|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
7th Meeting (PM)
Chronic Marginalization, Fragmentation, Encroachment, Lack of Land Rights Make
Pastoralists in Africa among Poorest in World, Indigenous Forum Told
Member States , Intergovernmental Organizations, United Nations
Agencies Weigh in on Relationship between Governments, Pastoralists
Chronic marginalization, insecurity, non-recognition of land rights, poor infrastructure and limited commercialization had all combined to make traditional pastoralists some of the poorest, most vulnerable and disenfranchised people in the world, speakers stated today as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues considered the plight of those populations in Africa.
Presenting a report on resilience, traditional knowledge and capacity-building for pastoralist communities in Africa was Permanent Forum Chair Paul Kanyinke Sena, who noted that pastoralism in Africa reached back at least 8,000 years and that the pastoralists had played a foundational role in forming an indigenous peoples’ civil society in the continent.
He said, however, that not all pastoralists in Africa considered themselves indigenous peoples, as that term was understood by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations, but they were seeking to associate themselves with indigenous peoples’ rights, as their main challenge was the non-recognition of mobile land rights and tenure, stemming from colonial era laws that had eroded customary tenure systems and placed the rights of agricultural peoples first.
Concurring, Albert Barume of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, said that because hunters, gatherers and pastoralist peoples were nomads, they had left little sign of living on their land, allowing colonial Powers to claim that invisible land. He urged that measures be taken to correct that “historical injustice”, and noted that some African countries had done so.
Some speakers agreed that that legacy remained in contemporary Africa, throughout the lively debate that heard from Member States, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations bodies and specialized agencies.
A representative of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development said the Kenyan Government had forcibly removed the Ogieko people from the forests and turned over their land to Government officials and wealthy people. A representative of the Pastoralist Forum alleged forced evictions and other rights violations by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, which, the speaker said, had compelled them to migrate to urban areas, depriving them of their traditional livelihoods and exposing them to many health risks, including HIV/AIDS.
Several speakers told of other violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples, despite the presence, in some instances, of strong laws protecting them. The representative of Indigenous African Women, for example, detailed numerous breaches against pastoral women and girls ranging from their 75 per cent illiteracy rate in Eastern Africa to rates of violence against them that were so high that such acts were considered normal. In her home country, Kenya, most pastoralist women had to walk for hours to reach even basic health facilities. “Imagine a pregnant woman about to give birth” in that situation, she said.
Countering some of those assertions, the delegate from the United Republic of Tanzania said that his country had always expressed reservations about the claim that indigenous communities existed within its jurisdiction, as the “indigenous” notion was intended to belittle local communities during the colonial era, although, following independence, measures had been adopted to foster the well-being of all people, regardless of ethnicity or tribal affiliation.
The Kenyan Constitution, adopted in 2010, had created a new relationship between the Government and the governed, asserted that country’s representative. It was one of the most progressive documents in the world, particularly in terms of protecting the rights of marginalized and minority peoples, with an article explicitly dedicated to their inclusion. The devolved system of governance gave every community, down to the smallest, the right to choose how they would live, including in terms of making decisions about the use of resources. Still, it took time to get a new system of government to function effectively.
Also citing progress, Laurent Tengo, Legal Counsellor of the Congolese President, said that the will of African leaders to benefit indigenous peoples was clear, with most States on the continent supporting the Declaration and preparing to ratify the relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) convention.
Also speaking today was Forum member Edward John.
The delegates of Australia and Botswana also delivered statements.
A representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also spoke, and statements were also made on behalf of the Indigenous Women’s Caucus, Kgalagadi Youth and Women’s Development Network, Indigenous Peoples Partnership in Climate Change and Forests, Indigenous Information Network and Women Environment Project, El Pueblo Indigena Bubi de la Isla de Bioko, MPIDO Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility, Kalagi Youth and Women Development Network, Dakar Trust, Khwedom San Council, and the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 24 May, to continue its work.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to follow up on its past recommendations, particularly concerning the African region. For background information on the session, please see Press Release HR/5129.
