Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
OBSTACLES FACED BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, NEED TO INTEGRATE ISSUES INTO UN SYSTEM
STRESSED, AS PERMANENT FORUM OPENS SECOND SESSION
Secretary-GeneralSays Indigenous Still Denied Identities,
Displaced from Lands, More Likely to Suffer Extreme Poverty
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened its second session this morning, with speakers highlighting the hazards and obstacles indigenous peoples still faced, and stressing the urgent need to fully integrate indigenous issues into the United Nations system.
Bringing together participants from some 500 indigenous groups worldwide, the Forum is focusing on the theme “indigenous children and youth”. The session will draw up concrete recommendations for the United Nations system aimed at improving the quality of life of the world's indigenous peoples.
Delivering the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Angela King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, noted that indigenous people were still denied their cultural identities, displaced from traditional lands, and more likely than others to suffer extreme poverty.
Indigenous issues must become an integral part of the United Nations daily work, she stressed, and efforts to reach the Millennium Goals must fully include indigenous people. Legal standards, including the draft declaration on indigenous rights, were vital, since they could stimulate advances in national laws.
Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, highlighted development projects that had impinged on indigenous rights, forcing indigenous people to move elsewhere, struggling for their cultural and economic survival. Noting that such projects had negatively affected the long-term health of indigenous peoples, and even led to violence, he added that solutions must be found for those and other issues.
Similarly, Forum Chairman Ole Henrik Magga, an indigenous expert from Norway, drew attention to indigenous peoples worldwide, who were suffering from malnutrition and inadequate health, and stressed that the Forum must urgently begin carrying out its mandate to integrate indigenous issues within the United Nations system. The Forum, he added, was a new partnership between indigenous peoples and States, with unprecedented potential to address their needs and concerns.
Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Forum should fully use the capacity and experience of all United Nations bodies. The Working Group on Indigenous Populations was mandated to undertake activities in human rights-related studies and standard setting, he said, and encouraged the Forum to establish links with the Group for assistance.
Turning to the session’s theme, Heather Lightning, the representative for indigenous youth, speaking on behalf of youth representatives from Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific, noted that many problems faced indigenous youth today, including a lack of adequate and culturally appropriate education, as well as health-care facilities, especially for maternal and child care. Indigenous youth were a vital part of deliberations on all matters in the Forum, she said, and called for the establishment of indigenous units within all United Nations bodies.
In the afternoon, the Forum held a high-level panel discussion and dialogue on indigenous children and youth.
Addressing that theme, Nils Kasberg, Director, Office of Emergency Programmes at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said indigenous children faced greater obstacles in gaining access to basic services that many communities took for granted. Children experienced discrimination in language, ethnicity, gender and culture, and such discrimination could prevent their access to education or health care. Education was essential in that regard, and local and national institutions must guarantee that their services were adapted to indigenous cultures.
Elisabeth Garrett, indigenous youth representative from the Cherokee nation, noted that indigenous children needed special attention in policy and participatory processes, due to their lack of access to decision-making at all levels in matters that concerned them. Indigenous youth and children also disproportionately bore the burden of social and environmental sickness and destruction caused by war, poverty, unsustainable development and colonization.
During the ensuing discussion, speakers highlighted the enormous challenges that indigenous youth were facing, particularly the lack of access to decent education, as well as information and values allowing them to become productive and self-determined adults. Speakers also urged governments to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and stressed that the cultures of indigenous children must be respected, preserved and allowed to develop.
The lack of indigenous children present at today’s meeting was also remarked upon, and several speakers felt that indigenous youth should enjoy greater participation in discussions that concerned them.
Also today, the Forum elected Ole Henrik Magga, of Norway, as Chairperson; Njuma Ekundanayo, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Antonio Jacanamijoy, of Colombia, Parshuram Taman, of Nepal, and Mililani Trask, of the United States, as Vice-Chairpersons; and Willie Littlechild, of Canada, as Rapporteur. In addition, it adopted its agenda and organization of work.
Also speaking at the morning meeting were Johan Scholevinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Vicky Tauli Corpuz, Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.
Sidney Hill, indigenous elder and Chief of the Tadodaho tribe of the United States, also addressed the morning meeting.
