Progressively Poor Turnout of Member States at Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Worrying, Say Experts, as They Consider Implications, Scope of Work
Progressively Poor Turnout of Member States at Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Worrying, Say Experts, as They Consider Implications, Scope of Work
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)
Progressively Poor Turnout of Member States at Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Issues Worrying, Say Experts, as They Consider Implications, Scope of Work
Debate Continues on Property Rights, Decolonization,
Impact of Extractive Industries on Indigenous Communities
The international community’s attention to indigenous peoples appears to be waning, and, after 12 years of existence, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues might be experiencing “fatigue”, the expert body heard today as it wrapped up its substantive work on the penultimate day of its twelfth session.
“Attendance has dropped and there is fatigue in the air,” said the representative of Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, who had participated in the Forum’s annual sessions since 2002.
She said that for the first three to five years, there had been much enthusiasm among indigenous peoples, Member States and United Nations entities, wondering why that ebbed. Many recommendations had been made, but monitoring had been insufficient. The Forum should not be making more recommendations on the same topics without reviewing the status of the past proposals. To the poor turnout of Member States, she said, “the Forum and indigenous peoples should not be talking to themselves”. It should draw more participation from Member States.
On the Forum’s future work, she said the expert body should target a few themes each year, which should be decided one year prior to the annual session to give participants — some 2,000 were expected this year — enough time to prepare their inputs. Furthermore, instead of conducting studies on a range of issues, the Forum should conduct fewer studies on the selected themes. Indigenous representatives should be allowed to respond to presentations in an interactive way, she said, urging the Forum to organize a “self-reflection” workshop.
Forum Member Alvaro Pop, one of 16 experts, concurred with her suggestion on the need to revitalize the body’s work by focusing on fewer themes during its two-week sessions and for studies to be related to the session’s main themes.
For next year’s session, Mirna Cunningham Kain, Forum member, presented proposals for the draft agenda. Among them were having as its special theme “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”; human rights; a half-day discussion on the Asian region; and a half-day discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. She also proposed ongoing priorities, themes and follow-up discussions, including on indigenous children and youth, the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, and the post-2015 development agenda.
Briefing participants on the voluntary Trust Fund established in 2004, Forum member Megan Davis said that a small grant programme — one of the two components of the Fund — provided $10,000 for each project selected. Due to a decline in recent years in donor contributions, only 14 projects had been funded in 2012, out of the 1,044 applications.
The other component — general support for Forum members — was mainly targeted at increasing their participation in various meetings and supporting language requirements, she said. With the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples slated for next year, that component was essential. Decreased support could result in less exposure for the Forum and less impact of its work.
The Forum also continued its debate on a range of issues, including land disputes, decolonization and the impact of the extractive industries on indigenous communities, based on the three studies, respectively, on the impact of the mining boom on indigenous communities in Australia, on decolonization of the Pacific region and on best practices and examples for resolving land disputes and land claims, including cases in the Philippines and Bangladesh.
Delivering reports were Forum members Ms. Davis, Valmaine Toki, and Raja Devasish Roy.
Delegates from the United States, Denmark, Botswana, Philippines, Chile and Australia also made statements.
Representatives of rights-based, political and other indigenous advocacy groups also spoke.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Friday, 31 May, to conclude the current session with the adoption of its report.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to discuss its future programmes, including the draft agenda for its thirteenth session in 2014. The expert body also had before it studies on decolonization of the Pacific region (document E/C.19/2013/12) and on best practices and examples for resolving land disputes and land claims, including cases in the Philippines and Bangladesh.
Briefing, Presentation of Reports
At the outset, Forum member MEGAN DAVIS briefed participants on the Indigenous Trust Fund established in 2004 to support implementation of the Second Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. She said the Fund comprised two components — a small grant programme and general support for Forum members.
