With Indigenous Children Facing ‘Lifetime of Exclusion’, UN Children’s Fund Developing Framework Strategy to Address Challenges, Permanent Forum Told
With Indigenous Children Facing ‘Lifetime of Exclusion’, UN Children’s Fund Developing Framework Strategy to Address Challenges, Permanent Forum Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)
With Indigenous Children Facing ‘Lifetime of Exclusion’, UN Children’s Fund
Developing Framework Strategy to Address Challenges, Permanent Forum Told
During Dialogue, UNICEF’s Director of Policy, Practice Says ‘We Can Do Better’;
Forum Also Discusses Future Work, Including Preparations for 2014 World Conference
A strategic approach was urgently needed to address “disturbing” gaps between the world’s richest and poorest children — in particular indigenous children — said delegates to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as it met with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representatives this morning.
Facing a “lifetime of exclusion”, indigenous children were more likely to die before the age of five, less likely to be in school and more likely to drop out of school if they did attend, said Richard Morgan, UNICEF Director of Policy and Practice, as he opened an interactive dialogue with the Forum. Citing the regional example of Latin America and the Caribbean, where it was estimated that child mortality was 70 per cent higher for indigenous children than for non-indigenous children, he stressed that not enough was being done to defend the rights of some of the world’s most marginalized people. “We can do better,” he stressed.
During the dialogue, Forum members and UNICEF representatives heard impassioned appeals from delegates relating the “tragic” situation of indigenous children and young people in their home countries. Many pointed to shocking statistics that demonstrated poor health indicators, violence, high rates of suicide and prevalent discrimination that acted as a barrier to both education and political participation. The situation was further exacerbated by a lack of reliable data, some said, as well as the absence of a holistic, strategic approach to tackling the crisis, both at the national and international level.
To address those challenges, Mr. Morgan told the Forum that UNICEF was developing a framework strategy to guide its work with indigenous children. It would aim to address both the immediate manifestations of marginalization, as well as its root causes, and would work to identify “bottlenecks and barriers” in indigenous access to basic services, he said. It would also act as a guide for UNICEF country offices — both in issues of practice and principle.
Daniel Seymour, Chief of UNICEF’s Gender and Rights Unit, said that the agency’s work with indigenous children was not only about marginalization and exclusion. UNICEF understood that the rights of the indigenous communities were pertinent to everyone, he stressed, adding that indigenous knowledge and insight were essential to all people around the world. As part of the process towards fully developing its framework strategy, he said, UNICEF would set up working groups to draw on regional experiences, as well as a group of organizations outside of the United Nations. For his part, Mr. Morgan agreed that the strategy was being drawn up with the input of a diverse group of stakeholders, and stressed that UNICEF would continue to rely on consultations with Permanent Forum members before the framework strategy was launched for an initial “pilot” year.
Many delegates took the opportunity presented by the dialogue to offer concrete recommendations to both UNICEF and the Permanent Forum. A representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, for example, urged UNCIEF to “translate written words into action” by conducting regional and international indigenous youth training programmes, with the aim of building their capacity to effectively respond to current and emerging human rights challenges. It should also prepare a report on the policies, guidelines and programmes of United Nations agencies on the ways in which they address the specific needs of indigenous children, she said, as requested by the Forum during its first session. Additionally, she called for a specific international study on the situation of the rights of indigenous children, and asked UNICEF to appoint an indigenous rights specialist or body as a focal point for indigenous children and youth.
Some national delegates also shared work being undertaken on indigenous youth issues in partnerships with UNICEF, as well as actions taken by their own Governments. The representative of Mexico reported that her Government had set up special indigenous schools in local homes and shelters, providing free bilingual education, basic nutrition, rights workshops and other services, while the representative of Australia described her country’s “Closing the Gap” policy, which sought to provide education to all indigenous four-year-olds. In contrast, however, some representatives of indigenous groups raised serious concerns about the challenges still facing their people. A representative of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia, for example, said that her country’s aboriginal groups faced some of the largest challenges of any group in any context, and had the poorest health outcomes in the world.
“We have come from this dialogue with a good sense that we need to be better informed,” said Mr. Morgan, as the dialogue came to a close. It was also clear, he added, that an intersectoral and holistic approach to the issues surrounding indigenous children was needed and should include both their physical well-being and their psychological and spiritual health.
Also during the interactive dialogue, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a report of the meeting of the Organization Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, held from 16 to 17 September 2010.
In an afternoon session today, the Forum also considered its future work, including issues of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues, the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), planned for 2012.
Launching that discussion, a Forum member from Bangladesh, said that the 2014 World Conference would be a unique opportunity to provide insight on the nature of the discrimination that indigenous people faced historically and today. “Except for a few cases in the last decade or so, indigenous peoples were not involved in deciding the ‘rules of the game’,” he said, adding that no international conferences had yet addressed the rights of indigenous peoples, despite the fact that they had been subject to genocide and had long been excluded from the modern processes of State-building and development.
Underscoring the importance of including indigenous peoples at all levels, a representative of the Pacific Caucus stressed that during the World Conference, indigenous peoples should be on an equal footing with Member States. Making a similar call for the full participation of indigenous peoples at that meeting, a member of the Permanent Forum from the United States suggested that, if such meaningful participation was not achieved — in line with the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — the conference “might not be worth the effort” of indigenous peoples after all.
The Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the General Assembly and a representative of the Division for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs presented outlines of the work being conducted in the run-up to the 2014 World Conference and Rio+20.
A number of representatives from UNICEF participated in the morning’s, including: Rina Gill, Associate Director of the Gender, Rights and Civic Engagement Section; Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Deputy Representative in the Central African Republic; Marianne Flach, UNICEF Representative in Democratic Republic of the Congo; Esther Ruiz, Excluded Population Specialist, Regional Office for Latin American and the Caribbean; Ravi Karkar, Participation Specialist from UNICEF Headquarters; Adan Pari, Education Officer, UNICEF Bolivia; Daniel Seymour, Chief of UNICEF’s Gender and Rights Unit; and Miguel Hilario, Excluded Population Specialist, UNICEF Regional Office for Latin American and the Caribbean.
Also speaking today were representatives from Australia, Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Brazil.
The coordinator of the Youth Parliament in Guatemala and a representative of the Sami Parliament of Norway also spoke.
Forum members from Guatemala, Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Russian Federationalso offered comments.
Also participating in today’s dialogue were representatives of the following indigenous organizations: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia, Latin American Youth Caucus, North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, North American Indigenous Peoples’ Youth, Fourth World Centre for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics, Federación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Indígenas Originarias de Bolivia “Bartolina Sisa”, Australian Foundation for Aboriginal Islander Research Action, Organization Regional Indigena del QuindioOrigin of Colombia, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.
Also: Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, North American Indigenous Caucus, Pacific Caucus, Asia Caucus, International Indigenous Women’s Forum, Africa Caucus, Indigenous Peoples Organizations of Australia, Comite Intertribal Memoria e Ciencia Indigenda, Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, Indigenous Crimean Tatars of Crimea, Ukraine, Pueblo Aymara de Bolivia, Nukuoro Residents Association, Network of Indigenous Women on Biodiversity, Southeast Indigenous Peoples Centre, and Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de los Américas.
The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 24 May to hold a half-day discussion on the right to water and indigenous peoples.
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 hold a half-day dialogue with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), during which it would consider the report on the annual meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. In the afternoon, it was expected to consider its future work, emerging issues, the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and next year’s Rio+20. For more information, please see Press Release HR/5050.
Opening the interactive dialogue, RICHARD MORGAN, UNICEF Director of Policy and Practice, noted the “fruitful partnership” that UNICEF and the Permanent Forum had enjoyed since the Forum’s inception. In 2010, the high-level United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals targets had shown that achieving those Goals was much more complicated than had been anticipated. In particular, it was necessary to address “disturbing evidence” of widening gaps between rich and poor children in many places around the world. For example, he said, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimated that child mortality was 70 per cent higher for indigenous children across that region than for non-indigenous children. Indigenous children were less likely to be in school, and were more likely to drop out if they were. Indigenous girls were even less likely to complete a primary education.
