|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)
Fundamental rights of asia’s native people increasingly violated,
situation long neglected, United Nations forum told
Indigenous Urban Migration Trend Also Discussed; Speakers Say,
Regardless of Cause, Indigenous Face Substantial Difficulties in Urban Settings
With increasing violations of the fundamental rights of native peoples in Asia due to the militarization of ancestral lands and the imposition of repressive national security, it was urgent that Asian Governments recognize the region’s indigenous peoples for who they were: distinct groups with their own unique cultures, but with inherent human rights to be respected like all other citizens, a representative of the Asia Caucus told the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today.
She noted that several Asian Governments had sought a formal definition of indigenous peoples and that, despite concern that creating a formal definition could lead to discriminatory acts, she believed that legally binding criteria for who could be regarded as “indigenous” peoples could be agreed upon at the national level and within the context of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“It is of urgent concern that we move forward on this issue in order to fully address the legitimate concerns of indigenous peoples in relation to our collective rights, for the best interest of all stakeholders, including States,” she told the Forum, which divided its work between discussion of Asia in the morning and of urban issues in the afternoon.
Rounding out the issue of identification, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, said that the situation of Asia’s tribal and native peoples -- counting in the millions, in all countries of the region -- had long been neglected, and had only recently been the object of distinct attention in international forums. The reasons for such historical neglect could be found in any number of discriminatory provisions and legal distinctions concerning indigenous people in the domestic norms and polices of a number of countries.
Thus, while States like Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines explicitly referred to “indigenous” people in their official terminology, some Asian countries had historically used labels such as “tribal peoples”, “hill tribes” or other expressions in vernacular languages, such as “adivasis” or “orang asli”, which implied notions of aboriginality. In other countries, no clear-cut differences existed between the legal and constitutional treatment afforded to those peoples in relation to other minority groups, and they were included under the general categories of “ethnic minorities” or “national minorities”.
But, irrespective of the terminology and legal status, those people shared with other peoples around the globe several similar cultural, social and economic characteristics that made them the object of marginalization and discrimination in the countries in which they lived; that excluded them from decision-making at all levels; and that made them prone to suffering from serious violations of their human rights.
Taking up the issue of urban indigenous peoples and migration in the afternoon along similar lines, Forum expert Willie Littlechild pointed out that identity issues among indigenous peoples residing in urban areas were extremely important. Indigenous organizations and friendship centres were intimately tied to identity, he continued, noting a dichotomy could be found in many Government policies between rural and urban peoples, based on a lingering stereotype that authentic indigenous people lived in remote areas. However, urban indigenous communities were often characterized by geographic mobility, both in and out of urban areas, and to their native lands.
In many cases, he said, urban indigenous communities did not have the same levels of access to information, and information about available services was often controlled by external agencies. In that context, indigenous peoples were often classified as those with “special needs”, with no effort to understand their complex differences.
Selman Erguden, Head of the Shelter Branch of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), noting that the trend of global urbanization was irreversible, said cities generally were the engines of economic, social and cultural development and realization of human rights; however, they could also generate and intensify the social exclusion of disadvantaged and marginalized indigenous groups.
He said that a number of “push-pull” factors had been prompting the migration trend among indigenous peoples, including, among others, land dispossession, displacement, conflict and natural disasters. The overall deterioration of their livelihoods, coupled with the absence of viable economic alternatives in rural areas, were the “push factors”, while the prospect of better socio-economic conditions in cites constituted the main “pull-factor”. Regardless of the cause, it was clear that indigenous people faced substantial difficulties in urban settings, including a lack of employment and other income-generating activities, limited access to basic services and, perhaps most importantly, inadequate housing.
Donna Matahaere-Atariki, Director of Policy, Te Ouni Kokiri, New Zealand said that, following the Second World War, the rate of urbanization by the Maori people as a group had been the highest in the world. Most had migrated for new employment opportunities in cities and, as a result, more than 80 per cent of the Maori population today lived in urban areas. That trend had wrought a fundamental change in the character of New Zealand society, including enhancing understanding and contact between Maori and non-Maori.
But, the pace of the change had also had negative effects, since urbanization had fractured the traditional relationship of individual Maori to family and tribe, as well as to tribal lore and land. During economic downturns, Maori were most often likely to be engaged in low-skilled jobs and, thus, vulnerable to unemployment. That had established a long-term cycle of poverty, disadvantage and a crisis of identity for many Maori individuals in urban areas.
Overall, she said, New Zealand believed that a policy must be developed to manage the social change associated with urbanization and to minimize negative effects. Governments and indigenous people needed to work together on the question of urbanization and to support indigenous peoples in their choices.
Leading the discussion on Asia were Indira Simbolon, Senior Social Safeguard Specialist of the Environment and Social Safeguard Division, Asian development Bank; Ganesh Thapa, Regional Economist, Asia and the pacific Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Brigitte Fiering, Chief Technological Adviser, Project to Promote International Labour Organization (ILO) Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples; Sultan Aziz, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Chandra Roy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
A representative World Bank also spoke, as did the representatives of China and Viet Nam.
Representatives of the following indigenous groups also spoke: Asian Indigenous People’s Caucus; Asian Indigenous Women’s Network; Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation; Shimin Gaikou Centre and associated organizations; Ainu Association of Hokkaido, Ainu Resource Centre; Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre; Youth Caucus; South Asia Indigenous Women’s Forum and other organizations; Asia Caucus and the Forest Peoples Programme; Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Tebtebba Foundation.
Also, leading the discussion on indigenous urban migration were: Rasmus Precht, the representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); Amy Muedin, Programme Specialist, International Organization for Migration (IOM); Julien Burger, the Coordinator of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and Fred Caron, Assistant Deputy, Office for Metis and Non-Status Indians, Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada.
The representative of Nicaragua also spoke.
Representatives of the following also spoke: Indigenous Caucus if the Greater Caribbean; North American Regional Caucus; Amazigh Caucus of North Africa; Comision Juridica Para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ); Pacific Caucus; Latin American Caucus; La Red Xicaana Indigena, Pueblos y Fronteras, South central farmers, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Cetiliztli Nauchampa; Gobiernos Alteranativos; New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and associated organizations; Caribbean Antilles Indigenous Peoples Caucus and associated organizations; Consejo Indo de Sudamerica and Andean First Nations Council; Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and associated organizations; Comissao Nacional dos Indios Guarani and associated organizations; Retrieve Foundation; National Association of Friendship Centres; Federation of Indigenous Populations of India; and Ethiopian World Federation.
