Indigenous Peoples' Right to Food Crucially Dependent on Control of Resources in Land, Territories They Inhabit, Permanent Forum Told

14 May 2012
HR/5092

Indigenous Peoples' Right to Food Crucially Dependent on Control of Resources in Land, Territories They Inhabit, Permanent Forum Told

14 May 2012
Economic and Social Council
HR/5092
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Eleventh Session

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)

Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Food Crucially Dependent on Control of Resources

in Land, Territories They Inhabit, Permanent Forum Told

 

Many Speakers Welcome FAO Guidelines on Food Security Adopted Friday;

Afternoon Session Focuses on Arrangements, Venue for 2014 World Conference

United Nations and civil society experts today emphasized that indigenous peoples’ rights to food and food sovereignty depended crucially on their access to and control over the natural resources in the land and territories they occupied or used, as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues weighed options for improving and preserving native food systems, and closing legislative gaps on land tenure.

Several speakers said the Permanent Forum’s panel discussion and dialogue on indigenous peoples’ food sovereignty was timely, as it closely followed adoption in Rome last Friday of new “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security”.  Welcoming that Food and Agriculture Organization-backed framework, they said that States could use it when developing policies and programmes that might impact subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering, which were essential not only to the collective right to food, but also to nurturing indigenous cultures, languages and identity.

Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), speaking via a video link, said that with the adoption of the Guidelines, the agency was continuing its commitment to opening its doors to new actors.  In that regard, indigenous peoples had played an important role in the negotiation, completion and adoption of the Guidelines.  Indigenous peoples must participate fully and effectively in all matters that directly affected their rights.  The world faced a challenge in the production of food, he said, but that concern could be overcome by working together.

Also addressing the meeting via video link, Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said:  “Political disempowerment and lack of participation, in many cases, is the main cause for the obstacles [indigenous peoples] face in achieving the right to food.”  Participation was vital, because the current situation was “extremely worrying”, as indigenous peoples’ food rights were under “serious threat”.  Native and tribal communities were disproportionately affected by increased pressure on their land — through food production, carbon credit schemes and the search for fossil fuels.

He said those rights were being further impacted by ever-encroaching big business, which was destroying traditional livelihoods — including traditional food systems — at an unprecedented rate.  Further, indigenous peoples were coping with the phenomenon of “nutrition transition”, imposed on communities who lost their food systems and were forced to switch to Western diets.  That had led to significant changes in nutritional intakes and was causing major increases in type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

However, while there were many issues that remained to be addressed, he was “relatively optimistic” that, in the next few years, Governments would step up their recognition and implementation of the right to food.  That optimism was based, among other thing, on increasing recognition that customary forms of land tenure deserved protection, and of the need for local communities to maintain control over their food systems to build resilience against the risk of external shocks.  Another reason for hope was that the new Voluntary Guidelines and other instruments were being designed in an inclusive and participatory manner, aiming to ensure active input from those whose right to food was being threatened.

Echoing the importance of subsistence activities and traditional livelihoods, Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International, declared all peoples had the right to produce their food using traditional practices and cultures according to their taste preferences and food knowledge.  Following those principles, many indigenous communities on every continent had given life to the Terra Madre network, a movement of people who, with mutual respect for each others’ diversities, sought dialogue, cultural exchange and solidarity, all centred on the right to food.

He said that human well-being depended on the universal right to quality food for all, and therefore there was a need to radically change “a food system that destroyed the environment as well as dignity of field and food workers”.  For too long, food production had sidelined or restricted the knowledge and skills of women, the elderly and the indigenous; rather than including them, it had relegated them to the bottom rung of the social ladder. 

Joining other speakers lamenting “arrogant and insolent” development models that were depleting the planet’s resources, he called on the United Nations and the wider international community to put a stop to the land grabbing in many areas of the planet, especially Africa.  “The phenomenon [is] riding roughshod over the right to food and subsistence […] of many indigenous and farming communities,” he said.

