|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)
Global Consensus on Indigenous Rights Declaration Should Be Celebrated, but Strong
Effort Needed to Make Principles Alive ‘on the Ground’, Permanent Forum Told
Special Rapporteur James Anaya Says Implementation Will Require ‘Good Faith’,
Also Hears from Special Mechanism Chair, Some 40 Speakers in Day-Long Discussion
While the global consensus that now stood behind the 2007 Declaration on Indigenous Rights should be celebrated, its implementation remained a “constant challenge” and strong efforts were needed, nationally and internationally, to make its principles “alive in the reality on the ground”, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was told today during a full-day discussion of human rights concerns.
James Anaya, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples since 2008, told delegates to the Forum’s tenth session that implementing the Declaration would require good faith from all stakeholders and urged delegates — particularly nation States — to consider ways to establish that good faith. To that end, he said his travels to visit with indigenous groups had time and again raised several prominent issues — namely, the actions of mining and other extractive industries, and corporate responsibility in the context of indigenous rights.
Prompted by repeated requests by indigenous organizations, he said he had decided to focus on the relationship between indigenous peoples and extractive industries as the theme for his 2011 annual report to the Human Rights Council. That report would address concerns about extractive industries, such as mining, and explore new models and alternatives to the patterns and practices that he said had deprived indigenous people of a range of human rights.
In response to a question by one delegate, he said the overriding need in that discussion was to give indigenous peoples the ability to make choices on any project that had an impact on their lives and territories. He also stressed the more general need to develop alternative forms of development, in which indigenous peoples themselves could take charge of development programmes. Examples already existed around the world, he said, including those involving the extraction of natural resources.
On the topic of corporate responsibility, Mr. Anaya said that any policy drafted in the context of indigenous peoples should be based on the principle of “due diligence”, which required that companies ensure any activity they carried out did not constitute an infringement on human rights. While his studies had shown that companies were becoming increasingly aware of their obligations with regard to human rights, they sometimes remained unaware that those rights included those of indigenous peoples and their territories. Additionally, the rights of indigenous peoples, which were all too often still regarded as a “fringe” issue, were not considered at a high enough level within corporate structures. That needed to change urgently, he stressed.
Addressing the role of the Permanent Forum in achieving these aims, Mr. Anaya said that, by providing a global platform for indigenous voices to be heard, the Forum had become an “integral part of the international movement to advance indigenous peoples’ rights”. While still “in its infancy”, he added, the Forum’s reports and studies had made important contributions and had provided an “important point of reference” for work within the United Nations system and beyond. With the Forum poised to realize its “ever-greater” potential, he offered a series of recommendations for its future work.
Opening the afternoon session, José Carlos Morales Morales, Chair of the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, reminded delegates that the mandate of the Expert Mechanism was to advise the Council, through studies and proposals, on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as to provide related assistance to the General Assembly. He said the mechanism was currently completing a report, drafted over a period of two years, on indigenous peoples and decision-making, which would be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September. He also reminded the Forum that the Expert Mechanism’s fourth session would be held from 11 to 15 July 2011, and was open to all, including organizations lacking consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.
During a daylong discussion that featured more than 40 speakers, many delegates voiced agreement with the Special Rapporteur that land conflicts were among the biggest challenges facing indigenous communities today, and expressed support for his related studies on corporations, extractive industries and indigenous rights. Saying land ownership continued to be a source of disputes in her country, Mexico’s representative stressed that her Government was striving to find solutions on those issues on a priority basis. One major accomplishment had been a recent constitutional overhaul that would benefit indigenous peoples, she said.
In contrast, a member of the Parliament of Mexico countered that his country was one of the worst violators of the human rights of indigenous peoples. In that regard, he highlighted the case of two indigenous girls who were raped by the military and whose complaints had been ignored for a decade and a half, among other tragic instances. He said that while the Inter-American Court had issued a ruling in another similar case, its decision had not been addressed by the Mexican Government.
Brazil’s representative joined other delegations in complimenting the attention paid to corporate social responsibility in the Special Rapporteur’s report. He pointed, in particular, to the recommendations made therein that States must respect and protect human rights, also stressing that transnational corporations must respect due diligence, included obligations under the Declaration and the conventions of the International Labour Organization.
Meanwhile, a representative of the North American Indigenous Peoples said there was a critical need for a comprehensive discussion of indigenous peoples’ understanding and interpretation of treaties. He voiced strong affirmation for the right to free, prior and informed consent, as well as the treaty relationship, as the basis of participation in decision-making on issues that would affect their rights. He thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work on the protection of sacred sites, the impact of extractive industries, and the need for free, prior and informed consent.
In other business today, Kenneth Deer presented an update on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations of behalf of its Board of Trustees. Musa Ngary Bitaye, Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, also addressed the Forum.
Dalee Sambo Dorough, Permanent Forum member from the United States, made introductory comments, while Forum members from Guatemala, Bangladesh, Congo and Canada made comments during the day.
Representatives of the United States, Guatemala, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Guyana, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua also spoke.
Members of Parliament from Mexico and Peru also offered comments.
Representatives of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also participated.
Also speaking were representatives of: Latin American and Caribbean Caucus, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, North American Indigenous Peoples, African Indigenous Caucus, Asian Caucus, Arctic Caucus, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Australian Human Rights Commission, Indigenous Peoples Organisations of Australia, Grand Council of the Crees, Congres Mondial Amazigh, Indigenous Women’s Caucus of Australia, Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia, Truth and Reconciliation of the Commission of Canada, Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas – Región Sudamérica, Saami Council, Cultural Survival, Comision Juridica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (Capaj), International Indian Treaty Council, and Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, North Region.
The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 20 May to undertake a half-day discussion on Central and South America and the Caribbean, which was its special regional focus for the current session.
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. The Forum today returned to its consideration of the agenda item entitled “human rights”, continuing its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and other United Nations human rights mechanisms this morning. The Special Rapporteur was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2007 and has a mandate to, among others, promote the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international instruments relevant to the advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples, where appropriate. The afternoon session was expected to hear a statement by the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and hold a subsequent dialogue on the same topic. For more information, please see Press Release HR/5050.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur
Making introductory comments, DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Permanent Forum member from the United States, said she had emphasized a range of ways in which indigenous peoples and nation States could begin to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and hoped it was clear that the burden was the latter. In that regard, she underscored the importance of the rule of law, suggesting that those Member Sates who regarded themselves as democracies should recall one important element of the rule of law — namely, that Governments must obey the rules in just the same way they required their citizens to obey the law.
Education was also central to ensuring the implementation of the Declaration, she said, stressing that everyone needed human rights education and States should undertake efforts to provide it. She clarified, however, that this did not mean creating resources for indigenous communities. While that was important, it was even more critical for States to develop curricula and undertake training of the civil servant corps. It was critical for that training to include the minimum standards embraced by the Declaration, she said. Where national human rights institutions existed, they, too, should incorporate further education that specifically addressed indigenous rights. Where such institutions did not exist, States should, in consultation with indigenous peoples, consider setting them up. Moreover, human rights education was needed at the local community level, she said.
JAMES ANAYA, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said he had continued his cooperation with the Forum since its last session, in order to maximize the effectiveness of their respective mandates and to avoid overlap. He described a number of activities carried out over the past year in four main areas: promoting good practices; thematic studies; country reports; and responding to alleged cases of human rights violations. In the first area, one of his main aspirations had been to witness the endorsement of the Declaration by those States that had failed to cast affirmative votes upon its adoption by the General Assembly in 2007. Since last year’s session, the Governments of Canada and the Untied States had expressed their support for the Declaration, thus making State opposition to that instrument “a thing of the past”, he said. “While we can celebrate the global consensus that now stands behind the Declaration, its implementation remains a constant challenge that must be confronted with concerted efforts at the national and international levels,” he stressed.
