ and to regain the right to define development, as outlined in the Declaration. He’d had enough of watching millions of dollars allocated for the well-being of forest-dependent indigenous peoples being channelled instead to the meet the overhead of United Nations and other agencies working in the field. He demanded that those funds be used to promote real development for indigenous peoples.
Highlighting another aspect of the intertwined challenges indigenous peoples faced was a member of the Flying Eagle Women’s Fund, who said climate change was eroding their lands, traditions and cultures. Making matters worse was that the United States Government had enacted a series of “helpful” initiatives in the Pacific North-West, establishing nature preserves and the like, to save the land. However, those projects were often predicated on the forced removal or relocation of indigenous peoples from those lands. They also routinely violated traditional and customary practices, such as fishing and hunting.
She told the Permanent Forum that the traditional and inherent rights of indigenous peoples should be recognized, and that native peoples should be granted control over customary lands. In addition, if State authorities received consent to set up wildlife reserves, indigenous peoples should make up at least two thirds of the staff, so that their traditional knowledge of the lands could better aid in their preservation and conservation.
It was also clear from today’s discussion that many indigenous people were wary of “green growth” and carbon capture initiatives, such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), which would allow developing nations to earn valuable carbon offsets for projects that preserved or rehabilitated forests, which soaked up planet-heating carbon dioxide as they grew. Under that scheme, rich nations would buy the offsets to help them meet emissions reduction goals at home.
Supporters believed that REDD and similar projects would give a monetary value to forests, which today only had value when they were cut down. That would slow deforestation ‑‑ estimated to be responsible for nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ‑‑ provide funds to forest communities, and address the contribution of deforestation to climate change. Opponents felt that REDD was just a scheme for creating profits, rather than conserving forests. They also contend that in existing projects, locals had been overlooked, displaced from the forests or coerced into signing away their land.
On that point a representative of the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact said that the sustainability and success of community-level projects hinged on indigenous peoples exercising ownership of, and control over, their forests. When that was not the case, such forests remained in danger of predation by miners and loggers, among others. Implementation of REDD should not undermine, but strengthen the control of indigenous peoples over their forests.
“Forests are not just carbon,” she said, calling on the Permanent Forum to urge States to harmonize national forest policies with the aims of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous leaders and communities must also have the right to reject REDD and similar initiatives being carried out on their lands, if their rights were not truly guaranteed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Assembly of First Nations of North America; Confederation of Inter-Cultural Communities; Federation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia; Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations; Fundacion Ana Watta Kai; Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People; African Indigenous Women Organisation; Central African Network; Indigenous Peoples of Chile (NTAPUCHE); International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN); Yurta Mira; Asia Indigenous Women’s Network; Asian Pacific Indigenous Youth Network; Regional Organization of Nogay People in Dagestan Republic; Oxfam Australia; Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights; Kuki Organization for Human Rights; Eco Spirituality Foundation; Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples North East Zone; Yamasi People of North America; Africa Caucus; Global Caucus; Pacific Caucus; San Carlos Apache Tribe; and Olaji lo Larusa Integrated Programme for Agro Pastoralists Development.
Forum Members from Morocco, Philippines, Sweden and United States also spoke.
Participating as an observer was the Vice-Minister for Indigenous Affairs of Venezuela and the representatives of Congo, Guatemala, Suriname, Botswana and Bangladesh also spoke as observers.
Speaking in a point of order was the representative of China.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 30 April, to conclude its ninth session.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to continue debate on the future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues, and to take up the draft agenda for its tenth session.
NGASSEMBO ADOLPHO ( Congo) said the Congo Basin was an important reservoir of biodiversity and contributor to sustainable development. The indigenous peoples of Central Africa had experienced different fates ‑‑ some lived in national communities, while others depended on forests. Many in his country had been recruited by the forest industry. Indigenous rights were of the utmost importance. Central African countries had held an international forum to grapple with the question of indigenous peoples. At the end, participants decided to organize such a meeting every year. An upcoming meeting would focus on the sustainable management of Central African forests and the adoption of an action plan for protecting indigenous rights, with a view to its implementation by Governments. For its part, his Government recently had adopted a law to protect indigenous peoples and was ready to improve their living conditions.