Those data showed that indigenous children faced a lifetime of exclusion, which perpetuated the cycle of poverty. For those reasons, UNICEF had created an “equity-focused agenda” which addressed both the immediate manifestations of marginalization, as well as its root causes. It sought cooperation between partners to reach marginalized children as a matter of priority, and had implemented a medium-term strategic plan to tackle those root causes of poverty through advocacy, the use of data and by working with Governments to strengthen relevant public policies in ways that would benefit indigenous children.
UNICEF’s main interventions continued to be in the areas of multicultural and bilingual education, birth registration, culturally appropriate health care and related basic services. In 2009, a report to take stock of UNICEF’s work with indigenous children had identified areas that could be strengthened, he said. “We can do better, we can take this further,” he stressed, adding that UNICEF was working to build on its long-standing experience with indigenous children to increase its efforts. In particular, it needed to expand more of its indigenous-focused programmes to Africa and Asia, and required more strategic planning on indigenous issues overall. The agency was taking steps forward in that regard by creating a strategic framework for its work with indigenous children, which was being drafted after several years of consultations with a diverse group of stakeholders. Further consultations on that framework would continue over the coming year, he said, including with the Permanent Forum.
ALVARO ESTEBAN POP, Forum member from Guatemala, noting that the situation of children in the world was of great concern, stressed that the situation of indigenous children was even worse. They were the natural victims of armed conflict, climate change, exploitation and domestic violence, among many other violations. While it was well-known that there were more than 370 million indigenous peoples around the world, there was no specific data on the number of indigenous minors. Moreover, the situation of indigenous peoples varied greatly around the world. In some regions, indigenous peoples were the minority, while they were the majority in others. In a number of places, they were still emerging from the ashes of colonialism.
Regardless of the particular social circumstances, however, he said the treatment of children reflected the injustice of humanity in today’s world. It should be the shame of the world that it had been unable to protect the most “beautiful blossom of our lives, our childhood”. Indeed, 100 million children did not go to school because of poverty or lack of resources. At the same time, 4.3 million had died of HIV/AIDS, while 13 million were orphans due to that disease. Three hundred had fought actively in armed conflict, with 6 million injured from armed conflict, 12 million rendered homeless and more than a million made “war orphans”.
Posing initial questions for UNICEF, he asked what sort of obstacles UNICEF faced in its work with indigenous children. How did those challenges vary by region? He requested more details on the progress on policies on young indigenous people. Did UNICEF have a specific budget for its mandate with indigenous youth? How did it tackle the problem of indigenous child soldiers, both boys and girls? Did it have medicine for children and youth suffering from HIV/AIDS? Did it contribute to bilingual education? Did it have information on child pornography and trafficking in indigenous children? How did its work differ in addressing the situation of women and children?
Providing an initial response, Mr. MORGAN said UNICEF was strongly committed to an “equity-focused” agenda. That enjoined it to give priority to the most disadvantaged children in the most severe circumstances. To that end, it worked in cooperation with Governments to agree on its focus. It also worked with civil society and non-governmental organizations, including indigenous organizations where they were active.
Noting that UNICEF was among the most decentralized of the United Nations agencies, he said a high proportion of its financing was directly allocated at the country level. That meant that the in-country representatives were the ultimate decision-makers. Thus, it did not reserve particular sums of funding at the global level. He stressed that the global focus was on providing a clear policy environment for the in-country decision-makers. He also noted that UNICEF was currently working on a strategic policy framework for its work with indigenous to support that county-by-country discussion.
RINA GILL, Associate Director of the Gender, Rights and Civic Engagement Section of UNICEF, also stressed the fact that the agency was taking a two-pronged approach to its work with indigenous children. First was the integration of issues related to indigenous peoples into the focus areas of UNICEF’s medium-term strategic plan, including child survival, HIV/AIDS, policy advocacy, and others. The second approach, which had so far been the stronger of the two, was to implement “special initiatives” for indigenous children. Both of those approaches demonstrated the need to address not just issues facing indigenous populations, but the “intersectionalities of exclusion” — namely, how larger issues, such as poverty, were connected with indigenous peoples.
Among those taking the floor to present several country-specific perspectives was JEREMY HOPKINS, UNICEF Deputy Representative in the Central African Republic. He said that in that country — one of the poorest in the world — children suffered high rates of mortality and only about 50 per cent were enrolled in school. In contrast, however, only 5 per cent of indigenous children in the Central African Republic were enrolled in school. Life expectancy overall in the country was just 44 years, but was 5 years lower for indigenous peoples. Those numbers pointed to a “severe crisis” being faced by indigenous children in the Central African Republic. Among the largest challenges they faced were the application of legal rights and high levels of social discrimination, he said, adding that even local authorities often undertook discriminatory practices against indigenous people. Additionally, he said, political and economic discrimination frequently stemmed from social discrimination.
MARIANNE FLACH, UNICEF Representative in Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that many of the descriptions provided by Mr. Hopkins also applied in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Responding first to the question regarding the participation of indigenous organizations and indigenous youth, she noted that in 2008, UNICEF had helped to set up a network of organizations in Democratic Republic of the Congo, which acted as a coordinating mechanism. While indigenous youth were not specifically represented, work was moving forward in that regard. With respect to the question of how UNICEF’s programmes for indigenous children differed from those for other children, Ms. Flach said that there was “not a big difference” overall. “Children are children,” she said. However, when specific challenges relating to indigenous children presented themselves, special programmes were often implemented and tailored to address them. For example, in the Central African region, indigenous children often faced educational challenges stemming from their lack of language skills in the national tongues, leading to discrimination in school and high dropout rates. In response, UNICEF had helped to set up a successful programme of special schools for reintegration, she said. Those schools worked in the local languages and were led by special teachers, and worked as part of the school system to integrate indigenous children over the course of one or two years.
Regarding UNICEF’s programme for indigenous children living with HIV/AIDS, the agency had conducted an extensive survey in 2007, she said. That survey had showed that the indigenous Bantu population — which lived in the forests in very small camps — was more receptive than the general population to HIV/AIDS counselling advice. The Bantu were “very open” to discussions on that issue, and rates of voluntary testing were high. To implement such interventions, she said, UNICEF sent a small health team into the Bantu forest camps once per month, always accompanied by a representative of a local non-governmental organization.
ESTHER RUIZ, Excluded Population Specialist, Regional Office for Latin American and the Caribbean, said there had been good legislative progress in the region, although there were sometimes stumbling blocks owing to a lack of interest in, and priority given to indigenous issues on the part of Governments. Other challenges involved the lack of desegregated statistical data, as well as the fact that UNICEF itself was not always sufficiently prepared to work on indigenous issues. In that regard, she emphasized that more work should be done.
She went on to note that a regional five-year programme funded by Spain had allowed UNICEF to gain a foot-hold in some countries like Costa Rica, where it did not typically work. She also highlighted other programmes, among them one that was funded by the Government of Finland, as well as specific country funds provided by Canada for a comprehensive bilingual intercultural programme in Peru. For the time being, UNICEF was making progress, but it needed more a greater focus on indigenous issues in the Caribbean. Its work on HIV/AIDS focused on prevention, she said, noting that it was working in countries, such as Brazil, on peer prevention programmes. It was also working on decentralization for the distributions of medicines. Indeed, the problem in Peru had been how to get the drugs to those needing them, she said.
EDWARD JOHN, Forum member from Canada, stressed that UNICEF was an “important lifeline for many indigenous children in many countries”. To that end, he wondered how UNICEF was supporting indigenous youth in advocacy, particularly in engaging them in the policy process. He noted that page 22 of the State of the World’s Indigenous People referred to the significant numbers of indigenous children living in poverty in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. He also drew attention to the well-known historical policy in Canada of sending indigenous peoples to boarding schools where the policy was “to kill the Indian in the child”. With one indigenous language dying every two weeks, he wondered what UNICEF was doing to support bilingualism and to preserve intercultural education.
