Opening Session Of The Twentieth Session of The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Distinguished Chairperson, 
Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 
Distinguished Representatives of Member States, 
Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, 
UN system entities, 
intergovernmental organizations and civil society,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It gives me great pleasure to be here at the opening of the 20th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to deliver these remarks on behalf of Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. 

 I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you.  I hope that in 2022 the Permanent Forum will be able to conduct its session with the participation of all representatives in person.  

The theme of this session is SDG 16 - peace, justice and strong institutions. It is aimed at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; providing access to justice for all; and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.

 The targets under SDG 16 encompass some of the most important issues for indigenous peoples, such as:

•    access to non-discriminatory justice, 
•    respect for the principle of free, prior and informed consent, 
•    recognition of indigenous institutions and participation, and 
•    their rights to lands, territories and resources. 

The impact of historical injustices, often without redress or reconciliation, is a major reason for the continued marginalization of Indigenous Peoples. The lack of recognition of their identity and their existence challenges their ability to live in dignity and peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues offer a space for global dialogue among Indigenous Peoples, Member States, UN entities and other relevant stakeholders. Dialogue to promote and strengthen the implementation of the rights and development of indigenous peoples around the world.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs is proud to provide support to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I have also the privilege to have been designated by the Secretary General as the senior UN official responsible for following up on the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the implementation of the System Wide Action Plan of 2015 on Indigenous Peoples.    

To promote a wider implementation of the Action Plan, particularly at country level, the Chief Executive Board adopted a Call to Action last November. This Call to Action is meant to galvanize system-wide action to support the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

The Call to Action addresses key issues of importance for indigenous peoples and the UN system, including building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Call to Action highlights discrimination, including against indigenous women and children; issues of land rights; and the increasing number of related conflicts and reprisals against indigenous human rights defenders. It highlights the importance of the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making process, and it recognizes that indigenous peoples are indispensable partners and contributors to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to combat climate change.

The UN system, in response to the Call to Action, will focus on:

•    increasing the participation of indigenous peoples in UN processes; 
•    working to strengthen international cooperation to increase technical and financial assistance to support indigenous peoples’ rights; and 
•    further supporting the implementation of the System Wide Action Plan at the country level.

The call to Action further recognizes that the upcoming International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) will provide an opportunity to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them. DESA is pleased to support the preparation and implementation of the Global Action Plan for the Decade.

Distinguished representatives, 
Ladies and gentlemen, 

Indigenous peoples have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its devastating impact on indigenous peoples goes beyond the health threat. Access to vaccinations and health services that are culturally appropriate and in indigenous languages is very limited.

States of emergency are exacerbating the marginalization of indigenous peoples. And in only a few countries have indigenous peoples participated in policy responses to the pandemic. Further, in some countries, during COVID, consultations with indigenous peoples and environmental impact assessments have been suspended.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I wish to thank the Member States that have generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues in 2020: Canada, Estonia, Denmark and Finland. It is through this Trust Fund that we support the follow-up and the year-round work of the Permanent Forum and follow-up to its recommendations, as well as the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

We are here to support your efforts. DESA will continue its engagement and commitment to promote the rights of indigenous peoples.  

I wish you all a successful and productive session of the Permanent Forum. 

Thank you.                  

File date: 
Monday, April 19, 2021

Mr. Liu