When 2015 Comes, ‘We Have to Hit the Ground Running’, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Development Planning Tells Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

29 May 2013

When 2015 Comes, ‘We Have to Hit the Ground Running’, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Development Planning Tells Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

29 May 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Twelfth Session

12th & 13th Meetings (AM & PM)

When 2015 Comes, ‘We Have to Hit the Ground Running’, Secretary-General’s Special

Adviser on Development Planning Tells Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues


Key UN Officials Highlight Role of Indigenous Peoples in Agenda’s Formulation;

Speakers Welcome Inclusive Discourse, but Demand Central Role in Implementation

Including indigenous peoples in shaping the post-2015 development agenda and in closing persistent gaps in the current scheme was crucial, so that when the time came, the global community could “hit the ground running”, the Permanent Forum heard today during a panel discussion in which top United Nations policy advisers sketched plans for the much-anticipated follow-on proposal.

It was bound to be a “much bigger” agenda, said Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning.  Indigenous peoples were insisting that their voices be heard and that policies be articulated in ways that responded to their needs.  The agenda must grow from concepts able to take root, and time was required to know what ideas “we need to seed”.

“Indigenous peoples’ invisibility has to be addressed urgently,” declared Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Strengthening partnerships with their organizations was key to achieving progress on the internationally agreed development Goals and to designing a more inclusive agenda beyond 2015.

Along those lines, a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Patricia Espinosa, said the indigenous peoples’ messages were “clarion clear” and their inclusion in defining the post-2015 agenda was truly necessary.  Honing in on implementation, she said that work to define the agenda had barely started, but she fervently believed that a way would be found to heed the concerns of all, especially indigenous peoples.

Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Nikhil Seth, said that development programmes had eluded the indigenous people.  They made up less than 5 per cent of the global population, but represented 15 per cent of the poor.  Their traditional knowledge and ecosystem management could be an enormous contribution.  “You must be there and loud to be heard,” he urged participating organizations.

Panellist Carsten Staur, Denmark’s Permanent Representative, had no doubt that the Millennium Development Goals had made an “impressive” contribution to lifting millions out of poverty and had succeeded in re-prioritizing domestic resources and development funding in the poorest countries.  But with more than 1 billion people still living in extreme poverty, many of them indigenous peoples, it was also clear that social exclusion and inequalities had not been sufficiently addressed.

Importantly, Joan Carling of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, also on today’s panel, said that poverty was defined in the Millennium Goals as less than one dollar per day, but when you asked indigenous peoples to define poverty, their answer related to their overall well-being and not at all to anything material.  Thus, in providing services, such as health or education, to indigenous peoples, it was important to be sensitive to their cultural needs or risk alienating the very people for whom the services were intended.

Around the room, indigenous practices were recognized as a touchstone of sustainable development strategies, as speaker after speaker urged inclusion of that population group in charting the way forward.  Forum member Mirna Cunningham Kain noted that the best results on the Millennium Goals had been obtained where indigenous peoples were involved.  That was a good vantage point from which to consider the post-2015 agenda.  Recognition of land rights was fundamental for indigenous peoples, she said, adding, land was life for them, without which, there could be no talk of development.

In the afternoon, the Forum considered the impact of the extractive industries on indigenous peoples.  Forum Member Saul Vicente Vazquez, introducing two reports on the matter, said that the concept of indigenous peoples’ development should be seen as a contribution to resolving current crises, and indicators of culture, spirituality, sustainability and well-being could be used to create indices of the well-being of indigenous peoples in affected areas.

Wilton Littlechild of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of the Indigenous People highlighted some of the findings of the Mechanism’s follow-up report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, with a focus on extractive industries and companion materials.  He said that applicable legal standards, norms and laws to be followed by States, businesses and other entities involved in extractive industries must be fully articulated to indigenous peoples.

Also participating in the morning discussion was the representative of Russian Federation.

A representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also spoke.

Also addressing the Forum this morning were representatives of Parliamento Indigena de América Grupo Venezuela, Pacific Caucus, Indigenous Disability Caucus, and Arctic Caucus.

In the afternoon, Forum member Mirna Cunningham Kain introduced a study on indigenous women’s political participation, and fellow Forum member Eva Biaudet presented a study on the right of indigenous Nordic youth to participate in decision-making processes.

Representatives of Denmark and Greenland, New Zealand, Norway, Guatemala, and Mexico also took part in the afternoon discussions.

Regional groups, legal, political and rights-based organizations, as well as those concerned with indigenous women, youth, children and persons with disabilities, also contributed to this afternoon’s discussion.

The Minister of Amerindian Affairs of Guyana made a statement relating to last Friday’s meeting.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 May, to continue its work.


The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to consider its future work, including matters of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues, such as the development agenda beyond 2015.  It was also scheduled to review studies on extractive industries in Mexico and the situation of indigenous peoples in the territories in which such industries are located (document E/C.19/2013/11); impact of the mining boom on indigenous communities in Australia (document E/C.19/2013/20); indigenous women’s political participation at the international, national and local levels (document E/C.19/2013/10); and on the right to participation of indigenous youth in the Nordic countries in decision-making processes (document E/C.19/2013/8).

The Forum is also expected to discuss a consolidated report on extractive industries and their impact on indigenous peoples (document E/C.19/2013/16).