EVA BAUDET, Forum member from Finland, said that it was true that the physical well-being of children was important, but the cultural part of working with the indigenous was an inherent part of child protection. Regarding the issue of migration, she said that many of the world’s migrants were small children, and when they came from difficult circumstances, they were at risk of the worst kinds of exploitation, ranging from child trafficking to sexual exploitation. At the same time, children were sometimes left behind when parents emigrated, which often left them rootless. To that end, she noted that UNICEF had published a study on immigration and indigenous communities in Latin America and requested further details. She also asked what UNICEF was doing, particularly among adults of non-indigenous people, to heighten awareness about the impact of immigration on indigenous children and youth.
SIMON WILLIAM M'VIBOUDOULOU, Forum member from Democratic Republic of the Congo, recalling some of the evils that struck children in Africa and Latin America, including the use of children as soldiers and trafficking in children, asked if it was correct to expect a more robust policy in those areas during the ongoing Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.
Responding, Mr. MORGAN said the policy framework was in the initial stages. Saying he had heard Mr. John’s guidance that it was necessary to consult with young people from indigenous communities, he suggested consultations were needed on how best to do that. He added that UNICEF’s traditional role in developed countries had focused on fund-raising for its work in developing countries. It was, however, currently considering a potential shift in focus to address the situation of the most disadvantaged children in industrialized countries. Citing one example in that regard he said UNICEF issued a 2009 report on the health of aboriginal children in Canada, noting that there was a commitment by UNICEF Canada to move forward at the provincial level to work on indigenous issues. Similarly, UNICEF’s Australia unit was moving in a similar direction on issues related to the situation of aboriginal and Torres Strait children. “We hope to move to a more active role in industrialized countries,” he said.
He agreed that UNICEF had the ability to do more and do it more strongly in terms of raising awareness of the indigenous children. In particular, there was the potential to do more through UNICEF’s database publications, including by disaggregating a large body of data to isolate data related to indigenous children. However, it would need dedicated resources for that, since the majority of its budget was protected for its country work.
He also agreed that UNICEF’s approach must be more proactive, saying that “we are becoming more awake.” He noted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, from which UNICEF took its overarching goals, put a particular focus on indigenous children.
RAVI KARKAR, Participation Specialist from UNICEF Headquarters, said the strategy to date had been to strengthen work where it was already taking place and to magnify existing best practices. He said one of its biggest successes was to work with the Committee on the Rights of the Child on General Comment No. 12 on the right of the child to be heard, which spelled out what could be done to increase the participation of indigenous youth. As part of its programmes during the current International Year of Youth, UNICEF had last week jointly co-hosted a side panel with the Youth Caucus and the Permanent Forum on youth-led initiatives to highlight indigenous issues. It was also working to heighten youth voices, he said, further underlining the need to strengthen integration of indigenous issues, including those relevant to indigenous youth.
Acknowledging the significant number of gaps in the participation of youth in policy development, he stressed that UNICEF was currently drafting a number of handbooks, including one for parliamentarians, which had specific sections on indigenous children. Other initiatives included education on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the development of youth networks, and an annotated bibliography on good practices on the participation of indigenous youth. UNICEF was also using new media, such as YouTube, in its outreach efforts, he said.
Ms. RUIZ said one study last year had examined the effect of migration on young children in all its aspects. UNICEF was also working with Governments on multilateral protocols on medical treatment dispensed to children. UNICEF had been able to monitor the work being done with minors who had migrated from Bolivia to Argentina. To increase awareness of indigenous issues, some Latin American offices had undertaken a campaign to counter discrimination by analysing how stories were portrayed in the news media. She added that UNICEF’s work regarding linguistic survival had been ongoing for many years.
ADAN PARI, Education Officer, UNICEF Bolivia, said that as a Quechuan Indian from Bolivia, he recognized the importance of bilingual education and intercultural education. Moreover, UNICEF felt it had to tackle indigenous languages for several reasons, including that they were instruments of communication and provided the means for the transmission of cultural knowledge from generation to generation. To that end, UNICEF had undertaken linguistic and socio-linguistic research, including recording indigenous alphabets. Underlining the usefulness of bilingual and intercultural education, he said the negative impact of the loss of an indigenous language could not be overlooked.
As the dialogue continued, the representative of Denmark asked several questions about the forthcoming UNICEF framework strategy on its work with indigenous children. First, could UNICEF elaborate further on the general content of that framework, and discuss how far along it was in the process of the framework’s development? Recalling that the framework would serve as a guide for country offices, she further asked whether the strategy would include any performance indicators or monitoring mechanisms. Next, she asked whether UNICEF saw any specific bottlenecks relevant to its work with indigenous children. Finally, how did UNICEF plan to engage with indigenous peoples in the context of the politically sensitive nature of that issue?
Raising further questions for the UNICEF representatives, WILTON LITTLECHILD, speaking on behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, pointed to a specific situation following the recent cancellation of the inaugural World Indigenous Nations Sports Games. The event had been planned for summer 2012 in Manitoba, Canada, he said, but had been cancelled when financial support promised by the Government of Canada had not been secured. Indigenous youth groups, in particular, were “deeply disappointed”, he stressed. Building on lessons learned, the World Indigenous Network was formulating new plans and strategies and intensifying dialogue on the Games with the International Olympic Committee and other potential partners, including interested States, international organizations and other actors. In that respect, he asked UNICEF to ensure that indigenous children enjoyed the right to play, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
ANNA NAIKANCHINA, a member of the Permanent Forum from the Russian Federation, said that in her country, there was a clear State policy on indigenous peoples, but related issues were not sufficiently tackled on the ground. In the Tiger region, in particular, indigenous peoples continued to study in boarding schools and often lost their languages and cultures, as a result. Other outstanding challenges included high rates of diabetes and suicide among indigenous young people. Among strides made, an organization of small indigenous groups in Siberia, of which she was a member, had recently held a congress of young people and adopted a declaration, which it sent to regional and local Governments. The group wishes to work more closely with UNICEF and other United Nations bodies that dealt with indigenous issues.
Taking the floor, DEA DELANEY THIELE of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia, said that indigenous peoples in Australia faced some of the largest challenges of any group and had the poorest health outcomes in the world. She asked for more information on UNICEF’s work with indigenous children in Australia. In particular, what were the principles that guided its work? She also recommended that UNICEF channel its work through the umbrella organization of indigenous peoples in Australia.
Responding to those questions, Mr. MORGAN said that UNICEF normally developed new monitoring indicators as any new programme was drafted, and would try to do the same with the policy under development for its work with indigenous children. On the specific bottlenecks and barriers that faced indigenous peoples in accessing basic services, those obstacles were likely to be country- and context-specific, he said. Nonetheless, some barriers were common — in particular, those relating to service delivery. Technical and logistical matters could be analysed to address those. Another common obstacle was a lack of information or awareness about available services, as well as discrimination that acted as a barrier to accessing such services. As part of the strategy being developed, UNICEF was working to identify specific barriers facing indigenous populations. An advocacy strategy, as proposed, was a good suggestion and would be looked at, he said. Finally, he stressed that financing was tight, but that UNICEF would be happy to partner with interested organizations in that regard.
On another question raised, he said that UNICEF supported the right to play around the world, but was hoping to address how it could promote the right to play for indigenous children specifically. On the comments of the indigenous representative from Australia, he said that detailed information on indigenous advocacy issues was available and could be provided at the end of the dialogue.
DANIEL SEYMOUR, Chief of UNICEF’s Gender and Rights Unit, said that the current discussion was “invaluable” to UNICEF. The policy framework under development was in an “early draft” at the moment, he said. It contained both principles and practical guidance. The principles were derived both from the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said. Additionally, the framework addressed both the rights of indigenous children and of minority children, which shared many similarities at the programmatic level. As part of its process, UNICEF would set up working groups to draw on regional experiences, as well as an external group of organizations outside of the United Nations. The framework strategy would first be implemented as a plot framework for a year, he said, and would receive feedback from many parties. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake had made clear that the agency’s work with indigenous children was not only about marginalization and exclusion. UNICEF understood that the rights of the indigenous communities were pertinent to everyone, he stressed, adding that indigenous knowledge and insight were essential to all people around the world.
