Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in Decisions Impacting Community, Land, Culture Critical to Their Human Rights, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum

22 May 2013

Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in Decisions Impacting Community, Land, Culture Critical to Their Human Rights, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum

22 May 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Twelfth Session

5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in Decisions Impacting Community, Land, Culture

Critical to Their Human Rights, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum


Despite Gap between Instrument, Practices, Special Rapporteur States

‘We Are Here’ Challenging Obstacles, Preparing for 2014 World Conference

The rights of indigenous people across all areas of human endeavours must be respected, advanced and their participation guaranteed in formulating any decisions affecting them, speakers said, as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to take up the issue of human rights.

“Nothing about us without us,” said Ipul Powaseu of Papua New Guinea, stating the motto of the Indigenous Disability Caucus, as she presented the report on the situation of indigenous people with disabilities.  She commended the authors of the report for having lived up to that motto, but urged for both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to be translated into indigenous languages.  Lack of awareness of those instruments impacted access to assistance.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, Forum Member, whose mandate focused on human rights, spoke of voluntary conditions that would engender dialogue between indigenous peoples and States in considering indigenous claims.  Introducing a study that would be released in the Forum’s thirteenth session, she described an optional protocol to the Declaration that had been recommended by the Sami people.  States had a solemn legal obligation to uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples, which had been articulated by the International Court of Justice.

Antti Korkeakivi of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), however, stressed that progress had been made, pointing out that indigenous peoples were now able to take part in the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review.

While many speakers agreed on the importance of including indigenous people in decisions affecting them, not all were satisfied that such discussions were more than just words, with the representative of Chile’s National Council of Indigenous Peoples telling the Forum:  “We need to bring rhetoric and practice closer together.”  Echoing that, the representative of YATAMA of Nicaragua further noted that practice did not show that the Forum’s recommendations were being implemented.

As well, the representative of the Navajo National Human Rights Commission elaborated on the need to bring practice and language into action on the ground,  and urged the United States Government to replace its use of the word “consultation” with the international standard, “free, prior and informed consent”, since current consultation policy did not provide for consent.

Forum member Megan Davis, introducing a report on the extent of violence against indigenous women and girls, said that when combating such violence, which occurred both in private and public domains, tackling the issue through partnerships between indigenous communities and the State were more likely to be successful than a programme devised by the State alone.

Sweden’s representative also emphasized that exclusion of indigenous peoples harmed not only themselves, but the international community as a whole.  It was deplorable that, despite their enormous potential and ability to help tackle climate change, indigenous people worldwide were marginalized and excluded from decision-making.  The 2014 World Conference would be an opportunity to create substantive, concrete action that fully realized indigenous peoples’ rights and their inclusion in world affairs.

Still, James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, said that, despite the many challenges facing them worldwide, there was cause for celebration.  “We are here,” he stated, examining what could be done, and he underscored that, generation after generation, indigenous communities had survived to continue contributing to the global fabric.

Statements were delivered today by the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Chair of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.

Also taking part were Ministers from Paraguay and Guyana, and a Deputy Minister of Nicaragua.  The Chief of Justice of Mexico’s Electoral Court also participated.

Statements were delivered by the representatives of Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, United States, Australia, Denmark/Greenland, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, El Salvador, Venezuela and the Russian Federation.

A representative of the European Union delegation also participated.

The representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the Permanent Observer of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also participated.

Statements were also made on behalf of the Human Rights Global Caucus, the Assembly of First Nations, Canada, Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, Crimean Tatar Mejlis, CSUTCB Bolivia, Australian Human Rights Commission, North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Asia Caucus, National Khoi-San Council of South Africa, Indigenous Parliament of Mexico, CIARENA, Confederación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Indígenas Originarias de Bolivia “Bartolina Sisa”, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of the Violence in Verapaces, Maya Achi (ADIVIMA), International Indian Treaty Council, Red Intercional de Mujeres Indigenas sobre Biodiversidad, and YATAMA. [As there was no official United Nations interpretation available for the last five interventions, the summaries of those statements could not be included in the body of the Press Release.]

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will next meet at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, 23 May, to discuss the Africa region.


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to follow up on its past recommendations, particularly concerning indigenous peoples’ human rights.  For background information on the session, please see Press Release HR/5129.

Introduction of Reports

Forum member DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH introduced a study on an optional protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The study had been recommended by the Sami people at the eleventh session of the Forum, but had not been completed due to the weight of the discussion and the proposal itself, among other reasons.  It would be ready by the opening of the thirteenth session.

She laid out some of the areas the study was considering, among them the purpose of the protocol and a review of customary and peremptory legal norms.  The study would also look at the status of the Declaration and various State obligations, as well as the nature of voluntary conditions to allow for dialogue between indigenous peoples and States in considering indigenous claims, the need for negotiation and dialogue between indigenous peoples and nation-States on the structure of such a mechanism, and the need to ensure the integrity of the mechanism.  Human rights experts, including indigenous experts, should serve in a voluntary capacity to promote implementation of the Declaration.  Also being studied was how the optional protocol would be put into effect, and how to monitor its outcomes.

