|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)
Indigenous Peoples ‘Best Guardians of Mother Earth’, Permanent Forum Told as It
Heads into Week Two with Spotlight on ‘Must Haves’ for 2014 World Conference
Assigning Lesser Role to Indigenous Peoples than to Member States
At International Conference Would Violate Very Rights It Means to Defend
Indigenous peoples should be highlighted as “the best guardians of the Mother Earth” in the outcomes of all preparatory processes leading up to next year’s high-level global conference on the topic, where the expectation was a “strong indigenous voice” on matters that affected them, the United Nations Permanent Forum heard today as it began its second week of work.
Recalling a General Assembly resolution of December 2010 to hold a high-level plenary meeting in 2014, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, speakers from diverse indigenous groups, Forum members and Member States explored modalities for the landmark meeting, with the common goal of accelerating implementation of the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Forum member Mirna Cunningham Kain said “2014 should be seen as a year in which countries deepen their political measures and implement the Declaration” and that to that end, the documents and outcomes derived from preparatory processes should indicate priorities for regions, sectors and groups and serve as a basis for a global position on indigenous issues. She stressed the importance of regional preparatory processes and the need to ensure the full and efficient participation of indigenous peoples in drafting the outcome documents.
Citing the Declaration, the representative of Paraguay said that “efforts should not stop there”. The World Conference would actually bring the Declaration closer to its implementation. The delegate from the Russian Federation joined the many speakers who stressed that the Conference would be an opportunity to review the seven years since the Declaration’s adoption. Guyana’s Minister of Amerindian Affairs, agreeing that the summit presented an “ample opportunity” to consider indigenous issues, hoped for a concrete outcome that tackled challenges of land tenure security and sustainability development.
Heeding a concern over the non-binding nature of the Declaration, the delegate representing Denmark and Greenland said she looked forward to the Permanent Forum’s study on an optional protocol to the text and a focus on a potential voluntary mechanism to serve as a complaint body at the international level for breaches of indigenous peoples’ rights. Denmark and Greenland were also interested in possible establishment of a high-level official for indigenous peoples, with the aim of boosting United Nations capacity and efforts towards ensuring the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, she added.
On the modalities of the World Conference, several speakers called for non-discriminatory participation of indigenous peoples and organizations, including those that were not accredited with the Economic and Social Council, and reminded Member States of the requirement to respect the articles of the Declaration to secure full and equal participation of indigenous peoples in the meeting and preparatory process.
A representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus said that the World Conference was “not in fact a world conference for indigenous peoples”, but a high-level General Assembly plenary meeting, whose structure made indigenous peoples observers to “their own meeting”. From the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, a representative warned that assigning a lesser role to indigenous peoples at the Conference than that assigned to Member States would violate the very rights it was meant to defend.
Topics for discussion at the World Conference also dominated the exchange, with some suggesting that the final determination of themes should be delayed until after the preparatory conference in Alta, Norway, next month, so that States could be informed of the priorities of indigenous peoples. Still, suggestions were plentiful and included issues of land, resources, economic development, culture and education; and business and its impacts on indigenous peoples.
There was a recommendation that a mechanism be put in place to ensure input from indigenous peoples and others who might be unable to afford to attend the World Conference in person. A proposal was made to use social media to field questions from those not present at the meeting to achieve inclusive participation.
The Forum also heard briefings on three studies, respectively, on the links between indigenous rights, truth commissions and other truth-seeking mechanisms on the American continent, on national constitutions and the Declaration and on the situation of indigenous peoples and their participation in democracies and electoral processes in Latin America under the Declaration.
Wilton Littlechild of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples participated, as well as the representatives of Ecuador, Australia, El Salvador, Mexico, Chile, United States, Canada, Guatemala, Bolivia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Botswana and Brazil.
A statement was also made by a representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
A representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union also made a statement.
Representatives of the United Nations Department of Public Information and United Nations Development Programme also spoke.
Also addressing the Forum were representatives of regional caucuses, legal, research and policy groups, as well as organizations concerned with indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 May, to continue its work.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to discuss the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, for which it had before it a study on national constitutions and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2013/18), as well as a study on the links between indigenous rights, truth commissions and other truth-seeking mechanisms on the American continent (document E/C.19/2013/13). It would also consider a study on the situation of indigenous peoples in democracies and electoral processes in Latin America under the Declaration.
Panel Discussion on World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
The Forum held a panel discussion on the preparation of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held in New York in 2014. Panellists were Mirna Cunningham Kain, Forum member; Luis-Alfonso de Alba, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations; and John B. Henriksen, International Representative of the Saami Parliament of Norway.
Ms. CUNNINGHAM KAIN highlighted various preparatory processes worldwide, which would feed into the high-level World Conference next year, to be attended by indigenous peoples and various other stakeholders, such as women and youth. Documents and outcomes derived from those preparatory processes would indicate priorities for regions, sectors and groups and would serve as a basis to form a global position on indigenous issues.
She went on to acknowledge various contributions, including inputs from United Nations entities, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Commending the Governments of Mexico and Norway for holding global preparatory meetings, she also stressed the importance of regional preparatory processes, as well as the need to ensure full and efficient participation of indigenous peoples in drafting the outcome documents. She said, “2014 should be seen as a year in which countries deepen their political measures and implement the declarations.”