Panel Discussion

Opening the meeting, Forum Chairman PAUL KANYINKE SENA introduced the members of the panel on the “future work of the Permanent Forum, including matters of the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues”, as follows:  Mirna Cunningham Kain, Forum member; Patricia Espinosa, member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda; Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning; Carsten Staur, Permanent Representative of Denmark; Joan Carling, representative of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact; Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Ms. CUNNINGHAM KAIN said that the Millennium Development Goals had been defined without the participation of indigenous peoples.  In that regard, there were important aspects to consider when defining the post-2015 development agenda.  The best results on those earlier Goals, had been obtained where indigenous peoples were involved, including in areas of women’s empowerment; when indigenous modes of organization were respected; and when there was capacity-building and training provided to them.  That was a good vantage point from which to consider the post-2015 development agenda.

She presented priorities of indigenous peoples resulting from their participation in anti-discrimination discussions, among them was recognition nationally and internationally as distinct peoples; observance of their collective rights, particularly over land and natural resources; the right to free, prior and informed consent on all matters affecting them; an intercultural approach to health and educational policies; attention to women and persons with disabilities; recognition of culture as the fourth pillar of development; and the disaggregation of statistical information relating to indigenous persons.

Several additional important themes had emerged from a regional meeting organized by the Mexican Government in Guadalajara, she continued.  Migration, which was fundamental to Latin America and the Caribbean, was one such critical issue.  Also, while it was broadly acknowledged that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be the benchmark for discussing the post-2015 development agenda, and universal standards were necessary, the new goals should have national definition as well.  In that way, broad statistical successes would not hide the areas of vulnerability.  Another central element should be strengthening the institutions of indigenous peoples and the mechanisms allowing for their participation in the United Nations system.  In particular, clarity was needed on how indigenous peoples would participate in formulating the post-2015 agenda at the stage of intergovernmental discussions.  Those peoples had expressed concern about sustainability, as a theme that needed revision.

Ms. ESPINOSA reminded participants that there were fewer than 1,000 days left before the Millennium Development Goals deadline, stressing the need to “pull out all the stops” to attain those targets.  The post-2015 development agenda must reflect matters that had not been adequately reflected in the Millennium targets, including the human rights focus.  Indeed, a development agenda that placed people at its centre must be based on fundamental human rights.

In that context, she underscored the need to do away with the “poverty and exclusion” divides through structural change that involved economic, social and environmental sustainability processes.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s launch of broad consultations on the development agenda involving all kinds of actors, she said Mexico had organized a regional conference in Guadalajara, which had devoted a sphere to indigenous persons.  Mexico always had been firmly committed to indigenous peoples, especially as its Constitution required it.

She went on to stress that all dialogues with indigenous peoples on such issues had borne fruit, citing the example set at the sixteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where indigenous peoples had played a very important role.  “Their participation really helped us to arrive at agreements from what was a pretty complicated situation.”  Another example had been the dialogue at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in Los Cabos, some of whose representatives were here today.  “I have absolutely no doubt that this group must be constantly, permanently involved in these consultations,” she said.

The Guadalajara meeting had made everyone aware of the need to design an agenda that took into account all significant groups, she said, and aimed to include the economic, social and sustainable aspects.  The private sector had learned about the perspective of other groups, and vice versa.  Some participants were surprised that that sector had shown goodwill to take on more responsibility to achieve sustainability and inclusion.  More than 400 representatives from civil society, the private sector and the indigenous world, from more than 24 countries in her region had participated.  And, for the first time, the media had joined in a dialogue to learn about their role in constructing and implementing the agenda.

She said that the conclusions from Guadalajara were resounding.  “Indigenous peoples have their own identity”; their messages were “clarion clear” and their inclusion in defining the post-2015 agenda was truly necessary.  For Mexico, Guadalajara was the beginning of a dialogue process, which should culminate in an agenda that was implemented by all actors.  In that spirit, the Permanent Mission last week had co-hosted a parallel event — on the post-2015 agenda and the indigenous peoples of Caribbean and Latin America — along with the inter-agency Support Group for Indigenous Persons and the secretariat for the post-2015 agenda.

Honing in on implementation, she said that work to define the post-2015 agenda had barely started.  The Panel report, which would be presented tomorrow, would be one of many inputs among civil society and regional consultations.  She fervently believed that, through the consultation process, a way would be found to heed the concerns of all actors, especially indigenous peoples.  In such work, the “ Guadalajara experience” would provide a positive base; an example of innovation at the United Nations to create awareness about the complexity of the agenda.

Underlining the importance of having global objectives and national goals to ensure implementation, she said the Forum’s contribution to constructing national agendas was essential.  “We might have the best post-2015 agenda, but unless it turns into specific actions in each community, we’ll be left with a wonderful programme we can’t do anything with,” she said.  There was only one development agenda — sustainable development — and the processes must converge.  In that context, she called for a “sea change” in the working methods of international organizations”, as well as an extremely vast national change, marked by a greater degree of dialogue with all involved.

Ms. MOHAMMED said that engaging in consultative processes was an opportunity to hear all voices, but that also put the onus on implementation.  There was a thin line between getting information and being inclusive in its use.  Today, two things were happening — all “in the same boat”, including “new talk of universality” and sustainable development, the latter of which had been discussed for several years now.  What was needed for the post-2015 development agenda was to define the narrative “that we want people to know and respond to across the world”, so that “when 2015 comes, we own it […], and hit the ground running”.

