|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
Special Rapporteur Highlights ‘Negative, Even Catastrophic’ Impact of Extractive
Industries on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in Third Committee Statement
James Anaya Says Issue Will Be Major Focus of Work during New Mandate;
Hopes to Facilitate ‘Common Understanding’ about Key Issues, Applicable Standards
Underscoring the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of extractive industries on the social, cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today that the issue would be a major focus during his second mandated term which runs until May 2014.
“The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” James Anaya said, as the Committee began its annual discussion on indigenous issues and the Second International Decade of the World’s indigenous People. Mr. Anaya was first appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008 and was appointed to a second three-year term this past May.
He said negligent projects had been implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the people concerned. Consequently, disputes related to extractive industries had sometimes escalated into violence, and there was an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about those industries.
Against that backdrop, the absence of a common understanding about key issues and applicable standards among all actors concerned formed a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights, he said. Significant legal and policy gaps, as well as a lack of coherence in standards related to those industries in all countries and regions, contributed to the situation.
For indigenous rights to have a meaningful effect on States and corporate policies and actions related to indigenous peoples, a common understanding among indigenous peoples, Government actors, business enterprise and others was required, and he planned to hold a series of expert meetings and consultations. He would also launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions and issues, and would gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples.
At the same time, he assured States that he would continue to consider the broad range of issues that affected indigenous peoples and to monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations by promoting good practices, reporting on country situations, examining cases of alleged human rights violations and presenting thematic studies.
During a question-and-answer session following his initial presentation, Mr. Anaya cautioned that indigenous peoples should not be confronted with decisions or proposals that were already highly developed during consultations with Governments or corporations on activities and projects affecting them. Rather, they should be involved at the very earliest design stage of such any initiative or project, particularly to overcome a legacy of mistrust and ill treatment.
He also suggested that participation mechanisms for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system were inadequate, because they were often built around existing mechanisms for non-State members. Borrowing the credentials of non-governmental organizations, or forming non-governmental organizations just to participate in relevant United Nations meetings created obstacles for many indigenous peoples, who had their own authority structures. Their leaders were not simply the heads of non-governmental organizations, but governmental authorities, and sufficient mechanisms must be developed to allow them to participate as such.
Earlier, Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, had underlined the need to make the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which now had universal support — a reality. “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.
She said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies, and it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” to secure the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and improve their lives.
A number of delegations during today’s debate voiced support for the Special Rapporteur’s stronger focus on extractive industries, with Suriname’s representative acknowledging the issue’s complexities. “We are aware that a delicate balance has to be found between, on the one hand, the opportunities these industries provide for sustainable development of the country as a whole, and guaranteeing that the rights of the indigenous peoples are respected, on the other hand,” he said.
Guatemala’s representative said it was clear that there was inadequate participation by indigenous peoples in both designing and benefiting from a host of projects, including those by extractive industries. The United States delegate invited Member States to review actions under her Government’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal process that included all groups.
Throughout the day, delegations highlighted the potential of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to open a new phase in the promotion and protection of their rights. Many stressed the need for indigenous participation before and during the meeting. In that vein, the Mexican delegation stressed that the Conference’s success would depend in large part on the ample and inclusive participation of all involved actors.
Also today, the Committee concluded its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Participating in that debate were the Observer of Palestine, and the Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Labour Organization.
Also participating in today’s debate on indigenous rights were delegates from Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), European Union, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guyana, Australia, Russian Federation, Japan, Cuba, Sweden, Turkey, Peru, Bolivia, New Zealand, Congo, Malaysia, Brazil, Nepal and Ecuador.
Speakers from the International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Labour Organization United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and World Intellectual Property Organization also commented.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 October, to begin its discussion on the implementation of human rights instruments and comprehensive implementation of follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights and begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples. (For more information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4010.)
It had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on rights of indigenous peoples (document A/66/288). The report of the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of his activities during the first three-year term of his mandate. He was originally appointed in May 2008, and his mandate was renewed for a second three-year term effective 1 May 2011. It describes his efforts to coordinate with global and regional mechanisms concerned with indigenous issues and outlines the work undertaken within four interrelated spheres of activity: promoting good practices, country reports, cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.
The report includes summaries of the thematic studies that the Special Rapporteur has included in his annual reports to the Human Rights Council. These include studies on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the duty of States to consult with, and obtain the consent of, indigenous peoples before adopting measures that affect them; the responsibility of corporations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples; and, building on these themes, issues related to extractive industries operating in, or near, indigenous peoples’ traditional territories.
Statements on Children’s Rights
YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said there had been little progress, if any, towards achieving children’s rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Palestinian children continued to suffer from the occupation’s impact. In addition to killing those children, the occupying forces had also illegally imprisoned and detained hundreds of children, seized and photographed them in a “mapping exercise”, and targeted and attacked homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship. In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions and evictions continued to render Palestinian children homeless. Roads leading to schools continued to be destroyed, while schools were also being given demolition orders. Children were repeatedly traumatized, never knowing when or if their home or school would be next.
Palestinian children living in the occupied Gaza Strip suffered from the same hardships, but they also had to endure the harsh and cruel ramifications of Israel’s illegal blockade, he said. Schools that were callously destroyed in 2008-2009 remained in rubble, while the international community’s reconstruction efforts were intentionally delayed by Israel. The international community must hold the Israeli occupying forces that committed crimes against Palestinian children accountable and bring them to justice. Moreover, reports, including by the United Nations, had documented the recent rise in lethal and violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians, including children, despite the responsibility of the occupying Power for the presence of settlers and their acts of lawlessness. He appealed for immediate and decisive action to bring Israel, the occupying Power, into compliance with international law, including its obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions.