Over the past year, he had continued to assist with the advancement of legislative, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic level, including with the Governments of Suriname, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, and Australia, among others. He had also cooperated with Governments, indigenous peoples, business enterprises, United Nations agencies and other international institutions in the promotion of sound policies, guidelines or international standards in the area of development cooperation and financing, the environment and climate change, corporate responsibility and others. In the area of thematic studies, his third report to the Human Rights Council, made public in September 2010, focused on the responsibility of corporations to respect indigenous peoples’ rights and excise due diligence that their conduct did not contribute to the infringement of those rights.
In 2011, his report to the Council would address concerns about extractive industries, such as mining, and explore new models and alternatives to the patterns and practices that he said had deprived indigenous people of a range of human rights. Mindful, in that respect, of a 2008 request by the Forum that he conduct a study on corporations and indigenous peoples, he also intended to build on the Forum’s previous work on extractive industries and corporations.
With regard to country reports, he said that since the Forum’s last session he had visited New Zealand and completed a report to follow up on that of his predecessor in addressing the human rights of the Maori people in that country. He had also completed reports in the Russian Federation, as well as on the human rights concerns of the Sami people living across areas of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. He was currently completing reports on the conditions of indigenous peoples in the Congo and in New Caledonia, a territory of France. Finally, he continued his task of receiving and, in appropriate cases, acting upon information of alleged violations of the rights of indigenous peoples. That work relied mostly on the written information provided by indigenous peoples and their organizations, non-governmental organizations and other sources. In a number of cases, he had formulated detailed observations and recommendations to address the human rights concerns raised. He had also taken a number of on-site visits through the last year, including to Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Among several comments and reflections on the work of the Forum, he said that the body had become an “integral part of the international movement to advance indigenous peoples’ rights”. It had provided space at the global level where indigenous peoples could have their voices heard, he said. Further, the Forum’s reports and studies had made important contributions to understanding the issues confronting indigenous peoples, and had provided an “important point of reference” for the work of institutions and programmes throughout the United Nations system and beyond. Relative to other United Nations bodies, the Permanent Forum was still in its infancy, he said, and it would continue to realize ever-greater potential to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.
Offering a few suggestions for how the Permanent Forum could build on and strengthen its work to that end, he said that he hoped that the Forum would place an even greater focus on the educational and awareness-raising aspect of its mandate, both at the national and international level. As he had seen many misconceptions about indigenous peoples and their rights, he believed that there was a “paramount need” to generate a more “profound and encompassing dialogue” to build understanding between indigenous peoples and others, and to help shift any persistent negative attitudes or misunderstandings about indigenous peoples and their rights. He hoped that the Forum would develop specific and well-coordinated methods to provide, on an ongoing basis, guidance to United Nations agencies and institutions in relation to their work.
He also believed that it would useful for the Forum to undertake a comprehensive review of the work of international agencies related to indigenous peoples, both at the international and country level, to assess the extent to which their programming conformed to the standards expressed in the Declaration. That review could be facilitated by assigning specific rapporteurs to the various institutions within the United Nations, he said.
DONALD LAVERDURE, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs of the United States, stressed, as Kimberly Teehee had during the Forum’s opening session, that the United States was pleased to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As determined by President Barack Obama, that support would be held to a standard of action, rather than mere words. Indeed, the United States Government was committed to ensuring that its support was meaningful and contributed to the lives of Native Americans and would continue working with tribal leaders to formulate priorities in line with theirs. To that end, President Barack Obama had already held two meetings with tribal leaders, and many issues identified in those meetings were closely related to the Declaration.
Among other things, tribal leaders had stressed the importance of Government to Government consultation with tribes before any actions were taken that directly affected tribes, he said. Consequently, a presidential executive order that required United States Government officials to consult with tribal leaders had been issued and all federal agencies had been directed to develop detailed plans to comply with that executive order. He said the effect of that directive had been profound, and, in some cases, overwhelming for tribal leaders. Thus, a streamlined consultation process was currently being explored.
He said another area of focus for consultations regarded sacred sites and the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Forestry Service were leading that process. The Government was also working to respond to requests to streamline the process by which tribes were granted federal recognition. In closing, he invited participants to read the full document explaining the United States support for the Declaration.
EVA GAMBOA, of the Latin American and Caribbean Caucus, said proposals had been made to reform public policies, as well as national and local legislation, in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. She particularly stressed that the recommendations aimed at increasing indigenous participation in decision-making were not theoretical, but should be binding. She further noted the request by the Human Rights Council for a mechanism to undertake a study on indigenous peoples and their right to participate in decision-making. She noted, in that regard, that the last two climate conferences in Copenhagen and Cancun had benefited from the presence of indigenous peoples, but noted that participation must go further.
She recommended that the Forum review the efficacy of mechanisms used by the United Nations systems to ensure that States guaranteed indigenous rights. The Forum should pay particular attention to threats posed by State military policies. It should propose concrete legal instruments that could be effective regarding free, prior and informed consent. The international financial institutions, United Nations bodies and international and domestic corporations that worked in indigenous territories must consult with indigenous peoples, and the Forum should consider drafting a ranking of these actors based on their respect for the rights of indigenous peoples. It should also seek to analyze the application of international law in indigenous rights.
ALBERT K. BARUME, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, in its work to promote social justice and internationally recognized human labour rights, the ILO considered discrimination faced by indigenous or tribal peoples as a central aspect of its mandate to address exclusion and marginalization. He said the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention No. 169 were intertwined international commitments and called for an implementation process that was mutually sustaining. He underlined the importance of establishing mechanisms to ensure free, prior and informed consent and to give indigenous peoples as much control as possible when implementing measures related to their own economic, social and cultural development.
Continuing, he said the Declaration’s provisions were included in nearly all of the ILO’s training kits used in 22 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. It was working to make the Declaration accessible to the beneficiaries of its projects. It was also producing a compilation of relevant jurisprudence related to indigenous rights, including of regional human rights bodies. The ILO believed that the implementation of the Declaration must be tracked and was working to develop indicators, in that regard. Among other things, the resulting framework should also work to identify bridges to existing human rights mechanisms. He further noted the progress to establish the United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership, which was a collaborative framework by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the ILO to support implementation of the Declaration and ILO Convention No. 169 at the national and local levels, which would officially launch at UNICEF House on 20 May.
FRANCISCO CALI (Guatemala) said that his delegation was pleased to have a member of the Forum appointed as an independent expert. The visit to Guatemala of the Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, had given rise to a debate in that country about the “pressing need” to consult more with indigenous peoples on projects that would affect them. Guatemala had made progress, although slowly, towards respecting the rights of indigenous peoples. There were Government institutional efforts to that end, he said, as well as efforts made by indigenous peoples themselves. Platforms now existed to deal with a variety of indigenous issues, including through the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the National Council of Protected Areas, and others. The National Institute of Statistics was also working to gather data on indigenous peoples, as required by United Nations treaties, including several indicators that reflected the realities of indigenous women.
The Government was undertaking dissemination and training with regard to the rights of indigenous women, including the right to health care and decent work with equal pay, among others. One of the commitments made in the national policy on women was the creation of an institute for the training of indigenous women. Other Government institutions were working with a “minimum budget”, including the Academy of Mayan Languages, the presidential committee against racism, the ombudsperson on indigenous rights and others. While the fact that those units existed was an achievement in itself, they existed within the context of a budget crisis that was affecting the country as a whole, he said.