Introduction of Report
PAUL KANYINKE SENA, Forum Chair, presenting the report on resilience, traditional knowledge and capacity-building for pastoralist communities in Africa (document E/C.19/2013/5), said that pastoralism in Africa reached back at least 8,000 years and the pastoralists had played a foundational role in forming an indigenous peoples’ civil society in the continent. However, not all pastoralists in Africa considered themselves indigenous peoples as that term was understood by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and United Nations.
He went on to say that major mobilizations of pastoralists claiming their indigenous peoples’ rights had taken place in most regions of the continent where pastoralism was prevalent, with the exception of the northeast, from Sudan to Somalia and Egypt.
The main challenge for pastoralists in Africa, he said, was the non-recognition of mobile land rights and tenure, which was also the key reason why they sought to associate themselves with indigenous peoples’ rights. He explained that insufficient land tenure stemmed from colonial legal traditions in Africa, which had eroded African customary tenure systems, placing greater emphasis on the territorial rights of agricultural peoples.
Elaborating, he said that pastoralism was built on the principle that the ecosystem required time to regenerate and adjust to shifting climate cycles and that humans and domestic animals needed to move to protect biodiversity and human livelihoods. As a result, pastoralists had excellent adaptive abilities to climatic changes and were more likely to survive such changes than farmers.
He then enumerated the reports’ conclusions and recommendations, among them, that relevant United Nations agencies and the secretariats of conventions that influenced agricultural policies on the continent could convene a workshop on African pastoralism, indigenous peoples’ rights and climate adaptation; the Permanent Forum could focus on ensuring that national policies on indigenous pastoralism complied with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2003 report of the African Commission; that entities relevant to African pastoralists should look into the Global Drylands Initiative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and that relevant agencies work with indigenous rights holders on the inclusion of traditional knowledge in platforms for African adaptation and climate policymaking.
Panel Discussion on Africa
The panel featured Simon M’viboudoulou, Forum member; Laurent Tengo, Legal Counsellor of the President of the Republic of the Congo; Vital Bambaze, Representative of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, an indigenous organization; Albert Barume, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Agnes Leina, the representative of the Indigenous African Women.
Mr. M’VIBOUDOULOU, Forum member, highlighted how the body, since its creation, had taken up issues of development and human rights for indigenous peoples. The discussions addressed, among other things, the concerns facing indigenous men, women, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities, and served as space for Governments, international organizations, United Nations entities, regional organizations, indigenous communities and other stakeholders to share experiences and best practices and learn from each other to improve the situation for indigenous peoples. Africa had the same issues as elsewhere in the world, but might need attention and solutions tailored to each. Today’s debate “is already a good practice” as it could lay out ways to improving the situation “at least a little”.
He outlined some key elements for States to consider before developing national policy and plans for indigenous peoples. Each country must know the size of the indigenous communities and create cultural mapping. They also should understand indigenous peoples’ challenges and indentify their human potential to deal with those challenges. It was also vital to maintain a statistical database. “Leaders in Africa must listen to issues that concern them,” he said. In that regard, it was important that indigenous peoples had adequate representation in decision-making, whether in parliaments or local assemblies. Exclusion of indigenous peoples from those processes was not in accordance with democracy and the rule of law. There was a need to fight against discriminatory practices. The Earth was “our mother”, and therefore, indigenous people, as “Earth dwellers”, should be guaranteed their rights without conditions.
Mr. TENGO also stressed the importance of the Forum as an interface for dialogue. He said African States were increasingly aware of the issues relating to indigenous peoples and they were strengthening the rule of law to eliminate discriminatory practices. Africa should not sit on the sideline on that issue. The will of African leaders to benefit indigenous peoples was clear, with most States on the continent supporting the Declaration and preparing to ratify the relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) convention.
He drew attention to a report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, compiled by its working group on the rights of indigenous populations and communities on the notion of “indigeneity” in Africa. He underscored constitutional reform, court decisions and other measures taken in favour of indigenous peoples in such countries as Kenya, Cameroon, Burundi and his own. For their parts, it was important for indigenous peoples to express themselves without an intermediary. The Government of the Congo was renewing its commitment to rally African leaders behind indigenous peoples and the holding of a world conference in 2014.
