The Permanent Forum recommended the following actions in its annual session reports:
Sixteenth Session (2017)
- The Permanent Forum has made a number of recommendations, in particular at its seventh and ninth sessions, on conservation and human rights, which to date remain largely unimplemented. Particular attention has been given by the Forum to the critical issue of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in establishing and managing any protected area that affects their territories, livelihoods and resources. Those recommendations should be implemented urgently, considering the continued infliction of human rights violations on indigenous peoples in relation to conservation measures.
- The Permanent Forum urges the Government of Kenya to recognize and formally protect the land and resource rights of the Ogiek and Sengwer peoples in line with the Constitution of Kenya, the Community Land Act of 2016 and other relevant laws, before moving ahead with planned conservation efforts in the Cherangany Hills.
- The Permanent Forum urges the International Union for Conservation of Nature to establish a task force on conservation and human rights to work with indigenous peoples’ communities and organizations to clearly articulate the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of conservation initiatives and to continue to promote grievance mechanisms and avenues for redress in the context of conservation action, including the Whakatane Mechanism. The Forum invites the Union to report on progress made in the implementation of these recommendations in future sessions.
- The Permanent Forum recommends that States develop laws and policies to ensure the recognition, continued vitality and protection from misappropriation of indigenous traditional knowledge.
- The Permanent Forum calls upon Member States to start the work, in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, of creating a place and a voice for indigenous peoples in the governance of the world’s oceans. This effort involves the participation of indigenous peoples in all aspects of the work and decision-making regarding the Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the environmental provisions and the delimitation of the continental shelf. It may also include establishing advisory committees of indigenous peoples to guide the work under the Convention, as has been done under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- The Permanent Forum calls upon the United Nations bodies and Member States to ensure that indigenous peoples have a voice equal to States in the development of and negotiations on the international agreement to address marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. States and the United Nations should guarantee that the agreement upholds and respects indigenous peoples’ role in governing the oceans and the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Fifteenth Session (2016)
- In accordance with the right to food security and food sovereignty, the Permanent Forum takes note of the Indigenous Terra Madre 2015 held in Shillong, Meghalaya, north-east India, from 3 to 7 November 2015 and convened by the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the government of Meghalaya and a number of non-governmental organizations and funding agencies. The event, including a food festival, was attended by delegates from 62 countries and 170 indigenous communities, who adopted the Shillong Declaration of Indigenous Terra Madre 2015. The Forum likewise commends the initiative to form the Indigenous Food Communities Alliance as an indigenous platform for promoting good, clean and fair food based on agroecological initiatives that respect Mother Earth, are culturally sensitive, value traditional practices and are based on indigenous traditional scientific knowledge.
- In relation to the food security and food sovereignty of indigenous peoples, the Permanent Forum acknowledges indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, in particular that of indigenous women, and recognizes their cultural, social and environmental practices, which contribute to global efforts and initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The Permanent Forum calls upon indigenous peoples to share with the world their cultural, social and environmental practices relating to the production and consumption of food, which are part of the solution to the global search for agricultural systems that are just, healthy, peaceful and sustainable.
- The Permanent Forum recommends that Member States, owing to the threat of biopiracy and the pharmaceutical industry, develop legislative measures, with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, to protect traditional medicine and knowledge, and to secure the rights of indigenous peoples to intellectual property.
- While it is recognized that land and environmental degradation are factors of global concern, they have caused severe and stressful negative impacts among indigenous peoples as a result of land mismanagement such as the overexploitation of natural resources through factors such as mining and the overutilization of forest wood (timber) and other products. This has resulted in soil and water degradation, leading to the acceleration of the effects of climate change, low food production and uncertain livelihoods for communities. The Permanent Forum recommends that States stop development projects on indigenous peoples’ lands that lack environmental impact assessments and certificates of free, prior and informed consent.
Tenth Session (2011)
- The environment is one of the six substantive areas that the Permanent Forum is mandated to address, and covers a range of issues, including land rights, land use, natural resources, water, oceans, wetlands, fishing, climate change, forests, desertification, pollution, traditional knowledge and access, and benefit-sharing. Environmental issues are also incorporated into a number of articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically in relation to lands, territories and resources. Articles 25 to 32 outline the rights of indigenous peoples in relation to maintaining and strengthening their spiritual relationship with lands, territories and resources, including the right to own, develop and control their lands, to conserve and protect the environment and the production capacity of lands, to determine development on their lands and to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge and knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora.
- The Permanent Forum endorses the report and recommendations of the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Forests (see E/C.19/2011/5) and reiterates the two recommendations (paras. 18 and 20) set out below.
- States should recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to forests and should review and amend laws that are not consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards on indigenous peoples’ land and natural resource rights, including over forests. This includes indigenous peoples’ customary law on land and resource rights and the right to be fully involved in decision-making processes.
