Much Progress since General Assembly Adoption of Indigenous Rights Declaration, But ‘Long Way to Go’ to Fully Realize Those Rights, Third Committee Told

22 October 2012
GA/SHC/4045

Much Progress since General Assembly Adoption of Indigenous Rights Declaration, But ‘Long Way to Go’ to Fully Realize Those Rights, Third Committee Told

22 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4045
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)

Much Progress since General Assembly Adoption of Indigenous Rights Declaration,

But ‘Long Way to Go’ to Fully Realize Those Rights, Third Committee Told

 

Top Official Says Indigenous Must Be Part of Future Development Agenda;

Special Rapporteur:  UN Agencies Should Do More to Promote Indigenous Rights

Five years after adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples much progress had been made, but “we still have a long way to go in fully realizing” those rights — including through rights to land and participation in decisions that affected their lives, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.

Indigenous peoples remained “mostly invisible” in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, in a statement delivered on his behalf by Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.  Thus, Indigenous peoples needed to be kept in mind when considering the post-2015 development agenda, and must be allowed the opportunity to participate in the debates on issues affecting them.

She added that it had become imperative that indigenous peoples be consulted about projects affecting their communities and the principle of free, prior and informed consent must be fully applied.  Corporations and extractive industries interested in exploiting resources located in indigenous territories must abide by the principles and norms of corporate social responsibility.

“Indigenous peoples need their voices to be heard,” Ms. Akhtar said.  “They want to be agents of their own change.  We should grant them this opportunity.”

And an opportunity was at hand with the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, she continued, which could bring about more inclusive participation by indigenous peoples in decisions that affected them.  To ensure the 2014 World Conference would make a difference, she and a number of other speakers urged concrete action by Governments and the United Nations in genuine partnership with indigenous peoples.

Presenting his report to the Committee, James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, urged flexibility and innovation at the World Conference to ensure effective indigenous participation.  The Conference could help address the “enormous” gap between the standards of the Declaration and the reality on the ground, promoting national legislation for consultation on land and resource rights, as well as programmes to implement such legislation.

Outlining his work over the past year to advance reforms for indigenous peoples, he said that he had travelled to Argentina, United States, El Salvador and Namibia, and also had exchanges with numerous Governments about allegations of human rights violations.  He had also continued his ongoing study of the effect of extractive industries on indigenous peoples and reported on violence against indigenous women.

“A wide range of institutions and procedures exist within the UN that affect indigenous peoples and that have important roles to play in the promotion of their human rights,” he said, citing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), among others and they should do more to pursue initiatives that promote the rights of indigenous peoples.

On that issue, during a question-and-answer session following his presentation, Mr Anaya said he saw “a lack of awareness” on how the United Nations impacted indigenous peoples. For example, he said, in some cases the designation of World Heritage Sights was at odds with indigenous peoples’ enjoyment of their lands and resources.  Indigenous peoples needed a voice in such work, he said.

A number of delegations during today’s debate praised the valuable and unique contributions to diversity in human society by the approximately 70 million indigenous peoples who lived around the world, and expressed concern that they were among the world’s most vulnerable to financial and food crises, climate change and natural disasters.

Most delegations agreed that they should be better consulted on programmes and policies affecting them.  With inclusive consultations, the representative of Mexico believed the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be able to adopt a document that would be a “legitimate road map” to achieving rights and protections for indigenous peoples.

Brazil’s representative said all relevant policies concerning indigenous peoples in his country were debated at the National Commission of Indigenous Policy, which was composed by an equal number of Government officials and indigenous representatives.

Much remained to be done, but Brazil’s 2010 census brought evidence of the “good fruits” of Brazil’s policy for indigenous peoples, based on the pillars of right to land and the right to cultural identity.  “If in the 1960s they were considered to be doomed to extinction, they are now more than 896,000 and their lands correspond to 106 million hectares,” he said.

Suriname’s representative said her Government had made it a foremost priority to find solutions for indigenous peoples’ land rights, and had begun structured consultations, its first nationwide conference last year, but that the process of deliberation was “complicated and requires patience and time”.

Speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark’s representative stressed the importance of focusing on the rights of indigenous women and girls, as they disproportionately faced economic inequities, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to justice and poor health care.  “All this increases their vulnerability to violence both in private and public spheres,” he said, adding that women who acted for their own rights and the rights of their communities needed the international community’s backing.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), China, United States, Australia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Japan, Cuba, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, New Zealand, Congo, Namibia, Colombia, Nepal, Venezuela and Angola.

A representative of the European Union also spoke.

Also delivering a statement was a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. 23 October to begin its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.

For their discussion, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on the Evaluation of the progress made in the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (document A/67/273) compiled from reports submitted to the United Nations and to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  The report updates the 2010 midterm progress report on the Second Decade and assesses its impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, contributing to ongoing efforts to define a post-2015 development agenda.

The report concludes that, while there has been some progress in achieving the goals of the Second Decade, the implementation gap between policy and practice remains a “tremendous” challenge, particularly in the recognition of indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources.  The inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights in the post-2015 development agenda is critical to ensuring that both the Second Decade and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples make a real difference.

The Secretary-General’s note on the Rights of indigenous peoples (document A/67/301) transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, which provides a summary of his activities.  The report observes that while the United Nations has done important work to promote indigenous peoples’ rights, greater efforts are needed to maximize action throughout the Organization.