The Permanent Forum concluded its work with a panel discussion and dialogue on the arrangements for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which was set to take place in September of 2014.  By the terms of a resolution adopted least year, the General Assembly approved the holding of a high-level conference “to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples,” and the Assembly President to hold broad consultations among Member States and indigenous peoples’ groups on specific arrangements.

Mirna Cunningham Kain, Permanent Forum member from Nicaragua, and Focal Point for the World Conference, reported that the President of the Assembly’s current session, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, had recently appointed Luis-Alfonso de Alba, Permanent Representative of Mexico, and John Henriksen, as Indigenous Co-Coordinator for the World Conference.  She appealed to the Office of the President to share the outcome of today’s discussion with Member States.  She further called on the Assembly presidency to promote the adoption of a resolution on the modalities for the World Conference before the end of the sixty-sixth session.

In the discussion that followed, representatives of Governments and indigenous groups presented recommendations for the Conference, with everyone calling strongly for the highest possible level of political participation, and representation from the largest possible number of indigenous delegations.  Yet, most major developing countries said that the event’s arrangements — including participation — should be funded through existing resources, while the civil society groups called for scaled up support for voluntary funding mechanisms that would facilitate travel to the meeting. 

A representative for the Global Coordinating Group for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples proposed a series of recommendations for the work of the Conference, including, among others, that all meetings must be co-chaired by representatives of Member States and indigenous peoples, and that prior to the Conference, thematic discussions must be held to facilitate elaboration of a precise, action-oriented outcome document.  She was also among those that stressed that accreditation needed to realize that “full and effective participation” meant groups such as traditional councils, caucuses, forums and others not officially considered non-governmental organizations, must be allowed to attend. 

Also taking part in the panel on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Food and Food Sovereignty were Saul Vicente Vazquez, a member of the Permanent Forum from Mexico, a representative of the FAO, a representative of the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty, and a representatives of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation.

The representatives of Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Argentina made statements in the discussion following the panel presentation.

Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus, the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, and the Arctic Caucus, also speaking on behalf of the Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

The representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development also made a statement, as did a member of the Permanent Forum from the Russian Federation.

A note on a study on shifting cultivation and the socio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples was introduced by Permanent Forum member Raja Devasish Roy from Bangladesh, with a supporting statement made by Simon William M’Vidouboulou, also a member of the Forum.

Participating in the panel on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples were Mirna Cunningham Kain, Forum member from Nicaragua and focal point for the Conference; Yanerit Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico; John Henrikson, Indigenous Coordinator for the Conference; Hanifa Mezoui of the Office of the President of the General Assembly; and Carlos Batzin, Minister of Culture of Guatemala.

Statements in contribution to the discussion were made by the representatives of Guyana, the Russian Federation, Bolivia, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Denmark and Greenland, Norway, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Permanent Forum members Dalee Sambo Dorough andEva Biaudet also spoke.

Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of the Global Coordination Group for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Saami Parliament of Norway, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus, the Global Indigenous Peoples Women’s Caucus, the Indigenous Youth Caucus, the Arctic Caucus, the Asia Caucus, the Latin American Caucus, the Pacific Caucus, the North America Indigenous People’s Caucus, the Indigenous World Association International, the Indian Treaty Council, Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas, the Centro de Estudios Aplicados a los Derechos Economicos Sociales y Culturales, the Confederacion Sindical de Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, and the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 May, to take up matters related to human rights.

Background

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today held two half-day dialogues, the first on the rights of indigenous peoples to food and food sovereignty, which featured the introduction of the Permanent Forum’s study on “shifting cultivation and the socio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples” (document E/C.19/2012/8); and the second on the World Conference on Indigenous People, which will be convened by the General Assembly in 2014.