CONNIE TARACENA ( Guatemala) said her country was one of “mega diversity”, with many groups and cultures. However, poverty had made forest governance a real challenge. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme could help reduce emissions from deforestation in Guatemala and resources to prepare for those efforts should be available and equitably distributed among developing countries. Guatemala had been making strides in reforestation efforts, but the challenges were beyond its domestic efforts. She recommended that all States recognize local, traditional knowledge and preserve local biodiversity. They should take into account in public policies methods for forest care. She supported the idea of voluntary financial resources to facilitate indigenous participation at regional and international discussions on forests.
ROSEANNE VAN SHIE, Assembly of First Nations of North America, said the Wolf Lake First Nations were among those who formed the Algonquin First Nation. Their aboriginal title and rights had been documented through historic research and it was important to show those connections in both historic and contemporary terms. Wolf Lake First Nations had evaluated economic alternatives to resource-intensive industries that would restore biodiversity to the region. Her people had prevented deforestation of watersheds on its territories. REDD initiatives were in keeping with that work and should not be limited to developing countries. Her people had advocated for indigenous participation in forming regulatory regimes in Canada and the United States. She worried that there was not enough consultation and that free, prior and informed consent was not being obtained in Government green energy contracts. Also, a new trade economy was emerging in which carbon offsets were being bought and sold in open markets and it was important that indigenous peoples understand such markets. As currently structured, REDD was unacceptable to many peoples.
JUSTINO HUZA MENDOSA, Confederation of Inter-Cultural Communities, said indigenous peoples lived in the world’s most fragile ecosystems and were most vulnerable to climate change. They had constantly suffered because of the activities of transnational corporations and that was a grave concern to indigenous peoples in Latin America, because such activities would lead to endemic disease, forest fires, loss of identity, forced internal and external migration and famine. Climate change was caused by the capitalist system, which had promoted a “society of waste” and “lavish spending of all natural resources”. He called on States to respect and guarantee international human rights standards, particularly through the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He demanded rights to full and effective consultation; free, prior and informed consent; and participation in designing climate change measures. In closing, he supported creation of a climate court to punish those responsible for pollution.
FELIX TICONA QUISPE, Federation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia, said the rights of indigenous peoples should not just exist as words on paper: all States, native communities and United Nations entities must work together to ensure that those rights were made real. He said the first step for all stakeholders was to put a stop to the man-made activities that were driving global warming and weather anomalies that were destroying native lands and territories. Forest ranges were under extreme pressure from the effects of climate change, he said, reiterating his call on all stakeholders to act to protect forests, which were vital for the existence of many indigenous communities.
TOMAS HUANACU TITO, Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, said that from the very first day that the Spanish had set foot in the Andes, that once pristine and life-giving region had suffered from massive devastation. The virgin forests had been felled to feed foreign livestock and pristine waters had been fouled with waste from iron smelting and other pre-industrial activities. That had been the first blow. The second blow was global warming.
Indeed, the already weakened Andean forests and mountain ranges were rapidly deteriorating; ice caps were melting, trees were dying and animals were becoming extinct. He urged the Permanent Forum to hold a half-day special dialogue next year on the impact of man-made climate change on the Andean region. The Permanent Forum must also ask the invaders to pay reparations for the damage they had wrought.
ANA DEL CARMEN GONZALEZ PUSHAINA, Fundacion Ana Watta Kai, said that her ancestral lands in Colombia were host to a wind farm, and that project had improved the lives of all the people there. She said that experience had been successful because indigenous people had been consulted and involved in the planning stages. That was as it should be in all cases. She reiterated her invitation to the Chairman of the Forum to visit Colombia and report back to the wider membership on the project.
Next, JUDY WILSON, Flying Eagle Women’s Fund, said that climate change was eroding the lands, tradition and cultures of indigenous peoples of the American Western Pacific. Making matters worse was that the United States Government had enacted a series of “helpful” initiatives, establishing nature preserves and the like, to save the land. In reality, however, those projects were often predicated on the forced removal or relocation of indigenous peoples from those lands. They also routinely violated traditional and customary practices, such as fishing and hunting.
She told the Permanent Forum that the traditional and inherent rights of indigenous peoples should be recognized, and that native peoples should be granted control over customary lands. In addition, if State authorities received consent to set up wildlife reserves, indigenous peoples should make up at least two thirds of the staff, so that their traditional knowledge of the lands could better aid in their preservation and conservation.
JOAN CARLING, Asia Indigenous People’s Pact, said that, since forests were now at the centre of the global debate on climate change, indigenous peoples were once again finding themselves subjected to processes and mechanisms that were being carried out without their consultation or consent. She was particularly concerned about proposals such as the REDD initiative, by which wealthy countries would pay to preserve forests in developing countries as a way to offset their climate-changing carbon emissions at home.
