SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
ADDRESSES COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Representatives of Three United Nations Mechanisms
on Human Rights of Indigenous People Also Deliver Statements
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 8 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning started its discussion of indigenous issues, hearing statements from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous people as well as Representatives of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations; the Working Group on a draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples; and the Advisory Group of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said the human rights of indigenous peoples continued to be violated in many countries. There was an urgent need to adopt the United Nations draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The discrimination indigenous peoples suffered from was a cause for concern, particularly in the administration of justice, which was his theme for this year. He had also carried out missions to Chile and Mexico.
Chile and Mexico spoke as concerned countries, and Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, participated in the inter-active dialogue with the Special Rapporteur.
Ahmed Mahiou, a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that during the Board’s seventeenth session, held in Geneva from 11 to 19 March, it had considered 547 requests for funding for participation in the next sessions of the Working Group on indigenous populations and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. On the basis of established criteria for selection, as defined by the General Assembly and respecting regional balance, the Board had recommended the funding of 106 requests amounting to $460,228.
Luis Enrique Chavez, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on a draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, said it was clear that a radical change had taken place in the way that Governments and indigenous peoples approached the process of the draft Declaration. Block dynamics had been removed, and an open scenario had been achieved, but this radical change had not yet been sufficiently intense to bring about the consensus necessary to amend the original text. There was a need for political will.
Jose Carlos Morales Morales, Chairperson of the Advisory Group of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, said the Advisory Group had considered 160 projects submitted by indigenous groups and organizations worldwide, and had recommended granting subsidies to 35 project proposals in 26 different countries. Those projects would contribute to indigenous human rights through the holding of seminars and the production of publications on indigenous rights issues.
Addressing the Commission in the general debate on indigenous issues were Representatives of Mexico, Australia, Cuba, Argentina (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group), Denmark (on behalf of NordicStates and Estonia), United States, New Zealand, Ecuador, Canada, Venezuela, and Colombia.
The following non-governmental organizations also delivered statements: Indian Council of South America, speaking on behalf of Indigenous World Association; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; and International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples; International Indian Treaty Council; speaking on behalf of Indian Council of South America; International Young Catholic Students; and Indigenous Peoples' Centre for Documentation; Research and Information; International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements; American Association of Jurists; Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network; Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; Indian Council of South America; International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs; All for Reparations and Emancipation; International Organization of Indigenous Resources Development; Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation; Juridical Commission for Auto-Development of First Andean Peoples; Incomindios; Inuit Circumpolar Conference; Survival International Limited; Indigenous Peoples’ Centre for Documentation; Research and Information; Anti-Slavery International; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action; Human Rights Council of Australia; Australian Council for Overseas Aid;Saami Council; Indigenous World Association; and Society for Threatened Peoples.
Chile exercised its right of reply.
The Commission is meeting today non-stop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It closed its morning meeting at 12:15 after concluding its general debate on indigenous issues, and immediately started its midday meeting which will last until 3 p.m., during which it will continue with its general debate on specific groups and individuals.
Documents on Indigenous Issues
As the Commission on Human Rights takes up its consideration of indigenous issues, it has before it a report on the implementation of the programme of activities for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (E/CN.4/2004/79), which provides information relating to the International Decade, and supplements the report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly (A/58/289). It provides information on the Indigenous Fellowship Programme, the Working Group on a draft United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, inter-agency cooperation on indigenous issues and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.
There is also a report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, on human rights and indigenous issues (E/CN.4/2004/80 and Add.1-4), which concentrates on the obstacles, gaps and challenges faced by indigenous peoples in the realm of the administration of justice and the relevance of indigenous customary law in national legal systems, issues that indigenous representatives and government delegations have repeatedly identified as being of crucial importance for the full enjoyment of the human rights of indigenous peoples. Observing that indigenous peoples the world over are usually among the most marginalized and dispossessed sectors of society – the victims of perennial prejudice and discrimination – he recommends that States carry out exhaustive reviews and, if necessary, reforms of their justice systems to better protect the rights of indigenous peoples. He invites the Commission to take up the issue with Member States and says that such reforms should include respect for indigenous legal customs, language and culture in the courts and the administration of justice; the full participation of indigenous people in justice reform; and the establishment of alternative justice mechanisms.
The first Addendum, an analysis of country situations and other activities of the Special Rapporteur, contains summaries of cases of allegations of violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples transmitted to, and replies received from, States including, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Philippines and Thailand, as well as information on other communications and information received. It also reviews the mandate, procedures and human rights framework of the Special Rapporteur and details his related and future activities, including planned visits to Denmark, Norway, Finland and Canada.
The second Addendum concerns the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Mexico and notes that the indigenous population of Mexico, which currently accounts for approximately 12 per cent of the total population, predominates in many rural municipalities, particularly in the southeast, and can also be found in urban areas. The human rights of the indigenous peoples are vulnerable in a number of ways: human rights violations occur in many agrarian and political conflicts in the indigenous regions especially during the pursuit and administration of justice. The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government of Mexico pay urgent attention to preventing and resolving social conflicts in indigenous regions; that it thoroughly overhaul the indigenous justice system, that it pursue a comprehensive economic and social policy in favour of the indigenous regions with active participation by the indigenous peoples; and that it revise the Constitutional reform of 2001 so that peace can be reached in Chiapas and the demands of the indigenous peoples for recognition and respect of their human rights can be met.