For example, agencies, funds, programmes and intergovernmental organizations should develop initiatives within their respective programme areas aimed at promoting indigenous peoples’ rights.  Staff should be made aware of the Declaration and ensure it is a key reference in any programming affecting indigenous peoples at all levels of operation.  Processes for developing new multilateral treaties, programmes or conferences should be consistent with international standards concerning indigenous peoples’ rights.  The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples should allow for their full participation.

The Secretary-General’s note on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations (document A/67/221) transmits the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.  It outlines the Fund’s activities since the last biennial report (document A/65/163), including the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth annual sessions of the Board of Trustees, held in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

It also reports on the Board’s intersessional virtual meetings, established to respond to the Fund’s expanded mandate to sessions of human rights treaty bodies and the Human Rights Council.  It encourages all States and potential donors to consider supporting the Fund, as decreased contributions since 2008 could severely impact indigenous peoples’ participation in relevant United Nations mechanisms.

Statement by Under-Secretary-General

Delivering a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, SHAMSHAD AKHTAR, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said that just two months ago the United Nations had celebrated the annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  Discussions were under way on the post-2015 development agenda, a timely occurrence, as the Second Decade would draw to an end in 2014.

Detailing progress, she cited voting in the General Assembly on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an instrument which had guided constitutional and legislative reform in a number of countries, and was increasingly being used by treaty bodies.  Indigenous peoples’ holistic concepts of development with culture and identity had been incorporated into national development policies.  At the United Nations, projects addressing indigenous people had been launched and, in a few cases, agencies had included respect for indigenous peoples’ cultural diversity through consultative processes.

Despite such gains, “we still have a long way to go in fully realizing the rights of indigenous peoples,” she said, underlining that recognition of their right to ownership and use of their lands, territories and natural resources was still a challenge.  Moreover, the principle of free, prior and informed consent must be fully carried out and applied.  Corporations and extractive industries interested in exploiting resources in indigenous territories must abide by the norms of corporate social responsibility.

Further, indigenous peoples remained “mostly invisible” in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, she said, and the United Nations Millennium Declaration lacked a specific reference to them.  Indigenous peoples must be kept in mind when considering the post-2015 agenda.  Government initiatives should consider improving the collection and disaggregation of data on indigenous peoples, while public policies, laws and programmes should be designed in consultation with them.  “Indigenous peoples need their voices to be heard,” she said.

They needed space to contribute to public policy and debates on issues affecting them.  “They want to be agents of their own change.  We should grant them this opportunity”, she stressed.  An opportunity was at hand with the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which could ensure greater and more inclusive participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that affected them.  To ensure that the World Conference would make a difference, she urged concrete action by Governments and the United Nations in genuine partnership with indigenous peoples.

Recalling that the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had just passed on 13 September, she said:  “let us make this Declaration a living document where the world’s indigenous peoples can freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

Presentation by Special Rapporteur

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that since his mandate started in May 2008, his activities had fallen into four interrelated areas:  the promotion of good practices; reporting on country situation; examination of cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies.

Outlining his work to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous peoples, he said that he had travelled to Argentina, the United States, El Salvador and Namibia, and also had exchanges with numerous Governments about allegations of human rights violations.  With respect to thematic issues, he reported to the Human Rights Council on progress in his ongoing study of the effect of extractive industries on indigenous peoples; additionally, he said, the report addressed the thematic issue of violence against indigenous women.

This year, he said, his report provided comments on the need to harmonize United Nations activities that affected indigenous peoples.  “A wide range of institutions and procedures exist within the UN that affect indigenous peoples and that have important roles to play in the promotion of their human rights,” he said.  Those included the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Bank Group, as well as processes carried out within the framework of United Nations treaties and instruments, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called upon various components of the United Nations system to contribute to and promote the full realization of the rights it affirmed.  A number of institutions and procedures had done important work to promote the rights of indigenous peoples.  “However, as I note in my written report, agencies, funds, programmes and intergovernmental organizations of the United Nations should do more to develop or further pursue initiatives within their respective work areas that are aimed at promoting the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said, adding they should ensure design and execution of their activities reinforced the Declaration.

Work to develop new multilateral treaties or other instruments should be consistent with international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, he said.  In no instances should a new international treaty or other instrument fall below or undermine standards set forth in the Declaration or established in other international sources.  Existing treaties or other normative instruments should be interpreted and implemented in a way consistent with the Declaration, whether or not their text reflected language that exactly matched its terms.  “If a text is such that it cannot be applied consistently with the Declaration, it should be amended or reformed,” he said.

Before concluding, he made special mention of the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held in 2014 as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly.  The Conference should allow for full and adequate participation by indigenous peoples, he said, urging flexibility and innovation governing the modalities of the conference to ensure effective indigenous participation, in accordance with standards of participation affirmed by the General Assembly.

Question and Answer Session

When the floor was opened for discussion, Peru’s delegate detailed her Government’s efforts to create an inclusive society, citing a law on prior consultation with indigenous peoples, which was in line with International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169.  In April, Peru had adopted a rule on consultations, so indigenous voices could be heard.  She asked Mr. Anaya for recommendations on how United Nations funds and programmes could assist him in his work.