DALI ANGEL PEREZ, of the Latin American Youth Caucus, said that the Caucus was working to use statistics to monitor suicides among young indigenous peoples and to implement public strategies to empower indigenous peoples, especially women and young people with UNICEF. It was also drafting research on indigenous youth in Africa and Asia, while further supporting a dialogue to define culturally suitable preventative measures, especially for female genital mutilation.
Presentation of report
Presenting the report on the annual meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues held from 16 to 17 September 2010, MARIA INES DA SILVA BARBOSA, World Health Organization (WHO), said that group was established to promote the mandate of the Permanent Forum within and across the United Nations system. It currently consisted of over 30 members comprised mainly of United Nations agencies, but also including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Union, among others. Its annual meeting provided an opportunity to discuss ways and means to advance issues of concern to indigenous peoples and to reinforce collaboration. Over 20 members participated in the last meeting under the theme “indigenous peoples’ health”, she said, noting a number of side consultations held with WHO, which hosted that meeting.
Convened on the eve of the high-level summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the meeting of the Inter-Agency Support Group stressed the importance of going beyond averages when measuring progress in achieving those and other health goals, she said. In both poor and industrialized countries in which they lived, the health status of indigenous peoples was invariably lower than that of the overall population. Shocking statistics demonstrated the discrepancies across a range of health challenges, including suicide, tuberculosis, injuries and violence. Another key message of the meeting’s deliberations was the need to ensure disaggregated data across countries in all regions. Such data continued to be scarce, despite the fact that it was difficult to make the case for increasing efforts in indigenous health without it.
At the meeting, Mirna Cuningham of Fondo Indigena gave a comprehensive overview of the health situation of the world’s indigenous peoples and shared important findings from her work. Among other things, she explained that to improve the health situation of indigenous peoples, a fundamental shift in the concept of health was needed to incorporate indigenous peoples’ cultures and world view in the design and management of State health systems. That particularly related to the indigenous concept of health, which articulated physical, mental, spiritual and emotional elements from both individual and communal points of view. Further, efforts to improve the health situation of indigenous peoples must be linked to their collective rights, such as rights to land and natural resources, and to the conservation and practice of traditional knowledge.
Also at the meeting, United Nations agencies shared experiences on how to raise the profile of indigenous issues within their organizations, as well as how to mainstream an indigenous perspective into their work. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) policy on indigenous peoples’ issues that was adopted in August 2010 was specifically discussed. More generally, the adoption of a policy or strategy was highlighted as a way of ensuring that organizations address indigenous issues effectively and systematically. The process behind the development of such a policy or strategy must ensure that ownership was sufficient to support its implementation.
An important finding from all the presentations was the need to ensure interventions to improve indigenous health were culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate, she said. In fact, many United Nations agencies spoke of the need to adopt an intercultural approach. In that regard, she underlined the importance of working with local communities and sharing and respecting traditional knowledge, as well as community empowerment.
She said a session was also held on good practices, with a panel devoted to exploring what that meant in the area of indigenous health. Among other things, it was stressed that human rights — including the rights to self-determination, to practise cultural traditions and customs and to participate in decision-making processes — must underpin any action taken to improve the health of indigenous peoples. The possibility of developing a compilation of good practice examples was discussed and the Inter-Agency Support Group now needed to explore how to move forward on it.
She said other topics covered at the meeting included follow-up to the Forum’s previous sessions, preparation for the tenth session and other tasks and priorities of the Inter-Agency Support Group. The report was now available on the Forum’s website, she added.
SHIRLEY MCPHERSON ( Australia) recognized the specific complexities of providing high-quality education in remote areas. Australia’s “Closing the Gap” policy sought to provide education for all indigenous four-year-olds throughout the country. That initiative sought to ensure access to early childhood and preschool education for those children by 2013, and work was under way to improve relevant data collection. The Australian Government believed its initial target could be met, and the programme was supported by two national partnerships with state and territory governments, under which infrastructure and additional services would be provided. She went on to note two additional longer-term education targets: to halve the gap in reading, writing and mathematics for indigenous children by 2018; and to halve the gap for indigenous students in year 12, or that equivalent by 2010. Improving teacher quality and training was another ongoing focus, as was the effort to ensure indigenous education was provided in ways that respected traditional cultures.
She said that, two years ago, the Australian Government had announced its National Indigenous languages policy, demonstrating its commitment to keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages alive and helping those Indigenous Australians connect with their language and culture. Further, her own organization, the Indigenous Land Corporation, was contributing to improved educational outcomes through its support for the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence. That Sydney-based centre provided world-class sports, education and arts facilities for up to 5,000 young indigenous Australians each year. Her organization also supported a programme called Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which was working to match more than 500 indigenous high schoolers with 750 volunteer mentors from universities to make sure they completed their schooling and went on to college.
ELIZABETH N. KAPLANEK, speaking for the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, North American Indigenous Peoples’ Youth, and Fourth World Centre for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics, said that her people, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Omaha Nation, existed “in the boundaries of [what is called] North America,” and as such, did not exist in a territory that could be defined as a developing country. She emphasized that the Permanent Forum had noted in the past that, even in developed countries, indigenous people consistently lagged behind non-indigenous populations in terms of well-being indicators. For example, in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index, the United States was ranked seventh, while American Indians and Native Alaskans were ranked thirteenth; and New Zealand was ranked twentieth, while that country’s Maori population was ranked seventy-third.
“A prevailing English-speaking culture has usurped indigenous peoples, resulting in massive loss of indigenous resources, shorter life spans, poor health and high unemployment rates,” she said, stressing that the “trauma of colonization” had not ceased and its impact must be acknowledged and confronted directly. In that regard, she recommended that the Permanent Forum convene a North America caucus meeting with the Special Rapporteur to consider the current situation of indigenous people of that region; and that the Forum and all United Nations agencies and programmes reform their mandates to include all indigenous people “and to immediately cease dividing us or further defining us in terms of which colonial borders continue to be imposed on us.”
GABRIELLA ESTRADA ( Mexico) listed some of the actions taken by her Government in support of indigenous young peoples and children. The national Commission for the Development of Indigenous peoples was working to reduce the gap in access to basic services, especially for girls, by removing the barriers of school fees. To accomplish that, it had set up schools in local homes and shelters, and had facilitated the participation of bilingual young people and instructors, thereby improving educational results. The home schools programme also provided basic food and nutritional supplies, she said. Special workshops were held at those schools on issues such as human rights, nutrition, health and other key Millennium Development Goals focus areas. Between 2007 and 2010, she said, 93 per cent of the beneficiaries of that programme had completed schooling — the majority of those being women. Mexico had also been working in partnership with UNICEF, which last year had provided two mobile outreach units that worked in remote areas of the Yucatan and Chiapas states. Other Government institutions, including State and municipal Governments, were also working in related areas, such as capacity-building for marginalized groups.
JULIA DAMIANA RAMOS SANCHEZ, of the Federaci ón Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Ind ígenas Originarias de Bolivia “Bartolina Sisa”, highlighted a special law on education in Bolivia to introduce education for all, including future generations. The Confederation of Indigenous Women was working with UNICEF to address the comprehensive nature of family planning. To that end, she said a dialogue must include discussion of access to natural resources, which must also be incorporated in any consideration of migration, since a lack of access to natural resources was one motivation for that phenomenon. Overall, she emphasized the need for an overarching approach that touched on identity and socio-economic issues. Now that Bolivia was a plurinational State, it had an obligation to ensure that all State officials worked to recover all language, she said. In addition, the participation of young men and women depended on Government policies and the Forum’s recommendations.
BARBARA SHAW, of the Australian Foundation for Aboriginal Islander Research Action, noted that the Northern Territories Emergency Response had been based on United Nations policies, but had caused problems and created “punitive measures” for the indigenous peoples living there. Among those, for example, were bilingual education policies, which kept indigenous children from speaking their own languages for much of the school day. How was UNICEF working to address the problems facing those and other indigenous communities? She urged that UNICEF work with grandparents to preserve the culture and languages of indigenous groups, and that UNICEF representatives “come out and talk to the grass-roots people of Australia” to understand their real situation on the ground.