She noted that several United Nations entities were now finalizing reports on the post-2015 development from numerous perspectives, such as national, scientific, the global compact principles, among others.  There were now many more constituencies and many more partners needed for implementation of what would be a much bigger agenda.  In those partnerships, indigenous peoples were insisting on policies that responded to their needs, and they were integral in shaping those policies. Many issues highlighted by indigenous peoples, such as migration, women and children’s vulnerability, and illiteracy, must be addressed.  Implementation of the goals must not be “one size fits all”; the post-2015 development agenda must begin with concepts able to take root towards creation of a paradigm change; a quick fix was not the answer.  Thus, in formulating that agenda, it was important to take time to know what ideas “we need to seed”.

Discussion with business partners could focus on the use and movement of technologies and resources worldwide, accountably and without exploitation, she continued.  People must not lose their livelihoods in that process.  Whatever the compact between businesses and governments, people must be involved from the outset.  At present, businesses spoke, not of making plans with the people affected, but rather making plans for them.  In closing, she said that the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the post-2015 development agenda was a broadening out of the poverty agenda to a sustainable one.

Mr. STAUR said important challenges lay ahead for the Forum, not least in ensuring coherence among various overlapping processes, foremost among them, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the post-2015 development agenda.  There was no doubt that the Goals had made an “impressive” contribution to lifting millions out of poverty, and they had succeeded in re-prioritizing domestic resources and development funding in the poorest countries.  A good deal of the Goals would be met by 2015, at least, at the global level.

It was also clear, he said, that social exclusion and inequalities had not been sufficiently addressed in the current framework, as they were growing both within and between countries, with more than 1 billion people still living in extreme poverty, many of them indigenous peoples.  The new framework should integrate the social and economic dimensions of sustainable development, with a view to reducing social inequalities.

Perhaps most interesting, he said, was that there was a clear recognition of the need to consider a fourth dimension of sustainability, which encompassed the creation of peaceful and stable societies.  In so doing, the calls for strong, effective institutions, rule of law, good governance, justice and security would be addressed.  Few would benefit more from poverty eradication than indigenous peoples, who were among the poorest of poor, suffering from lower levels of education and higher incidence of both disease and discrimination than other groups.

As such, the new development agenda should address continuing marginalization, he said, adding that the new set of goals must be based on a vision to eradicate extreme poverty and promote sustainable development in a way that addressed existing gaps and promoted a concept of sustainability that matched twenty-first century challenges.  Well-managed and healthy resource bases were crucial in that regard and he urged keeping a “vigilant eye” on ensuring that indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources were not compromised in the overall eagerness to enhance growth.

Human rights were the universal platform on which to address inequalities, he said, by integrating the core principles of non-discrimination, accountability and participation into the post-2015 framework.  Denmark was committed to enhancing the rights of indigenous peoples, including to free, prior and informed consent.  Respecting human rights was essential for the individual, as well as for building strong and inclusive societies.

In that context, he said access to basic services — especially for health and education — did not drop off the agenda.  Denmark had co-hosted a leadership meeting on addressing inequalities recently, along with Ghana, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN-Women, which brought together civil society, the private sector and key decision makers from Governments and international organizations.  He hoped the meeting’s recommendations to integrate human rights principles into the post-2015 framework would help address the inequalities.

Drawing up the future development agenda would require a strong vision, inclusive processes and a “good deal of realism”, he concluded.  While only at the start of a long road, the Forum’s voice was needed now.  The upcoming World Conference offered a chance to ensure indigenous peoples were heard in the post-2015 development agenda, and Denmark and other like-minded countries were ready to help in that regard.

Ms. BAS stressed that the indigenous concept of development with culture and identity, where culture was the fourth fundamental pillar should be taken into account in framing the sustainable development agenda.  Indigenous peoples underlined that their exclusion from development processes, both at the global and national levels, was a major cause for the inequality they faced.  The Millennium Development Goals failed to reflect indigenous peoples’ holistic understanding of development, while the absence of specific provisions for their inclusion in that effort had led to little or no disaggregated data on indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous peoples’ invisibility has to be addressed urgently,” she declared.  Strengthening partnerships between the United Nations system, Member States and civil society, with the necessary inclusion of indigenous peoples’ organizations was key to achieve progress on the development Goals and to designing a more inclusive development agenda beyond 2015.  Consultation with and participation of indigenous peoples in any development process — building on the fundamental principle of free, prior and informed consent — was essential and must not be deferred any longer.

Mr. SETH said that the development process must go beyond what had been discussed and achieved.  Many people argued that everything was laid out in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) outcome document, but what actually was needed was “ Rio+20 plus”.  All aspects of the process must be balanced, including the relationship between the economic and environmental dimensions, and there was a need for a new integrated vision.  And, “we need to move away from broad policy discussion towards implementation”, he said, stressing the importance of inspiring policymakers and other stakeholders who could make a difference in the lives of indigenous peoples.

On the link between indigenous peoples and sustainable development, he drew attention to the fact that indigenous peoples were more vulnerable to climate change and other hazards and that they remained marginalized and exposed to human rights-based violence.  Development programmes eluded them, and they were negatively affected by investment projects.  They made up less than 5 per cent of the global population, but represented 15 per cent of the poor.  Yet, their contribution to the use of traditional knowledge and ecosystem management could be great.