The small grant programme, she explained, provided $10,000 for each project selected. Due to a decline in recent years in donor contributions, only 14 projects had been funded, out of the 1,044 applications, in 2012. About 38 per cent of the total grants had been allocated to support projects related to human rights, with 13 per cent going to education, 11 per cent to the environment and the rest devoted to culture and other thematic areas. By region, Africa had received 26 per cent of the total grants, Asia 25 per cent and Latin America 24 per cent. Key challenges included increased demand and limited funding. External assessments had found the programme beneficial. For instance, it enabled indigenous peoples to set their own priorities for development. It was also successful in supporting outreach and policy development and implementation.
The general support for Forum members was mainly targeted at increasing their participation in various meetings and supporting language requirements. With the World Conference slated for next year, that component was essential. Decreased support could result in less exposure of the Forum and less impact of its work on indigenous issues.
Ms. Davis, introducing the study on the impact of the mining boom on indigenous communities in Australia (document E/C.19/2013/20), said that Australia, over the years, had experienced a series of mining booms, which were distinguished by a significant increase in investment or output. The country was currently experiencing a mineral and energy boom. Mineral-rich States often suffered a decline in the rule of law, while public institutions and regions experienced extreme poverty in a phenomenon known as “paradox of plenty” or the “resource curse”. While Australia had not endured the same failings as other countries caught up in that phenomenon, some mining regions, where Aboriginal populations made up a significant majority, did experience extreme poverty.
She lauded the study for its overview of both the positive and negative aspects of the boom. The beneficial impacts included employment opportunities and improved infrastructure, while the adverse effects included damage to health and the environment. She noted, however, that a lack of reliable demographic data prevented the researcher from providing an accurate picture of the impact of mining on indigenous communities. She noted that the study also stressed the importance of community readiness, specifically the need for indigenous communities to prepare for the boom, because they found themselves in a precarious position when mine closures, or any slowdown, affected income streams.
Presenting the study on decolonization of the Pacific region (document E/C.19/2013/12), Forum member VALMAINE TOKI noted that the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly in 1960 and the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization had been established the following year. The list of Non-Self-Governing Territories was initially prepared in 1946. Of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories currently listed for active consideration by the Committee, five were located in the Pacific.
Given the detrimental effects of colonization and the doctrine of discovery on indigenous peoples, he said, the text provided case studies highlighting the impetus for the right to self-determination and decolonization among indigenous peoples of the Pacific. It traced the core connections between the Doctrine of Discovery and the colonization process coordinated by countries, churches and trading corporations. It also illustrated the initiatives by indigenous peoples to coordinate decolonization campaigns rooted in international human rights law.
The study concluded that it was “undisputed” that colonization had been detrimental to Pacific island nations and that indigenous peoples had a right to self-determination, he said. It also suggested that a relevant United Nations agency should consider convening an expert group meeting on the decolonization of the Pacific to work in conjunction with the Special Committee on Decolonization to assess applications for independence.
Forum Member RAJA DEVASISH ROY provided highlights from a study to be published next year on best practices and examples for resolving land disputes and land claims, including cases involving the Philippines and Bangladesh and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. He said that the Philippine example was anchored by the country’s Constitution and law, and dealt primarily with two types of land claims: ancestral domain titles, which provided certificates to communities; and provision of certificates of ancestral land titles, usually to families and clans. The study found that having the two options was a best practice model.
On the Chittagong Hills Tract, he said, a Regional District Council, among whose members were regional chiefs, played a role in providing land titles and land transfers and had veto power over transfers. It also recognized customary land rights. Another element of its practice was a land disputes resolution commission, the majority of whose members were indigenous. It was in fact a tribunal that cut through the tiers of courts of the Bangladeshi judicial system. The land commission would not allow lawyers to represent clients, but they could represent themselves. There was no appeal from commission decisions. Inputs from Africa’s experience would be ready by next year.
The Forum’s Chair, PAUL KANYINKE SENA, added that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had some positions on land disputes, but they were difficult to implement.