Mr. BAMBAZE stressed that Africa was a continent in which one third of the world’s languages were spoken, where ecosystems were so diverse and where human civilization had been born. It was a continent rich in natural resources, culture, wisdom and traditional knowledge. In 2003, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognized the notion of indigeneity on the continent. Highlighting a few important points, he said that traditional knowledge was “key to sustainable future”. It was essential to protect natural and irreplaceable heritage, and he urged United Nations agencies to do more to document traditional knowledge in a more equitable manner.
He added that indigenous peoples were “equal partners” in conserving the nature. Traditional knowledge could also be used to address the effect of climate change. To that end, he stressed the need for United Nations entities to map the presence of traditional knowledge, with the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Another key element was human rights, and his organization had launched a project to document violations, including rape, illegal imprisonment and torture. Lastly, he recommended that the United Nations and the African Union set up high-level forums on issues affecting indigenous peoples, such as climate change and insufficient participation in decision-making.
Mr. BARUME recalled that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had decided in 2000 to commission a study by an expert group on the concept of indigeneity in Africa. Because hunters, gatherers and pastoralist peoples were nomads, they had left little sign of living on their land. Colonial Powers had claimed that invisible land. The report of the expert group concluded that measures should be taken to correct that historical injustice. Highlighting measures taken in African States, he noted that Cameroon, for instance, had crafted a development plan for indigenous peoples.
Ms. LEINA, highlighting the concerns of pastoralist women, said that about 75 per cent of pastoralist women in eastern Africa were illiterate and lagged far behind in realizing Millennium Development Goal 2 on achieving universal primary school enrolment. They were the last to receive education, and those who did, usually dropped out an early age. A study was needed on that issue. Pastoralist women also needed property ownership and inheritance rights, which they had by law in Kenya, but practice said otherwise. For pastoralist women’s voices to be heard, they should be included at all levels of leadership, “50-50” with men.
Continuing, she said that most pastoralist women had to walk three to four hours to reach even basic health facilities. “Imagine a pregnant woman about to give birth,” in that situation, she said. Although Kenya had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, large numbers of pastoralist women faced high rates of violence, but spoke of such incidents casually, as though they were normal. Women must be made aware of their rights to end the violence. They produced beautiful artefacts, but needed entrepreneurial capacity-building to get those to markets and build self-esteem.
RAMADHAN M. MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country had always expressed reservations about the claim that indigenous communities existed within its jurisdiction, as the “indigenous” notion was intended to belittle local communities during the colonial era. After independence, measures had been adopted to foster the well-being of all people, regardless of ethnicity or tribal affiliation. The Government provided social amenities and economic empowerment to all communities, including minority groups. Most communities had evolved, taking up new ventures alongside customary ones, but a few continued to depend on access to lands and natural resources. A productive social safety net aimed to support the poorest communities, including to protect households from seasonal and unexpected shocks and empower them against food poverty.
He said that a certificate of village land was issued to those who formed into a village for the purpose of recognition. By law, a village was the only legally recognized autonomous entity on land matters, whereby a land certificate was offered for the whole community. However, in some instances, hunter-gatherers might not constitute the number required by law to form a village. Nonetheless, in 2011, the Hadzabe were granted a Collective Community Land Certificate without necessarily meeting the requirements. Importantly, minority groups participated in decision-making, including voting. He urged the global community to work with his Government to support all communities, including the Masai.
The representative of the Indigenous Women’s Caucus said Africa suffered from poverty, conflict, malnutrition and other socioeconomic ills. Indigenous women in Africa faced even greater challenges because they had been pushed to the periphery and had no voice in decision-making. Government policies and programmes had made things worse. Indigenous women lacked adequate maternal and general health care, limited access to education, gender-based violence, food insecurity and land dispossession. They were not allowed to manage their own properties and resources. Governments should develop policies and programmes that ensured an end to violence against women and ensure that they were treated with respect and dignity. Women should be able to make decisions concerning policies and programmes that affected them. She called for capacity-building programmes for women in health, education and water conservation and management.