Forum Chair PAUL KANYINKE SENA said that the report on the situation of indigenous persons with disabilities focused on challenges faced with regard to the full enjoyment of human rights and inclusion in development.  The report looked at the main relevant legal standards, the Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and how they interacted to protect the human rights of indigenous people with disabilities.

IPUL POWASEU, Indigenous Disability Caucus, Papua New Guinea, then presented the substance of the report.  Noting that the report had been written in consultation with indigenous persons with disabilities, she said it reflected their motto:  “Nothing about us without us.”  The report recommended that all stakeholders pay more attention to indigenous persons with disabilities.  About 15 per cent of the world’s population had disabilities.  Applying that percentage to indigenous populations would mean that about 54 million indigenous persons had disabilities.  However, due to poverty, environmental degradation, extractive activities and other causes affecting all indigenous peoples, it was believed that a much greater percentage of indigenous people had disabilities.  New statistical tools were needed to collect information on the actual well-being of indigenous persons with disabilities.

She went on to say that the Declaration and the Convention provided guidance on the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities.  However, the Convention should be applied with sensitivity to the cultures of indigenous peoples who sometimes mistrusted authorities due to attempts to assimilate them into society.  Although indigenous persons should be able to take part in the life of their communities, lack of awareness of the Declaration and the Convention made that difficult.  Translations of those documents into indigenous languages were needed.

The report, she continued, also addressed the purposeful absence of the concept of prevention of disability.  Perceptions of disabilities among indigenous peoples were sometimes seen as a curse, although prior to colonization, some cultures viewed such persons as having special spiritual powers.  Observing that indigenous persons with disabilities experienced the same problems as all indigenous people, but also experienced additional problems, she expressed the hope that indigenous persons with disabilities would be explicitly included in the Forum in the same way as women and youth were.

Ms. DOROUGH, whose mandate in the Forum was human rights, said that there were numerous continuing violations of the basic human rights of indigenous peoples by nation-States across the globe.  States needed to uphold their solemn legal obligations on the human rights of indigenous peoples.  The International Court of Justice had articulated those erga omnes obligations of nation-States, identifying them as owed by States to the international community as a whole, all persons, all groups and all nations.  She underscored that the Declaration did not create new rights; those rights were inherent.  Therefore, nation-State Members must reflect upon those solemn legal obligations and determine in an urgent manner how they would act on those obligations, particularly with regard to how they would help the indigenous peoples within their borders.


WILTON LITTLECHILD, Chair, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting that the Mechanism had been established by the Human Rights Council as a research and advisory body to the Council, drew attention to the upcoming sixth session of the Mechanism to be held in Geneva from 8 to 12 July.  A significant number of experts were expected to participate in the session, including members of the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur.  Turning to the Mechanism’s work over the past year, he said that its fifth session had included interactive dialogue with various stakeholders, where implementation of the Declaration was discussed and where the final report stressed the role of indigenous languages and cultures.

As well, he stated, the Mechanism also provided studies and briefings to inform actions on the rights of indigenous peoples, including, among others, their right to education and to justice, and their participation in decision-making in the extractive industry.  Currently, the Council was directing two Mechanism projects, the first on continuing to collect and report survey responses from States and indigenous peoples on best practices, and the second on access to justice in the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.

SHANKAR LIMBU, Chair, United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that the Fund’s mandate was to assist representatives of indigenous organizations and communities to effectively participate in the sessions of the Forum, the Expert Mechanism, the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review, and in human rights treaty bodies.  In 2012, the mandate of the Fund had been expanded to include support for indigenous peoples to participate in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held in 2014.

Since its establishment in 1985, he continued, the Fund had enabled about 1,600 indigenous representatives to take part in United Nations processes and mechanisms, ensuring that indigenous voices and concerns were heard at the United Nations.  Without the Fund’s financial support, many indigenous peoples would face severe challenges in their ability to attend those important international human rights processes.  In order to bolster its work, it was imperative that the Fund receive additional support by Governments and other donors.  Despite increased contributions in 2013, the Fund had struggled financially over the past four years.

MARIA LORENA SEGOVIA, Minister for Justice and Work of Paraguay highlighted several achievements, including a Government national action plan to advance human rights for indigenous peoples.  The plan had been approved in line with the Vienna agreement and, among others, addressed issues relating to racism and discrimination, economic and social inequality, access to education and culture and transitional justice.  Inputs from consultations with indigenous communities had been incorporated into the plan, as well.  Another achievement was an institution responsible for implementing international agreements and decisions, established in 2009, which recently expanded its mandate to include all resolutions of human rights treaty bodies and United Nations entities.