Panel on Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Food and Food Sovereignty

In opening remarks, Permanent Forum members SAUL VICENTE VAZQUEZ, from Mexico, said many indigenous peoples had expressed serious concern about their ability to exercise their right to food.  After the adoption of the Declaration of Atitlán, drafted at the first Indigenous Peoples Global Consultation on the Right to Food in 2002, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there had been some significant steps taken to address matters related to food security, but there was still a significant gap in implementation, especially in specific national legislation.  That situation had led to a broad denial of more than indigenous peoples’ rights to food, and included abrogation of their rights to their lands and traditional cultures.  As such, “this denies almost our total identity”, he said, expressing the hope that today’s discussions would generate sound solutions.

Addressing the Forum via videolink was OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, who said the current situation was extremely worrying.  Indeed, in his travels, he had found that indigenous peoples’ food rights were under “serious threat”.  That was chiefly because those peoples were disproportionately affected by increased pressure on land — through food production, carbon credit schemes and the search for fossil fuels.  Those rights were also being affected by ever-encroaching big business, which was destroying traditional livelihoods — including traditional food systems — at an unprecedented rate.  Further, indigenous peoples were coping with the phenomenon of “nutrition transition”, imposed on communities who lost their food systems and were forced to switch to Western diets.  That had led to significant changes in nutritional intakes and was causing major increases in type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

He said the right to food was well established in international law and achieving it required that Governments respected the rights of all individuals to feed themselves in dignity by producing, or by having the purchasing power to buy food on the open market.  Moreover, in some cases, including natural disasters, Governments could be required to step in to provide food when populations were unable to feed themselves.  The Indigenous Rights Declaration was quite specific regarding access to land and protection of indigenous cultural rights and traditional practices, all of which were significantly linked to the right to food.

The 2004 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) voluntary guidelines on the right to adequate food were very important to the discussion, as they referred to indigenous communities, as well as vulnerable groups.  That and other instruments were important and complementary and had a high degree of legitimacy, as Governments had widely agreed to uphold the right to food.  In addition, the right was increasingly seen as a collective right, and the Declaration clearly stated that indigenous peoples had a right to enjoy all human rights.  Lands, territories and resources were often held collectively and were the right of all those living in a community.  Further, the right to self-determination was codified in international law, and central to that was maintaining traditional cultures and customs, such as hunting and fishing.

Continuing, he said that the right to food was also increasingly being protected by courts and human rights bodies.  He said that, while there were many issues that remained to be addressed, he was “relatively optimistic” that, in the next few years, Governments would step up their recognition and implementation of the right to food.  That optimism was based, among others, on increasing recognition that customary forms of land tenure deserved protection and of the need for local communities to maintain control over their food systems to build resilience against the risk of external shocks.  Another interesting development was increasing interest in bolstering traditional food systems to increase general health and nutrition.

He also highlighted the landmark decision taken just last Friday, when the Committee on Food Security adopted the new Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.  Those guidelines outlined principles and practices that Governments could refer to when making laws and administering land, fisheries and forests rights.  Such frameworks were being designed in an inclusive and participatory manner, aiming to ensure active input from those whose right to food was being threatened.  “Political disempowerment and lack of participation, in many cases, is the main cause for the obstacles that these peoples face in achieving the right to food,” he said.

JOSE GRAZIANO DA SILVA, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, speaking via videolink, said that FAO had been opening its doors to new actors, including indigenous peoples.  It was committed to the full implementation of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, which was adopted recently.  FAO was committed to including and promoting issues important to indigenous people so indigenous peoples had played an important role in the negotiations, completion and adoption of the voluntary guidelines on land tenure, fishing and forests.  Further, civil society was fully represented in the committee, including by representatives of indigenous communities.  The world faced a challenge in the production of food, but that challenge was one that could be overcome by working together.