MARLEN PILAR ORTIZ HIGUITA, of the Organization Regional Indigena del Quindio Origin of Colombia, said that the 2009 visit of the Special Rapporteur on indigenous issues had found the situation of indigenous peoples in Colombia in a “critical state”, in particular as a result of the country’s long armed conflict. Acts of violence, sexual violence against women, discrimination and other challenges were major concerns. Women, in particular, suffered as they were forced to flee from conflict and beg to feed their children. As a strategy to prevent displacement, a programme encouraging traditional handcrafts had been implemented, she said, but unfortunately that work was not highly valued in Colombia. Without the support of micro-credit loans, it was difficult to make any money from those projects. Therefore, she came to the Forum requesting “fair trade” for such work, allowing indigenous people in Colombia to create their own futures. She also requested the Forum to ask the Government of Colombia to comply with the recommendations made during the mission, and to protect the lives of indigenous peoples and respect their rights as enshrined in the Declaration.
Speaking on behalf of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, Mr. LITTLECHILD of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, highlighted the remarks of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his opening remarks to the Forum’s ninth session on the burden of tuberculosis on indigenous peoples, who were 600 times more likely to contract that disease than the general population in some countries. He also noted that it would be the fourth year that the Forum would hear a call for action to address the global burden of tuberculosis among indigenous communities. While he had been particularly hopeful that WHO would build on the call for action, he was instead “gravely concerned” at the lack of presence of any WHO staff from the central office. He also noted that Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) neither attended the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues last September, nor sent regrets.
He recommended that the Stop TB (tuberculosis) Partnership establish a function that focused on indigenous peoples in its secretariat to begin the essential work of engaging indigenous communities and national tuberculosis programmes. At next year’s session, regions should report on their disaggregated tuberculosis rates, highlighting countries where indigenous peoples’ access to health care was adequate and identifying those nations where changes were required. WHO, UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership must further recognize the enormous role they must play in leading and supporting initiatives to address tuberculosis- and HIV/AIDS-affected indigenous peoples.
JOSE YAC HUIS, Coordinator of Youth Parliament in Guatemala, said he was pleased that UNICEF was working with developing countries — especially those working on public policies in favour of children and young people — to get them to invest in early childhood development. He recommended that the Forum ensure that States: grant priority to the interests of children, especially in international adoption processes of indigenous children; design joint mechanisms to guarantee child protection, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the provision of medicine; include the principles of the Convention of the Rights on the child and the “cosmovision” of indigenous peoples; strengthen intercultural approaches to citizenship; and encourage the involvement of indigenous experts in local and regional processes such as regional conferences on HIV/AIDS.
Responding, Mr. MORGAN said UNICEF had listened to and taken “good note” of the comments of participants, some of which would be fed back to individual country teams and to national committees in developed countries like Canada and the United States. “We have come from this dialogue with a good sense that we need to be better informed,” he said. It was also clear, he added, that an intersectoral and holistic approach to the issues surrounding indigenous children was needed and should include both their physical well-being and their psychological and spiritual health.
MIGUEL HILARIO, Excluded Population Specialist, UNICEF Regional Office for Latin American and the Caribbean, said that, according to a World Bank study conducted from 1997 to 2007, indigenous populations had seen no positive impact from the gross domestic product (GDP) growth among Latin American countries. Indigenous peoples were also lagging extremely far behind in terms of gross national income in that region. This was one reason why UNICEF needed both information and guidelines to implement the Forum’s recommendations.
Stressing that a discussion of poverty and indigenous peoples was a long-term project, he said, “It was like asking ants to carry the load of an elephant.” That was just as true in efforts to ensure that indigenous girls and boys had the same educational opportunities as other children and for ensuring they had the same access to drinking water in rural and urban areas. Moreover, it was clear that more must be done in Latin America, as well as Africa and Asia.
He underlined the importance of bilingual intercultural education for the survival of culture and languages. UNICEF was working to contribute to the self-determination of indigenous peoples in the region. It was very open to the Forum’s ideas and recommendations, he said, particularly highlighting research on teen suicide in Peru and two other Latin American countries, which was currently being published. He said UNICEF was talking with local Governments on how to prevent that phenomenon. In conclusion, he stressed that UNICEF would continue to be receptive to the Forum’s recommendations both formally and informally. It was not just UNICEF’s responsibility to work towards eliminating poverty and discrimination, he added. It was also the work of Governments to do the same in concert with UNICEF.
JOCELYN TIN-HUI CHIEN, of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, welcomed the launch of the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Partnership, which should ensure the engagement and participation of indigenous youth and children in its work and progress. She strongly urged UNICEF, as the specialized agency for children, adolescents and youth, “to translate written words into action” by conducting regional and international youth training programmes to build the capacity of indigenous youth advocates to effectively respond to current and emerging human rights challenges. It should also prepare a report on the policies, guidelines and programmes of United Nations agencies on the ways in which they address the specific needs of indigenous children, as requested by the Forum during its first session. That report should include an extension on how the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was being implemented, she said.
She also called for a specific international study on the situation of the rights of indigenous children. UNICEF should also appoint indigenous youth as goodwill ambassadors to raise public awareness, she said, noting that all UNICEF goodwill ambassadors should pay attention to the specific challenges faced by indigenous children and youth. She urged the Fund to develop and share, throughout the United Nations system, indicators on the problems faced by indigenous children and youth in the areas of education, health, discrimination, culture, poverty, mortality, incarceration, and forced and exploitative labour. UNICEF should also appoint an indigenous rights specialist or body as focal liaison for indigenous children and youth to coordinate the Fund’s projects, policies, programmes and actions relevant to that group of children and youth. Among other things, she urged the Fund to: allocate at least one intern position to indigenous youth each year; ensure that the participation of indigenous children and youth was guaranteed when it conducted reports and studies and planned projects and programme relating to them; pay more attention to the indigenous youth and children of developed countries; and ensure the participation of indigenous youth in the upcoming United Nations high-level meeting on youth.
Mr. POP said that the common denominators of the tragedy had been recognized. He stressed the need to be aware of the specific rights of indigenous peoples throughout their lives, but especially children and young people. He said the morning’s exchange would be important in planning for the future, especially for UNICEF.
Thanking the representatives of UNICEF for their presence and participation, Forum Chairperson MIRNA CUNINGHAM said the dialogue enriched not only the discussion of how to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but also how that was going to be done at local, regional and country levels.
Discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Rio+20
Launching the discussion on the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, RAJA DEVASISH ROY, Forum member from Bangladesh, said there were parallels between that upcoming event, which aimed to share perspectives and best practices on realizing the rights of indigenous peoples, and the four world conferences on the rights of women, the last of which was held in Beijing in 1995. Still, while four had been held on women’s rights, none had yet addressed the rights of indigenous peoples, despite the fact that indigenous peoples had not only been subject to genocide, but had in most cases been excluded from the modern processes of State-building and development. “Except for a few cases in the last decade or so, indigenous peoples were not involved in deciding the ‘rules of the game’,” he said, stressing that a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be a unique opportunity to provide an insightful understanding on the nature of the discrimination faced by indigenous peoples historically and currently.
Such an understanding would be crucial towards the adoption of measures to eradicate such discrimination and bring forth an equitable partnership between indigenous peoples and States as set out in the goals of the First, as well as the Second, and ongoing, International Decade for Indigenous Peoples. The challenge would be, he said, to include indigenous peoples as full partners in that process. The Commission on the Status of Women had played a key role in preparatory and follow-up processes for the world conferences on women’s rights. Thus, a similar role for the Permanent Forum, the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples was only logical, equitable and pragmatic. Today’s discussion should, therefore, bring forth concrete suggestions on the modalities of holding such a conference, including the role of the Forum and other indigenous-specific United Nations process.