FILEMON NAVARRO AGUILAR, Member of Parliament of Mexico, noted that indigenous peoples were complaining about the same thing: the historical and ongoing violation of their human rights. In Mexico, indigenous children were 10 times as likely to be born poor as anyone else. Moreover, Mexico was one of the worst violators of the human rights of indigenous peoples, he said, highlighting the story of two indigenous girls who were raped by the military and whose complaints had been ignored for a decade and a half. In 2006, two other indigenous women were raped by the military and their cases were ignored. While the Inter-American Court had issued a ruling on the matter, its decision had not been addressed by the Mexican Government. Stressing that those were “real people, with real names and real faces,” he said “Something must be done.” He did not want to see any more documents, but actions that effected real change.
KIM NGARIMU, Deputy Secretary, Te Puni Kōkiri of New Zealand, said her country’s Government remained committed to the rights of indigenous people. For example, it had expressed that sentiment before the Forum in 2010, when it had also affirmed the fundamental rights of and support for Māori aspirations. At the centre of the relationship between the Government and the Māori was the Treaty of Waitangi. The New Zealand Government was committed to settling the outstanding historical grievances under that accord and had set the goal to complete the exercise by 2014. Continuing, she said that, in 2010, the Government had commenced implementation of a new culturally anchored approach to family well-being and development called “Whanau Ora”.
An inclusive approach to providing services and opportunities to families, the Whanau Ora required multiple Government agencies to work together with families to, among other things, empower them to pursue healthy lifestyles and participate fully in society. She said that a Whanau Ora governance group comprised of community representatives and the respective Chief Executives of the Ministries of Māori Development, Social Development, and Health, had assessed and selected health and social service providers to deliver Whanau Ora services. She went on to note that along with reviewing the country’s constitutional arrangements, the New Zealand Government was also making steps to involve Māori in decision-making through a range of legal and policy initiatives. For example, Māori now worked with the Department of Conservation — which managed national parks and conservation lands — and regional authorities to develop policy statements and participate in managing natural resources.
TRISHA RIEDY, of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), said that the UNITAR Training Programme to Enhance the Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking Capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ Representatives was created in 2000, based on the requests of indigenous representatives. The programme provided training for indigenous representatives in conflict analysis, negotiation and conflict transformation, coupled with information on United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms. As marginalization from political and economic processes and conflicts over land were two major challenges, the programme reviewed both rights-based and problem solving negotiations related to those areas, among others. The training programme invited United Nations Special Rapporteurs and Permanent Forum members, as well as other senior indigenous experts, to conduct sessions on successful negotiations on land and resource issues and on political participation.
She said UNITAR actively sought the participation and contribution of indigenous women, both as resource persons and participants. The Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, had contributed to 12 of the 13 UNITAR training programmes, she said, and had also engaged in important dialogue sessions during recent programmes. She also appreciated the important contribution of Megan Davis, as Permanent Forum member-elect, to the 2011 international training programme. Funding was also being sought to organize the 2011 international training programme for indigenous representatives from around the world in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
LEONTINE SAINT ONGE, of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, said the history of first nations in North America continued to be misunderstood. She stressed that the Innu people must be allowed to transmit their own history, noting that when she was in school, the textbooks had not even mentioned the first nations. While textbooks today had been improved, those changes did not go far enough and must show the deep, interconnected history of the Innu people and their connection to the land of Quebec. Young Innu were having difficulties understanding the world of today because they did not understand their past. Indeed, they felt rootless. She stressed that including sufficient descriptions of their past would improve their present and future. But, for that to happen, adequate financing would be required for the publication of quality educational materials. Innu should also be more involved in writing textbooks, she said, noting that their history was a “precious national treasure” and promised to enrich citizens of all origins.
ERIK LAURSEN (Denmark) said that his delegation was pleased to see that three United Nations mechanisms had specific mandates to address indigenous peoples, and that they were increasingly coordinating new efforts. Addressing the Special Rapporteur, Denmark was aware of a study being carried out on the important issue of the rights of indigenous peoples in relation to natural resource extraction and development projects affecting them. He asked the Special Rapporteur, in that regard, to elaborate on how he envisioned States and corporations could best ensure that such projects were carried out in a manner that was consistent with the rights of indigenous peoples. On the related issue of corporate responsibility with respect to indigenous rights and the impact of corporate activities on their rights, and specifically on the “urgent need” to reach a minimum understanding on that matter, Denmark asked: what was the best way to go about trying to reach such an understanding, and how could States most effectively push that agenda? What had been the nature of the feedback that the Special Rapporteur had received from private companies on the issue of corporate responsibility with respect to indigenous peoples’ rights?
Mr. ANAYA, the Special Rapporteur, took the floor in response to those questions. He said that his report on extractive industries was prompted by many requests by indigenous peoples for an intervention on that matter over the course of his mandate. A single issue that arose many times in those requests was that of the impact of extractive industries on the territories of indigenous peoples, he said, as well as their lack of consultation and free, prior and informed consent. Responding to the question on how such projects could move forward in conformity with international standards, he said that, simply, they should adhere to the principle of free, prior and informed consent. The overriding need was to give indigenous peoples the ability to make choices on any project that had an impact on their lives and territories, he said. He pointed out that a study had been conducted on the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteur had also addressed that issue in his last study on corporate responsibility with regard to indigenous peoples and their territories, as he would in his current study, with the aim of developing more “comprehensive guidelines”. He also wished to elaborate on alternative forms of development, in which indigenous peoples themselves could take charge of development programmes. Examples already existed around the world, including those involving the extraction of natural resources. That was the “ideal” situation, he stressed, allowing indigenous peoples to develop their own enterprises and initiatives that could compete in the modern world. In that vein, his report would look at the relevant national standards currently in place, and explore alternatives.
On the issue of corporate responsibility, the Special Rapporteur had tried to build on the work of the expert on corporations and human rights, who had set out a framework based on the principles of respect for human rights and “due diligence”, which required companies to ensure that any activity they carried out did not constitute an infringement on human rights. For his part, the Special Rapporteur hoped to insert a more specific mention of the rights of indigenous peoples. While companies were becoming increasingly aware of their obligations with regard to human rights in general, he said, they sometimes remained unaware that those rights included those of indigenous peoples and their territories. Feedback received from corporations in that respect had showed that, while some heartening actions had been taken with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, it was not “at a high enough level” within the decision-making process of companies. The rights of indigenous peoples were still considered a “fringe” issue, he said, and that needed to change.
ALVARRO ESTEBAN POP, Forum member from Guatemala, said that while Latin America was undergoing a transition, culturally and historically, indigenous peoples had had scant or non-existent participation. States frequently did not acknowledge the multicultural nature of their populations, and that was particularly alarming in countries where indigenous peoples formed majorities. Their exclusion resulted in limited social and political covenants and most socio-economic indicators showed that indigenous peoples were among the most abused and mistreated in their respective societies. The mechanisms and forums constructed within the United Nations for indigenous peoples were important in generating critical mass for indigenous peoples to speak at an international level, he said, adding that serious and earnest coordination was needed from the top down, including in the Secretariat and the agencies. Finally, he emphasized that there was still a long way to go in achieving collective and individual rights, including in democracies.
Ms. DOROUGH, Forum member from the United States, thanked the Danish delegation for its questions, noting that it had created the kind of dialogue that she had expected from the Forum’s work during this session. She hoped that kind of discussion would be possible and that participants would be flexible in allowing it.
RAJA DEVASISH ROY, Permanent Forum member from Bangladesh, said that the paper offered in response to comments made by Observer States on the annex to the Forum’s report on its eighth session had correctly asserted the Forum was indeed within its mandate to review the follow-up actions with regard to the Declaration. When the Economic and Social Council set up the Forum, it had created mandates to: provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council; to raise awareness and promote activities related to indigenous issues within the United Nations system; and to prepare and disseminate information on those issues. Some Members States did not want to receive a “lecture” or advice, he said, and therefore the Economic and Social Council had restricted that mandate to the programmes, funds and agencies of the United Nations. However, the United Nations was a “club of Member States”, he said, and the dissemination mandate of the Forum could not help but be addressed to Member States.