Most of the countries in which such projects were being pushed belonged to indigenous peoples, she continued, adding, however, that the inherent rights of those peoples to the lands were not being recognized, and no satisfactory remedy had been set out. It was, therefore, necessary to examine such proposals very closely. Even the so-called “REDD-plus” must be discussed with indigenous peoples before being implemented. The sustainability and success of community projects hinged on indigenous peoples exercising ownership of, and control over, their forests.
When that was not the case, such forests remained in danger of predation by miners and loggers, among others. Implementation of REDD should not undermine, but strengthen the control of ingenious peoples over their forests. “Forests are not just carbon,” she said, calling on the Permanent Forum to urge States to harmonize national forest policies with the aims of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous leaders and communities must also have the right to reject REDD and similar initiatives being carries out on their lands if their rights were not truly guaranteed.
CARLOS SOMERA, Vice-Minister for Indigenous Affairs of Venezuela, urged the Permanent Forum to adopt the People’s Agreement adopted by the four-day World’s People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Bolivia last week. Ensuring life on the planet was the mission of every living thing on Earth, from the mightiest to the smallest. The objective was to come up with real solutions to make the Earth better for all. Venezuela, for its part, had moved to identify huge tracts of land to be turned over to its indigenous peoples. Those groups were the stewards and protectors of the country’s heritage. The strategy to create “communal indigenous forests” aimed to ultimately set aside 200 million hectares of land, so that the voice of indigenous peoples could be heard for centuries to come.
HENRY MAC-DONALD ( Suriname) said the tribal and forest-dependent population ‑‑ the Maroon people ‑‑ consisted of six tribes who were descendents of slaves. More than 90 per cent of the land was covered by tropical Amazonian rain forests. The country was considered a “high forest cover” country and was fostering a culture of forest sustainability. On the global level, Suriname had actively participated in the United Nations Forum on Forests. Standing forests contributed to climate stabilization and countries like his should be supported. Suriname also had participated in discussions on financial mechanisms, notably related to the REDD+ programme, and the Government had provided for indigenous participation in such discussions. It also was working to best address land rights issues of forest-dependent communities and, to that end, had organized a conference last year with indigenous peoples. Finally, Suriname was working on how to best implement the concept of free, prior and informed consent.
LEGBROSI PYAGBARA, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, said forests would be under increasing focus as people grappled with how to address climate change. Last year, Nigeria had proposed building a military facility in one particular area, but nothing had been discussed with the Ogoni people. Their free, prior and informed consent had not been sought. The Government announced plans to move into that area and destroy forests, in flagrant violation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Such behaviour had vast implications on food, job and economic security. Similarly, the area was home to the world’s largest mango forests, many of which were located in the Niger Delta. Mango forest depletion, especially as a result of massive oil pollution, threatened his people’s cultural survival. In light of that, he recommended that the Forum urge the Government to stop building the military facility and develop a policy for protecting mango forests, in line with the Declaration. He proposed that the Forum hold a half-day discussion on business and indigenous peoples.
FREDY CONDO, Pacto de Unidad Coordinadora Organizaciones Indigenas de Bolivia (COINCABOL), presented a flag which was a symbol of his people in the Andes. “We live as worthy peoples, as children of Mother Earth,” he said. “Mother Earth does not belong to us, we belong to her.” Indigenous peoples could not turn into beggars, depending on the handouts of those who oppressed them. Indigenous leaders and organizations were being persecuted. He sought to free indigenous lands and regain the right to define development, as outlined in the Declaration. He had had enough of seeing millions of dollars allocated for the indigenous peoples of the forests channelled instead to the overhead of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which had sometimes used such funds to prosecute indigenous leaders. Those funds had to be used to promote real development. The “ Cochabamba” conference reflected the voice of over 100 countries. A band aid was not enough to solve climate change problems.
HAWE HAMMAN BOUBA, African Indigenous Women Organisation, Central African Network, supported the following proposals for the Forum’s future work: that a half-day discussion be held on African indigenous peoples and business human rights violations; that water be chosen as the theme of the Forum’s tenth session; that the Forum organize a workshop on good practices for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa; and that a craft exhibition be organized during the tenth session. She also thanked the Forum for hearing indigenous students, who had struggled to have their voices heard.
