Permanent Indigenous Forum Discusses Provisional Agenda for 2011 Session, Including Proposed Special Theme ‘The Doctrine of Discovery’

26 May 2011

Permanent Indigenous Forum Discusses Provisional Agenda for 2011 Session, Including Proposed Special Theme ‘The Doctrine of Discovery’

26 May 2011
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Tenth Session

14th Meeting (AM)

Permanent Indigenous Forum Discusses Provisional Agenda for 2011 Session,


Including Proposed Special Theme ‘The Doctrine of Discovery’


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, meeting today to discuss the provisional agenda for its next session, solidified its plans to hold discussions in 2012 on food security, human rights and the session’s proposed special theme, the “Doctrine of Discovery” — which some members stressed would be a “forward thinking” dialogue.

The special theme, which refers to the way in which courts historically and legally justified the annexing of indigenous lands, was the subject of many statements made by delegates and Forum members throughout the current two-week session.  Alvaro Esteban Pop, a Forum member from Guatemala, said the theme — formally, “The Doctrine of Discovery:  its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests” — would play an important role as national constitutions evolved to include considerations of indigenous rights.  To that end, the Forum’s discussion during its eleventh session would analyse national constructs, as reflected in constitutions, and would help to establish guidelines for making the Declaration a “specific element” of those texts.

Australian Forum member Megan Davis agreed, noting that the proposed theme had significant support among the Forum’s members.  The discussion, which she stressed would focus on the future of indigenous communities and not just on historical wrongs, was consistent with the right to self-determination, as enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In that respect, she hoped that delegates would come to the Forum’s eleventh session with concrete examples for the ways in which they could move forward together.

Highlighting the agenda’s proposed half-day discussion on the right to food and food sovereignty, Saul Vicente Vasquez, a Forum member from Mexico, said the human right to food was not sufficiently dealt with in national legislation around the world.  Not only should that right be recognized in State constitutions, he said, but the ability of traditional knowledge to ensure food for everyone must be advanced.  Pointing out that indigenous types of food had not been adequately recognized, he also voiced support for proposals for an “International Year of Quinoa”.

Other elements of the draft agenda, including organizational matters, a comprehensive dialogue with United Nations funds and agencies and a discussion on the session’s proposed regional focus area — Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia — were outlined by the Forum’s Chair, Mirna Cuningham.

On a related matter, Helen Kajulate, a Forum member from Estonia, said the proposed theme for the Forum’s next expert group meeting was “combating violence against women” with respect to Article 22 of the Declaration.  Noting the Forum’s previous work on women and conflict, she also expressed hope that the various parts of the United Nations system engaged in that issue would further their focus on the protection of indigenous women in armed conflict.

A representative of the Asia Caucus took the floor to strongly urge the Forum to organize an expert workshop on indigenous peoples and sustainable development.  That workshop should gather views on, and concrete examples of, ways that sustainable development was being operationalized in indigenous communities, to be presented at the next year’s Rio+20 conference and its preparatory process.

Also today, a representative of the Organization of American States reported progress in negotiations on a draft of the Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  He said that nine articles of that draft’s 42 provisions had been agreed by consensus and that 10 others had also been adopted.  Although a lack of funds did not allow for further negotiations this year, he expected that the meeting of the Organization on 7 June would authorize two further negotiating sessions.

Several speakers also made comments relating to the Forum’s mandate and working methods.  In that regard, a representative of the indigenous organization Habitat Pro said he was “very concerned” that the Economic and Social Council had made comments to the effect that the Forum was overstepping its mandate in the area of treaty monitoring.  He said that the Forum — which was established to serve as an advisory body to the Council on indigenous issues within the Council’s mandate, including those relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights — should indeed step in to ensure that treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, were effectively dealing with indigenous peoples.  That did not mean that the Permanent Forum was invading their competences, he stressed, adding that the Forum should continue to discuss how best to interact with those bodies.

Other speakers offered concrete suggestions for streamlining the Forum’s work, with the representative of Colombia proposing that the annual sessions could hold commissions or working groups to deal with special items in order to analyse problems among countries with a view to proposing solutions.

At the meeting’s outset, the Forum commemorated Australia’s “National Sorry Day”, which honours the members of that country’s “stolen generations” and their families, with a moment of silence.

Also speaking during the morning session were representatives of the Indigenous World Association, the Lakota Nation/American Indian Network and the Red Panthers.

The Permanent Forum will convene again at 10 a.m., Friday, 27 May, to adopt the report on its current session.

* *** *

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