The third Addendum concerns the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Chile and says that despite efforts made since the country’s return to democracy, the indigenous population continues to be largely ignored and excluded from public life as a result of a long history of denial, social and economic exclusion and discrimination by the majority in society. Chile still has not undertaken Constitutional reform in this area and has not yet ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Among his recommendations, the Special Rapporteur says that the process of Constitutional reform in relation to indigenous matters should be expedited; the ILO Convention should be ratified promptly; and sectoral legislation in conflict with the Indigenous Peoples Act should be revised; a programme to cut poverty in indigenous communities should be set up, with a realistic and clearly defined agenda; and the necessary steps should be taken to set up a national human rights institution. It is also recommended that urgent attention be paid to the prevention and resolution of conflicts over land tenure and use; that the Land Fund be made more flexible and expanded; that access by indigenous communities to water and maritime resources be guaranteed; that the necessary measures be taken to avoid criminalizing legitimate protest activities or social demands; and that high-quality, bilingual legal assistance be provided.
The fourth Addendum concerns the conclusions and recommendations of the Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples and the Administration of Justice, which was organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with the Commission’s resolution 2003/56, in cooperation with the National University for Distance Education (UNED) at the UNED Faculty of Political Science and Law in Madrid. It was attended by over 100 experts on the administration of justice, government representatives, academics and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The recommendations transmitted include recommendations to Governments, recommendations to United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and human rights mechanisms and recommendations to indigenous peoples, among others.
There is also a report (E/CN.4/2004/81 and Add.1) by the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group established in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/32, which contains a summary of the discussions held at the ninth session of the Working Group on preambular paragraphs 14 and 15, as well as on articles 1-4, 8, 10, 13-21, 23, 25-28, 30, 31, 33, 36, 44 and 45 of the draft United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The proposals for amendments or new language of the articles are presented in the Chairperson’s summary in the annex to the report. The Chairperson-Rapporteur notes that no consensus had been achieved for the adoption of articles during the ninth session of the Working Group, yet an open and constructive dialogue had been established, and the problems concerning the 26 articles discussed had been clearly identified, which would facilitate future discussion.
The Addendum to the report contains a list of the documents that were available at the session of the Working Group and the list of Governments and non-governmental organizations that participated in the meetings. In addition, it contains the text of the articles of the draft declaration that were discussed and supported by all indigenous organizations, as well as proposals for the text of the articles presented by an indigenous organization.
There is also a note by the Secretariat (E/CN.4/2004/111), which transmits the conclusions and recommendations of the Seminar on Treaties, Agreements and Other Constructive Arrangements between States and Indigenous Peoples, held in Geneva from 15 to 17 December 2003. The report of the Seminar will be submitted to the Working Group on indigenous populations at its twenty-second session, and will also include recommendations made by the Government of Canada. Recommendations in the present note are made to Governments, the Commission on Human Rights, Working Groups, treaty bodies and special procedures, United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, and to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also contains a list of participants, both Governmental and representatives of indigenous organizations, and United Nations bodies.
Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations
AHMED MAHIOU, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said the Fund supported the participation of representatives of indigenous populations in different debates: in the Working Group on indigenous populations since 1985, in meetings on the draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples since 1995, and at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues since 2001. In all, 1,600 indigenous representatives had been supported by the Fund over a period of 10 years. In that sense, the role of the Fund could be said to perfectly satisfy the standards set out in the report of the Secretary-General (A/57/387) on the strengthening of the UN system and particularly within the context of decision 19 pertaining to the improvement of exchanges with civil society by ensuring effective partnership between representatives of indigenous populations and the UN system. The participation of these marginalized actors in the intergovernmental process was the best way to enrich the debate on the situation of human rights, cultures, and aspirations of indigenous peoples.
During its seventeenth session, held in Geneva from 11 to 19 March, the Board had considered 547 requests for funding for participation in the next sessions of the Working Group and the Permanent Forum. On the basis of established criteria for selection, as defined by the General Assembly and respecting regional balance, the Board had recommended the funding of 106 requests amounting to $ 460,228. The recommendations and the list of participants had been approved by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of the Secretary-General.
Draft Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on a draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the Group’s report (E/CN.4/2004/81 and add.1), had three parts, the first reflecting the discussion taking place on preambular paragraphs 14 and 15, as well as on articles 1-4, 8, 10, 13-21, 23, 25-28, 30, 31, 33, 36, 44 and 45. The second part of the report summarized the work done by the Chairman-Rapporteur in response to various suggestions made by delegations. This reflected precisely and concretely the views of the debate and sought to serve as a starting point for reconciling the positions expressed. It was an attempt to arrive at consensus language. The third part (Add.1) contained the text of the articles of the draft Declaration that had been discussed and supported by all indigenous organizations, as well as indigenous proposals for text.
It was clear that a radical change had taken place in the way that Governments and indigenous peoples approached the process, Mr. Chavez said; block dynamics had been removed, and an open scenario achieved, but this radical change had not yet been sufficiently intense to bring about the consensus necessary to amend the original text. A group of Government delegations had asked for the Working Group to approve on a provisional basis some of the paragraphs, and this had received the support of other Government and indigenous delegations, although others had not been able to accept them. A consensus had not been reached, but the amendments would serve as the basis for a future text, as would the second part of the report, which also aimed at providing a form of consensus language. A bit more than half of the draft was now close to common accepted language, but still a number or articles remained to be discussed, in particular segments referring to territory and natural resources.
There was a possibility of resolving these issues if the Group could hold an additional session in September with an imperative mandate to submit its conclusions at the next session of the Commission, Mr. Chavez said. However, there also was a need for political will, and the best way to achieve this would be to grant Government delegations and representatives of indigenous peoples the power to enter into commitments. At the final stage of the process, differences should be set aside and the legitimate aspirations of indigenous peoples should finally be satisfied, as it was clear all wished to do.
