Continued Obstructions to – and Denial of – Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Land, Forests Resulting in Ongoing Marginalization, Poverty Permanent Forum Told
Continued Obstructions to – and Denial of – Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Land, Forests Resulting in Ongoing Marginalization, Poverty Permanent Forum Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
Continued Obstructions to – and Denial of – Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Land,
Forests Resulting in Ongoing Marginalization, Poverty Permanent Forum Told
More Than 50 Speakers Focus Debate on Indigenous Peoples and Forests;
Issue of Free, Prior Informed Consent for Development on Indigenous Lands
Despite progress made in ensuring the rights of indigenous communities around the world, indigenous peoples still lacked enough say in what happened on, and to, their territories, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was told today during a day-long discussion focused on the environment and free, prior and informed consent.
Over 50 speakers from national and local Governments and representatives of indigenous communities and United Nations agencies participated in today’s debate, which was framed around reports on the follow-up to previous recommendations of the Permanent Forum on those issues. The wide-ranging discussion highlighted how continued obstructions to — and even blatant denial of — the basic rights of indigenous peoples to land and forests, resulted in their ongoing marginalization and persistent poverty.
Making introductory comments on the concept of free, prior and informed consent in the afternoon, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Permanent Forum member from the United States, said the profound relationship between indigenous peoples and their environment was critical to that concept. This was especially true in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources, and to self-determination. Further, free, prior and informed consent must be understood in all cases as a double right that include both the right to give, or to withhold consent.
Joining a number of other speakers, she pointed out that several critical international institutions, such as the World Bank, had not yet fully embraced free, prior and informed consent, while misconceptions of consent predominated among States. That was the case, despite the fact that free, prior and informed consent was essential to all development projects and the principle had emerged as the desired standard in protecting the rights if indigenous peoples. Moreover, it was increasingly recognized that what was at stake was, in fact, the present and future of a people, not simply the specific and limited benefits of a development project.
In presenting the report of the International Expert Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Forests during the morning session, Edward John, Forum member from Canada, said the onus of proof was often placed on indigenous peoples because Governments continued to deny the existence of underlying rights until they had been proved. Even when the courts did make a decision, enforcement mechanisms were often missing, he said.
Against that backdrop, the report recommended that the United Nations provide, to lawyers and other judicial officers, training on the customary laws of indigenous peoples. It also stressed that extractive industries must go further in ensuring respect of indigenous peoples. Echoing many other speakers today, Mr. .John expressed particular concern that many forestry industry groups and corporate social responsibility guidelines were frequently voluntary and too often went unused and un-enforced.
Providing an oral summary of a soon-to-be-published study on indigenous peoples and forests, Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said indigenous peoples retained the closest relationship of any humans with forests. Nonetheless, the study — which had looked at a broad range of forests, dry land forests in Africa to tropical and other forests — revealed that the formulation of national forest laws and programmes often systematically undermined the customary rights of indigenous peoples.
She said that, while some actions had been taken by Governments in the areas of reforestation and increasing forest cover, on the whole, those actions had not translated into the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples on the ground. The study concluded that, if the tenure rights of indigenous peoples were respected and promoted, forests would be better kept.
She also noted that participants to the recent sixteenth Conference of Parties meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun had stressed that countries wishing to implement the UN-Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation In Developing Countries (REDD) must also implement several crucial safeguards related to indigenous peoples to promote: respect for indigenous rights; respect for biodiversity; better forest governance; and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples.
Echoing those conclusions, a number of speakers said the Permanent Forum must take further action to ensure that the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests were respected. Among other things, monitoring mechanisms on how those rights were being respected must be implemented, some said. Others called on States to comply with report’s recommendations regarding the right to own traditional forest areas and the need to develop or amend national legislation to comply with the United Nations treaty and other international instruments.
Throughout the debate on the environment, speakers called attention to the lack of participation by indigenous peoples in the international climate change dialogue, with many of them expressing fear, anger and alarm at the consequences of such exclusion.
Along those lines, several speakers said the Permanent Forum must urge the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change to research the full effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, as well as ways to build resilience to its effects. The Forum should also urge States to: use free and prior informed consent and self-determination processes when engaging indigenous peoples in carbon economies; and ban leaching as a mining practice on all lands.
Many delegates also called for the appointment of a Permanent Forum member as Special Rapporteur to conduct studies on existing and potential violations of the human rights of indigenous people affected by carbon markets, the Clean Development Mechanism and the REDD+-type projects, and to report to the forum at its 2012 session.
Paul Kanyinke Sena, Permanent Forum member from Kenya, outlined the Forum’s earlier recommendations on the environment. Forum members from Bangladesh and Mexico also offered comments.
Participating in today’s debate were the representatives of Mexico, New Zealand, Bolivia, Denmark, Nicaragua, Canada, Bolivia, Mexico and Chile.
Representatives of theFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also spoke, as did delegates from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Inter-American Development Bank, and Asian Development Bank.
Also speaking were representatives of: Torres Strait Regional Authority of Australia; Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus; International Indian Treaty Council, Arctic Caucus; Asia Indigenous People’s Caucus; North American Indigenous Peoples; Global Caucus; Organization of Farming Women in Bolivia; Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia; International Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Tropical Forests; Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center; New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council; National Indigenous Higher Education Network of Australia; and Consultoría de los Pueblos Indigenas en el Norte de México.
Also: Native Women’s Association of Canada; European Patent Organization; Global Indigenous Youth Caucus; Saami Parliament; Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action of the Asia Caucus; Indigenous Peoples of African Coordinating Committee; Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North; Indigenous World Association; Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network; Rapanui Parliament; Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens Committee; Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples; Assembly of First Nations; Coordinator of Indigenous Organization of the Amazon River Basin; and Salamanca High School Model Permanent Forum.
The Permanent Forum will reconvene in open session at 3 p.m., Wednesday, 18 May, to consider recommendations on human rights.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to continue its tenth session, which is a review year in the Forum’s three-year work cycle. It was expected to address follow-up to its recommendations on: economic and social development; environment; and free, prior and informed consent. For more information, please see Press Release HR/5050.
Introduction of Reports
Outlining the Permanent Forum’s earlier recommendations on the environment, PAUL KANYINKE SENA, Forum member from Kenya, said they covered a range of issues, including climate change, traditional knowledge, asset sharing, water, renewable energy, reindeer herding and forests, among others. He noted that environmental issues were also included in a number of articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which specifically addressed the need for States to give due recognition to the traditions and practices of indigenous peoples and to take measures to ensure that their natural lands and resources were not used without their free, prior and informed consent.
Environmental issues also continued to be linked to sustainability, as well as to means of eradicating poverty from the world in a number of bodies and agreements on the environment, he said. Among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would clearly have an impact on indigenous peoples and the meeting of UNFCCC Conference of Parties-17, which would be held in Durban, South Africa later this year, would include critical discussions, he said.
Introducing the report of the International Expert Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Forests, EDWARD JOHN, Forum Member from Canada, recalled yesterday’s address by the Secretary-General in which he pointed out that an estimated one to two indigenous languages died each week. Mr. JOHN underscored the relation between that remark and forests by highlighting the close relationship between indigenous peoples and everything around them, including forests. He said the report of the Expert Meeting included as its overall recommendation that the report should be endorsed by the Permanent Forum.
More specifically, he said the report’s conclusions included 16 individual recommendations on material rights, participation and capacity, good practices and the role of industry. While there had been a fair amount of focus on the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests, there had not been enough focus on the right to land. Among other things, the onus of proof was placed on indigenous peoples because State Governments continued to deny the existence of the underlying rights, until they had been proved. Even when the courts did make a decision, enforcement mechanisms were often missing. The recommendations on participation and capacity included a specific suggestion that the General Assembly include the full and effective participation of the Permanent Forum and indigenous peoples in the preparation for Rio+20, as well as in the Forum on Forests. It also said the United Nations should provide to lawyers and other judicial officers training on the customary laws of indigenous peoples.