Turning to the preparatory work at the United Nations, she called on the Department of Public Information to devote necessary human resources to disseminate relevant information and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to interact with the Office of the President of the General Assembly for improved coordination. Governments should also promote the dissemination of information, raise awareness and devote necessary resources. The World Conference was extremely important, and the results of all preparatory processes should demonstrate that the indigenous peoples were “the best guardians of the Mother Earth”.
Mr. ALBA called for the United Nations accreditation process for the World Conference to be as inclusive as possible. Participation did not mean just access to information and venues, but it meant real involvement in negotiation of the outcome document. As part of the preparatory work, Forum member Edward John and he had met with various groups to indentify issues of importance to indigenous peoples. And thanks to the support of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, indigenous issues had become more visible.
He said that he and Forum member John had identified some key issues, including self-determination, non-discrimination, and cross-cutting topics affecting women, youth, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. He called on the Forum to focus on those priority issues, which would feed into other instruments for indigenous peoples, such as the Special Rapporteur and Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also stressed the importance of regional preparatory meetings and the need to include both indigenous peoples and Governments in those. Mexico would host a preparatory meeting at the Government level, and he encouraged other regions to follow suit, particularly in Asia and Africa, so that regional views converged to create a “very rich” outcome document.
Lastly, he said it was unfortunate that the working methods at United Nations Headquarters in New York were not as open and transparent as the processes in Geneva. “There is no reason why we cannot learn from Geneva,” he said, because it was the same Governments represented at both sites.
Mr. HENRIKSEN said the discussion on themes had not yet concluded, although good progress had been made. To make their participation as effective as possible, indigenous peoples had established a number of arrangements, among them, an Indigenous Global Coordinating Group comprised of indigenous peoples from each of the seven indigenous regions of the world, as well as two caucuses: the Indigenous Women’s caucus and the Indigenous Youth caucus. The Group had done excellent work and had made it possible, through fundraising, for people to attend the preparatory conferences. Still, there were enormous challenges in reaching a global consensus on indigenous issues. Nevertheless, the Group’s platform was widely supported by indigenous peoples in all seven regions despite the fact that it could not claim to represent all indigenous peoples.
On the upcoming preparatory conference in Norway, he said that a global drafting group had been established within the Coordinating Group’s platforms. The drafting group was consolidating recommendations from the seven regions and two caucuses, with the goal of enabling the indigenous peoples to produce a concise and operative outcome document. Moreover, the drafting group aimed to contribute to an action-oriented outcome document that would contribute to realization of the Declaration and all internationally agreed development goals. In closing, he stressed the need for full and effective participation in the World Conference by indigenous peoples, particularly on the outcome document.
Next, a representative of the Indigenous Global Coordinating Group made several assertions, among them that the Declaration should be the formal basis for the World Conference; that the Conference should have co-facilitators — one indigenous representative and one representing States; that determining the themes should be delayed until after the preparatory conference in Alta, Norway, next month, so that States could be informed of the priorities of indigenous peoples; that United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies should prioritize how they could best support indigenous peoples, including financially; and that States consult with indigenous peoples following the Alta Conference. He added the importance of financial support and ease of obtaining visas for participants via United States Embassy support. Finally, he urged that meetings relevant to indigenous peoples should not be held right before and after the Conference, and not simultaneously, to avoid excessive travel for indigenous peoples.
NIMIA DA SILVA ( Paraguay) stressed the importance of the Declaration, but said that “efforts should not stop there”. The World Conference next year would bring the Declaration closer to its implementation. His delegation supported efforts to indentify issues important to indigenous peoples. Among the measures taken by the Government was the establishment of an institution to implement International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention no. 169. Given that Paraguay was a multicultural, multilingual country, that convention had been translated into local languages. Capacity-building and training programmes were also under way.
The representative of Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus said the group had met in New York in March and had decided to organize the issues under discussion into thematic areas from the group’s perspectives. Concerned about the weak implementation of the Declaration, the group also had decided to tie the themes to specific articles of the Declaration. Those thematic areas included rights to identity and culture; rights of Mother Earth and human relationship to Mother Earth; Millennium Development Goals; autonomy and integrity of indigenous women and their bodies; indigenous women’s leadership and political participation; and indigenous economy. She said the group’s participation in the preparatory process thus far had been marginalized and she called for the situation to be remedied.
MIGUEL BERMEO, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), recommended that the World Conference ensure that indigenous peoples have a say in public policies. It was unacceptable that they remained among the most vulnerable and excluded from decisions affecting their lives. They must participate at all levels of government, including at the national level, where they must serve in parliaments to represent their constituencies. However, there would never be sufficient numbers of indigenous peoples in parliaments to be able to effect change on their own, so those government institutions must themselves be sensitive to indigenous issues. The same should apply to political parties. Several parliaments today were seeking ways to ensure that the right to free, prior and informed consent was implemented, with several countries already having developed measures to that end. The Union would assist them to share their experiences at the World Conference, which should adopt a substantive outcome document that reflected those efforts.