JAMES E. BUCKLEY, Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said 8 million children died before they were five years old and, though that number was at an all time low, roughly four in five of those deaths came from preventable diseases and malnutrition. “Low-cost prevention and treatment measures could save most of those children,” he said. The Order had made efforts in that regard, with successful programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and 32 centres in various countries for support of malnourished children and their families. The Order also provided birth and medical services in Palestine, while its international summer camps offered disabled youth an “unforgettable experience”. Profiting from child labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking were unsustainable and unconscionable practices -- children must be allowed to fully engage in society to reach their fullest potential, he said.
ROBERT YOUNG of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that armed conflict and other situations of violence were leading causes of disability in children. In Afghanistan alone, it was estimated that a million children had been disabled as a result of the conflict, he said, adding that landmines, cluster bombs, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices continued to affect people long after a war had ended. Further, the indirect effects of armed conflict had a serious impact on children, seriously limiting their access to health care. The closures of urban and rural clinics due to violence led to increased risks of medical complications. Various simple diseases that had been left untreated were now causing permanent disabilities and unvaccinated children were sustaining permanent disabilities that could have been easily prevented. The number of children born with a disability was also higher in situations of conflict, because women had less access to proper health and decent living conditions during pregnancy and delivery. Attacks on health-care personnel and facilities, as well as armed vehicles, severely limited access to health care for civilians who were injured.
To minimize cases where children became disabled in times of conflict, it was crucial to increase respect for existing rules, he said. ICRC provided assistance directly or through existing structures. It provided support for the delivery of emergency care for war-wounded persons, providing such support in many mine- and weapon-contaminated areas. It also supported a physical rehabilitation programme and a special fund for the disabled. Rehabilitation was crucial, and measures to restore mobility were an essential part of fully integrating people with disabilities into society. He cited, in that respect, the case of a five-year-old amputee, who would require rehabilitation services throughout his or her life. In conflict situations, it would be “virtually impossible” to receive those services, resulting in that child’s limited mobility and reduced chances of going to school. Active participation in his or her society would also be greatly diminished.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said she was troubled by the continued sale of, and trafficking in, children. As the nature of those crimes was becoming increasingly international through information technologies, tourism and migration, the IOM sought to reverse the trend. Effective international cooperation between States would complement efforts by international organizations and civil society.
Turning to the situation of unaccompanied children, she said children went unaccompanied for a variety of reasons, including abandonment or their choice to leave home in search of family members abroad or educational and economic opportunities. The rights of migrant children had to be protected, regardless of their legal status in the country of destination and irrespective of whether they had actively participated in the decision to migrate. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a holistic approach for the protection of children; States now needed to provide for equally holistic implementation.
Expressing alarm by how children continued to be affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, she called for the safe return of children who had fled conflicts. Effective cross-border coordination would play a crucial role in that regard. Because ensuring the protection of children who had either been trafficked or had migrated across borders was a complex challenge, all relevant legal and practical gaps must be closed.
ALESSANDRO MOTTER of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said that, in compliance with the norms reinforced by the Convention and United Nations resolutions, constitutions of many countries contained provisions on health and health care. The challenge now was to ensure that women and children were aware of those rights, legal barriers were removed and resources were allocated. “All of this speaks directly to the role of parliaments,” she said, which represented citizens, shaped policies, made laws and approved budgets. It was gratifying to see that more parliaments were overseeing Government action to meet commitments on women’s and children’s access to health as a right. For its part, IPU was mobilizing support for the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health. It had launched a parliamentary dialogue on that topic that would produce a resolution next year, containing measures for parliaments to take to improve women’s and children’s health.
KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said the road map adopted at The Hague Global Child Labour Conference in 2010 called on Governments to assess the impact of policies on the worst forms of child labour and establish monitoring mechanisms. “Child labour degrades the human capital of a nation,” he said. Eliminating its practice could yield high social and economic returns. ILO’s updated Global Plan of Action called for universal ratification of ILO Conventions and stressed the need for “a special emphasis on Africa”, where challenges to tackling child labour had been compounded by armed conflict and natural disaster. More attention was also being paid to combating child trafficking in emergencies, through increasing knowledge of trafficking in the context of warfare. Also, ILO’s report on children in hazardous work urged that more be done to ensure all children remain in education at least until the minimum age of employment.
Indigenous Rights: Introductory Statement
DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noting that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples now had universal support, said it was now crucial to make the Declaration a reality, particularly given the fact that many indigenous peoples had been displaced and uprooted from their lands. Their natural resources were under threat, many of their languages were dying out, and often their very survival was in question. “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.
Against that backdrop, she said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies and there was a long way to go in securing the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and in substantially improving their lives.
She thanked the States and United Nations agencies that had generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, stressing that the Fund had helped indigenous peoples redefine development from a vision of equity and in a culturally appropriate way –or, development with identity. As in previous years, requests for support had been overwhelming and far beyond what could be provided, and she appealed to Member States to continue their generous contributions to help improve the lives of indigenous peoples.
Further noting the General Assembly’s decision to organize a high-level plenary meeting in 2014 to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, she said its objective would be to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including the implementation of the Declaration. That would, she stressed, advance the objectives of the United Nations towards peace and security, promote dispute resolution and achieve equality and justice for all. She would work to secure a genuine partnership among indigenous peoples and States to make the World Conference a success.
She went on to say that the World Conference would prove an excellent opportunity to secure inclusive and equitable sustainable development goals that also included the perspective of indigenous peoples. Next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) would also offer a chance to learn from the experiences and integrated knowledge systems of indigenous peoples.
Underlining the Declaration as a living document, she said it was time to move beyond the rhetoric. “We have to make sure that all these tools and instruments inspire us to implement in practice the policies and programmes that recognize and protect indigenous peoples’ rights and transform their visions and aspirations into reality,” she concluded.
Presentation by the Special Rapporteur
JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting that he took up his mandate in May 2008, said his activities fell into four interrelated areas: the promotion of good practices, reporting on country situations, examination of cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.