On Article 42 of the Declaration, he addressed the “misplaced” fears of some States that the Forum was acting like a treaty-monitoring body. The Forum was not behaving that way, he said, stressing that, if it were, it would have provided rulings and insisted on reports, like a court of law. The Forum was instead helping States to do what they were supposed to do. It was important to note that the Declaration did not “create new rights out of nothing”, he said, but was instead promoting and clarifying existing rights, allowing indigenous peoples to exercise their rights. In Article 42, the Declaration asked the United Nations system, including Member States, to promote respect for the Declaration; to promote its full application; and to follow up on its effectiveness.
MARK ANQUOE, North American Indigenous Peoples, stressed that indigenous peoples must give their consent to any changes in a treaty relationship. There was a critical need for a comprehensive discussion of indigenous peoples’ understanding and interpretation of treaties. He voiced strong affirmation for the right to free, prior and informed consent, as well as the treaty relationship, as the basis of participation in decision-making on issues that would affect their rights. He thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work on the protection of sacred sites, the impact of extractive industries, and the need for free, prior and informed consent. He expressed strong support for the recent statements issued by the San Carlos Apache tribe stating their anger at the use of “Geronimo” as a euphemism for Osama bin Laden. He stressed that the United States Government must give its assurance that the names of indigenous peoples would not be used in a racist manner again.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden) said that, in a report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of the Sami peoples in Sweden, Norway and Finland, published in January 2011, mention had been made that Sweden gave a relatively high level of attention to indigenous people. The report also stated that the plans and programmes related to the Sami people in the Nordic countries set important examples for securing the rights of indigenous people. Sweden took note of the Special Rapporteur’s observations concerning further challenges facing the self-determination of the Sami, their involvement in decision-making and other related questions. He pointed to the authority of the Sami Parliament, which was a publicly elected body established in 1993 and holding special responsibilities including: participation in social planning and monitoring the compliance with Sami needs; deciding on the distribution of State grants and other financial resources; and others.
Recently, he said, the Sami Parliament had been awarded further responsibilities with regard to reindeer herding issues. It was the central agency responsible for reindeer herding husbandry. Additionally, the rights of the Sami reindeer herding communities granted by the Swedish Reindeer Herding Act were upheld on 27 April 2011 by the Supreme Court of Sweden. At the Nordic level, a decision was taken in November 2010 to launch negotiations on a Nordic Sami Convention, the first round of which were held in March 2011.
HEZRON RIPKO, of the African Indigenous Caucus, said African Governments had deprived indigenous peoples from accessing water in a variety of ways, including through the construction of dams that prevented the flow of water into indigenous lands. Indigenous peoples also faced a lack of security, with police headquarters located far from their lands. Indigenous peoples also faced forced migration and the illegal appropriation of their lands, and derogatory or negative names were often used to refer to them. Indigenous children were vulnerable to recruitment as child labourers and did not enjoy the same scholarship opportunities as other children. Indigenous women were often sexually abused and exploited, and rape was used against them as a means of humiliation when they stood up for their rights. It was clear that many African States did not respect the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said, urging the Permanent Forum to: conduct continuous monitoring of African countries to ensure that they abided by the Declaration and other relevant national and international laws; and exert pressure on African Governments to ratify treaties recognizing the indigenous peoples’ territorial rights. He requested the Special Rapporteur to conduct a study of human rights violations of African indigenous peoples and report back to the Forum.
YVONNE PEARSON, Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council of Guyana, said her country’s indigenous peoples, the Amerindians, were an integral part of society and the Government had redoubled efforts to address issues affecting them in order to overcome centuries of marginalization. In addition to improving access to education and health, attention was being focused on boosting economic activity in indigenous communities through the Livelihoods Programmes, which aimed to resuscitate rural agriculture, provide employment and address food security. Moreover, the Guyanese constitution guaranteed the equality of all citizens, including Amerindians. As a tangible manifestation of that obligation, the 2006 revision of the Amerindian Act recognized the linkage between the spiritual well-being, identity and sustainable livelihood of indigenous peoples and their connection to land. The Government recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to ownership of land as “absolute and forever.”
She further highlighted ongoing training programmes and awareness-raising sessions to enhance the knowledge of indigenous peoples about their human rights. Based on their knowledge of their rights and the global climate change situation, the indigenous peoples of Guyana had contributed significantly to the development of the country’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy. She stressed that Amerindians were not threatened by that national strategy and viewed it as a tool to better manage their lands and resources. Yet, despite the significant progress on a number of fronts, more must be done for the Amerindians in Guyana, including through the work of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Responding to the request from the African Indigenous Caucus to conduct a comprehensive report on the violations of rights of indigenous peoples throughout the African continent, Mr. ANAYA welcomed the interest in his work as Special Rapporteur, but urged all indigenous peoples making proposals to him to think carefully about his mandate and where it fit within the United Nations system. He noted that he engaged with countries to assess the situation of their indigenous populations. He had recently been to two African countries, while his predecessor had also visited two African nations. He suggested the request in question was beyond his mandate. Further, his work was predicated on the cooperation of State Governments. To that end, he urged countries to cooperate with his mandate to allow him to conduct country visits.
Further expanding on his mandate beyond country reports, he said the procedure that occupied the bulk of his time was receiving and taking action upon complaints of individual human rights violations. Indeed, acting upon information received from various countries throughout the world, including Africa, he had investigated cases in which the physical and human rights of indigenous peoples were being violated by development projects or other actions by States. He was mandated to intervene in those cases at least through the transmission of letters with Governments, which often resulted in the exchange of information. His reports showed his assessments of a number of specific cases, including several in Africa, and he encouraged indigenous groups to consider his latest report and shape their requests to him. He was committed to acting on credible information that came to his attention by visiting countries. If a visit was impossible or was not required, he would send letters to the Governments involved.
He urged indigenous peoples to submit information that was as complete and detailed as possible when making complaints. He was happy to report back to the Permanent Forum in general terms. However, it should be understood that his mandate fell under the Human Rights Council, not the Forum, although he endeavoured to cooperate and participate with the Forum to the extent possible.
MRINAL KANTI TRIPURA, of the Asian Caucus, drew the attention of the Special Rapporteur to a number of issues relating to the violation of human rights of indigenous peoples in Asia. Those included the continued incidence of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearances of indigenous leaders and activists in the Philippines, Burma and north-east India; the militarization of indigenous communities in connection with development projects in the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia, especially where mining and logging companies operated; the non-recognition of status and identity of indigenous peoples by Asian States and of their customary laws and practices; political repression of indigenous protest actions, such as arbitrary arrests, detentions and indiscriminate firing by security forces, among others; and land-grabbing, burning of houses and killing of innocent civilians, including the recent killing of a 12-year-old girl during an attack on indigenous villages in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
In relation to those violations, the Caucus made several recommendations to the Special Rapporteur, including, among others: that he make a communication to the Philippine Government to follow up on recommendations made by the previous Special Rapporteur, which had not yet been implemented by the Government; that he carry out a prompt investigation into the numerous human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples, and call on States to demilitarize indigenous peoples’ territories; that he conduct an official visit to Asia in 2012 to investigate the cases mentioned and make both a report and urgent communications with the concerned Asian States; that he establish a mechanism under the office of the Special Rapporteur whereby urgent and concrete action could be taken on cases that had been documented and submitted by indigenous peoples organizations; and that he provide a support mechanism for the protection of indigenous human rights defenders.