A representative of the Arctic Caucus said that, since the formation of Indigenous Global Coordinating Group, the Saami and indigenous Inuit peoples had been active in ensuring meaningful participation of their peoples. The model of co-facilitators — one representative from a Member State and one from indigenous peoples —— should be followed at the World Conference. On its preparations, he noted that a pan-Saami preparatory meeting had been held in Finland, where Saami representatives from Finland, Norway, Russian Federation and Sweden had discussed their priorities. In addition, an Arctic preparatory conference, held in Nuuk Greenland, with Saami and Inuit peoples in attendance, had produced specific recommendations for the Conference’s outcome. Those concerned, among others, the right to self-determination and to lands, waters and livelihoods; extractive industries; an optional protocol to the Declaration; implementation of rights; culture and health; and cooperation with the United Nations. The Arctic region was participating in the drafting group, whose outcome would provide a foundation for substantive discussion at the preparatory conference in Alta next month.
GERMAN FLORES ( Ecuador) said his Government had incorporated intercultural aspects into the national Constitution in 2008, ensuring protection against all forms of discrimination. In that context, the rights of indigenous peoples were guaranteed by the State. The Government’s priority was to close the economic and social gaps affecting indigenous peoples in line with the Constitution, which recognized indigenous peoples’ way of living, culture and traditional practices. Ecuador had made progress in overcoming inequality. Article 6 of its Constitution stated that ancestral peoples could establish their own territories and article 7 recognized their collective rights. Special attention was paid to those who suffered multiple forms of discrimination, such as indigenous children and women. The World Conference was an opportunity to review the seven years since adoption of the Declaration. The Conference’s outcome document should spur greater gains.
The representative of Global Indigenous Youth Caucus said it had held its own preparatory meeting in April in Finland, drawing participants from various regions of the world. Although the budget had been limited, many people had contributed to the process through regional networks and e-mail lists. The key recommendations made at the meeting related to rights to full and effective participation, to identity, education, traditional livelihoods, health, and the elimination of all forms of violence. He welcomed the modality of the World Conference as having the potential to ensure full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in line with the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
MARTINA VOLPE DONLON, United Nations Department of Public Information, said that, as the first conference of its kind, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be a unique opportunity to present indigenous issues to the world. The Department of Public Information was prepared to use is multilingual platforms to promote the Conference in the six official languages. Information could be further disseminated through Department’s 60 Information Centres around the world, giving it a truly global reach.
ANASTASIA CARAYANIDES ( Australia) said that the Conference provided a critical opportunity to share best practices in pursuance of the Declaration’s objectives, which explicitly encouraged harmonious relations between Governments and indigenous peoples. To that end, it was essential that the World Conference include civil society and other stakeholders. Noting with appreciation the specific provisions for indigenous peoples’ participation in the Conference, she acknowledged the importance of including indigenous goals in the post-2015 development agenda. Australia had contributed to the voluntary fund and encouraged others to participate in the lead-up to the Conference.
The representative of the Indigenous Disability Caucus said that the organization had taken part in the eleventh session of the Permanent Forum for its first time. The report from the session called for addressing the challenges facing persons with disabilities. Those should not be “empty words”, she said, requesting the inclusion of those persons in the organization of the World Conference.
RUBEN HASBUN ( El Salvador) noted that the date for the Conference had been chosen to accommodate the series of preparatory events. Moreover, it would take place in line with the calendar for the General Assembly’s main debate. Its outcome must be concise and must contribute to advancing the rights of indigenous peoples. In accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolution, the outcome document must address cross-cutting issues affecting women, youth, rural communities and other vulnerable groups. Due consideration should be given to organizations that did not have consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. In particular, those organizations should be able to participate, without discrimination. As for panels and round-table discussions, webcasting was not enough; social media could be used to field questions from those not present at the meeting to achieve inclusive participation.
The representative of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus outlined the recommendations of the Caucus’ recent meeting, as related to the upcoming preparatory meeting in Alta, Norway. The Caucus emphasized that it did not accept the view of any State that the right to self-determination, as expressed in the Declaration, was different from the existing right to self-determination in international law; it would advance that position at the preparatory meeting. As for the preparatory meeting’s outcome document, the Caucus recommended, among other things, that the term “peoples” be used at all times when referring to indigenous peoples; that a systemic analysis be undertaken on the causation of colonization, domination and subordination, as well as the Doctrine of Discovery in relation to the theft of indigenous lands and resources; and that a international oversight mechanism be set up for redress and restitution for States’ violations.
WILTON LITTLECHILD of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples detailed proposals for the World Conference, particularly the group’s third proposal, which, among other things, urged the Human Rights Council’s support of the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples at all stages of preparation, follow-up and during the Conference itself and in the outcome document. The Council should also encourage the participation of national human rights institutions in all preparatory and follow-up processes.
He noted that the Human Rights Council, at its upcoming twenty-fourth session, would hold an interactive dialogue on the World Conference. The Expert Mechanism supported proposals in the Alta Declaration; however, he noted the lack of discussion on the spiritual relationship of indigenous peoples to lands, water and resources. The Mechanism proposed that the Human Rights Council encourage States to support the World Conference, especially technically and financially. He further called for two co-facilitators of the Conference, one indigenous and one representing States. It was important that the Expert Mechanism be designated as an official delegate and that its reports, studies and advice be distributed as official documents.
SIMON WILLIAM M’VIBOUDOULOU, Forum member, said that the Conference would bring together women and men committed to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. Its success would depend on States’ mobilization of resources, which would allow the participation of indigenous representatives in the event. The Conference was an opportunity to assess the work that had been done by the United Nations system; identify Heads of State who could provide guidance; take stock of the decades for indigenous peoples; and define the post-2015 agenda for indigenous peoples. As a Forum member representing Africa, he welcomed the active participation of the Republic of Congo in the Forum’s half-day thematic discussion last week and for its role in guiding a regional process.