Outlining his work to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous rights, he said that, among others, he had travelled to Ecuador to offer input on a law being developed to coordinate the State and indigenous justice systems. Further, he had provided orientation on measures needed to secure the land and resource rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname owing to relevant binding decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
He had also issued reports on the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Nepal, Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, Republic of Congo and New Caledonia, as well as the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland. He said he had made follow-up visits to evaluate the implementation of his predecessor’s recommendations in Chile, Colombia and New Zealand, while his future confirmed visits included Argentina in 2011 and the United States in 2012.
In response to the allegations of specific violations of indigenous rights that he received on a daily basis, he said he often communicated with the Governments concerned. In some cases, he visited the countries involved and subsequently issued observations and recommendations. In some of those cases, he had issued in-depth reports on, for example, the situation of indigenous peoples affected by mining projects in Guatemala, on hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica and Panama and on the violent conflict in Bagua, Peru, between police and indigenous peoples protesting natural resource extraction laws and policies.
His thematic studies had focused on issues that were of common concern to indigenous peoples across the globe, he said. One report, on the duty to consult, explained that duty’s normative grounding in United Nations and regional human rights instruments, while addressing the circumstances in which obtaining free, prior and informed consent was required before an initiative could proceed. That report further touched on the measures that States could take to build confidence and trust in consultation processes. Meanwhile, another report on corporate responsibility discussed the contours of the due diligence companies must exercise when engaging or planning activities affecting indigenous peoples.
He noted that part of his annual report to the Human Rights Council was devoted to preliminary observations regarding extractive industries operating in, or near, the territories of indigenous peoples. “The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” he said, testifying that he had observed the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of those industries on the social, cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples.
Continuing, he said negligent projects had been implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the people concerned. Disputes related to extractive industries had sometimes escalated into violence, and there was an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about those industries. The absence of a common understanding about key issues related to extractive industries and applicable standards among all actors concerned formed a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights in that context. In addition, there were significant legal and policy gaps, as well as a lack of coherence in standards related to those industries in all countries and regions.
A change in the current state of affairs was needed if indigenous rights were to have a meaningful effect on States and corporate policies and actions related to indigenous peoples. An initial step toward such change would be the establishment of a common understanding among indigenous peoples, Government actors, business enterprise and others. As a result, the issue of extractive industries would be a major focus on the remainder of his mandate for the next 2½ years, during which time he would hold a series of expert meetings and consultations. He would also launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions and issues. He would also gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples.
Before concluding, he stressed that he would also continue to consider the broad range of issues that affected indigenous peoples and to monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations through the four areas of his work. While encouraged by positive developments in many places, he remained concerned about the reality of ongoing struggles and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights around the world. He hoped his work would help achieve the future envisioned by the Declaration – “a future in which indigenous peoples’ distinct identities and cultures are fully valued and in which they have the opportunity to control their own destinies under conditions of equality within the broader societies in which they live”, he said.
Costa Rica’s delegate thanked the Special Rapporteur for his recent visit and welcomed his recommendations for consultations on hydroelectric projects. The country would use them for guidance and would promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Chile’s delegate also expressed appreciation for a visit from the Special Rapporteur, saying that he had helped build degree of trust in the country, at a time when the Government was trying to make Chile a society where no one felt excluded.
Guatemala’s delegate asked if the Special Rapporteur had recommendations on how to proceed in consultations with indigenous peoples, to ensure they did not get deadlocked.
Brazil’s delegate agreed with the focus in recent reports on corporate responsibility for indigenous peoples’ rights. There were various mechanisms for addressing it, and there had to be some way to bring them together.
Bolivia’s delegate said the report did not mention the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and asked if the Special Rapporteur had a view on the best modalities for the participation of indigenous peoples and what would the best outcomes be for the Conference.
Mexico’s delegate said the Report spoke briefly about how some laws on immigration affected indigenous peoples in their traditional movements. That affected them on the United States-Mexico border, and the Special Rapporteur could be useful in identifying what to do with that matter. In regards to the run-up to the 2014 Conference, he asked if current arrangements in the United Nations were adequate for involving indigenous peoples for all the issues affecting them.
The delegate of Poland, on behalf of European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the most important bottlenecks that needed to be addressed in the implementation of the Declaration. On the subject of extractive industries, she asked him to share how to find common ground between all stakeholders.
Peru’s delegate asked how prior consultation mechanisms could be made more effective.
Nicaragua’s delegate confirmed her Government’s commitment to restoring the rights to indigenous peoples and invited the Special Rapporteur to continue his work towards good practices.
Responding, Mr. ANAYA noted the welcome he had received during his country visits from various Governments. He urged those Governments with which he had communicated on specific cases, but which had not yet responded, to consider doing so. Similarly, he hoped that he would receive positive responses to his requests for country visits from those countries — particularly many Asian countries — that had not yet gotten back to him. He also noted that the Government of Costa Rica had signalled its intention to move forward on his recommendations regarding the Diquís hydroelectric plant.
Noting that several of today’s questions touched on consultations, he stressed the need to build confidence prior to entering into discussions with indigenous peoples. Consultations were often required to overcome the historical distrust built up among indigenous peoples. Those consultations must allow indigenous peoples to freely express their full range of concerns, he said, adding that indigenous peoples should not be confronted with decisions or proposals that were already highly developed. Indeed, indigenous peoples should be involved at the very earliest design stage of any initiative, be it a Government policy or an extractive project.
A high degree of patience was required on the part of all concerned, he continued. Collateral issues often needed to be worked out. Indigenous peoples might have long-standing questions about land rights that they wanted answered before an extractive project could move forward. They must be provided with full, adequate and unfiltered information on a project. There was often a paternalism surrounding those consultations, and indigenous peoples must be genuinely regarded as equals, he said.
He said the United Nations system should target efforts to help build capacity among indigenous peoples on a full range of matters concerning them. The aim must be to allow indigenous peoples to confront all issues facing them on an equal footing. That should not be limited to capacity-building on how to request funding from international donors, how to access international complaint procedures or how to educate more people on the content of the Declaration. Rather, capacity building in technical fields, as well as in such fields as business administration, was needed.