At the same time, he noted that the open working group on sustainable development goals was off to an encouraging start.  At the last session, topics had included food, poverty, land, water and sanitation.  He had been pleased at the level of enthusiasm he had not seen in many other processes, and he urged indigenous peoples to bring their concerns to the group.  There was space for them to interact with the group, and with Member States prior to the morning meetings.  “You must be there and loud to be heard,” he said, encouraging them to also submit their inputs to the working group.

Ms. CARLING said that there was a disconnect between what was happening at the global and regional levels and reality on the ground.  Poverty was defined in the Millennium Development Goals as less than one dollar per day, but when you asked indigenous peoples to define poverty, their answer related to their overall well-being and not at all to anything material.  Key issues relevant to indigenous rights in the context of sustainable development included recognition of indigenous peoples as separate, having collective rights, and requiring cultural sensitivity in the provision of services, such as health and education.  To be truly accessible, such services must not alienate the people they were meant to serve.

The issue of universality, she said, had not worked for indigenous peoples in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, as it did not take account of diversity.  Recognition of land rights and territories also was fundamental, and indigenous lands should be demarcated and their resources inventoried.  Land was life for indigenous peoples, without which, there could be no talk of development.  Also critical to sustainable development was protection of indigenous livelihoods.  Noting that remaining resources were the targets of development, especially from the extractive industries, she commended the Global Compact and the mining industries for their expressed commitment to free, prior and informed consent.  However, legal recognition of land tenure was also imperative, as that was the only way for indigenous peoples to have a central role in decision-making about the use of resources.

Culture, she said, must be the fourth pillar of development, as development was not only about material wealth, but must capture the spirituality of indigenous peoples.  That was how to show respect for diversity in the development agenda.  In sum, indigenous peoples must be included in all processes relating to the sustainable developments goals; separate consultations should be conducted regionally; clear indicators should be developed with indigenous peoples; United Nations agencies should provide technical and logistical support to promote indigenous peoples’ contributions to sustainable development; the Permanent Forum should be the coordinator for indigenous peoples in relevant processes; and issues of culture, food, sovereignty and the extractive industries should feed into the sustainable development goals.  She also recommended the formation of an indigenous peoples working group on post-2015 development.


PAULINE SUKHAI, Minister of Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, took the floor to correct some inaccuracies in a joint statement delivered last Friday by indigenous organizations in her country.  Corrections related to obtainment of free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples before approving investments by the extractive industry.  She stressed that her Government applied a policy of balance and fairness, while ensuring and safeguarding the collective rights of Amerindians to land in the issuance of concessions to extractive industries.  It had always been consistent in not granting property rights for mining, forestry or other interests in Amerindian village-titled lands.

As for the assertion that miners’ rights superseded those of the indigenous peoples, it must be noted that the Amerindian Act did not appropriate land from legal title holders and that the Constitution protected against land deprivation, she said.  “Respect for the rule of law is fundamental to a civilized society,” she added.  On the claim that profits from extractive industries had no “trickle down effects” to indigenous communities, she said that village councils received tribute payments from mining operations.  So the challenge was more about accountability and transparency in distributing those benefits.

DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Forum member, said she was pleased to hear references made to the concept of sustainable development, but felt that “sustainable and equitable development” was the term that reflected the global challenge more adequately.  She also welcomed the “sea change” in the global conversation on development, away from North-South discussions.  Indigenous peoples in the global North were “doubly disadvantaged” because they did not receive aid from the United Nations and other international organizations.  Developed nations should live up to their obligations to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples within their borders.

CESAR SANGUINETTI, Chair of the Parliamento Indigena de América Grupo Venezuela, spoke for the 51 indigenous peoples of Venezuela, which he said had been working for many years to build a State that included an indigenous perspective.  Government policies to strengthen the holistic vision of the indigenous peoples were in place, and racism on ethnic grounds had been eradicated.  Institutions, such as the Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, coordinated with prosecutors and ombudsmen, and since 2001, more than 40 laws related to indigenous peoples had been promulgated, including on health, education and the spiritual holistic vision of the cosmos.

He said his country had been in the vanguard in terms of the Declaration, with the country’s indigenous peoples promoting holistic approaches to society and respect for the Earth.  He positively assessed the impact of the Millennium Development Goals, and challenged world Governments to realize them, insisting that indigenous peoples must participate in the post-2015 agenda, starting from zero discrimination.

AYSA MUKABENOVA ( Russian Federation) said that the outcomes of the post-2015 agenda would rely on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, slated for 2014.  Studies should be carried out on indigenous peoples in many fields, such as the education of nomadic children.  The Permanent Forum could present successful cases, such as the eLibrary/eMuseum being created for the peoples of the North.  Further, she attached great importance to the work of the Special Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights Council and urged them to coordinate their efforts, particularly important when establishment of new institutions or monitoring mechanisms was being considered; care must be taken to avoid duplication.

The representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted the results of a global thematic debate on health, co-sponsored by Sweden and Botswana, and held in Botswana in March.  The meeting had found that the future agenda must build on the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, that health and development were inextricably linked, and that good health would necessitate greater attention to social, cultural, environmental, economic and political determinants.  Three lines of action were identified as a possible framework for the post-2015 agenda:  accelerating the Millennium Development Goal agenda; reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases; and ensuring universal health coverage and access.  In building the new development agenda, it would also be critical to take into account the perspective and traditional knowledge of indigenous people and to articulate Western and indigenous concepts and definitions of health, she said.

