‘Largely Invisible’ in Millennium Goals Era, Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge, Traditions Key to Sustainable Future, Third Committee Told

GA/SHC/4106
20 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)

‘Largely Invisible’ in Millennium Goals Era, Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge, Traditions Key to Sustainable Future, Third Committee Told

With the Millennium Development Goals failing aboriginal peoples of the world, their knowledge and traditional practices must help to guide the post-2015 development agenda towards mapping a more inclusive, sustainable future, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began its general discussion on their rights, a month after the historic first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

While Member States had put significant effort into Millennium Development Goals, indigenous peoples had remained “largely invisible” in the process, according to Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, in a statement delivered on his behalf by Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

At the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September, the first one ever organized by the United Nations, Mr. Gass said the outcome document had requested the Secretary-General to include relevant information on indigenous peoples in the final Millennium Development Goals report.  “Although we have become better at talking about indigenous peoples,” he concluded, “there remains a major gap between words and actions.”

Other high-level speakers and delegates came to similar conclusions during an interactive debate.  Invisible in national statistics, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they must be considered and involved in any decisions made that would affect them.

Development strategies must take into account their languages, traditions, livelihood strategies and autonomous institutions, she said.  In contrast to the Millennium Goals, the proposed sustainable development goals presented a unique opportunity to address the inequalities suffered by the world’s indigenous peoples.  Their inclusion in discussions was essential, she urged.

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples had supported the participation of 105 indigenous peoples’ representatives at the World Conference, Maarit Kohinen Sheriff, Deputy Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York, told delegates as she delivered a statement on behalf of Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Given United Nations cooperation with indigenous peoples’ representatives regarding the World Conference, Finland’s speaker, during the ensuing general debate, called for their participation at the seventieth session of the General Assembly.

Several Member States commended the World Conference as a historic achievement.  The representative of Nicaragua highlighted the open and inclusive dialogue that had resulted in the outcome document and said that the indigenous peoples had requested a development-based approach to human rights that respected their cultural identity.  According to Mexico’s representative, the World Conference and adoption of its outcome document reflected the maturity of Member States in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples.  She called on the international community to ensure a cross-cutting inclusion of indigenous issues in the post-2015 agenda.

Several delegates spoke about their country’s accomplishments in promoting indigenous people’s rights.  Colombia’s representative said that the legal and institutional framework in her country for those rights was recognized as one of the most advanced in the world.  Special political representation and collective land ownership were two examples of that.  Japan’s delegate noted that her Government had recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous community and was establishing a Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in Hokkaido to revitalize Ainu culture.

Looking ahead, the United States representative said her country was moving into a new era of partnership between the Government and indigenous peoples.  Overcoming the historic grievances about resources and territories was part of the process of reconciliation, she told the Committee.

Also speaking today were representatives of Belize, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community, Australia, Russian Federation, Cuba, Philippines, Panama, Suriname, China, South Africa, Guyana, Peru, Iran, Malaysia, Paraguay, New Zealand, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, El Salvador, Congo, Tanzania, Brazil, Chile, Cameroon, Ukraine, Guatemala and Costa Rica, as well as the European Union and the Holy See.

Officials representing the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Organization also delivered statements.

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 October, when it is expected to begin its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous people.  Before it were notes by the Secretary-General transmitting reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/69/278) and of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/69/267).  Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (document A/69/271).

Interactive Debate

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, read out a statement by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.  Presenting the final report of the Secretary-General on the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second Decade (document A/69/271), Mr. Gass said that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had established a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous people.  While Member States had put significant effort into Millennium Development Goals, indigenous peoples had remained “largely invisible” in the process.

It was vital, he went on, to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ forms of governance and representatives in order to establish constructive dialogue with international and national authorities and to establish a United Nations-wide action plan to promote their rights in the five-year action agenda of the Secretary-General.  Recommending the establishment of a third international decade of the world’s indigenous peoples, he thanked Member States for their voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues.