He said that, in terms of good practices, the report called for greater implementation of the provisions of the United Nations declaration. Regarding the role of industry, the report stressed that extractive industries should respect indigenous peoples and should only enter their territory following a fairly negotiated agreement. He expressed concern that many forestry industry groups and corporate social responsibility guidelines were frequently voluntary and too often went unused and un-enforced. Overall, the goal was to ensure that indigenous peoples had a say in what happened on, and to, their territories, he stressed.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur, orally presented a study on indigenous peoples and forests, which, she said, would soon be ready for publication. She said that the study had looked at a broad range of forests, ranging from dry land forests in Africa to tropical and other forests. The indigenous peoples in forests had been marginalized, mostly because their rights to continue to control and manage had been violated. Today, indigenous peoples retained the closest relationship of any humans with forests. The study had examined the formulation of national forest laws and programmes, which it found had systematically undermined the customary rights of indigenous peoples. Industrial and commercial forestry, for example, with the pulp and paper industries, were contributing to limiting the multiple uses of forests. While some actions had been taken by Governments in the areas of reforestation and increasing forest cover, on the whole, those actions had not translated into the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples on the ground. The study concluded that if the tenure rights of indigenous peoples were respected and promoted, forests would be better kept.
“Indigenous peoples are really the best keepers of the forests,” she said. She added that, in Cancun, delegates had stressed that countries wishing to implement the UN-Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation In Developing Countries (REDD) must also implement several crucial safeguards related to indigenous peoples: respect for indigenous rights; respect for biodiversity; better forest governance; and ensuring the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples. Land tenure and gender issues should also be taken into consideration. Moreover, among other recommendations, the Special Rapporteur’s study stressed that the Permanent Forum should make sure that the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests should be respected, and that monitoring mechanisms on how those rights were being respected must be implemented.
JOHN T. KRIS, Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority of Australia, said that his country’s low-lying coastal islands, including those of the Torres Strait, were on the front-line of climate change owing to rising sea levels. Every year those low-lying communities were inundated by rising tides and many communities required the construction of sea walls and critical infrastructure to address those floodwaters. He requested that the Forum’s participants consider what would happen to their lands if they were regularly flooded by seawater. “These are the grim realities of climate change,” he said, adding that, “This is happening now.”
He stressed that coastal communities had no retreat. However, thus far, there had been close collaboration between all levels of Government to model for floods and to promote sustainable land planning. He welcomed that collaborative approach. Adding that climate change also affected marine environments, he called attention to the work of the Torres Strait Regional Authority in developing effective policies. He also called for immediate actions and funding to address the impact of flooding in low-lying and coastal areas, pointing out that if action was not swift, there was a potential for a human rights crisis. He also underlined the prospect that unique traditional cultures faced irreparable damage.
JOHN SCOTT, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said 2011 marked the beginning of the International Decade of Biodiversity, which was a commitment by the international community to promote conservation, sustainable use of plants and animals and the equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The Decade provided an opportunity to work together, he said, noting that indigenous peoples were critical partners in that effort. Turning to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, he said its purpose was to effectively implement the benefits derived from genetic resources. Outlining its provisions, he highlighted its direct references to indigenous peoples and indigenous issues, including traditional knowledge and the non-extinguishment of existing rights. In addition to providing support compliance, parties had an obligation to monitor the use of genetic resources, he said. Among other things, that might include the establishment of checkpoints. Moreover, parties must ensure that users complied with the domestic legislation of countries providing resources.
MYRA GOMEZ, of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, said that key concerns that the Caucus would highlight throughout the current session included: the promotion of the leadership capacity of Indigenous women and girls (including within indigenous governance systems and development programs and policies); the rights of Mother Earth (including the protection of sacred rights and the sacred right to water); violence caused by the militarization of Indigenous communities; the need for support of indigenous women’s role in addressing environmental impacts and climate change (including reproductive health rights); food sovereignty; the impact of extractive industries on Indigenous communities; unrepresented and unrecognized indigenous peoples; migration; and border issues.
The Caucus also supported the examination of issues including: using The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to advance indigenous women’s rights; the need for a standardized interpretation of free, prior and informed consent consistent with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Doctrine of Discovery; and the proposed World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The Caucus also recommended that the Permanent Forum consider several resources as it went forward with its work on environmental issues, including the “Position on Women and REDD+” by the Indigenous Environmental Network, among other reports. She also issued a series of general recommendations made by the Caucus, including: that the Permanent Forum urge the United Nations system and States to strengthen capacity building and leadership initiatives for Indigenous women in order to facilitate their full and effective participation in the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of economic and social development programs and policies; and that the Permanent Forum recommend to the United Nations system that it recognize the role of women and girls in implementing culturally appropriate economic and social development programs and policies.
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico), said that, at the Permanent Forum last year, the international community had made great progress, thanks largely to the joint work of intergovernmental, non-governmental and other actors. He urged the Forum to give continuity to that progress through its current efforts. Outside the Forum, the Convention on Biodiversity had been held in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun was another “important step”. The active participation and involvement of the Permanent Forum, the Mechanism of Experts, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and other key players would be critical going forward, he said. The Cancun meeting had made several important strides, including giving credibility to the multilateral system of the Untied Nations. The collective work on environmental issues had benefited from a series of initiatives taken at the regional, national and local levels — including a key dialogue organized by Mexico in conjunction with the participation of indigenous peoples, which had brought aspects of their “intensive dialogues” to Cancun. A follow-up to that dialogue would soon be organized, he said, ensuring continuity in environmental discussions.
YON FERNANDEZ LARRINOA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the work of his organization aimed at the sustainable development of various natural resources. Given the close interlinkages between indigenous peoples and natural resources, many of his Organization’s programmes related to indigenous communities. Indeed, FAO was working to preserve the world’s biodiversity by, among other things, supporting the sustainable and customary use of that diversity. The FAO had also undertaken an initiative on cultural heritage systems and was working around the world in a wide range of countries, from Kenya to China. The FAO had also developed voluntary guidelines on fire management, which particularly recognized traditional practices. In 2010, it had launched a benefit-sharing fund to support the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the main objective of which was to conserve resources on managing plant and genetic resources, he noted.
ANDREA CARMEN, of the International Indian Treaty Council, presented a report of the First International Indigenous Women’s Environmental and Reproductive Health Symposium. She recalled that, in July 2010, 37 indigenous women — including tribal leaders, health workers, traditional healers, environmental and human rights activists, and others — had attended the symposium, organized by the International Indian Treaty Council in California, United States. The symposium had addressed urgent issues, including the impacts of mercury, pesticides, contamination from uranium, and other kinds of mining, nuclear testing and others. It identified those as pervasive violations of human rights, threatening the health and well-being of children and future generations. To that effect, the symposium adopted a “Declaration for Health, Life and Defence of Our Lands, Rights and Future Generations”, which recognized the urgent need to educate communities and to impact current United Nations negotiations addressing environmental toxins, including the process to develop an International Treaty to eliminate the production and release of mercury, among others.