GUSTAVO TORRES ( Mexico) said that his country planned to host a preparatory session in the first quarter of 2014, with the aim of producing an outcome that would contribute to the discussion at the Forum’s thirteenth session. The preparatory meeting would draw participants from the Latin America and Caribbean region, as well as from other regions, and serve as a venue for exchanging lessons learned. There would be “space” for dialogue between indigenous peoples and Governments. He encouraged regional caucuses to start thinking about sending their representatives, adding that those of civil society could participate as observers. The preparatory meeting would focus on the outcome of consultations to be held next month in Alta, Norway.
A representative of the Pacific Caucus said that the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism had important roles to play leading up to, following and during the World Conference. In that context, he recommended that, among other things: the Declaration be the normative framework for the Conference; the General Assembly President appoint co-facilitators for the Conference, particularly for the period during preparation of the outcome document; decision on the themes of the Conference be deferred until after the upcoming global preparatory conference to ensure that that decision reflected the priorities of indigenous peoples; States consult with indigenous peoples nationally, regionally and internationally after the Alta conference; States financially support indigenous preparatory activities; and the Assembly President organize informal interactive hearings back to back with, but separate from, the Forum’s thirteenth session, so that indigenous people attending the Forum could also participate in the hearings.
OLGA MOZOLINA ( Russian Federation) said that, coming seven years after adoption of the Declaration, the World Conference could strengthen the dialogue between Governments, organizations, civil society and indigenous peoples so that they could realize the positions set out in the Declaration. Through discussion of best practices on defending the rights of indigenous peoples, it would be possible to work out common approaches to a broad spectrum of issues affecting them. It should be remembered that 2014 was approaching the end of the Second Decade on Indigenous Peoples, which aimed to strengthen international cooperation to resolve the problems facing indigenous peoples in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development. The World Conference could serve to review the Decade’s results.
A representative of the African Caucus said that in November 2012 the Caucus had met in Nairobi and developed several potential themes for the upcoming World Conference, among them the right to land and resources; conflict and its impact on indigenous peoples; the right to self-determination and self-government; discrimination; conduct of multinational corporations and its link their inaction and that of Governments; and the right of indigenous peoples to practise their own cultures and religions.
TOVE S. PEDERSEN, speaking on behalf of Denmark and Greenland, said that the outcome documents of the preparatory meetings held so far provided a rich foundation for the processes ahead, in particular the indigenous peoples’ own Global Conference. As the fundamental objective of the World Conference was to step up the realization and implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights, strengthened attention should be given to discussions of ways and means of promoting the participation of indigenous groups on issues affecting them. Denmark and Greenland looked forward to the Permanent Forum’s study on an optional protocol to the Declaration, focusing on a potential voluntary mechanism to serve as a complaint body at the international level for breaches of indigenous peoples’ rights. Finally, Denmark and Greenland were interested in possible appointment of a high-level official for indigenous peoples, with the aim of boosting United Nations capacity and efforts towards ensuring the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.
The representative of Central, South America and Caribbean Caucus thanked Norway for holding a preparatory meeting in Alta next month. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, a meeting had been held in April in Guatemala with participants from 17 countries in the region. Combined with meetings elsewhere, those events provided space for different views on indigenous peoples to converge. The proposals at the meeting last month included the holding of a high-level meeting on territorial issues involving indigenous land. “The outcome of the 2014 World Conference should be an action plan,” she said, stressing the need to ensure free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples and their right to access communication.
MATIAS ABOGABIR ( Chile), said the World Conference would be an opportunity to share experiences, views and best practices regarding respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, including attainment of the goals of the Declaration. His Government policy for indigenous peoples recognized his country as a multicultural one that treasured the richness of indigenous peoples. It was committed to make the indigenous presence as large and as representative as possible at the World Conference. The United Nations system and his Government were implementing a project involving the creation of spaces for dialogue and capacity-building of indigenous peoples in Chile. The goal was to make indigenous peoples more aware of the rights established in international instruments, the communications from organs monitoring those instruments and the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples.
A representative of the Asian Caucus said that a preparatory conference had been held in Bangkok, Thailand, resulting in a call to action to the World Conference for, among others, implementation of international commitments to sustainable development; the right to self-determination; and addressing the worsening military conflicts and their impact across Asia. She requested United Nations system support to engage with indigenous peoples’ organizations, especially at the national level; to work towards recognition of indigenous peoples as separate from other peoples; and to help build their capacity in a range of areas. One critical area that needed work was the development of monitoring tools on implementation of the Declaration and its relationship to sustainable development. She urged the Permanent Forum, in cooperation with United Nations agencies, to work towards that goal at the Conference. She also supported the appointment of co-chairs for the Conference.
LAURIE PHIPPS ( United States) said that support for the Conference was consistent with her Government’s policy to honour and strengthen its relationship with Indian tribes and include the concerns of indigenous peoples in its broader policy objectives. She noted the importance of hearing all indigenous peoples’ views during the regional preparatory conferences, and pointed out that in many parts of the world, indigenous peoples had established leaders to represent their concerns. The contributions of indigenous peoples were critical and the admissions process to the World Conference should draw upon chosen representatives of indigenous peoples, as well as civil society organizations. Further, the themes for the round-table discussions should be visionary and focus on current best practices. She suggested the following possible topics: lands, resources, the environment and economic development; cultures of indigenous peoples, including education; and business and its impacts on indigenous peoples. She also recommended that there be a mechanism for input from indigenous peoples and others who might be unable to afford to attend the World Conference in person.