Taking the floor in response, Mr. ANAYA, the Special Rapporteur, said that regarding the request to conduct a follow-up visit to the Philippines, preparations had been initiated for such a visit. As for the request to follow up on specific incidents of human rights violations, he took note of the request, but stressed that he needed more information and details in order to respond. He therefore invited the members of the Asian Caucus to submit those details.
On the request that he conduct a visit to the Asian region in 2012, the Special Rapporteur recalled that he had already conducted a visit to Nepal, and that several outstanding requests for visits to Asian countries had not yet been responded to. He addressed those States generally, saying that he hoped to receive responses soon. As to the recommendation that he establish a mechanism by which the Office of the Special Rapporteur could respond to urgent requests, he emphasized that such a mechanism already existed, and had been used by many groups. He cited, in that respect, the example of a case taken up in Peru, which had been urgently addressed within a matter of days. Finally, he said that, within the Human Rights Council system, there already existed a Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and that he had worked closely with that Special Rapporteur on several occasions.
CARLOS EDUARDO (Brazil), noting that the Special Rapporteur had been “tireless” in his efforts to pursue and monitor the situation of indigenous peoples and the obligations deriving from international instruments, encouraged him to continue to collect and develop best practices. He also noted that new forms of dialogue were needed in his region. For its part, Brazil agreed with the importance afforded corporate social responsibility in the Special Rapporteur’s report and noted the special recommendations made therein, as well as those of John Ruggie, that States had to respect and protect human rights. He also stressed that more than just clarification of the legal framework was needed. Indeed, legal frameworks could have an impact on investigations into corporate violations and States should increase the rule of law, in that respect. To that end, they needed independent bodies that worked in the interest of everyone. Further, transnational corporations must respect due diligence, which must mean the same thing in all forums and, in the case of indigenous peoples, included the obligations under the Declaration and ILO Convention No. 169.
Stating that countries must also work to make progress, he noted Brazil’s advanced institutional and legal framework. He stressed that the recently completed process of demarcation had involved indigenous peoples at all times. Moreover, many other projects had been amended or even interrupted because indigenous peoples did not agree with them. In the specific case of Belo Monte, the Government consulted with indigenous peoples and the project was significantly modified as a result. Among other things, studies in the 1970s anticipated the construction of six dams that could have had a regional impact. However, those six were reduced to one. The project was then further modified to reduce its impact on local communities, he said.
TATIANA ARCHIRGINA, of the Arctic Caucus, said that Yupik Inuit people, of which she was a member, numbered only 1,600 in the Russian Federation. Along with the more than 200,000 indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic, the Yupik called on the Government of the Russian Federation to recognize their rights. She stated that an endorsement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples meant the support of the whole Declaration. Some States, unfortunately, did not fully support its provisions, she added, offering instead only a so-called “support with qualifications”. An example was the way that the issue of free, prior and informed consent, despite being clearly stated as a principle that must be respected in the Declaration, was being modified and misinterpreted, and thus remained unimplemented in various countries across the world.
Among other things, she recommended the development of specific guidelines for United Nations agencies, aimed at helping them to overcome the difficulties faced in implementing the Declaration in their work. Regarding the issue of representation in regards to the implementation of the Declaration, the Arctic Caucus felt that implementation should take place, at the executive and political levels, as well as at the community levels, with the involvement of indigenous peoples. In that respect, she drew attention to a new declaration of the Circumpolar Inuit on Resource Development Principles, and recommended that the Permanent Forum also continue to take up that issue in its work.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica) said his Government believed its development goals must be achieved through a process that protected and strengthened human rights. Costa Rica had been party to ILO Convention No. 169 since 1992 and had supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at its 2007 adoption. Costa Rica’s national legislation included specific standards on internationally recognized rights and, among other things, the State was obliged to ensure that indigenous languages were maintained. Constitutional jurisprudence recognized ILO Convention No. 169, which gave indigenous peoples the right to pursue economic aspirations in ways that respected their rights and customs. International standards were still needed for consultations with indigenous peoples, however. Finally, he reiterated his country’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
Mr. ANAYA thanked the indigenous peoples and organizations that had cooperated with him and his mandate. He also expressed gratitude for the cooperation of Member States, particularly those who hosted his country visits. Commenting on the morning discussion, he said he continued to hear frustrations by indigenous peoples about the lack of respect for their rights. At the same time, he had heard comments from States and others underlining progress made in attending to the demands of indigenous peoples. In all of that, he said, there was indeed a sense of shared values that everyone should take stock of. It indicated a consensus, he suggested, which was reflected in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Concerted efforts must be made to see that the Declaration became “alive in the reality on the ground”, he stressed, noting this would require “good faith on the part of all”. To that end, he urged all participants to consider how to create that good faith.
KENNETH DEER, speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said the mandate of the Fund was to assist representatives of the indigenous organizations and communities to participate in the deliberations of the Forum and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Populations. It had been extended five times since its 1985 inception, following the natural evolution of the indigenous peoples’ human rights agenda.
At its twenty-fourth session in February 2011, the Board of Trustees had considered about 564 admissible applications for travel grants for a total amount of $2.333 million. However, due to its very limited resources, the board was only able to recommend the allocation of 54 travel grants from the different indigenous regions of the world to attend the current session of the Forum and the Expert Mechanism for a total of approximately $235,000 — meaning that roughly 90 per cent of the applications could not be funded.
He stressed that the Voluntary Fund had given indigenous peoples a voice at the United Nations by supporting more than 1,400 grantees. It had also provided indigenous peoples innumerable opportunity to raise their issues and concerns internationally, to share best practices in matters relating to the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to network with other indigenous peoples, non-governmental organization and with Governments and United Nations bodies.
The Fund’s extension would enable indigenous representatives to attend sessions of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies, he said. That direct participation of indigenous peoples from all the world’s regions was crucial in establishing constructive dialogue between Member States and indigenous communities and ensure that the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples were channelled into the appropriate bodies that could address them. In other areas, the Fund’s secretariat had organized human rights training session for indigenous representatives, he added.
Thanking various contributors to the Fund, he appealed to all Governments, organizations and private donors to consider contributing, if possible by the end of the year. While the Board had maximized the dollars contributed to the Fund thus far, it recognized the trend of a major decrease in donations. In contrast, the number of applications continued to grow each year. Over the past four years, the Fund had experienced a 70 per cent decrease in contributions, presenting a dramatic challenge to the Fund’s overall mandate. Thus, he stressed that any contribution, large or small, could make a dramatic difference for indigenous peoples and contribute to helping them achieve their rights.
JOSÉ CARLOS MORALES MORALES, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that the mandate of the Expert Mechanism was to advise, through studies and proposals, on the rights of indigenous peoples to the United Nations Human Rights Council, as well as to provide related assistance to the General Assembly. The fourth session of the Expert Mechanism would be held between 11 and 15 July 2011, he said, and was open to all, including organizations lacking consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. That mechanism sought to establish a tight relationship with other mechanisms, he added, including regional and local bodies, indigenous communities, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations funds and programmes, among others.
He said the Expert Mechanism worked closely with representatives of the Permanent Forum, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and others, which had participated actively in its past sessions. The mechanism was currently completing a report, drafted over a period of two years, on indigenous peoples and decision-making. An initial draft of that report had been well received by the Human Rights Council and a final submission would be made to the Council in September 2011. Finally, he thanked the Forum for its efforts in support of the work of the mechanism and in disseminating information on the rights of indigenous peoples. Its written contributions, follow-ups and studies had strengthened the movement forward in promoting and respecting those rights, he concluded.