In September, he added, the Organization had organized the first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The outcome document had requested the Secretary-General to include relevant information on indigenous peoples in the final Millennium Development Goals report and to ensure a coherent approach to achieving the United Nations Declaration.  “Although we have become better at talking about indigenous peoples,” he concluded, “there remains a major gap between words and actions.”

MAARIT KOHONEN SHERIFF, Deputy Head, OHCHR in New York, delivered a statement on behalf of Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introducing a note of the Secretary-General containing her Office’s report on the status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/69/278).  The report provided an update on the activities of the Fund and information on the expansion of its mandate.  It also called for constant and sustained financial support, among other things.

She then turned to the expansion of the Fund’s mandate regarding the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives in and preparation of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The fund had supported 105 indigenous peoples’ representatives participating in the World Conference, she said.  It worked in close cooperation with the Indigenous Global Coordinating Committee for the selection of grantees, she added, and grants had been divided equally among seven indigenous regions.  The final selection of grantees rested with the Secretary-General, she noted.  Despite an increase in contributions in 2013 and 2014, the Fund called for $1.4 million for the 2014-2015 period so it could fulfil its mandate.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Brazil made remarks on the need for disaggregated data, asking that close attention was paid in the post-2015 development agenda to the demands of indigenous peoples, to mainstreaming related policies and to fostering the promotion and protection of their human rights.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that they had come a long way since the adoption of the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention of 1957, (known as No. 107), which was a first attempt to codify such international obligations of States.  Achievements included the landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007 by the General Assembly after more than 20 years of drafting and negotiations.  While States’ duties arose in integral elements in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she said the Declaration’s “remedial purpose” aimed at repairing the effects of the historic discrimination.

Yet the international community had failed to use the Millennium Development Goals as a vehicle to overcome discrimination and achieve substantial equality for indigenous peoples.  In addition, while programmes that had maximized indigenous self-determination tended to perform better than State-controlled initiatives, the latter was still the standard scenario.  She hoped indigenous peoples would be participating in the processes of the OHCHR Working Group on the issues of human rights and transnational corporations, including the future open-ended intergovernmental working group to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate those entities’ activities.

Concerned about the invisibility of indigenous peoples within national statistics, she commended efforts of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean to establish a comprehensive database.  On development, she said strategies must also consider languages, traditions, livelihood strategies and autonomous institutions, and labour rights also needed to be protected.

Underscoring the importance of consulting and involving indigenous peoples before adopting measures affecting them, she called on the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to consider that in their assistance framework.  The universality of proposed sustainable development goals was a unique opportunity to address existing inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous sectors and the process of defining, implementing and monitoring the objectives should be used to address indigenous peoples’ aspiration for self-determined development.

During the interactive segment, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz responded to questions about the best ways to promote coordination between mechanisms working to promote indigenous peoples’ rights, saying the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples outcome document captured essential concerns.  Coordination was crucial to the achievement of many of the document’s proposals, including those relating to the lands, territories and resources.  On the post-2015 agenda, she said inter-agency support group meetings were effective in sharing tactics.  Expanding the mandate of the expert mechanism to include a monitoring role could also be useful.

Continuing, she said there should be a common framework of agreed-upon goals, targets and indicators, with achievement of them ensured by the Organization’s bodies and agencies.  Aggregated data was key in identifying extreme poverty.  Providing a range of examples, she said “one country had managed declines in extreme poverty and had become the poster child for success”, but it had done so by driving away indigenous peoples from forests and providing subsidies to dominant peoples to move into those territories, a fact that never figured into the report because of a dearth of data on indigenous peoples.

In other communities, such as in Guatemala, indigenous peoples did not go to hospitals because the hospitals had white walls and white uniforms, she said, noting that the colour represented death.  Therefore, the hospitals were painted in different colours to attract indigenous peoples.  Those kinds of intercultural approaches to State-sponsored social services were necessary, she said, encouraging countries to share best practices.  “We always focus on how bad the situation is,” she said, so the programme and practices that had succeeded in integrating indigenous peoples often got ignored.  A coordinated approach within the United Nations would be instrumental in highlighting what was already working so that more States could benefit from that, she concluded.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union delegation, said indigenous peoples had faced multiple forms of discrimination, not only because they were indigenous, but also because they were poor or female, because of their sexual orientation or their disabilities, calling for combatting discrimination in all its forms.  He welcomed the outcome document of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and its focus on violence against women and children, among others, asking that the causes and consequences of that scourge be addressed.  He valued the contributions, traditions and knowledge of indigenous peoples had made to the world’s cultural heritage and paid tribute to the defenders of their rights, many of whom were often exposed to risk and repression.