The European Union’s representative asked about the report of the Special Rapporteur, notably chapter 3, on violence against indigenous women and girls, which urged States to tackle domestic violence.  It also addressed patriarchal social structures and the cultural justifications for discrimination against women.  She asked for guidance on dealing with those barriers to gender equality.  Also, the report argued that new business models were needed in the extractive industries, and that indigenous peoples had developed certain partnership arrangements.  She asked for best practices.  Finally, she supported the holding of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 and asked Mr. Anaya for his expectations for that conference.

El Salvador’s delegate thanked Mr. Anaya for his visit in August, noting that El Salvador was awaiting his report, which would likely be published next May. He hoped Mr. Anaya had noticed the “change in attitude” to move the indigenous agenda forward and said his Government looked forward to working together in the future.

The representative of the United States said her Government had welcomed Mr. Anaya’s April‑May 2012 visit, during which he had consulted with administration and indigenous representatives and seen legislation devoted to improving indigenous peoples’ lives.  The United States was committed to addressing indigenous peoples’ challenges at home and abroad.  Mr. Anaya had highlighted the need for the United Nations to increase attention to indigenous issues.  Indeed, the decentralized system was challenged by cross-cutting issues, like women, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples.  One of Mr. Anaya’s ideas was to create a support group that would provide training and she asked for further details of types of training he would propose.

Bolivia’s delegate underlined the need to harmonize United Nations activities to advance indigenous peoples’ issues.  On the traditional, medicinal chewing of the cocoa leaf, he urged the United Nations to take steps to remedy the injustice against indigenous peoples for having classified that leaf as a drug.  He asked the Special Rapporteur how he could help ensure that that traditional knowledge — the chewing — be protected and respected by the international community.

Costa Rica’s delegate said his Government was committed to its international commitments vis-à-vis indigenous peoples, including ILO Convention 169, which had been incorporated into national norms.  Costa Rica was in dialogue with indigenous groups, thanks in part to Mr. Anaya’s 2011 and 2012 visits.  He said interesting progress had been made with indigenous peoples on the issue of the El Diquís hydroelectric project.  Costa Rica would endeavour to comply with its obligations vis-à-vis indigenous peoples on that issue.

Chile’s delegate said his country was awaiting technical guidelines from Mr. Anaya on the mechanism being undertaken with indigenous peoples in Chile.  He asked the Special Rapporteur for best practices that would impact the development of legitimate consultation processes.

Responding, Mr. ANAYA said that, with regard to his recommendation that United Nations agencies, funds and programmes should do more to improve the lives of indigenous peoples, he said an inter-agency support group on indigenous peoples promoted capacity-building on the part of indigenous peoples, while United Nations treaty bodies could be used for the vehicle for indigenous peoples to submit their concerns over their human rights violations.

He would suggest the creation of something similar, he said.  Generally, there was a need for capacity-building, so that indigenous peoples could participate in various processes to develop new treaty regimes or normative instruments, such as the processes under way at WIPO, or as related to biological diversity and climate change, which required more indigenous peoples’ participation.

More broadly, he said that to promote more responsiveness by the United Nations to indigenous issues, United Nations agencies must know how their programmes impacted indigenous peoples.  “I see a lack of awareness” on that front, he said.  Beyond that, they must carry out strategic planning to promote indigenous rights.  In that context, he said the designation of world heritage sites, in some cases, was at odds with indigenous peoples’ enjoyment of their lands and resources.  Indigenous people needed a voice in such work.  He cited the participation of the Taos people in one project, and the Sami people in northern Sweden, in another.

To the questions posed by the European Union, he said his report to the Human Rights Council highlighted violence against women and girls, as well as issues related to extractive industries.  His central recommendation was to promote solutions from within indigenous communities that built on their own self-determination.  He had heard from indigenous women that solutions lay not in broader society imposing “ways of being” on them, but rather were best generated within indigenous communities themselves.

On extractive industries, he said the prevailing business model involved companies providing certain benefits to indigenous peoples under agreements that were “not always optimal”.  He urged exploring models in which indigenous peoples themselves proposed ways to invest in their lands and territories.

With regard to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly — the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples — he saw that as an opportunity to advance more concerted efforts in the United Nations to advance indigenous rights.  It could also offer a way to promote more national efforts, as there was an “enormous” gap between standards – and the ideal represented by them – and the reality on the ground.  The World Conference could promote action to bridge that gap, as related to national legislation for consultation on land and resource rights, as well as programmes to implement such legislation.

Finally, he said the World Conference would offer an opportunity for the United Nations to move forward with better modalities for indigenous participation.  He urged reading the Secretary-General’s recent study on that topic.  There was one proposal for a mechanism — perhaps a working group of the Human Rights Council — to build on that study and he encouraged movement on that proposal.  Finally, he said the World Conference should also be an opportunity for celebration of indigenous peoples, who contributed in a positive way to the world’s cultural mosaic.

In terms of consultation mechanisms, he cited the El Diquís hydroelectric dam in that regard, and the dialogue between the Government and indigenous peoples.  It was not a perfect process, but it was a step towards the participatory engagement that must take place on a global scale.  The development of consultation mechanisms was a process, which was not about “developing abstract consultation methodologies”.  Rather, it was a matter of putting them into practice.

Statements

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING of the delegation of the European Union said its new Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy reiterated its commitment to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly to combat discrimination.  Additionally, he said, the European Union welcomed increased international consensus on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting the four States who voted against the resolution had since 2007 endorsed it.  “The Declaration is an important instrument for promoting human rights, but its full implementation is key to the actual enjoyment of those rights.  The EU has repeatedly called on all States to make this a reality,” he said.