At the afternoon session, Nina Pacari Vega, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, addressed the high-level panel, and statements were made by: Jaap Doek, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Lee Swepston, Chief of the Equality and Employment Branch of the International Labour Organization (ILO); Jones Kyazee, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as Jackie Sims, of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 13 May, to discuss methods of work of the Forum with the United Nations system.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met this morning to open its second session, elect its officers, and adopt the agenda and organization of work. This afternoon, it was expected to hold a high-level panel and dialogue on the session’s theme “Indigenous children and youth”. (For background information see Press Release HR/4658 issued on 8 May.)
SIDNEY HILL, indigenous elder and Chief of the Tadodaho tribe of the United States, first opened the meeting with a traditional blessing in his language.
Following the blessing, he noted that 27 years had passed since indigenous leaders went to the United Nations in Geneva seeking support for their treaties as instruments of international law, and viewing the United Nations as a beacon of hope. Since then, with the support of many good leaders, indigenous peoples had made progress. Their realities and existence could not be denied, and the Forum was now a work in progress, with its second session dedicated to the rights of the child.
He stressed that the Forum needed more time and more support from the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other United Nations bodies. It needed to ratify the draft declaration and recognize the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. The Forum must become fully involved in standard setting, and must become more focused in its work to produce recommendations. Finally, it needed a substantial budget to support its meetings.
HEATHER MILTON LIGHTNING, the representative for indigenous youth, read a statement of behalf of youth representatives from Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific. There were many problems facing indigenous youth today, she said, including the lack of adequate and culturally appropriate education, and a lack of health care facilities, especially for maternal and child health care. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS was having a devastating effect on communities, indigenous women were experiencing violence and oppression, and indigenous land was being militarized. Indigenous youth were a vital part of deliberations on all matters in the Forum, she continued, and the indigenous youth representatives called for the establishment of indigenous units within all United Nations agencies.
OLE HENRIK MAGGA, Forum Chairman, and indigenous expert from Norway, noted that indigenous people had experienced violence, degradation and murder over the past year. Many indigenous sisters and brothers, as well as children, had lost their lives. He asked all to rise for a moment of silence in memory of those victims.
The Forum was a new form of partnership between indigenous peoples and States, he continued, the first international body to provide a holistic approach to indigenous issues. The Forum possessed unprecedented potential to address the needs and concern of indigenous peoples. However, its challenges were immense, as indigenous peoples worldwide died due to malnutrition and inadequate health services. The Forum must find its place as soon as possible, so that it can carry out its mandate in promoting the coordination and integration of indigenous issues within the United Nations.
Forum members had encountered difficulties in their work over the past year, he said, but many of them had performed well. For his part, he had worked with ECOSOC and the General Assembly to obtain funding of a Secretariat, and had also met with various United Nations bodies and other organizations. He was pleased that the General Assembly had decided to set up a Secretariat in New York to help the Forum carry out its mandate. The message in the Forum’s report from the first session had reached only part of the United Nations system, it appeared, but it had managed to raise some awareness of indigenous issues both inside and outside the United Nations.
He was grateful to the Inter-agency Support Group for assisting the Forum to carry out its mandate, as well as States and indigenous organizations that had responded positively to it. He stressed that the Forum still needed resources, and urged States and other organizations to contribute to the voluntary fund set up by the General Assembly, so that it could address the concerns and needs of indigenous peoples.
ANGELA KING, Assistant Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, made a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. She said indigenous people had continued to be subjected to systemic discrimination and exclusion from economic and political power. They were denied their cultural identities, and displaced from their traditional lands. They were more likely than others to suffer extreme poverty, and all too often experienced human misery caused by conflict.
Those conditions, she continued, made it all the more urgent to firmly establish indigenous issues as part of the United Nations daily work, and ensure that efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals reached and fully included indigenous people. Contributions of indigenous peoples must not only be acknowledged in such areas as environmental protection, but also in other vital areas on the international agenda. Legal standards, including the draft declaration on indigenous rights, were essential, since they could, in turn, stimulate advances in national laws. Information also played a key role in providing a clear picture of the situation of indigenous peoples. She fully supported efforts to build up capacity in that area.