JAVIER VÁZQUEZ Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said that his organization was developing initiatives, which were rooted in United Nations resolutions, International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and other human rights instruments, to protect the health and other rights of indigenous peoples.  Stressing the importance of collaborating with the Forum, he also described the organization’s efforts to ensure adequate access to health care for indigenous peoples through cooperation with other actors, such as States, United Nations bodies, academia and the private sector by disseminating information, technology, establishment of legal frameworks, guideline formulation and progress monitoring.

OTILIA LUX DE COTI, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, described the genocide by the Guatemalan Government against people of Maya origin, who had been falsely accused of being guerrillas, an “internal enemy”, when, in fact, the internal enemy had been the Guatemalan Army.  Women and children were abused, brought to a tribunal and forced to make false statements.  With the genocide now recognized by the world, she called for those cases to be investigated under Guatemalan law.  She also condemned large Guatemalan companies and the media, which had denied the genocide, calling such denial an affront to Guatemalan women, particularly Mayan women, who had testified to the genocide.  The “racist machisto court” was defending war criminals, she stated.  Among several recommendations made, she urged that the Economic and Social Council and other United Nations entities support justice and the rule of law in Guatemala and take a stand on the issue.

SAÚL GARABITO ( Bolivia) said that, in 2009, Bolivia, recognizing the diversity of its people, had named itself a “ plurinational State”.  President Evo Morales was the first indigenous President, and indigenous people were now being consulted on important issues, which demonstrated his country’s democratic process.  A law had recently been adopted that required prior consultations with indigenous people by relevant ministries on the use of public lands.  More than two thirds of those peoples agreed with Government policies on the environment, illustrating the Government’s commitment to be ruled by the people.

ANTTI KORKEAKIVI, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Office was in midst of two major activities relating to the rights of indigenous peoples:  the post-2015 development agenda and preparations for the 2014 World Conference.  One key task was to ensure support for the special mandates, such as Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mandate on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It was important to make sure that indigenous peoples had the opportunity to participate in more general human rights mandates, as well.  He noted that indigenous peoples were now able to take part in the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review, and that, two weeks ago, a Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been adopted, which had particular relevance for indigenous peoples.

The representative of the Human Rights Global Caucus urged that an indigenous peoples’ tribunal be established to protect and defend Mother Earth.  States should work with indigenous peoples to guarantee their right to self-government, and that multilateral development banks respect international human rights standards before financing any project affecting indigenous peoples’ environment, health and fundamental rights of life.  Among other recommendations, she called for the Forum to reconcile indigenous peoples’ need to cross imposed colonial borders, and demanded that women, as givers of life, be protected.  The Forum should demand respect for the life of indigenous people and stop the criminalization of indigenous peoples with anti-terrorism legislation in North and South America.

JOSÉ ALEJANDRO LUNA RAMOS, Chief of Justice at the Electoral Court, Mexico, said that the Court promoted progressive measures to enhance political and electoral rights of indigenous peoples, ensuring that they have full enjoyment of rights of political and electoral nature.  In a civil case in 2012, the Court recognized an electoral system involving both Western and indigenous peoples.  A ruling guaranteed self governance of those groups.  He looked forward to the recommendations the Forum would adopt.  Since childhood, he had known the need to conserve cultural identities, and there was no need of convincing him on that.  Indigenous peoples needed space for their development.

The representative of the Assembly of First Nations, Canada stressed the importance of achieving reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the State.  Reconciliation required recognition by the State of indigenous peoples and their inherent rights.  First Nations must be involved in the development of any international mechanisms, including an optional protocol to the Declaration.  The upcoming visit to Canada by the Special Rapporteur was welcome news.  First Nations’ rights, including the right to development, should be recognized and indigenous communities must be involved in the scheduling of the visit.  The Rapportuer should be free to visit any parts of Canada.

CARINA MARTENSSON ( Sweden), speaking for the Nordic countries, said it was deplorable that, despite their enormous potential and ability to help tackle climate change, indigenous people worldwide were marginalized and excluded from decision-making.  With hope that the 2014 World Conference would result in substantive, concrete action to fully realize indigenous peoples’ rights,  she stressed the need for their full and effective participation in all stages of the conference, including formulating the outcome document.  Further, it was critical to maintain focus on the rights of indigenous women and girls, who suffered from multiple forms of discrimination.  They were key actors in revitalizing and developing indigenous peoples’ traditions, cultures and languages.

The representative of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus said that, for indigenous women, water was life.  She made numerous recommendations, among them urging States to protect indigenous peoples’ cultural right to water for sacred purposes, underscoring that the water pollution of such sacred sites was a violation of basic human rights.  She also called on United Nations agencies relating to water to hold a forum on water.  Further, prior approval of any project affecting lands or territories of indigenous people should not be conducted without their free, prior and informed consent.  As well, indigenous women must be protected against all forms of violence.