Turning to the European Union’s development cooperation, he said that support to indigenous peoples was a cross-cutting issue, as well as an objective.  Some of the European Union funding mechanisms specifically referred to organizations representing indigenous peoples as eligible beneficiaries, he added.  Noting the importance of related issues and the engagement of indigenous peoples in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, he said that their respect and well-being were intertwined with the objectives of global sustainable development.

KAI JÜRGEN MIKAEL SAUER (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights was a priority.  Fulfilling the objectives of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples outcome document needed a national, regional and global commitment.  Given United Nations cooperation with indigenous peoples’ representatives regarding the World Conference, he called for their participation at the seventieth session of the General Assembly.  At the regional level, he noted the presence of the Saami, the indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions.  Turning to the post-2015 development agenda, he said it was crucial that related issues were respected, welcoming a human rights-based approach to development, supporting equalities and combating marginalization and discrimination. 

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, said the region had a solid history of peaceful coexistence in its diverse multicultural societies.  There was much to learn from the practices of indigenous peoples, he said, emphasizing that member countries had made important progress in ensuring their rights regarding equal representation in governance and decision-making regionally and nationally.

Pointing out the gaps that kept the poorest in their societies marginalized behind barriers of geographical isolation, he noted that the Community had continued to improve access to quality health care and educational services in indigenous communities.  In that regard, he welcomed the adoption of the World Conference outcome document as it ensured States’ commitments to improve the well-being of indigenous populations, particularly women and youth.  Concluding, he reaffirmed his group’s commitment to the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA (Australia) said her country was deeply committed to the promotion and the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, domestically and around the world.  Welcoming the success of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the adoption of the outcome document by consensus, she pointed out that the event was a critical step in advancing their rights.  Australia recognized the role of indigenous women and girls in the sustainable development of its communities, she said, adding that the Government had placed those issues at the centre of its reform agenda.  Underlining challenges facing indigenous peoples, she said Australia supported all efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples, particularly women and children, youth, older persons and those with disabilities.

DMITRY VOROBYEV (Russian Federation) said results had been achieved to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples, including by providing them with housing, education and health services.  The major task of States dealing with indigenous peoples’ issues was to establish conditions for their participation, he added, encouraging the transfer of knowledge to new generations, among other actions.  He appreciated the reports on indigenous peoples before the Committee, as well as the focus of the Special Rapporteur on their economic, social and environmental rights, especially the right to development.  He believed that the post-2015 agenda should take into account the interests of all societies, including indigenous peoples.

JAIRO RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), noting the results achieved during the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, called for additional efforts to achieve its five objectives.   He then urged the international community to recognize the right to self-determination as well as the right to enjoy their culture and traditions without discrimination or racism.  Despite positive achievements made in establishing human rights standards for indigenous peoples, he said they continued to face daily rights violations, including violence, forced relocation and the denial of access to their lands.  All cultures had a right to enjoy their human rights, including the chewing of coca leaves, he added.

TERRI ROBL (United States) said that all stakeholders must consult and cooperate to make tangible improvements to the lives of indigenous peoples.  Her Government held regular consultations with tribal tribunals, during which indigenous participants had outlined several priorities for future United Nations actions.  One of the priority areas was collectively developing solutions for preventing violence against indigenous women and girls.  Such violence had devastating consequences on indigenous families and communities.  The United States welcomed the recommendation made in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples outcome document that the Commission on the Status of Women should examine that issue.  Further, her country believed that the United Nations must monitor Member States’ progress in implementing the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The United States was engaged in a process of reconciliation between the Government and indigenous peoples because of significant historic grievances over resources and territories.  Her country was now looking forward to moving into a new era of partnership.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said her country had steadily made efforts on the indigenous issues since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Recognizing the Ainu people as an indigenous community, the Government had set up an advisory council for a future policy, consisting of several high-level experts.  Also, Japan was working on two projects:  the establishment of the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in Hokkaido to revitalize Ainu culture and the promotion and protection of Ainu people residing outside of Hokkaido.  Concluding, she said her country was committed to tackling issues faced by indigenous peoples all around the world in cooperation with the United Nations.