The Forum will reconvene at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 22 May, to hold a discussion on data collection and dissaggregation.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to continue its sixth annual session. It was expected to hold a half-day discussion on Asia, as well as a discussion on urban indigenous peoples and migration. For background, see Press Release HR/4916 issued 11 May 2007.
Launching today’s discussion on Asia was GANESH THAPA of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), who said that, globally, indigenous peoples constituted only 5 per cent of the total population, but 15 per cent of the poor. Of the 250 million indigenous peoples living in Asia and the Pacific region, most were poor and marginalized, often ill-equipped to deal with, and benefit from, the forces of globalization. In China alone, indigenous peoples constituted only 9 per cent of the population, but 40 per cent of the poor. In India, 11 per cent of rural peoples were indigenous peoples, but comprised 48 per cent of country’s poor in 2000.
Referring to the International Labour Organization’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers in Asia, which noted a continued high incidence of poverty among indigenous peoples, he asked how indigenous people would fare in 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. He said even with the halving of poverty, the bulk of the remaining poor would be indigenous peoples living in Asia. In China, the absolute poor would be concentrated in mountainous areas.
Research about the causes of poverty noted that geography played a role, as agricultural conditions in mountainous areas in China, for example, were unfavourable. However, poverty could not only be explained by lower levels of assets and education. Half of the problem included maximizing returns of existing assets.
Intervention to assist them could be more strategically targeted, he continued. In Latin America and Asia, the Fund devoted most of its loan and grant resources to indigenous peoples, particularly in India, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Bangladesh. It generally operated within five key areas of intervention: securing access to natural resources such as land, forests and water; promoting indigenous women; promoting sustainable resource management; institution strengthening; and blending traditional knowledge systems with modern technology.
The results of an assessment made on the First International Decade on Indigenous Peoples included some successes, notably that indigenous peoples’ issues had been included in poverty reduction strategy papers, particularly in Bangladesh and Viet Nam. Further, there was a likelihood of adopting International Labour Organization Convention 169 in Nepal. The remaining challenges included non-recognition of indigenous rights in many countries and an ongoing gap between the adoption of laws and implementation of them. The way forward for the Fund would include a focus on resource allocation and perhaps a tripartite discussion among the Fund, the Forum and national Governments. Further, it was essential to focus on access to new assets and better management of existing ones.
RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, updating the Forum on indigenous peoples in the Asian region, said that the situation of Asia’s tribal and native peoples -- counting in the millions, in all countries of the region -- had long been neglected, and had only recently been the object of distinct attention in international forums. The reasons for such historical neglect could be found in any number of discriminatory provisions and legal distinctions concerning indigenous people in the domestic norms and polices of a number of countries.
Thus, while States like Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines explicitly referred to “indigenous” people in their official terminology, other countries had historically used other labels to refer to them, such as “tribal peoples” or “hill tribes” or other expressions in vernacular languages, such as “adivasis” or “orang asli”, which implied notions of aboriginality. In other countries, he said that no clear-cut differences existed between the legal and constitutional treatment afforded to those peoples in relation to other minority groups, and they were included under the general categories of “ethnic minorities” or “national minorities”. But irrespective of the terminology and legal status, those people shared with other peoples around the globe a number of similar cultural, social and economic characteristics that made them the object of marginalization and discrimination in the countries in which they lived; that excluded them from decision-making at all levels; and that made them prone to suffering from serious violations of their human rights.
Turning next to the loss of indigenous lands and territories, he said that many of the human rights violations facing indigenous peoples of the Asian region were due to their loss of ancestral lands. That trend had been increasing in recent decades, placing many of them on the verge of completely losing their traditional territories and, thus, disappearing as distinct peoples. Some of the driving factors of the trend had been the renewed extension of plantation economies, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries in the south-east of the region. Another factor had been the dramatic pace of deforestation, as a result of State concessions and illegal logging.
“The systematic practice of displacement and removal of indigenous communities is of special concern,” he said, stressing that such displacement was usually forced by the construction of “mega-projects”, such as hydroelectric dams, or the effect of extractive industries. Such practices had led to the displacement of millions of indigenous and tribal families from their ancestral lands in countries such as India and China, “generating human costs of dimensions still difficult to ascertain”. The forced removal of those communities was also the consequence of intentional State policies aimed at “economic modernization”, including the abolition of traditional forms of shifting cultivation or the eradication of illicit crops, as had been done in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, or Viet Nam.
He said that, in the majority of cases, the violations of indigenous land rights was a result of legal vacuums in may Asian countries, the majority of which still failed to recognize indigenous title derived from ancestral possession and use, or to recognize traditional forms of herding and cultivation as sustainable forms of production. At the same time, he noted that a recent positive trend had been the adoption by some countries of legislation regarding indigenous land and resource rights, such as the Adivasis Forest Rights Act, adopted by India in 2006. Still, he noted that experience had shown that even when such policies were adopted, such as the 1997 Indigenous Land Rights Act in the Philippines, or the 2001 Land Rights Act in Cambodia, there remained serious problems with regard to effective implementation.
He went on to say that indigenous peoples in Asia had been particularly affected by violent conflicts since independence in several countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines and in north-east India. In some of those cases, indigenous communities had chosen, or been forced, to participate in insurgent movements as a way of protecting their rights. That had driven them into a vicious cycle of violence, where they had suffered both from insurgencies and States repression, leading to serious human rights abuse. He said he had received countless reports of abuses suffered by indigenous leaders and communities that found themselves trapped in the middle of conflicts, including massacres, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture.
Similar practices had been identified in other countries as a result of State strategies to combat terrorism or drug trafficking, leading to the imposition of states of emergency and the application of special legislation that paved the way for abuse and impunity. That was the case, for instance, of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, in force for decades in several states in north-eastern India, he said. In the Philippines, political killings, including dozens of indigenous leaders and activists, had drawn international attention, and in Viet Nam and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Montagnard and Hmong people still faced repression as a consequence of their involvement in armed conflicts more than 30 years ago. While many of those communities had sought refuge in forests, others had been forced to flee to other countries like Cambodia or Thailand, where they were sometimes subjected to harsh conditions or detention.
In order to find a solution to protracted conflicts, as well as to accommodate ethnic diversity within their own societies, several countries had promoted a number of constructive arrangements, he said. Some of those arrangements provided for indigenous peoples’ self-government in issues directly affecting them, as well as various safeguards with relation to their cultures, opening a window of opportunity for the protection of their rights. He went on to draw attention to the particularly troubling situation of indigenous women and girls in Africa, where their vulnerability pushed them, more often than not, into trafficking or economic migration, under conditions of extreme precariousness, abuse and violence.