The representative of Eastern Europe, Russian Federation Central Asia and Trans-Caucasia Caucus said that a regional meeting had adopted the Sakh Declaration in full support of the General Assembly decision to hold the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. In the northern part of the Russian Federation, changes were occurring, making it necessary for a new mechanism to govern that region. There was a growing threat to hunting, fishing and other activities, owing to industrialization, such as energy development. Energy security only made sense if that was backed by ecological security. Regarding economic activities, indigenous people must be the main part of strategy formulation. She urged the Russian Federation to review its legislation to comply with international standards regarding human rights in investment agreements. She was eager to see the outcome of the preparatory meeting in Alta, Norway, next month, which would serve as a basis for discussion during the World Conference.
Introduction of Reports
EDWARD JOHN, Forum member, introduced a study on the links between indigenous rights, truth commissions and other truth-seeking mechanisms on the American continent (document E/C.19/2013/13). More than 40 commissions had been established, and ILO Convention no. 169 and the Declaration provided safeguards. Indigenous peoples were the most affected by conflict, but that situation had not been adequately addressed. The study made recommendations, including the ensuring of consultation to obtain free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples.
MEGAN DAVIS, Forum member, presented a study on national constitutions and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2013/18), which assessed inclusion of the rights of indigenous peoples in their constitutions. Specific references to the Declaration were made in the Constitutions of Kenya and Bangladesh. Australia, Nepal and New Zealand were also in the process of reforming theirs. But “recognition” was a broad concept, which could be weak or strong. What the Forum wanted was “strong recognition” of indigenous peoples’ rights. Recommendations included revoking any constitutions discriminating against indigenous peoples.
ALVARO POP, Forum member, introduced a study on the situation of indigenous peoples and their participation in democracies and electoral processes in Latin America under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He said indigenous peoples were “survivors”, who had been excluded from democratic and electoral processes. But new types of constitutions had emerged in Latin America, such as in Guatemala and Mexico. In some nations in the region, recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to those processes was vital to peace accords. He also stressed the role of indigenous women in those processes.
GREG DEMPSEY ( Canada) congratulated the representatives to the World Conference who had recently been elected at regional preparatory conferences and said he looked forward to working with them.
GERARDO NOTO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), spoke of the Programme’s work in the Latin American and Caribbean region. He underscored that UNDP, among other things, provided political and electoral support focused on increasing indigenous participation, particularly of women and youth. It also supported capacity-building for civil servants working with indigenous peoples, offering courses on indigenous rights and on the electoral cycle. A virtual course on political participation throughout the region gave 60 per cent of “places” to indigenous youth. UNDP’s focus on consultations with young leaders allowed for dialogue with the United Nations mechanisms relating to indigenous peoples. In closing, he noted many recent analyses, which had supported studies such as the one introduced today by Mr. Pop, and examinations of contributions made by indigenous people in the political arena.
A representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus said that the World Conference was not in fact a world conference for indigenous peoples, but a high-level plenary meeting, whose structure made indigenous peoples observers to their own meeting. He reminded Member States of the requirement to respect articles 3, 18, 19, 32(2), and 38 of the Declaration to secure full and equal participation of indigenous peoples in the meeting and preparatory process. He was similarly concerned that the so-called modalities resolution had omitted recognition of the international right to self-determination of indigenous peoples and nations and had deleted from an earlier draft the right to full and equal participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations’ processes.
He reminded the Organization that all documents from the indigenous preparatory processes should be accepted as United Nations documents. He made numerous recommendations in closing, among them that regions support their indigenous youth to attend the Alta meeting in both regional and youth delegations; that States fund the indigenous preparatory process; and that a systemic analysis of the impacts of colonization and subordination and the Doctrine of Discovery be undertaken. He insisted that the Doctrine be repudiated in the high-level plenary’s outcome.
GLORIA ESPERANZA LAYNEZ ( Guatemala) highlighted a few measures taken by her Government, including her appointment to the post of Defender of Indigenous Women. The body created for indigenous women, a group constantly discriminated against, reported to the President and represented the collective fight of indigenous women against all forms of discrimination. The Ombudsman’s Office also contributed to training indigenous women, particularly young women, in decision-making and political processes, through its headquarters and 11 branches nationwide. The Office also supported victimized indigenous women. Guatemala endeavoured to feed inputs into the Forum, and supported the holding of the World Conference in 2014.
FABIANA DEL POPOLO, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said indigenous issues were dealt with as part of the broader agenda on population within ECLAC. She thanked the Forum for generating know-how in line with the Declaration. Indigenous issues had made progress and obtained greater visibility. A document compiled by the Commission highlighted the nexus among different preparatory processes, including those under way within the United Nations system. That document should be discussed at a preparatory meeting in Mexico next year. A Commission meeting to be held in Lima, Peru, next year would include a chapter calling for the rethinking of a paradigm from the perspective of indigenous peoples. The World Conference would be a true opportunity to make progress.