TERENCE HAY-EDIE, Programme Adviser, Biodiversity, Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said in the last five years, UNDP’s Small Grants Programme had been able to reduce coverage to 39 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Small Grants Programme provided direct access for indigenous peoples to projects in biodiversity, mitigation of climate change degradation, and sustainable land management. The Grants Programme was working in seven African countries on community-based mitigation of climate change. Efforts from previous Permanent Forum sessions had borne fruit in West Africa and Central Africa, with indigenous communities preparing their own video proposals on their projects and use of the grant funding.
He said that the Grants Programme would focus in the next four years on topics related to traditional knowledge and on contributing to achievement of the 2020 biodiversity targets. UNDP recognized the importance of collaboration with the United Nations University (UNU) and UNESCO on traditional knowledge projects as a way to adapt to climate change, and it planned to help women’s groups in Africa market their products. UNDP had been collecting lessons on four World Heritage sites in the last several years, providing local grant support to local communities in the buffer areas around them. It hoped to organize a workshop in Kenya with the African Development Centre on their Africa nature programme.
A representative of Kgalagadi Youth and Women’s Development Network (African Caucus) said that women were the backbone of the family and the community, yet they were being abused by brothers, fathers, uncles and community members. They did not have power over their own bodies. “The time has come to empower women,” she stressed, which meant gaining skills and building self-confidence. Women were honest, reliable and participatory in their approaches, always placing the needs of the community at the centre of their actions. Indigenous women’s entrepreneurism and traditional knowledge should be harnessed into a sustainable livelihood for them to contribute to their communities. She urged that their role in society be reaffirmed and that men see women as equal partners. Resources must be provided to support women solidarity groups at the grass-roots and national levels, as must a platform for indigenous women to discuss issues affecting them. “Women should be seen as an asset and not a liability,” she asserted.
ALISON CHARTRES ( Australia), Australian Agency for International Development, said that mobile pastoralism could be both economically and ecologically efficient. However, despite its advantages, pastoral systems today were struggling to provide and sustain livelihoods. Chronic marginalization, insecurity, land tenure, poor infrastructure and limited commercialization had all combined to undermine the practice, making traditional pastoralists some of the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized people in the world. There was a need to help build the capacity and accountability of Governments to protect the well-being of their traditional nomadic peoples, and the 2011 crisis in the Horn of Africa had highlighted the importance of building resilience. Australia’s response to that crisis, valued at over $100 million since 2011, was complemented by aid programmes that were helping to build community resilience and long-term food security across sub-Saharan Africa.
A representative of the Pastoralist Forum, speaking on behalf of five organizations, said that the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania failed to recognize that it had indigenous people living on its territory, leading to numerous violations of those peoples’ human rights. Among the numerous indigenous communities he named were the Masai, whom, he said, were recognized as an indigenous people elsewhere. Yet, the Tanzanian Government was conducting forced evictions of indigenous peoples and, among other violations, had allowed World Heritage sites to be established without indigenous peoples’ free, prior, informed consent. At one such site, Ngoro Ngoro, for example, severe drought had forced indigenous people to migrate to urban areas, depriving them of their livelihoods and exposing them to many health risks, including HIV/AIDS.
HALALAKANGWA MBULAI ( Botswana) said that the Government ensured the rights of all people and, among its many initiatives, had an affirmative action framework aimed at fast-tracking development in remote areas, so that those areas could be brought into parity with the rest of the country. At one stage, the peoples of those areas had led a nomadic life and so had not accumulated any assets. The purpose of the Plan was to promote development of people individually and in families; to empower them to participate in the life of the country; and, among other things, to afford them social services and national development programmes. Identifying challenges in all sectors, the plan gave preferential attention to remote areas, with one aim being to provide full support for all students who had been accepted to tertiary educational institutions. In closing, she said that the success of the Framework depended on the involvement of the entire Government.
A representative of the Indigenous Peoples Partnership in Climate Change and Forests said the partnership had been set up to strengthen indigenous peoples’ ability to influence policies on national forestry management and conservation. It had been active in Africa for several years and had brought partners in Kenya, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to climate change negotiations to help them understand how that phenomenon would affect their communities and to give them the opportunity to discuss the matter with officials of their own countries. She called on Governments to reform policies on forests and climate change, and to conduct research on traditional knowledge systems.