MARCELA VILLARREAL, Director of Gender, FAO, said that Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Securityhad been negotiated with the full participation of indigenous people.  The negotiations also had ample representation from other parts of civil society.  The document was important, because it finally had States recognizing the central issue that would ensure that indigenous peoples had their full rights to food.  It stated that States should recognize the legitimate rights to ancestral lands and to the social, cultural and environmental values of lands and forests of indigenous peoples.  It also says that States should protect indigenous peoples from unauthorized use of their lands and resources by external entities.  In that way, the document had placed tenure rights in the context of human rights and, as such, was essential for the realization of rights for indigenous peoples.

Speaking next, SAUDATA ABOUBACRINE, International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty, said the discussions were very important for indigenous peoples, especially those in the Sahel, who were facing a major food and hunger crisis.  She said that her Committee had been an outgrowth of the 2006 FAO Food Summit, and it had participated in major forums and conferences on the matter since that time.  Food security provided fishers, hunters and small famers the opportunity to trade with other communities, as well as to secure adequate nutrition for the societies in which they lived.

The Committee was in favour promoting both Government and civil society mechanisms to combat food insecurity.  It was the only body that worked with United Nations agencies, philanthropic organizations and human rights activists, together with indigenous communities, on global issues.  While she echoed other speakers hailing the landmark guidelines that had been adopted last Friday, she was concerned that the framework had not spoken more forcefully on matters related to access to water.

JOAN CARLING, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation, whose presentation was accompanied by a video on indigenous traditional livelihoods, such as fishing, rice farming and animal husbandry, echoed others expressing concern about land degradation through logging, mining and plantation crops, which were wiping out indigenous agro-based societies.  In South Asia, she said, palm oil plantations were devastating local lands and infringing on indigenous land rights, dignity and culture.  Food and nutrition bases were also being impacted by mega-projects such as dams.  She also noted that militarization in Pakistan, India and Indonesia, among others, was another challenge, as armies in those countries often confiscated lands and territories in their effort to root out armed groups.

CARLO PETRINI, President of the non-governmental organization Slow Food, said that all people should have access to good, clean and fair food and must have adequate food from their own natural resources, or from markets of their choice.  All peoples had the right to produce their food using traditional practices and cultures according to their taste preferences and food knowledge.  Following those principles, many indigenous communities in every continent had given life to the Terra Madre network, a movement of people who, with mutual respect for each others’ diversities, sought dialogue, cultural exchange and solidarity, all centred on the right to food.

He said that human well-being depended on the universal right to quality food for all.  While a large chunk of humanity was suffering from obesity and other overeating-related illnesses, over 1 billion human beings were undernourished and the scandal of death by starvation had yet to be erased.  Obesity and hunger were two faces of the same coin, and were symbols of the failure of a global food system based mainly on industrial production that depended mostly on fossil energy resources.  Never before had the need to radically change a food system that destroyed the environment and the dignity of field and food workers been so highly felt.

For too long, food production had sidelined or restricted the knowledge and skills of women, the elderly and the indigenous, he went on.  It had relegated them to the bottom rung of the social ladder.  Arrogantly and insolently, humanity had cultivated an idea of development and progress based on the conviction that the planet’s resources were infinite and that human domination of nature was limitless.  He added that the whole world and the international community had to put a stop to the land grabbing in many areas of the planet, especially Africa.  The phenomenon was riding roughshod over the right to food and subsistence of many indigenous and farming communities.

Providing a Government perspective, MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said that her country was committed to the work being carried out by the Permanent Forum, as it provided an important space for civil society groups to participate and share experiences with other major groups and organizations.  She recalled that Brazil was set to host next month the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — known as Rio+20 — and the right to food and food security were essential elements of sustainable development.  It was, therefore, important for all Governments to put relevant policies in place to address the needs of indigenous peoples, including regarding land use and adequate nutrition.