ELISA DIAZ GRAS (Mexico) said that the World Conference in September and the adoption of its outcome document reflected the maturity of Member States in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples.  As the President of her country had said at the Conference, Mexico would continue to work to implement the outcome document.  Member States must work together to create a road map to meet the needs of indigenous peoples from various vantage points.  It was also vital to ensure a cross-cutting inclusion of indigenous issues in the post-2015 agenda and to develop mechanisms to guarantee their participation in the work of the United Nations.  Member States must seize the opportunity to align their national priorities with international agenda.  Her Government promoted a new approach to the rights of indigenous peoples that was based on respect and dialogue.

MARÍA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua) said that the outcome document was an important achievement that had resulted from open and inclusive dialogue.  Participating indigenous peoples had requested a development-based approach to human rights that respected their cultural identity.  Nicaragua also endorsed the “living well” concept that prevailed in Latin America and the Caribbean, which promoted intercultural relations and recognized the coexistence of communities with nature.  Nicaragua was proud of its indigenous and Afro-descendant roots, she said, welcoming their involvement in its public policies.  Further, indigenous peoples had a deeply rooted connection to land which went beyond material ownership.  Land was the habitat of their ancestors; therefore, their communal lands must be restored to them to allow historic continuity and to build cultural identity.  For its part, Nicaragua’s Mother Earth programme had given land titles to about 20 communities in Nicaragua.

LIBRAN CABACTULAN (Philippines) said his country recognized indigenous peoples’ rights, including to self-determination and ancestral domains.  It also recognized relevant customary laws governing property rights and the requirement that free and prior informed consent should be obtained in relation to any development that had an impact on them, including for projects undertaken near or on their ancestral lands.  At the national level, a specific law envisioned an end of decades-long strife in Mindanao by establishing a political entity for the Bangsamoro peoples.  Turning to the post-2015 agenda, he said it could not overlook the needs and rights of indigenous peoples, as their full and effective participation was integral to the formulation and achievement of sustainable development goals.

PAULINA FRANCESCHI (Panama) said 12 per cent of her country’s population was made of indigenous peoples.  National laws and legislation recognized respect for their rights and traditions, including the rights to land, she said, noting that five indigenous groups represented 28 per cent of national territory.  The Government recognized traditional authorities, traditions and customs, and conducted free and informed consultations before using indigenous lands.  Bilingual education was also provided, she added, noting that a vice ministry of indigenous affairs had been established.  Aware that much remained to be done, she said a dialogue to protect their natural resources had been initiated.

CHANTAL LO A NJOE (Suriname) said indigenous peoples were an integral part of her country’s population.  Underlining that respect for cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence were distinct characteristics of society, she said that the Government had placed the recognition of the collective rights of indigenous and tribal peoples at the centre of its agenda.  In that regard, Suriname had actively participated in the lead-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, including in the negotiations surrounding the outcome document.  Concluding, she pointed out that discussions on the post-2015 agenda should include the progress of sustainable development policies and programmes with regard to indigenous peoples.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said that her country’s constitution recognized the ethnic and cultural diversity of the entire nation.  According to a recent census, her country had an estimated 1.3 million indigenous individuals, reflecting an immense cultural and ancestral wealth.  The legal and institutional framework relating to indigenous people was recognized as one of the most advanced in the world.  Indigenous communities in Colombia had special political representation at different levels, their authorities were recognized and they had collective land ownership, which was managed by them in accordance with their ancestral customs.  Their languages were recognized as official in their territories and they had privileged spaces for holding discussions with the state.  Welcoming the World Conference, she added that it represented a historic contribution to the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