CARLOS EDEN, Indigenous Peoples of Chile (NTAPUCHE), said he spoke on behalf of the Colaska people, who were maritime nomads. For 13 centuries his people had lived, but today they only had their memories. Words like “free, prior and informed consent” were not part of his people’s knowledge; they used different words. In December 2007, mechanisms had been created without indigenous participation, violating their free, prior and informed consent and setting aside their sacred right to say no. The World Bank had used interventionist policies to deal with indigenous peoples. Natural wealth was disappearing, but transnational companies continued to polish off the last of his peoples’ forests. The Western idea of development was incompatible with his peoples’ culture and identity. Documents had been drafted on behalf of 3 million indigenous peoples, but the drafters did not share their “cosmo vision”.
KAIA BOE, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said the challenges and opportunities presented by forest management showed the need for an integrated approach. Conservation and management of protected areas had not protected indigenous peoples. Full recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and their genuine participation in developing, implementing and monitoring conservation initiatives was necessary to establishing visions for environmental sustainability. There was systematic consideration of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities in IUCN’s conservation programme. Her organization recognized that indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities had strong incentives to preserve forests and, thus, were logical allies for initiatives to protect ecosystems and reduce emissions from deforestation. In support of articles 32 and 23 of the Declaration, IUCN stressed the need for the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in the development of commercial enterprises or other uses of their lands. Its REDD activities explicitly included women.
HASSAN ID BALKASSM, Forum member from Morocco, said that before colonialism, indigenous peoples managed forest regions based on their laws and customs. Forests in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and forests in Lebanon ‑‑ before French colonialists arrived in the Magreb ‑‑ had been managed by the Amazigh. They protected trees from being uprooted and sold. Later, France implemented laws that had dispossessed those peoples of their forests. After independence, many national Governments considered themselves successors to colonial laws and, rather than return to indigenous laws, developed policies that led to the deterioration of those forests. Today, Governments were giving forests to investors. The Forum could establish a dialogue between indigenous peoples and the United Nations Forum on Forests. He also asked that a cooperation mechanism be created for indigenous peoples and Governments.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Forum member from the Philippines, reiterated that forest-dependent peoples ‑‑ whether in the Arctic, the Andes, tundras or mangrove forests ‑‑ were saying that they had protected their forests as the main sources of identity, culture, food security, water and air. That had come through strongly. In tropical rain forests especially, there had been conflicts caused by colonialist forest policies. Also, it was clear there was renewed interest in forests because of climate change. Indigenous peoples had known for years that forests sequestered carbon.
The right thing, as far as indigenous peoples were concerned, was to ensure their rights were respected, especially to self-determination in protecting their forests. Noting that the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility covered 37 countries, she urged that the Bank’s safeguard policies be implemented in such work. She also said the Declaration be respected in the REDD collaborative programme. Those principles should be the foundation of forest policies and programmes. If they were not, forests would continue to deteriorate.
ALEXANDRA GRIGORIEVA, Yurta Mira, said her organization supported efforts to promote sports as a way to promote development of indigenous peoples and to enhance the dialogue among cultures and civilization. Her group, which represented the Sakha indigenous peoples of Yakutia, in the Eastern Siberian Arctic region, planned to actively participate in the First World Indigenous Games, to be held in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2010. She went on to say that her group was launching an effort to establish a series of museums around the world to raise awareness about the situation of indigenous peoples and the work of the Permanent Forum.
Of course, the group was having trouble raising the money to get the projects off the ground, and she, therefore, asked the Permanent Forum to provide assistance in that regard. She also called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to support the project. The museums would play a vital role, because such recognition was the common goal of all peoples and only through unity would all people gain strength. She went on to say that her people were under pressure to maintain the culture, especially to preserve their traditional languages.
She, therefore, called on countries that had abstained in the vote on the Declaration, especially the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, to reconsider their positions. Their support for the Declaration would pave the way for the indigenous peoples of Yakutia to protect their culture and exercise their rights.
LARS ANDERS BAER, Forum member from Sweden, said climate change was impacting reindeer grazing lands. That was bound to escalate conflicts between forestry initiatives and reindeer herding in the Arctic and other regions. He noted that the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee had called on Finland to halt logging activities in areas that might affect reindeer herding and related activities in Saami territories.
Summing up the discussion on forests, CARLOS MAMANI CONDORI, Chairman of the Permanent Forum and expert from Bolivia, said that it was clear from the statements that had been made over the past two days that the true owners of the world’s forest and related territories were indeed indigenous peoples. That was why the principle of free, prior and informed consent must be followed, including by the World Bank and United Nations agencies supporting proposals such as REDD. He said that forests had been deteriorating for years, and compensation, in the form of reparations and restoration, must be provided. Indigenous peoples were the “custodians of humanity,” and they must play an active role in any decisions being made that concerned their ancestral lands.