MUSA NGARY BITAYE, Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, said his presence today provided the opportunity to request a closer collaboration from the Forum and all other potential international partners. Among other things, the African Commission sought further and stronger linkages in its activities, as well as information sharing, to create better synergy in promoting human rights. He appealed to the Forum to ensure the presence of all the world’s indigenous peoples at its sessions. That should include the Forum’s opening prayer sessions, he said.
Providing background, he recalled that the African Commission was established in 1986, and like all international human rights bodies, imposed obligations on all parties to the African Charter. He noted that, while the African Charter guaranteed the rights of peoples to their culture and resources, it was only much later that attention was given to the right of indigenous peoples. The Working Group on the Indigenous Populations and Communities in Africa was unable to carry out its activities on the ground before 2005, due to lack of funds. It had since carried out sensitization missions on the continent, engaging with Governments, civil society and indigenous peoples themselves to ensure the recognition and adoption of good practices regarding indigenous rights. The reports of those missions included recommendations to the Governments concerned, which had been printed and widely distributed.
Nonetheless, the absence of recognition of indigenous peoples by the African States in national legislation remained the key to the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and, in some cases, the loss of identity and even extinction of indigenous peoples, he said. That resulted in forced evictions, among other things. Climate change was also exacerbating conflict within and between indigenous groups and with others. In 2009, the Africa Commission made a landmark decision, after six years of struggle, which demanded that the Kenyan Government restore the traditional land base of the Endorois People. The Kenyan Government had promised to make good on that decision. Should it not, redress would be possible through the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
He noted that, in a first for the African continent, the Republic of the Congo recently passed a law recognizing its indigenous population. Notably, that law qualified the word “pygmy” as pejorative. In the same year the courts in Botswana upheld the rights of one indigenous group to the Kalahari reserve, particularly the use of its water. Further progress had been made to protect the pastoralist way of life. In conclusion, he reiterated the call of the African Commission for a “structured partnership” with all of its partners. To that end, he highlighted the report on the situation of indigenous peoples in 24 countries that was undertaken with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He also noted the contact between the Working Group on the Indigenous Populations and Communities in Africa and James Anaya.
CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) reiterated his country’s strong support to the Forum’s efforts to advance the human rights of indigenous peoples. He was encouraged that the Declaration on Indigenous Rights now enjoyed universal support. The challenge ahead was to convert principles of the Declaration into practical results on the ground. As indigenous rights were a priority in Denmark’s policies at all levels, it would continue to speak out for them at all relevant international bodies, including the Forum and the Expert Mechanism of the Human Rights Council. He said the establishment for the self-government arrangement for Greenland and ongoing transfer of responsibilities under that arrangement was an illustration of Denmark’s de facto implementation of the Declaration. The country’s work to mitigate and assist adaptation to climate change was another example, particularly through its support for the agreement on deforestation and degradation known as REDD.
According to a review of Denmark’s 2004 strategy for support to indigenous peoples, completed in cooperation with the Government of Greenland, the strategy had produced very significant results. In conformity with the recommendations of the review, his country was offering financial assistance to the United Nations Indigenous People’s Partnership. He welcomed the Partnership’s focus on implementation of the declaration at the country level.
KRYSTA WILLIAMS, of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, said that indigenous youth composed the majority of the indigenous population worldwide, yet remained underrepresented and “poorly supported” in the Permanent Forum. The Caucus recommended that the Special Rapporteur investigate aggression towards, migration of, and the forced and coerced removal of, indigenous children and youth from their families and communities. It requested a specific report on indigenous youth and identity, specifically, how the lack of identity factors such as land, education, indigenous religion and others could contribute to violence against youth and children. It urged the Expert Mechanism to look into the study on indigenous youth participation in decision-making, prepared and presented by the Indigenous Youth Caucus in its third session. It also urged the Permanent Forum to collaborate with the United Nations Commission on the Rights of the Child and with Member States in related reporting processes. It recommended that the expert mechanism, the Forum and the Special Rapporteur encourage indigenous peoples and their organizations in the collection of their own population data. Finally, it recommended that the expert mechanism request information from States on indigenous youth engagement, so that they might report on those efforts and on both their prevalence and efficacy.
SIMON WILLIAM M'VIBOUDOULOU, Forum member from the Congo, said that while recognition for human rights was a principle on African nations, actual respect for human rights of indigenous peoples remained an exception to the rule. In terms of providing access to the law, he noted that resources had been mobilized by a number of stakeholders, although he urged further action. Among other things, he highlighted how indigenous peoples in Congo and Kenya had used the mechanisms of the Special Rapporteur. He said the indigenous peoples and others from Africa would leave this assembly recognizing the work done by him, as well as by the African Commission.
GABRIELA ESTRADA ( Mexico) said that land ownership continued to be a source of disputes in her country. The Mexican Government was working towards finding resolutions on such issues, with the essential involvement of indigenous peoples. It was also moving towards legislative harmonization with the principles of the Declaration, which required close consultations with indigenous peoples that would allow the Government to know about their needs. In March, Mexico had made the “most important progress” in 20 years, adopting a constitutional reform on human rights that represented a “paradigmatic shift” that brought the Constitution fully in step with international standards. That reform had strengthened the institutions responsible for preventing and reporting on violations of human rights. Indigenous communities would benefit broadly from those changes, she said, continuing on to enumerate specific actions taken by the Government in that respect. As Article VI of the Declaration said that all peoples had the right to a nationality, the Government was working through registry services to reach every indigenous person with a “legal identity” that would allow them access to basic services and to participate in matters related to them. Additionally, other policies were in place to support displaced individuals, and special attention was being paid to indigenous women.
KATIE KISS, of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said that while the Australian Government had pledged its intention to support the framework for the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it had not yet made good on that promise, despite the establishment of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. She stressed that a coordinated approach for implementation was needed and must included a detailed action plan to raise understanding about the Declaration. Key components should include: the development of on overarching framework; a staged plan for the progressive realization of that plan; institutional commitment; and an integrated reporting framework that could be used by various United Nations bodies.
She said the latter was particularly relevant to the Australian Government, given its recent announcement of an overall human rights framework. That announcement also offered an opportunity to reform how the Government worked with indigenous populations, as well as how it implemented the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indeed, it was incumbent on the Government and all States to ensure the Declaration was incorporated in all policies relevant to indigenous peoples. Detailed practical guidance should also be developed through consultations between all the relevant United Nations mechanisms, including the Forum and the Expert Mechanism.
CARLOS VITERI (Ecuador) said that his country was engaged in developing programmes aimed at its own “decolonization”. Ecuador was in the process of transitioning from a mono-cultural State to a plurinational State, he said, and was therefore breaking with the colonial period. Among actions being taken, the country was building “indigenous territorial inscriptions”, which were new territorial designations allowing for indigenous ownership through land titles and indigenous land management. The Government had also created a law enforcing the financing of those actions, and through its Ministry of National Heritage and Assets it was launching a campaign against racism. Ecuador was also working to develop programmes for the protection of isolated communities. Cross-cutting measures in its national policies included the inclusion of indigenous professionals in various State entities, including at the highest levels, and other actions. However, he concluded, much more remained to be done.
GLORIA DENIZ RAMOS PRUDENCIO, Member of Parliament of Peru, said that, in her country, the problems faced by indigenous peoples ranged from a lack of land titles to a lack of recognition of groups and gaps in health, education, economic development and food security. Indigenous peoples also faced forced displacement, environmental contamination, poverty and exclusion. Their situation was made worse by the reigning economic model, which gave priority to irrational exploitation of natural resources. Relations between the Government and native communities, including those in the Amazon, remained tense. Indeed, the Peruvian Government had been issuing decrees that favoured the rights of the investors, not the indigenous peoples, leading to social and environmental conflicts. She stressed that indigenous communities were calling for the implementation of free, prior and informed consent, which was currently the case. Other problems for indigenous peoples continued, including in the health-care sector. In fact, the State did not know what its indigenous populations were dying from. At the same time, only 5 per cent of the indigenous population pursued higher education. Concluding, she said the mountains of Peru had been given away to the mining industry, while its forests were in the control of the timber sector.