(For full text of the Secretary-General’s message, see SG/SM/8695-HR/4660.)
BACRE NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made a statement on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights. He said it was important for the Forum to make full use of the capacity and experience of each United Nations body, as it looked towards the future. In the area of human rights, there was an interest in human rights-related studies and standard setting, and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations was mandated to undertake those types of activities. He encouraged the Forum to establish links with the chairperson-rapporteur and members of the Working Group for assistance in that area.
He also suggested that the Forum work closely with Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Both the Working Group and Special Rapporteur could be seen as filling the important human rights protection gaps that fell outside the Forum’s mandate. He recognized, however, that there was a need for exploring how those different mechanism could work harmoniously together and be fully complementary, and had invited the Special Rapporteur and chairperson-rapporteur of the Working Group to take part in the second session.
JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), noted the presence in the Forum of indigenous observers from all over the world. This diversity, he said, greatly enriched the work of the Forum, gave it further legitimacy, and ensured a remarkable depth of experience. In choosing DESA as its new home, indigenous peoples had broadened their human rights struggle by encompassing the full breadth of their lived experiences.
There was a great interest and a real desire among Member States, United Nations agencies and others to cooperate in ensuring that the Forum would be a success, he continued. A number of activities showed how that could be achieved, including the implementation of activities to raise awareness of indigenous issues, pursuing the integration of indigenous issues with the intergovernmental and inter-agency system, and administering the Voluntary Fund for the Permanent Forum. To that end, DESA had also undertaken a new initiative; its flagship “Report on the World’s Social Situation”, would this year include, for the first time, a chapter entitled “Indigenous Peoples: vulnerabilities and policy responses –- a social perspective”.
RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said that establishing the Forum had been a milestone in the history of promoting and protecting indigenous peoples. He then described activities that had been carried out since his nomination. Such work included research, the development of thematic areas that affected indigenous peoples and field missions. In addition, his Office had received urgent appeals regarding violations against indigenous rights, which had included racism, rejection of the indigenous cultural identity and economic marginalization.
Major development projects also impinged on the rights of indigenous peoples, who must then pay the cost such projects had imposed. Indigenous people had been displaced from their traditional territories and had been forced to move elsewhere, with no resources for their cultural and economic survival. Such projects had also led to social disorganization, had negatively affected the long-term health of indigenous peoples, and had sometimes led to violence. Problems had also arisen due to differences in legislation and their approach to discrimination. It was vital that solutions were found to those and other issues.
VICKY TAULI CORPUZ, Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that the Fund had contributed to giving visibility to indigenous peoples in the United Nations system, and its continuing existence was evidence of a growing partnership between governments and indigenous peoples. It was important to note that United Nations Member States, and United Nations agencies, made and presented reports on what they had done for indigenous peoples. The final report of the Permanent Forum should consolidate all of those recommendations, so it could be ascertained which recommendations had been achieved.
Indigenous peoples, she continued, should also make their own evaluations on how United Nations bodies and Member States had addressed their issues and concerns, as well as detail actions they themselves had taken. The Fund could help ensure the broader participation of indigenous peoples in the Permanent Forum, as long as it received contributions. She had strong faith that some of the worst problems faced by indigenous people all over the world could be overcome.
NINA PACARI VEGA, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, said the key to the fruitful development of collective identities had taken the form of defending the collective memory. Indigenous peoples had rescued their historically-built identities, rebuilt communicative bridges, and expanded possibilities for fellowship. Everyone had a face, and fellowship must be built through respect for all differences. Living together in diversity meant learning how to manage differences, and overcoming inequity. A challenge had been thrown down to indigenous peoples to close the gaps and narrow distances between them. In projecting themselves, multiple and diverse cultures had a fundamental ally –- the symbols of their identities in ceremonies and festivals calling people together to rediscover themselves.
Given the complexity of today’s interrelated world, indigenous peoples faced several challenges in coming to terms with their rights and obligations. For example, indigenous children faced racism and xenophobia in relating to the outside world. It was necessary to build proper, effective and permanent new attitudes, drawing in governments and civil society, as well as local, national and international organizations. Also, children needed safety and security, which could be provided through better education and housing, increased respect for culture, and enlightened spiritual development for humankind.