A representative of the Indigenous Peoples Organisation of Australia made several recommendations relating to the World Conference, among them: appointment of indigenous human rights experts to relevant treaty bodies, such as the Human Rights Council; reporting by United Nations Member States on indigenous peoples rights in accordance with the Declaration; encouraging Member States to participate in all preparations for the World Conference and to provide financial support; and the establishment of an accreditation process for the Conference in line with relevant Human Rights Council and Economic and Social Council resolutions, so that indigenous peoples were accredited as they were when attending the Permanent Forum. She expressed disappointment at the lack of engagement of States in the Pacific region in the preparatory work of the Conference and urged all States, particularly Australia, to provide support so that indigenous peoples could fully participate in 2014. The final document must fully recognize indigenous peoples’ rights.
CLAUDIO GUILLERMO ROSSELL ARCE ( Bolivia) said the Declaration had been an important step towards healing wounds that had been open for decades. The upcoming World Conference would be an opportunity to help ensure the minimum standards set forth in the Declaration and the participation of indigenous peoples in all phases of the preparatory process. The Conference was a critical step in exchanging points of view and best practices; it would not be merely an expression of good will, but would help to ensure that “inequality is intolerable”. The views of indigenous organizations should be incorporated in the Conference’s preparations, and the outcome document should be action-oriented. The Conference should focus on, among others, evaluating compliance with the goals of the Second International Decade for Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration, the contribution of indigenous peoples to development and to recovering harmony with nature, and international cooperation for resolving the problems they faced.
The representative of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA), speaking on behalf of 37 indigenous women’s organizations, highlighted decades of organized efforts “that have not come easy” to protect and promote the rights of indigenous women. In its resolution on modalities of the World Conference, the General Assembly had made special mention of the need for participation by indigenous women. A world conference on indigenous women, therefore, would be held in parallel with the preparatory process in Lima, Peru, in October and would aim to set the stage for critical discussions before the 2014 World Conference. Organized indigenous women on the global scale intended to participate in the second phase of the preparatory process, she said, making a number of recommendations to the Permanent Forum in that regard. Among those, she said the Forum should reaffirm the need for the participation of indigenous women in the second phase of the preparatory process and support the planned world conference on indigenous women.
KATJA KALAMAKI ( Finland) said candid sharing of challenges and new visions for the future were needed for a successful outcome to the World Conference. The adoption of the Declaration in 2007 was an important milestone, but fulfilling the text required persistence, and the Conference was important to that work. She supported the full and meaningful support of indigenous peoples leading up to and during the Conference, stressing the concept of free, prior and informed consent. Towards those ends, Finland contributed to the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Partnership and other funds. The indigenous peoples’ preparatory meetings to consolidating their views in advance of the Conference were important and she was committed to supporting that work.
A representative of the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, said that constitutions were a starting point to transform reality, but they were also a destination. The process in Bolivia had been difficult, involving a fight against neo-liberalism and capitalism. In Bolivia, everything had been privatized, even water. The 2009 Constitution represented a “break point”; the State would now focus on diversity and recover its identity. Bolivia had been a catalyst for the Declaration and the first State to have made the entire text national law. The country had moved from representative democracy to participatory democracy, and the Constitution had resulted from a cultural fight. It recognized the pre-colonial existence of indigenous peoples, including their right to autonomy and self-governance, among other things, as well as of all their languages. The focus was on good living : “don’t be a thief; don’t be lazy and don’t be a liar”. People now enjoyed the following rights, among others: a free existence; cultural identity; and their spiritual beliefs, customs and “cosmo-vision”. Indigenous institutions were part of the institution of the State.
ANARU MILL (New Zealand), noting that his country had also co-sponsored the resolution calling for the 2014 World Conference, said that, for the meeting to achieve the most useful outcome document possible, a coordinated preparatory process with the participation of all stakeholders was required.
The representative of the International Indian Treaty Council of North America said that the World Conference was a historic opportunity to commit to strategies to implement the Declaration. “Its focus and purpose must be implementation”; however, the Council shared concerns that that the Conference would be used to limit the intended scope of the Declaration, or to diminish the rights of indigenous peoples. Such concerns were heightened when a blatantly discriminatory statement was read by the representative of the United States last week, he added, noting that the most objectionable part had been the position that the right to self-determination, as recognized under international law, was “somehow a different right for indigenous peoples”.
The United States, he said, had unsuccessfully attempted to include such racially discriminatory language in the Declaration itself at the time of its drafting. In that regard, he asked that the Permanent Forum make a formal statement expressing its concern and joining with indigenous peoples in rejecting attempts by States to diminish their rights. The time for racial discrimination and all doctrines that justified it were in the past; their place was “in the dustbins of history”, he stressed.
MONIKA P. THOWSEN ( Norway) said that the next step in the preparatory process was for the representatives of all regional caucuses to meet in Alta, Norway, in two weeks’ time, to compile an outcome document. The preparatory process had taken an “innovative approach”, she said, commending the work of the Indigenous Global Coordination Group, in particular. She hoped that the World Conference would result in a concrete and substantive outcome document, which would contribute to the implementation of the Declaration. Ensuring indigenous peoples’ participation in the Conference was critical, and to that end, Norway had contributed both to the upcoming Alta conference and to the voluntary trust fund.