Capacity building was equally necessary among Government actors who were not well versed on the standards that should apply regarding indigenous peoples, he stressed. It was heartening to hear States speak eloquently in the Committee or in the Human Rights Council about the Declaration’s standards and their intention to implement those standards, but it was often another thing to see what happened at the country and local levels. There, he said, people were sometimes simply oblivious to indigenous rights and issues.
Suggesting that participation mechanisms for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system were inadequate, he noted that they were often built around the existing mechanisms for non-State members, such as non-governmental organizations. For example, in the Human Rights Council, indigenous peoples must borrow the credentials of non-governmental organizations or must themselves form non-governmental organizations that achieve status with the Economic and Social Council. That created obstacles for many indigenous peoples, who had their own authority structures.
Stressing that their leaders were not simply leaders of non-governmental organizations but governmental authorities, he said United Nations mechanisms must be developed that allowed them to participate as such. In that context, he welcomed a decision by the Human Rights Council to study the issue. While the United Nations had in its fundamental design a barrier to such participation by indigenous peoples, it was required for the Declaration to be implemented, he said. The upcoming 2014 World Conference could perhaps be a vehicle for developing new modalities, he added.
Concluding, he recognized the various steps States had taken to promote further thinking on the Declaration’s implementation. “The Declaration will not simply implement itself,” he said, underscoring the need for reflection, resolve, dedicated energies and consensus on the part of all concerned, to move forward with the realization of its various provisions.
JANINE COYE-FELSON ( Belize), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report and applauded the work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues. CARICOM States had made important progress implementing the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but the global economic crisis placed implementation of those policies, as well as attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, farther away from their grasp. “Indigenous populations constitute about one third of the world’s poorest and most marginalized peoples. Failure to achieve the [Millennium Development Goals] would disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations, among which we count our indigenous populations,” she said.
The Organization, Governments, international organizations, civil society groups, private business and indigenous peoples must in good faith form partnerships to promote human rights, she said. Indigenous women and girls were usually the ones most subjected to poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to lands, non-existent or poor health care and violence. Efforts to use international standards to strengthen protection of their rights and promote awareness of their global situation should be enhanced.
CARICOM Governments continued to work to remove any obstacles to the rights of their citizens, including indigenous populations; they were making sure constant consultations were carried out with civil society, and that society at large was continuously educated about important contributions by indigenous populations at all levels. CARICOM Governments looked forward to continued cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, the Permanent Forum and the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples. They would continue to call on the specialized agencies of the United Nations system for financial and technical assistance as they promoted and protected the inherent rights of their indigenous peoples.
FRIEDERIKE TSCHAMPA of the Observer Delegation of the European Union welcomed the increased consensus on the Declaration, notably the subsequent endorsement of the four States that had originally voted against it. However, adopting a declaration alone was not enough. Realizing the rights remained a critical objective and the implementation of the Declaration was a genuine challenges. Voicing support for the three United Nations mechanisms on indigenous issues, she particularly welcomed the emphasis of the next session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The European Union valued the Special Rapporteur’s emphasis on sharing good practices and coordinating his work with the Expert Mechanism. The bloc also appreciated two propositions by the Special Rapporteur on the elements for consensual decision-making regarding the duty to consult and the guiding principles on business and human rights recently endorsed by the Human Rights Council.
She stressed that the European Union supported many practical activities benefiting indigenous peoples. Indigenous issues were mainstreamed in European Union development cooperation programmes and other policies. The bloc also gave direct support to civil society organizations working on indigenous issues. From 2007 to 2009 it had financed 32 projects worldwide for a total of nearly $8 million. Those projects largely focused on empowerment, capacity-building and anti-discrimination.
Continuing, she said issues affecting indigenous peoples often crossed State boundaries, and the Union believed international cooperation was essential in advancing the rights and situations of indigenous peoples. To that end, it provided substantial support to help develop the economic, social and environmental potential of its Arctic region and neighbouring areas through a regional approach. That included cross-border and transnational collaboration in the fields of innovation, business competitiveness, accessibility, education, research, natural resources and cultural heritage. Offering one example of that approach, she said the “Kolarctic” brought together indigenous peoples from the Russian Federation, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
VERONICA CALCINARI ( Venezuela) said indigenous peoples in her country had been killed and enslaved by a ruthless European colonial regime in the “worst human rights violation in history”, killing 18 million people through genocide. The exclusion of indigenous peoples persisted, through poverty, enormous inequality, violation of human rights and devastation of the environment. An inhuman economic model attacked the way of life of indigenous peoples. Venezuela was pursuing a socialist development model, where the rights of indigenous peoples were of paramount importance. The Constitution set forth foundations for a multi-ethnic society, in which the language, religion, traditional medicine, and age-old land titles indigenous peoples needed had been enshrined in domestic laws.
Venezuela’s educational system was multilingual, she said. The country had set up an indigenous university and chairs on indigenous issues at other universities. The country trained indigenous doctors, built housing for indigenous families, and established a fund of $145 million for almost 10,000 families for agricultural development. The Government had also returned 1 million hectares of collectively owned land, while the State’s use of natural resources in indigenous lands was subject to prior informed consultation. In elections at State and parish level, the country had a significant number of indigenous representatives.
MARÍA ELENA MEDAL ( Nicaragua) recalled that her Government had, in 1987, under law 28, established a regime of autonomy for the indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent, mainly along the Atlantic coast where they lived. Another law recognized indigenous peoples’ right to land, which was a real step forward in recognizing indigenous rights. The Government had also established the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent as a priority. To further recognize equal rights, it had set up a development council for the Atlantic coast, as well as councils on reconciliation and indigenous issues. Also important was the special development regime given to one group in the upper Bocay region. Among other things, that initiative aimed to overcome historical discrimination. On the Pacific, the central north coastal region was also an area of focus, and living conditions there had been improved across many sectors, despite a history of poverty and the current global crises.