ELLEN BANG-OA, Asia Indigenous Women’s Network, cited a raft of abuses that were being perpetrated by the agents, emissaries and Armed Forces of the respective Governments of Malaysia, “ Burma”, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia against the indigenous women in those countries. Those women were subjected to rapes, humiliation and all forms of abuse. For example, in Malaysia, the homes and villages of indigenous peoples were routinely burned to the ground and their inhabitants either killed or forcibly ejected. In Indonesia, sexual abuse by logging workers had been reported. In many cases, women human rights defenders were harassed and attacked.
She said that justice remained elusive in most of those cases, sadly, in most instances, due to the disappearance of, or lack of cooperation from, the victims. Those were but a few of the urgent cases that needed to be addressed. They were emblematic of the region’s intolerance and attitudes that perpetuated violence against, and non-recognition of, indigenous women. Such acts also fed a perverted sense of empowerment by State authorities over indigenous women. She, therefore, urged the Permanent Forum to increase its participation with local indigenous networks to raise awareness about those abuses and bolster protection for women.
She also called on the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women, to visit those countries. Those officials and the members of the Permanent Forum should call on States and federal Governments in the Asian region to honour their obligations under international law and to engage in the process of healing and reconciliation.
JACOB PANGKHUA, Asian Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, said that Tripuri people were the original inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tripura in North-East India and Bangladesh. That Kingdom had never been subdued by Mongols, nor had it signed a treaty with British Government. The Tripuri and Borok people had a well-defined social and economic tradition and lengthy cultural history. But, aggressive acts that began after India’s independence culminated in India’s annexation of the Kingdom in 1949. Since then, the Tripuri people have been reduced to a minority in Tripura due to the large scale migration of the Bengali ‑‑ from a majority of 80 per cent of the population in the 1901 census to just 30 per cent in 2001 according to the census carried out by India.
The misery and human rights violations had been routine since the annexation, with innocent girls and women dishonoured and raped, houses torched and young boys being sent to detention centres and subjected to inhumane treatment and torture at the hands of the Indian Armed Forces. Those Armed Forces continued to harass the people of the region. He called for the complete restoration of the Tripuri peoples’ territory. It was an historical fact that the region had never been a part of India. “We are not concerned with might, but what is right,” he said, calling on the United Nations, European Union, Amnesty International and others to prevail on the Indian Government to withdraw its Armed Forces from the region.
YANGUIRCHI ADZHIEV, Regional Organization of Nogay People in Dagestan Republic, said those steppe-dwelling people had never been granted constitutional rights. Artificial borders had been drawn through their lands and laws had been enacted during the Soviet era, preventing forever the establishment of a wholly autonomous region. He called on the Permanent Forum to raise awareness of that dire situation.
TAMMY SOLONEC, Oxfam Australia, was grateful for the Special Rapporteur’s visit to the northern area of Australia. She also noted Australia’s revised policy position in inviting all special mechanisms, including Special Rapporteurs. The Special Rapporteur had provided an important observation on the Northern Territory Emergency Response intervention. The Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 was suspended in 2007 to implement the intervention. Community consultations were conducted in 2009 and the Government redesigned various measures of the Act. Those changes had been subject to inquiry. Unfortunately, Parliament had given little attention to the Special Rapporteur’s concerns. She voiced concern at Australia’s disregard of the issue and sought a formal response to the Special Rapporteur’s report. She recommended that the Forum urge States to commit to a process of responding to reports, and both develop and publicly promote a strategy to implement a response to recommendations. The Forum should also present a draft resolution to the Economic and Social Council urging indigenous peoples to review legislation to ensure they were in line with the Declaration.
ATHILI SAPRIINA, Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights, recommended that India honour the Declaration and take steps to settle with the Naga people. Moreover, India’s counter-insurgency operations must stop and interference in reconciliation efforts must end. India and Myanmar must halt their joint military exercises. Meanwhile, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and UNDP, among others in the Naga area, must protect indigenous peoples’ rights and ensure that their work was not confined to those peoples who had been co-opted by the State. Finally, the Forum’s agenda item 4 should be allotted more time for discussion in every session.
