Press Conference on Launch of United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership

20 May 2011

Press Conference on Launch of United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership

20 May 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Launch of United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership

Using $1.5 million in start-up funds supplied by the Government of Denmark, the United Nations Indigenous Partnership (UNIPP) would work at the country level to promote dialogue and build partnerships, Raja Devashish Roy, a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said at Headquarters today.

“This (partnership) will work on the ground,” he said at a press conference to launch UNIPP.  “It will take projects and programmes and develop the capacity of Governments and indigenous peoples’ organizations.  It will build partnerships at the country level with indigenous peoples in the driver’s seat.”  The Partnership would expand on the global endeavours now carried out by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, he added.

Mr. Roy said the initiative aimed to coordinate and deepen the work of the United Nations system on the rights of indigenous peoples at the country level, by bringing together the experience and power of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Carsten Staur, Permanent Representative of Denmark, called the Partnership “an innovative global alliance with great potential to advance the rights of indigenous peoples”.  It would provide significant outreach efforts in all corners of the world by acting as a platform for the spread of knowledge about indigenous groups throughout the United Nations system.  The $1.5 million in funding for 2011 and 2012 would get the Partnership up and running, Mr. Staur said, encouraging other donors to participate.  “We hope and expect that UNIPP translates into concrete results on the ground.”

Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the Partnership would enable the United Nations system to “act as one” in easing the delivery of services to indigenous peoples and providing financial support.

Cleo Doumbia-Henry, ILO Director for International Labour Standards, said the agency had a long history of working with indigenous peoples, citing ILO Convention No. 169, which was complemented by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “It was right and fitting that a Partnership tries to take the two instruments together,” she said.  “This is a unique opportunity to work together.  It is just the beginning.”

Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, UNDP Deputy Director/Acting Director of Communications, said UNIPP would help implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and address the recommendations issued by the Permanent Forum over the last few years.  The UNDP Group was bringing its experience in coordinating United Nations programmes at the country level, he added.

The General Assembly adopted the Declaration in September 2007.  Convention No. 169 is an international instrument ratified by about 20 countries since its adoption in 1989 and dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.  A ratifying country has one year to align its legislation, policies and programmes with the Convention before it becomes legally binding.

Asked whether the Partnership would help indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect the intellectual property linked to their natural resources, Ms. Doumbia-Henry said it would bring together the expertise of all United Nations agencies on that issue, adding that the main challenge would be helping to build indigenous capacity to create the necessary legal instruments and institutions to protect those rights.

Mr. Staur added that UNIPP would help by building on the Organization’s existing partnerships with Governments.  “The proof is in the pudding, of course, but we have building blocks at the country level on how to interface with Governments.”

Asked why the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was not part of the Partnership, Mr. Ghandour said UNDP had extensive experience in the environmental field.  However, UNIPP actively invited other United Nations agencies and programmes to join.  “The more alliances we have from the rest of the UN family, the stronger we will be.”

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.