She further noted Nicaragua’s ratification of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 169 in May last year. The Government had also offered to coordinate the development of a plan of action for the involvement of indigenous peoples in the centralization process of Central America. It was also working to restore the rights of indigenous peoples in the Pacific region, including for a day to disseminate information on the Declaration and ILO Convention No. 169. It was hoping to establish a consultative council in the country. At the same time, work on the Caribbean coast was focused on the use of the mother languages of various groups. Finally, she voiced support for the 2014 World Conference and urged all nations to ensure the full participation by indigenous peoples in that meeting.
COURTNEY NEMROFF ( United States) said her country’s agencies were engaged in numerous initiatives to address concerns raised by Native American leaders at the White House Tribal Nations Conferences, and elsewhere. It was also undertaking efforts to strengthen the government-to-government relationship, protect lands and the environment and provide redress, address health-care gaps, promote sustainable economic development and protect Native American cultures, she said.
“We are proud to report that tribes in the United States participate in and benefit from natural resources development as beneficial owners of the resources and as regulators,” she said. “Tribes are beneficial owners of surface and subsurface natural resources within Indian country, including timber, energy and mineral resources.” With regards to indigenous rights in the context of extractive processes, she invited Member States to review actions under the United States’ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal process that included all groups. .“Under NEPA, tribes are more than just a constituency; they are part of a larger process that addresses historical and cultural concerns and provides protection that exists independent of the government-to-government relationship that the United States has with tribes,” she said.
GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana) stressed that Amerindians formed an integral part of Guyanese society, contributing daily to the country’s political, economic and social development, as well as its rich cultural heritage. Although indigenous peoples had their own governing structures, they actively participated in national politics, accounting for 10 of the 65 members of the National Assembly and two Government ministers. Amerindian communities currently had permanent title to 14 per cent of Guyana’s land mass, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent was integral to the Government’s relations with Guyana’s first peoples. A dedicated Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and a constitutionally mandated Indigenous Peoples Commission existed. The country’s poverty eradication strategy included a specific focus on improving the socio-economic conditions of Amerindians.
In that context, he noted that Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy was the key vehicle for marshalling the use of the country’s’ extensive forests and other natural resources. A Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with the Norwegian Government to support a national scale REDD+ scheme through the provision of $250 million over five years based on the fulfilment of mutually agreed criteria. Amerindian communities had the choice to opt into that REDD+ initiative, based on the principle of fair, prior and informed consent. Despite the progress, however, indigenous peoples suffered disproportionately from a lack of access to basic social services. Meanwhile, their socio-economic indicators lagged behind those of the general population at both the national and international levels. The second decade offered an opportunity to contribute substantively to realizing practical gains in the promotion and protection of the human rights and socio-economic well-being of indigenous peoples.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said the extension of the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, which allowed participation of indigenous representatives in the work of the Human Rights Council and in sessions on treaty bodies, was a step in the right direction. Mexico provided resources for the Fund and called on other States to consider contributions. “The objective is not to just simply have indigenous representatives present during the conferences, as merely observers. It is necessary that their participation be effective and that they are allowed to present their points of views on the different states of the governmental process, as well as present inputs that are reflected in outcomes,” she said.
Mexico was pleased the Human Rights Council had adopted its resolution asking the Secretary-General to present a report on forms and actions taken to widen indigenous participation in the United Nations, taking into account the difference in their internal organization. The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples should also have ample participation of indigenous peoples, and it was necessary to define as soon as possible the way that would work. “The success of this Conference will depend in large part on our capacity to ensure a more ample and inclusive participation of all the involved actors,” she said.
HELEN HORSINGTON ( Australia) said her country recognized that its indigenous peoples were among the most marginalized and disadvantaged segments of its population. The National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, which was offered in 2008, provided the first step towards resetting the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Australia had subsequently announced its support for the Declaration in 2009 and its “Closing the Gap” strategy aimed to erase indigenous disadvantages in areas such as health, housing, education, and employment. That strategy was a commitment by all levels of Government to work to build a better future for indigenous Australians. Recently, over 1,100 houses had been built or refurbished. More than 3,500 indigenous Australians had received support to complete their final year in secondary school, while 12,000 had commenced vocational training. The National Congress of Australia’s First People provided an independent national vehicle for participation in decision-making processes.
“The Australian Government has no tolerance for racism and discrimination,” she stressed, underscoring that first Australians were the foundation stone for the country’s culturally diverse society. The new multicultural policy, The People of Australia, contained initiatives such as the National anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy. Noting that Australian Aboriginal Rights scholar Megan Davis had recently begun her three-year term as a member of the Permanent Forum, she said Australia had also welcomed its first-ever indigenous Australian as the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. The Government would also soon appoint its first-ever indigenous Australian as an ambassador and had announced its contribution of $100,000 to the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.
NATALIA ZOLOTOVA ( Russian Federation) said indigenous minorities were integral to the rich mosaic of her country. Processes of globalization threatened to dilute their identity, exacerbated by the fact that their basic existence was threatened by industrial development on their territory. To counter those trends, Russian Federation laws had ensured indigenous peoples a specific status and safeguarded their cultural identity, which was seen as a top priority. The Government was planning for broad and equal development of mother tongues and was ensuring that, based on the sovereignty of its different republics, everyone had use and access to indigenous languages. Federal laws protected the rights of indigenous peoples to develop their own cultural and national identities and to protect their native environments and habitats, she said.
The Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education annually monitored how indigenous languages functioned, while the federal agency on print and mass media held an annual competition to create projects aimed at safeguarding indigenous peoples’ heritage. The Government subscribed to a sustainable policy for people of the north Siberian far east to modernize their traditional knowledge, including access to education in their native tongue. The Russian Federation had also cooperated with international organizations and civil society to promote indigenous peoples’ rights, and in November 2010 held a symposium on the protection of their intellectual property rights. She concluded by pledging the Russian Federation planned to take an active part in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.
