30 April 2010

Permanent Forum Calls for Development Model Based on Concepts Underpinned by Indigenous ‘Values, Cultures and Identities’, as It Concludes Session

30 April 2010
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Ninth Session

16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)

Permanent Forum Calls for Development Model Based on Concepts Underpinned


by Indigenous ‘Values, Cultures and Identities’, as It Concludes Session


Recommends Global Processes — Such as Biodiversity Convention Talks — Integrate

Into Work Indigenous Knowledge Systems, as It Adopts Ten Texts, Including Report

Stressing that prevailing development paradigms had often destroyed the political, economic and spiritual systems of indigenous peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues closed its ninth session today adopting its draft report, which, among other things, urged the United Nations to support indigenous peoples’ efforts to formulate their own development models based on concepts “underpinned by indigenous cosmologies, philosophies, values, cultures and identities”.

That report, adopted as orally amended, was one of 10 texts approved by consensus and based on the 16-member expert body’s discussions during its 2010 session, which opened on 19 April.  Built around the special theme “development with culture and identity”, which is consistent with indigenous peoples’ cultural aspirations and world views, the Forum considered a slate of economic and social issues and their impacts, including the financial crisis, climate change, forests and the actions of multinational corporations, as well as indigenous youths in detention, the ongoing impact of “discovery doctrines”, and Mother Earth rights.

Further to the draft report (document E/C.19/2010/L.2), the Forum decided to appoint one of it members, Pavel Sulyandziga of the Russian Federation, as Special Rapporteur to conduct a study on indigenous peoples’ models of development in line with the special theme.  The report recognized the importance of indigenous knowledge systems as the basis of their development and recommended that global processes — including ongoing talks on creating an international access and benefit-sharing regime of the Convention on Biological Diversity — integrate such systems into their work, in accordance with the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Forum hailed that Declaration, saying it “provides a strong basis from which indigenous peoples can affirm their rights and define their aspirations in their relations with States, corporations, the United Nations system […]and other institutions around development with culture and identity”.  They welcomed New Zealand’s decision to endorse the Declaration, the United States announcement to officially review its position and Canada’s decision to take steps to endorse the accord.  States that had abstained during the original vote were urged to reverse their positions and endorse the Declaration to achieve full consensus.

In his closing remarks, Forum Chairperson, Carlos Mamani of Bolivia, hailed the session’s many achievements, saying that discussions on each agenda item had provided important insights and talks on the special theme, “development with culture and identity”, had been very fruitful.  Many speakers had confirmed that indigenous peoples’ development was closely linked to many aspects of their lives, from education and indigenous languages to health and respect for traditional knowledge and ways of living.  “More importantly, the visions of indigenous peoples about the modes of well-being and development need to be heard by Governments through the voices of indigenous peoples themselves,” he said.

Giving a brief overview of the session, he noted, among other things, that participants had continued to stress the vital importance of human rights matters and the discussion on the issue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights of indigenous peoples had been productive.  He also highlighted the Forum’s two half-day dialogues on, respectively, North America and on indigenous peoples and forests.  That discussion had revealed that their livelihoods were being seriously challenged by deforestation, the introduction of biofuel plantations, and the creation of national parks or wildlife preserves.  “There must be recognition of the role of indigenous peoples in protecting and managing their lands and forests,” he declared.

“This ninth session has again provided us an opportunity to hear and learn from one another, and these dialogues will greatly assist us to advance indigenous peoples rights and issues at the international level,” he said.  Still, challenges remained at national, regional and community levels, and he said the Permanent Forum must be committed to strongly engage all stakeholders in its work on improving the lives of indigenous peoples.  “We need to work towards developing close cooperation, where possible with UN agencies and Governments who have resources to help us realize our self-determination as set out in the Declaration,” he said.

Also making closing remarks, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Forum’s session had been extremely productive and fruitful.  The occasion of the Forum’s ninth session had drawn the participation of some 1,300 representatives of indigenous peoples’ groups and caucuses, 30 United Nations entities and 25 indigenous parliamentarians.  He noted that 70 Government representatives had participated in the session — a record number. The Permanent Forum was a body that brought all stakeholders together, he said, adding: “The Forum is about building bridges.  It is a unique and creative opportunity to make progress together — and I stress, together.”

In other action, the Forum recommended that the Economic and Social Council decide that the Forum’s tenth session be held in New Yorkfrom 16 to 27 May 2011 (document E/C.19/2010/L.8) and that it authorize a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme “indigenous peoples and forests”, the results of which to be reported to the Forum’s tenth session and the ninth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/C.19/2010/L.9 (Part I)).