Brazil, she continued, had created a national food and security framework, which articulated action on federal, state and local levels, and which coordinated activities with civil society organizations and indigenous peoples’ groups.  The Government had also put in place another instrument, a cash transfer programme for Brazilian families living below the poverty line, in order to assist them in maintaining adequate nutritional health.  In addition, Brazil was working with five United Nations agencies to implement a food and nutrition security programme targeting women and children in two regions.  A major priority for the peoples of those regions was access to land, and the Government had also moved to create legal procedures and mechanisms to solve land disputes.  Overall, she said, Brazil was working to open space for indigenous people and leaders to participate in designing solutions and making proposals on issues that affected them.

RAJA DEVASISH ROY, speaking on behalf of himself, Bertie Xavier and Simon William M’Vidouboulou, introduced a note by the Secretariat on a Study on shifting cultivation and the socio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples (document E/C.19/2012/8).  According to the study, the practice of shifting cultivation needed to be maintained, strengthened and promoted in its sustainable forms, in accordance with the rights acknowledged in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on indigenous and tribal peoples of 1989, ILO Convention No. 107 and Recommendation No. 104 on indigenous and tribal populations of 1957, and ILO Convention No. 111 on discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.  Shifting cultivation was closely related to forest protection, and sustainable forest management, the study states.  It was also related to the protection of watersheds, the conservation of the headwaters of rivers and streams and the maintenance of biological and linguistic diversity.

The study assessed the importance of the various traditions, practices and usages of shifting cultivation in different parts of the world to the maintenance and protection of the socio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples, including  aspects of their identity as distinct peoples, their spirituality, history, traditions, democratic decision-making norms, social unity, community self-help practices, literature, music, dance and numerous other aspects of their culture that were intricately linked to shifting cultivation traditions and practices.  Those are vital not only to protect their social and cultural rights, but were also closely related to their economic, civil and political rights.  It also sought to address some of the myths, misinformation and misconceptions associated with the practice of shifting cultivation, based on a lack of understanding of the nuanced differences in the way it was practised in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia.

Mr. Roy, Mr. M’Vidouboulou, and Mr. Xavier had been appointed by the Permanent Forum at its tenth session in 2011 to conduct the study.

Mr. ROY said that it was important for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to organize seminars and workshops on many other aspects of shifting cultivation that needed to be addressed in many various parts of the world.  Some of the aspects could be addressed during the present session.  With regard to Member States, he said that in cases where the rights were not acknowledged, Governments should be encouraged to recognize the mode of cultivation.  In addition, certain programmes that sought to steer indigenous peoples toward cash crop production should be discontinued, unless they were being implemented with the consent of the indigenous communities.

MR. M’VIDOUBOULOU said that their recommendations included a request to intergovernmental organizations to eliminate discriminatory practices that affected indigenous peoples and their need to practice agriculture, as that activity was essential to them.  There was also a recommendation to non-governmental organizations to work towards eliminating all forms of discrimination affecting indigenous peoples.  Additionally, the study recognized that universities had the capacity to undertake research into shifting cultivation.  To indigenous peoples themselves, the study stressed their need to be informed and, as such, facilitated the dissemination of the information, in order to strengthen their own rights.

Discussion

When the floor was opened for a dialogue, GINO ALTAMIRANO of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus was among those to recommend the full and inclusive participation of indigenous peoples in discussions involving the right to food sovereignty.  Moreover, he urged Governments to uphold their obligations under the Indigenous Rights Declaration, particularly to ensure maintenance of and access to traditional lands.  Displacement of indigenous peoples was at the core of food security concerns, he said.

SYLVIA ESCÁRCEGA, of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, called on national authorities and international agencies to implement women’s land and water tenure rights, as well as their right of access to traditional seeds, including seeds that were not tainted by genetic modification.  She also urged the secretariats of the Convention on Biodiversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to ensure that indigenous women were able to participate in the discussions and negotiations on those instruments, especially since those women produced the majority of the world’s food and were the main caretakers of biodiversity.