KIM NGARIMU ( New Zealand) pointed out that, in its report on indigenous peoples and forests, the Expert Group made particular mention of the Central North Island Treaty of Waitangi Settlement, on which she would like to further elaborate. She said the Maori were involved with forest lands both as landowners, as a result of the return of areas used for commercial forestry through claims under the Treaty of Waitangi, and through involvement in decision-making processes affecting forest areas held for conversation purposes in national parks and other reserves. Involvement in conservation decision-making was grounded both in general legislation and in agreements with particular iwi, she said. In that regard, she noted the recent Treaty settlement with eight iwi in New Zealand’s Central North Island, which was the largest in the treaty’s history, covering 176,000 hectares of forest land and providing payments in rental fees and land amounting to $230 million, to benefit an estimated 110,000 Maori.
She said this settlement was unprecedented in other ways, including that the iwi had formed a collective in 2008. It was that collective that worked with the Crown toward the settlement, signifying that iwi could take a significantly larger role than in the past in initiating and designing settlement processes and packages. Moreover, by securing a significant proportion of the forest land in the Central North Island for the iwi, the settlement provided a resource base to better meet the collective’s economic, social and cultural aspirations. New Zealand had also developed an Emissions Trading Scheme that would allow for forestry landowners to earn carbon credits, and the settlement included the allocation of significant carbon credits.
GONZALO OVIEDO, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said that IUCN took a right-based approach to its work, referring in particular to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for its related work. In that vein, he wished to follow-up on a topic addressed at the Permanent Forum’s ninth session, that of World Heritage Sites. The IUCN was an advisor to the World Heritage Convention, responsible for making recommendations about those sites. As many potential World Heritage Sites overlapped with indigenous lands, respect for the land rights of indigenous communities, benefit sharing and other related principles were crucial.
The IUCN recognized the indigenous stewardship of those lands, and respected the cultural rights and practices of those living there, he said. Additionally, IUCN had engaged with other organizations that held parallel roles in advising the World Heritage Convention, and was working to mainstream indigenous rights in all related policies and practices. Much more remained to be done, however. The IUCN was keen to identify, with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other actors, how to further engage with indigenous communities and how to apply more inclusive conservation methods. In that respect, the fortieth anniversary of the Convention, which would be observed in 2012, had as its core theme, a focus on collaboration with local communities. The IUCN noted that World Heritage sites, with their high visibility and public scrutiny, could act as “flagships” for raising awareness of indigenous rights.
AQQALUK LYNGE, of the Arctic Caucus, underlined the distinction between process and material rights, noting that the former were a focus of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169. However, in the last two decades, the discourse on indigenous rights had increasingly focused on material rights, he said, stressing that it was a material rights to exercise considerable influence in the outcome of decision-making processes. Property rights were also considered to be material rights. As the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Permanent Forum’s secretariat, along with a number of other bodies, focused on increasing the understanding of their rights by indigenous peoples, priority needed to be given to material rights over process rights. Analytical work was also required on how property rights, as typically understood, impacted upon the rights of indigenous peoples to land.
He called on States to comply with recommendations in the report regarding the right to own traditional forest areas and the need to amend national legislation to comply with the United Nations treaty and other international instruments. States must develop national legislation on those issues. Further, the Permanent Forum must respond to the statement made by Norway yesterday, which portrayed a recent agreement between the State and the Sami Parliament as a good practice, stressing that the Sami Council did not agree with that assessment.
PABLO SOCON ( Bolivia) said the Government of Bolivia had rejected the “bad agreement” reached at the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico, which would have serious consequences for many in the world community. Glaciers in Bolivia and other places around the world would disappear, he said, affecting both indigenous and farming communities. Regarding the United Nations Collaborative Initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme, Bolivia did not agree with the “commercialization” of environmental services, stressing instead, that it was necessary to preserve forests and the rights of indigenous peoples. REDD+ would assign prices to the resources of the forests, benefiting transnational companies in the North the most, at the expense of forests in the global South.
Bolivia believed that there had to be economic payments made to those countries that preserved forests, but that those payments should not be based on market mechanisms, he said. Instead, they should be drawn from a tax on financial transactions, without any conditions. He recommended to the Forum that it conduct a “bold study” on the consequences of providing certificates for the reduction of carbon emissions, as provided for by the REDD+ programme, on indigenous peoples. The commercialization of nature was directly contrary to the values of indigenous peoples, he concluded, as indigenous communities deeply respected forests and wished to preserve the rights of nature.
DOUG YAKASHIMA, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said his Organization had held a conference on biological and cultural diversity in June 2010, which resulted in a Declaration on Bio-Cultural Diversity and a draft Joint Programme between UNESCO and the Secretariat on the Convention on Biological Diversity. Moreover, at the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity, UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme launched a two-volume publication entitled “Mayanagna Knowledge of the Interdependence of People and Nature”. The programme had also responded to the Permanent Forum’s recommendation that indigenous peoples be fully and effectively included in appropriate processes and environmental conventions, such as those on climate change, by working to bring recognition to the concerns of indigenous peoples. Among other things, the project “On the Frontlines of Climate Change” included an online forum that reached an estimated 60,000 people worldwide.
He said UNESCO was also partnering with the United Nations University and other groups to organize expert meetings in Mexico City, Mexico and Cairns, Australia, on the essential role of local and indigenous knowledge in monitoring climate change impacts and adaptation efforts. His Organization had also participated in the follow-up meeting on the International Experts Group Meeting on Climate Change and Arctic Sustainable Development, held in Monaco in 2009, he said.
RUKKA SOMBOLINGGI, of the Asia Indigenous People’s Caucus, presented the result of the Regional Preparatory Meeting of Asia’s Indigenous Peoples on the United Nations Mechanisms and Procedures relating to Indigenous Peoples, held in Chaing Mai, Thailand, in February 2011. Asian indigenous peoples’ land, territories and resources continued to be the targets of Governments and multinational companies for resource extraction and other projects, leading to conflicts, displacement, livelihood and health consequences for indigenous peoples. In many Asian countries, Governments also imposed “restrictive policies” and laws in the name of forest conservation and development. Indigenous communities were also now faced with actions related to REDD+ programmes, which could threaten their livelihoods, including their practice of traditional forest management.
She said conversion of indigenous peoples’ lands and forests for large-scale production of biofuels, as part of climate change mitigation measures, had adversely affected indigenous peoples’ food sovereignty and rights to water, shelter and health. The Caucus recognized that the Permanent Forum had made substantive recommendations on environmental and forest issues relevant to indigenous peoples, but noted that gaps still existed in the implementation of those recommendations. In particular, it called the attention of the Forum to the efforts of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to develop a policy of engagement for indigenous peoples. It was urgent that indigenous peoples be fully involved in that process, she said.
JORGEN G. JENSEN ( Denmark) said protection of the forest constituted a key element of his Government’s strategy for support to climate change mitigation and the conservation of biodiversity. Its strategies for supporting the rights of indigenous peoples were developed in close cooperation with the Government of Greenland. Denmark was also participating in a number of programmes, such as the Forest Investment Programme, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and UN-REDD. It also aimed, through allocations for poverty-oriented REDD+ activities by IUCN, to develop resource management practices, which take as a point of departure the need of local communities, including indigenous ones.
He further noted Denmark’s support for a number of forest-related activities and REDD+ programmes, including a programme for capacity-building in Bolivia, conversation of natural forests in Nicaragua and Colombia, and forest management in the United Republic of Tanzania. Upcoming initiatives would support REDD+ programmes in the Harpaan province of Indonesia. He noted that no support had been given to projects that transformed natural forests into energy crop production, and stressed that care had been taken to introduce a number of safeguards for the rights of indigenous peoples into those programmes.