The European Union supported indigenous peoples in different ways, and had since 1998 recognized the importance of cooperating and assisting them as part of the wider development agenda, “not least due to their valuable contribution to sustainable development and the conversation of biological diversity”.  Additionally, he said, the European Union provided financial support to indigenous civil society organizations to ensure their inclusion in policy-making processes.  Issues affecting indigenous peoples often crossed State boundaries; hence international cooperation was essential to advance their rights and situations.

The European Union also provided support for developing the economic, social and environmental potential of the Arctic and neighbouring areas through a regional approach.  Despite improvements, a wide gap continued to exist between the promises of the Declaration and the reality of its application on the ground.  The European Union would continue to work towards achieving its full implementation and called on all partners to make contributions in that regard.  It was committed to taking a new look at its own human rights strategy and further developing it in the context of the Declaration and in preparation for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

LOIS YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said mechanisms with mandates specific to indigenous peoples had a fundamental role in promoting their rights at international and national levels and had already contributed significantly to the dialogue on mainstreaming related issues in policies at all levels and on building recognition of the Declaration as a key reference in that regard.  The mechanisms should also be complementary and should reinforce the Declaration, she said, encouraging continued coordination, which should aim for a better alignment of efforts towards the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights. 

While the Secretary-General reported that in the Second International Decade those efforts had included the institution of policies and strategies for engagement with indigenous peoples, the launch in 2011 of the United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership and the crafting in 2008 of the Development Group Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, she said more could and must be done to address the continued lack of knowledge about the Declaration, as well as the capacity and harmonization of activities affecting indigenous peoples.  Acknowledging the importance of engagement with indigenous peoples, and recognizing that the Declaration provided that the United Nations system establish ways and means of ensuring participation, the CARICOM States hesitated to endorse the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that United Nations system entities should use the same standards that applied to States in consultations with indigenous peoples, she said, because that proposal seemed to expand the United Nations obligation “beyond what was set forth in the Declaration”.

Turning to the end of the Second International Decade, which culminated with the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, CARICOM States anticipated an outcome focused on pragmatic action-oriented measures that engendered an environment in which indigenous peoples could fully enjoy their inalienable human rights.  At the national level, CARICOM Member States had seen a paradigmatic shift in the relationship between the state and indigenous peoples, she said, and fundamental rights and freedoms for all were guaranteed in respective CARICOM Constitutions.  For its part, CARICOM States had built institutions to precipitate the rule of law and access to an impartial judiciary through transparent legal systems, and had availed themselves of international mechanisms under the United Nations human rights treaty system, she said.

HAN QING ( China) said that indigenous peoples made valuable and unique contributions to diversity in human society.  Countries and the international community were duty bound to promote and protect the basic human rights and freedom of indigenous peoples, to secure the natural environment and resources upon which they relied and to safeguard their cultural traditions.  Indigenous peoples were more vulnerable to risks stemming from the international financial crisis, climate change, food crisis and natural disasters.  Relevant United Nations agencies and countries concerned should not allow the crisis to lessen their investment in the social and economic development of indigenous peoples.

The 2007 Declaration had been a milestone on the road to justice, equality and development for indigenous peoples, he said, yet much work remains and efforts were urgently needed to implement the Declaration.  Further, now that the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People was coming to an end, implementation of its objectives had entered a critical stage.  Implementation efforts on both counts should be complementary and mutually reinforcing.  He supported holding the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 and hoped for constructive discussions on how to better safeguard their rights and to implement the Declaration.  Noting that there were neither indigenous people nor related issues in China, he said that China steadfastly supported the promotion and protection of the basic human rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples.

LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS ( United States) said the Secretary-General’s report stated that indigenous issues must be addressed in broader development objectives, notably the Millennium Development Goals.  It also called for indigenous peoples’ participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes.  The United States actions were consistent with those approaches.  Indigenous peoples had benefitted from projects to foster economic growth, health, education and conflict mitigation and management, among other areas.  Indeed, indigenous peoples should be involved in each stage of the decision-making process.  The Government had encouraged the creation of organizations to address indigenous needs.

With that in mind, she said her Government was developing sustainable uses for environmental resources and taking into account indigenous peoples’ needs.  The United States assistance efforts overseas, notably in Central America, also had benefited indigenous peoples.  Economic and social development could not be achieved without women’s empowerment.  The United States was working with indigenous peoples to address the disproportionate rates of violence that those women faced in the United States.  Her Government was sensitive to the importance of environment and biodiversity to indigenous peoples, and conscious of extractive industries impacts on them.  It sought to mitigate the environmental hazards connected with infrastructure development and to train indigenous groups in business management skills.

ALAN COELHO DE SÉLLOS ( Brazil) said his country was convinced that the right to development, in full respect to cultural identity, was the foundation of the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights.  Sharing positive steps Brazil had taken in that regard, he highlighted its indigenous education programme.  There were currently 2,500 indigenous schools attended by 177,000 students, while more than 10,000 teachers at the indigenous schools of Brazil were themselves indigenous.  Brazil’s “Bolsa Família” stipend was dedicated to indigenous peoples, covering 56,000 indigenous families, while its “Carteira Indígena” - or Indigenous Portfolio – initiative supported food security, income generation and cultural enhancement projects proposed and implemented by indigenous communities themselves, fostering self-determination.