HJALMAR DAHL, of the Arctic Caucus, speaking on behalf of the Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said that his group was seriously concerned about the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.  And while it was hard to determine which issue would change the future of the planet and humankind’s collective way of life more, “one thing is certain:  without enough to eat — regardless of why — we will never achieve the minimum rights of adequate nutrition.”  The right to food was not new, and while it had been recognized in international law, an estimated 800 million people remained undernourished or lived in food insecure communities.  Noting that FAO had predicted that the number of undernourished people was set to rise in the coming years, he called for the development of standard indicators to assess food insecurity to ensure appropriate responses.

Among the Government representatives to take the floor, IVANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua) said that, as her country was largely agriculture-based, the Government aimed to guarantee the right of all Nicaraguans, including indigenous peoples, to cultivate their food sources in line with their own traditional practices.  The Government was working with civil society and autonomous regional councils to ensure that local populations had greater access to food that was nutritious, culturally appropriate, and made available at fair prices.  With such plans in place, the Government had been able to reduce its malnutrition by some 50 per cent.  Nicaragua’s success had also led to the implementation of programmes to ensure and monitor food production systems to not only ensure the country’s food was more nutritious, but that it was safer for the population.

ANNA NAYKANCHINA, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, said that, in the Russian Federation, indigenous peoples were facing challenges accessing food.  Traditional food in north Russia consisted of fish and other food from the sea, but many of the products now went to industry and the listing of fishing plots was done without taking into account the needs of indigenous peoples.  There was a new draft legislation seeking to amend the law on fishing, but the new legislation could worsen the situation for the indigenous peoples of north Russia.  The draft would give State bodies the ability to limit fishing rights without consulting indigenous peoples.  Also, it would allow limitations that would lead to allocations in the fishing industry that might be harmful to the indigenous peoples.  Thus, it was being proposed that the draft be reconsidered and amendments made to ensure priority access to plots by the indigenous peoples.  In addition, allocations should take into account the need for free and prior consent of the indigenous peoples.

The representative of Argentina said that his country maintained its reservation with respect to food sovereignty, but that it supported and promoted the concept of food security as defined at the Food Summit.  That definition had established the pillars of food security.  Argentina believed that the right to food as a fundamental human right was an individual, and not a state one.  The country supported action aimed at developing and strengthening agricultural production in indigenous communities and at seeking access for training, as well as technical packages to improve the quality and value of production without neglecting the health aspects.

The representative of the Pacific Caucus presented a series of recommendations on the rights of indigenous peoples to food and sovereignty and said that all people had the fundamental human right to access, production and consumption of healthy and safe food.  Food security was about protecting the genetic integrity and growth of foods that were deemed sacred in their customary use and practices by indigenous peoples.  Such foods did not only sustain the body physically, but also provided spiritual nourishment.

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

At its afternoon session, the Forum held a panel discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

MIRNA CUNNINGHAM KAIN, Permanent Forum member from Nicaragua and focal point for the Conference on Indigenous Peoples, said that since last year the Forum had been involved in preparations for the Conference.  Meetings had been held with the other mechanisms mentioned in the General Assembly resolution on the Conference.  In that regard, she appealed to the Office of the President of the General Assembly to share the outcome of the present panel discussion with Member States.  The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recognised that it had a central role in the Conference. In that regard, it called on General Assembly presidency to promote the adoption of a resolution on the modalities for the Conference before the end of the current session of the Assembly.  In addition, the Presidents of the next two sessions of the Assembly should conduct interactive hearings with Member States to facilitate the development of a concise and joint action-oriented document.  She called for participants in the panel discussion to offer recommendations on modalities, themes and mechanisms to ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous people in the Conference.

YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) said that the Permanent Representative of Mexico had been requested to undertake consultations with Member States on the modalities for the Conference, including participation by indigenous peoples.  In the last few weeks, various contacts had been held with Member States and a first open consultation had taken place, during which agreement was reached to define the modalities.  A spirit of cooperation had been demonstrated by the participants in the process.  The modalities under discussion included the specific date and location of the Conference, necessary rules at all stages, the number and possible subjects for round tables, the preparatory process, and the definition of a final outcome document that would be precise and action-oriented.  A meeting had also been held to comply with the inclusive mandate.  Mexico believed that today’s discussion would provide a good basis to continue the discussion and he hoped to continue cooperating with the various mechanisms.