TERRI ROBL (United States) commenting on statements about Hawaii made in the report on decolonization in the Pacific region, said that the call in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for their self-determination differed from the right to self-determination as understood in international law. In addition, the Government’s relationship with Native Hawaiians was in accord with federal law on relations with tribal peoples. Further, the report did not make clear who was requesting that Hawaii be put on the list of Non-Self-G overning Territories. The Secretary of the Interior had recently expressed support for passage of an act recognizing Native Hawaiians as a native tribe, which would offer them more channels for engagement. In closing, she said that she viewed the relationship with Native Hawaiians as a domestic issue.
The representative of Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact said that after having participated in the Forum’s annual sessions for 12 years, she noticed a decline in attendance and “fatigue” in the air. For the first three to five years, there had been an enthusiasm among indigenous peoples, Member States and United Nations entities. She wondered where the fatigue was coming from and why the attention to indigenous peoples had waned. Many recommendations had been made, but there had been insufficient monitoring. The Forum should not be making more recommendations on the same topics without reviewing the status of the past proposals. To the poor turnout of Member States, she said, “the Forum and indigenous peoples should not be talking to themselves”. It should draw more participation from Member States.
Turning to the Forum’s future work, she said the expert body should focus on a few themes each year. Those should be decided one year prior to the annual session so that participants had enough time to prepare their inputs. Instead of conducting studies on a range of issues, the Forum should conduct fewer studies on the selected themes. Further, the Forum should let indigenous representatives respond to presentations in an interactive way. Lastly, she urged the Forum to organize a “self-reflection” workshop.
ERIK LAURSEN ( Denmark) echoed the concerns raised during the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh, concerning its lack of full implementation of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts (“CHT”) Accord, which was fundamental to the rights of Jumma indigenous peoples, as well as the right of recognition of the identities of other religious and ethnic minorities. He also was concerned about adivasi and minority women and girls, pressing Bangladesh to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention no. 169. Welcoming the Cabinet’s approval of draft amendments to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, he urged that those changes be reflected in the full 13-point agreement made with the relevant Regional Council on 30 July 2012. He also urged Bangladesh to consult with the Council on Forrest (Amendment) Bill 2013. He voiced concern about communal violence in Rangamati on 22-23 September, urging Bangladesh to take steps to protect its people.
The representative of Stop the Killing of Indigenous Peoples Network in the Philippines, speaking on behalf of several groups, said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines was charged with overseeing implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Instead, however, it remained silent on human rights violations caused by resource extraction, especially a mining bill that placed indigenous peoples “at the backseat” in the name of foreign investment and development. It also had been silent on 35 cases of extrajudicial killing of indigenous peoples under the current President. He urged the Government to create an independent body to review the Commission, the Office of the Southern Cultural Communities in Mindanao and other Philippine statutes on indigenous rights. Operation Plan Bayanihan should be scrapped, human rights violations against indigenous peoples should be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. The 1995 Mining Act also should be repealed.
HALAKANGWA MBULAI ( Botswana) took the floor to clarify an issue raised by an indigenous caucus earlier in the session regarding land tenure and relocation of indigenous peoples. Her country had three land tenure systems. About 49 per cent of land fell under the customary land tenure system. The whole system was designed to ensure that land ownership was in the hands of citizens. Regarding an informal settlement of 182 indigenous people, the Government and the representative of the community had held extensive consultations in 2012 and early 2013. About 30 households had expressed their desire to relocate. The Government had no plan to move households that wished to remain, the representative stated.