JAAP DOEK, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said that the enjoyment of rights by indigenous children was often very limited. Article 30 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child was specifically related to indigenous children, because of the evidence of discrimination against indigenous populations. The Committee on the Rights of the Child encouraged proactive measures to encourage participation and emphasized the important role of the media and education in that regard, for example, promoting education in minority languages. Despite those actions, more attention was necessary for the estimated 175 million indigenous children around the world.
A discussion day on indigenous rights was to be held by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September. The discussion would highlight the special position and the special rights of indigenous children at the national and the international level, to develop recommendations for adoption and ensuring that indigenous children enjoyed all the rights of the Convention. There would also be two workshops. He hoped that the results of the discussion day would help to better monitor the implementation of the rights of indigenous children.
Many resolutions had been adopted and commitments had been made within different frameworks, related to indigenous peoples and their children, he said. Next year, the decade for indigenous peoples would come to a close. There were already enough commitments; the next decade should be a decade of action.
IDA NICOLAISEN, a State-nominated expert from Denmark on the Permanent Forum, said that, as an expression of the Forum’s commitment to indigenous rights, young people had been put at the forefront of the session. The Forum was a fund of opportunity and the protection of indigenous children and youth was an investment in the future of humankind. It was up to States, non-governmental organizations, indigenous leaders, and international organizations to remove the barriers that prevented the development of indigenous peoples rights. The next generation must be granted a decent childhood and adolescence and be empowered to tackle adulthood constructively. If that could not be achieved, not only indigenous peoples, but also all the world’s peoples, would be at an unimaginable loss. There was a need for closer cooperation between United Nations agencies, and States should not compartmentalize their policies on indigenous peoples.
The Forum was gathered for the session to pool knowledge and come up with advice on how to address indigenous children and youth, she said. It was of great importance to gather reliable data on indigenous children and youth so that appropriate strategies of action could be developed. The establishment of an integrated database had been warmly received last year and was supported by the Permanent Forum. It was her sincere hope that the World Bank would play an active role in that respect in collaboration with other agencies, in particular the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). There was a lack of basic information on the human rights situation of indigenous populations and country specific in-depth studies were needed to provide a detailed picture of what needed to be done.
Equally significant was how the young themselves perceived their lives, communities and futures, she continued. At the present time, there was a massive exodus of indigenous youth to the cities, young people being drawn in great numbers because of a lack of opportunities in their own environments. However, cities were highly alien for indigenous youth, and those problems called for immediate and sustained action. Discrimination, deprivation, sexual abuse, violence and trafficking were not receiving the attention of those in power. The World Bank and UNICEF should conduct an in-depth comparative study on indigenous urban youth. Furthermore, in view of the difficulties of raising public awareness of problems facing indigenous youth all over the world, she would welcome the appointment by UNICEF of a goodwill ambassador for indigenous children and youth to raise further awareness.
ELISABETH GARRETT, indigenous youth representative from the Cherokee nation, noted that indigenous children required special attention in policy and participatory processes, due to their lack of access to decision-making, and their lack of representation at all levels in matters that concern them. Indigenous youth and children also disproportionately bear the burden of social and environmental sickness and destruction caused by war, poverty, unsustainable development and colonization.
Highlighting ways the rights of indigenous children and youth could be better promoted and protected, she noted that information gathering using cultural and other appropriate indicators were vital in forming effective policy relating to indigenous people and indigenous youth. In a recent survey, however, carried out on the development policies of 27 multilateral and bilateral development agencies, only eight had dedicated formal standards on indigenous peoples and development. In addition, non-governmental organizations, indigenous organizations and nations must make the training of indigenous youth a priority through their active participation on delegations to international gatherings and demonstrate in action the importance of youth in societies.
Indigenous peoples and organizations, as well as the United Nations system, must provide financial and technical assistance for initiatives aimed at participation, capacity-building, training and building political will at the local to international levels, she said. Such agencies as the United Nations Focal Point on Youth, UNICEF, and other United Nations bodies should support the Second International Indigenous Youth Conference, which will take place in Vancouver, Canada, in the summer of 2004. All organizations should develop and support indigenous-designed programmes in conflict resolution and decolonization, breaking the harmful cycles of oppression that continued to plague indigenous peoples and inhibit healthy progress.