Finally, he called upon the Governments of Asian countries, international organizations, civil society and all relevant actors to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples found a distinct place in the overall Asian human rights agenda, and to mobilize all the energies required to attend to the often desperate situation they faced in the region.
JOAN CARLING, of the Asian Indigenous People’s Caucus, while recognizing the commonality of peoples in Asia, said the issue of identifying indigenous peoples went hand in hand with non-recognition of their rights. Recalling several international forums dealing with indigenous peoples’ rights, she said legally binding criteria of who could be regarded as “indigenous” could be agreed upon at the national level within the context of a broader United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She said it was urgent to move forward on that issue to better address the legitimate concerns of indigenous peoples. Such action would be in the best interest of all stakeholders, including States, as it would lead to the resolution of long-standing problems.
While her delegation appreciated the existence of safeguard policies in financial institutions, such as the World Bank, she said those policies fell far short of adequate. Discussing the Asia Development Bank’s policy update review, she was particularly concerned about its direction towards strengthening country systems. Further, she was deeply concerned by the increasing violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples in Asia due to militarization and the imposition of national security laws. She noted that the labelling of individuals as “terrorists” provided a justification to impose restrictions on the civil and political rights of those indigenous peoples asserting their rights.
Moreover, she added, the denial of basic services was leading to further impoverishment of indigenous communities. Highlighting that delivery and access to services such as health, education and water was dependent on indigenous peoples’ approval of destructive projects; she deplored such exchanges of rights for services.
She appealed to all Governments to pass the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and asked all entities funding development projects to respect and actively promote the key principles of free, prior and informed consent. She called attention to private sector banks in that regard. Additionally, she called for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for all activities funded by multilateral institutions with potential impact on indigenous peoples. She asked the Japanese Government to seriously consider including provisions on indigenous peoples in the safeguard policy of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Importantly, she called for the establishment of an Asian Human Rights Commission to include indigenous peoples experts, and for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Governments to recognize the collective rights of native peoples, based on the Declaration.
SULTAN AZIZ, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his agency worked in the region, which was home to 70 per cent of the world’s indigenous peoples, to ensure that every woman, man and child enjoyed better health and lived a better life. It worked to ensure that every pregnancy was wanted, every birth was safe, every young person was free of HIV/AIDS and every woman and girl was treated with respect and dignity. He said the troubling situation of indigenous people throughout the Asian region was a result of Government neglect. That neglect in turn bred mistrust on the part of indigenous and tribal peoples. At the same time, he stressed that even when Governments were trying, the cycle of mistrust was continually fed by bad planning, which ultimately resulted in the marginalization of indigenous communities.
UNFPA was working to promote policy development and capacity-building, particularly through the building up, where possible, of indigenous grass-roots organizations, he continued. By example, he said that, to foster greater participation of indigenous people in policy formulation, the Cambodian Government had piloted a programme, with the help of the UNFPA, to boost such participation. He went on to highlight the UNFPA’s work in India, where the 2001 census listed some 84 million indigenous persons, the majority of which lived in a near-contiguous belt stretching from Gujarat, to seven states in the north-east. Turing to Pakistan, he noted that, despite successive Government attempts to address the condition of religions and national minorities, women, tribal groups and indigenous peoples had met with recurring challenges. Those challenges included competition for resources and jobs by members of other ethnic minorities who shared land resources with those groups in the four provinces of Pakistan.
He said that, throughout the region, the fundamental challenge to the UNFPA’s work was the unavailability of verifiable data. Varying estimates of indigenous peoples’ population in many countries were often inconsistent and/or unreliable. A greater effort needed to be mounted to properly assess such information, to ensure better planning at the national level. At the cultural level, UNFPA had also been challenged to strike a balance between respect for indigenous cultures and mainstream reproductive health and gender equality. UNFPA believed that the entry point was identification, prevention and mitigation of such factors as harmful beliefs and practices, as well as promoting positive health behaviour. It was critical that high quality reproductive health information and services were provided in a culturally sensitive, accessible and equitable manner, he said, stressing that the UNFPA was committed to working on more effective approaches to reach and address the special needs and rights of indigenous peoples.
BRIGITTE FIERING of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that her organization had increased collaboration with Governments and indigenous peoples in Asia. Land and resource rights were among the region’s top issues, she added, noting that Cambodia was seeing accelerated land grabbing and increased adverse impacts on indigenous peoples. A recent forum had highlighted their concerns. Although a legal framework had been established, the development of regulations to implement that legislation remained stalled.
Another concern for the Organization was the implementation gap, she continued, noting that several countries, including, Bangladesh and India, had ratified ILO Convention 169. Regarding that Convention, dialogue with Governments had revealed huge challenges to implementation, including a lack of political will and limited capacity of stakeholders to understand native peoples’ rights.
Representation in decision-making processes was another area for improvement, she said. Most indigenous peoples in Cambodia were not represented beyond the village level and had no say in how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Where there was weak participation of native peoples, there was also a tendency to include them in “disadvantaged” or “vulnerable” groups. The result was that their specific needs were often overlooked or not adequately targeted. Turning to traditional occupations, she said negative perceptions were seen throughout Asia, particularly in regarding those occupations as “primitive and in need of modernizing”. Some were even prohibited by law. Further, indigenous peoples were disproportionately represented among victims of violations of fundamental rights, including gender-related discrimination.
On the issue of conflict, she said native peoples were not taken into decision-making processes that could quell violence and Nepal was a case in point. While there was a fear that discussion of indigenous peoples’ rights would lead to conflict, the use of ILO Convention 169 had shown the opposite: that recognition of their rights had contributed to conflict resolution. The challenges included a lack of political will to recognize native peoples’ rights; lack of capacity to implement policies for their rights; and discrimination against indigenous workers in the international labour market.
She noted some positive developments, namely increased Government interest in building peaceful societies and wide ratification of ILO Convention 111, which pertained to engagement in an occupation of one’s choice. The ILO had facilitated collaboration among United Nations agencies and donors, she said, stressing the need to involve the full diversity of actors in translating policies into action. Moreover, it was consolidating its regional and subregional programmes, with a particular focus on capacity-building.
INDIRA SIMBOLON, Senior Social Safeguard Specialist of the Environment and Social Safeguard Division of the Asian Development Bank, said a recent Bank report had noted that, despite powerful economic progress in the Asian region, in the years to come many countries would have to deal with extensive poverty and support faster and more inclusive growth, and move from a national to regional and, ultimately, global focus. With all that in mind, she said that the Bank also recognized the precarious situation of the region’s indigenous populations and communities. The Bank was also aware that the region’s various development agencies, civil society organizations and private donors all had different -- and sometimes competing -- priorities when it came to development strategies, including those aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples.