ALBERT BARUME, Permanent Observer of the International Labour Organization highlighted the ILO report on its activities relating to indigenous peoples, and called for wide ratification of ILO Convention 169, a legally binding instrument that would realize the rights of indigenous people, and enable indigenous people to help shape the future.  To date, it had been ratified by 22 countries.  He enumerated ILO meetings in which indigenous representatives had participated and spoke of Conventions 107 and 169 as they related to indigenous people.  Concern for indigenous people remained a priority for the ILO, he said, noting the Organization’s willingness to work further with the Forum.

RAJA DEVASISH ROY, member of the Forum, said that the ILO tripartite system consisting of Member States, trade unions and employer associations made access by indigenous peoples difficult.  He asked the ILO to reform its system so that indigenous peoples could have direct access without having to go through one of those entities, suggesting having observer status as a possible solution.  He also asked that the ILO committee of experts engage indigenous peoples when dealing with Conventions 107 and 169, which affected them.

OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), noting that the Forum had two representatives from his country, described his country as a multicultural one.  His Government’s policy was guided by five pillars, including cultural diversity, dissemination of indigenous culture, institutional restructuring, peace, public order and dialogue.  Without participation of indigenous people in decision-making, there would be no progress.  However, despite some achievements, much remained to be done.  A proposal had been made to establish a national-level council of indigenous peoples who would serve as advisers to form national policy.  He also stressed the importance of preserving indigenous languages.  Fewer and fewer people spoke ancestral languages.  It was essential to provide intercultural and bilingual education.  His Government had met most of the goals it set out to achieve in that regard.

The representative of Crimean Tatar Mejlis called for measures to address the issue of his indigenous community in Ukraine, who had been deported in 1944 under the then Soviet Communist regime and had been deprived of their language and land.  He urged the Government of Ukraine to take steps to restore their rights.  However, since the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union, over the past 22 years, the situation had gotten worse, with not a single law established to that end and with discrimination persisting in different forms.  Funding for former deportees had been reduced.  He called for the international community’s support to hold an international forum on the restoration and return of the Crimean Tatar’s rights in their homeland.

OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) noted that indigenous peoples had been victimized in genocides, discrimination and resource exploitation.  In Cuba, too, some indigenous communities had been exterminated over the few decades of colonization.  The adoption of the Declaration was a historic victory, which would help indigenous peoples to achieve their ancestral rights.  Minor progress had been made in that field and much remained to be done.  Welcoming the holding of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, he affirmed that Cuba would contribute to a tangible outcome at the Conference by sharing best practices.  It was a “regrettable reality” that indigenous peoples were suffering from discrimination, marginalization, violence, denial of land and resource exploitation.

The representative of the Navajo National Human Rights Commission said the United States should adopt the Declaration, and that all Government departments replace the word “consultation” with the international standard, “free, prior and informed consent”, particularly with regard to sacred places, since current consultation policy did not provide for consent.  Despite its general trust responsibility towards indigenous peoples, the United States frequently allowed desecration of indigenous sacred sites for non-indigenous commercial gain.  He then made recommendations in three areas:  prioritizing self-determination, lands, territories and resources; effective measures to implement the Declaration; and formal participation by indigenous nations.

LAURA PHIPPS ( United States) was committed to making her Government’s support for the Declaration meaningful.  However, an optional protocol to a non-binding document was inappropriate.  It would be unrealistic to have reporting mechanisms for all Declarations.  She enumerated several measures taken by the United States on indigenous issues, among them an annual tribal nations conference, along with an annual progress report detailing what had been undertaken relative to indigenous peoples.  Various Government entities agencies, among them, the Departments of the Interior and Justice, as well as the White House, looked to the Declaration as they worked in consultation with tribal leaders.  Included among the policies were measures for indigenous people with disabilities.  The Declaration was a non-binding document, and so, did not entail legal obligations.  However, national laws aimed to improve indigenous tribal access to justice, as well as in areas, such as the use of tribal justice systems, in addressing violence against women.

The representative of CSUTCB Bolivia said that Bolivia was moving from a colonial to a sovereign State.  In the transitional period, a plurinational State had been instituted and laws from the colonial system were being changed to laws that engaged indigenous people in line with their own cultures.  Indigenous peoples were involved at many administrative levels.  They wanted to build a new civilization in which people learned to live in harmony with nature and each other as an example to the world.  He called upon Governments to respect indigenous peoples and, in so doing to respect the norms of nature.