LAUTARO OVALLES (Venezuela) said that, in Latin America, thousands of years of the pre-Colombian world were the legacy of today’s society. In those pre-colonial years, there had been a dialogue between mankind and nature, as evidenced in the relationships between humans and corn and other crops, as well as medicines and others. Water had not been contaminated, and flowers were plentiful. In its Constitution, Venezuela had fought to restore the dignity and rights of all aboriginal peoples, he said, as well as to restore and recover nature. Much had been lost since the colonial times. Today, laws should come from indigenous peoples, who were present at high levels in Venezuela’s national Government. The country’s constitution had been translated into several indigenous languages, and contained a specific chapter which recognized the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples. Laws existed on the guarantee of land rights, cultural heritage and other issues. Venezuela was committed to addressing the claims of the ancestral rights of its original peoples, he added, saying that was a “duty and an obligation”. It was also working hard to build a society that enjoyed solidarity between people and nature, he concluded.
CATHY EATOCK, of the Indigenous Peoples Organisations of Australia, said the IPO was disappointed that, since its recognition of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Australia had failed to develop a strategy or framework to implement that text. Nor was the proposed process to enshrine the recognition of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people in the Constitution simple. At the same time, a proposed human rights framework failed to specifically address the rights of indigenous peoples. She said that, while Government action to implement the Declaration had been scarce, civil society, particularly aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, had been active. They urged the Forum to recommend that all States: develop a framework for implementing the Declaration, including a mechanism to report back on progress; develop human rights action plans; implement the Declaration through national legislation; and fund and resource indigenous organizations, businesses and communities to support their efforts to develop and deliver educational materials and empowerment programmes on the Declaration as a whole, and on its specific articles.
ISABEL ORTEGA, Vice-Minister of Indigenous Justice Affairs of Bolivia, said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a key part of Bolivia’s national legislation. The Declaration was included in the Constitution, whose fourth chapter was focused on the rights of rural and indigenous populations. Bolivia was working to combat extreme poverty and hunger through the distribution and redistribution of land, among other policies. It was working to reduce economic and social inequality, within a new national framework recognizing diversity and multiculturalism and providing for true participation by indigenous peoples. To date, public policies had not led to strong educational systems, she said, but Bolivia had overhauled the education system with a law recognizing the right to education for all without any discrimination.
Additionally, thanks to profits from a direct tax on hydro-carbons, important social programmes had been established, including the creation of a fund for rural populations and aboriginal peoples. In 2007, during the seventh session of the Forum, President Evo Morales had played a “leading role” in the promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, she said. Bolivia, in that same context, had been able to formulate a proposal to organize a global conference. As a result, the General Assembly would soon be organizing a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.
GHISLAIN PICARD, of the Grand Council of the Crees, recommended that the Forum urge parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol to take a number of positive actions regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, including: to use a positive rights-based approach to account for all rights; to clarify unequivocally that national legislation must be supportive of the objective of “fair and equitable” benefit sharing; and to eliminate discriminatory elements in the Protocol, such as the refusal to refer to indigenous peoples as “peoples” and the restriction of genetic rights to “established” rights. The Forum should also recommend that those parties redress procedural injustices, fully respect the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in interpreting the Convention and Protocol and reiterate the importance of free, prior and informed consent. Those parties should also be asked to eliminate questionable interpretations, to ensure safeguards for traditional knowledge and to guarantee that human rights obligations were fulfilled. Further, a process should be developed to hold parties accountable. Finally, the Forum should urge the Conference of Parties to review those decisions made in October 2010, which altered the terms of the Protocol to the detriment to the indigenous peoples.
EVELYN TAYLOR (Nicaragua) said that, for the first time, Nicaragua recognized the claims of indigenous peoples in its Constitution. Nicaragua was building an autonomous process, and had instituted a law regulating and governing communal lands, as well as moving ahead with the “true land title” process. It had implemented an indigenous language law, a health law, and others. It also had a draft law on autonomy in the central and northern regions of the country, she said. Further, Nicaragua was moving forward with deepening its structural changes, which were based on achieving consensus and agreement, not merely on consultations. Women, children and the elderly had free access to health care and education, she said. Moreover, Nicaragua would be continuing along that road, building institutionalized policies that were possible thanks to a Government that acknowledged and respected indigenous rights.
LOUNES BELKACEM, of the Congres Mondial Amazigh, said that the indigenous peoples of North Africa, including the Amazigh, were going through an important time in their history. For several months, some of their home counties, including Libya, Tunisia and Morocco, had been gong through popular uprisings. The indigenous communities had been taking an active part in those movements, with the aim of establishing a state of democracy. They hoped that new Governments would respect all of the rights of the Amazigh peoples, and that the movement would mark the end of discrimination against them. He drew the attention of the Forum to the “exceptional circumstances” of the indigenous peoples of Libya, who were suffering due to a war that had long been waged against them by the Qadhafi regime. In recent months, missiles and other weapons had been maiming and killing citizens in the west of the country, where the majority of the Amazigh people lived. Troops had blockaded roads, blocking medicines and other essential supplies from reaching civilians. About 50,000 Amazigh refuges were being housed in refugee camps or homes in the South. While General Qadhafi might have some sympathy with States present at the Forum, he stressed that any positive image of him was a “façade”, and appealed to the international community to speed the way for Mr. Qadhafi’s departure in order to stop the bloodshed.
SHANNON RIVERS, of the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, strongly rejected attempts by the United States and Canada to limit their endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Also, he expressed concern that key United Nations processes had failed to provide mechanisms for indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation in their decision-making and policy development. Presenting the outcome of the Caucus March meeting in California, he recommended the establishment by the Permanent Forum of a database of best practices in the implementation of the Declaration by all stakeholders, including relationships to specific instruments of international law.
He also called for support by the United Nations systems to the enforcement of standards set forth in the Declaration, including training courses for indigenous peoples to raise their awareness of the Declaration, and educational tools to empower indigenous youth. The Forum should also recommend that relevant agencies of the Organization work to acknowledge and assist all indigenous peoples, both in developing and developed countries. Finally, he recommended that the Forum call upon all States to abandon policies that attempted to effectively terminate indigenous children’s rights to territories and resources, such as the Comprehensive and Specific Claims policies in Canada. All States should ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, using the Declaration on indigenous rights as a guideline to implementing its provisions on the rights of indigenous children, and report progress in that area to the Forum.
CATHY EATOCK, of the Indigenous Women’s Caucus of Australia, said that while Australia had acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and given its support to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, those decisions had failed to translate into meaningful impact on the lives of indigenous and Torres Strait women. Indeed, Australia’s Emergency Response Law subjected those women to the systematic abuse of income management by withdrawing 50 per cent of their income. That policy was a breach the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Aboriginal resources and funding were also being taken and redirected to larger “growth towns”, as part of an attempt to force indigenous peoples to conform to foreign economic development models. The end of the Community Development and Economic Plan had also had a devastating effect on the economic empowerment of aboriginal women. She stressed that the eradication of violence against women must be pursued through further policies, as should the chronic shortage of housing among aboriginal communities. She recommended that the Forum list indigenous women as a standing issue in all future sessions; undertake a study into violence against indigenous women; and hold an expert workshop on indigenous women and the issues they faced.