Turning to Rio+20, he welcomed that conference as the prime opportunity for the world community to strengthen the role of all key segments of humanity, including indigenous peoples, in achieving sustainable development, particularly in a world threatened by climate change. He noted that, at the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio in 1992, the indigenous peoples were recognized as one of the “major groups” and a specific chapter was devoted to their role in Agenda 21. At Rio+5, representatives of indigenous peoples addressed a full and formal session of the General Assembly for the first time. The World Summit on Sustainable Development ( Johannesburg, 2002) formally acknowledged the contributions of indigenous peoples to sustainable development. But, while that recognition was modest in relation to the scale of their historical and ongoing contributions toward environmental protection, indigenous peoples themselves articulated their world view on environmental conservation and sustainable development through such landmark instruments as the Kari-Oca Declaration in 1992 and the Kimberley Declaration in 2002.
He stressed, that among the major pillars of sustainable development were diverse economies, empowered communities and resilient ecosystems at he local level. The customary resource management systems and local livelihoods were tested examples of the sustainable use of natural resources, embodying the principles of what was nowadays called “green economies”. Indigenous peoples, as rights holders and ecosystem managers, had made contributions at all levels. The challenge lay in mainstreaming their knowledge systems and customary practices which Agenda 21 called “traditional scientific knowledge,” for all humanity, with their consent and in a spirit of partnership.
ARMIN RITZ, Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, said that the high level of participation at the tenth session of the Forum spoke not only to the importance of the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the overall United Nations context, but also to the shared commitment of multiple stakeholders to address the challenges that indigenous peoples faced around the world. Last December, the General Assembly had adopted resolution 65/198 (2010) by consensus and with a large number of co-sponsors, he recalled, stressing that among its provisions were the expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, as well as the decision to organize a high-level plenary meeting of the Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, in 2014. In that regard, it invited the President of the General Assembly to conduct open-ended consultations with Member States and with representatives of indigenous peoples in the framework of the Permanent Forum, as well as with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur, in order to determine the modalities for the meeting - including the participation of indigenous peoples.
From today until 2014, the Permanent Forum had a central role to play and was uniquely qualified to give input on the modalities of the Conference, as well as on its outcome on a later stage. The recommendations of the Forum, which would be adopted at the end of the present session, would constitute a “first building bloc” to the further consultations on the World Conference, he stressed. The President of the General Assembly would transmit those recommendations to all Member States once they were available, and thus encourage all actors to keep discussing and exchanging ideas, and to thus develop a “common vision” on how the World Conference, with the effective participation of indigenous peoples, could be a successful one. Additionally, 2014 would mark the end of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and was therefore an excellent opportunity to take stock and exchange good practices, as well as renew the shared commitment to promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.
PI-I HSU, from the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, asked the Permanent Forum to have a youth member represent and advocate the needs of indigenous youth. He asked the Youth Unit of the Economic and Social Council and the Inter-Agency Support Group to nominate at least two youth representatives for all relevant planning stages of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Rio+20. He strongly urged the Permanent Forum and the World Conference to include an agenda item focusing on the special needs of indigenous women, children and youth, considering their particular vulnerabilities. He called for increased public awareness of high suicide rates, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse among youth, and for more funding for peer education and strategies to prevent those ills. He asked the Permanent Forum to appoint an inter-agency support group to conduct a study on urban indigenous youth displacement, their access and connection to land and culture, and protection as it related to international human rights mechanisms. He called for greater academic and financial support for indigenous education and promotion of indigenous culture, language and traditional knowledge.
PABLO SOLÓN ( Bolivia) said that to ensure the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was successful, planning must commence immediately, including through agreement on a resolution regarding the planning and modalities for that meeting, which should be adopted no later than the end of 2011. The conference should be a chance to share views on the rights of indigenous peoples and to assess progress made in achieving the objective of the Second International Decade. For that, two documents were needed — namely, an outcome document and an action plan for the next 15 years. The best time for holding the required preparatory dialogues with the full participation of indigenous peoples themselves would be, he stressed, in conjunction with the Forum’s meetings. Thus, he proposed that preparatory meetings be held in concert with the Forum’s annual meetings. Regional events should also be held in the seven socio-cultural regions. It was Bolivia’s view that Rio+20 must restore the vision of respect for nature and Mother Earth through the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples across the globe.
MURIEL BORST, of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, said that, mindful of the Permanent Forum’s report on its ninth session in 2010, it was necessary to conduct a study on the adoption of the “doctrine of discovery”, and how that principle was implemented and extended in the context of indigenous peoples. She made a series of recommendations, including that an international expert group meeting be convened in January 2012 to discuss the findings of that study, namely, how the “framework of domination” had been applied to indigenous peoples around the world. She recommended a study on environmental toxins and their effect on the health of indigenous peoples, especially women, and that health be addressed as a special theme for one of the Permanent Forum’s upcoming sessions. Among other things, she also recommended the convening of an expert group seminar on the doctrine of reconciliation.
LEIF DUNFJEL, Senior Advisor of the Sami Parliament of Norway, reiterated the invitation to hold a preparatory meeting for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in Alta, Norway in 2013, stressing that the Sami Parliament was prepared to take responsibility to ensure that indigenous peoples could meet in time to prepare for that meeting. Noting that the meeting would mark the end of the Second International Decade, he said there was an urgent need to start a regional process to develop the meeting’s content and strategies as soon as possible. Such processes should eventually feed into a common process of all indigenous peoples around the world, he said. Specifically, a meeting in Alta should be the end of a consensus-building process, allowing for a common platform to be negotiated with the States parties at the 2014 conference.
To that end, he suggested that a coordinating committee should be set up and should include prominent members representing at least all seven regions, as well as women and youth. Among other things, it would have to decide on the modalities of the 2013 meeting in Alta, including questions, such as how States would participate, how United Nations agencies could be used, and how existing processes could be used in 2013 and 2014. It was important that the process be owned and executed by indigenous peoples themselves, he said, further noting that links between the local organizer and the conference itself were needed.
KENNETH DEER, of the North American Indigenous Caucus, said that the idea of a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was an “intriguing one”. In particular, such a conference would act as a venue where the Charter of the United Nations could be implemented, while keeping in mind that everyone was entitled to enjoy human rights without discrimination. It was critical that indigenous peoples participate actively in the conference and its preparatory process, and, most importantly, in any outcome that was produced. Various international agreements provided for the right for indigenous peoples to be represented by members of their own choosing, he said. Additionally, since one of the stated objectives of the conference was to review best practices, the execution of the conference itself must be an example of best practices. He supported the participation of the Permanent Forum and its members in the conference and its preparatory process, as well as the direct representation of indigenous peoples themselves. As indigenous peoples were among the poorest in the world, he stressed, it would be necessary to finance a fund towards that end. He called, finally for an “open, transparent and fully participatory” preparatory process, and called on States to take an active part in that process.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ ( Nicaragua) emphasized that in this participation of indigenous peoples must be ensured at both the World Conference itself, and in its preparatory phase. Nicaragua supported the adoption of a final document and an action plan for 2015-2030. Implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be enhanced, including in the area of funding. Managerial capacity should also be in place, he said.
DONNA CAMVEL, of the Pacific Caucus, said that many of the nations of the Pacific had the most to lose if climate change and rising sea levels were not immediately addressed. Noting that a conference was taking place this week at the Columbia Law School on “Threatened Island nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate”, she said the finding from that conference and other meeting specifically related to climate change in the Pacific should be communicated at Rio+20. She underscored the importance of including indigenous peoples at all levels and to recognize that western concepts of economic and sustainable development were not always in line with indigenous concepts. During the World Conference, indigenous peoples should be on an equal footing with Member States. Consideration should be given to holding the conference in a country where indigenous peoples were easily able to obtain visas. She further suggested opening the conference venue up to bids from prospective Member States.