JENNY BEDFORD, Australian Human Rights Commission and MANDY DOHERTY ( Australia) said that the Commission facilitated dialogue between the Government and indigenous peoples.  Recognizing past injustices, they saw the Declaration as an opportunity to reconcile indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.  Much progress had been made.  Indigenous populations now enjoyed control over more than 20 per cent of the Australian land mass.  Work was ongoing to set out how to implement the Declaration.  The Government was working with the Commission and other indigenous organizations to raise widespread awareness of the Declaration and what it meant in an Australian context.  Giving practical effect to the Declaration provided everyone the opportunity to improve outcomes for indigenous peoples.

MEGAN DAVIS, Forum member, then introduced the report on the extent of violence against indigenous women and girls in terms of article 22(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  She said there was a paucity of literature on violence against indigenous women and girls, and on how indigenous women and girls saw violence.  Violence against indigenous women and girls was endemic worldwide and was found not only in the private domain of home, family and community, but also in the public domain, perpetrated by States and corporations.

There were many causes of violence in the private domain, she continued, many resulting from colonization.  However, that causation must not be used to excuse domestic violence, which often inhibited indigenous women and girls from reporting it.  Efforts in combating such violence were more likely to be successful where the indigenous community exercised a degree of ownership over necessary measures and responses.  Further, partnerships between indigenous communities and the State in tackling the issue were more likely to be successful than a programme devised by the State alone.

Interactive Dialogue

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people highlighted his activities over the past year, including working with the Governments of Chile and Peru on developing procedures to consult with indigenous peoples about decisions affecting them, his country visits to the United States, Namibia and El Salvador, and his meeting with indigenous representatives from Asia, to name a few.

He then drew attention to his most recent Joint Communications Report of Special Procedures Mandate Holders, which presented letters between him and the Governments of countries where alleged violations of indigenous rights had occurred.  Those cases involved threats to traditional land rights, acts of violence, forced removals for large-scale development projects and the suppression of indigenous peoples’ own forms of self-government, among other areas.

He underscored that the effects of extractive industries on indigenous peoples were one of their most pressing concerns worldwide.  He had met with indigenous peoples, Governments and companies to gather their perspectives and had launched an online forum for further discussion.  His report on the matter, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in the fall, would promote the development of new models for extractive operations that better respected and advanced the rights of indigenous peoples.

He went on to say that harmonized activities which affected indigenous peoples within the United Nations system was necessary, ensuring that any design and execution of their activities and programmes were consistent with and reinforced the Declaration. In addition, new instruments should be consistent with international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples and existing ones should be implemented with indigenous rights in mind.

In closing, he drew attention to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 and said that, among many contributions, it would create more concerted efforts within the United Nations system to advance the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as serve as a cause for celebration of indigenous peoples and their contributions around the world.


POLINE SOLEHAY, Minister for Amerindian Affairs, Guyana said that her country’s ethnic commission offered Amerindians recourse to rights issues facing them, with the 2006 Amerindian Act providing land rights for Amerindians.  However, it did not provide for the right to succession.  She highlighted the success of a demarcation programme that had enabled the demarcation of 77 of 98 titled areas thus far, noting that the Government’s 2013-2015 demarcation programme was expected to complete all remaining demarcation cases.  Further, Amerindian organizations were politically active and had an informed voice.  The Government was also focused on mainstreaming Amerindians into the economy through investment funds to support Amerindian communities and Amerindian youth-development projects.  Her Government, she stated, was firmly on the side of the country’s indigenous people.

The representative of the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus recommended, among others, that the Forum create a task force and report on the impacts on indigenous nations in North America who were directly affected by States’ maintenance of “recognized” and “unrecognized”, and/or “status” and “non-status” categories of indigenous peoples.  The right to self-determination included the ability of indigenous peoples to identify themselves.  In addition, the border crossing issue had been included in the Caucus’s report to the Forum’s eleventh session, noting concern that Canada was still not implementing the Declaration.  The Caucus recommended that Canada’s immigration act be amended to comply with the relevant articles and to acknowledge the inherent right of the Haudenosaunee people to establish their own residency standards.

WEND WENDLAND, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), recalled the dialogue his organization held the Forum to “listen, learn, inform and explain”.  As a result, the Forum had made several recommendations to the WIPO and its Member States.  Regarding the development of a legal instrument on misappropriation of traditional culture, he said that “issues are complex and there are diverging views on the issue”.  He urged the Forum to participate in that process, noting that the WIPO had a few mechanisms to enhance the participation of indigenous people, one being a voluntary fund used for such purposes.  However, that fund was running short of money.  There was also an expert panel involving indigenous peoples, who had an opportunity to work at the Organization.  Four successful fellows had been accepted.

Following up on recommendations made by the Forum, QAPAS CONDE, another official from the WIPO, noted that his agency understood the importance of the Declaration and held a workshop on traditional knowledge at its headquarters.  A programme was being developed on capacity-building regarding intellectual property.

