While progress had been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, indigenous peoples were disproportionately represented in those still unfulfilled, especially poverty reduction, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said today, urging that a multicultural vision of humanity guide the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda and that their voices be respected in each crucial stage of deliberations.
Taking up ongoing priorities, the Forum heard presentations by five experts involved in fields that aimed, directly and indirectly, to improve indigenous peoples’ situations around the world, whether through project finance, targeted policy interventions or political representation in the intergovernmental process to devise the sustainable development goals.
On that point, Csaba Kőrösi ( Hungary), Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, provided an update on the process, noting that there would likely be 16 or 17 Goals. Among them, 14 had garnered “very broad support” among States and all other partners, including poverty eradication, food security, hunger, health, education, gender, water, energy, economic growth, sustainable consumption and production, oceans and seas, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Two areas required “very profound political deal-making”, national implementation, and the creation of inclusive societies, he said. The outcome for a third focus area — climate change — would depend on last-minute deliberations, as many States argued it should not be a stand-alone Goal. The “zero draft” would refer to traditional knowledge, as well as access to decision-making and natural resource management. Because terms such as “vulnerable groups” meant “indigenous peoples”, and States would apply the Goals to national conditions, he urged indigenous peoples to work with their Governments to determine how the Goals would be turned into action on the ground.
Along similar lines, Robert Borrero, on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group, said the United Nations was building on the momentum of the Millennium Development Goals to formulate an ambitious post-2015 agenda. The Millennium Goals had been criticized for keeping indigenous peoples invisible, especially since they had been sidelined in their formulation and were generally unaware of the process. The lack of disaggregated data related to implementation was another concern.
Recalling that the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development had set the basis for engagement on the post-2015 agenda, he said States had launched an all-inclusive process to outline the new goals. The mandate of the Open Working Group called for input from civil society, and indigenous peoples participated through the “major groups” category. The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held other opportunities for indigenous peoples’ participation, but the modalities had not yet been confirmed.
Joan Carling, a Forum member from the Philippines, said the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People sought to strengthen international cooperation in the areas of culture, education, health, human rights, environment and socioeconomic development. It aimed to promote the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of legal and other processes; to advance their full and effective participation in decisions affecting their lives; to define culturally appropriate development policies; to adopt policies for indigenous peoples’ development; and to establish strong monitoring of the implementation of international legal and operational frameworks. Noting that indigenous peoples were still not formally recognized in many places and had lower human development indicators, she said that for outcomes to bring real change, a paradigm shift was required, which would foster an inclusive, equitable agenda.
Providing a gender perspective, Agnes Leina, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, described the outcome of the Global Conference of Indigenous Women, held from 28 to 30 October 2013 in Lima, Peru. The outcome offered a framework through which to channel efforts for eradicating the violence, poverty and racism facing indigenous women. It also outlined a political stance and an advocacy road map. Indigenous women advocated for their inclusion in all consultations at national and international levels.
They also had pledged to strengthen coordination with civil society and seek resources to address the post-2015 goals with culturally relevant indicators, she said. Moreover, they would advocate for States to eliminate inequality; ensure free, prior and informed consent; acknowledge the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an international standard for achieving sustainable development; include culture as a fourth pillar; and acknowledge indigenous peoples’ holistic framework for sustainable development, which included a human rights-based approach. The strong impact of violence on indigenous women also must be acknowledged.
Rounding out the presentations, Gervais Nzoa, a Forum member from Cameroon, described the Forum’s Small Grants Programme, which provided financial support to indigenous peoples’ initiatives, and focused on capacity-building, empowerment and policy processes. The maximum grant size was $10,000 over one year. The Forum Bureau, which acted as the advisory group for the programme, would urge donor States to do more.
In addition to the programme, he said, there was also the Trust Fund for the support of Forum members, which facilitated their participation at international meetings. A key challenge, however, was mobilizing financial resources, and he thanked Denmark, as a main contributor. Recalling that, in 2005, the Fund had received $149,542, he said that, by 2014, that amount had dropped to $129,311. To date, the following countries had contributed: Algeria, Canada, China, Cyprus Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Libya, Luxembourg, Mexico, Peru, Philippines and Suriname.