Taking the floor again, Ms. ESPINOSA stressed the importance, going forward, of having a common global agenda relevant to all countries.  The Millennium Development Goals were targets for developing countries, but all countries had the responsibility for development.  That said, it was also essential to take into account the specific situation of each country.  Once there was a global agenda, or general framework, the challenge was to create national frameworks.  To that end, inclusive participation, including of indigenous peoples, was vital because development was intertwined with everything from education to infrastructure.  For instance, improving health required clean water, roads, power, and education.

ALVARO POP, Forum member, shared the result of a 2012 assessment study on indigenous issues in Guatemala, which, among others, pointed to the need for justice and to combat impunity.  There should be a trial for genocide.  The study also showed that the Government was ignoring the voices of indigenous peoples in granting licenses to mining and oil exploration businesses.  The Government should provide adequate technical and financial support to ensure implementation of the Forum’s recommendations.  Indigenous peoples must participate in policy-planning and decisions, while the State must embrace their rights and independence when it cast its gaze to the post-2015 development agenda.

A representative of the Pacific Caucus urged the Forum to call on the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly to support a World Conference on Decolonization and for Hawaii to be re-inscribed onto the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Rapanui also sought admission to that list.  Chile had violated the trust mandate of the United Nations Charter by not assuming its responsibilities for administering that area, whose peoples had not attained any measure of self-government.  Chile also had failed to respect Rapanui culture and the area’s political aspirations.  Regarding West Papua, she agreed that the Indonesian presence had led to the annihilation of indigenous West Papuans and that the Assembly should place West Papua on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Extractive industries should be urged to integrate the Declaration into their work and cooperate with indigenous peoples.  The Forum also should call on the World Trade Organization to ensure that all business practices complied with indigenous rights.

A representative of the Indigenous Disability Caucus said that indigenous people with disabilities faced extreme poverty, exclusion, and lack of access to health, education, employment and business opportunities.  Noting that the report of the Caucus contained many recommendations, she drew attention to two of them for Forum members to consider as they went forward with their post-2015 work:  indigenous peoples with disabilities wished to be viewed from a rights-based perspective, rather than a medical or charitable perspective, as that would better ensure inclusion of their issues and themselves in the overall process.  Regarding the upcoming World Conference, she said that indigenous peoples with disabilities should have a seat at the table when decisions were made about the agenda, as well as at the Conference itself, which should be accessible to them.

The representative of the Arctic Caucus recommended that the Forum conduct a maximum of three studies per year on thematic topics and forward those for discussion the following year.  It should have a maximum of 50 outstanding recommendations, meaning that it did not accept others until those outstanding had been implemented.  Its reports should focus on progress made in implementing previously adopted recommendations and it should not hold closed meetings during the session.  Further, the Forum must find ways to make its sessions more interactive, and each year, identify one issue on which indigenous peoples and States must agree.  Those parties should then divide into the seven regions in order to negotiate regional solutions to the identified issue, and report back to the Forum on the outcome of those talks.  He suggested that those negotiations should focus mainly on implementing indigenous rights to lands, waters, territories and natural resources.

Wrapping up the morning session, Mr. STAUR said there were many entry points through which indigenous peoples could contribute to the post-2015 development process, including the Permanent Forum’s annual sessions in 2014 and 2015, the open working group on sustainable development goals and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples next year.  There was the need to follow all those processes and outcomes and, indeed, the Forum’s agenda over the next two years should include a discussion on the post-2015 development process.  He underlined “inequality” as a main obstacle to development, which, despite some inattention to it in the discourse, must be dealt with going forward.

Introduction of Reports

SAUL VICENTE VAZQUEZ, Forum member, introduced the study on extractive industries in Mexico and the situation of indigenous peoples in the territories in which such industries are located (document E/C.19/2013/11) and a consolidated report on extractive industries and their impact on indigenous peoples (document E/C.19/2013/16).

He said that recommendations contained in the first document included, among others, resuming interministerial meetings at the national level and inviting the Permanent Forum to support Mexico in addressing the issue of extractive industries in that country; passing a federal act on free, prior and informed “consultation and consent” in line with the international standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; bringing the Mexican Constitution and legislation in line with international legal human rights instruments, and recognizing indigenous peoples as subjects of public law.

The consolidated report, he said, contained a number of proposals, including that the concept of indigenous peoples’ development should be considered as a contribution to resolving current crises; and indicators of culture, spirituality, sustainability and well-being should be prepared as inputs to create indices of the well-being of indigenous peoples.  International legal instruments must be applied, including the Declaration and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention no. 169, as well as the case law and general comments of the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Development Group Guidelines, because they supported development with culture and identity for indigenous peoples.

Ms. CUNNINGHAM KAIN, Forum member, introducing the “Study on indigenous women’s political participation at the international, national and local levels” (document E/C.19/2013/10), outlined various strategies used by indigenous women in increasing their participation in political life, including the establishment of women’s organizations and quotas for women.  The study also found that women were increasingly assuming what had traditionally been men’s roles.  The study analysed the participation of local women in municipalities and found that they were indeed getting elected in the most poor and marginalized communities.  Most of those cases were women with exceptional leadership qualities and intergenerational family experience of combat, the study found.  Those women were committed to assuming the responsibility and in some instances, changing the way Government was managed.  For them, power meant service to the community, transparency in local management, and a moral responsibility to protect the safety of the population.