The Bank, due to its limited resources, had largely shifted its focus away from “development” initiatives towards “safeguard” polices aimed at indigenous communities, he said. The Bank had several safeguard policies that sought to avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse environmental impacts, social costs to third parties, or marginalization of vulnerable groups that resulted from development projects. In 2004, the Bank launched a reform agenda focused on managing for development results, which emphasized the importance of outcome-driven processes to ensure sustainability of development efforts.
In line with those initiatives and in response to recent economic advances in its developing member countries, the Bank sought to improve implementation and alignment of its safeguard policies with country safeguard systems and other donors’ safeguard frameworks. She said that the Bank was working “to get the balance right”, so that the human rights and socio-economic rights of indigenous people were protected and promoted. The participation of indigenous civil society organizations in the safeguards process would be most helpful.
Statements by Indigenous Organizations
RUTH BATANI, delivering a joint statement by the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network said her network had held capacity-building training sessions in various Asian countries, designed as a general orientation on gender. Additionally, three Network representatives had participated in the fiftieth Commission on the Status of Women. The Network had created a report on rights of indigenous women in the Asia Pacific region, and prepared an information kit on indigenous women who were acting at local national and international levels to promote the rights of indigenous peoples.
She recommended that the Forum renew its call to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to lands, territories and natural resources. Further, the Forum should prepare a special report on indigenous peoples and climate change, and mobilize resources for capacity-building efforts for women. Additionally, data systems reflecting the situation of women should be developed.
SIMON THACH, delivering a joint statement by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, said human rights violations persisted in Viet Nam and he would continue to speak truth to power about human rights, particularly about the right to health care. Describing renewed oppression on human rights movements, he noted that two 17-year-old monks had been detained, a sign that the Government’s actions were hostile towards Buddhism. He asked that monks be permitted to create an independent organization to promote peace.
MAKIKO KIMURA, delivering a joint statement by the Shimin Gaikou Centre and associated organizations, said her delegation fully supported the Asian Caucus statement. She was concerned at the merger of the Japan International Cooperation Agency with another agency. At the outset, her delegation had tried to express concern that the guidelines had fallen far below international standards on indigenous peoples. She asked both agencies to ensure that fundamental rights of native peoples were recognized. Consultations with indigenous peoples had not been held, which constituted a breach of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She asked the Forum to call for multilateral organizations to incorporate native peoples’ rights into their activities.
YUPO ABE, speaking through an interpreter, on behalf of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, Ainu Resource Centre, said that his group had been calling on the Japanese Government to recognize the Ainu peoples. The group had asked the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to press the Government on the matter, but Japanese authorities had demurred, saying that the United Nations had not worked out an “unambiguous” definition of indigenous peoples. He said that it was absolutely necessary that Japan address such an historical injustice. Acknowledgement of the Ainu people would truly end colonialism in Japan. He called on Japan to officially recognize the Ainu people.
CHANDA ROY, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that her agency was using its comparative advantage at the country and regional level to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples and to boost their socio-economic development. The UNDP was working to reduce poverty levels and promote knowledge management systems among indigenous people and support and promote policy initiatives at all levels. It was also supporting regional dialogue at all levels among government, indigenous groups and wider civil society. She said that the UNDP Asia Division’s work focused on natural resource management and land, law and justice, and capacity-building focused on indigenous leaders, women and youth.
BATE NING, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, said that southern Mongolia, widely known as “ Inner Mongolia”, was home to some 5 million indigenous peoples. Those peoples had been suffering under the heavy-handed and repressive polices of the Chinese Government for years, and most recently had been hit hard by China’s absolute ban on their traditional herding practices, in the name of “modernizing” the region. Among other things, the Chinese Government also continued to jail Mongolian traditional doctors for practicing their craft.
YAYUC NAPAY, the representative of the Youth Caucus, said Asian indigenous youth were underrepresented in the Forum, as many faced problems with finding visas and funding to attend. He called for the Forum to assist in those matters. Most youth in Asia were not able communicate in English and could not access or assess United Nations information, and he urged that all United Nations agencies use languages from Asian countries, including Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam. Additionally, a training course in English proficiency should be made available to indigenous youth in Asia. He recommended the Forum also appoint a qualified person to coordinate with youth groups in Asia, so that they could carry out their goals. He called on States to recognize the rights to self-determination, halt militarization of indigenous areas, and recognize the right to free, prior and informed consent prior to approving development projects.
ANJALI DIAMARI, delivering a joint statement by the South Asia Indigenous Women’s Forum and other organizations, said the militarization of native lands had marginalized women. In India, for example, women who practiced traditional healing were often killed in a brutal manner, because of the stigma attached to those practices. Moreover, armed conflict in various Asian countries had had a strong impact on indigenous women, and she urged that all provisions of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) be duly respected. She urged that a special rapporteur study the effects of armed conflict on women and children in South Asian countries. Additionally, India should ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
MINA SETRA, delivering a collective statement of the Asia Caucus and the Forest Peoples Programme, drew attention to the Asian Development Bank’s updating of safeguard policies. She said that, while she appreciated the informal consultations between Bank officials and leaders of indigenous peoples that had taken place, she was concerned that the Bank had not committed to full and effective consultations. She was also deeply concerned about the direction that the policy review had taken, as special evaluations had indicated strong support for increased reliance on country safeguard systems, rather than upholding existing international standards on environmental protection and human rights. The Forum should ask the Bank to consult fully with indigenous peoples. It should also request the Inter-Agency Support Group to provide assistance to multilateral institutions for coordinating those consultations. Further, she asked the Bank to uphold the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and publicly commit to upholding international human rights standards.
SHANKAR LIMBU, delivering a joint statement by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Tebtebba Foundation, called attention to the indigenous peoples of Cambodia. While the country’s land law included a chapter on the registration of communal land, no titles had been granted to native peoples, he said, adding that they remained vulnerable to commercial interests. Although the Government had put a moratorium on logging, industry interests still prevailed without consultation with native peoples living in impacted areas. Indeed, the principle of free, prior and informed consent had not been exercised. In the north-east, international donor agencies continued to support the building of dams that would negatively impact indigenous communities. He urged United Nations agencies and other donors to address issues of land among indigenous communities and asked the Forum to push Governments to implement the free, prior and informed consent principle. Moreover, the World Bank should follow through on its 2006 recommendations related to the Cambodian situation.