EDWARD WEMBEWA, of the North American Indigenous Peoples, which many called “ Turtle Island”, called upon the Permanent Forum to encourage all States to conduct cumulative impact studies, and implement the principles of the “precautionary approach” in industrial development, mineral extractive industries, and environmental standards. Recommendations from the group included: the creation of a mechanism to report and provide consistent recommendations directly to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; that existing United Nations indigenous mechanisms be accredited and participate at the Convention at the same level as other United Nations agencies and programmes; the creation of a dedicated fund to support the participation of indigenous peoples in the Convention process; the acknowledgment of the right of indigenous peoples to forests and the compilation of best practices on forests; the full implementation of the right of free, prior and informed consent; and that low- or deferred-interest loans be available to the renewable resource sector.
EVELYN TAYLOR ( Nicaragua) acknowledged that indigenous peoples existed before the State of Nicaragua. She underlined a process of collaboration between indigenous peoples and afro-descendants, which was coordinated by the Council of the Caribbean and the Nicaraguan Government. That process was a model for the indigenous peoples of the world and was praised by a number of United Nations agencies, she said. From 2007, the Government of National Reconciliation had continued to work on that strategic alliance, she said, adding that the Sandanista National Liberation Front was the only party that had complied with the demands of the ancestral and afro-descendants. “We have the indigenous man as a centre of Mother Earth,” she said, noting that such a vision would be impossible without the political will reflected by the Government.
In that regard, she said all action by the Government was an act of justice in recognizing the ancestral rights that had been denied by neo-liberal Governments for hundreds of years. Land ownership in Nicaragua was legally recognized through the principle of communal rights of ancestral lands. In addition, the Government had complied with demarcation processes and granted the title of thousands of square kilometres to the families of over 200 indigenous and afro-descendant families. The administration and handling of natural resources was also granted through the communities in accordance with their traditions, particularly through communal decision-making processes. Natural resources were extracted only through respecting the laws and the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and afro-descendants. Among other things, indigenous groups had the right to veto any decision. Concluding, she stressed that Nicaragua’s indigenous peoples and afro-descendants would be an ally in the effort to secure the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.
JIHAN GEARON, of the Global Caucus and speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Preparatory Meeting, said that she was disappointed that many delegates at the present meeting had been excluded from the meeting room due to space constraints, and urged the Forum to rectify that situation. She made a series of recommendations developed by Preparatory Meeting. Among those, she called on the Forum to renew recommendation made regarding international meetings and agreements, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Convention on Biodiversity, and others. She recommended that the Forum appoint a member to serve as a Special Rapporteur to conduct a study on the potential violations of indigenous rights posed by “REDD-type projects” related to carbon reductions. Also, she called for an international meeting to be organized and held in 2012 on indigenous women’s reproductive health. Further, she called on all Governments to undertake action in response to the Secretary-General’s Five Point Plan on nuclear safety. Her group was concerned about recent language adopted by the Nagoya and Cancun agreements, which diminished the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. She asked that all the recommendations enumerated today be incorporated into the final report of the Forum’s current session.
JULIA DAMIANA RAMOS SANCHEZ, Organization of Farming Women in Bolivia, said that the environment was a challenge for the entire world because it was related to the very life of the planet. Rather than recommendations and declarations, actions were needed. The Permanent Forum must be resolved to speak about “who we are as human beings”, she stressed, noting that too often it seemed that transnational interests or the interests of Governments were discussed. Indigenous peoples had lived for years in nature and had only taken from it what was needed, without considering how to accumulate or enrich themselves. Thus, the world vision of man in relationship with nature required care for nature, she said. In that regard, she noted her disappointment in Cancun, as a woman and a mother, and expressed concern about the concept of a “green economy.”
BRIAN WYATT, of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia, reminded the Forum that international law recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and territories, their resources, their cultural heritage, their rights to development, and their right to participate in decision-making. However, mining and extractive industries remained major problems, often intruding onto Aboriginal lands without consent and undermining the right of indigenous communities to self-determination. Some critical issues that indigenous peoples in Australia felt needed to be addressed included forests, climate change, mining and the transportation and storage of toxic waste, including radioactive waste. He enumerated several recommendations from his Organization, including, but not limited to: that the Permanent Forum urge the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change to research the full effects of climate change on indigenous peoples and ways to build resilience to its effects; that the Forum urge all States to use free and prior informed consent and self-determination processes when engaging indigenous peoples in carbon economies; and that the Forum urge all States to ban leaching as a mining practice on all lands.
FLORINA LOP MIRO, International Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Tropical Forests, underscored the relationship between indigenous peoples and the environment, noting, however, that that the bond had been diminished by the widespread degradation of land, water, air and other natural resources. She further stressed that there was often no free, prior and informed consent in mega development projects, or in many mining and agricultural activities. Global warming was resulting in drought and desertification, including the drying up of a number of critical river beds. Stressing that an evaluation of the distribution of natural resource showed a complex relationship between biodiversity and cultural diversity, she argued that the links between culture and the environment were clear to indigenous peoples, who shared a strong bond with natural lands. In light of that bond, natural lands must be conserved, she said, noting that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples included the right of indigenous peoples to have possession of their lands. She recommended that the impact of biofuels should be a future subject of the Permanent Forum and an open-ended meeting on environmental problems was also needed. The Forum should also recommend the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, as well as of ILO Convention No. 169.
LORI JOHNSTON, of the Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center, said that cadmium, and other contaminants recently found in the Gulf of Mexico, threatened the health and lives of indigenous peoples in the region, but that the United States Government would not discuss potential remedies with the indigenous communities living there. Additionally, the world’s oceans were becoming more acidic and, in some places, were too dangerous to navigate. All those problems existed because Governments did not apply the principle of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, which would have foretold such negative results. At the recent nineteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, indigenous communities had participated in discussions on many issues, including, but not limited, to mining, chemical management, and others. They had proposed a financial accountability mechanism for the disposal of waste, among other recommendations. However, the speaking time of the indigenous representatives at that meeting had been severely limited. Among other recommendations to the Forum, she asked that it conduct case studies on the application of the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
KRISTYNA BISHOP, Inter-American Development Bank, underscored the Bank’s evolving reforms of its development agenda and noted that climate change and other environmental issues were key priorities on that agenda. Among other things, the Bank was financing the development climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, as well as programmes aimed at increasing access to carbon markets. To date, many communities in Latin American had been excluded from the climate change dialogue, she said, noting that as that dialogue became more complex, their participation would only decrease. Strategies for indigenous development required that all rights of indigenous peoples be safeguarded, including those that addressed the natural resources and lands they owned or occupied. She said that with its partners, the bank had developed a programme on “Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change in the Amazon”, which would provide training in five countries and would also finance participation in international dialogues. That initiative would also attempt to gauge the impact of indigenous peoples on the international environmental dialogue, she added.
CR ROY AH-SEE, of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and a member of Australia’s Wiradjuri People, said that despite the “belated” endorsement by Australia of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, it had continued to show passivity in its implementation, in law and in policy. Instead of providing protection for the country’s first peoples, the Australian Constitution enabled the Parliament to take discriminatory actions, he said. Indigenous peoples had been excluded from the drafting of that Constitution, and all but excluded from any mention in its text, as well as denied the most basic principle of citizenship. The discriminatory use of “race power”, provided for by the Constitution, was confirmed by the highest court in Australia as recently as 1998, he said, citing the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Case as an example. In that vein, the Council recommended that the Permanent Forum urge States to fully implement the rights, principles and obligations promoted in the Declaration into domestic laws, policies and practical measures, and that it urge the Government of Australia to amend its Constitution, bringing it into conformity with the accepted standards allowed under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
ANITA LEE HONG, National Indigenous Higher Education Network of Australia, said significant challenges remained for the effective engagement by indigenous peoples in education in Australia. While the Australian Government’s “Closing the Gap” agenda had made notable progress, including through the development of the national educational curriculum, the process of including indigenous educators had been flawed. The indigenous higher education advisory council had collaborated on two significant programmes, including a national indigenous higher education strategy, which aimed at ensuring that indigenous people were represented in the work force. She further noted that Australia had celebrated its first aboriginal Rhodes Scholar this year. Turing to the work of the Permanent Forum, she said it must urge Member States to ensure that indigenous peoples were allowed to exercise their rights to education without encumbrance. It should also invite UNESCO to participate in a future session and invite the establishment of links among educators in the Pacific region.