A representative of International Working Group for Indigenous Peoples, speaking on behalf of several other organizations, noted that concerns had been raised repeatedly about lack of implementation of the Declaration with regard to the World Heritage Convention. An international expert workshop on the matter had been held in 2012 in Copenhagen, with indigenous experts from around the world, including from World Heritage areas. The meeting had produced a call to action regarding the legacy of human rights violations relating to implementation of the World Heritage Convention, which should be brought into compliance with the Declaration. A group of indigenous experts should be formed to ensure such compliance, she said, offering several recommendations towards that end. Among those was for the upcoming session of the World Heritage Committee to establish operational guidelines on implementation of the Convention, particularly with regard to free, prior and informed consent.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said his Government attached “paramount” importance to the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, noting that its Constitution was among the most progressive in South-East Asia, with several provisions dedicated to indigenous peoples. Act No. 8371 — known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act — recognized indigenous peoples’ inherent rights to self-determination and to ancestral domains, as well as the applicability of customary property rights laws. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples was comprised of representatives of the country’s seven ethnographic regions and formulated policies for the recognition, promotion and protection of indigenous rights. It recently promulgated revised guidelines on the exercise of free, prior and informed consent and related processes. The Government was one of only a handful of countries to have contributed to the voluntary Trust Fund.
DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Forum member, said that Canada was preparing a presentation to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on what it perceived to be their Arctic territory. In that context, she noted an “alarming lack” of consultation with the indigenous Inuit peoples of the area. The Convention on the Law of the Sea contained no recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. Such international, legally binding treaties should be revisited and reworked. The numerous rights affirmed through the Declaration must promote respect for the Declaration’s standards, particularly in article 42. Inuit peoples needed a mechanism to ensure them a role in the delimitation of territory. She urged the Canadian Government to engage with the Inuit peoples in preparing their presentation to the Commission.
A representative of Consejo Indio Exterior Capai Internacional Milka Cisa said that Indians embraced their own God, who was found in all things. He asked: “Why should we respect your God? If you honoured your God, why did you crucify it?” Honouring that God, he added, had allowed for colonization. He rejected the theology of liberation in favour of the liberation of theology. Indigenous peoples had helped to root out the Spanish colonizers and exchanged them for another form of colonization in the market economy. Indigenous peoples must educate their children. He said that the World Bank offered breakfast and a conference to further the domination of indigenous peoples by States. Yet, States’ understanding of government had nothing to do with that of the American Indian movement. Autonomy was not something to be “gifted” by Governments, but to be taken for “ourselves”, he said.
Forum member MIRNA CUNNINGHAM KAIN described how indigenous peoples’ rights had been recognized in her country, Nicaragua. Self-governing territories had been established and their models of governance and their collective rights had been recognized. A challenge was to define land limits. But as a result of all efforts, more than 500 negotiated agreements had been made on demarcations, common areas and land use. For instance, those agreements had determined which land could be used for agriculture and which parcels should remain sacred. A territory law recognized the authority of communities and allowed them to receive the budget for protecting land. She also stressed the importance of harmonizing national legal policy with inter-American and international norms, as well as the need for capacity-building. Also important was to articulate a development strategy for indigenous peoples, not for the extractive industries.
CARLOS LLANCAQUEO, Presidential Commissioner for Easter Island of Chile, said that the new administrative institution had been established on the island to govern indigenous peoples there. Three round tables had been set up, respectively, on special status, indigenous migration and development. Each body had a diverse membership. The round table on special status sought constitutional reform, proposing the establishment of an island Government and democratically elected development Council. In accordance with ILO Convention no. 169, the migration round table had drafted legislation that would give indigenous peoples permanent resident status. The draft law would be submitted to the Congress next month. Those results had been achieved through dialogue with indigenous peoples.
Forum Member ALVARO POP said that the intense work taken over the last two weeks would be gathered into a single document and published shortly. He expressed appreciation to all who had participated. Taking note of recommendations made on how the Forum could improve its work, he had several suggestions, among them the need to have specific themes to work on during the Forum’s two-week sessions and for studies to be related to the session’s main themes.
A representative of the Chitaggong Hill Tracts Citizen Committee and other organizations expressed satisfaction that the Cabinet of Bangladesh had recently approved the draft of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act, 2013, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the CHT Accord of 1997. If the amendments reflected the recommendations of the CHT Regional Council, the Land Commission would be able to provide quick, fair and inexpensive justice to cases of land alienation of indigenous peoples, including through restitution. However, subsequent to a meeting with high-level CHT representatives, in January 2012, further changes to the draft had been suggested. He was concerned that if those changes were part of the draft approved by the Cabinet, that would violate the provisions of the Accord. In that event, the proposed tabling of the bill at the next parliamentary session would represent “yet another step to violate the provisions of the 1997 Accord”. The Forum should reiterate its recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh on implementation of the CHT Accord, and he urged the Government to defer legislation until after receiving the free, prior and informed consent of the CHT Regional Council.
