20 May 2002






(Reissued as received from a UN Information Officer.)



NEW YORK, 14 May -- The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today continued to review the activities of the United Nations system for the economic and social development of indigenous peoples, hearing presentations by various United Nations agencies.


The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said all the work of the rights-based agency involved ensuring labour standards, adding that ILO, while not a large-scale funding agency, carried out capacity-building projects for indigenous peoples and governments.  The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the body’s mandate involved ensuring environmental sustainability and eradicating extreme poverty -- two of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


The representatitive of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) said current training programmes focused on peace-building and preventive diplomacy, adding that UNITAR worked to strengthen institutional capacities in areas such as conflict mediation.  The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) acknowledged the challenges faced by indigenous peoples, and said UN-HABITAT programmes promoted the right to development.


The World Bank representative said the Bank recognized the fundamental value of the indigenous world view, and put special emphasis on the need for mobilizing human, social and natural resource capital for economic and social development, adding that the Bank strove to ensure the participation of civil society organizations and indigenous peoples in every facet of its work.


In the ensuing discussion, several Forum members posed questions to the representatives of United Nations agencies, expressing concerns on the applicability of the work of the agencies to indigenous peoples and calling for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making.  Forum members called for additional ratifications of the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169), which had only been ratified by 14 States.  They also called for a disaggregation of financial and programme data in operations affecting indigenous peoples.


The Tuesday session had begun with general statements by Forum members.  Otilia Lux de Coti (Guatemala) said the Permanent Forum represented “a huge step

forward” in recognition of the human rights of indigenous people, and stressed the need for a strategic plan and financial programming to launch actions for social justice.  Wayne Lord (Canada), noting the need for an action-oriented work plan for partnerships and action, called on the United Nations system to strengthen and support the Permanent Forum and its work, and called on Member States to heed the requests for funding.


Marcos Matias Alonso (Mexico) noted the growing interest and commitment of the United Nations, shown in the establishment of the Permanent Forum and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, and stressed the importance of a consultative process -– especially with the United Nations specialized agencies.  Zinaida Stogalschikova (Russian Federation) said that constitutions and fundamental laws should be changed to sanction support of ethnic peoples, adding that the Permanent Forum was able to help indigenous people attain respect, but first its work should be widely publicized.


Parshuram Tamang (Nepal) said the role of the Permanent Forum should be broader, adding that the benefits to be gained depended on collective action.  Mililani Trask (United States) said the mandate of the Permanent Forum was so broad that it raised concerns.  The body should first of all address the issues of health, education, and economic and social development.


Ida Nicolaisen (Denmark) said more efforts were needed to empower and improve the conditions of indigenous peoples, and called for a resolution of the financial situation of the Permanent Forum.  Fortunato Turpo Choquhuanca (Peru) called for an end to alliances based on hypocrisy and discrimination, which should be replaced, in accordance with the Permanent Forum mandate, with the promotion of peace and a fairer balance between indigenous people and the State.


Observers of several indigenous organizations then made statements.  In particular, they called for a prompt conclusion of the drafting of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.  Concerns were expressed over certain indigenous issues not being treated as global issues, yet affecting everybody -- such as migration, indigenous people in the urban environment, and people displaced by political, religious or agrarian conflicts.


One speaker called on the Permanent Forum to recommend that the World Summit on Sustainable Development adopt a strong statement on indigenous peoples.  Another said that policies should transcend the nation-State, look beyond the boundaries of States, and develop more inclusive ways of addressing indigenous issues.  Another called for full participation in decision-making by indigenous people, and for respect for their traditional economic and social systems, which could be better understood through more consultations.





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