By a text on matters calling for action by the Council, or brought to its attention (document E/C.19/2010/L.9 (Part II)), also adopted as orally amended, the Forum decided to hold a half-day discussion at its tenth session on the theme “The right to water and indigenous peoples”, and recommended that interested parties organize an international expert group meeting on “indigenous peoples: sacred plants and sites”, the conclusions of which would be submitted to the tenth session.

By its terms, the Forum expressed concern at the long-term negative impacts of large dams on indigenous peoples, as well as at conservation efforts -- including the designation of national parks and biosphere reserves -- which often led to the displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands and territories.  In other areas, the Forum recommended that States include ethnic identification in vital statistics and health records, and allocate more funding for intercultural services that ensured indigenous women’s access to quality health care, including emergency obstetric care and voluntary family planning.

The Permanent Forum also adopted a set of recommendations on human rights matters, including issues that emerged during its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur (document E/C.19/2010/L.3).  The experts deemed it “urgently necessary” for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a deeper understanding of indigenous peoples’ world views.  That would require the agency to enhance its own capacity in the area of human rights, by having at least one full-time adviser on indigenous peoples’ rights.  That person should be an indigenous professional with experience in working in or with indigenous organizations.

In its set of recommendations on follow-up to the experts’ 2009 missions to Bolivia and Paraguay (document E/C.19/2010/L.4), the Forum’s members suggested that Bolivia speed up implementation of constitutional provisions regarding the freeing of individuals, families and communities [in the Chaco region] in light of the fact that “forced labour and servitude are serious human rights violations that must be addressed with urgency”.  It was also recommended that Bolivia continue to ensure that its policies dealing with the Chaco region pay particular attention to the territorial reconstitution of the Guarani people, “which both the Government and the Guarani People’s Assembly consider the ultimate objective”.

As for Paraguay, the Permanent Forum recommended that the country’s Government remain firm in its commitment to cooperating with indigenous peoples’ organizations to find “emergency solutions to the extremely serious situation of the indigenous communities that have been wholly disposed of their land, and to implement policies to ensure the reconstitution of their territory”.  Noting that forced labour and all forms of servitude were serious violations of human rights, the Forum recommended that the Government move swiftly to combat such practices — with particular attention to the exploitation of children — including that those responsible for such practices be prosecuted under Paraguayan law.

The Forum also recommended that Paraguay should propose the negotiation of international agreements for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the other States that shared the vast Chaco region — Argentina, Brazil and, especially, Bolivia — with a view to the development of additional policies aimed at the freeing of individuals, the recovery of land and the rebuilding of peoples.

In line with the issues raised during its half-day discussion on North America, the Permanent Forum adopted a host of relevant recommendations (document E/C.19/2010/L.5), among others, urging the Governments of Canada and the United States to work in good faith with indigenous peoples for the “unqualified endorsement” and full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It further urged that such endorsement and implementation honour the spirit and intent of the Declaration, consistent with indigenous peoples’ human rights.

The Forum urged the Governments of both the United States and Canada to eliminate all assimilation policies that further exacerbated the socio-economic disparities between indigenous peoples and the rest of the population, and to financially support community education systems and efforts to protect indigenous languages.  It also recognized that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as other forms of violence, including domestic violence and human trafficking, were gaining public attention in Canada, and urged the Canadian Government to provide more emergency shelters for such women, as well as better victims’ services, and specific programmes to assist indigenous women who have been trafficked.

Following up its comprehensive dialogue with the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Forum adopted a set of recommendations and decisions (document E/C.19/2010/L.6), including a call on the parties to the Convention to adopt the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities” as an accurate reflection of the distinct identities developed by those entities since the adoption of that treaty some 20 years ago.  The Forum also decided to appoint members Mick Dodson of Australia and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines as Special Rapporteurs on organizing and undertaking a technical review of the proposed international regime on access and benefit-sharing.

Looking ahead to next year, the Forum adopted the provisional agenda for its tenth session (document E/C.19/2010/L.7), which would include a half-day discussion on Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as a dialogue with United Nations agencies and funds.

The documents considered today were introduced and, where necessary, orally revised by Rapporteur Paimaneh Haste, Forum member from Iran.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Forum member from the United States, delivered a statement on behalf of the participants in the session, honouring the memory of prominent Cuban diplomat Miguel Alfonso Martinez, who had died in early February.  Mr. Martinez had been the longest surviving member of the Geneva-based Working Group on Indigenous Populations, a body that had paved the way for the creation of the Permanent Forum.  Moreover, a close reading of the Declaration on indigenous rights would reveal Mr. Martinez’s fingerprints, she added.

Forum members from Morocco and the Philippines also made closing remarks.

Following its tradition, the Forum closed with a prayer, this year delivered by Fatima Mohamad, a Nubian from northern Sudan, in her ancestral language, which, she said, had nearly disappeared.  The closing song was performed by Leroy Mobley of the Youth Caucus.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.