In making recommendations to ECOSOC, the Forum should consider forming an Indigenous Peoples Task Force, or unite within United Nations bodies to improve public service and efforts with the Forum. Data collected should include information on indigenous youth. The Forum, ECOSOC and relevant subsidiary bodies should develop appropriate indicators in evaluation and assessment throughout the United Nations system.
NILS KASBERG, Director, Office of Emergency Programmes at UNICEF, said that children were the first victims of poverty and marginalization, but indigenous children faced even greater obstacles in gaining access to basic services that many communities took for granted. Many were even denied the fundamental right to a name and nationality. The first step towards rectifying that situation would be to start gathering and disaggregating data, and UNICEF called on States where indigenous people lived to do so. At the same time, the right to non-discrimination, health, education and special protection must be addressed, he said, and children needed to be given the support to themselves become agents of change for their world.
The UNICEF's actions in that area included protection from violence, promoting access to basic services, and promoting the participation of indigenous youth in all areas of society, he said. All children had the right to grow up protected from violence, abuse and neglect. The components of a protective environment included political commitment, legislative reform and the creation of awareness. Children experienced discrimination on the basis of language, ethnicity, gender and culture, and such discrimination might prevent their access to education or health care. Education was essential in that regard, and local and national institutions must guarantee that their services were adapted to indigenous cultures.
The UNICEF’s rights-based approach also included the principle of participation and respect for the view of children as an important basis for programming. Participation and the involvement of children and youth was both a goal, as well as a means. The UNICEF was committed to working towards creating better protection and fulfilling the rights of all indigenous children.
LEE SWEPTON, Chief, Equality and Employment Branch of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that concern for indigenous children and youth intersected with the ILO’s more classic responsibility –- child labour, and work, more generally. Outlining the main themes in the area of indigenous children, he said that indigenous and tribal children were at special risk regarding the worst forms of child labour, which were linked to extreme poverty, low levels of education and low literacy rates, poor health and high mortality. Racial discrimination and social exclusion resulted in cultural marginalization, increased poverty and, worse, exploitation. In addition, education systems and services were usually not relevant to indigenous children’s needs, either in their structure or their content. Finally, statistics at the national and international levels rarely reflected the special reality of indigenous and tribal children.
In explaining how the ILO addressed those issues, he drew attention to Convention No. 169, which attempted to ensure that indigenous children received education and that educational systems were established. Regarding child labour, there were two fundamental Conventions -– the Minimum Age Convention, 1973, and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999. The latter addressed slavery and bonded labour, trafficking, involvement in prostitution and pornography, and highly dangerous work, demanding the immediate release of children from those forms of labour. Other conventions included the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention. In addition to its conventions, the ILO extended technical assistance and cooperation to improve the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples.
JONES KYAZEE, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the theme of indigenous peoples was a cross-cutting one. It was a matter of preserving, respecting and utilizing the cultural heritage of the world. There was a general recognition that indigenous people had long been neglected within national programmes and policies, especially in regard to education. The UNESCO focused on the education of indigenous people because it was infinitely connected with issues of poverty, democracy and human rights.
In the recent past UNESCO had promoted an “education for all” drive. That framework stated that education for all must take into account the needs of the poor. For UNESCO, the attention accorded to indigenous peoples was also a way of extending partnerships for universal education. The UNESCO was working on legislation and policies which ensured rights to quality education and equal access to such education for indigenous peoples, including those living in remote areas. Adequate financial resources for education were also needed, so that indigenous peoples could create their own educational institutions.
JACKIE SIMS, of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking on behalf of David Nabarro, Executive Director of WHO, noted that children under five years currently bore 40 per cent of the global disease burden. They were particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards, because they consumed more food, air, and water than adults in proportion to their weight when they were growing up. Their immune systems -- and their reproductive, digestive and central nervous systems -- were still developing, and they spent more time on the ground close to dust, dirt and chemicals. Children could also be exposed to environmental hazards before birth, through maternal exposure to smoke, pesticides, or heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium.