The Government had also established a new federal agency specifically dedicated to healthcare in indigenous lands, which combined all the means made by Western science with indigenous medicine.  All relevant policies concerning indigenous peoples in Brazil were debated at the National Commission of Indigenous Policy, which was composed by an equal number of Government officials and indigenous representatives.  Much remained to be done, but Brazil’s 2010 census brought evidence of the “good fruits” of Brazil’s policy for indigenous peoples, based on the pillars of right to land and the right to cultural identity.  “If in the 1960s they were considered to be doomed to extinction, they are now more than 896,000 and their lands correspond to 106 million hectares,” he said.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA ( Australia) said substantial progress had been made to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people, but her delegation, like others, recognized much more needed to be done.  The principles of the Declaration – particularly those related to participation, economic and social development and rights – were embodied in Australia’s Closing the Gap strategy, the country’s overall approach to addressing indigenous disadvantages.  “It is unacceptable that indigenous populations around the world continue to face ongoing disadvantage,” she said.  To address that domestically, her Government had made an unprecedented investment of $5.2 billion in funding for employment, education, health services and community development, and safety to provide a better future for indigenous children.

Recognizing the importance of forging relationships of mutual respect, her Government had provided $29.2 million over five years for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, enabling indigenous peoples’ voices to be heard in development of policies which affected their lives.  The Government had also committed $10 million annually to individual leadership opportunities and programmes.  Those were ways it was supporting indigenous Australians to achieve outcomes in the areas of participation, education, employment, land rights, knowledge and governance.  As the Secretary General’s report acknowledged, Constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples was an important step in guaranteeing the inclusion and promotion of their rights.  Australia was actively pursuing options to secure recognition of indigenous Australians in its Constitution.  “As an interim step towards achieving constitutional change, the Australian Government has proposed an Act of Recognition that will acknowledge the unique and special place of Australia’s first peoples,” she said.

BOON SOM INONG, Senator and Member of Parliament, Malaysia, said that in Malaysia’s intention of becoming a developed, high-income nation by 2020, the Government would ensure that all members of its multicultural and multifaceted society, including its indigenous peoples, would enjoy the benefits of development equally.  The country’s 2013 budget had allocated $29 million to developing infrastructure in indigenous communities.  The Government was also strengthening policies relating to indigenous communities through the Department of Indigenous Peoples Development and the respective state and district offices tasked to protect the welfare of indigenous peoples.

Governments should consult with indigenous communities in formulating policies, legislation, programmes and implementing projects that affected their lives, he said.  Among such projects in Malaysia were the Flying Doctors and Mobile Clinic.  The country’s celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples themed, “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices”, recognized that media provided channels for indigenous peoples to highlight the challenges affecting their communities and could be used to establish a more sustainable model of development for them.  In May 2012 a series of nationwide public hearings was begun on land rights affecting the country’s indigenous peoples, which allowed their communities to reach out to relevant governmental and civil society groups regarding adequate policy guidelines and recommendations.

JUANA SANDOVAL ( Nicaragua) said her country was proud of its Afro-descendent roots.  The President had reversed the historic exclusion of indigenous peoples, and moved towards their inclusion in the elaboration of public policies.  Indigenous peoples’ rights to live and develop in ways that corresponded to their cultural traditions, to preserve their lands, cultures and religions, and to exercise their autonomy had been recognized in the constitution and were governed by modern legislation.  The results of the ancestral struggles had flourished today with good national practices.

Development of the human being was in harmony with Nicaragua’s natural environment and sacred land, she said, noting that her Government had ratified ILO Convention 169 on indigenous peoples, and had co-sponsored resolution 65/198 (2011), on the holding of the World Conference in 2014, as well as a resolution on indigenous women.  She said laws, such as the family code, and the law on violence against women bore the seal of indigenous and Afro-descendent “cosmo-visions”.  The National Commission for Sovereignty and Food Security was composed of the heads of autonomous regional councils, as well as representatives of municipal governments and civil society.  She urged respecting autonomous laws in that regard, underlining the principle of free prior and informed consent.

MIRIAM MACINTOSH ( Suriname) said indigenous and tribal peoples, the latter commonly referred to as Maroons, were an integral part of Surinamese society.  Together, they represented approximately 15 per cent of the population; however, they were among the most marginalized groups in the country.  There existed growing discontent about their social and economic circumstances, as they had suffered under the global economic crisis more than other sections of the population.  To address their problems, the Government had made it a foremost priority to find solutions for their land rights and a structured consultation commenced and the first nation-wide conference was held in 2011.  “The process of consultation and deliberation, whereby full and authentic involvement of the peoples is endeavoured is, however, complicated and requires patience and time,” she said.

Initiatives were also underway to improve the availability of fully qualified and motivated teachers to eliminate educational gaps in the interior of the country, where the most vulnerable live.  “In Suriname, with our 10 tribes and additional 10 different ethnic groups, we have managed to live peacefully together for hundreds of years.  We need to maintain that balance,” she said.  It was imperative for the security of the nation to carve out unique solutions, while endorsing internationally accepted principles set out in, among others, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  But, lack of disaggregated data on indigenous peoples made it challenging to access the outcome of measures at the international level and that was particularly manifest in national reporting on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  She concurred the post-2015 development framework should clearly include indicators to measure progress of development initiatives that address the needs of indigenous peoples, and that commitments were made for their situation.