Touching on a few troubling developments, the speaker noted that partners in Cameroon that were hunters and gathers had been displaced from their forest and forced to work in agriculture, leading to food insecurity and health problems. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some partners were being displaced by the country’s internal conflict. Governments should review their policies, laws and programmes, with a view to erasing discriminatory practices against indigenous people. Governments always considered forests as State property. She called for greater analysis of that phenomenon, especially in Africa where many forests were conserved by indigenous people. Governments must address the displacement of indigenous people from their communities and set up grievance mechanisms where they could log complaints and seek recourse for displacement. She lauded Kenya’s new constitution for recognizing the rights of pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, and hoped that other countries would follow suit.
A representative of the Indigenous Information Network and Women Environment Project said that African indigenous women faced multiple forms of discrimination, including a lack of access to education, health care and ancestral lands. They suffered from poor health, due to poor sanitary facilities. Despite protections afforded by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to education and health care had not been fully realized. As such, she urged the Forum to recommend that African States improve their health-care systems to foster rights-based approaches to health and culturally acceptable health-care services. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) should work with States to improve access to education for indigenous children through mother-tongue-based multilingual education. Finally, it was most important that indigenous youth participate in the Forum and other decision-making platforms.
JOHN MOSOTI ( Kenya), noting that much had been said about indigenous peoples in Kenya during the meeting, said that the Constitution adopted in 2010 had created a new relationship between the Government and the governed. It was one of the most progressive documents in the world, particularly in terms of protecting the rights of marginalized and minority peoples. Article 56 specifically addressed their inclusion. Education and health had become basic rights in Kenya and “you could take up the Government if you felt that your rights had been violated”.
Further, he said, the devolved system of governance gave every community, down to the smallest, the right to choose how they would live, including in terms of making decisions about the use of resources. Everyone must have a voice, and for that reason, the Constitution guaranteed choice of leadership at all levels. The judiciary was independent and strong and there was also a robust civil society advancing minorities’ rights. However, challenges remained, including that there were never enough resources. Plus, it took time to get a new system of government to function effectively.
A representative of El Pueblo Indigena Bubi de la Isla de Bioko, speaking for the people of the Island of Bioko, explained that the island was off the coast of Cameroon and that its people, the Bubis, were knowledgeable about livestock and fishing and devoted themselves to their families and spiritual lives. They expressed their right for a sovereign State. At one time a colony of Spain, the island had been made part of what was now Equatorial Guinea. When that country became independent, in 1968, the Bubis leader was assassinated and the cocoa crops, which had made the island great, had been destroyed.
The speaker said that the Bubis had been marginalized and, among other rights violations, were forced to speak languages that were not their own. And although the island had oil and gas, the Bubis were not benefitting from those resources. He asked the Forum to urge the Government of Equatorial Guinea to put an end to the confiscation of Bubi lands and to allow Bubi exiles to return so that they might enjoy their political rights. He requested that an appeal be made to President Nguema Obiang to stop the intimidation of islanders to keep them from voting in upcoming presidential elections.
A representative of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development said the Kenyan Government had forcibly removed the Ogieko people from the forests and turned over their land to Government officials and wealthy people. The influx of illegal settlers had reached the point where much of the Mau forest had been degraded. Kenya’s judiciary had rejected the Ogeik peoples’ repeated calls for assistance and justice. On the contrary, the justice system had not even given them a full hearing. Subsequently, the Ogiek took their case to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, which ruled that the Kenyan Government must not evict the Ogiek community from their ancestral homes in the Mau Forest. The historic ruling effectively banned land transaction in the Mau forest. It reached the decision out of concern that the Government's actions violated the Ogiek’s right to enjoyment of their cultural and traditional values, their right to property, as well as their right to economic, social and cultural development, enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The speakers said that United Nations agencies were too interested in research for the purposes of restoration of the Mau forest cover than in protecting the rights of the Ogiek. Moreover, there was no policy paper on the matter for discussion. He appealed to the United Nations to move faster and pressure the Kenyan Government to respect the African Court’s decision. The United States Embassy in Kenya should be more practical and provide visas to Ogeik trying to attend the Permanent Forum’s sessions.