WANG HAO (China) said that indigenous peoples had made unique contributions to world culture, but historic reasons had led to their continued suffering, with their lands confiscated and their language and culture under attack.  Indigenous peoples also suffered from chronic poverty.  China believed that safeguarding their rights to development was a prerequisite for other rights.  Indigenous areas remained among the poorest areas in many counties, and poverty reduction and economic development was vital to improve access to a better life.  Countries must demonstrate the political will to implement the Declaration concerning their rights and the World Conference outcome document.  The concerns of indigenous peoples should be fully taken into account in the post-2015 agenda, which must also note the positive and unique cultural role that they could play in addressing climate change and sustainable development.  “Not all countries had indigenous peoples within their borders,” he added, noting that his country believed that a distinction must be made between native and indigenous peoples.  In closing, he said China stood ready to work with the international community to meet the legitimate demands of all indigenous peoples.

TSHAMANO COMBRICK MILUBI (South Africa) said his country’s constitution recognized the rights of all its citizens without discrimination.  The Government had provided resources in the field of education, job creation and health care to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  In addition, free prior and informed consultations were held on issues related to them, he added, including fostering the participation of leaders in municipal councils.  Despite progress made, much needed to be done, he said, renewing his country’s commitment to working with indigenous peoples and with the international community to work toward the full promotion and protection of their rights.  In closing, he said it was every State’s responsibility to provide acceptable living standards of the people living within its borders.

SHIRAZ ARIF MOHAMED (Guyana) said indigenous peoples’ rights were addressed in the constitution, including the right to protection, preservation and promulgation of their language, cultural heritage and way of life.  In relation to constructive dialogue and engagement with national authorities, he said it was important and fundamental to create an enabling environment to mainstream indigenous peoples’ goals and challenges in keeping with the principle of free prior and informed consent.  Challenges facing indigenous communities included their remoteness, posing difficulties for the delivery of certain social services, as well as unemployment and a lack of opportunities for economic advancement. 

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that the World Conference had been a valuable opportunity to exchange information about challenges and best practices relating to indigenous peoples’ rights.  Peru’s 52 indigenous and native peoples had enhanced the country’s culture and identity.  A new law on that matter was a landmark in the relationship between the state and indigenous groups, he said, noting that in 2015, 10 consultations on national policies would be held with indigenous peoples.  Another law had established indigenous languages as official in their territories and provided for 214 interpreters, he said, emphasizing that the “living voices” programme was encouraging the use of indigenous languages that were in danger of extinction as well as prioritizing land ownership.  The sustainable development goals under discussion must recognize indigenous peoples’ way of life and ancestral knowledge, he said, adding that Peru would work closely to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples in an open and inclusive manner.

MOHAMMAD GHAEBI (Iran) said that there was a substantial gap between the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and actions on the ground.  The negotiation process leading to the World Conference outcome document was inclusive in nature and indigenous representatives had joined Member States in a spirit of cooperation and partnership.  Iran strongly believed that commitments made in good faith during the Conference must be backed up by actions, timelines and technical assistance.  Indigenous peoples were central to the discourse on sustainable development, he said.  The “dispossession” of land from indigenous peoples and the persistent violations of their rights had caused a great deal of deprivation and low standards of dignity and survival.  For its part, Iran emphasized the right of indigenous peoples to determine their priorities in exercising the right to development.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) said his Government had formulated and implemented programmes for the advancement and socioeconomic development of indigenous peoples.  Aiming at becoming a developed and a high-income nation by 2020, Malaysia ensured that all members of its multicultural and multifaceted society equally enjoyed the benefits of development.  Further, he recognized that indigenous groups were the most disadvantaged communities due to in part to their geographical location.  However, the Government provided an environment for indigenous peoples to equally participate in the national development agenda while preserving their culture and traditions.  Concluding, he said Malaysia would continue to work on advancing indigenous communities through close consultations with all stakeholders.