T. LUNKIM, Kuki Organization for Human Rights, spoke about the plight and aspirations of the Kuki people, who lived in contiguous areas in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. His people numbered maybe 10 million, all of whom spoke the same language. Describing their history, he said the Kuki had been loosely organized into chiefdoms. A monarchy then arose to control the chiefs, many of whom were spread around the settlement. The Kuki people had felt the brunt of colonialist policies, with battles for administrative control lasting from the 1600s to the 1800s. Later on, the Kuki people fought with the Indian army against the Japanese. After that, they had been left fragmented and isolated, their aspirations brushed aside. The north-east India region was among the most volatile in the world, with many armed groups operating in the area. He asked that a rapporteur come view the mass graves. He urged an end to violence against the Kuki people, including by removing all landmines in the area.
ROSALSA NATERO, Eco Spirituality Foundation, speaking on behalf of several groups, said spiritual rights were being violated. She denounced the destruction of a mountain used by the Bantou people of Cameroon by the Catholic Church, which had placed a large cross on its top. Also, in Europe, the Breton community needed help in Carnac, a megalithic site which the French Government intended to turn into a museum. In Piedmont, Italy, the identity of communities that preserved ancient pre-Christian traditions was not being protected. She urged UNESCO to designate such places as world heritage sites. She also urged European States to return cultural objects to the Wemba Wemba nation. Native peoples’ identity was based on traditional knowledge.
RAJIB BORA, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples North East Zone, said colonial policies and changes in demographic patterns had contributed to the ethno-political movements of the Assami people. India had created a situation where laws were in conflict; many related to migration and were aimed to discourage immigration from Bangladesh and the destruction of the Assami people’s distinct character. The major concern was that India must respect the rights of ethnic communities, as well as their aspirations and needs. It was imperative to confer regional autonomy to the Assami people. He also urged the Forum to impress upon India the importance of fully implementing the Declaration.
PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE ( Botswana) responded to issues raised in paragraph 65 of the report on boarding schools, which stated that, to address geographic isolation, San/Basarwa children had been moved to hostels. In that way, children received basic schooling, though not in their native languages. Those hostels were unsympathetic places.
He said there was a misconception. On use of native languages, he said the official languages were Tswana and English. It would not be feasible to use all mother tongues, especially as some had many sub-languages. It would be almost impossible to develop instructional materials to cover all languages. Regarding the separation of children from their parents, he said it was the Government’s responsibility to achieve education for all. The provision of boarding facilities was one way Botswana was providing access to education. Parents were free to visit children at any time. The Government had created a task force to address challenges posed by the hostels. The task force had visited the hostels in 2010 and would produce a report at year’s end. It was the right of every citizen to participate in opportunities for self-empowerment, particularly educational opportunities.
LAURIE JOHNSON, Yamasi People of North America, again asked the Human Rights Council when it would investigate rape and genocide as crimes against aboriginal title holders. The Forum should pursue dialogue with the Human Rights Council on war crimes committed in wars of aggression to exterminate title holders. That campaign must stop. The United States must stop raping peoples, lands and cultures. She asked the United States to enter into dialogue with indigenous peoples and stop hindering their efforts to obtain food, housing, health care and education. She urged the Forum to advise the Economic and Social Council on ways to recognize governments that had existed before the European holocaust, and to find ways to recognize indigenous governments, so that colonial Governments could not violently create fake authorities that they controlled.
MICK DODSON, Forum member from Australia, launched the discussion on item 8, reminding members that next year was a review year, which would focus on development and environment. The proposed organization of work was similar to that for this year. There would be a half-day discussion on water next year, included under item 7. For 2012, the Forum’s special theme would be “the Doctrine of Discovery, and its impact on the rights of indigenous peoples”. He was unable to say when the Expert Group meeting would be held; however, its theme would be announced tomorrow. Under item 3, there would be a report presented by the Inter-Agency Support Group and dialogue with the agencies. Next year’s regional discussion would be held with Latin America and the Caribbean. Under item 7, there would be a discussion on various studies on topics to which Special Rapporteurs had been assigned.
FARMARK HLAWNCHING, Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus, noting the arrest of a Mongol leader in China, urged the Forum to request his release. China should take immediate measures. He also asked that people be allowed to attend future sessions of the Forum without interference.
Interrupting those remarks in a point of order, China’s representative reminded the speaker of the so-called Asian Caucus that item 7 was currently being discussed. That speaker had mentioned “southern Mongolia” ‑‑ that was a complete mistake. The Inner Mongolia region was established on 1 May 1945 and was among the earliest autonomous regions. He expressed hope that, in the future, the speaker would avoid using incorrect concepts such as “southern Mongolia”, which violated the United Nations Charter. China categorically opposed mentioning that concept.