PATRICIA SUSANA, of the Consultor ía de los Pueblos Indigenas en el Norte de M éxico, said that the Governments of the world should reach international agreements that dealt with the “profound” causes of climate change, and would impose consequences for those that did not adhere to the agreements. “Mother Earth is not only ill, but in a state of collapse,” she said, as a result of the development of biofuels, dams, and carbon capture. States must avoid deforestation and the degradation of soil, and ensure the full respect for communities living there, in line with the principles enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and theDeclaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The right to consultancy and to free, prior and informed consent must also be respected. For those reasons, she recommended that the Forum urge Governments to reach an agreement for mandatory policies on climate change, the reduction of toxic gases, and other issues. Among other things, the Forum should hold countries responsible, in that respect. She further urged Governments to avoid the production of biofuels, which were displacing indigenous groups, implement a “new energy matrix” and move to a new model of consumption and production. Finally, she stressed, her group rejected the REDD+ programme and its implementation.
JEANNETTE CORBIÉRE LAVELL, Native Women’s Association of Canada, highlighted the special role of indigenous women and grandmothers as protectors of the water and the keepers of the land, saying her organization had undertaken a special initiative called the Water Walkers. She stressed that the first nations and Inuit people shared responsibilities for fresh water and indigenous and Inuit women were concerned that water agreements were increasingly promoting a vision of water as a commodity. Her group would continue to work to ensure that Canada’s source water and watersheds were not destroyed. Moreover, it would continue to support and heighten awareness of its Water Walkers initiative, she said, noting that one of the grandmothers who started to walk around the Great Lakes with a pail of water years ago would arrive in Ottawa later this week. In addition, four walkers would soon converge in Wisconsin to raise awareness of the need to safeguard the waters of North America.
Making introductory comments on the concept of free, prior and informed consent, DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Permanent Forum member from the United States, stressed that support for the rights of indigenous peoples benefited all. That was particularly true in the area of free, prior and informed consent, she said, pointing out that generalized trends of poverty and marginalization among indigenous peoples and resulted from the blatant denial and violation of the basic rights of indigenous peoples, including the right to self-determination, to land and resources, to participation and to free, prior and informed consent.
She stressed that free, prior and informed consent was inherent to the relationship established by treaties among indigenous peoples and political and legal entities. One of the key elements of human rights was that they were interdependent, inter-related and indivisible. The profound relationship between indigenous peoples and their environment was critical in relation to free, prior and informed consent, especially in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources, and to self-determination. She further underscored that the free, prior and informed consent included the right to give, or to withhold consent. Among other international institutions, the World Bank had not yet fully embraced free, prior and informed consent, she noted.
Meanwhile, misconceptions of consent predominated among States, despite the fact that free, prior and informed consent was essential to all development projects, she said. Moreover, in a context of increasing recognition of indigenous peoples, the principle of free, prior and informed consent to development projects and plans that might affect indigenous peoples has emerged as the desired standard in protecting their rights. Indeed, a range of international treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, had recognized the centrality and significance of free, prior and informed consent. Among other things, it had been recognized that what was at stake was in fact the present and future of a people, not simply the specific and limited benefits of a development project.
She said that the full application of free, prior and informed consent ranged from granting consent for a development project to providing redress for lands or resources taken without such consent. She stressed that the United Nations must ensure full respect for, and recognition of the right of, indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Among other things, it would be useful to know the specific and positive examples in which free, prior and informed consent had been effectively and genuinely recognized and, in that way, improve the real-life circumstances that threatened the lives of indigenous peoples everywhere.
JEAN-FRANÇOIS TREMBLAY ( Canada) said that the principle of free, prior and informed consent was about “meaningful consultation”, and was central to reconciliation. It was about building and strengthening relationships, and moving away from a “divided past”, he said. In cases where the particular interests of indigenous peoples were affected by a proposed measure, they should be consulted. That consultation did not give indigenous peoples a veto power, but was aimed instead at building consensus among all the parties concerned, he said. As Canada had previously stated, when operationalizing the concept of free, prior and informed consent, Governments should support the fair and balanced interest of States, communities and development partners, where relevant. Partnerships should be fostered to ensure that indigenous peoples were more fully consulted. In its work to implement the principle, Canada was taking into account lessons learned, and continued to implement a consultation process that was “equitable and reasonable” for all involved parties, he said.
ENRICO LUZZATTO, Director of the European Patent Organization, said his organization did not represent a single State, but was a centralized patent-granting organization for nearly 40 countries. It primarily sought to ensure that high-quality patents were granted. Its commitment to high-quality patents applied all the more so to patents in socially-sensitive fields. Indeed, it was potentially dangerous if one was found to have been unduly granted, not least because patents had the potential to further protect traditional knowledge. It could also generate mistrust of the patent-generating field. For its part, the European Patent Organization worked through knowledge-sharing, including by accessing a number of traditional knowledge databases, such as those on traditional Chinese medicine. The Organization also welcomed further participation of other knowledge depositories. To further decrease risks, a system to monitor traditional knowledge petitions had been set up. Overall, the Organization was aware of its responsibilities to society, particularly in ensuring that searches on traditional knowledge applications were carried out thoroughly and respectfully.
KIRT EJESIAK, speaking on behalf of the Arctic Caucus, said that some Arctic States, having formally recognized the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, had put forward an unacceptable interpretation on the scope of that right, with Finland, Norway and Sweden only admitting Saami self-determination in affairs that uniquely concern the Saami, and allowing a mere right to consultation in all other matters. That narrow interpretation of the right to self-determination made little sense. It suggested that Saami self-determination was a genuine right only in such instances where the State had no interest in the matter. That could not be correct. A right presupposed a relationship between at least two legal subjects. Someone must enjoy a claim against someone else. Consequently, their suggestion that indigenous people enjoyed a genuine right to self-determination merely in affairs that only concerned them could not be correct. It was a contradiction in terms.
Further, he said, their second suggestion, that indigenous self-determination amounted to nothing more that a right to consultation did not withstand scrutiny either. The right to consultation had been well-established in international law for decades. Whether the right to self-determination applied to indigenous peoples had been subject to debate until quite recently. In negotiations on the Declaration, one of the most controversial articles concerned self-determination. It would likely not have been controversial if it were simply reaffirming a right well-established in international law for two decades.
He said the submission of Finland, Norway and Sweden on the scope of indigenous self-determination “Constitutes an illogical and illegal attempt to diminish a right to something less than a right.” The Caucus called on Finland, Norway and Sweden not to pursue any such further attempts to escape their legal obligations and to engage in constructive dialogue with the respective indigenous peoples to ensure the genuine right of self-determination. That was a right to not only participate in, but also to determine the outcome of decision-making processes in the face of opposition from the State or the majority population. He stressed that the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Saami Council were not against process rights as such, but they must not be substituted for material rights. The principle of free, prior and informed consent implicitly required a process with a certain sequence, and all three of the named criteria must be fulfilled prior to the actual decision-making by the community or people.