Voluntary Fund for Decade of World’s Indigenous People
JOSÉ CARLOS MORALES MORALES, Chairperson of the Advisory Group of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, said the Commission had before it the report of the Advisory Group, which set out in detail the financial status of the Fund. The Fund had been established in 1995 with the aim of supporting programmes and projects conceived within the framework of the International Decade.
The Advisory Group had considered 160 projects submitted by indigenous groups and organizations worldwide, and had recommended granting subsidies to 35 project proposals in 26 different countries. Those projects would contribute to indigenous human rights through the holding of seminars and the production of publications on indigenous rights issues. The Group had also recommended funding various activities to be carried out in 2004 through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including a publication setting out the objectives of the International Decade, training sessions organized in conjunctions with indigenous communities, and a seminar to be held in July 2004 to assess the impact of the Fund on indigenous peoples.
New and regular donors to the Fund were thanked, in particular the Governments of Chile, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Japan and Norway, as well as the relevant Special Rapporteur. Appreciation also was expressed to the Governments of Australia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland for having agreed to transfer the remainders of their contributions to the International Year for Indigenous People to the Decade’s Fund. The international community should consider declaring a second International Decade, as the end of the first had been reached. The subsidies granted, however modest, had been of great importance for the protection of the human rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
Statements on Human Rights of Indigenous People
RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said that at present, one witnessed the important progress made at the national and international levels concerning recognition and promotion of the human rights of indigenous peoples through the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples. Several countries had adopted domestic legislation following their ratification of the Convention. Despite that legislation, the human rights of indigenous peoples continued to be violated in many countries. There was an urgent need to adopt the United Nations draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. This year, the Special Rapporteur had devoted his work to the administration of justice and had carried out missions to Mexico and Chile. He had also met with indigenous communities in Canada, Norway and Finland, and he had made an official visit to Colombia.
The discrimination indigenous peoples suffered from was a cause for concern, particularly in the administration of justice, which was his theme for this year. In recent years, progress had been made in several countries in matters of recognition of the specific needs of the indigenous peoples in the area of justice. In many instances, indigenous peoples did not enjoy equal access to the justice system, which explained the persistence of discrimination they faced within the society. Another issue of concern was the practice of criminalization of the social and political protests by the indigenous peoples and their over representation in the criminal justice. During their detention, indigenous peoples were abused physically and psychologically. The Special Rapporteur had suggested that Governments undertake reform at the judicial level so that indigenous peoples enjoyed from effective functioning of the justice system. The reform should respect the cultures and traditions of the indigenous peoples.
MARCELO CARVALLO (Chile) speaking as a concerned country, said that as the Special Rapporteur had said, the Government of Chile had shown a genuine commitment to promoting and protecting human rights. The work being done for human rights in Chile was of considerable validity and use, and this was appreciated during difficult times. The Government thanked the Special Rapporteur for his visit and his report, since, although it contained controversial points, there were some elements that would genuinely contribute to the situation. In the past, indigenous peoples had been virtually invisible, and there was a need to integrate them into the development process while respecting their individuality and their rights, including the right to be involved in decisions affecting them. The legitimate demands of indigenous peoples had not been met, but there was an institutional framework and there were appropriate channels for ensuring that these issues would and could be met.
There was no discrimination in Chile based on ethnic origin. Anyone brought before the law was there for specific offences, and not for reasons of origin. Chile had a clear relationship with the Inter-American system for human rights, and this was reflected in agreements made by the State with indigenous peoples. The agreements included measures to improve the legal protective system for indigenous persons and their families; steps to enhance environmental protection; and efforts to provide economic satisfaction in terms of land and money. Specific policies had been adopted for enhancing development in indigenous communities while improving the quality of life of indigenous peoples and preserving their individuality and ethnic identities. There had been significant public investment in indigenous communities, and expenditures on education and health had increased more than six-fold. Thousands of hectares had been acquired by the Government and returned to indigenous peoples. The Government of Chile was giving the closest attention to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
ARTURO HERNANDEZ (Mexico), speaking as a concerned country, said the competent authorities had given careful consideration to the Special Rapporteur’s report on his visit to the country and had prepared a broad response to his recommendations. The Government agreed that many obstacles to the country’s development had arisen and that historical events had contributed to the impoverishment of the country’s indigenous population. The Government felt that its recent Constitutional reforms had been useful and that they had underscored the multi-cultural nature of Mexican society. Among major problems –- in response to which the participation of a wide range of social actors should be incorporated -- were issues of land-use reform and administration of justice. Concrete action had been initiated to redress those issues and it was hoped that these steps would prove successful, including those taken in response to longstanding conflicts such as the one in Chiapas.
The Government was aware of the need to step up its efforts to achieve a satisfactory response to indigenous groups’ calls for justice. Finally, as with the reports and visits of other Special Rapporteurs, Mexico reiterated its determination to continue cooperation with this Special Rapporteur and considered his work a contribution the country’s efforts to achieve comprehensive respect for human rights. The Government remained fully committed to respect for and amelioration of the situation of the country’s indigenous peoples, as well as to meeting the needs of the whole population.
Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People
JOHN BIGGAR (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what relationship the Special Rapporteur saw between his mandate and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It was often difficult to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in processes involving them. What did the Special Rapporteur think could be done to increase levels of participation?
RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, responding to the debate, said he had read carefully the responses put forward by the Governments of Chile and Mexico, and he appreciated the countries’ constructive and positive comments. Regarding the question posed by the Representative of Ireland, he was pleased to report that a link between the work of the Special Rapporteur and that of the Permanent Forum did indeed exist. He had attended Forum sessions in the past and would be attending the Forum’s third session next month. The existence of the Permanent Forum did not in any way detract from his area of competency. Instead, there were possibilities for complementarity in the work of the two entities. Moreover, he agreed that the participation of indigenous peoples in international fora and activities should be encouraged to the greatest extent possible. For example, he was keen to organize events and meetings with international experts and the broadest range of country and indigenous group participation with the help of the Voluntary Fund and the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He was also pleased to hear the Representative of Ireland voice concern over the issue of indigenous participation, as it could provide the impetus necessary for opening new possibilities for participation by indigenous groups.
General Debate on Indigenous Issues
ARTURO HERNANDEZ (Mexico) said that the promotion and protection of the human rights of the indigenous peoples was a subject to which the Government of Mexico gave a high priority. In the past, the indigenous peoples had been suffering from marginalization and social exclusion, and were subjected to extreme poverty and persistent discrimination. Mexico had been intensifying efforts at the national and international level to reverse the situation in which the indigenous peoples had been suffering. Mexico's commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples had been expressed in its active participation within the international context and its efforts in fulfilling the needs and aspirations of those peoples. The current Mexican Government had taken a series of measures towards the respect and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples. At the start of his mandate, the country's President had expressed his commitment to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples and to build a constructive dialogue with them.
Mexico was one of the countries that gave Constitutional recognition to the rights of the indigenous peoples and worked to build new relations between the indigenous and the State. Through respect for the diversity of culture and tradition within the society, the Government had been working to promote the economic and social development of the indigenous peoples; and to intensify their integration into the Mexican society. Mexico believed in the participation of the indigenous peoples in the elaboration of legal measures, which would guarantee their full enjoyment of their autonomy, human development and their right to determine the preservation of their cultures.
PETER MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) said there was support for efforts to better recognize, protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world, and the International Decade and Permanent Forum were important means to this end. All United Nations mechanisms, including those dealing with indigenous issues, needed to be effective and efficient. In this context, there was concern for the clear overlap between various existing United Nations bodies dealing with indigenous issues. Australia’s approach to indigenous issues at the international level was matched by the commitment to addressing them domestically. The Australian Government recognized that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were the most disadvantaged group in Australian society, and was working to rectify this situation, working for a future in which indigenous Australians shared equitably in social and economic opportunities, addressing specific needs in priority areas and building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to take advantage of opportunities for increased participation in Australian society. The commitment to reducing disadvantage was founded on a partnership with indigenous people, providing for greater opportunities to exercise meaningful control over their affairs and an effective voice in decision-making on matters which directly affected them, and this reflected the Government’s determination to achieve practical reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said this was the final year of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and everything suggested that the precarious levels of economic and social development that indigenous peoples endured in many parts of the world, due to the disparities in their situation and the persistence of grave violations of their human rights, continued to deteriorate. This year, the Special Rapporteur had focused on the well-defined link between this situation of hardship and the non-indigenous justice administration systems under which they were forced to co-exist with other population sectors. This begat a generalized climate of dispossession, marginalisation, alienation and effective discrimination, with unpredictably grave consequences. Land ownership and possession issues were at the top of the list of the indigenous peoples, and by and large, the existing mechanisms for granting them ancestral lands and the natural resources therein had resulted in ineffectiveness. The opinion of indigenous peoples about the successes and failures of the last ten years was the basic point of reference for the work to be carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. There was complete frustration regarding the strident failure of the Working Group which had been established with the objective of concluding the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The lack of consensus properly illustrated the extent to which the lack of flexibility and political will of a reduced number of countries could succeed in frustrating the legitimate aspirations of hundreds of indigenous peoples. The time had come for the Commission to take decisions on which could be the way forward in the face of such an anomalous situation.
SERGIO CERDA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), said that the Group’s members wished once again to renew their commitment to ameliorating the situation of indigenous populations throughout the region. The universal acceptable of the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples constituted a necessary precursor to the effective functioning of the international mechanisms established to ensure those rights. Yet, the relevant treaty bodies and special mechanisms of the Commission had been unable to respond to the needs of indigenous groups as their mandates had been focused upon individual, not collective, rights – and that despite the fact that most indigenous demands focused on the latter. The Group espoused its determination to continue to work for the realization of the collective rights of indigenous groups and said that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would represent significant headway in the field of human rights and would contribute to effectively combating discrimination against indigenous peoples.
Among the successes of the past decade had been the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as well as the elaboration of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The Group also acknowledged the significant and satisfactory participation of indigenous representatives in international fora due to subsidization by the Voluntary Fund for the International Decade and called upon all States to continue contributions to the Fund. Recognition of the collective rights of indigenous peoples constituted a condition essential to the effective functioning of international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of indigenous human rights, he reiterated and, in conclusion, he urged the Working Group on indigenous peoples, as well as the Special Rapporteur to continue their work to foster respect for the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world.
MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic States and Estonia, said for years the Nordic countries had been actively engaged in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. The promotion of the human rights of indigenous peoples contributed substantively to the maintenance and development of multi-cultural, pluralistic and tolerant societies built upon effective participation by all groups of society. The International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People had contributed to significant improvements relating to furthering the promotion and protection of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples. The Permanent Forum was playing a vital interactive role in gathering the views of different parties and was successfully acting as a catalyst and advisor for different agencies. Despite positive and encouraging elements, a major aim of the Decade had not yet been realized, and this was the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, and if this was not adopted before the end of the Decade, one of its major objectives would not have been met. There was firm belief that if the political will was there, it would be possible to reach consensus on this important issue, and that incorporating indigenous representatives into the work of the United Nations at different levels would serve an important purpose.