He reminded the speaker that an organization called “South Mongolian Human Rights Centre”, headquartered outside China, could in no way represent anyone from Inner Mongolia and was not qualified to be part of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus, nor the Forum’s discussions. From 2007, that organization had condemned the Chinese Government, using hackneyed phrases that were not based in reality.
After the founding of new China, the Inner Mongolian economy had undergone rapid development and there had been harmonious development among the various ethnic peoples, he said. Rumours spread by a few organizations could not negate that reality. He reiterated that China had been founded by all ethnic groups ‑‑ it was a unified country. The Han, Mongolian and 54 other ethnic groups from ancient times had lived on that land. China attached great importance to the social and economic development of areas inhabited by ethnic peoples, in line with the Constitution and a law on the economy of minority areas.
Resuming his remarks, Mr. HLAWNCHING said it was vital that the Forum provide opportunities for a full-day discussion on human rights. Expressing gratitude for the idea to hold a half-day discussion on indigenous peoples in Asia, he said indigenous peoples’ rights over land, territories and resources continued to be denied by landlords. In line with the Year on Forests, he proposed that an expert seminar be held to study the impact of such laws on indigenous peoples’ rights. The Asia Caucus stressed the importance of implementing indigenous peoples’ rights in the Forum, without the intimidation of Governments. “It would be a shame if such interference was allowed to continue,” he stressed.
SANDRA NELSON ZONGO, Africa Caucus, said her group would appreciate if the Permanent Forum would sincerely consider the myriad challenges facing the indigenous people of Africa. “Those challenges are immense”, and she was concerned that indigenous communities were not helping each other. Indeed, there was a whiff of racism around the issue, as the needs of Africa’s indigenous people, especially women, were routinely ignored or overlooked. As a first step towards rectifying such slights, the Forum could, during its next session, hold a half-day session on Africa. Meanwhile, indigenous groups and caucuses from different parts of the world should try harder to listen to each other and work together.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, Global Caucus, recognized the “tremendous efforts” that had been undertaken during the Permanent Forum’s session, including by the support staff, United Nations officials, experts and participating nongovernmental groups. He offered the Caucus’s ongoing support in efforts to achieve the goals of the Declaration. At the same time, he was concerned that implementation of the Declaration was lagging and called for broader and more comprehensive support.
As for the Permanent Forum’s upcoming session, he supported proposals that the Forum organize an Expert Group Meeting on reproductive and environmental health, including the rights of indigenous women. He also supported calls for convening an Expert Group Meeting on the impact of the “Doctrine of Discovery”. In addition, water should be chosen as a special theme of the next session, including matters regarding the right to water and the impact of the construction of hydroelectric dams. He also supported the convening of a round table or expert group meeting on truth and reconciliation commissions.
KEALIIOLUOLU GORA Pacific Caucus, said his delegation was looking forward to the Permanent Forum’s tenth session. He recommended that the expert body rotate its sessions between regions annually to allow fair and equitable access to its work. He requested that the Asia-Pacific be considered a priority venue for the next session. He also recommended that the tenth session be broadcast by an indigenous media outlet, as well as for that session to provide space for discussion of the Forum’s six mandated areas.
Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ, Forum member from the Philippines, said that, as an expert from the Asian region, she truly appreciated all the work China had carried out for the ethnic minorities in China. But, the fact remained that the report the Forum had received regarding the arrest of the person that was supposed to attend the current session needed to be addressed. That person’s travel had been covered by the Voluntary Fund. She appealed to the Chinese delegation to address the matter. “We are not doing this out of political motivation. We are concerned about this person,” she said.
IQBAL AHMED ( Bangladesh) said his country did not have any indigenous people, but some tribal people and peoples of different ethnic minorities lived in various districts, including in the Chittagong Hill Tract. That region had been restive over the years. The Government had taken steps to ensure that tribal and non-tribal people there lived in harmony, side by side. To that end, many military camps had been withdrawn and the Chittagong Land Commission was surveying the region to help end disputes. Further, the Government had initiated special and targeted development programmes for all ethnic groups, to bring them into Bangladeshi society while preserving their unique cultures and traditions.
Responding to some of the comments made, Mr. BALKASSM, Forum member from Morocco, said the United Nations definition of indigenous people was not precise. Those peoples could decide for themselves whether they were indigenous to a particular region. So, in line with the Declaration, and in the spirit of promoting and protection human rights, everyone must respect the freedom of expression and “freedom of belonging” of indigenous peoples.