ISABEL ORTEGA, (Bolivia) said that the Government of Bolivia had set up a steering committee on the issue of consultations with indigenous peoples, and that other related grass-roots organizations also existed for that purpose. Those groups, along with other interested parties, had been working together to set up “forums” to consult with the nation’s indigenous peoples, especially in rural areas. Consultations were being held in each department of the country, as well as between organizations. Stakeholders were considering, among other things, how to design laws concerning jurisdiction. On 29 December 2010, a new national law on jurisdiction had been passed, he said, concluding, “Justice is a millennium old system” in Bolivia.
CHARLES MCNEILL, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that, while indigenous peoples were disproportionately negatively impacted by climate change, they were uniquely placed to inform mitigation and adaptation policies and programmes. Focusing on the REDD+ programme, he said REDD+ aimed to create value for forests as a means to protect them. If designed and implemented in an inclusive manner, REDD+ could bring value to indigenous peoples. Yet, if indigenous peoples were not included in that effort, the rights of indigenous communities could be damaged. The REDD+ programme was thus acutely aware of the need to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, and was committed to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was working with indigenous peoples networks and had held regional consultations in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Guidelines had also been developed to further ensure free, prior and informed consent in REDD+ programme design.
ERIN KONSMO, of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus and a member of the Métis Nation of Canada, said that only a few indigenous children and youth were present in the meeting room today, despite making up at least 50 per cent of the total indigenous population worldwide. During its seventh session, the Permanent Forum had called for the continued, effective participation of the Indigenous Youth Caucus. Yet, its right to participate was seriously violated by the restricted number of passes being provided to delegates today, she said. In the past few years, the Caucus had made several recommendations regarding economic and social development, environment and especially the principle of free, prior and informed consent. However, she regretted that many of the issues it had raised had not been addressed in a satisfactory manner.
Therefore, she drew the attention of the Forum to several recommendations, including: that Special Rapporteurs and representatives of the United Nations system had both specific mandates and implications for the rights of children; the creation of specific indicators both within United Nations agencies and within States to measure the development of indigenous youth; that the recommendations made by past sessions of the Forum on environmental degradation be implemented, especially taking into account the needs of indigenous youth; and that the Forum, United Nations Member States and agencies investigate violations of articles of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples relevant to free, prior and informed consent, and how forced removal and relocation affects indigenous youth and children specifically.
RAJA DEVASISH ROY, Forum member from Bangladesh, said examples of how to concretely practice free, prior and informed consent had been addressed by UN-REDD, among other programmes. In light of diverging views on how to operationalize that concept, he suggested that free, prior and informed consent was not merely a matter of consultations, although it was clear that part of the discussion on the concept must include efforts to spell out how to engage in a consultative process. He noted that there were questions regarding why the concept was not called “free, prior and informed rejection”, suggesting that it might be better understood as “free, prior and informed choice”. In that context, the concept would be conceived as matter of substantive consultation that gave the power of choice to indigenous people.
He remained concerned that the current policies of the World Bank and other international finance organizations referred to free, prior and informed “consultation” instead of “consent”, although the Asian Development Bank was an exception. He believed the operational side must be further studied to narrow the gap between concerns of Governments that free, prior and informed consent was merely a method of rejection, and the concerns of indigenous peoples that it was considered just a consultative process.
GABRIELA GARDUZA ESTRADA ( Mexico) said that a programme set up by the Government of Mexico for the period 2009-2012 provided for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making. It called for the creation of legislative and other offices and required consultations with indigenous communities, among other things. Most Government offices had mechanisms to hold consultations with indigenous communities before taking actions that affected their interests, she said. The National Commission for Indigenous Peoples had recognized and accepted the need for consultations with indigenous peoples. At the national level, however, the principle of free, prior and informed consent was not standardized, and laws were not “on the books” regarding compulsory consultations with indigenous peoples. Today, those consultations only took place if a Government office wanted to do so, she said. She hoped to make those consultations compulsory under the law, in all cases where the interests of indigenous peoples were affected. Currently, there were also no sanctions that could be levied against any Government office that was not in compliance with the principle.
INDIRA SIMBOLON, Asian Development Bank, said the Bank had adopted a safeguard policy statement, which required that meaningful consultations, must be undertaken with all project-affected people. Further, the consent of indigenous peoples must be sought in cases of physical displacement and commercial development, among others. Yet, it was clear that those safeguards would only be useful when applied to actual in-country projects. The Asian Development Bank had chosen to develop such guidelines because each country, each indigenous group and each development project was unique. She went to say that three two-year studies on projects in Bangladesh, China and the Philippines had been conducted to consider how to incorporate indigenous peoples in various development projects, including by building safeguards on existing local mechanisms.
QUETZALLI ENRRIQUE, Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, emphatically rejected any attempt to erode the free, prior and informed consent, including the Nagoya Protocol and the so-called Cancun Agreement. In light of divergent and often contradictory interpretations of the concept of free, prior and informed consent by United Nations bodies and private corporations and Member States, she urged the Permanent Forum to develop a standardized definition and conduct a legal overview of free, prior and informed consent. The Permanent Forum should continue to urge States, universities and individuals, among others, to undertake analysis of the implementation of that concept and to submit reports on their studies. She called on the United Nations system and Government agencies to implement mechanisms that respected indigenous peoples’ concepts, development models and juridical policies.
SAUL VICENTE VAZQUEZ, a member of the Permanent Forum from Mexico, said that the principle of free, prior and informed consent was a “crucial item” for indigenous peoples. The Forum must tackle the issue and make relevant recommendations, he said. In that vein, a study had been conducted on the manner in which laws were applied in Latin America. It was concerning to note that, despite the ratification and adoption of many related laws and Declarations, many countries in that region did not recognize the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, nor did they recognize the majority of rights related to free, prior and informed consent. If the situation did not improve, it would prove difficult to apply the necessary processes protecting the rights of people to the “riches” of their natural resources, he said.
Addressing the delegate of Mexico, he said work done in the direction of implementing consultation processes was “encouraging”. He drew the attention of that delegate to the fact that the Mexican House of Deputies had made “positive efforts” toward Constitutional reforms, recognizing the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Parliamentary members attending the session today could take note of that “positive signal”, which showed that the Government of Mexico was in support of the rights of indigenous peoples.
MATTIAS ÅHRÉN, of the Saami Parliament, recalling his recent travels to Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, drew attention to the work done by Special Rapporteur James Anaya in his report to the Human Rights Council in 2010, “Corporate responsibilities with respect to indigenous rights”, as well as the latest report of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative John Ruggie on human rights and business enterprises. Mr. Ruggie’s three established approaches described by the terms “protect, respect and remedy”, would surely encounter challenges, he said, noting that in its statements of support, the Norwegian Government appeared to be “on more than one side of the table”. Warmly welcoming the General Assembly’s decision to organize the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, he stressed that indigenous peoples must be given the chance to meet prior to that conference in order to plan for and shape its focus and its outcome document. To that end, the Sami Parliament invited indigenous peoples to a preparatory conference to be held in Alta, Norway during the second week of June 2013.
DOUG NAKASHIMA, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that UNESCO would officially launch a process to elaborate a Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples in September 2011. The principle of free, prior and informed consent would be an issue of major importance in that policy. Currently, a variety of approaches and practices with respect to that principle existed within UNESCO, reflecting the diversity of its programmes and standard-setting instruments.
Some programmes and conventions, including the “Operational Directives for the Implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage”, addressed the need for free, prior and informed consent directly, he said. Meanwhile, others, such as UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme, took the approach that the principle should be applied, not only at the start of the programme, but throughout its development. In 2007, the World Heritage Committee added “Communities” to its Strategic Objectives, noting in particular the critical importance of involving indigenous, traditional and local communities in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The upcoming fortieth anniversary of that Convention would provide an excellent opportunity for indigenous peoples to engage with UNESCO.