LUIS ZUNIGA (United States) said that in the hundred years since the United States had been in conflict with the native peoples of America the country had adopted various policies – from assimilation to the termination of tribal status to the current era of self-determination. However, as history bore witness, the United States had not always gotten its policy right. Through it all, the native peoples had struggled to survive, to regain their strength and to heal their people. They had fought to defend the land through world wars, the Cold War and, now, in the war against terrorism. Their patriotism was evident and the United States recognized its fortune in having the native people of America at its side. Proud of its government-to-government relationship with more than 560 Indian tribal governments within the country, the United States felt that political systems and political parties throughout the hemisphere must ensure that they were fully open to participation by native peoples at all levels, without discrimination.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, he said, was beginning to fulfil the vision of mainstreaming the concerns of indigenous communities throughout the United Nations system, while the Working Group on the draft Declaration continued its work to articulate international protections for indigenous peoples. Given the work of the Permanent Forum, the Working Group on the draft Declaration and the Special Rapporteur, the United States could not continue to support the Working Group on indigenous populations. That body had been overcome by events and now constituted an obsolete bureaucracy, consumed by its own interests and fighting extinction. As for the work of the Working Group on the draft Declaration, he stressed the importance of the future declaration, which would apply to all – even to those countries claiming to have entirely “indigenous” populations. However, it must be clearly understood that the draft itself was not an authoritative source and that it had no legal standing anywhere.
TIM CAUGHLEY (New Zealand) said the importance of protecting the basic human rights of the world’s 300 million indigenous peoples had been repeatedly restated, and yet indigenous peoples continued to be discriminated against, or, worse, to have their fundamental rights as human beings grossly abused. The majority of indigenous peoples sought no special rights: just equal rights and adherence by States to agreed international standards. In New Zealand, Maori as individuals enjoyed the same rights, freedoms and protections as all other citizens, and at the same time, the Government recognized the need for Maori collectively to be able to develop in ways which safeguarded and promoted their identity within New Zealand’s democratic constitutional framework. Sadly, Maori made up a disproportionate percentage of the sections of the population with poor social, health and economic indicators. To help address this, the Government maintained policies designed to assist all less advantaged citizens, including Maori. The Government’s imperative was to recognize the rights and needs of all citizens. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was the pre-eminent international entity for the discussion of all indigenous issues, including human rights, and States were urged to participate in its work, and to pay close attention to its recommendations. Much had been achieved since indigenous issues attained a profile and legitimate place at the Commission, but, either collectively or individually, many indigenous peoples still did not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as other people, and this remained the goal.
RAFAEL PAREDES PROAO (Ecuador) said that his country reiterated its political will to consolidate the unity of nations on the basis of recognition of the cultural, geographical and ethnic diversity of nations. His Government had adopted policies that respected the constitutional provisions for the promotion of the cultures and languages of all people, including those of the indigenous peoples. The Constitution recognized the collective rights of the indigenous peoples. The Constitution also recognized the rights of indigenous people to property and to their land. They could also participate actively in the affairs concerning them, by conserving their culture, language and tradition. The indigenous peoples were consulted on all aspects concerning them. They had the right to resolve their own conflicts and affairs by applying their own methods, as long as it did not contradict the country' Constitution. Ecuador fully respected the human rights of all indigenous people. It welcomed the work done with regard to the Decade on Indigenous People. He urged all States to give their support to renew the Decade, which was scheduled to end this year.
PAUL MEYER (Canada) said Canada strong supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, and it was convinced that his work added a valuable dimension to the overall consideration of indigenous issues within the United Nations system, and specifically at the Commission. It was the view of Canada that significant progress had been made at the ninth session of the Working Group on the draft Declaration, and that a major breakthrough had nearly been achieved. Canada could have provisionally adopted many articles, and would support the Chairperson-Rapporteur in his efforts over the coming months. Canada was convinced that agreement on a strong and effective Declaration was within reach during the next year. What was needed now from all parties was hard work, cooperation, determination, and political will to succeed. In particular, States needed to come to the next session in September 2004 equipped with a broad mandate to negotiate and instructions sufficiently flexible as to facilitate the emergence of consensus agreement on a text. To give additional impetus to this objective, Canada proposed the possibility of holding additional formal meetings of the Working Group to ensure that the goal of bringing a consensus text to the sixty-first session of the Commission was met.
RAFAEL HANDS (Venezuela) said that the 1999 Constitution had recognized the country’s participatory, multi-ethnic and pluricultural society and had recognized the specific rights of the indigenous people in Venezuela. Among initiatives undertaken to recognize those rights, the law on the demarcation and guarantee of the habitat and lands of indigenous people had been promulgated and the Government had established bodies such as the National Council for Indigenous Cultural and Language Education. The Constitution of Venezuela had been translated into indigenous languages for the first time and legislation had been forwarded related to indigenous issues, including for the sustainable development of indigenous populations. Venezuela had participated actively in international instruments on the rights of indigenous peoples and viewed such instruments as forming part of an inclusive effort for the respect and defence of human rights.
CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS (Colombia) said that the country's indigenous people were estimated to be 785,356 inhabitants of 82 groups. The Government was making efforts to protect and promote the rights of all vulnerable groups in the country. The cultural diversity of the indigenous peoples had been recognized. The Government had distributed lands to the indigenous peoples and they occupied 13 per cent of the national territory. The Government had also submitted a draft law to the Congress to develop the Constitution on land title of the indigenous people. The law would provide autonomy to the indigenous peoples and power would be relegated for them to run their own affairs. They could also use the resources in their lands and manage the necessary services they required for their development programmes. Colombia was concerned about the human rights situation of the indigenous of peoples in certain areas of the country. The indigenous territories had been a subject of conflict between the indigenous and the illegal armed groups, which were running laboratories and cultivated narcotics.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that Leonard Peltier continued to be a prisoner in a federal penitentiary in the United States for a crime he did not commit, and had become a world-known symbol for indigenous peoples, and the Special Rapporteur was thanked for mentioning him. Paragraph 53 of the Special Rapporteur’s report said that abuses of the rights of indigenous peoples often took place in the context of abuse against indigenous communities, and the law was often used to penalize prominent leaders of these communities. The legitimate complaints of indigenous communities should not be penalized in a manner that destabilised democratic societies. The United States continued to use discriminatory legislation as a basis for taking over land and territory, and had continued to undermine the indigenous search for justice. Truth, justice and reconciliation were needed between indigenous peoples and States around the world. The Commission should examine cases such as that of Mr. Peltier, where justice did not occur.
ALBERTO SALDAMANDO, of International Indian Treaty Council, said it had originally welcomed the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ sponsored Seminar on the Treaty Study held in Geneva in December 2003, but had been somewhat disappointed when the United States came into the Seminar at the last minute only to intervene and leave, expressing the view that the Experts at the Seminar were somehow not legitimate as they were not representative of tribal Governments as recognized by the United States. The United States could not decide for the United Nations with whom they should consult and with whom they should not. It was again the powerful imposing their own rules, saying they did not agree with the treaty monitoring bodies or that a particular Covenant or Convention did not apply to them, but it was not up to them, as they were legally binding obligations not subject to whim or choice.
PIERRE MIOT, of International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements, said the conflicts provoked in many regions of the world by the installation of huge transnational companies that came to exploit natural resources had caused violence, due to the expropriation and displacement of indigenous peoples, who often were not compensated from their loss. This fact, well known by international opinion, should be denounced, as it effectively showed up the quasi-inexistence of international norms for the protection of indigenous peoples. Norms should be elaborated for the protection of traditional knowledge. The Working Group on indigenous peoples which was the international authority that was the most important for indigenous peoples, should continue to be a place for dialogue for experts, Governments, indigenous peoples and a place of cooperation in order to find international level solutions to the problems of indigenous peoples.
JAIME VALDES A., of the American Association of Jurists, said that his Association expressed deep concern over the systematic violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the indigenous peoples in Chile, particularly the repression against the Mapuche people. Fourteen years after the return to democracy, the successive Governments of the former military regime had not made progress in respecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. A law had been adopted in 1993 on the rights of the indigenous peoples but the essentials for the full protection those rights were not included in it. The Chilean Parliament was still filled with members of the former military dictatorship who were appointed for life. The Mapuche people were struggling to get back their lands, their dignity, their culture, as well as to exercise their political, civil and social rights. The people had been subjected to persistent violations of their fundamental rights.
SANCHAY CHARKMA, of the Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, said that many situations in which Governments carried out genocidal and ethnic cleansing policies did not qualify under the formal definition of the term “genocide”. For example, in the Chittagong Hill tracts, the Government of Bangladesh had installed more than half a million illegal Bengali settlers from 1979 to 1983, with a view to making the indigenous Jumma peoples a minority in their own lands and to destroy their distinct identity. They were also subject to other policies of racism and racial discrimination. Moreover, the Government of Bangladesh – instead of implementing the 1997 Chittagong Hill tracts peace accord – had begun a policy of annihilating the indigenous Jumma people through Jummas killing Jummas, nor had a single troop of the national army been withdrawn from the region. The Government had also intensified its policies of Islamicizing the indigenous Jumma people.
LAZARO PARY, of the Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, said that within the context of globalization, the consideration of the draft Declaration on the rights of the indigenous peoples was the object of discriminatory and selective treatment. The debates in the Working Group on the drafting of a Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples had been sterile during the last nine years. The ninth session of the Working Group had been converted into a political-diplomatic manoeuvre by the countries of the North and dominated certain groups. The Governments should ease their intransigence and show their political will in the adoption of the declaration. Moved by their geopolitical interests and insensible to the extinction of the indigenous peoples, those States continued to systematically deny the rights of the indigenous peoples to the free determination of their rights.
NADJA MILANOVA, of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, said indigenous peoples could be defined as conquered descendants of earlier inhabitants of a region who lived mainly in conformity with traditional social, economic and cultural customs that were sharply distinct from those of dominant groups. The attention of the Commission should be drawn to the ChaldoAssyrian community of Iraq in this context. The rights of the small ethnic and religious communities of Iraq had received very little attention, and today were being set aside in the effort to create major ethnic power enclaves. The Commission should request the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peoples and the Working Group on indigenous populations to monitor and report on developments in Iraq, and expand the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iraq to address issues stemming from the ethnic and religious diversity of Iraq.
TOMAS CONDORI, of the Indian Council of South America, said that in October 2003, 80 persons had been killed in Bolivia. The indigenous peoples in the Latin American continent continued to be victims of justice and political repression. The objectives of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Populations had not been fully attained. The process of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues had also been a deception. And the draft Declaration on the rights of the indigenous peoples had been moving at a very slow pace. Only 2 articles out of 45 had so far been approved. The indigenous peoples were contributing to the cultural heritage of humanity, to the biodiversity, and in the maintenance of the environment of the world. For that reason, they should be treated correctly.