He said that indigenous and tribal peoples lived in areas surrounded by dominant societies, so those peoples had the right to express themselves as they wished. As for the representative of Bangladesh’s intimation that there were no indigenous people in that country, that view contravened decisions taken by the United Nations, which had recognized such groups and allowed their caucuses to participate in its work. Tribal and indigenous peoples had been living in Bangladesh and other countries for years practising their own cultural traditions. He urged all States that supported the Declaration to acknowledge the rights of indigenous peoples. If they failed to do so, large segments of their populations would remain marginalized and, in some regions, conflicts would continue.
LEROY MOBLEY, Youth Caucus, said his delegation was concerned about the state of the world’s indigenous peoples. The Permanent Forum was supposed to be “for and from” indigenous peoples, including those that were mislabelled as ethnic minorities. He asked: if indigenous people did not have a voice in the Permanent Forum, under what mechanism could their concerns be heard? He recommended that, in future sessions, the expert body exercise every effort to ensure that representatives travelling to participate in the Forum’s work were not detained, harassed, or threatened.
Mr. DODSON, Forum member from Australia, following up on “something that has bugged me for six years”, said it was important to think about how the Forum administered its two-week sessions. He referred to the way in which the speakers’ list was managed. Perhaps that should be placed on the agenda, because the practice of giving preference to regional group and caucus statements, over individual statements, was possibly having a negative or biased impact. That was clear when delegations were called out of sequence, a practice that undermined the integrity of the speakers’ list and could erode confidence among delegations about the Forum’s process of engagement.
Delegations ought to be able to rely on regularity, he said, especially as some had come from the “remotest parts of the planet” to have their voices heard. He was not suggesting there had been any favouritism, or external legal interference with the list, but the point was that people who had waited for two weeks to speak sometimes were never heard. That issue should be placed on the Forum’s agenda. It had a duty to maximize the number of voices heard. People had to have absolute confidence in the Forum’s processes of engagement.
VERMELDA GRANT, San Carlos Apache Tribe, said her people were opposed to the Southern Arizona Land Exchange. Such activities harmed Apaches and indigenous peoples who used those sacred spaces for expressing their identities and ways of life. Land exchange would overturn public land withdrawal for 760 acres of Tonto forest land. The resolution Copper Mining Company sought land exchange through Bill 409, which would allow it to violate indigenous and human rights laws and extract metals from known holy sites for the Apache people. An additional bill ‑‑ HR-4880 ‑‑ was also meant to provide for that company’s operations. She demanded full protection of her people’s holy lands under existing federal legislation. The resolution’s parent companies, Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton, must adhere to international law. Indigenous peoples needed access to such ecosystems, whether through prayer, song or ceremony. Damage to them weakened their power and showed great disrespect to holy beings.
ARNOLD LAISSER, Olaji lo Larusa Integrated Programme for Agro Pastoralists Development, spoke about the impacts of climate change on the Larusa people, and the impacts of deforestation and other big projects undertaken by Government and private individuals. Because of those activities, Larusa women and children were forced to walk long distances for water. Girls were denied access to schools and their right to education. Life had no meaning. Animals were dying. He underscored the importance of protecting human sanctity, especially through the protection of forests and water. He also urgently drew attention to the need for equal educational opportunities for boys and girls.
TONYA GONNELLA FRICHNER, Forum member from the United States, acknowledged comments made by the Pacific Caucus, which suggested that the Forum meet in various regions. That idea had been discussed early in the Forum’s history and would be a way to engage all regions. More interactive and constructive dialogue between States and indigenous delegates was something to move towards. Part of the meeting could be held in a traditional setting that included States. That could help bring down the barriers that placed speakers on different sides of the room. She strongly supported use of the Internet to keep engaged. Also, the speakers’ list had to be modernized to meet the Forum’s evolving needs.
MYRIAM SANCHEZ, Global Caucus, supported the idea to organize an international round table on truth and reconciliation to discuss the forced displacement of children. Also, an expert group meeting could be organized on carbon markets that would include such issues as the Clean Development Mechanism. She also urged that a half day be dedicated to discussing human rights violations.
Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ, Forum member from the Philippines, reminded the African Caucus that the Forum had already held a half-day discussion on Africa. To another comment that all peoples of Bangladesh were considered indigenous, she said she had visited Bangladesh many times. There were laws recognizing the term “indigenous”, including in Chittagong Hill Tribe regulation, which referred to indigenous people.
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