MANDY DOHERTY, Manager, Reconciliation and Relationships Branch, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs of Australia, focused on the study by Ms. Davis on the impact of Australia’s mining boom on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Much of the mining described in the report took place on land either owned or held by those peoples, or claimed under land rights or native title legislation. Australia had procedures for “good faith” consultation with indigenous peoples, as seen in Native Title Act 1993, which established the “right to negotiate” and required the miner, developer or Government to negotiate with the registered native title party for at least six months. If parties did not agree, the National Native Title Tribunal could determine if talks should continue, in order to reach a “good faith” agreement. In addition, the Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory) Act 1976 allowed Aboriginal landowners to veto mineral exploration on their land.
Proposals for Thirteenth Session
Ms. CUNNINGHAM KAIN, Forum member, presented proposals for the draft agenda of the thirteenth session of the Forum presented in document E/C.19/2013/L.7. Among them were having as its special theme “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46(3); human rights; a half-day discussion on the Asian region; and a half-day discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. She also proposed ongoing priorities, themes and follow-up discussions, including on indigenous children and youth, the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, and the post-2015 development agenda.
The representative of CONAMAQ said that he had heard many Member States say that their policies were in favour of indigenous peoples in discussions on culture, health, education and human rights, but no Government had talked about the creation of a special mechanism to monitor the implementation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent. He, therefore, recommended that all States that had ratified ILO Convention no. 169 establish a neutral, impartial and independent body to monitor implementation of the “free, prior and informed consent” provision. Turning to the issue of compensation for victimized indigenous peoples, he urged the Forum to hold events focusing on that topic, adding that if it remained silent on that issue, it would be complicit in the “cover-up” of a dark history.
A representative of the Wapikoni Mobile organization said that the rights of the First Nations people had been violated constantly within the past century by corporations. A lack of consultation with indigenous groups had resulted in an irreparable amount of damage towards ceremonial and historic sites, burial groups, and moose and bear dens. In addition, the right to exercise and practise its sovereignty by appointing chiefs traditionally through customs had been disrupted multiple times by higher Powers. Recent Canadian legislation allowing companies to pump chemicals into the land and extract oil and allow nuclear waste to be stored near several nations’ traditional territories would greatly affect the overall living conditions of already poor communities. It would also affect the First Nations peoples’ personal and spiritual relationship with the water and land. As a young First Nations filmmaker, he encouraged indigenous filmmaking because it was a great way to preserve indigenous culture, language, and oral history.
A representative of Techantit said that the peoples of the territory known today as El Salvador were deeply concerned about the impact of extractive industries on their lands. He urged all States to consider and implement the recommendation made by the Expert Mechanism in its report focused on extractive industries, which covered in detail the use of troops hired to kill indigenous peoples. El Salvador had passed a public-private partnership law, placing the lands of indigenous peoples in the hands of the private sector and multinational corporations and giving extractive corporations the right to exploit those lands. “Since 1492, we have been invaded, our land taken by force and our access to water denied,” he said, declaring that his people had been perpetual victims of genocide and ethnocide. Indeed, there had been several major massacres of their peoples over the course of recent history, he said, and extractive industries were still located in the areas where those massacres had occurred.
A representative of Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana said that the World Conference of 2014 should provide an action plan that would address indigenous matters promptly and effectively. The indigenous peoples of Guyana proudly practised their rights, guaranteed in Guyana’s legislation, in the country’s more than 160 indigenous villages and communities. The indigenous peoples were consulted in connection with REDD+, the programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and other projects affecting them. On extractive industries, he said that Guyana’s Amerindian Act gave them rights over the resources on their lands, as well as the right to engage in extractive activities on their lands, or to allow others to do so. So far, there had been no threats by extractive industries in Guyana since the indigenous people themselves were the managers of the resources on their lands.