ELOY FRANK GÓMEZ, Deputy Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, said that, since 2010, the Government had successfully implemented its commitments to the country’s indigenous people, issuing 21 of the 22 requests for land titles from indigenous peoples.  The total land governed by those titles represented about 30 per cent of the national territory and would be handed over to indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.  The Government had also approved a decree defending the rights of Mother Earth in the Bosawas biosphere reserve, with an aim to protect its biodiversity, as well as the indigenous inhabitants’ right to their traditional property.  A commission under several Government entities, including the Ministry of National Maritime Resources and the Secretariat for Development, would ensure implementation of the plan to protect and manage the reserve, in coordination with local families and groups.

The representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, pointing out that indigenous youth and children comprised the majority of people living in indigenous communities, stated that more support from the Forum was needed to empower indigenous youth and women.  She lamented that despite repeated calls for action, very little of the Declaration’s principles had been implemented thus far.  The Special Rapporteur should start a holistic investigation into indigenous peoples that had not been recognized due to political obstacles in the international arena and lack of access to education.  Among other recommendations, she also called for a thorough study on violence against indigenous youth and children under the pretext of the war on drug trafficking, the militarization of indigenous peoples’ territories and the over-policing of indigenous youth.  Indigenous courts, as well, should be set up to ensure restorative justice.

MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN (Denmark/Greenland) said it was encouraging to see violations of land, territories and resources not only being addressed in human rights treaty bodies, but that those bodies were issuing opinions or recommendations.  Yet, insufficient media and public attention frequently led to questionable implementation of those recommendations.  As well, insufficient resources supporting the treaty bodies’ operations led to a backlog of cases and inadequate follow-up and monitoring.  Her country had doubled its voluntary contribution to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to strengthen those treaties’ resources, but was keenly aware that more than funds would be necessary.  In addition, she looked forward to the final study on an optional protocol to the Declaration.

The representative speaking on behalf of the Asia Caucus said most indigenous peoples, who were the most disadvantaged, discriminated, marginalized and vulnerable groups, were experiencing increasingly severe human rights violations by State and non-State actors.  The absence of the thorough, impartial and independent investigation of human rights violations remained a serious concern.  The Caucus also was concerned with the threats created by development projects, such as mining ventures, oil palm plantations, giant hydro-electric projects, eco-tourism and the expansion of military bases.  He called on the United Nations to urge Asian Governments to stop the militarization of indigenous territories and, instead, engage in meaningful dialogues with indigenous people, implement recommendations made by past and present Special Rapporteurs, and end impunity and immediately prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations and indemnify the victims.

ANARU MILL ( New Zealand) said his Government had adopted a series of human rights laws and measures to implement the Declaration, with a focus that supported the Maori people’s participation in resolving their grievances in governance matters.  After his 2011 visit to New Zealand, the Special Rapporteur had noted “significant strides” in advancing the rights of the Maori and that New Zealand’s treaty settlement process, while not beyond criticism, was “one of the most important examples in the world”.  Since 2009, 36 deeds of settlement had been signed to resolve historical grievances, with the Government more than half way through completing all its historical grievance claims.

However, he continued, the Maori still had a relatively disadvantaged socioeconomic condition.  The Government was committed to working with the Iwi Leaders Group, a collective tribal leadership group, to find more effective public policy and service solutions and had adopted concrete targets to improve health, education, economic and other key outcomes.  The landmark Deed of Settlement negotiated between the Government and the Tuhoe tribe would be signed in early June, which would turn over ownership of the Te Urewera national park to the Tuhoe tribe and give the Tuhoe a cash settlement.

The representative of National Khoi-San Council of South Africa commended his nation’s Government for voting in favour of the Declaration, but expressed concern over the slow implementation of the instrument.  While the nation’s Constitution guaranteed individual rights, it failed to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  It did not provide for the Khoi-San peoples to live accordingly to their collective values, such as land, language and indigenous institutions.  The leadership and governance structures of the dominant tribes had been recognized 18 years ago upon the dismantling of apartheid.  But, today, the Khoi-San peoples were still struggling to get the same recognition from the Government, he stated, and he called for legislation that recognized their rights.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said that her country, which had adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, had long been committed to the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, which were given special attention in Brazil’s 1988 Constitution.  Actions had been undertaken to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation, including securing their land rights.  The Government had also recently created an interministerial working group mandated to develop a specific protocol on health care for isolated indigenous peoples, as well as a contingency plan for epidemic outbreaks.  She further emphasized the importance of intense participation of indigenous representatives in the formation of public policy, with paramount importance to gender issues, including promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous women.  Regarding land disputes between farmers and indigenous peoples, the Government had been closely monitoring legal processes that aimed to ensure land demarcation and full ownership of land to indigenous groups throughout the country.