Experts Comments and Questions
Opening the experts’ round of comments, PARSHURAM TAMANG, expert from Nepal, asked if organizations such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), or the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) had been asked to participate in the discussion. Naming some challenges faced by indigenous peoples in the Asian region, he emphasized, among others, the need for Asian Governments to recognize outright the existence of the indigenous peoples, the establishment of protective mechanisms and policies, globalization, conflicts or non-implementation of peace accords. Noting that the Asia-Pacific region was home to so many indigenous peoples and communities, he asked the panel if it was possible to come up with a common strategy. He was troubled that there was no Asian regional human rights agency to help protect the rights of tribal communities.
WILLIE LITTLECHILD, expert from Canada, recalled that several of the speakers had noted an “implementation gap” and a “legal vacuum” that led to the rights of indigenous peoples being undercut in the region. He wondered if anyone on the panel could discuss ways this might change, particularly with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He added that the Forum’s experts were very worried about the status of a United Nations intern in that region.
QIN XIAOMEI, expert from China, called for everyone, particularly Governments, to put aside squabbles about defining indigenous peoples and to join together with civil society, development agencies and indigenous groups, and assist those people in their capacity-building and in the protection and enjoyment of their human rights. The Forum had been established as a space for dialogue among Governments and indigenous people, she said, calling on State actors to consider such a dialogue.
OTILIA LUX DE COTI, expert from Guatemala, said that the Forum should take a strong stand on such “implementation gaps” and should listen to such accounts carefully when compiling its own reports.
IDA NICOLAISEN, expert from Denmark, applauded the representatives of indigenous groups that had made presentations today, and reminded the Forum that there were many countries, including India, Burma and Malaysia, where the voice of civil society was rarely heard because of difficulties in mobilization. She called on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to develop a paper on mainstreaming human rights throughout the United Nations system and present it at the Forum’s next session.
MERIKE KOKAJEV, expert from Estonia, asked Mr. Stavenhagen, if he was engaged in dialogue with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to ensure that United Nations peacekeeping missions were made aware of the rights and cultural specificities of indigenous communities.
HASSAN ID BALKASSM, expert from Morocco, was also concerned by reports of the implementation gap seriously affecting the exercise of indigenous peoples’ rights, and he asked if the representatives of United Nations agencies on the panel were engaged with the respective Governments to address lagging project implementation. He also urged more Governments to participate in the debate.
PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam) voiced concerned at the last paragraph in the Special Rapporteur’s statement, saying that his delegation had participated in the Forum with a view to providing information on the actual situation of ethnic minorities on the ground. By doing so, he hoped to facilitate the adoption of a recommendation that would actually address the needs of those people. He rejected the groundless information by people with a questionable political agenda. He was disheartened that such groundless information was picked up, rather than information about Government efforts to benefit all 53 of the country’s ethnic groups.
Turning to a statement on the arrest of monks in Viet Nam, he said the Constitution guaranteed the rights and freedoms of religion and belief, as well as the principle of equality before the law. All those who committed crimes punishable under the Penal Code would be prosecuted, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
NAVIN RAI of the World Bank, responding to collective statements by the Asia Caucus and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, said the Bank had funded 193 projects in Asia. In China alone, there were 20 projects. More importantly, the Bank could boast 57 projects in the pipeline, with 31 of them under the revised and stringent policy on indigenous peoples.
Regarding the Asia Caucus’ call for the Bank to improve its policy on indigenous peoples, particularly regarding the principle of free, prior and informed consent, he acknowledged the Bank’s provision did not amount to the legal concept of that principle. The Bank had agreed to look into that issue once the Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly. Further, he accepted the Pact’s request to follow through with its 2006 recommendations.
RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, said he was aware that some public human rights institutions in Asian countries did not actually deal with human rights. Those institutions should develop more interest in indigenous peoples’ situations, and develop focal points and special departments to address such matters. He proposed that they also deal more closely with gender commissions, which, again, were not always equipped to deal with indigenous women’s issues.
Furthermore, he proposed that ASEAN countries create a regional human rights commission. As in other parts of the world, he had noticed human rights commissions were not always trusted, particularly by indigenous peoples, as they felt they lacked adequate safeguards. He urged that they be independent bodies, accountable to parliaments and legislatures, rather than Governments. It was also extremely important for professional agencies, such as bar associations, take up the issues of indigenous human rights.
Responding to Viet Nam’s statement, he said that he had received cooperation with human rights defenders and with the technical staff at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Regarding Viet Nam’s assertion that the information he received had been groundless, he said he, of course, would welcome any further information that the Government wished to address to the Special Rapporteur. Over the years, he had sent communications to the Government regarding complaints. He asked that responses be provided though available mechanisms.
ZHOU FENG ( China), responding to the South Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, said his delegation attached great importance to indigenous peoples. However, he opposed some of the groundless accusations heard today. Inner Mongolia was part of China and its inhabitants enjoyed the same rights as in other parts of the country. The Chinese Government could not accept such groundless accusations.
Discussion on Urban Indigenous, Migration
Forum expert Mr. LITTLECHILD turned to the reasons why indigenous peoples migrated to urban areas, adding that policymakers were often surprised to discover that huge numbers of indigenous peoples resided in major cities. The complex “push and pull” factors prompting indigenous peoples to migrate included the privatization of native lands, the drive for employment, access to health care and education, and a desire for a better life.
Identity issues among indigenous peoples residing in urban areas were extremely important, as urban experience contributed to defining identity, he continued. The formation of indigenous organizations and friendship centres were intimately tied to identity. There was a dichotomy in many Government policies between rural and urban peoples, based on a lingering stereotype that authentic indigenous people lived in remote areas. Urban indigenous communities were often characterized by geographic mobility, both in and out of urban areas, and to their native lands.
In many cases, he said, urban indigenous communities did not have the same levels of access to information, or the skills to fully participate in the emerging knowledge economy, and information about available services was often controlled by external agencies. In that context, he went on to say that indigenous peoples were often classified as those with “special needs”, with no effort to understand their complex differences. Involving indigenous peoples in decision-making in urban areas was extremely important, as it allowed them to have a say in what affected them, he said, noting the ongoing jurisdictional debates in municipal governments that resulted in exclusion.
Indigenous youth residing in urban areas were often portrayed in a way that sensationalized risk-prone behaviour, he said. Activities to achieve positive outcomes for youth were needed. Racism and discrimination remained substantial difficulties, as did the lack of income-generating activities and limited access to services. He encouraged the Forum to consider urbanization as a permanent agenda item.
