23 May 2002
MILITARIZATION OF INDIGENOUS AREAS A GROWING THREAT, PERMANENT FORUM TOLD
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
NEW YORK, 22 May -- An “alarming increase of militarization in many parts of Asia” was affecting indigenous communities, an indigenous representative today told the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as it continued to review human rights issues.
The representative of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact said the militarization in indigenous peoples’ areas was the root cause of many forms of human rights violations. By declaring states of emergency, laws on "disturbed areas" and other draconian measures, some Asian countries had legitimized acts of violence by the military. The Forum should form a Working Group on Militarization to consult with affected indigenous peoples; request United Nations agencies to ensure that funds allocated for development are not used for military activities; and recommend the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on militarization in indigenous areas.
Asenaca Uluiviti (Fiji) said the Forum presented a refreshing opportunity to inject into the United Nations system “old and organic ways of knowing.” By raising awareness and disseminating information, the Forum could help “dispel unfounded fears, correct entrenched injustices and build the needed respect and understanding” for indigenous issues. The prominent issues voiced by the many indigenous peoples attending the session should be incorporated in the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The representative of Na Koa Ikaika O Kalahui Hawaii (United States) recommended that the Forum shine light on the fact that a handful of States were trying to stall negotiations on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The Forum should call for a second Decade on indigenous peoples, since States and United Nations agencies had not fulfilled many of their obligations under the first Decade (1995-2004). The Forum should establish a working group on free and prior informed consent and participatory research guidelines, to address the many development, environment, health, education and human rights problems emerged at the session, as well as to guarantee that indigenous communities also benefit from medical and genetic research.
The representative of Chirapaq (Permanent Workshop of Peruvian Indigenous Women) said the establishment of the Permanent Forum was not a gift, but the result of great individual and collective efforts. Indigenous women, who were often victims of violence within and outside the family, secured the economic
survival of their families and played a political role as defenders of their organizations and peoples. At the same time, “the face of extreme poverty is the face of the indigenous woman,” whose rights were not respected. The Permanent Forum should recommend that United Nations agencies address these problems.
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee said many African States always asked, “Who is an indigenous person? Are we not all indigenous?” But indigenous peoples were those who had been oppressed and dispossessed by forces beyond their control. “The loss of land is the crux of our identity, and is at the root of our dispossession and marginalization,” she said. Indigenous peoples had been blamed for shunning development, but that was blaming the victim. The Forum shone “a light in the tunnel,” and should liaise with grass-roots organizations to find ways of making governments listen to indigenous peoples, recognize them, support them and start a process of affirmative action and development.
The representative of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (Canada) said his organization, representing some 800,000 Aboriginal people living outside reservations, was focusing on establishing partnerships with the government on policy issues such as health and labour marked development. The Forum was an important place to share ideas on developing policies with governments, and to bring key concerns before the United Nations. It was important to ensure a follow-up to the Forum’s recommendations, as well as to secure resources to make the Forum fully functional.
The representative of the Chin Human Rights Organization (Myanmar) said one root cause of problems in the country was the deprivation of indigenous peoples’ rights. Welcoming the current dialogue between the military regime and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he called on the Permanent Forum to use its good offices to strengthen this process, which should include the participation of indigenous peoples in a tripartite dialogue.
The representative of the Indigenous Information Network and African Indigenous Women’s Organization said Africa’s indigenous women remained the poorest, the most marginalized and the most vulnerable group. Lack of participation, access to information and funding were but a few of the obstacles they faced. The Permanent Forum should have a secretariat and budget enabling it to work effectively in its constituencies. “We need to have voices from the communities; their issues should be brought forward, and recommendations presented to the Permanent Forum,” she said.
The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations spoke of the Fund’s work to provide direct project assistance to indigenous communities and to facilitate their participation in United Nations events, and called on donors to fund new grants to assist indigenous peoples worldwide.
Eiji Yamamoto (Japan) said his county supported the efforts of the international community to promote the cause of indigenous peoples. It was crucial for the success of the Permanent Forum that it coordinated its work with United Nations and international agencies. The Forum should be provided with an appropriate secretariat, making the best possible use of existing mechanisms.
At the morning session, statements were also made by the observers for the Fellowship Programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Indian Treaty Council, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Association Napguana, Indigenous Peoples Survival Foundation, American Indian Community House, Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition, Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Ryukyus, Alifuru Organization, Nacion Mapuche, Shimin Gaikou Centre, Indigenous Information Network, Asociacion Peru Corazon, Ambedkar Center for Justice and Peace, Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples, and Denmark.