CARLOS DE JESUS ALEJANDRO, Federal Deputy, Indigenous Parliament of Mexico, said that Mexico’s indigenous communities had successful forms of self-government that provided security and justice to prevent organized crime, an area which had overwhelmed the federal Government, and security and justice institutions.  Among other examples given, he highlighted the Indigenous Network of Alternative Tourism in Mexico as an example of a self-sustained indigenous development model.  However,  more than 20,000 mining exploration concessions in his country threatened indigenous community development models, noting that open-air mining was still permitted.  He asked the Forum to adopt the recommendation that States set up a monitoring and follow-up mechanism for indigenous peoples’ human rights, as well as a global observatory to harmonize relevant international law.

KGOMOTSO RAHLAGA ( South Africa) said her Government’s top priorities were improving education and health, economic expansion and fighting corruption and crime.  Within that context, the Government had made social development a priority to address inequality, unemployment and poverty, and would continue to consult with indigenous communities to address those challenges.  She took note of the study that called for an optional protocol to the Declaration and asked for more information on it, noting that she shared the concerns expressed by the United States’ representative.

The representative of CIARENA underscored the alarming increase in violence against human rights activists across Mexico, most pronounced in Oaxaca, where 20 women had been murdered recently.  Indigenous women human rights defenders, in particular, lived under persecution, death threats and forced displacement.  They also faced violence from extractive industries, noting the construction of windmill generators in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.  Support was needed from the international community, particularly for the situation in Oaxaca.  In that vein, she also made a number of recommendations, among them, calling for the investigation of the murders and attacks against indigenous women activists, and a complete analysis of the weak implementation of precautionary measures granted by relevant national organizations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

NAOTO HISAJIMA ( Japan) said that the Diet of Japan in 2008 had unanimously adopted resolutions based on the Declaration that called for the Ainu, of which some 24,000 resided on the Hokkaido Prefecture, to be recognized as an indigenous people, and for comprehensive policies to be developed for them.  Since that point, the Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy, comprising several high-level experts and an Ainu representative, recommended measures in education, revitalization of Ainu culture and promotion of Ainu businesses.

As well, he said, the Government had provided financial support for education, development of agriculture and fisheries, and industrial promotion of small companies, and had established the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion.  However, the Advisory Council’s 2011 report pointed to less-than-average income levels, unstable employment and low levels of education among the Ainu people in Hokkaido.  The Government was taking steps to rectify that through programmes for higher education and stable employment.

The representative of the Confederación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Indígenas Originarias de Bolivia “Bartolina Sisa” described several programmes being implemented by the Bolivian Government, including projects managed by indigenous women themselves.  Indigenous languages were enjoying a rebirth in Bolivia, thanks to work being done by the country’s universities, and health services were now reaching even the most remote indigenous communities.  Indigenous women were working on drafting a number of laws to protect and promote their rights, with several such laws already adopted.  Work was also under way to raise awareness about indigenous peoples who had recovered their languages and identities.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCÍA GONZÁLEZ ( El Salvador) said that his country had recently convened its first Indigenous National Congress, which was established to listen to the specific needs of El Salvador’s indigenous peoples.  The Ministry of Culture had been mandated to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples, promoting a human rights approach.  Expert round tables were set up to bring together representatives of health, labour, social welfare, housing and other sectors in order to propose public policies for indigenous peoples, in close consultation with indigenous communities themselves.  As well, the Legislative Assembly had also approved the first phase of reform of the Constitution, which would serve to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples.  Highlighting work that had been done around the visit of the Special Rapporteur, he noted, however, that much remained to be done.

The representative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, speaking on behalf of 14 Canadian Non-Governmental Organizations, said that indigenous women around the world had testified to the shockingly large amount of violence they faced.  States had not dedicated sufficient resources to the patterns that threatened their lives.  Most States did not maintain disaggregated data on such crimes, making them invisible.  That data was needed so those crimes could not be denied.  She recommended that States collaborate with indigenous peoples, and that special attention be paid to the needs of women and girls in implementing the Declaration, particularly when addressing such violence.

JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ ( Venezuela), calling the European invasion the greatest holocaust and violation of human rights in history, said its inhuman model of economic growth had violated the rights of all people, including indigenous people.  His country was moving towards a socialist model based on human values in which the rights of indigenous people were recognized.  The “Bolivarian Constitution”, inspired by the Declaration, contained an article recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, including their social and cultural customs and languages, as well as their rights over their ancestral lands.  Implementation of territorial rights was complex; landowners and others who did not recognize indigenous rights were resistant.  However, progress was being made.

The representative speaking for the Indigenous Peoples Organization Network of Australia and for the National Indigenous Higher Education Network and National Native Title Council made several recommendations, including encouraging Member States to use the United Nations Special Mechanisms to enhance their work on moving the rights of indigenous peoples forward, and engaging the Universal Periodic Review to report on their progress towards promoting free, prior and informed consent for the extractive industry.  The Network also encouraged Member States and indigenous peoples to provide case studies to the Special Rapporteur on successful partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous groups in land development.