AUCAN HUILCAMAN PAILLAMA, of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, said that the Mapuche people of Chile had noted the key issues included in the report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to that country and said the doctrine of denial vis-à-vis the indigenous peoples was one of the main factors in discrimination against them and their right to self-determination. The use of “faceless” witnesses also constituted outright racism and a blatant violation of indigenous groups’ human rights and should be condemned. It was important for the Government of Chile to consider granting a general amnesty to indigenous social activists for the defence of their lands, which had been criminalized. The right to territory had been clearly protected in the system of treaties between the Government of Spain and the Mapuche.
ANA LEURINDA, of All for Reparations and Emancipation, said there was concern at the fact that 12 indigenous leaders had been murdered as they resisted the indiscriminate looting of their lands in Honduras. Institutions of the state had been protecting a gang of murderers, who prevented the just reparations to the tribe. The pleas of the indigenous community were ignored by the authorities, including the police. The indigenous leaders were dying, and their peoples were emigrating to the cities, abandoning their lands and belongings. Money was spent by the Government to persuade the people that security was being increased and crime diminished, but this was not the case in indigenous areas, and indigenous peoples were not convinced that they had security. The Cubans were thanked for sending doctors who worked anywhere, including indigenous areas.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, of International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development, said that its Members tribes and nations had expressed concern about the lack of progress on the draft United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and urged the Commission to call on States to adopt the draft Declaration in its original form at the upcoming tenth session of the open-ended inter-sessional Working Group. They were also concerned about the future of the Working Group on indigenous peoples and the International Decade and said they needed to continue their work to address unfinished business. On a positive note, the Member tribes and nations commended the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on recent major and progressive developments in the areas of the recently concluded United Nations Expert Seminar in Indigenous Peoples and the Administration of Justice. They urged the immediate follow up on the recommendations to governments, in particular, that Canada should consider the appointment of an indigenous lawyer or judge to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court in Canada.
ONSINO MATO, of the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples, said that the worsening condition of indigenous peoples in the Philippines from December 2002 to the present had been noted at a national workshop of indigenous people on human rights, held from 24 to 27 February 2004. In his particular community -– the Subanon people –- there had been numerous violations of human rights perpetrated by Toronto Venture Incorporated (a Canadian mining firm in partnership with the Philippine military). The mining operation was working in violation of the indigenous population’s free, informed and prior consent as provided by the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of the Philippines. The Subanon people were simply exercising their right to protect the land from further destruction, but were being treated unjustly by the Government. The community wished to request an independent investigation of the human rights violations committed in its territory and the immediate cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with Toronto Venture Incorporated.
MARCELINO DIAZ DE JESUS, of Juridical Commission for Auto-Development of First Andean Peoples, said the violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights of indigenous peoples had been taking place all over the world, and this was clear from the reports that were read out at the Commission. There was concern for many areas of Latin America, including Mexico, where indigenous women had been raped by the army. With regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur, an extensive meeting was organized in May 2003 with leaders of indigenous communities and peoples, and a core document had been given to him comprising serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. There was surprise to see that the allegations submitted were not reflected in the report of the Special Rapporteur, and there was unease that he had not included the forced sterilization campaigns targeting indigenous men and women.
MARCELINO CALFUQUIR, of INCOMINDIOS, said it was devoting its statement to the memory of a young man who was murdered by police forces in Chile, thus violating his human rights. The speaker recalled that yesterday the Commission heard testimonies of victims on violations committed against them by the Pinochet regime. Chile’s social policies were among the soundest in Latin America yet it still did not address certain areas concerning poverty and employment. In the north of Chile, mining companies had been using and contaminating waters on indigenous lands and had also condemned any moves by these communities to develop their agriculture. In the south, companies were also polluting waters and undermining the lives of these communities. The State, he added, was involved in a campaign against indigenous communities. It was violating their right to life among other things, which was a matter of serious concern.
HJALMAR DAHL, of Inuit Circumpolar Conference, said given the discussion and debate at the October 2003 session of the inter-sessional Working Group on the draft declaration for indigenous peoples, there would probably be no approval of the draft Declaration by the Commission, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly before the end of the first Decade and before a second Decade was approved. There was concern for the future of the process, and the urgent need to evaluate and assess the continuation of the Working Group and its associated working methods. Yet, at the same time, if there was a new mandate beyond the Decade, it should be recognized that the current procedures were inadequate and ineffective. The United Nations should improve the working methodology concerning the development of standards, taking into consideration the unique and distinct characteristics of indigenous peoples.
NICODEMUS YOMAKI, of Survival International, said the Government of Indonesia, through its official policies and military actions, had committed horrible atrocities against the indigenous West Papuan people. The international community had ignored these human rights abuses for far too long, and the time to act was now. There had been widespread killings, including the aerial bombardment of several thousand in 1977, and the massacre of 32 West Papuans in 2000, clearly demonstrating the Government's violations of the right to life. A recent YaleLawSchool report had concluded that Indonesian activities in West Papua clearly demonstrated crimes against humanity. The Commission should further investigate the situation in West Papua.
Survival International also made a plea in solidarity with the Gana and Gwi Bushmen and their neighbours, the Bakgalagadi, who had been forcibly evicted from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve by the Government of Botswana. The Commission should investigate the human rights abuses carried out against these peoples and bring the truth to light.