Continuing, she said that the study found it challenging to break down by ethnic group the direct causes of women’s political participation.  For example, in Guatemala the inclusion of indigenous women was linked to the peace process, but in Nicaragua it was linked to the self-determination process and the establishment of a plurinational model.  In other cases, affirmative action, as well as quotas had bolstered women’s political participation.  The study also found that indigenous women promoted practical measures in their cultures, including the use of their languages and application of their “cosmic vision”.  The study also concluded that indigenous women did not gain political participation through the electoral process, owing to a lack of financial resources and support networks.  It was critical, therefore, for them to remain closely linked to the grass roots.  Contributing to the problem on a global level was the lack of knowledge of international forums and institutions.

EVA BIAUDET, Forum member, introduced the “Study on the right to participation of indigenous youth in the Nordic countries in decision-making processes” (document E/C.19/2013/8).  Interviewing over 270 young persons between the ages of 17 and 30, the study found that indigenous youth in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Greenland wanted to be included in the political process in a broader way and not only on youth matters.  However, parliaments in participating countries were seen as difficult to approach and political circles seemed exclusive.  One observation made in all four countries was that young men were less likely than young women to participate in political life.  However, young men were more likely to be offered high-level positions in politics.

Through Facebook, she said, the study found increased racism towards the Saami indigenous population, causing many young Saami to avoid becoming active in politics.  The study found that in Greenland, young people wished that school curricula covered national history better, especially that of the indigenous people.  Along similar lines, the Saami languages needed to be spoken languages.  Young people proposed a permanent youth council with the real possibility to influence the issues that pertained to them.  Just as in Sweden, young Greenlanders expressed concern with high youth suicide rates and child abuse.  They also were concerned that capitals received the best schools and teachers, while outside municipalities remained poor and unable to provide quality education.


MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN, Senior Policy Adviser, on behalf of Denmark and Greenland, having taken note of the many challenges experienced by Greenlandic youth in both Greenland and Denmark and the regrets expressed with respect to access to participation in decision-making, said the Parliament of Greenland, Inatsisartut, arranged biannual Youth Parliaments.  Greenlandic students in Denmark had their own organizations and were frequently invited to participate in conferences and political debates organized by Greenland members of the Danish Parliament, the Greenlandic Friendship Centers or their own organizations. Greenland had an umbrella youth organization, SORLAK, with 3,500 members from different youth organizations.  Through seminars, workshops and projects, SORLAK had helped provide a platform for children and youth to contribute to the public debate and expand the awareness of public authorities and society about the needs and problems facing children and youth.  The study also had referred to the children’s rights institution, MIO, which had been established to ensure the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  MIO included a Children’s Spokesperson and Children’s Council.

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of the Indigenous People, highlighted some of the key findings of the Mechanism’s follow-up report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, with a focus on extractive industries and companion materials.  He said it was critically important that the Expert Mechanism, the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples continued to collaborate on those issues.  Also necessary was to fully articulate the applicable legal standards, norms and laws to indigenous peoples to be followed by States, corporations and other entities participating in the extractive industries.  The right to development and control over lands, territories and resources represented a cornerstone set of rights of indigenous peoples, as recognized by, among others, the United Nations Declaration and the ILO Convention no. 169.

The representative of the Continental Indigenous Parliament of America welcomed the recognition of the First Peoples and their rights to participate in all discussions.  He meanwhile stressed the urgent need for Governments to establish legal and political frameworks for indigenous peoples, such as through joining the relevant conventions and treaties.  “This appeal is becoming more acute as the number of affected First Peoples increases,” he said, especially, he added, as they were increasingly excluded.  He expressed gratitude for being allowed to participate in preparatory meetings for the World Conference.

ANARU MILL ( New Zealand) said Maori women were participating in the country’s political and State processes.  For example, they made up about 7.7 per cent of the residential population as of 31 December 2010, and held up to 8 per cent of the ministerial appointees on State sector boards and committees.  They made up 6.6 per cent of the Parliament membership.  With the revitalization of tribal and Maori institutions and organizations, an increasing number of Maori women were assuming political, government and management leadership roles in New Zealand.  Two of the three Maori non-governmental organization representatives at this year’s Forum were influential Maori women, recognized for their contributions to their tribes and organizations — Te Rarawa in the far north and the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

The representative of the Indigenous Disability Caucus said that both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples protected the rights of indigenous women with disabilities.  However, those women were subjected to a wide range of human rights violations.  Such discrimination must be dealt with via parliamentary representation rather than “cultural charity-giving”, she said.  The Disabilities Convention established a paradigm, which States had the responsibility to guarantee.  The voices of indigenous women with disabilities must be heard and their participation and empowerment must be ensured, she insisted.

TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) welcomed the study on the right to participation of indigenous youth in the Nordic countries in decision-making processes and noted that Saami youth were attending the Forum’s session.  She wished to comment on concrete recommendations made in the study to the Norwegian Government.  The country had a legal framework ensuring that all pupils learned in school about the Saami peoples and their culture.  But a gap still existed before all teachers and school leaders acquired the necessary teaching competence about the Saami culture.  The Ministry of Education was scheduled to meet next month with the Saami Parliament to discuss themes and subjects in school curricula.  Other measures taken by the Government included the establishment of a resource centre for the rights of indigenous peoples and its partnership with the Saami Parliament in a campaign to prevent bullying and discrimination in schools and kindergartens.

The representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus urged the Forum to work more closely with the Indigenous Peoples’ Center for Documentation, Research and Information so that all Forum documents were translated into official United Nations languages and that translation support was provided to the Youth Caucus.  The Forum also should hold a half-day session with the Special Rapporteur on the topic of unrecognized indigenous peoples, during its thirteenth session, and further, look into the issue of arrests and forced disappearances of indigenous peoples based on false accusations.  He urged regions and caucuses to build capacity to support cross-caucus cooperation, ensuring that no one was excluded, regardless of where they lived.  Finally, he said, a treaty-monitoring body should be created to oversee agreements between indigenous peoples and States.

ROSA TACAN, Presidential Commissioner against racism and racial discrimination, Guatemala, stressed the important role women played in making the world a better place and noted that today marked a special day for women in the Mayan calendar.  She welcomed the assessment report presented today about the situation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.  She had attended the Forum’s sessions two years in a row, and she had heard repeatedly that racism and discrimination were barriers to establish a harmonious society.  Listening to indigenous peoples’ demands, the President had appointed a Commissioner to deal with those issues.  She proposed that a second official be appointed to bolster relevant efforts and that data should be broken down by gender and ethnic groups.  Lastly, she recognized the work of UN-Women in her country.

A representative of the International Indian Treaty Council recalled that the Rio+20 outcome document had failed to affirm culture as a fourth pillar of sustainable development.  More than 77 peoples, organizations and United Nations indigenous experts had adopted the “Rio+20 Indigenous Peoples’ International Declaration on Sustainable Development and Self-Determination” on 19 June 2012, which reaffirmed three priorities:  culture as a fundamental dimension of sustainable development; full exercise of indigenous peoples’ rights; and strengthening local economies and territorial management.  He urged the Forum to hold an expert seminar on the “cultural pillar” and recognize an indigenous peoples’ global working group on the sustainable development goals.  He also pressed the Forum at this session to change its name to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples.

GUSTAVO TORRES ( Mexico) welcomed the recommendations of the study on extractive industries in his country and how that affected indigenous peoples living in the territories in which those industries were located.  Mexico had taken several initiatives to address the rights of indigenous populations.  For example, its federal Constitution included indigenous groups in the decision-making processes that affected their communities.  In February, his Government established the Commission for Dialogue to promote discourse with indigenous people, with a view to bring people together and meet the needs of those populations.  Although the goal of that Government body was to promote the legislative agenda, there was still room to further strengthen action in his country.

The representative of Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation said that the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda was critical, as it addressed the very livelihood of the indigenous people.  Over the last few decades, development aid had been targeted to improve the welfare of the poorest population; however, it had failed to lift the indigenous people from the lowest socioeconomic echelon of society.  Indigenous people had been deliberately sidelined in international discourse.  The only contact with international aid had come through the form of “development aggression”.  Indigenous peoples’ concerns must be brought into the “orbit” of the international agenda, and he urged the Forum to mainstream those issues.  Donor countries had the responsibility to promote capacity-building activities, enhance information-sharing and encourage a better understanding of the indigenous peoples’ perspective.

The representative of the American Indian Law Alliance with the Haudenosaunee, speaking also for other indigenous groups, said that he agreed with a joint statement made earlier that “indigenous peoples deserve to have a permanent status for participation in the United Nations that reflects their character as peoples and governments”.  He requested the inclusion of traditional indigenous nations in that proposal.  The abolition of traditional indigenous governments was in direct violation of the minimum standard of free, prior and informed consent over lands, territories and resources.

The speaker said that the line between traditional councils and imposed council governments was clear.  The former was the original and continuous bodies in place for more than 1,000 years, while the latter was the system established under the Indian Act in Canada and the Indian Reorganization Act in the United States.  The failure of those Governments to recognize the legitimate, traditional governments and their right to self-determination was blatantly discriminatory.  He suggested that indigenous peoples and nations should be given equal status as the Permanent Observer Missions of the Holy See and Palestine at the United Nations.

The representative of Alianza de Mujeres Indigenas de Centro América y Mexico, recommended that communication and access to information must be improved, particularly for women.  When participation was possible, it was men that participated.  As a group representing indigenous women, she urged the Forum to request that Governments allocated more resources to disseminate their messages.  That would complement the work of the Department of Public Information and the Forum secretariat.  She also recommended that the Forum conduct a study on indigenous migration, which was an important issue to indigenous peoples.

The representative of the Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas said that the indigenous people in the Andes had made serious efforts to defend their land as “our life depends on the land and that is why we must preserve Mother Earth”.  Although progress had been made in recognizing the rights of indigenous people, they continued to suffer from colonialism and the mining and oil-extraction industries.  He said that people who spoke out against those industries were detained.  Transnational organizations and corporations used the resources on “our land” with impunity, in violation of the rights of indigenous people.