SELMAN ERGUDEN, Head of the Shelter Branch of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said that the trend of global urbanization was irreversible: soon, most of the world’s people would live in and around cities and major urban areas. Cities, in general, were the engines of economic, social and cultural development and realization of human rights, but they could also generate and intensify the social exclusion of disadvantaged and marginalized indigenous groups. More and more indigenous people were choosing to leave, or being moved off, their traditional rural territories and homelands, and were being seriously affected by the trend, in both developed and developing regions.
He said that a number of “push-pull” factors had been prompting the migration trend among indigenous peoples, including, among others, land dispossession, displacement, conflict and natural disasters. The overall deterioration of their livelihoods, coupled with the absence of viable economic alternatives in rural areas, were the “push factors”. The prospect of better socio-economic conditions in cites was the main “pull-factor”. But, whatever the cause, it was clear that indigenous people faced substantial difficulties in urban settings, including a lack of employment and other income-generating activities, limited access to basic services and, perhaps most importantly, inadequate housing.
Violation of human rights was often the main underlying cause for persisting poverty among urban indigenous communities. In recognizing those challenges, UN-HABITAT had organized an expert meeting in Santiago, Chile, this past March, aimed largely at analysing the impacts of migration on indigenous peoples, as well as their living conditions, and elaborating recommendations on how to improve urban indigenous peoples’ living and human rights conditions. He added that other colleagues participating in the Forum today would highlight the outcome of the meeting.
RASMUS PRECHT, the representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, presented recommendations by the international expert group meeting in Santiago de Chile, noting that there was limited knowledge of the migration process and the impact of urbanization on indigenous peoples. The consequences of urbanization varied greatly, with adaptation and improvement of living conditions on one hand, and discrimination, exclusion and violence on the other. It was important to better understand the needs of indigenous peoples, and particularly their relationships with their lands. They should not be seen as divided between urban and rural areas; rather as peoples with a common cultural identity that adapted to changing circumstances and environments. As such, culturally sensitive policies should be adopted.
Regarding Government activities, experts had recommended ratifying International Labour Organization Convention 169 and adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, it was important to increase indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making processes, based on the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and ensure their rights to social well-being. Moreover, he called for better provision of services, in partnership with indigenous organizations. It was important to fight discrimination through cultural awareness and affirmative action.
General recommendations included collecting accurate data on living conditions of those living in urban areas. That should be done with a rights-based participatory approach. He called for the full realization of the right to adequate housing, and the elimination of homelessness, in part through the establishment of effective housing delivery systems, and support for indigenous youth in their capacity as indigenous leaders.
AMY MUEDIN, Programme Specialist, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the United Nations report on demographic trends had estimated that, shortly, more people would be living in cities than in rural areas. That was a first in the history of humankind. She said that there was a scarcity of data on how many of that number were indigenous communities, which made it difficult to get a handle on their situation. At the same time, it was important to recognize that indigenous peoples’ rights were endangered throughout the migratory process; displacement from their original homelands, trafficking or other abuse in transit; and alienation, harsh treatment and lack of opportunities in their new urban communities.
She said that the Santiago expert meeting on urban indigenous peoples had noted that some indigenous peoples left their homes because they believed that was the only way they could survive changes under way in their ancestral territories. In any case, the experts agreed that, when they left their countries, indigenous and tribal peoples did not leave their identities behind, and that their rights and identity should be considered inviolable, regardless of whether they lived in rural or urban areas. She added that, recently, the IOM had made available a draft working paper on understanding internal and international migration of indigenous peoples and also highlighted transborder migration.
JULIEN BURGER, the Coordinator of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said indigenous peoples living in cities and towns constituted 50 per cent or more of the indigenous populations in various countries. Sometimes, movement from native lands had been motivated by a desire to take advantage of education, health and employment opportunities, as it was easier in some cities to participate more fully in national life. However, many indigenous peoples had left their land against their will, displaced by development projects, such as dams and mining operations.
Widespread poverty that wracked so many countries around the world also forced indigenous peoples to move to urban areas, he continued. He pointed out that the causes of poverty among indigenous peoples were exacerbated by fundamental human rights issues, including the right to self-determination. He stressed that one could not disconnect the phenomenon of urbanization from fundamental rights.
A recent expert seminar also brought to light issues of maintaining identity; low housing standards; lack of education and employment opportunities; and exploitation of indigenous labour, including for the purposes of trafficking. Experts from Governments offered an array of programmes to address those issues. He hoped that they would not lose momentum from that discussion and that the sixth session would make a concrete recommendation on how to move the work forward. Finally, he thanked the Government of Canada for its intellectual and substantial contribution.
FABIAN DEL POPOLO, expert in the Population Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that her region had been pleased to host the experts’ meeting in Chile. The Commission had since adopted a decision on the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, and had also launched, in La Paz, current census data on indigenous peoples in the region. She said that those surveys had revealed that migration was reshaping the territorial distribution of nations and, although indigenous peoples remained chiefly tied to their ancestral lands, they were nevertheless a part of the current urbanization trend. She added that the survey revealed some contradictions to popular thinking, particularly the notion that indigenous peoples were more likely to return to their ancestral homes. She stressed that, while the survey had been eye-opening and most helpful to the Commission, there was still a need for all United Nations, civil society and indigenous peoples’ groups to work harder to provide more and better data on the situation of indigenous peoples.
FRED CARON, Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada, said today, about 50 per cent of aboriginal people lived in urban centres across Canada, mainly in western cities. There was a growing number of aboriginal people who knew no other home than the city and, as such, policymakers needed to consider their specific needs. Since 1951, friendship centres had been used to address those needs. Now, more than 117 centres provided important services to aboriginal people living in cities across Canada. Those centres paved the way for other Government programmes designed to respond to specific needs of aboriginal people living in cities.
Canada announced the renewal of its Urban Aboriginal Strategy with a commitment of $68.5 million over the next five years, he said, noting that the total commitment for urban aboriginal people was estimated at more than $560 million on an annual basis. While the commitment was substantial, Canada also was seeking help from partners, including aboriginal representatives and the private sector.
Canada welcomed the report by key organizers of the expert group meeting on urban indigenous peoples and migration as an important step and hoped that its report would serve as a platform for continuing discussion. United Nations agencies should build into their work plans consideration of issues for urban indigenous peoples. Similarly, Governments needed to encourage dialogue among indigenous peoples.
DONNA MATAHAERE-ATARIKI, Director of Policy, Te Ouni Kokiri, New Zealand, said that, following the Second World War, the rate of urbanization by the Maori people as a group had been the highest in the world. Most had migrated for new employment opportunities in cities, like many other indigenous people were doing around the world today. As a result, more than 80 per cent of the Maori population now lived in urban areas. That trend had wrought a fundamental change on the character of New Zealand society, including enhancing understanding and contact between Maori and non-Maori.