PIERETTE BIRRAUX ZIEGLER, of Indigenous Peoples’ Centre for Documentation, Research and Information, recalled the existence of several documents and texts which addressed the needs of indigenous peoples within the framework of the procedures of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). These documents, which the representative listed, demonstrated that the issue of indigenous peoples was an essential matter for the work of ECOSOC and they expressed the need to strengthen the rights and needs of indigenous peoples.
OBANG METHO, of Anti-Slavery International, said over 1,137 Anuak people had been murdered by the Ethiopian defence forces and some other forces from the Ethiopian highland; over 8,500 Anuaks had fled to refugee camps in southern Sudan. The Government had charged Anuaks with ambushing a van carrying Ethiopian Government officials and United Nations refugee camp officials, and had used this charge to incite further persecution of the Anuaks, but there was no evidence that Anuaks had committed the crime. What was being perpetrated against the Anuaks, according to the NGO Genocide Watch, was genocide.
The Commission should appoint a Special Rapporteur to look into the situation; request the Secretary-General to mediate the conflict; condemn all atrocities being committed in Ethiopia; and send relief supplies and a team of monitors to the area to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research, said the Australian Government, in refusal of the resolution and the spirit of the International Decade, had intentionally acted during the Decade to discriminate against the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. For Aboriginal Peoples, the ‘enemy” manifested itself in the State, as in their experience the State had acted to segregate their rights and interests so that the colonizing populations could continue to accumulate wealth, health, and affluence.
SEZIN RAJANDRAN, of the Human Rights Council of Australia, said that the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples had represented an opportunity for the world to take stock of the problems confronting indigenous peoples, as well as their manifestations. It had also created the opportunity for the international community, States, the private sector and civil society to set a path towards equality and non-discrimination. And while the main vehicle or change and correction during the decade had been the draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, there was the possibility that, left in the hands of States like Australia, the Declaration could be headed in the wrong direction. The finalized Declaration must assert indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and it must articulate that indigenous peoples had the right to own their territories and natural resources and that they retained the right to development and benefit sharing. The Working Group had failed to prevent those States that discriminated against indigenous peoples from dominating its sessions, and had allowed them to devise a new draft, which fell far short of the human rights standard. The Commission should give further instruction to the Working Group to conclude its work, in the spirit of the original resolutions.
KATHY RICHARDS, of Australian Council for Overseas Aid, said the United Nations should pursue a Second Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The successes of the first Decade warranted a continuation of the efforts for socio-economic, cultural and environmental advancement of the indigenous peoples of the world. Major progress had been made through the establishment of new mechanisms, which were clearly important structures to promote globally the rights and development of indigenous peoples. Much more could be achieved through a more intense effort to implement the programme of action for the first Decade. The Commission should give serious consideration to the immediate declaration of a Second Decade, and the appointment of an international panel of indigenous peoples to plan and implement the activities for a second Decade.
MATTHIAS AHREN, of Saami Council, said the Saami people had lost most of their rights to their traditional lands during an era of colonization marked by racist theories. Today, officials in the countries the Saami people resided in no longer held a racist attitude; however, policies of that era remained essentially in force. United Nations treaty bodies had repeatedly called on the countries in which the Saami peoples resided to recognize their right to traditional lands. There was deep concern for the lack of progress in the Working Group on the draft Declaration, and this was believed to be due to a large extent to a lack of political will from some States to begin redressing past and ongoing violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights. It was still possible to reach consensus on a Declaration, if there were the political will to do so.
KENNETH DEER, of Indigenous World Association, said at times in the past, Indigenous representatives at the Commission had been deprived of the opportunity to address the Commission, and they were thankful for today’s cooperation and understanding. There should be a thorough review of the outcome of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People in order to lay the groundwork for a Second Decade. Most of the goals outlined for the Decade by indigenous peoples and Governments alike had not been achieved. To continue the momentum that had been gained, it was imperative to have a second Decade to build upon. It would also be catastrophic to have it end with the dissolution of the Working Group on indigenous populations. With regards to the draft Declaration in the rights of indigenous peoples, instead of picking at small word changes, focus should instead be made on what was the best that humankind could do for indigenous peoples, what needed to be done for the United Nations to live up to its own lofty principles.
MANUELA WILHELM, of Society for Threatened Peoples, said there was profound concern for the sharp increase in the rate of destruction of the Amazonian rainforest and the livelihood of indigenous peoples in Brazil. The new Brazilian Government had announced the speeding up of the demarcation process in indigenous territories, but these promises had not been kept - some indigenous territories had been reduced or deliberately opened for invaders. There was deep concern about the current model of development in Amazonia promoted by the new Government of Brazil, and also for the rising violence against indigenous leaders, as the increasing presence of the military in Amazonia had caused a sharp rise in rapes, kidnappings and torture. Lack of access to health, education and basic sanitation were leading to a higher rate of infant mortality among indigenous peoples compared to the national average. The Commission should urge the Brazilian Government to protect the rights and territories of indigenous peoples and to stop all development projects threatening the survival of indigenous communities.
Right of Reply
MARCELO CARVALLO (Chile), exercising a right of reply, said with regard to some of the comments made by the Special Rapporteur, the Government of Chile had handed in a detailed report correcting where necessary the statement of the Special Rapporteur. There had not been any trials for political reasons in any state in Chile, nor were there political actions against the rights of the indigenous peoples. Unlawful conduct was investigated and sanctioned by jurisdictional authorities with the due process of law. Chile was a democratic State where the state of law ruled, and there was due process. The work of the Special Rapporteur was supported in the fulfilment of her mandate.
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