The representative of the Nnee Alliance Southwest United States Apache Nations said that, while the United States “mouths the empty rhetoric” of human rights violations committed around the world, nothing was said of its human rights violations against the “people of this land”.  Construction of a security wall on the United States and Mexico border disregarded 36 State and federal laws, causing harm to the ecology of the land and the welfare of the people living there.  The so-called security wall was disturbing the traditional crossing of indigenous communities living in the United States into Mexico.  He mentioned cases of indigenous populations being harassed by authorities at the border.  The United States was busy spreading capitalism worldwide, but few recognized that it was built on African slaves and genocidal actions, he stated.

The representative of Indigenous Peoples Organization Network of Australia recommended that a study be conducted to address indigenous issues related to child protection and overrepresentation in criminal justice cases.  She described how indigenous children were disproportionately detained and urged the Forum to address those issues in future work.

The representative of Parbatya Chattadram Jana Samhati Samiti recommended that the Forum work on peacebuilding and conflict resolution, aimed at ensuring peace and socioeconomic development.  It also should formulate mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of its recommendations, as well as of treaties, accords and other arrangements between Governments and indigenous peoples.  A peace accord signed in 1997 between the Government of Bangladesh and the Jumma indigenous people had not been properly and faithfully implemented.  In that vein, she recalled that the tenth session of the Forum urged the Government to declare a timeline and outline modalities of implementation, as well as the persons and institutions responsible for implementation.

The representative of the United Confederation of Taino People (Caribbean Regional) said that the full and effective participation of the indigenous people of the Caribbean in the United Nations was unfortunately a rarity rather than a norm.  On the unusual occasion when Caribbean indigenous peoples were highlighted within the Permanent Forum, there was little action on the part of United Nations agencies or Governments to engage in meaningful dialogue or follow-up.  He recommended that the Forum call on the Inter-Agency Support Group and Governments to support a regional consultative meeting on the situation of Caribbean indigenous people, including those of Non-Self-Governing Territories and unincorporated territories in the region, without discrimination.

The representative of the Alianza de Mujeres Indigenas de Centro América y Mexico underscored the need to hear voices of indigenous youth from various communities.  She emphasized the role of the political youth forum held in Mexico, which had the challenge to identify and encourage youth political participation and enhance youth networks.  It was unfortunate that indigenous young people were excluded from political life and decision-making.  She appealed to States to establish mechanisms, policies and plans, and specific budgets to enhance their political participation.  The United Nations had to promote dialogue between various agencies and youth to ensure their full participation.

The delegate of Confederacion Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas Indigenas, Bolivia recalled colonial days in which women were not taken into account and their rights were violated.  Thanks to the struggles of successive Government leaders, Bolivia today valued all indigenous people.  Indigenous women could vote and they had the right to education and health.  They could hold positions of authority as mayors.  Nearly 40 per cent of national assembly members were women and more indigenous women were entering the judicial field.  “This is step-by-step progress,” she said, calling for united efforts to put an end to injustices.  “Justice has to be made effective in practice, not on paper,” she said.

EDWARD JOHN, Forum member, citing the study on extractive industries, highlighted a finding that indigenous peoples in developed countries were negatively impacted by projects undertaken by extractive industries.  In North America, for instance, cancer occurrence among indigenous peoples was attributable to chemicals emitted from extractive activities.  He said he was also concerned about the removal of some safeguards in Canada, adding that development projects were the greatest source of conflict between indigenous peoples and Governments.  Describing indigenous peoples as “the poorest of the poor”, he stressed the need for the post-2015 development agenda to be relevant to indigenous peoples in order to achieve a true sustainable future.

The representative of the National Indian Child Welfare Association expressed deep concern with removal of indigenous children from their homes.  A review of child welfare practices and oversight was needed as indigenous children were overrepresented in foster care.  Particularly, in Canada, nearly half of all children in custody were disproportionately indigenous.  She appealed to the Forum to play a greater role in protecting children before they went into State custody.  Forcibly removing a child and placing him or her into non-native care was a form of genocide.  It was the collective responsibility of the international community to ensure that history did not repeat itself, she stated.

The representative of Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia said that 13 years after adoption of the Millennium Development Goals there were still 2 billion people without access to sanitation, and 15 per cent of the global population still suffered from hunger.  The global financial crisis and climate change had generated more hunger and the number of undernourished people had actually increased in recent years. The Millennium Development Goals should remain the objective, and developed countries should provide the resources to overcome “the evils of poverty”. Emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to development, he said there was “no single silver bullet”. Collective responsibility was critical in ensuring both the rights of workers and the rights of Mother Earth. In that regard, it was the responsibility of developed countries to provide additional financial resources.

The representative of Asociacion de Mujeres Poqomchi pointed out that there was little opportunity for women in Guatemala to participate in political and electoral processes.  Despite the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, women were given a secondary status in that country.  In the northern and western parts of the nation, almost half of the population was indigenous, but public policy to protect their rights was minimal.  Despite the establishment of institutions dealing with indigenous peoples, budget allocation was low.  Under such circumstances, rural indigenous women must organize themselves into alliances so that their voices were heard at the international level and to enable them to become “the protagonist of change”.  But the reality was that “indigenous women are synonymous with poverty”, and of the 158 congress members, 20 were women, of which only 4 were indigenous women.

The representative of the National Toshao Council, Guyana, rejected a claim made earlier by two non-governmental organizations that the principle of free, prior and informed consent was breached in her country.  She said that any mining projects in her village required the Council’s approval so that the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and resources were protected.  No such activity could be done without the Council’s approval, she declared.  The two organizations had failed to engage in meaningful dialogue.

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