YUMNAM JITEN, Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action of the Asia Caucus, said free, prior and informed consent was linked to the exercise of the right to land and resources. Many Asian States, the Asian Development Bank and other actors had refused to recognize the free, prior and informed consent, despite the recommendations of the Permanent Forum in that regard. For the most part, a lower standard had been adopted. At the same time, many countries continued to deny the existence of indigenous peoples in their territories. The pursuit of mining projects, mega-dams and other mega-development projects, which were often pursued forcefully and through use of the military, were contributing to the destruction of indigenous lands and resources, and added to a culture of impunity. Many private parties were also intruding on indigenous territories without full understanding of, or regard for, free, prior and informed consent. Among other things, Asian States must also ensure that free, prior and informed consent was fully implemented and should, alongside all private corporations, consult with indigenous peoples prior to the launch of any development projects.
KIM NGARIMU ( New Zealand) said that her Government’s Treaty of Waitangi commits it to work with Maori in good faith and in a cooperative manner on all aspects of law and policy, particularly on issues which affect them and in which they had an interest, including mineral and other natural resources, as well as all policy and legislative matters. A wide range of approaches, processes and institutions had allowed them to be active in decision-making. Involvement under those approaches ranged from broad guarantees of participation and consultation to particular instances in which a requirement of consent was appropriate.
Participation could be achieved through both formal and informal structures, she said. One non-statutory example sought to balance the protection of marine mammals with the Maori claim to a right to harvest beached whales. A statutory example assured participation in decision-making in the legal regime for shared management of the Waikato River. All participatory processes were based on mutual good faith, cooperation and respect, with the range of processes avoiding a one-size-fits-all stance and continuing to develop. A further perspective, she said, would be provided by the outcome of the Waitangi Tribunal on a claim concerning flora, fauna, cultural and other rights, set for release this year.
DEBRA HARRY, speaking for the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, said that the collective right to free, prior and informed consent was an “emerging legal standard”, as well as a matter of justice and a legal obligation. She noted with interest a recent ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court that had halted three industrial projects for failing to gain the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples. The Caucus was very concerned that the current United Nations processes addressing the environment and impacts of unsustainable development were failing to protect the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent, among other things. It was also concerned by the recent adoption of language in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s proposed Nagoya Protocol and the Climate Convention’s Cancun agreement, which diminished the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent.
In that light, the Caucus made several recommendations. Among those, it called upon the Permanent Forum to renew recommendations made in its past sessions that United Nations processes provide mechanisms and procedures for the full and effective implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights, as well as for their meaningful role in decision-making and policy development. It called on States that had granted leases, concessions and licenses on indigenous territories to review those arrangements and to address related complaints. It asked the Forum to appoint a Special Rapporteur to conduct a study on existing and potential violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples by carbon markets, the Clean Development Mechanism and REDD+-type projects, and to report on that matter at the Forum’s eleventh session in 2012.
MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN (Greenland), also speaking on behalf of Denmark, reported the co-hosting by Greenland and Denmark of the seventh Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Nuuk on May 12. The representation of indigenous peoples in all Arctic Council bodies had a unique and valuable role in shaping the activities of the Council in all areas, which had been highlighted by the Foreign Minister of Denmark in her concluding statement to the meeting. Thus, she supported the recommendation put forward by the Arctic Caucus yesterday that the Permanent Forum study the indigenous participatory mechanism of the Artic Council.
Continuing, she said Greenland had a public Government, rather than an indigenous self-government. However, with the majority of the population of Inuit descent, the Government and Parliament, who were made up of Inuit people, placed great emphasis on the rights of indigenous peoples. On 1 January 2010 the full mineral resources area had been taken over by the Government. The principle of collective ownership to land in Greenland also applied to mineral resources and the Government recognized the importance of civil society involvement in decision-making, particularly concerning oil and mineral extraction. In response to concerns raised, it had invited the Inuit Circumpolar Council to establish consultation mechanisms regarding the development of those resources, in order to avoid negative affects on indigenous peoples and the general public. She recommended that the Permanent Forum, and other relative bodies of the United Nations, continue to address the challenges of transparency and full engagement of indigenous peoples in decision-making concerning resource development.
HINDOU OUMAROU IBRAHIM, Indigenous Peoples of African Coordinating Committee, said a study of free, prior and informed consent must be undertaken, as the African Commission on Human Rights must analyse the implementation of the free, prior and informed consent on indigenous peoples, including cross-border communities. She also recommended that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity study free, prior and informed consent in a number of areas, including traditional knowledge, the use of gas-cooled reactors and benefit sharing.
RODION SULANDZIGA, Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North, noting that his organization represented the Siberian people of the Russian Federation, said the principle of free, prior and informed consent was one of the main victories of the struggle of indigenous peoples in the last decade and it set the stage for the future. In the Russian Federation, the concept was particularly critical given the existence of vast natural resources available for mining. Arguing that the Arctic was not merely a land, but a home for indigenous peoples, he said an integrated development policy that accounted for the environmental protection of that land was key. The Russian Government, as well as domestic and multinational corporations, did not always pay attention to the needs, rights and interests of indigenous peoples. Thus, an approach that balanced the interests of indigenous peoples, the Government and the private sector was needed. The federal Government needed political will to initiate a process to guarantee land and resource management. He called on the Permanent Forum to study best practices in that regard. He also called on the Russian Federation to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, following the similar policies of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
MATTIAS ÅHRÉN, of the Saami Council, said that during yesterday’s session, a representative of the Government of Norway had referred to an agreement with the Saami Council as an example of good practice. It was no such thing, he said. Too often, he said, States wanted to deal only with the Saami Parliament, and not with the affected indigenous communities themselves. In contrast, when Saami lands were affected, States were required to deal directly with communities, he said. Any failure to do so was a violation of their rights. In the example of the Saami’s coastal fishing rights, Norway had violated the rights of free, prior and informed consent, he said, noting that the proposal fell “way below” Norway’s obligations to the Saami people. The Saami Council was worried that Norway believed that the Saami held no territorial rights to fishing on its own lands, he said, calling on the Government of Norway to withdraw the proposal.
JAVIER ALEXANDER SANZEHCE REYES, National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and the Indigenous Platform for Indigenous Organizations, saying that free, prior and informed consent was a sacred human right for the world’s indigenous peoples, stressed that Colombian indigenous groups did not enjoy that right. The denial of that right was related to the reiterated position of the Colombian Government of giving neither importance nor binding legal standing to the decisions made during previous consultations on the exploitation of natural resources and the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in indigenous territories. One shocking example of that approach was its petition to the Constitutional Court of Colombia to nullify a historical order of that Court that required the suspension of the Mande Norte mining project until the consent of the Embera indigenous peoples was secured. Moreover, mining concessions and environmental licenses were often given without consultation. Colombia’s reservations to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples listed three exceptions, of which one related to Article 19, in which the right to consent was established.
Colombia’s stance was, he said, all part of a mistaken perception that there was only one kind of development which favoured “majorities” and justified violations against minorities, such as indigenous groups. In the context of what the West considered development, the disrespect for the alternative conceptions of indigenous peoples, which were based on the concept of living well, were “false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust”, he said. Moreover, the recent statements on protective measures of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States were unacceptable. He also rejected the disrespectful position that indigenous rights were “secondary” rights.