Mr. LITTLECHILD then summarized two reports he had written. He shared the progress of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, noting, in particular, that the Commission was committed to helping those affected by the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement to record and share their experiences. A related programme was the Missing Children Project, which sought to uncover details about the thousands of children who had died or gone missing at the country’s residential schools.
Recalling that the Human Rights Council had requested the Expert Mechanism to prepare a study on access to justice in the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples, he highlighted a few specific observations and made a number of recommendations. First, indigenous peoples’ representatives should be involved in all stages of truth commissions and related justice mechanisms. Second, truth commissions should be guided by and make explicit reference to the Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration. Third, truth commissions should recognize and address the historical injustices experienced by indigenous peoples.
Fourth, he continued, truth processes should be linked to larger education and outreach efforts, aimed at explaining such issues as self-determination to the larger public. Fifth, truth and reconciliation processes and reparation programmes should be designed in a way that respected the cultures and values of indigenous peoples. He made a number of other proposals, including that the update by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be included in the Conference’s final document and that the concept of spiritual abuse of residential school survivors, among others, also be incorporated.
A representative of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, North-West Region recommended that all States provide financial assistance for indigenous peoples to participate in the World Conference and to include them in all processes leading up to the Conference, including in the drafting of an action- oriented outcome document. She disagreed with the statement of the Australian Government that it had supported full and effective participation of indigenous peoples as, to date, it had provided no support for a number of indigenous groups to participate in preparatory activities for the Conference.
HALAKANGWA MBULAI ( Botswana) said that the World Conference would be an opportunity to review implementation of the Declaration, which was the principle guiding document for a harmonious relationship between governments and indigenous peoples. Welcoming the preparatory processes of indigenous peoples for the Conference, the speaker took note of the outcomes, in particular, of the meeting held in Nairobi in November 2012. While she acknowledged the recommendations that were made, she was encouraged by the calls for dialogue with State actors, as that was key to the resolution of problems. She stressed the need for an inclusive process and common understanding to achieve a successful outcome.
A representative of the International Centre for Transitional Justice said that there had been more than 40 truth and reconciliation commissions. While they should contribute to rule of law, essentially, they should contribute to the right to truth, now recognized by the Organization of American States and a number of Governments. It was important for the victims of human rights violations to understand the circumstances of the harm done to them and who was responsible. Also important was discovering the whereabouts of those who had disappeared. Truth commissions did not always explicitly include indigenous peoples in their mandates, and lessons should be learned in that regard from the Canadian experience. He drew attention to a number of countries launching or contemplating the creation of truth commissions without such explicit inclusion of indigenous peoples. His organization was ready to assist in formulating the commissions.
ALAN COELHO DE SELLOS ( Brazil) recalled that, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“ Rio+20”), indigenous peoples were represented among the major groups, with a direct interest in promoting sustainable development. Brazil had recently launched its National Policy on Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Lands, which aimed at guaranteeing the rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable use of indigenous land and natural resources. It had also set up a Public Safety Initiative to provide better policing in isolated indigenous communities. Moreover, it had attempted to improve social conditions through the creation of the National Commission for Indigenous Policies in 2006, which served as a platform for addressing regional concerns. While Brazil had consistently consulted with indigenous peoples prior to the implementation of public projects, it was now working towards the legal formalization of those consultations, in full compliance with ILO Convention no. 169. In addition, the country had established a formal, direct and institutionalized channel — the National Commission on Indigenous Policy — to facilitate dialogue with regional leaders of indigenous peoples from several ethnicities.
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education said that that the resolutions adopted in the lead-up to the World Conference had been “inadequate”, but they could nonetheless result in a meaningful process if all parties worked towards an action-oriented outcome document. The challenge for indigenous peoples was to exert their collective best effort to have meaningful dialogues with Member States, as well as with United Nations funds, programmes and agencies. It was important for the United Nations to demonstrate its commitment to that process and to indigenous peoples. In that regard, the Secretary-General should appoint a focal point in the Secretariat to oversee the process and help agencies, funds and programmes to define more clearly their implementation of the Declaration.
In that connection, he said the Secretary-General should prepare a report on how the United Nations had been implementing the Declaration. The Office of the General Assembly President should bring on board an indigenous person, who would be specifically assigned to coordinate with Member States and ensure sustained dialogue. Next, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs should provide additional resources or hire a person whose main purpose would be to engage with the Permanent Forum. As far as Member States were concerned, she agreed with the Mexican proposal to hold dialogues with indigenous peoples at national and regional levels, and supported the recommendation that Member States consider including representatives of indigenous groups in their delegations to the World Conference. She also made a number of recommendations concerning activities related to climate change and the post-2015 development agenda.
PAULINE SUKHAI, Minister for Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, said that her delegation viewed the World Conference as an “ample opportunity” to consider indigenous issues, and expressed hope that a concrete outcome document would result. Throughout the Permanent Forum’s discussions, the issue of land tenure security and sustainable development stood out, and Guyana hoped both issues would be addressed at the World Conference. Indigenous peoples’ political participation also offered an opportunity for direct intervention at the parliamentary level to affect national processes and legislation. Constitutional reform in Guyana had created access for indigenous groups; across political lines, there were a total of seven indigenous members of Parliament in Guyana. The result was a strong indigenous voice on matters that affected them. Guyana’s experience with indigenous peoples’ participation could not be understated, she stressed, adding that such activities should become more widespread in other countries.