But, the pace of the change had also had negative effects, since urbanization had fractured the traditional relationship of individual Maori to family and tribe, as well as tribal lore, ancestry, language and land. During economic downturns, Maori no longer had traditional support networks and were also most often likely too be engaged in low-skilled jobs and, thus, vulnerable to unemployment. That had established a long-term cycle of poverty, disadvantage and a crisis of identity for many Maori individuals in urban areas, with serious implication for all Maori people and New Zealand itself.
She said that the Maori had spent years adapting to and emerging from that period of major change and one of the most positive developments had been the adaptation of tribes to the urban environment and the establishment of urban authorities to provide cohesion and support. Overall, she said that New Zealand believed that a policy must be developed to manage the social change associated with urbanization and to minimize negative effects. Governments and indigenous people needed to work together on the question of urbanization and to support indigenous peoples in their choices.
CARLOS JOSÉ ALEMÁN CUNNINGHAN ( Nicaragua), calling attention to his Government’s respect for implementation, addressed the management of natural resources in the autonomous regions. The Government had instituted a decentralization process, which favoured autonomous regions, and had established joint management of natural parks on those lands.
On the territorial rights of indigenous peoples, he said Nicaragua had implemented a demarcation and ownership law, with mechanisms to ensure that essential rights were respected. He went on to say that the process of developing the procedural manual had been simplified and that entitlements had been revised. Implementation of that initiative was essential for defending agricultural borders, he said, asking for United Nations cooperation in wrapping up that process. Further, Nicaragua’s “Zero Hunger” programme had been created to ensure food safety to people in neglected areas. The Government would continue to work to ensure the Declaration would be adopted by the General Assembly.
MILDRED GANDIA REYES, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Caucus of the Greater Caribbean, said that the reports before the Forum continued the Organization’s historic practice of ignoring the situation of indigenous Caribbean islanders. That lack or recognition, which extended to the bulk of the Organization’s work on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean region, was not only discriminatory, but a violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. She called on the Forum to ensure that such disregard for the well-being of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean be addressed in a forthright manner.
The representative of the North American Regional Caucus addressed the recommendations from a recent meeting. Participants had affirmed the vital importance of recognizing indigenous peoples and their citizenship. She asked the Forum to request updates on the implementation of remedies, particularly where threats to the human rights of indigenous peoples occurred. In that context, she pointed out the vulnerability of the indigenous girl child to trafficking.
Citing article 36 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which outlined the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain contacts and cooperation with group members across borders, she called on the Forum to push States to respect the rights contained in that article. Further, she endorsed support for the Second International Border Security Summit. Finally, noting the connection between increased urbanization of indigenous peoples and the acceleration of language loss, she supported the idea of organizing a workshop within the next year on indigenous languages, particularly as language fluency among children and youth was decreasing.
HANDAINE MOHAMED, Amazigh Caucus of North Africa, said that the Governments of his region had for years been pushing the Amazigh populations out of their territories and they were now without property or shelter living in the most cruel and inhuman conditions, with countless others doing the same. Their way of life had been shattered and they had been forced to adopt alien cultures that further erased their roots and instilled in them a sense of inferiority. She stressed that the entire world would lose out if that unique culture were wiped out. He urged the Forum to intervene and request the respective Governments to protect the rights of Amazigh people and for other Governments to observe international law regarding migration.
TOMAS ALARCON, delivering a statement on behalf of Comision Juridica Para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ), said indigenous peoples could not remain indifferent to the urbanization process, as they faced the risk of losing their lands. He was surprised that ECLAC was promoting a policy that constituted an uprooting -- a breaking of the link -- between indigenous peoples and their lands, making them believe that they could continue to “be” in the cities who they were on their native lands. Transnational companies were plundering mining resources, he said, noting that peoples in the Amazon and the Andes had long suffered that scourge. The Government was promoting detrimental policies. He recommended that the Human Rights Council urge States to prevent the indiscriminate plundering of indigenous resources and the displacement of indigenous peoples.
NICOLAS BAWIN ANGGAT, representing the Asia Caucus, citing the lack of livelihood support, health and education services as reasons for urban migration, pointed out that internal conflicts within indigenous communities also were contributing to that migration. Alarming developments in the cultural and social well-being of those immigrants included a worsening of discrimination, identity crisis and marginalization. Most poor indigenous migrants wound up even poorer than when they had lived on their traditional lands, and alcoholism was becoming prevalent, due to a lack of social cohesion. People were forced to defend themselves as individuals and families, rather than communities, and there was a growing vulnerability of indigenous youth to sexual abuse and child labour. He urged the Forum to conduct a survey on the impact of indigenous migration to urban areas, as well as a study on child labour. He further recommended the creation of a fund to support indigenous peoples in urban centres.
A representative speaking on behalf of the Pacific Caucus said that, as the environment deteriorated so did the well-being of the indigenous people of the Pacific. And while the peoples of the Pacific were very different, their basic needs were quite similar. They were all suffering, he said, noting, for instance, that in Australia, “indigenous cousins” were currently facing their Government’s commitment to “harnessing the mainstream” of public health and housing services. But the Government’s true aim was assimilation.
In Hawaii, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, with the “noble mission” to remove indigenous Hawaiians from negative urban settings and return them to traditional healthy functions on agricultural, pastoral and homestead lands, had a long history of disservice to indigenous communities due to poor planning and execution, and lack of management and financial expertise. With all that in mind, the Pacific Caucus called on the Forum to request the Special Rapporteur to undertake a study on the issues related to the urbanization and migration of indigenous peoples, with particular focus on their ability to enjoy their cultural, economic, social and political rights.
CARMEN RAMIREZ BOSCAN, speaking on behalf of the Latin American Caucus, said that internal and external migration was sparked by the raping of indigenous lands, State terrorism and rampant discrimination. She urged the Forum to consider, among other things, elaborating a strategy on urban indigenous migration and the impacts of neo-colonialist policies and counter-terrorism policies, as well as promoting an Organization-wide push for more and better data collection on indigenous people and trends. “None of us are illegal and none of us are undocumented,” she said, adding that: “We all have a home in the universe.”
SOTHY KIEN, in a joint statement by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, said that, in the spirit of the Forum’s work, her group would “practice its spiritual beliefs of compassion” and agree to a proposed meeting with the Vietnamese Government. She said that, traditionally, farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta had provided an essential source of food and survival for the indigenous Khmer Krom people. Recent canal projects initiated by Viet Nam had destroyed many of the rice fields by channelling salt water into freshwater farming regions. She requested, among other things, that the Vietnamese Government consult with indigenous peoples before creating such canal projects on their ancestral lands, and asked that Government to establish and implement national laws to protect ancestral territories from land grabbing.