ATSUKO HESHIKI ( Japan) said her country was working to build comprehensive policies to protect and respect the human rights of the Ainu people. In 2008, Japan’s Diet unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as indigenous peoples and the establishment of comprehensive policies for them. The Government had, in turn, recognized that the Ainu people had their own language, religion and culture and that they were indigenous inhabitants of the country’s northern territory, particularly Hokkaido. An Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons was subsequently set up. It had proposed several basic principles for Ainu policy, while also recommending measures for the revitalization of the Ainu culture and the promotion of development. In December 2009, the Japanese Government established the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion, which was hosted by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, as the first official policy—making forum in which several Ainu representatives, including women, actively participated.
Two major projects had been entrusted to the Council’s working groups, she said, noting that the first called for the establishment of the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony. That space would include a museum and surrounding natural environment to function as a hub for education, research and exhibitions on Ainu culture. It would also contribute to the passage of Ainu culture to the next generation. The second project entailed a nationwide research project on the actual living conditions of Ainu people outside Hokkaido, which would be analyzed by the Government for the development of Ainu-related policies.
MARGARITA VALLE CAMINA ( Cuba) said there must be continued work to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, in keeping with ILO guidelines. She also encouraged contributions to financial funds to promote indigenous activities, and welcomed the decision to organize the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. She hoped it would be an opportunity to share best practices. The main indigenous rights to be defended were their right to self-determination and their right to determine political status and achieve economic and social development.
But those people still suffered daily violations of their rights, including violence, displacement and denial of their right to land. Cuba reaffirmed the right of the Andean indigenous peoples to continue their age-old customs, including the chewing of the coca leaf, and Cuba supported the Government of Bolivia’s efforts in that regard. The global community must encourage a real exercise to promote the rights and the needs of indigenous peoples, she concluded.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ ( Sweden), on behalf of the Nordic countries, said indigenous women suffered from multiple discrimination, and often lacked education, health care and land. Some improvements had been made, but much more needed to be done; they faced disproportionately high rates of poverty, were subjected to violence and were left out of decision-making processes. Yet, there was cause for optimism: there had been substantial progress at the international level with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establishment of the Permanent Forum, appointment of the Special Rapporteur and creation of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“It is important that we continue to build upon what we have already achieved, including the significant work carried out on the issue of the right to participation in decision-making and on the impacts of business corporations’ activities on indigenous communities,” he said, welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to develop guidelines on extractive industries. As a result of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, more practical consultation mechanisms had developed in several countries, he said. In the Nordic region, the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations were being pursued through ongoing negotiations on a Nordic Saami Convention, which aimed to find solutions to outstanding problems.
SÜLEYMAN ÖMÜR BUDAK ( Turkey) said his Government aligned with the European Union.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA ( Peru) said his country was committed to the development and full participation of indigenous peoples. For 11 years, Peru had led efforts to prepare the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in August this year had adopted the law on the right to prior consultation of indigenous peoples. That legislation was a fundamental step in recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights, establishing effective consultations that defended their interests. The State now had to, through intercultural dialogue, get indigenous peoples’ consent before making decisions or enacting development that affected their way of life.
Respect for indigenous peoples had helped them develop and also helped the country to develop — their knowledge about their ways of life and environment was extremely valuable, he said. The Peruvian State would constantly try to improve communication with indigenous peoples, and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 should provide the proper channels for indigenous peoples to participate.
RAFAEL ARCHONDO (Bolivia) noting that there were roughly 370 million indigenous peoples in over 90 countries, said that while they accounted about 5 per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples made up 15 per cent of those who were poor or unemployed. He stressed that the Declaration was universally valid and should be reflected throughout the United Nations system. Moreover, the international community must do its best to pay off the historic debt it owed to indigenous peoples. He welcomed the initiative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to set up a forum of indigenous peoples. Recalling General Assembly resolution 65/198 which called for a high-level plenary meeting to be known as the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, he voiced support for the participation of all indigenous peoples in preparation for that event. Bolivia eagerly awaited the appointment of a facilitator to organize the meeting’s modalities, which should ensure indigenous participation before and during the meeting and must also reflect the world’s seven major regions.
Turning to domestic matters, he noted the ongoing dispute regarding the construction of a road through the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory. As the people marched on the capital, Bolivia’s Parliament had, this week, adopted a law suspending the construction of the road in the national park. That law also stipulated prior consultation as a prerequisite for the road’s final design. Concluding, he noted that Bolivia would submit a resolution regarding a high-level meeting to be held on 10 December 2012 to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration.
BERNADETTE CAVANAGH ( New Zealand) said her Government was committed to resolving the outstanding historical grievances of the Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi, and had set a goal of completing that work by 2014. “More progress is being made through the settlement process now than at any other time since the process began in the mid-1990s. The majority of iwi (tribes) have either completed settlements, reached major settlement milestones or are taking part in the mandating and negotiation processes,” she said.
This year, New Zealand passed an Act to address concerns about customary rights over the marine and coastal area, following extensive consultation with all parties about how to best achieve an equitable balance of rights and interests. The Marine and Coastal Area Act also considered international human rights standards relevant to such customary claims, removing Crown ownership over marine and coastal areas, restoring customary interests and giving them legal expression. “We harbour no illusions about the significant challenges that still remain regarding the situation of Māori in New Zealand. Māori are significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system, both as offenders and victims, and generally have a lower socio-economic status and poorer health than the rest of the population. We are, however, committed to meeting those challenges through the spirit of discourse and partnership that form the foundation of New Zealand,” she said.
CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA( Guatemala) voiced support for the Special Rapporteur’s plans to focus on extractive industries in his future work. In addition, her Government welcomed his recommendations following his country visit to Guatemala. It was clear that there was inadequate participation by indigenous peoples in both designing and benefiting from a host of projects, including those by extractive industries. The Government wanted to move forward as quickly as possible to regulate the consultations with indigenous peoples, with a view towards introducing a sense of certainty regarding such discussions. A proposal to that end was put forward to indigenous groups in Guatemala, but some groups had opposed that proposal and sought legal remedies to prevent the establishment of such regulations. Consequently, all Government efforts to comply with ILO Convention No. 169 through such regulations had been suspended.