The representative of the Organisation des Nations Autotochtones de la Guyane Francaise deplored the lack of participation by Guyana’s leaders, especially women and girls in decision-making processes. It would be impossible for French Guyana’s indigenous peoples to participate in the World Conference due to the non-ratification of ILO Convention no. 169. The non-recognition of indigenous peoples in French Guyana concealed poverty and created environmental concerns. Indigenous peoples would continue to lay claim to their rights in a democratic manner. He recommended a study on non-recognition and especially on non-ratification of ILO Convention no. 169, which allowed such discrimination to exist.
A representative of the Indigenous World Association, supporting the statement made earlier by Joan Carling, said that indigenous lands and territories remained negatively impacted by extractive industries. States claimed the power to grant permits for mineral exploitation, including hydrofracking, on indigenous territories. Those claims violated the principle of non-discrimination on racial grounds, as they were based on racist ideologies. The Haudenosaunee peoples called for a complete ban on hydrofracking and other harmful extractive industries. In addition, recent Canadian legislation — developed without the consent of indigenous peoples — had compounded existing problems. “The integrity of the environment is being assaulted,” he said, calling on the Forum to convene an expert group meeting on ways to move away from current fossil fuel reliance; as well as an expert group meeting on hydrofracking, tar sands and other related methods, which would also address their effects on indigenous peoples.
A representative of FAIRA said he was alarmed to hear the opinion by the representative of the United States concerning indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. In that regard, he hoped that the Forum would make it clear that the Declaration affirmed that indigenous peoples were equal to all others. Concerning the Forum’s future work, he agreed with the recommendations made earlier by the Arctic Council and hoped they would be given consideration. There were too many recommendations made to the Forum over its 12 sessions that remained unaddressed or unimplemented, and not enough attention had been given to the issues raised by indigenous groups from the floor. As the Forum fell under the mandate of the Economic and Social Council, more of the Council’s subsidiary bodies should incorporate indigenous issues into their work and the issues should be a standing item of the Council’s agenda.
A representative of National Native Title Council of Australia asked the Forum to urge Australia to adopt the conclusions and recommendations in the report on the impact of extractive industries there. The impact of the mining boom on indigenous communities in Australia was both negative and positive, as the redistribution of wealth was inequitable. More generally, the right of indigenous peoples to maintain their lifestyle was threatened by multinational corporations and other interests. The Declaration ensured indigenous rights, in particular, to self-determination, participation, and free, prior and informed consent. It was the duty of States to respect those rights. That also applied to corporations, including in the mining industry.
Continuing, the speaker said that the Native Title Act had caused the extractive industry to negotiate with indigenous peoples for access to land, both with those who had clear claim and those whose claims were under consideration. With more than 400 native title claims pending, that was of great importance to indigenous peoples. However, the right to free, prior and informed consent was still not fully recognized in Australia, and as 60 per cent of mining activity was in indigenous communities, free, prior and informed consent was critical.
A representative of the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq said that indigenous peoples desperately needed consideration during elaboration of the post-2015 sustainable development goals. Her organization had worked to respond to crises in Iraq starting in 1991, including the destruction of Assyrian villages. It provided funds to Assyrian education and to agriculture projects. The organization’s commitment had intensified when the war in Iraq had begun in 2003; in 2006, it had provided assistance to internally displaced persons who had fled their homes. The organization struggled to keep up with all its activities, but its funding did not fulfil the daily demands of the Assyrian people. Hundreds of Assyrians were now returning to Iraq and needed support, as well as job opportunities, and the assistance provided by the Assyrian Aid Society was fundamental to ensuring the continuity of that ancient culture.