OLGA MOZOLINA ( Russian Federation) said there had never been a concept of colonial powers in his country.  The ways of life of ethnic peoples had not been impeded.  Northern and Siberian peoples had retained their forms of government.  Indeed, the constitution guaranteed indigenous peoples’ rights, in line with international law and international treaties to which the Russian Federation was party.  Among other measures, she cited a law that had been adopted on assuring indigenous peoples rights, which were also protected by regional laws.  The constitution had given those regions the right to independently establish their own legislation, and further, see that legislation reflected in the development of traditional economic activities and creation of territories for traditional uses of nature.

She went on to say that the coexistence of multicultural societies had allowed the Russian Federation to integrate various cultures.  To protect peoples’ cultural identities, and to better understand the link between cultural values and human rights, a resolution on promoting human rights had been adopted.  The Russian Federation aimed to cooperate with States, the Special Rapporteur, indigenous groups and the broader society on promoting indigenous peoples’ rights.  Her Government also planned to participate in the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) said her country had built comprehensive policies to protect and respect the human rights of the Ainu people, including the Diet’s unanimous adoption in 2008 of resolutions calling for their recognition as indigenous peoples.  In response, the Government recognized the Ainu as having their own language, religion and culture and that they were indigenous inhabitants of the northern part of Japan, particularly Hokkaido.  The Government set up the Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy in 2009, which consists of several high-level experts including a representative of the Ainu people.  In July 2009, the Advisory Council submitted a report that proposed several basic principles for Ainu policy and recommended measures in areas such as education, cultural revitalization and industrial development.

The Council for Ainu Policy Promotion was created in December 2009 and its working groups have reported on its first two major projects.  The first project was the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony — a national centre to promote respect and revitalization of the Ainu culture, she said.  In July, the Government moved on the project’s master plan.  The Council’s second project was a national research study on the life conditions of Ainu people outside Hokkaido.  Carried out for the first time, that study laid out the existing gaps in income and education between the Ainu people outside Hokkaido and other Japanese.  The Government was developing policy measures to address that gap.

GONZALEZ LOFANTE ( Cuba) said it was essential that the international community recognize the right to self-determination of the 70 million indigenous peoples in the world, and that it also continue to work to promote and protect their rights.  She also urged larger financial contributions for the social development of indigenous peoples, and welcomed the upcoming high-level meeting in 2014, expressing hope the Conference would serve to present best practices to support their rights.

Even though positive progress had been made establishing indigenous rights, they continued to suffer grave violations, including violence, discrimination and loss of their lands.  Cuba stressed that all cultures had the right to exist, and reaffirmed the rights of those in the Andes region to fully keep all of their rights, including the chewing of the coca leaf, and Cuba supported the Bolivian government’s position on the matter.  She concluded by declaring the global community must promote real implementation of the rights for indigenous populations, in accordance with the real needs of those peoples.

OCTAVIO ERRAZURIZ ( Chile) said that indigenous peoples were still lagging furthest behind, economically and socially, despite the progress made since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In that regard, his delegation agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s report, particularly on the point that indigenous people should be included in the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda and be consulted on programmes and policies affecting them.  In line with a recommendation by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Chile had assessed the attainment of Millennium Development Goals by its indigenous population.  That innovative method had disaggregated data for those people, so that the problems affecting them could be highlighted and appropriate public policies could be developed for them.

Stressing the importance of participation by indigenous people, he noted 18 consultations had been held since 2010 with five under way and six more scheduled.  In March 2011, the process of Consultation on Indigenous Institutions, a forum between the Government and the aboriginal peoples, had been launched.  Further, the Government was developing a structure for future processes for such consultations.  On regional development involving indigenous inhabitants, he said the Araucania Plan had resulted in average growth of 5.4 per cent in the region, as well as the creation of 38,508 jobs over two years, with unemployment dropping from 8.7 per cent to 6.8.  Poverty had also decreased from 27.1 per cent in 2009 to 22.9 in 2011.  And in 2011 alone, that Plan helped attract over $110 million in investment.  The creation of an Indigenous Development Area in the commune of Ercilla and related legislation would help the State administration to focus on improving the quality of life in those indigenous communities and facilitate the involvement of that population in decision making.  “The goal is for the inhabitants of Araucania to have the same opportunities for development and progress as the other inhabitants of Chile,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was an important opportunity to bring indigenous peoples’ rights to the global community’s attention and generate needed political will.  He hoped the conference would prod substantive and concrete action towards the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.  The Nordic countries welcomed the work of the three United Nations mechanisms in that area:  The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Coordination was crucial to avoid duplication of work and create synergies among the three complementary mechanisms.  The Nordic countries fully supported the programme of action for the Second Decade and the unique inter-agency initiative, United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership.

Turning to Mr. Anaya’s report, Denmark stressed the importance of focusing on the rights of indigenous women and girls, whom faced economic inequities, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to justice and poor health care.  “All this increases their vulnerability to violence both in private and public spheres,” he said.  The women who acted for their own rights and the rights of their communities needed the international community’s backing in shaping legislative and practical measures.  Pointing out how indigenous people were disproportionately impacted by natural resources extraction, infrastructure development and other business development, he welcomed the work of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Human Rights and Businesses.  He also complimented the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) work to develop guidelines for multinational enterprises.  It also was crucial that indigenous peoples’ representatives participate in the decision-making process of the Organization.  He referred to the Secretary-General’s report and the proposal of a working group, mandated by the Assembly, that would provide guidance on enhancing procedures for indigenous peoples’ participation in United Nations bodies.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), recalling that 13 September marked the fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said Bolivia was the only country that had incorporated the Declaration into its political constitution in 2009.  Constitution articles 1, 2 and 5 outlined that Bolivia was a plurinational community, based on political, economic, legal, cultural and linguistic pluralism.  Its 36 indigenous languages and Spanish were recognized as official languages.  As for disaggregated data, he said a national census would be carried out on 21 November, which would take into account intercultural and ethnic variables.  Thanks to the nationalization of the hydrocarbons sector, Bolivia had made progress in housing, employment and infrastructure.