During the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year in Johannesburg, WHO had launched the idea of a new, worldwide multi-stakeholder alliance to address those issues, called the Health Environments for Children Alliance. The aim of the Alliance was to catalyze and coordinate intersectoral action to tackle major environment and poverty-related risks to children’s health where they occurred –- at home, at school, and in the local community. The Alliance planned to foster increased activity in many sectors at country and community levels. Particular attention would be given to the hitherto neglected home environment -– a domain often beyond the reach of official policy.
Indigenous children and youth shared environmental health threats, but might be additionally at risk, since their communities often lived in environmentally deprived or degraded surroundings in both developed and developing countries. They also did not necessarily benefit equally from development initiatives. The Alliance would play a role in helping to identify indigenous children at high risk from environmental hazards in their localities, and stimulating action to make those children’s lives safer.
In the following discussion, a Forum member said that a number of speakers had reiterated the need to be mindful of international juridical framework, and the need to urge governments to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A second important issue involved child labour. Heads of State and government had made repeated promises to do away with child labour, but children continued to be used for such purposes across the world. Other important issues were those of displaced and refugee children, many of whom were indigenous. Indigenous children had also suffered through war, sexual exploitation, HIV/AIDS and a lack of adequate education and health care.
Another Forum member said that last year he had submitted the Berlin Agenda for action and the Declaration on Physical Education and the Maskwachis Declaration on sport. He believed that physical education and sport were important human rights for children. He recommended that the Committee on the Rights of the Child include as an agenda item, permanently, the issue of indigenous children.
Another member of the Forum said the human rights of some indigenous people were being threatened, a problem that had fundamentally been caused by colonialism. The international community should take action to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples. The current agenda included the extension of cooperation with other organs of the United Nations. At present, there were other mechanisms concerning indigenous people in the United Nations system. The Forum should cooperate with those bodies and establish working relations.
A Forum member pointed out the indigenous women were demographically in the majority, but politically were treated as a minority. She lamented all the children and women, all the indigenous people who were murdered, killed, or used as fodder in wars in Africa. Could the adjective minority not be deleted? When was it not synonymous with indigenous?
An observer said indigenous issues had continued to surface, and were a major hindrance in moving forward. Obstacles must be overcome, particularly in the area of health, and cultural development. Fresh approaches must be applied to issues. It was important to take stock of which public policies had failed, and determine what had prompted that failure.
A representative of the Centre for Organization Research and Education (CORE) said that the international community was facing tremendous challenges, and the world’s children would face even greater ones. Freshwater was running out and lands were becoming submerged, and the destruction of biodiversity and the pollution of natural resources continued unabated. For children to develop and grow as individuals they must be provided with a good education. That did not mean merely entry into the existing schools system, which had repeatedly proven itself destructive to indigenous cultures. What children needed was the right to a true education and access to the learning of information and values that would allow them to become productive and self-determined adults.
Indigenous children had the right to know their own cultures, she continued. That meant first of all that their cultures must be respected, preserved and allowed to develop. There were several children at the meeting today, but many more could not make it here to raise their voices. Many of the world’s children were quite competent to participate in public forums and should be here. It was a mark of the neglect, discrimination and lack of respect children suffered that they were not.
A young girl said that children were not being let in or given identification cards. Children should be equal to parents, and should not be left out.
A representative of the Assembly of First Nations said that children and youth could not go without the wisdom of elders, and urged the forum to support the International Elders Summit. Even in a highly developed country like Canada, indigenous peoples were still experiencing a gross disparity in lifestyles. There were a large number of indigenous people in Canada who felt they had more reason to die, than to live. The Canadian Government continued to refuse to work with indigenous peoples and ensure the restoration of adequate lands and resources. It continued to pursue the completion of colonial policies, so that indigenous people had to hand over land and resources and accept their lack of basic rights. He called upon the Forum to take note of the particular situation of indigenous peoples in so-called developed countries, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Another independent youth representative commended the young woman for speaking out about children’s access to the Forum. The issues that youth faced with regard to participation were of extreme importance.
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