A representative of Yurta Mira said that the organization’s work had assisted the indigenous peoples of Siberia to affirm their rights to cultural legacy, language, traditions and healing practices, and had enabled two Yakut people with disabilities to participate in and become champions at the Paralympic Games. Yurta Mira had also opened a museum in the far north of Yakutia to promote the work of the Permanent Forum. In addition, the organization had made a presentation on traditional folk medicine at the Forum’s current session, at which proposals had been made to name a Day of Folk Healers or even proclaim a Year of Folk Medicine.
A representative of the Confederacion Historica de Evangelicos Quechas of Peru said that indigenous peoples worldwide shared the same destiny and the same struggles. There was nothing concrete to protect indigenous peoples’ right to spirituality and to holy places, and she proposed that the Forum take up that issue in its future sessions. A number of extractive and other projects that did not “follow the rules” of the Declaration were currently under way in Peru. The Declaration stated that indigenous peoples had the right to compensation, including reparations, for territories and resources that were traditionally owned by its peoples, but that were plundered or damaged without free, prior and informed consent. Turning to language, she said that Peruvian law had made progress in acknowledging that there were other languages beside Spanish spoken in the country. However, a number of institutions and people still mistreated those who spoke Quechua or other native languages. In that regard, she proposed that there should be an interpreter for those languages in national and international forums.
A representative of Yamasi People said that the current system at the United Nations forced Member States to appropriate indigenous peoples’ cultures, humans, winds, lands and waters and to speak for them in violation of the Charter. She made a series of recommendations, among them that the General Assembly establish a multilateral dialogue process in which the human rights violations of indigenous peoples could be discussed; that the Forum request be honoured to put Hawaii, Alaska, West Papua, Rapa Nui and Jammu and Kashmir, among others, on the list of Non-Self Governing Territories; that the Special Committee on Decolonization recommend modalities for indigenous peoples to participate in climate change negotiations; and that the Economic and Social Council establish an indigenous secretariat under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to incorporate indigenous views in an approach to sustainable development.
A representative of the New Future Foundation said that she represented 55 million displaced Africans of the transatlantic slave trade. In coming to North America in the bowels of ships, their blood from Africa blended with that of indigenous Native Americans; that made her an indigenous woman on her father’s side. She then shared the recommendations and concerns of the New Future Foundation, which had asked her to speak on their behalf as an elder. Those included the promotion of non-discrimination and integration of indigenous peoples in all policy processes; the promotion of full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the decisions that affected them; and, among others, the strengthening of monitoring and accountability with regard to commitments to improve their lives. Indigenous women had the right, without discrimination, to improvement of their economic and social condition; “when you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. Particular attention should also be paid to the needs and rights of indigenous elders, youth, children and persons with disabilities.
The speaker for the North Rupununi District Development Board, which represents two indigenous peoples in northern Guyana, said that they had a good relationship with the Government and were the only community participating in its Community Monitoring, Reporting and Verification programme. More generally, he noted that the failure of Governments to interact with indigenous peoples was a source of their many challenges; sometimes that was a failure of the indigenous peoples themselves. Constant communication was needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
ANA NAYKANCHINA, Forum member, said that many indigenous peoples had funded their own trips to attend the session, at great expense. She hoped that the practice of hearing reports on the situation of indigenous peoples at the national and regional levels would continue. Since the second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was coming to an end, she urged States to move from talk to concrete action, and not to forget the terminology and other issues that had been developed over the past 20 years. Lastly, she called on States to refrain from using various forms of pressure on indigenous communities, and noted in that connection that industrial organizations in the Russian Federation had been exerting unfair pressures on indigenous peoples.
EDWARD JOHN, Forum member, concerning the proposed study on resolving land disputes, said there was a great deal of uncertainty regarding the enforcement of treaties and the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands. Treaties must be enforced in the spirit in which they had been negotiated. In British Columbia, few such instruments existed, however, as the former colonial Government had appropriated all indigenous lands and territories to the Crown without the knowledge or consent of the peoples living there. Following extensive public protests, the Government had decided to reform the way treaties were enforced, the framework for which could be found in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There were many similar land-rights disputes all over the world.
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