Moreover, Bolivia had been recognized for its achievements in inter-cultural bilingual education, he said.  Indigenous had been given tenure to their lands.  Challenges remained in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty by 2015.  Indeed, poverty had an indigenous face – particularly that of an indigenous woman.  Bolivia had promulgated a law for land and development, establishing a foundation of comprehensive development in harmony with mother earth.  But, oligarchic land owners, media and non-governmental organizations financed by the United States had rejected Bolivia’s social policies.  A law for consultation with indigenous peoples had been made for the construction of a highway through the Isiboro national park.  Consultations were taking place with the Ministry of Public Works, among others, and with the support of the electoral body, with international monitors including the Organization of American States (OAS).  Finally, he said the International Year of Quinoa recognized the knowledge of Bolivia’s ancestors.  The chewing of cocoa was part of those traditions.

ANDRÉS FIALLO ( Ecuador) said his country’s 2008 Constitution recognized intercultural and plurinational principles that ensured its indigenous peoples had the right to live their own way, and also recognizing their communities and indigenous nationalities.  Ecuador’s national plan for good living included two guidelines related to collective rights.  Further, the Government had established data collection for implementation of public policies, to satisfy the rights of indigenous peoples, including in participatory processes.

In the last five years, great effort had been made in health management for the population.  More aid was needed from the international community, however, and there must be participation from indigenous Governments to implement inclusive policies.  Ecuador had prepared a project on indigenous justice and regular justice, while support for the indigenous woman was a permanent fixture of government efforts.  For the first time, the country included 20 young indigenous women in diplomatic jobs, as it believed it was necessary to close the gender gap.  Ecuador looked forward to participating and cooperating in the upcoming world conference on indigenous peoples.  It was a special occasion to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people.  There had been important progress, but much remained to be done.

Ms. LYONS ( New Zealand) thanked Mr. Anaya for his visit to New Zealand in 2010, underlining the importance of sharing experiences through mechanisms like the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  She praised the modalities of the resolution on the World Conference, notably the right of indigenous peoples to participate in that conference, and encouraged broad-based participation, so issues might be engaged by the widest possible audience.  New Zealand was committed to the Treaty of Waitangi, which underpinned its strong commitment to an enduring partnership.  The Government continued to work with the Maori to meet the remaining challenges regarding the Maori situation.

Despite that treaty’s existence, however, indigenous peoples had suffered injustices, she said, noting that by 2014, the Government aspired to reach agreement with all large groups that had a mandated entity and were willing to settle historical treaty claims with Government.  There was now real momentum in settling historical treaty claims.  From their socioeconomic status to their health, Maori were over-represented among the most vulnerable New Zealanders.  “This must change” she said, noting that New Zealand was committed to fulfilling the rights of indigenous peoples.  The mechanisms at the United Nations were as diverse as the challenges indigenous peoples faced.  She was encouraged by the Special Rapporteur’s call for better coordination across United Nations bodies. 

LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was a unique opportunity to make progress implementing rights for all indigenous peoples, and thanked all those who participated in prior consultations.  Inviting indigenous representatives to co-chair roundtables would be fundamental for the result of the Conference, he said, calling for inclusive and open systems to draw up the outcome documents, with full participation of indigenous peoples and recognizing their contributions.  It was important to have a system where co-facilitation and active participation of indigenous peoples supported processes.

With inclusive consultations, Mexico believed the Conference would be able to adopt a document that would be a “legitimate road map” to achieving rights and protections for indigenous peoples.  He urged an effort to coordinate appropriately and avoid duplication.  On the other hand, the work of other bodies like the Commission on Protection of Women and Rio+20 must be acknowledged, he said.  Mexico was very aware of the importance of the direct participation of indigenous peoples in the discussions that affected them, he concluded.

GASTON KIMPOLO ( Congo) said the goals of the Second Decade could only be achieved by States’ recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights through constitutional and legislative reform, and implementing of those reforms nationally and internationally.  For its part, the Congo had paid special attention to the issue of indigenous peoples, having offered to host pre-session work, in 2013, for the 2014 World Conference.  The Congo aimed to integrate indigenous peoples into public life, notably through the holding, in 2011, of two forums to address their key issues.  The adoption of a law in 2011 to protect indigenous rights reflected the Government’s further political commitment.

He went on to say that the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights organized a national capacity-building workshop, in July in Brazzaville, on the implementation of that law, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among others.  The goal was to launch projects in a number of key areas, notably as related to individual and collective intellectual property rights, the rights to education and health and the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to promote and protect indigenous rights.  Activities in 2012 focused on celebrating the International Day, holding a workshop on improving indigenous peoples’ rights, and training social workers in Likouala, Plateaux, Sangha and Lékoumou departments.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), recalling that indigenous peoples across the world had experienced the impacts of colonization, said that was true in the case of his country, where the Khoisan — or San — people, the earliest inhabitants, had led a nomadic life as hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago.  But, due to the encroachment of colonial economic activities, they had been robbed of their land and their traditional ways of life had been severely destabilized.  They had been marginalized and lived in some of the most inhospitable areas in the country.  To improve their situation, the Namibia Cabinet in 2005 established the San Development Programme.