FERNANDO FIERRO GOMEZ, of the Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia, said his organization welcomed the report of the Forum’s mission to Colombia, but also had great concerns. The report found that the indigenous peoples of the country were in a “critical” situation, he said. They faced armed conflict, forced displacement, structural discrimination, precarious access to social services, mining concessions given without prior consent and the aerial spraying of crops by the State, also without prior consent, despite a contrary order by the Constitutional Court. The report had looked at the different realities of Colombia’s indigenous peoples, he said, including women and children. It had also found that territorial matters were “extremely serious”, he said. There was also a recommendation in the report tied to the ongoing monitoring of the situation in the event of the possible crime of genocide, he concluded.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, said the indigenous peoples had come a long distance towards being welcomed into the family of nations. He recalled that the stated dream of the elders when they embarked on the international journey for justice was that “all we want is respect and recognition”. Over the past decade, a number of significant events had occurred, including the adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the creation of the Expert Mechanism, and the renewal of the mandate of the special Rapporteur. He stressed that the Declaration referred to indigenous peoples, rather than indigenous “issues”. Noting that it was the Forum’s tenth anniversary, he recommended that the Forum, in full recognition of indigenous peoples, change its name to the “United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples”.
TOBAR BILDA, of the Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas – Región Sudamérica, expressed her deep concern at the “extermination” of indigenous women. They were affected by a lack of clear data on them, a lack of attention to diseases that affected them, domestic violence, illiteracy, contaminated water, forced displacement, institutional violence, discrimination on a day-to-day basis and impunity. Given those challenges, she denounced structural violence in the legislation of many countries, which went against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international agreements. Indigenous women were also affected by unequal national budgetary distribution. Political violence made it difficult for them to participate in decision-making or to hold power, including at the international level and in bodies such as the United Nations.
For all of those reasons, she recommended that the Forum consider the matter of violence against indigenous women as a priority issue at its next session. It must give urgent visibility to that issue, she stressed, calling for case studies to be conducted on the matter and for those studies to include the identification of good practices in the elimination of violence. She recommended culturally appropriate methodology in the countering of violence against indigenous women, among other measures.
HELENA OMMA, of the Saami Council speaking on behalf of the Arctic Caucus, said the Special Rapporteur’s report on the “Situation of the Sami People in the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland” was historic, since it was the first he had produced a report not on a State, but on people living across national borders. Highlighting a number of his recommendations, she said he underscored that the Saami people’s right to self-determination was not limited to participating in decision-making processes. He also affirmed that the Saami held property rights to lands traditionally used and called on States to introduce mechanisms that allowed the Saami to effectively realize those rights, particularly Sweden. He underlined the importance of Norway’s recognizing the rights of the coastal Saami to their traditional fishing waters. He affirmed that the damage caused to reindeer herding communities by predator animals constituted a human rights issue. She said that, if the Special Rapporteur was willing, the Saami Council would consider ways in which he could be of the best assistance to the Nordic States in implementing his report.
SANTOS DE LA CRUZ, of Cultural Survival, said the claims of the Wixarrika people should be taken account of not only by the Forum, but also by the Special Rapporteur. His people gave weight to and recognized that human rights were fundamental for all people on the planet. Indeed, that was true not just because international documents said so. He stressed that the Wixarrika people had first suffered an invasion of their territory by members of the Spanish crown in Mexico, while another, more recent invasion came by way of the threats and extermination of their land due to neo-liberal economic policies. Meanwhile, the protection that should be offered by the Mexican Government was not given. Indeed, 22 licenses had recently been granted to Canadian mining companies for mining of natural minerals, including silver, in the most sacred sites of the Wixarrika, he said. The Wixarrika were never consulted, nor to given the chance to exercise their free, prior and informed consent. He called for the Mexican Government to eliminate those 22 concessions. The rights of indigenous peoples should be guaranteed in all decisions that affected them directly.
Edward John, a member of the Permanent Forum from Canada, said that, despite facing some “incredible challenges”, indigenous voices had been raised and heard over the past several days. “It sets an indigenous spirit in this place called the United Nations,” he added. Earlier today, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples had provided two recommendations that he wished to highlight. The first dealt with awareness-raising and education, as well as the development of political will to implement the Declaration. The second recommendation was on providing guidance to United Nations and other agencies in implementing it. The Articles of the Declaration spoke to States, United Nations system organizations and other bodies about “full implementation”, he said.
Further, he recalled a comment by the representative of Denmark, which noted the challenge of translating the principles of the Declaration into practical results on the ground, while ensuring that those principles were not “watered down”. On territorial resources, the principle of free, prior and informed consent was a challenge to implement on the ground. But the matter came down to a question of who had the right to make decisions regarding land use. “Who consults with whom?” he asked, in that respect. The reports given today were important, including for corporations that conducted extraction and other activities related to indigenous peoples. The application of international standards — such as free, prior and informed consent — were essential in other inter-global areas as well, he said, citing the protection of biodiversity as an example.
TOMAS ALARCON AGUIRRE, of the Comision Juridica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (Capaj), requested that the Forum call on the Special Rapporteur to recommend that the various international treaty bodies be made aware of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He noted that the decision of the Committee on Civil and Political Rights in Poma Poma v. Peru, which said the Peruvian State had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the State had not “deigned” to comply with the ruling. For that reason, a practical genocide, or ethnocide, could now be seen in Peru. He further stressed that the Forum must constantly underscore the scope of the Declaration. He also wondered if the Special Rapporteur had been in touch with Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or any other body regarding the implementation of the decision.
ANDREA CARMEN, of the International Indian Treaty Council, said that, with the change in position of the United States and Canada, no States now opposed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, some States were attempting to restrict their support and implementation. She particularly noted the study of the Expert Mechanism on indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decision-making, voicing support for its recommendations and provisions affirming self-determination, treaty rights and free, prior and informed consent. The Expert Mechanism should continue addressing these issues, she said. She also thanked the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in its assistance in preparing the report of the second United Nations Seminar on Treaties, Agreements and Other Constructive Arrangements on Samson Cree Nation Territory. She requested the support of the Forum in continuing such work in those and other United Nations bodies, particularly highlighting, in that regard, the upcoming 2014 World Conference.
ROSALEE GONZALEZ, of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, North Region, said the Declaration was the first instrument to address issues of multiple discrimination. While Canada and the United States had now endorsed that instrument, the Canadian Government had rejected the notion that it was under any obligation to review any of its policies and laws in terms of their alignment with the Declaration. She stressed that that was unacceptable, given the fact that Canada Bill C3 did not recognize the rights of indigenous nations to define their own identity and membership. Similarly, the United States’ endorsement of the Declaration was limited to federally recognized tribes, excluding hundreds of indigenous communities. Stressing the human right of all people to be free from discrimination, she noted that unrecognized peoples were not afforded the required protection. Among other things, that gave them less than equal rights to judicial review and contributed to “cultural genocide”. She stressed that indigenous women suffered from compounded discriminations, due to sex, class and ethnicity, calling for sufficient remedies.
NOELI MACHADO, of Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas — Región Sudamérica, said that violence against indigenous boys, girls and youth should be an important point addressed within the Forum’s priorities. She noted a number of instances of violence, including sexual violations, against indigenous youth across Latin America, such as the rape and torture of a number of girls at the hands of the police force in Chile. She stressed that the Forum should call on the Committee on the Rights of the Child to spotlight the issues of indigenous children. Emphasizing that the fight against the drug trade affected the values, culture and living standards of indigenous peoples, she recommended that the Special Rapporteur focus on those issues in his studies and inquiries. She applauded progress in policies with an intercultural focus, but noted that in many cases, budget allocations prevented implementation of programmes to protect children, including indigenous boys and girls. Finally, she called for the relevant international bodies to investigate the effects on children of genetically modified seeds and crops.
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