She further recommended the Forum recommend that the Economic and Social Council make funding available for at least one nominated indigenous representatives from each region to attend Rio+20. It should also ensure that those who were chosen to attend Rio+20 could participate in preparatory processes. A database should also be developed to record best practices for implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. An Indigenous Steering Committee should be convened for the World Conference in 2014, and funding should be made available for its regular meetings. The mandate of the United Nations Voluntary Fund should also be expanded to allow for indigenous peoples to attend that conference.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Asia Caucus, presenting steps to take ahead of the 2014 World Conference, said the International Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Peoples should be composed of two representatives from each region, as well as two representatives from both the indigenous youth caucus and women’s caucus. The global workshop of indigenous peoples should be composed of Permanent Forum members, with additional representatives from each region, while regional preparatory conferences should deliberate on indigenous peoples’ aspirations and concerns. On other matters, she said the Forum called on States to include indigenous peoples’ representatives in the official delegations to Rio+20 and in the preparatory regional implementation meetings. United Nations agencies and the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues should include indigenous perspectives in the implementation of Rio+20 outcomes, while funding agencies should support indigenous peoples’ initiatives to contribute to the conference. She also recommended that the Economic and Social Council adopt a draft decision authorizing a three-day expert group meeting on the theme “Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development”.
CALEEN SISK-FRANCO, of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, made several recommendations to the United Nations bodies dealing most directly with indigenous and women’s rights. To the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), she recommended that the new body consider the recommendations of the Permanent Forum related to women and girls, among others; that it develop a policy on engagement with indigenous women and girls; that it provide grants to indigenous women’s organizations to enhance the participation of women and girls through the Fund for Gender Equality and the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women; that it ensure the participation of indigenous women in all consultative processes; and that it ensure the participation of indigenous women at the high-level meeting to address desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication inSeptember 2011, and at other key meetings.
To the Permanent Forum, she made a number of recommendations, including: that relevant United Nations agencies and bodies report on their progress on addressing the particular vulnerabilities of women, migrants and girls; that the Forum reiterate the request for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence in armed conflict to conduct a study on indigenous women and girls in that context, and report to Forum; and that the Forum appoint a special rapporteur to undertake a study on violence against women and girls, and convene an international expert group meeting on the theme “combating violence against women and girls”.
JENNIFER KOINANTE, of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, on behalf of the Africa Caucus, said that more than 8 million indigenous peoples in Africa continued to suffer from rapid urbanization, which brought on cultural erosion and the eradication of indigenous language. She outlined the destruction of a number of ecosystems, due to the operation of extractive industries without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. She further stressed that Governments across the continent did not have a strategy on indigenous peoples, noting that the absence of such a framework meant that no policies could be put in place to protect indigenous peoples. While the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 would move towards a remedy of that situation, she said a fund was needed as soon as possible to support the participation of indigenous peoples in both preparatory processes for that meeting and the meeting itself.
AMALA GROOM, of the Indigenous Peoples Organizations of Australia, asked the Permanent Forum to convene an Indigenous Steering Committee to discuss indigenous peoples’ participation in the proposed 2014 World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference. She asked the Economic and Social Council to fund the Steering Committee’s meetings and its members’ participation in the 2014 conference. The United Nations Voluntary Fund’s mandate should be expanded to enable indigenous people to attend and participate in the 2014 conference. The Economic and Social Council should also provide funds for at least one nominated indigenous representative from each region, recognized by the Permanent Forum, to attend the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development. She called for a study on indigenous peoples’ participation in sustainable development and climate change, and for recommendations on how traditional indigenous knowledge could be incorporated into global activities on those issues. She asked the Permanent Forum to appoint an indigenous expert on sustainable development and climate change.
JORGE AGURTO, of the Comite Intertribal Memoria e Ciencia Indigenda, said that the lack of indigenous media resources, and the dominance of privately owned media whose content was unrelated to the reality of indigenous peoples created a “serious divorce and inequity that weakens and perverts the cultural identity” of those peoples. Worse still, he said, community radios were being persecuted in many countries, declared illegal due to the absence of a license, and indigenous communicators were marginalized and persecuted for exercising their right to broadcasting. The Forum, at its seventh session, had noted with concern the legislative and regulatory processes that criminalized the establishment of community radio stations, he recalled, but “very little or a almost nothing” had been done in that respect.
The First Continental Summit of Indigenous Communicators, held in 2010, was a clear indication of the growing concern and interest that existed among the indigenous peoples on that topic, he said. In that vein, he reiterated recommendations made by the Comite at the Forum’s sixth and seventh sessions: that the future agendas of the Forum include a session dedicated to indigenous peoples’ right to communication and assess that situation, including violations and threats to that universal right; that the Forum encourage Member States to promote in their countries that public and private media adopt intercultural ethics codes to prevent ethnic and cultural stereotypes; and that the Forum promote communications as a key cross-cutting theme for the development of indigenous peoples and support an international seminar dedicated specifically to that subject.
ROBERTO CRAITE CRUZ, of the Confederaci ón Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, said that it had been a big mistake to ban the chewing of the coca leaf in 1961, which was a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. He also stressed the importance of quinoa production, particularly given the food crisis. He also highlighted the Cochabamba agreement on Mother Earth and stressed that policies that really made forestry conversation worthwhile were essential. Indeed, forests were the planet’s lungs, he said, adding that it was important that those who contributed to climate change realized what they were doing. Those who were protecting the rights of Mother Earth, such as indigenous peoples, must be allowed to continue their good works. The people of Bolivia, thus, believed in a sustainable community economy that was based on respect for biodiversity and one’s own culture, he said.
CHRISTOPHER PETERS, President, 7th Generation Fund, speaking on behalf of the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, expressed appreciation that the Doctrine of Discovery would be the special theme of the Forum’s eleventh session, which would provide an opportunity to redress the social, political and legal constructs that had resulted from the Papal Bulls of 1493 and the accompanying edict of Terra Nullus. He noted that both had perpetuated the ongoing genocide, colonization and domination of indigenous peoples and their homelands. He called for greater exploration into how the doctrine was constructed, applied and extended into law, policy and socio-cultural practices, in order to set the stage for its eradication. He also called for a global review of the doctrine and for other indigenous caucuses to prepare studies on its impact on their respective regions.
He called for an international expert group meeting to discuss the findings and implications of the preliminary study of the doctrine and to present them at the 2012 Permanent Forum. He called on the Permanent Forum to consider the recommendations of the regional hearing held in March in Pueblo Grande, Arizona on the doctrine’s impact on indigenous peoples, as well as the recommendations of the upcoming hearings in Mexico and India, in order to help shape the agenda for the 2012 Permanent Forum’s theme. He supported creation of a Doctrine of Reconciliation and supported the call by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to create an expert group seminar on truth and reconciliation commissions.
ABDURAMAN EGIZ, of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, on behalf of the Indigenous Crimean Tatars of Crimea, Ukraine, said the situation of Crimean Tatars was exacerbated by a lack of legislation aimed at promoting and protecting that group’s rights. Indeed, their representation in various legislative and governmental bodies was politically sensitive. He stressed that efforts to correct the results of decades of forced exile carried out by the Soviet Union combined with discriminatory Government policies would not be achieved without broad support from the international community. He recommended that the Forum advise the Economic and Social Council to hold the information session on the rights of Crimean Tatars in the Ukraine, stressing that his organization was ready to assist in preparations for that forum. Change was possible, he said, emphasizing that the identity of Crimean Tatars could be preserved.
CARLOS MAMANI, of the Pueblo Aymara de Bolivia, said, despite the effects of colonialism, indigenous people had maintained their identities and their thoughts, and had set forth many proposals in the context of sustainable development. It was important for the thinking of indigenous peoples to be reflected at both the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 and at Rio+20. For indigenous peoples, the concepts of community, territory and the environment were all part and parcel of the same shared history, he said, relaying some of the unique creation stories of indigenous groups. There was a critical need to pass those views on to future generations and, therefore, the exercise of self-determination and self-rule were also essential. Among his proposals, he urged that the Forum recommend to the Executive Secretary of the 2014 World Conference that the conference’s agenda contain the indigenous visions of Mother Earth and healthy living, as well as the preservation of forests and other key issues. He urged the Permanent Forum to recommend that the 2014 conference also contain an assessment of the compliance of various parties with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
NIKHIL CHANDAVARKAR, of the Division for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the main entry point for indigenous peoples to interact with the preparatory process for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — or Rio+20 — was through the major groups. He noted that the organizing partners for the major groups had, so far, been active, providing inputs through the United Nations website, as well as through statements during the intergovernmental preparatory process.