He said achievements had been made with the provision of land, housing, livestock, education, as well as through sensitization of marginalized communities’ rights.  December 2011 data showed a substantive number of households had been resettled on Government farms and communal lands, and provided with continuous support.  The programme was assisting students at tertiary institutions and facilitating job placement.  But there was still a gap between the programme’s formulation and implementation, and he called on the international community to help support its people.  Namibia also faced diminishing international assistance, as it was now an upper-middle income country, and faced competition for limited resources by various sectors, including health and education.  Noting that the Special Rapporteur had visited Namibia in September, he said his country looked forward to participating in the 2014 World Conference.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) cited gains in his country, including the proclamation of ethnic and cultural diversity, the right of indigenous peoples to be elected to Congress, and the Government’s respect for indigenous jurisdiction.  Further, the political constitution recognized the equality of all cultures.  Colombia’s 1.4 million indigenous peoples accounted for 3.4 per cent of its total population.  The country had established a legal and institutional framework that the belief in the rule of law must be a minimum standard for the design of policies.  In that context, he said Colombia had ratified and incorporated into its national jurisdiction international human rights instruments.

Various bodies, including the national bureau for human rights and the Amazonian human rights bureau, had been created, he continued.  A protection programme also existed to ensure the protection of journalists, human rights defenders and trade unions, among others.  Some 290 indigenous peoples benefitted from that programme.  Prior consultation was an indispensable requirement for carrying out projects and, in that context, the law of victims and land restitution compensated victims and restored rural workers’ lands.  Finally, a conference on human rights and humanitarian law would be held soon with the participation of 32 indigenous departments.

JANGA BAHADUR GURUNG ( Nepal) said indigenous peoples around the world had retained unique characteristics and had “better conventional wisdom”.  But they continued to face discrimination and exclusion in political, economic, social and cultural spheres.  “Ensuring their human rights and fundamental freedoms is a major challenge before us,” he said.  Nepal’s Interim Constitution recognized that all languages spoken as mother tongues were national languages.  There were more than 100 ethnic groups speaking more than 92 different languages in the country; among them, 59 different ethnic groups had been recognized as indigenous nationalities.

Nepal’s Government had taken several significant measures towards promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, adopting policies and programmes for social justice and affirmative action.  To put the indigenous peoples and minorities at the centre of development, the Government had provided participatory planning, capacity development, empowerment and social security.  The country’s community forestry programme, in which indigenous communities played an important role in management, was an example of success.  “We can further utilize their creative potential and wisdom for the task of nation-building as well as uplifting their standard of life,” he said.

LAUTARO ORALLES ( Venezuela) said in the European invasion of the lands of his country, people were subjected to slavery, discriminated against and lost their lands.  Colonialism was a genuine genocide that killed 80 million indigenous peoples.  The problem now was the dominant development model, which promoted consumption beyond limits that produced poverty and destruction of the environment.  This inhuman model of economic growth was a violation of the cultural and economic principles of people, particularly indigenous peoples.  Venezuela was working towards a socialist model that focused on inclusion and solidarity.  Its Constitution embodied the human rights of indigenous peoples, including them in a chapter that recognized and protected their languages, religions, habitats and rights as people on lands they traditionally occupied.

Education in Venezuela promoted a plurilingual system; the Government had also set up indigenous education systems and indigenous university campuses and also undertaken a massive construction of housing for indigenous families.  Similarly, an organic law against discrimination had been passed in parliament.  Such actions promoted enhancement of the cultural identities of those people and also protected their rights.  Venezuela was confident the 2014 World Conference would raise the visibility of indigenous populations throughout the world, providing an opportunity for dialogue.

Mr. AGUSTO ( Angola) welcomed the cooperation among the Special Rapporteur, the Permanent Forum, and the Expert Mechanism in promoting the United Nations Declaration.  He agreed that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights should be applied to advance indigenous peoples’ rights in the same way it advanced human rights more generally.  The Declaration was the benchmark for United Nations action towards indigenous peoples and Angola defended the harmonization of activities within the United Nations system.

He went on to say that United Nations agencies played an important role in carrying out the standards enshrined in the Declaration.  Welcoming the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he also encouraged States to consider strengthening effective legislative and policy measures to respect indigenous rights, particularly for women and girls.  He also welcomed the organization of the World Conference, to be held in 2014, and encouraged States to support indigenous peoples’ participation in the preparations through technical and financial contributions.  He also looked forward to the study on access to justice in the promotion of indigenous rights, to be prepared by the Expert Mechanism.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO) Office, said ILO Convention 169, on indigenous and tribal peoples, was the only international treaty on that topic open to ratification by Member States.  The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples galvanized the Convention, making it more visible than the two decades-long work of the ILO.  Indeed, the Convention and the Declaration were mutually reinforcing.  The Convention appeared to be “leaning” on the Declaration’s moral weight, while the Declaration appeared to be benefitting from the Convention’s experience of implementation across the world.  Together, they made one set of international legal instruments for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights at the country level.

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