CHARLOTTE SCHLYTER of the European Union delegation said that the Union’s Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy demonstrated its commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.  Moreover, the Union was ready to re-examine that policy ahead of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The Union would continue to address the gap between the promise of the Declaration and the reality of its implementation on the ground.  Noting the role the Special Rapporteur had played implementing the Declaration and in strengthening the three mechanisms, she asked how those mechanisms could work more efficiently together, as well as on how his own mandate could better work with the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.  Finally, she asked about trends on timely and positive responses on the part of States and about events in preparation for the World Conference.

The representative of the Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of the Violence in the Verapaces, Maya Achi said the Chixoy Hydroelectric Project in Guatemala had become a national and international symbol of megaprojects development models created for the financial benefit of economic sectors, not communities.  The construction of the dam had impacted more than 11,000 people and 33 communities.  It was urgent that the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, because of their complicity with the Guatemalan Government, finance the entire cost of the Reparations Plan, negotiated and agreed to through the negotiation table, for the benefit of the communities impacted by the dam’s construction.

AYSA MUKABENOVA ( Russian Federation) spoke of recent measures taken on sustainable development for minorities in the North, Siberia and the Far East.  Resources had been allocated to build new schools, social infrastructure and to provide traditional economic activities, among other things.  Efforts to ensure access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds and biological resources were being implemented.  Among other actions, there were also ongoing endeavours to improve the relationship of industrial companies with the indigenous communities, in the areas that those companies were working.  Protecting indigenous rights in was urgent, she stressed, and to that end her Government was currently working with the United Nations Working Group on Transnational Corporations on the matter.

The representative of the International Indian Treaty Council said that a multilateral convention on mercury recently adopted by States had used the term “indigenous communities” instead of indigenous peoples.  That had set a terrible precedent, she warned.

Another representative of the Indian Treaty Council then took the floor to note that many indigenous human rights defenders had been killed or imprisoned around the world.  He asked the Forum to undertake a study on violations against human rights activists who had been killed or were languishing in prisons.  He also remarked on comments made by the United States’ delegate who repeatedly referred to the Declaration as “non-binding”, a negative view which was part of that country’s long history of actions towards its indigenous peoples.

The representative of the Red Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas sobre Biodiversidad said that the Special Rapporteur’s report referred to the situation of indigenous peoples in the context of the Convention on Biodiversity.  That raised the question of how the continuity in human lives could be ensured, because, despite its vital importance, there was an accelerated loss of biodiversity.  Parties to that Convention had approved a Strategic Plan, which laid out 20 goals.  However, those goals would be unattainable without the necessary political will.  States were also developing strategic plans for the conservation and preservation of biodiversity.  In that vein, it was important to take account of the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, especially indigenous women, who were the bearers of ancestral and traditional knowledge.

The representative of the National Council of Indigenous Peoples called for the rejection of Chile’s laws which ignored the right of indigenous people to be consulted.  Until the right to consultation could be adequately enjoyed, it would be impossible to enjoy the right to indigenous lands, of great importance to those cultures.  Some laws were based on investment practices, which had been recognized by Chile’s Highest Supreme Court, without regard for indigenous rights.  Standards must be established on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the rest of society.  Dialogue must involve affected people.  “We need to bring rhetoric and practice closer together,” he said in closing.

The representative of YATAMA said that efforts towards a new relationship with indigenous peoples should be done directly through indigenous organizations as the only way to receive “prior, free and informed consent”.  The United Nations should review the form of participation with indigenous peoples and the practice of hiring people to work with them in a way that would fill the gap between reality and what Governments said was taking place.  Practice did not show that recommendations of the Forum were implemented.  Further, the Nicaraguan Government must work with indigenous territorial authorities in the border region where deforestation was leading to severe problems for indigenous groups.

Mr. ANAYA then responded to questions and comments raised by States and organizations, informing the representative of the European Union that more could be done to strengthen cooperation among the three mechanisms, in particular with the development of studies.  Coordination could also be improved in the area of communications of alleged rights violations of indigenous peoples.  As well, facilitate the flow of the information could be enhanced between the Forum — where many allegations were levelled — and his own mandate; a regularized mechanism might be useful in that regard.  As for the Universal Periodic Review, more could also be done to formalize the role of the special procedures mandate holders in that process.

On the matter of extractive industries, which several delegates addressed, he referred to previous reports on that issue, as well as to one which would be made public sometime before its presentation to the Human Rights Council at the end of the year.  He then remarked in closing that there was cause for celebration regarding the many challenges being discussed.  “We are here,” he said, to examine the situation of indigenous peoples around the world.  Indigenous peoples had survived generation after generation to continue contributing to the global fabric.  In the spirit of facing remaining challenges and moving forward, he pledged his commitment to working with the Forum, the Expert Mechanism and other relevant bodies to advance the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.

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