EDWARD JOHN, Permanent Forum member, acknowledged passage of the law in 2011 by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support the Declaration. Indigenous people in North America, the Pacific and Asia were familiar with the argument invoked by many Governments that they could take over land under the premise that no one owned it. That, however, negated the fact that the lands were the ancestral home of indigenous peoples. The Doctrine of Discovery was still invoked today by Governments, despite having been condemned by the Declaration. In British Columbia, Canada, a Court of Appeals, in June 2012, had applied the principle of discovery to justify the denial of land rights of an indigenous group. The case was now before Canada’s Supreme Court.
A representative of the MPIDO Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility said “MPIDO” was a programme of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) focused on grass-roots development for indigenous people. It issued grants of up to $50,000 and promoted article 32, section 1 of the Declaration, by which indigenous people had the right to determine how to use their land.
Explaining that the Facility’s focus was on Africa, she noted that it was managing 10 projects in nine countries, whose results indicated a holistic transformation. She cited a project to restore a species of trees in Ethiopia, which had been used as a model of payment for ecosystem services. One grant benefitted a 40-year-old widow with two children, enabling her to purchase livestock. Due to limited resources, communities had developed creative ways to survive. Sixty families had received 120 livestock through the Facility. Indigenous communities were critical drivers with innovative ideas. The demand for IFAD was growing, and she called on Member States and other partners to co-finance the Fund.
A representative of the Kalagi Youth and Women Development Network said the San people in Northern Cape Province were among the most marginalized groups in South Africa. As hunters and gatherers, they depended largely on access to land and to natural resources. Often, the San had been forced off their ancestral land to make room for white farmers, who occupied it through illegal leasing practices. That had led to high levels of unemployment, illiteracy and the destruction of the San’s cultural traditions. In April, the Government had announced it would reopen cases of land claims by the San and Khoi peoples, as a way to reverse the “negative effects of the 1913 Native’s Land Act”. She urged the Government to establish a long-standing committee to immediately address the human rights violations of the San and Khoi people; invest specifically in educating girls in the San communities; provide the San people with clean drinking water, sanitation and proper housing; and reopen the land restitution cases in South Africa with a special focus on, among others, addressing the need for cultural and heritage practices.
The representative of Dakar Trust said that indigenous people in Botswana today suffered from a lack of political and social recognition, secure land tenure — including access to and use of their ancestral lands and resources — access to justice and indigenous rights-based development. Botswana had not implemented the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people of 2010, nor had it honoured the Botswana High Court decisions on the Central Kalahari case of 2006. Numerous San had been dispossessed of land in the last five years and hunting was no longer legal in Botswana. The speaker, therefore, made a number of recommendations, including, among others, that the Government implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur; that collective rights, including the right to culture, be included in Botswana’s Constitution; that hunting and gathering be protected in the Constitution and in national laws; and that water rights for San communities be secured.
A representative of the Khwedom San Council said most indigenous youth in Africa had lost some aspects of their traditional values, resulting in a sense of rootlessness and identity loss. They suffered extreme marginalization. The promotion and protection of ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities was crucial for socioeconomic stability and cultural diversity. He recommended creation of an African youth caucus and its formal recognition in all United Nations forums and other decision-making platforms. African youth should be given the necessary assistance, including in the post-2015 campaign to achieve the sustainable development goals. The African youth movement must be broadened.
He called on African States to adopt and implement the Declaration, review and amend national law in line with the text, and integrate customary indigenous laws into national laws and policies. United Nations agencies should work with the Governments of Namibia, Botswana, Kenya and others to implement the recommendations aimed at enabling indigenous youth to achieve their potential.
The representative of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People outlined various challenges facing indigenous peoples in Africa, citing data from Save the Children showing that the risks of having a baby were greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had noted that the subregion also had the highest number of children out of school. Despite that, Africa was the birthplace of 30 per cent of the world’s languages — which were critical to cultural heritage, yet many countries were losing their languages owing to national assimilation and integration policies. “We are either invisible or lost,” she said. Further, the Ogoni community had been exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in air and drinking water — sometimes at elevated concentrations. She called on Nigeria to implement the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the environmental assessment of Ogoniland, and on African Governments to legally and constitutionally recognize indigenous peoples. The principle of free, prior and informed consent should guide all investments in indigenous territories.
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