She stressed that there was now a “talking table” to analyze public and private projects to combat poverty, and the Government wanted everyone involved to attend those dialogues. She underscored education as an essential component in training indigenous professionals to allow them to set priorities for development. Every year, the Ministry Education and the Ministry of Culture and Sport coordinated activities to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In other areas, institutional meetings were bringing together indigenous peoples with Government bodies to address climate change. In recent elections, 19 indigenous peoples had been elected to the national congress, she added.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo) said the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations clearly summarized the issues of concern highlighted during his visit to Congo earlier this year. Through the years, the situation of indigenous peoples in the country had changed; after the arrival of foreigners in the country, the language, customs and origins were registered by colonial administrators. But, after independence in 1961, the Constitution banned any differences in status on race, religion and customs. The Government then unsuccessfully experimented with initiatives to combat marginalization of indigenous peoples, and the indigenous peoples had suffered the most from those failures.
Now the Government’s national action plan focused on capacity-building for indigenous peoples and the areas where they lived had seen some modest encouraging signs, he said. They had inter-community unions, which had changed attitudes about the Bantu people. They also received greater access to education, employment and work through recognition of their land rights. A new law, the first of its type in Africa, was drafted through participatory methods and extended recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. It was also important to start thinking now about preparatory aspects of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples as a new phase to promote their rights. Indigenous peoples must be included in that process, he said.
FARISHA SALMAN ( Malaysia) said her country was home to a substantial number of indigenous groups, with the Department of Orang Asli Development tasked with protecting the welfare and managing the development of the indigenous population. In Malaysia, indigenous groups were entitled to the same rights as other ethnic groups. The main legal provisions guaranteeing those rights were contained in Malaysia’s Constitution and the Indigenous Peoples Act of 1954. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution implicitly authorized affirmative action in favour of the indigenous. Yet, the most significant challenge facing Malaysia today entailed encouraging indigenous peoples to move forward in the globalized world and integrating them into mainstream society. Comprehensive policies and strategies for their development focused on uplifting their status and quality of life. At the same time, the Government had prioritized preserving their traditional cultural heritage.
Continuing, she noted the introduction of income-generating programmes, particularly agropolitan projects and other commercial agricultural activities, for the advancement of indigenous peoples. Indigenous groups in remote areas were provided with training on farming and other practices to increase productivity and income in the long run. They were also given equal opportunities in education on the belief that it would promote the economic, social and cultural rights of the people and the country as a whole, thus integrating those groups into mainstream society. Among other efforts, the Government was working to ensure that everyone was registered and issued a national identity card and other personal identification documents, including by setting up mobile units to assist in achieving that goal. For 2012, the Government had allocated $29 million to provide basic necessities, including expanding a clean water supply project.
ALAN DE SELLOS ( Brazil) said his country was proud to host the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, and was convinced that indigenous peoples had a right to be part of the results of development, with full respect for their identity. Despite shortcomings in full realization of indigenous rights, much had been done in the last decades for their education and health. Indigenous peoples now had the right to learn in their native languages and according to their own methods of learning. There were 2,500 indigenous schools in the country attended by 177,000 students, and the Government had created affirmative action programmes to facilitate access by indigenous students to university.
Nearly 56,000 indigenous families received the “Bolsa Familia” Stipend, but the Government had been challenged to adapt the programme to the sociocultural realities of various ethnic groups. Yet, an “Indigenous Portfolio” initiative supported food security, income generation and cultural enhancement projects that were proposed and implemented by indigenous communities themselves, fostering self-determination. “All the relevant policies concerning indigenous peoples in Brazil are object of debate of the National Commission of Indigenous Policy, which is composed by an equal number of Government officials and indigenous representatives. The Brazilian Government is opening the space of ‘indigenous protagonism’ in the formulation of policies that affect them,” he said.
DHAN BAHADUR OLI ( Nepal), calling the Declaration the “most comprehensive global policy framework for the rights of indigenous peoples”, stressed that the Permanent Forum had an important advisory role to play in that regard. While indigenous peoples had retained unique social, cultural economic and political characteristics, they continued to face discrimination and exclusion in political, economic, social and cultural spheres. The Interim Constitution of 2007 defined Nepal as a multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-faith and multicultural country and recognized all languages spoken as national languages. As a result, there were more than one hundred ethnic groups speaking more than 92 different languages, with 59 different ethnic groups receiving recognition as indigenous nationalities. The Interim Constitution further guaranteed the civil liberties and fundamental freedoms of all peoples, including indigenous peoples. Roughly 36 per cent of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, which was drafting the country’s new Constitution, were from various indigenous nationalities.
To promote the rights of indigenous peoples, Nepal had ratified and begun implementing ILO Convention No. 169 in September 2008, he said, noting that the necessary policy and structural reforms were under way. Other policies and programmes aimed at social justice and affirmative action for indigenous groups, women, dalits and other excluded or disadvantaged groups. Special budgetary provision had been made in parallel with targeted programmes. The Government was also using a participatory planning system, capacity enhancement, empowerment and social security for minorities to put indigenous peoples and minorities at the centre of development. Other efforts sought to ensure the participation of indigenous and minority peoples and women in policymaking, through changes to Nepal’s Civil Service Act and to preserve the traditional knowledge, skills and technology of indigenous groups.
HENRY L. MACDONALD ( Suriname), aligning with the statement by CARICOM, said his country benefited from dialogue with the Special Rapporteur during his visit to the country. Indigenous peoples formed 3 per cent of Suriname’s population; the current President and several cabinet ministers were of indigenous origin. Measures were being taken to offer good quality education for indigenous children in the interior of the country, yet the Government realized more needed to be done to address their marginalization.
Suriname also acknowledged complexities in regard to extractive industries operating in, or near, indigenous territories. “We are aware that a delicate balance has to be found between, on the one hand, the opportunities these industries provide for sustainable development of the country as a whole, and guaranteeing that the rights of the indigenous peoples are respected, on the other hand,” he said. Suriname also looked forward to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, which would be useful for sharing experiences and best practices.