MILILANI BERNADETTE TRASK, of the Indigenous World Association, said that she was speaking on behalf of 80 indigenous groups, five non-governmental organizations that were not indigenous, and other groups. She expressed the Association’s concern about the “disrespect” of indigenous communities that was shown by UNESCO when it designated World Heritage Sites. Many of those sites had been inscribed without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous communities affected, she said, and some of those communities “were not even consulted”, despite the fact that the designation of the sites directly affected their ability to pursue their livelihoods.
Such actions by UNESCO were inconsistent with a range of related United Nations treaties, conventions, resolutions and other international standards, as well as with UNESCO’s own objectives, she said. Last year, two sites — the North-West Hawaiian Island Monument and Ngoro-Ngoro Conservation Area in Tanzania — had been inscribed, despite the fact that concerns had been raised about whether indigenous populations had been granted the right of free, prior and informed consent. At its next meeting, the World Heritage Council would consider sites in India, Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Kenya; those proposals had been made without the participation or consultation of indigenous peoples. She called on the Committee to defer all World Heritage Site nominations, if it could not be “ensured and demonstrated” that the affected indigenous populations had been involved and consulted. She further called on the Committee to urgently convene a working group of experts — including members of the Forum and especially indigenous people — to draft an “overarching policy” on indigenous peoples, and to ensure that its actions were consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among other recommendations.
IVAN TORAFING, on behalf of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, said the current development process failed to recognize the intrinsic and inalienable role of indigenous people in sustaining environmental health and integrity. Indigenous people were often excluded from participation in processes that affected the use of management of their environment, and he/she cited several cases in his/her region where State authorities collaborated with multinational corporations or international financial institutions to the detriment of indigenous groups. Moreover, such practices as logging, large-scale mining, and mega-dam construction were often carried out alongside military activities in places like the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia. They caused, among other ills, widespread displacement, loss of livelihood, food crises, human rights violations and loss of indigenous culture.
Indigenous youth continued to be highly impacted by the consequences of such activities, and he urged the permanent Forum to, among other things, call on States, United Nations agencies and other multilateral institutions to recognize indigenous peoples’ intrinsic and symbiotic relationship to, and role in, promoting the sustainability of their environments. The Forum should also call specifically on United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNESCO to implement its recommendations on quality education, including integrating indigenous culture into relevant programmes and curricula, and supporting initiatives to help restore knowledge of their practices.
TOM GOLDTOOTH, Indigenous Environmental Network, said free, prior and informed consent was the basic underpinning of indigenous peoples’ ability to conclude and implement valid treaties and agreements and to have sovereignty and protection over their territories and resources. Thus, free, prior and informed consent must be immediately implemented at all levels. He stressed that such consent was more than mere consultation. Conversely, consultation did not equal consent. Indeed, indigenous peoples had the right to say “no”. Turning to the climate crisis, he said the policy and rights of free, prior and informed consent were not being recognized in United Nations climate mitigation and adaptation policies, resulting in serious risks for certain countries. Financial institutions were resisting strong language on that concept. He supported calls made earlier for the appointment of a Permanent Forum member as Special Rapporteur to conduct studies one existing and potential violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples affected by carbon markets, the Clean Development Mechanisms and the REDD+-type projects and to report to the forum at its 2012 session.
ERITRY TEAVE, of the Rapanui Parliament, said that her people had been victims of atrocities and human rights violations resulting from actions by the Chilean police. A Transpacific Economic had led to the imposition by Chile of new ports and harbours, she said, which had been built without the free, prior and informed consent of the Rapanui people. Given the importance of promoting and protecting their cultural integrity, the Rapanui people opposed the aforementioned projects on the grounds of their “genocidal impacts” on their people. She urged the Forum to urgently engage the United Nations mechanisms and agencies, as well as States, to stop the abuse by Chile.
GOUTAM DEWAN, Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens Committee, said that all parts of the United Nations system must implement the concept of free, prior and informed consent. He stressed that the Government of Bangladesh had developed a number of environmental policies without consulting indigenous peoples and despite the fact that those policies were likely to affect traditional livelihoods. He further noted that military camps had been established on indigenous lands and Government actions were affecting indigenous people living in Bangladeshi forests.
VASILY MEMECHKIN, Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples, said his organization was established in 1919 and continued to address ongoing challenges facing Finno-ugric peoples today. While there was a growing awareness of indigenous concerns in national policies, regional governments must pay more attention to demography and tolerance. He underlined the need to support the languages of indigenous peoples, including those of Finno-ugric peoples. The Russian Federation was currently undertaking efforts in that regard in cooperation with the Ministry of Regional Development. He also suggested that additional mechanisms for the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples and national minorities might include the establishment of an ombudsman’s office. Finally, he cautioned that public effort was not enough. Consequently, education on national culture and languages must begin in the family.
KENNETH DEER, on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and several other organizations, said that free, prior and informed consent was clearly established as an international human rights norm, and served as an “indispensable safeguard for other rights of indigenous peoples”, which were routinely violated when indigenous peoples were excluded from or marginalized in the decision-making process. He stressed the differentiation between the adoption of the right of free prior informed consultation, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent. The adoption by States of the former raised serious concerns that the momentum towards the implementation of free, prior and informed consent may be lost or diverted by the “misleading use” of the lesser standard of free, prior and informed consultation.
He called for five related recommendations to be implemented, namely that the Forum urge States and specialized agencies to adopt a standard interpretation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent, which was consistent with international human rights standards; that it highlight the need to address the unequal bargaining power between State or third party developers and indigenous peoples; that it urge States that were undermining the principle of free, prior and informed consent to uphold their international obligations; that it urge States to fully respect that principle, and to urgently address provisions of the Nagoya Protocol that could dispossess indigenous people from their lands; and that it urge States, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to adopt interim measures so that the principle of free, prior and informed consent and other indigenous rights were safeguarded.
JORGE TAGLE ( Chile) said he would not respond directly, nor delve into the background into what was said by the representative of the Rapanui Parliament today. But, in the coming days, he would speak on behalf of the department of indigenous affairs and provide more information to the Forum. At this time, the issue of the rights of indigenous peoples was of the greatest priority for the Chilean Government and, in that regard, a bill was currently moving through Chile’s legislature to return rights to indigenous peoples. The Government was also in ongoing contact with the Rapanui people for a number of different projects. Acknowledging problems last year, including actions by the police in which it was felt that undue force was used, he said investigations had been conducted. Those responsible were identified and sanctioned appropriately.
COURTNEY CROUSE, of the Salamanca High School Model Permanent Forum, said that her group demanded respect from the majority culture. Today, she wished to highlight the negative effects of dams on indigenous communities, such as her own. Years ago, the construction of a Dam on the Allegheny River had flooded the land of the Seneca Peoples, devastating their community. The Seneca were given financial compensation, she said, but they had not just lost their land — they had lost their way of life. Today, the Seneca were still fighting to gain control over the dam that had stripped them of their way of life. On 30 November 2015, the license on that dam would expire, and she wished to highlight that the Seneca were best suited to take control of the dam. She also spoke on behalf of other indigenous groups, including one in Brazil, that were fighting dam projects of their own. “What will happen when we, the indigenous people of the world, are no more?” she asked.
JUAN CARLOS JINTIACH, of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organization of the Amazon River Basin, said the Amazon basin was home to some of the largest extractive projects in Latin America, including those under the umbrella of Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA). He said with regard to the application of free, prior and informed consent, a number of additional recommendations must be set forth, including provisions of ILO Convention No. 169. He also recommended that the Permanent Forum urge Governments and international organizations to develop, in consultation with indigenous peoples, the means to promote free, prior and informed consent. Moreover, he stressed that ILO Convention No. 169 should also be ratified by those Governments that had not yet done so.
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