A representative of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program said that the hunter-gatherers of the Mau Forests had much to offer to the World Conference. Indigenous Peoples believed that society must be maintained sustainably. He recommended, among other things, that the General Assembly approve 100 per cent participation of African States, especially of their indigenous peoples, and that they have the right to use and control their natural resources. Each State, as it created national policy, would be informed by those decisions. It was high time that the General Assembly monitored indigenous rights and the States who did not report on those rights. It also was important to conduct mapping relevant to indigenous issues, before the Conference. States should be enlightened on best practices for promoting national policies on indigenous rights.
The representative of the Asian Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, also speaking on behalf of a number of related groups, said that, despite the enactment of the Philippines Indigenous Peoples Rights Act in 1997 and the Government’s status as a signatory of the Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration, non-recognition of those peoples’ right to ancestral lands remained the core of their problems in the Philippines. Other violations included the deprivation of social services, denial of access to judicial processes, forced evacuation and displacement, and extrajudicial killings. In that context, the Alliance stressed that States must respect and recognize the concerns of indigenous peoples and forward that recognition to the upcoming World Conference, as well as immediately act upon them. The Conference should culminate in an action-oriented outcome document on the effective and genuine implementation of the Declaration, and the wide and effective participation of indigenous peoples from the grass roots – including youth and women — should be supported.
The representative of the National Congress of American Indians, also speaking on behalf of a number of other organizations and 72 indigenous nations, said that, despite the shortcomings of the process leading up to the World Conference, creative and effective action must be taken by the United Nations to press for the Declaration’s implementation. Without adequate implementation measures, it was having little significant effect. “Our greatest concern is for the physical security of our people, especially women, and of our homes”, the speaker said, adding that the Congress recommended that the United Nations establish a new body responsible to promote implementation and monitor States’ actions with regard to indigenous peoples’ rights, focusing in particular and indigenous women, youth, children and elders. It also recommended addressing the violence against indigenous women and the convening of a high-level conference on the issue, and the appointment of a special rapporteur to focus exclusively on human rights issues relating to indigenous women and children.
The representative of the International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of Chittagong Hills Tracts said that the Government of Bangladesh had repeatedly denied the existence of indigenous peoples in the country, terming them “tribes, minor races” and other racist names. In 2012, the Government had issued a circular, instructing officials to refrain from attending or supporting International Indigenous Peoples Day events. It also proposed a constitutional amendment with contradictory provisions that would undermine and weaken the rights of indigenous peoples. A similar act had been passed in 2012. Indigenous groups in Bangladesh were concerned that the absence of express and adequate constitutional safeguards for the rights of indigenous peoples would lead to more discriminatory policies or acts that would further violate their rights.
The representative of the International Public Organization/Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea said that Ukraine had violated the land, cultural and other rights of the Crimean Tatar people, as well as their right to self-determination. The very participation of any Member State at the 2014 World Conference should be linked with its implementation of the Declaration. In that regard, he urged the Permanent Forum to influence those Member States absent at the adoption of the Declaration to endorse the document without delay.
The representative of the Indigenous Law Institute rejected, unequivocally, views or suggestions by any State — such as the United States — that the right to self-determination affirmed in the Declaration was different from the existing right to self-determination in international law. Such statements were racist and predicated on ancient theological-political bigotry. The originally free Nations and Peoples of Great Turtle Island had entered the international arena because of the lack of redress in, for example, United States federal Indian law. To effect fundamental change, the root causes of domination and dehumanization must be analysed, including the idea that indigenous nations and peoples were innately inferior. The United Nations high-level plenary meeting, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, would not result in positive and fundamental reform unless it was used to engage in the kinds of moral discussions that had taken place in the sixteenth century, which entailed Aristotle’s theory of natural domination or slavery. “The difference today, of course, is that we have our own voice,” he said.
A speaker from the Guatemala Caucus said that indigenous peoples were the doorway to a new era in a shared fight. He asked that justice prevail. On 10 May, Guatemala had become the first country in which a Court issued rulings against a former Head of State. The Caucus saw that as an opportunity to face the past and to address the deepest causes of discrimination against indigenous peoples. However, the nation’s highest court had just overturned that ruling under the influence of business and the military, who had perpetrated the human rights violations. They were trying to deny the truth. Evidence collected over 12 years had led to the initial ruling, but prosecutors and judges were now being threatened by civil servants. The case was not over; the time would come when the State of Guatemala protected indigenous peoples. Until then, their rights would be denied and their land plundered. “Brothers and sisters, let us stop this genocide that continues in Guatemala and in other countries,” he said in closing.
A representative of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples explained that the Congress was a national representative body, formed by indigenous peoples to provide national leadership for Torres Strait and aboriginal peoples and to defend their rights. It promoted implementation of the Declaration and was working with the Government and Parliament to that end. Australia was currently engaged in a conversation to reform the Constitution and eliminate laws discriminating against Torres Strait and aboriginal peoples. However, the constitutional reform process was very difficult. She encouraged the Government to educate people on the Torres Strait Islander and aboriginal peoples to help ensure passage of a referendum on constitutional reform.
The Congress, she said, engaged in policy dialogue and litigation, especially relating to free, prior and informed consent. She called for the restoration of local governance structures and noted that criminal justice was particularly difficult for indigenous peoples, owing to their historical view of the justice system. It was imperative that all States introduce the Declaration into their national policies and constitutions.
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