ANDRES FIALLO ( Ecuador) said that, among other things, his country’s 2008 Constitution recognized the right of indigenous peoples to live their own way. The national plan for good living included 12 national goals touching on health issues, the right to intercultural education and the right to use your own language. Ecuador urged all countries to work with indigenous peoples in the preparation for, and the holding of, the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
He stressed that the Government was implementing the programme for cultural diversity and development to reduce poverty and achieve social inclusion. Among other things, it had enacted a national plan to fight racism and social exclusion and to promote a pluralistic and inclusive society. Policies on gender had been strengthened. A law to coordinate indigenous and civil justice had been created. The participation of indigenous women was also being encouraged. The country used databases that included data disaggregated by ethnic groups in developing public policy. Data showed that, in 2006, professional midwives helped with 74 per cent of births, but only 30 per cent of indigenous births. As a result, the State was trying to change its model for health services to ensure more equal access. He pointed to the Yasuni-ITT initiative, which sought to protect peoples who chose to live in social exclusion, stressing that the programme required the international community’s participation.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said indigenous peoples, who were traditionally deeply rooted to their land and custom, were also moving. Highlighting issues they might face in connection to migration, she said fear of loss of identity could inhibit some from full participation in their new society, including from accessing state benefits. Poverty level among indigenous peoples was sometimes double that of non-indigenous communities, and migration to more regions with better livelihood opportunities was often a response to those pressures, causing remittances to become the main source of income for many rural indigenous communities. Easy access to safe remittance channels and lower administrative costs of transfers were important in that context, she said. Opportunities for safe, orderly migration as an adaptation strategy to climate change would also need to be considered, rather than waiting until disaster struck, she said.
KARIN REIDL of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said the recognition of indigenous peoples was an important precondition for their effective participation in politics, and the Union had outlined some policy options for the consideration of parliaments and policymakers that could help promote indigenous rights. Among other things, the outcome of the International Parliamentary Conference “Parliaments, minorities and indigenous peoples: Effective participation in politics” that took place in Chiapas, Mexico in November 2010, called on parliaments to adopt plans of action to make the right to equality and non-discrimination a reality for minorities and indigenous peoples. Such action plans should incorporate the principle of free, prior and informed consent, call for impact assessments of all legislation on indigenous populations and allocate sufficient resources to establish a dialogue between indigenous peoples and public institutions. Parliaments should also hold Governments accountable for their international commitments, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the ratification of ILO Convention No. 169, as well as the Declaration. The Union was also preparing a handbook for parliamentarians on indigenous rights that was due to be launched in the first half of 2012.
SHARON BRENNEN-HAYLOCK of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Liaison Office, said that due to the worldwide “growing affirmation of indigenous rights”, FAO’s work on indigenous issues had increased in recent years, including assisting Member States in improving policies and legislations toward rural development and hunger alleviation. One example of its efforts was the Voluntary Guidelines on the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security, which provided practical guidance on the implementation of the right to adequate food at national level and had been made accessible to indigenous peoples through an operational guide. She also highlighted the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which was of great significance to indigenous peoples whose livelihoods were based on fishing practices. Voluntary in nature, the Code was based on relevant rules of international law, and was accessible through an operational guide. Concluding, she spoke of other activities undertaken and supported by FAO, including the adoption last year of a corporate FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
XENIA VON LILIEN of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said her organization had learned that indigenous peoples’ communities must be the principal drivers of efforts to end rural poverty, as creators and managers of their own development and well-being. Its Indigenous Peoples Forum was established this year to assess and discuss ways in which representatives and indigenous peoples could work together to address poverty and sustainable development, with culture and identity. The first global meeting of the Forum would be held in February 2013, preceded by regional consultations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific in 2012. Additionally, she said, IFAD had a fund dedicated to assisting indigenous peoples’ projects, and had provided $106 million in loans and grants supporting their development. Future efforts would concentrate on promoting effective and sustainable indigenous peoples’ organizations and initiatives, she said.
KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO), recalling the Organization’s longstanding engagement in indigenous issues, highlighted its 1957 adoption of Convention No. 107 on indigenous and tribal populations, which was revised in 1989 as Convention No. 169. “Globally, the discourse and international efforts on indigenous peoples’ rights have entered a new era since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” he continued, emphasizing that the Declaration and Convention No. 169 were mutually reinforcing and sustaining. ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations had provided importance guidance on the right to consultation of indigenous peoples last year. It further believed that the Declaration’s implementation should be tracked and monitored, to asses its actual impact on the daily living conditions of indigenous peoples through a common assessment framework that enhanced coordination, complementarities and synergies. The framework should also identify bridges to broader human rights frameworks, along with links to existing institutionalized supervisory mechanisms. Finally, he stressed that ILO was scaling up its technical cooperation work to assist countries in adopting or implementing standards on indigenous peoples.
ROCHELLE ROCA-HACHEM, Programme Specialist for Culture, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the agency was strengthening support of indigenous peoples with a more comprehensive approach, and was embarking on development of a house-wide policy on engaging indigenous peoples to reshape goals in all areas of its mandate. UNESCO also led global efforts to protect endangered languages, monitoring language vitality and producing the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Further, while indigenous peoples were among the most vulnerable to climate change, they might also be among the most resourceful when it came to coping with change, she said. UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems brought recognition to their concerns, knowledge and adaptation strategies in the face of climate change, and included an online forum that reached an estimated 60,000 people worldwide.
S. RAMA RAO of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said negotiations towards an international legal instrument for effective protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions would continue next year. Member States of the WIPO General Assembly had agreed to expedite the negotiations and would decide on convening a diplomatic conference next September. Delegations had also welcomed substantial progress by the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, especially on protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. But, much work remained to be done and many delegations had emphasized the importance of the participation of indigenous and local communities in the Committee.
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