JOHN HENRIKSEN, Indigenous Co-Coordinator for the World Conference, said the objective of the event was to share best practices and identify key ways to promote implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  That instrument had been the result of inclusive dialogue and negotiations between indigenous civil society groups and Member States and there was every belief that negotiations in the run-up to the World Conference would take place in that spirit.  He had already convened the first round of informal consultations on the arrangements for the World Conference and he hoped to have a consolidated draft resolution for action by the Assembly before the end of sixty-sixth session.

HANIFA MEZOUI, Office of the President of the General Assembly, said President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser would conduct open-ended consultations with civil society, Member States, members of the Permanent Forum, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the relevant Special Rapporteur, to ensure the World Conference was as inclusive as possible.  “Deep and difficult” consultations had already taken place to meet certain deadlines, and the outlines of the Conference were taking shape, including with the appointment of the Co-Facilitators of future negotiations.  “So now, the ball is in your court,” she said, looking forward to the recommendations that would emerge form this afternoon’s discussion and the eventual elaboration of a text on the arrangements for the Conference.

CARLOS BATZIN, Minister of Culture of Guatemala, said the situation of the indigenous peoples in his country was similar to that of other such peoples throughout Latin America and around the world; they faced marginalization and discrimination that left them living in “difficult situations”.  They also faced poverty, underdevelopment and inequality, especially the indigenous communities in rural areas. 

In response to that situation, the Government had adopted three main national covenants, covering security, justice and transparency, and also had scaled up its activities to address poverty and hunger and improve maternal health.  The overall aim was to build a multicultural Guatemala where all people were treated equally.  As for the World Conference, he said the Guatemalan Government was keenly interested in that event and, in that regard, the country had the potential to perhaps host one of the meetings of the Expert Mechanism in the preparatory phase.

Dialogue

When the floor was opened for comments, recommendations and suggestions, a representative for the Global Coordinating Group for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples said that, above all, there must be full and effective participation of indigenous peoples before, during and after the conference.  The Coordinating Committee had already met twice — in March and May — and had defined its terms of reference and formed a fundraising committee.  It was working closely with the co-facilitators and last week had held a side event on the Conference to provide information to participants in the process.  The Group was, thus far, heartened by the support offered by some States and international organizations.

She went on to propose a series of recommendations on behalf of the Coordinating Group, among others, that:  the Permanent Forum should recommend the arrangements for the Conference, including the number of days and meetings that would be held; the Conference and its preparations should be carried out within existing resources; all meetings must be co-chaired by representatives of Member States and indigenous peoples; prior to the Conference, thematic discussions must be held to facilitate elaboration of a precise, action oriented outcome document; a joint committee should be convened to draft such a document taking into account regional preparatory meetings; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) should prepare a special report on how the Millennium Development Goals relate to indigenous peoples, and relevant disaggregated statistics be provided; the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) should support all phases of the World Conference; and accreditation needed to realize that full and effective participation meant that groups such as traditional councils, caucuses, forums and others not officially considered non-governmental organization must be allowed to participate.

PAULINE SUKHAI, Minister of Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, said that efforts needed to be made to have the highest possible political representation at the Conference.  Guyana also proposed that the Conference be held in New York prior to or subsequent to the related event involving indigenous peoples in 2014, in order to allow for maximum participation of indigenous peoples.  That would also address the cost factor, so as not to have the participants travel twice.  The preparatory process should be guided by the principle that “there should be nothing about us without us”. In that regard, separate regional meetings, involving Member States, should be convened to facilitate discussions.  There should also be at least one hearing for indigenous peoples to articulate their main views on the Conference.  The focus at the Conference needed to include existing best practices of land rights.  Guyana supported the idea of regional representatives being allowed to address the Conference, but it was also critical that Member States update the Conference on what actions they were implementing.  Guyana supported the proposal for a concise action–oriented document.  She then offered her country as venue for one of the regional preparatory meetings for the Conference.

The representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) said that her organization would welcome outcomes from the Conference that proposed mechanisms and measures to improve environmental governance for the well-being of indigenous peoples and for the sustainable management of their lands, territories and resources.  She encouraged indigenous peoples’ organizations and others to work before the conference on documenting and promoting the role of traditional knowledge and customary land management in reducing human vulnerability to, and risks of, climate-related and other natural hazards.

NATALIA ZOLOTOVA (Russian Federation) said that it was extremely important to have representatives of indigenous peoples at the Conference.  Her country was counting on the coordinators of the preparatory process to be able to mobilize the development of a formula that would meet the needs of all parties, while respecting existing rules of the General Assembly.  Since the Conference was taking place in 2014, States had sufficient time to work through the proposals being put through today.  In order to allow the opportunity for indigenous peoples to participate fully in the Conference, the venue of the meeting should not be limited to United Nations Headquarters.  Instead, it should be possible to consider holding it in one of the United Nations regional offices, such as Geneva.

Dr. WILTON LITTLECHILD, of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, called for support for a Third Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, with the theme “Action on Self-Determination”.  It was necessary to take the historically significant opportunity to further the realization of indigenous rights, in particular Treaty Rights, in a way that included children, youth, women, elders and people with disabilities.  He called for an indigenous co-chair to jointly preside over the plenary meetings of the World Conference.  Further, there should be full, direct and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all stages of the World Conference process, including the outcome, as that was vital in order to ensure its success and sustainability.  There was also need to focus on the rights of indigenous peoples at the international level, in particular at the United Nations.  That could be accomplished with the establishment of a Third Decade.

Among other Government representatives who took the floor, FELIX CARDENAS, Vice-Minister for Decolonization of Bolivia, said his delegation believed that the World Conference should include participation at the highest political level and should include broad representation of indigenous women and youths.  The Conference should be built around a two-day general debate and concurrent round table discussions on such issues as the outcome of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and the status of the implementation of the Declaration. 

Other panel discussions could focus on indigenous peoples’ contributions to broader development, and on ways to halt environmental degradation.  He also recommended that preparatory events should be held in the seven regions acknowledged by the Permanent Forum, and that the outcome of the World Conference should be action-oriented.

A representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus said the World Conference was an opportunity to promote broader implementation of the Convention.  Since young people made up 50 per cent of the world’s indigenous populations, he called on the Permanent Forum to establish funds to facilitate their participation in that event.  The Forum should also convene at least two pre-Conference events focusing on the challenges faced by indigenous youth and women.  He also proposed that the Conference, which would be of historic importance, be held somewhere other than New York or Geneva, to ensure broader participation of indigenous peoples. 

LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS (United States) said that her delegation had supported the adoption of the General Assembly resolution that had set the stage for the convening of the World Conference.  The United States continued to seek ways to strengthen its relationship with federally recognized Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples.  As for the World Conference, her Government favoured holding the event in the spring of 2014 either before or after the twelfth session of the Permanent Forum, as a way to facilitate the broadest participation of indigenous peoples.

She went on to say that the United States supported a one or two day Conference, with participation supported by voluntary funds.  It supported holding preparatory meetings in the five United Nations-identified regions, with the Regional Commissions hosting such sessions.  The costs of holding preparatory meetings in the seven indigenous regions should be closely examined.  The United States believed that the World Conference’s themes should be forward-looking and focus on best practices, and not necessarily based on the Declaration.  She agreed with others that any outcome should not reopen the Declaration, but complement it with targeted concrete proposals on protecting and promoting indigenous rights.

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