FLOR CRISTOMO, speaking on behalf of La Red Xicaana Indigena, Pueblos y Fronteras, South Central Farmers, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Cetiliztli Nauchampa, said that the women of her collective suffered the cruellest treatment in the United States, because they were accepted as workers, but only without their children. They had been unable to honour the sanctity of the family. Such policies or exploitation, which went back some 50 years, had become cultural genocide. She called on the Forum to intervene on their behalf and to denounce Washington’s current policy on immigration. “We are not mules, we are workers,” she said.
CECELIA VELASQUEZ, Gobiernos Alteranativos, called on the Forum and its Secretariat to cooperate with the United Nations system to monitor implementation of the recommendations in the reports before the Forum, particularly priority recommendations, including those on indigenous migration, women’s rights and land rights.
DINA SAULO, presenting a joint statement by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and associated organizations, said 70 per cent of indigenous Australians lived in regional urban centres, with 50 per cent under the age of 18. Government arrangements focused on “harnessing the mainstream” at the expense of indigenous identity, she said, pointing out that the largest indigenous-specific programme -- the Community Development Employment Programme -- would be abolished in rural and regional centres. People would be redirected into non-indigenous programmes. The Government had underestimated the economic consequences of that policy and had not sought out indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent. Australian indigenous organizations were concerned about programmes to “normalize” indigenous peoples, as the Government process would be achieved through de-funding programmes to redirect funds to larger economic centres. Articles 8 and 10 of the Declaration provided Governments with guidance on those issues. She supported the recommendations of the recent expert group meeting in Santiago, Chile. Drawing on that report, she recommended that the Forum request the Special Rapporteur to undertake a study on indigenous peoples and migration for consideration at the seventh session.
ALBERT DETERVILLE, presenting a joint statement by the Caribbean Antilles Indigenous Peoples Caucus and associated organizations, drew attention to a series of meetings on indigenous peoples’ urban migration as it related to development. He highlighted that, in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), his delegation had asked the Government in Saint Lucia to recognize the importance of creating employment opportunities for indigenous peoples. Requesting that the Forum recognize the Government’s efforts, he also asked that it examine OECS Government initiatives to mitigate the “drift” of indigenous peoples into urban areas.
IVAN IGNACIO, presenting a joint statement by the Consejo Indio de Sudamerica and the Andean First Nations Council, said indigenous peoples had the right of free transit and to settle where they could best adapt. That right had been violated since the institutionalization of republics with marked borders. Furthermore, the monetary system had forced people to migrate in search of better horizons, exposing people to cultural exploitation. His association would not accept being called immigrants or allow constitutional rights to supplant traditional rights. Urban Indian communities must fight against the assimilation process and the odious policies taking place in States such as Spain. He recommended creating an ongoing rapporteurship to follow up on indigenous peoples in urban centres, compile accusations and alleviate the plight of those facing discrimination.
PATRICK BRAZEAU, delivering a joint statement by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and associated organizations, said his association had worked to preserve the rights of Canada’s 1.3 million indigenous peoples. Many had relocated to urban settings with the hope of finding employment or receiving an education. However, they continued to suffer under poor conditions. Aboriginal peoples should be entitled to the freedom of mobility promised by the Constitution and enjoyed by all. Recognizing an earlier call for States and municipal Governments to fund indigenous political organizations, he welcomed Canada’s announcement of a $70 million investment for indigenous issues.
MAURICIO GUARANI, presenting a joint statement from the Comissao Nacional dos Indios Guarani and associated organizations, said “the city came to us”, in that the situation had been imposed on his people step by step over 507 years through forced colonization. The most important issue was the question of land rights for indigenous peoples in Brazil. The Guarani -- one of the largest indigenous populations with 45,000 people -- had retained the smallest number of acknowledged lands and were in constant conflict with others claiming land rights.
Brazil’s lack of political will in demarking traditional lands had resulted in obliging communities to live in precarious conditions and, quite often, along roadsides, he said, adding that community leaders were victims of legal processes. All that was the result of a lack of basic policies to address Guarani nation needs. He recommended the Forum draw attention to the Guarani, who had been evicted from their lands and who were, therefore, threatened. Brazil must officially acknowledge the existence of their lands and comply with constitutional duties, particularly with the demarcation of Guarani lands.
AQQALUK LYNGE, Forum expert from Greenland, said that much had been said today about discrimination, but very little about media stereotyping. He said that he knew a lot about that because of the false picture that was painted of his own native Inuit Greenlander. All indigenous people must work hard to change the stereotype, “remove the victim label”, and move on. He also recalled that many speakers had called for the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and stressed that approving that text, in its current form, was essential to the protection and promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Mr. BALKASSM, expert from Morocco, said that indigenous people were continuing their struggle against policies of assimilation, which threatened to replace the unique cultural or tribal identities with a uniform national identity. He said that the children of many tribal peoples had already learned to accept the fact that, for them, the bulk of their education was in another language. At the same time, some school children were punished for mistakenly answering questions in their tribal languages. He said that it was necessary for the international community to work together to ensure that such cultural identities were not lost.
MARGARET CONNOLLY, Retrieve Foundation, called on the Forum to accelerate the accreditation process, especially for women and itinerant groups. She also called on the Forum to urge the Government of Ireland to approve the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A representative of the National Association of Friendship Centres, a service delivery organization for urban indigenous communities, said that everyone should recognize that indigenous peoples were the same either in urban or rural settings, but that there needed to be culture-based services in all urban areas. Particular attention should be paid to the situation of women and children. The urbanization trend could also provide United Nations Member States with an opportunity to work with indigenous people to improve the situation of indigenous people living in urban communities around the world. “I urge you to rise up to that challenge,” he added.
A representative of the Federation of Indigenous Populations of India addressed the situation of indigenous women in Indian cities, noting, among other things, the extreme inhuman conditions facing such women and the fact that many non-governmental organizations claiming to help them were actually just making money off their misery.
TAALIBAH “BLUE SKY” REAPE, Ethiopian World Federation, said those who thought that they had destroyed indigenous peoples connection to their past must acknowledge that the spirit of all indigenous people would survive and would only strengthen their connection to Mother Earth. It was time for all indigenous people to proclaim their identity. It was about the legacy of ancestors. Much had been lost, but much was soon to be gained.
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