- Conservation, environmental and other non-governmental organizations ensure that their forest-related programmes and policies use the human rights-based and ecosystem approach to forest conservation. This includes the integration of the implementation of the Declaration in their forest programmes.
- OHCHR, the secretariat of the Permanent Forum, ILO, the World Bank Group and other relevant United Nations entities, including United Nations country teams, should focus on increasing the understanding of indigenous peoples’ underlying material rights to land and the need to give material rights priority over process rights. These agencies should undertake analytical work on how the intensity and exclusivity criteria that are commonly encompassed in domestic property rights systems could be understood in the context of international human rights standards related to indigenous property rights.
- The Permanent Forum calls upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and States parties thereto to develop mechanisms to promote the participation of indigenous peoples in all aspects of the international dialogue on climate change.
- The Permanent Forum welcomes the adoption by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its 10th meeting of the Code of Ethical Conduct to Ensure Respect for the Cultural and Intellectual Heritage of Indigenous and Local Communities Relevant to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity (the Tkarihwaié:ri code of ethical conduct),1 which arose from a Forum recommendation made at its second session, and invites parties and Governments, international agencies and all those working with indigenous communities to make use of the code for research and access to, use, exchange and management of information concerning traditional knowledge.
- However, elements of the Tkarihwaié:ri code of ethical conduct are voluntary. The Permanent Forum is concerned that paragraph one of the code is restrictive as it includes the following: “They should not be construed as altering or interpreting the obligations of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity or any other international instrument. They should not be interpreted as altering domestic laws, treaties, agreements or other constructive arrangements that may already exist.”
- The Permanent Forum welcomes the adoption by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity of two additional indicators for traditional knowledge: (a) status and trends in land use change and land tenure in the traditional territories of indigenous and local communities, and (b) status and trends in the practice of traditional occupations, to complement the adopted indicator on status and trends in traditional languages. The Forum urges the secretariat of the Convention and agencies working on these issues, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ILO, FAO, IFAD and the International Land Coalition, to collaborate with a view to fully operationalizing those indicators.
- In regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, the Permanent Forum reiterates its long-standing position of encouraging the United Nations, its organs and specialized agencies, as well as all States, to adopt a human rights-based approach. At the international, regional and national level, the human rights of indigenous peoples are always relevant if such rights are at risk of being undermined. Human rights are indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated. They must be respected in any context specifically concerning indigenous peoples, from environment to development, to peace and security, and many other issues
- Affirmation of the status of indigenous peoples as “peoples” is important in fully respecting and protecting their human rights. Consistent with its 2010 report (E/2010/43-E/C.19/2010/15), the Permanent Forum calls upon the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and especially including the Nagoya Protocol, to adopt the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities” as an accurate reflection of the distinct identities developed by those entities since the adoption of the Convention almost 20 years ago.
- The Permanent Forum reiterates to the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and especially to the parties to the Nagoya Protocol, the importance of respecting and protecting indigenous peoples’ rights to genetic resources consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Consistent with the objective of “fair and equitable” benefit sharing in the Convention and Protocol, all rights based on customary use must be safeguarded and not only “established” rights. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has concluded that such kinds of distinctions would be discriminatory (see CERD/C/GUY/CO/14, para. 15)
- The Permanent Forum welcomes the World Intellectual Property Organization facilitating a process, in accordance with the Declaration, to engage with indigenous peoples on matters including intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
- The Permanent Forum decides to appoint Kanyinke Sena, Mirna Cunningham and Bertie Xavier, members of the Permanent Forum, to conduct a study on indigenous peoples’ rights and safeguards in projects related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and to report back to the Permanent Forum at its twelfth session, in 2013.
- Numerous indigenous representatives have raised region-specific concerns about the adverse impacts of climate change on their communities. The Permanent Forum will therefore explore the potential for conducting, by appropriate United Nations entities, assessments, studies and reviews of the economic, social and cultural impacts of climate change on indigenous nations, peoples and communities. For example, the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification could conduct a study on climate change and desertification in the African region.
- The Permanent Forum recognizes the right to participate in decision-making and the importance of mechanisms and procedures for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in relation to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Forum reiterates that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Maritime Organization should facilitate indigenous peoples’ participation in their processes.
- The Permanent Forum welcomes the study on indigenous peoples and corporations that examined existing mechanisms and policies related to corporations and indigenous peoples and identified good practices. The Forum recommends that best practices of the application of the right of free, prior and informed consent regarding corporations and indigenous peoples be documented and shared.
- The Permanent Forum notes the intention of the International Indigenous Women’s Environmental Justice and Reproductive Health Initiative to organize an expert group meeting on the environment and indigenous women’s reproductive health and requests that the organizers invite members of the Permanent Forum to participate in the meeting. Further, the Permanent Forum recommends that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization participate in the expert group meeting.