When the floor was opened for debate, a number of speakers called for indigenous peoples’ distinct recognition in the post-2015 goals, including Mohammad Hassani Nejad Pirkouhi, Forum member from Iran, who said it seemed unfair to categorize indigenous peoples among marginal groups, when, instead, they should be viewed as inspiring groups.
A representative of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus, on behalf of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network and Tebtebba, agreed, calling on the Forum and Member States to ensure the post-2015 agenda recognized the distinct identities of indigenous peoples and not as “vulnerable groups”. She suggested targets for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights and well-being and for Governments and businesses to keep indigenous peoples’ lands intact and safe from “development aggression projects”, such as extractive industries.
Current realities about skewed successes in achieving the Millennium Development Goals must be addressed, said José Angelino Caamal Mena, an indigenous parliamentarian from Mexico. The Government had reported national progress in areas including gender equity and access to primary education, yet more than 80 per cent of indigenous people in his country lived in poverty, more than 6 per cent of children lacked access to education and one third lacked access to water and sanitation. While “The Future We Want” concept had intended to be a road map, mechanisms must be put in place to implement that concept. Proposing the centrality of inter-cultural and sustainable human development in guiding future actions, he urged all States to establish public policies to guarantee indigenous peoples’ rights to achieve “full-fledged development”.
On a similar note, another indigenous parliamentarian from Mexico, Carlos de Jesús Alejandro, said many States lagged behind in implementing the Indigenous Rights Declaration. A unilateral blueprint for development had often left indigenous peoples aside, with infrastructure works, such as roads and dams, and exploration and mining exploiting indigenous lands. Far from listening to indigenous peoples with regard to land use, authorities were arresting them, he said. Instead, States must shape policies to be in line with the Declaration, respecting the rights to free, prior and informed consent over land issues.
Describing his view of what the new set of sustainable development goals should look like, a representative of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network urged Governments to stop large-scale mining, repeal laws allowing the entry of extractive industries on indigenous lands and take a human rights-based approach to development. Self-determined and sustainable development should begin at the village level. Development aid should serve indigenous communities as a debt repaid for colonialism, he said, and indigenous peoples should become active stakeholders in the post-2015 development discussions.
For their part, many Government representatives, attending as observers, voiced support for including indigenous peoples’ aspirations in sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda, with Mexico’s speaker saying no one should be left behind in that process. He said traditional knowledge had struck a clear balance between the environment and development, with indigenous women playing a critical role. As such, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples should be linked to an inclusive post-2015 agenda, he added.
Similarly, Brazil’s delegate said special attention should be given to the integrity of the local environment in any development strategy that concerned indigenous peoples. His country’s National Policy for Environmental and Territorial Management of Indigenous Lands was a key tool in the pursuit of sustainable development goals and could be a model for other countries.
Entities of the Organization also weighed in, with the Permanent Observer to the United Nations for the International Development Law Organization noting that the Forum’s basic principles on equality, non-discrimination, sustainability, culture and identity fuelled his organization’s work. The rule of law was not an abstract concept, but a concrete platform from which to fight discrimination and exclusion, he said.
A representative of the United Nations Environment Programme underlined the importance of “sustainable pastoralism” as an important tool for development that should be included in the post-2015 discussions. Pastoralists should not be seen as victims but as part of the solution, she said, recommending that United Nations agencies bring pastoralism into the post-2015 fold.
A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, speaking on behalf of the Regional Inter-Agency Group, said that although there had been unprecedented progress in terms of rights, more must be done. He hoped the post-2015 discussions would involve indigenous peoples and their concerns.
Summing up a strong sentiment expressed by many of the day’s speakers, the representative of the International Public Organization Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea said the world had been split into two parts: one that observed indigenous peoples’ rights and another which officially — or unofficially — followed a policy of non-recognition and oppression.
“The main goal is to achieve the factual and legal equal rights for indigenous peoples of the world,” he declared, “without any exceptions and reservations.”
Also delivering statements today were representatives of the following indigenous organizations: Disability Caucus, Tribal Link, International Indian Treaty Council and Association for Law and Advocacy for Pastoralists.
Representatives of the following Member States, attending as observers, also spoke: Australia, El Salvador, Chile, Guatemala and Bolivia.
The Forum will reconvene at 11 a.m. on Thursday, 22 May, to continue its work.