Closing Session, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Reaffirms Unswerving Desire to Preserve Identity, Secure Fully Fledged Place on Global Stage

31 May 2013

Closing Session, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Reaffirms Unswerving Desire to Preserve Identity, Secure Fully Fledged Place on Global Stage

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

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Twelfth Session

16th Meeting (PM)

Closing Session, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Reaffirms Unswerving


Desire to Preserve Identity, Secure Fully Fledged Place on Global Stage


Members Seek Name Change to ‘Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’

In a call to action, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues approved a draft decision today recommending that the Economic and Social Council rename it as the “Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, at the close of a two-week session marked by a dynamic effort to preserve those peoples’ identity, ensure their rights and secure a fully fledged place on the global stage.

As the Permanent Forum — the United Nations expert advisory body dealing with the human, economic and social rights of indigenous peoples — concluded its twelfth session, it approved a set of eight draft texts, stemming from review of how its past recommendations on a broad array of topics were being implemented.

“There has been progress,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said of the Forum’s 12 years, “but it is clear we all must do more to ensure universal respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”.  The root of many of the problems was indeed inequality, he said, adding that discrimination caused and magnified poverty and ill-health and urging all to “work harder to ensure that indigenous peoples are not marginalized”.

Turning to the much-heralded 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, he said that strong commitment and support was required “from all of us — Governments, civil society, the private sector, academia and, most important, indigenous communities”.  He reaffirmed the United Nations commitment to providing an avenue for indigenous peoples to have meaningful dialogue with Member States, the United Nations system, civil society, and, of course, with each other.  Importantly, he stated:  “Sovereign equality among States must be reflected in sovereign equality among human beings in the spirit of the UN Charter.”

The Forum forwarded to the Economic and Social Council three more draft decisions (document E/C.19/2013/L.7).  Draft I asks the Council to authorize a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme sexual and reproductive rights.  Draft II sets the dates for the Forum’s thirteenth session at Headquarters, 21-23 May 2014.  By draft III, Council would note the draft report of the Forum’s twelfth session and approve the provisional agenda for its thirteenth, under the theme:  “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:  articles 3 to 6 and 46 (3)”.

By the terms of the text on the World Conference (document E/C.19/2013/8), the Forum reaffirmed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the normative framework for the world meeting and asked that the provisions of General Assembly resolution 66/296 regarding its arrangements must be given the widest and most generous interpretation possible to achieve the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples.

Further to that text, the Forum stated that the conclusion of the upcoming preparatory conference in Alta, Norway, from 10 to 12 June, should be considered as a firm base for the identification of specific themes for the round table and panel discussions of the 2014 World Conference.  Today’s text also reiterated its recommendation that indigenous peoples have equal participation in the drafting of all documents, including outcomes, to emerge from the Conference.

Following up its recommendations on health, education and culture, another text (document E/C.19/2013/L.2) states that the “right to health materializes through the well-being of an individual as well as the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole community”.  The consequences of colonization still impacted indigenous peoples through a range of social and economic determinants, among them poverty, lack of education, food insecurity and the loss of traditional lands and languages.

In that light, the wide-ranging text called for health care and education to be delivered in a culturally specific way; it stressed the need for appropriate sexual and reproductive rights and reiterated previous recommendations to address “the alarming number of suicides” among indigenous youths.  Among others, it recognized culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, which it defined as pursuing economic activities that meet the needs of indigenous peoples without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Recalling its comprehensive dialogue with United Nations agencies and funds, the Forum issued another follow-up text (document E/C.19/2013/L.6), which recalls its in-depth dialogue during the session with international and regional financial institutions — World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

The document notes that the development projects financed by those institutions had significant impacts on the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and recommends that international financial institutions unequivocally acknowledge the collective right of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources in their safeguard policies and in all development project contexts.  It calls upon them to ensure that the projects they funded fully respected the rights of indigenous peoples in their implementation.

Following up its recommendations on the African Region, the Forum issued another text (document E/C.19/2013/L.4) recognizing that groups identified as comprising indigenous peoples on the African continent have suffered, and continue to suffer, particular injustices, including the denial of their basic rights, such as the right to recognition and the right to lands, territories and related resources.  Such denial has led to the eviction of indigenous peoples from their lands and the erosion of their hunting and other traditional occupations and lifestyles, thereby threatening their very survival and well-being as peoples.

The follow-on text stresses the need to raise awareness about indigenous peoples on the continent, and for robust and effective measures, including legislative measures, to ensure recognition of and respect for their human rights.  And, it encourages States to adopt a rights-based approach to conservation and to ensure that national policies regarding indigenous pastoralism complied with the Declaration.

The document on human rights states that the recommendations contained therein (document E/C.19/2013/L.5) reflect issues “of universal character or of an urgent nature”.  It addresses such questions as indigenous persons with disabilities; the right to free, prior and informed consent; and acts of violence perpetrated against them — including assassinations, rapes, and intimidation — for which it calls on States to establish a monitoring mechanism to address that scourge.  Extreme concern also was expressed about the physical and moral violence perpetrated against indigenous human rights defenders.

In that connection, the Forum requests Member States to establish specific mechanisms at the national level to foster dialogue between indigenous peoples and Government ministries on implementation of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and strongly recommends that the “doctrine of discovery” be denounced and that its use and application be discontinued.  It also reiterates it call upon respective Member States to accede to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (Convention No. 169).

Mirna Cunningham Kain, Forum member, said that in preparation of the Forum, all indigenous people had communicated with “our ancestors, our guides and our wise men and women so that they might give us their energy and enable us to come here with the courage and commitment to continue the teachings and the lessons learned” from them.  At the closing of the session, she thanked those spirits as they reminded “when we take decisions we are not doing so in a personal capacity, we are doing it for our people with their will and with their commitment”.

While decisions had been taken during the last two weeks, indigenous brothers and sisters continued to suffer and die in vain, she said.  They asked that “this house of the people” not forget them. This house, the United Nations, was enriched by the energy, the lessons and the wisdom of the indigenous peoples.  Moving forward, that wisdom should be taken into account.  In closing, she thanked the land and the sky and all the spirits who had participated in this event.

The representative of the Indigenous World Association underscored the importance of taking into consideration all living beings — plants; water; animals, “all shapes and sizes”; the moon and the stars — before making decisions, as they were all gifts of the Creator.  In addition to blessing the Earth with all those elements, the Creator also “taught us how to deliberate when we meet” and that “we should leave outside the room all our prejudices and biases”.  Inside the room “we use our good minds and logic”, he said.  The Forum had managed during the last two weeks to put all differences aside and create “one mind with one goal as we strived to figure out why the Creator put us on this Earth”.  He called on all indigenous people to remember “the good words that were spoken here” and to “keep and carry those good words and feelings” to their homes, communities and land.

Forum Chair Paul Kanyinke Sena, summing up the session’s discussions in closing remarks, underlined the need for improved statistics on health and for access to an education that provided indigenous children with skills relevant to the communities in which they lived.  He expressed appreciation for the increasing political support in Africa for the Declaration and for the continent’s growing willingness to engage with indigenous peoples.  He also stressed that Banks should not support any project that affected indigenous people without prior recognition of and guarantees for their collective rights to own, control and manage their lands, territories and resources.

As he encouraged indigenous peoples to work with Governments to improve the Forum’s outreach and impact, he asked everyone to remember that the Forum was established as “a space for dialogue between indigenous peoples and Member States, as well as to mainstream indigenous peoples into the work of the UN system”.

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