He recalled that Chapter 26 of Agenda 21 addresses indigenous peoples, and also noted the contributions of the Kimberley Declaration of 2002 and the voluntary guidelines from the 2004 Conference on Biodiversity, among others. He said the Division of Sustainable Development used the quote from the 1992 Kari-Oca Declaration, “We, the indigenous peoples, walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors,” as a guiding principle in its work.
Providing a brief outline on the preparatory process for Rio+20, he said that, to date, there had been an emphasis on both a holistic and an ecosystems approach. He underscored the potential for a bridge between the outcome of Rio+20 and the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, noting that there should be a two-way flow of information and encouraging the Forum to share its ideas widely at both meetings. He expected that the final document of Rio+20, which would be negotiated by Member States with input from the major groups, would have an explicit recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and would take a holistic and ecosystems approach.
Regarding the timeline for Rio+20, he said that by November there would be inputs for a “large compilation text”, which would serve for negotiations. A second intersessional meeting would be held from 15 to 16 December, after which a draft would be put together and issued in early January 2012. The final intergovernmental preparatory committee would take place towards the end of May 2012, just before the conference itself. He urged Forum participants to funnel their thoughts through the major groups networks.
ALAN SELLOS ( Brazil), said that all the delegates present were “most welcome” at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Brazil in 2012. To obtain the results that many hoped for from the Conference, the contributions of indigenous peoples on their experiences and proposals relating to the themes of the conference were very important. Among the aims of the Rio+20 conference was the renewal of political commitment to sustainable development; the review of policies and gaps; and the identification of new and emerging issues. The active and present participation of stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, would be an important part of the conference. The Government of Brazil was ready to facilitate that engagement, and to continue the ongoing dialogue of indigenous peoples working directly with Brazil, as well as with the Rio+20 Secretariat within the United Nations.
BESTINA BENJAMIN of the Nukuoro Residents Association of the Federated States of Micronesia, said Nukuoro Atoll was a Polynesian Outer Island, whose peoples were struggling, just as thousands of other low-lying island people, coral atoll communities and indigenous cultures were. People were beginning to starve and the fresh water and taro patches were gone. No high ground and no tsunami shelters existed. Each day, the people risked being washed away. Further, countries like hers were failing to realize the Millennium Development Goals, while their culture and home islands were disappearing. She called on the Forum to urge all United Nations bodies, Governments, businesses and polluters to combat climate change.
She went on to say that islands like Nukuoro were alone in the face of widespread disaster, which was why they must achieve “climate independence’. Being the first to feel the damaging effects of climate change, outer island people now knew the developed countries and big businesses, including from the energy, timber, mining, oil and gas industries must be held responsible. “It is time to give some of the resources back, to help the indigenous peoples adapt to this new world that ‘development’ and ‘money’ has created,” she said. To that end, she called for direct funding on the local level. She recommended that Member States, international donor communities, big and small businesses, and special interests groups — especially those responsible for pollution – provide direct assistance to help implement Nukuoro’s “indigenous climate change adaptation plan”.
FLORINA LOPEZ, speaking for the Network of Indigenous Women on Biodiversity, said that the network welcomed the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 2010 to organize a high-level World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. In that regard, she made various recommendations. The General Assembly should convene interactive meetings between Member States and representatives of indigenous organizations in the context of Forum’s eleventh and twelfth sessions. The Office of the President of the General Assembly should appoint facilitators to encourage exchanges between the Forum and relevant stakeholders. The General Assembly should ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in the preparatory work for the conference and at the conference itself, paying particular attention to women and youth. United Nations agencies, international institutions and other global actors should provide financial support for the consultation and preparatory process of indigenous peoples.
LORI JOHNSTON, of the Southeast Indigenous Peoples Centre, suggested that the Forum reform its rules to increase direct participation by indigenous groups, including by opening a day-long session in which oral presentations could be made by groups who could not make statements so far. She also called for further consideration of induced development, stressing that while the United Nations promoted development to end poverty, they did not consider the adverse effects of induced development among indigenous communities. She said the Forum would benefit indigenous peoples worldwide by establishing indigenous peoples’ multilateral law development as an agenda item. Losses resulting from corporate degradation of land and other resources should also be established as an agenda item, and should include processes and methods by which indigenous peoples could receive land awards for their losses. She called for the Economic and Social Council to remit at least a portion of the funds it received from colonial donors to indigenous peoples.
Mr. LITTELCHILD, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, voiced support for the proposal for a preparatory meeting from the Sami Parliament. He also urged full participation at all stages of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples for those peoples. He suggested an international expert seminar should be held on reconciliation processes, as proposed by the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples in its third session. He further called for the development of a “doctrine of reconciliation”, saying it was now time for the international community to consider a new chapter in the world history of relations between indigenous peoples, States and churches. In that context, he said the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provided a framework for reconciliation to restore respectful relationships. He supported the call for an international expert group meeting to be convened in January 2012 to discuses the findings and implications of the preliminary study of the doctrine of discovery and to present it at the Forum’s eleventh session. The doctrine of reconciliation should be an agenda item at the 2014 World Conference, he added.
DALEE SAMBO, Permanent Forum member from the United States, said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would be the framework for all of the Permanent Forum’s current and future initiatives. It was also highly relevant to the World Conference planned for 2014, she added. In 2007, with the adoption of the Declaration, the General Assembly had solemnly assumed and accepted their obligation to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. She further noted that, in that context, the Declaration should enhance harmonious and cooperative relations between the States and indigenous peoples. The State Members of the General Assembly also proclaimed that the Declaration was a “standard of achievement” to be pursued. She emphasized Article 18 of the Declaration, which stated that indigenous peoples had the right to be represented by representatives chosen by themselves according to their own processes. Also by that Article, States were required to engage with indigenous peoples “in good faith”, she reminded.
One possible consideration at the current early stage was the need for an agreement in principle of the “equal, full and meaningful participation” of indigenous peoples at every stage of preparation and in all final outcome documents, she said. Those agreements would ensure that the participation of indigenous groups was indeed consistent with the standards of the Declaration, she said, adding that, if that was not the case, “it might not be worth the effort” of indigenous peoples to hold the conference. In that vein, she noted that the Governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States still had not specifically addressed the topic of the Conference. Finally, she encouraged such activities as regional gatherings to decentralize decision-making, as well as other things, with the end goal of the equal, full and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in preparations for the conference.
Mr. ROY, Forum member from Bangladesh, said that while the Commission on Sustainable Development was one of the main avenues for furthering sustainable development, indigenous groups were not in a position to effectively participate in meetings of that body, given the rules of participation by non-governmental organizations. He thus wondered how indigenous peoples could participate in the follow-up and implementation of the outcome of Rio+20, which presumably would be the task of that Commission.
Mr. CHANDAVARKAR said that was an extremely valid question and noted that, at the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, the voices of the major groups had been largely unheard. After 20 years, however, that situation had improved dramatically. He added that, while the aspects of the possible outcomes on global governance were hard to predict, many statements about the strengthening of the Commission on Sustainable Development had been heard in the various meetings leading up to Rio+20, where that issue would be one of the two main themes.
TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, of the Foro Internacional de Mujeres Ind ígenas y Enlace Continental de Mujeres Ind ígenas de los Am éricas, shared the recommendations of her organization, which was the main indigenous network of Latin America. For the upcoming Rio+20 conference, it recommended that the Forum “play a leading role” and that it have a real impact on the preparations for the conference, as well as at the conference itself; that the United Nations system generate its preparations in the knowledge that indigenous peoples had scant resources, and that those processes were not easy to manage for indigenous peoples; that regional meetings be held so that the stances of indigenous peoples could be included in the Conference’s final outcomes; that the United Nations system support national case studies as part of the preparatory process; and that the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum distribute relevant information on the Rio+20 preparatory process, as many did not have access to information communication technology in the way that many others did.
Concluding the afternoon discussion, Mr. CHANDAVARKAR said that today’s discussion indicated that interactions between the preparatory events for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Rio+20 conference showed the potential for complementary work. To the extent that common themes and common experts could be had, there was, he stressed a great deal of overlap.
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