The afternoon session turned to the work plan and the future direction of the Permanent Forum.
Jeno Staehelin, Permanent Observer of Switzerland, said his country, through its development policies, sought to contribute to the defence of the most vulnerable populations, which often were indigenous populations. In the area of indigenous forest management, Switzerland had proposed to States, the economic sector and indigenous peoples a framework involving indigenous participation in forest management; the recognition of indigenous rights on forests; and the development of forest resources to benefit indigenous peoples. This model could be extended to health, intellectual property and the environment. The Forum should have a permanent secretariat, ideally in Geneva, and in that case Switzerland was ready to make a substantial contribution to its establishment and development, in line with its tradition of human rights protection.
The representative of the Haudenosaunee said the Forum’s work plan should include strengthening the policies of United Nations agencies for indigenous peoples; establishing a process to select new Forum members; and recommending to the Economic and Social Council that it recognize the status of indigenous nations as equal participants in future meetings.
The representative of Core Manipur said the Forum should create an open-ended intersessional working group on the establishment of a coordination mechanism on indigenous issues within the United Nations system. It should also undertake regional consultations to exchange information in view of its second session. The agenda for that session should focus on indigenous women and indigenous children, with special attention to the needs of indigenous girls.
In a joint statement, Te Kawau Maro (New Zealand) and Ka Lahui Hawai’i (United States) said the work plan should address the issue of informed consent, to guarantee that any project, activity or development affecting indigenous peoples was carried out through formal consultations and full informed consent. Other goals included finalizing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and establishing a comprehensive media network and Web site.
John Paki (New Zealand) said the Permanent Forum should look at ways to make information about the United Nations system widely available to indigenous peoples. It was equally important that the United Nations system access information and ideas from indigenous peoples, who held the keys to solving their own problems. The Forum should look at specific areas within its mandate where there was need for greater cooperation, and work out ways in which strategies, programmes and best practices could be identified and shared.
The representative of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said the Forum should carry out a study on the impact of State definitions of indigenous peoples on indigenous rights; make recommendations on how to build relationships with the various United Nations agencies; and develop an information programme aimed at indigenous peoples.
In a joint statement, the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, the National Aboriginal and Islander Services Secretariat, the National Secretariat of Torres Strait Islander Organisations and the Torres Strait Regional Authority said the Permanent Forum should develop as the expert body coordinating indigenous issues within the United Nations structure. Specifically, it should promote the recognition of indigenous self-determination, and make comments on the reports of the working groups on indigenous peoples and on the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The representative of the Maasai Education Discovery said the work plan should promote a bi-cultural approach to education for indigenous peoples worldwide, by pressing governments to introduce policies protecting indigenous rights. Indigenous peoples should be allowed to incorporate their cultural practices in their educational systems.
The representative of the Workshop of Andean Oral History said the Forum should monitor the United Nations agencies to ensure an effective and balanced treatment of indigenous issues; give impetus to national processes through indigenous leadership and information dissemination; and work in coordination with all indigenous organizations.
In a joint statement, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee Nation, Sovereign Dineh Nation and Regional Action Group for the Environment said the Forum should obtain United Nations, intergovernmental and private funding; define an aggressive set of rights that could be incorporated into a convention; ensure respect of land rights, water rights and environmental rights; protect traditionally shared resources; honour areas of religions significance; and create a definition of individual rights that could not be compromised by any national or tribal government.
Khin Thandar (Myanmar) said her country's laws recognized each of Myanmar's 135 ethnic groups. Myanmar was doing its best to develop the lives of all the many national races, especially those in far-flung border areas. Priority was given to education, child development and health, with laws and educational institutions seeking to develop traditional indigenous medicine.
Statements were also made by the observers for the Indigenous Caucus (joint statement), Parlamento Indigena de America, Indonesia, New Zealand, CAPAJ (joint statement), Centre for International Indigenous Legal Studies Project (University of British Columbia), Saami Council and Inuit Circumpolar Conference (joint statement), DoCip (Indigenous Peoples Centre for Documentation, Research and Information), the Russian Federation, Asociacion Nacional Indigena Salvadorena, Alaska University, Organizacion Gonawindva Tarono Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – Colombia, Inuit Youth International, Aymara Alliance, Asia Indigenous Caucus (joint statement), American Indian Law Alliance, Canada, Abya Yala Fund for Indigenous Rights, Tebtebba Foundation, IPAAC/Tamaynut, Fundacion Achuar “Ecologica Kapawi”, Kaweshkar Project for Indigenous People -- Chile, Asociacion Regional Aborigen del DIKES (Costa Rica), Indigenous Caucus (joint statement).