MARCELO SCAPPINI (Paraguay) said that indigenous peoples represented more than 2 per cent of the population.  His was also the only country that had two official languages, one of which came from its original inhabitants.  A legal framework was present, he added, to ensure the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as to defend their community and its members.  The constitution had recognized the existence of indigenous peoples as cultural groups belonging to states of Paraguay, he said.  As such, authorities provided them with the right to land ownership in sufficient quality and size.  As vulnerable groups, they also received focused attention in national development plans aimed at combatting poverty and ensuring social inclusion, he said in closing.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said his country was pleased to give its full support to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and the outcome document adopted by the General Assembly.  Noting that the document marked an important step in advancing indigenous rights, he called upon Member States to build on that momentum and follow up with practical steps towards implementing the commitments therein.  In that regard, New Zealand was committed to building and maintaining meaningful relationships with Māori in the areas of health, housing, education, economic development and justice.  Concluding, he said that the upcoming year would be critical to setting the post-2015 agenda, which should not leave indigenous peoples behind. 

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador) said his Government had aimed at guaranteeing buen vivir, to live well, in the country by ensuring the welfare of all people.  In the Constitution, buen vivir was a reference to building up a society based on rights, including to water and sanitation, communication, culture, science, education, environment, health, and work and social security.  In that regard, he said, the Government paid great attention to cultural identity and ensured that the indigenous rights were not violated.  Underlining that the World Conference belonged to indigenous communities, he pointed out that the post-2015 development agenda would not be complete without considering their needs.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said fostering indigenous cultures did not mean going back to the past, but rather it was about their right to go forward, guided by their time-honoured collective values, such as respect for human life and dignity, representative decision-making processes and preservation of community rituals.  He then underlined that indigenous peoples had the same right to development, that it must be coherent and harmonious with their specific identity and values and that they must have a say about their own development.  He also highlighted the importance of just laws to regulate the relationship between indigenous peoples and extractive industries operating on ancestral lands. 

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said his country recognized different cultures as well as all the languages spoken alongside Spanish.  The Government, he continued, had been the first to incorporate the rights of indigenous peoples into its legislation.  They were recognized as historic elements and were encouraged to participate in all levels of society.  Parliament counted 32 per cent of its members as indigenous peoples, making it the highest ratio in the world.  Access to education, housing and infrastructure was also granted to them as well as spaces and funds that were created to foster their development.  In the health sector, the use of traditional medicine had also been allowed.  Turning to the issue of coca leaves, he said that they produced no harm to humans and called on the World Health Organization to conduct a study on that matter.

MARÍA LUZ MELÓN (Argentina) said her country welcomed the World Conference outcome document, which respected the rights of indigenous peoples.  In line with its commitment to the World Conference, Argentina had taken legislative and political measures for the promotion and protection of cultural diversity and rights of indigenous communities, providing better visibility for them.  Further, she noted that her country was a party to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, a legally binding international instrument which deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, ratified by 20 States.  Stressing the progress achieved regarding recognizing and respecting indigenous rights, she concluded by calling upon Member States to fully comply with their commitments and to maintain the momentum gained since the World Conference.

RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador) said his Government had actively participated in the World Conference, which was a roadmap for countries to advance indigenous rights and the implementation of the outcome document.  Welcoming the Secretary General’s report that reflected achievements and disparities, he noted that indigenous peoples could not be recognized as marginalized groups.  El Salvador had fully recognized the rights of indigenous peoples and had adopted policies relevant in protecting them.  Looking at the future with hope, he concluded by saying that challenges could be overcome through joint work and dialogue. 

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said the country had developed internal laws to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples, granting them the rights to health and education, among others.  New laws were also elaborated on the exploitation and valorization of the natural resources by the indigenous peoples.  She noted that the lifestyle and the practices of the indigenous people contributed to the forest ecosystem, calling for the mobilization of resources to invest in the development of infrastructures which benefitted them.  She also called on the development of economic, social and cultural programmes to promote effectively the rights of indigenous peoples, especially for women and the youth.

NGUSEKELA NYERERE (United Republic of Tanzania) recognized a gap between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and implementation of instruments on the ground.  The circumstance of indigenous peoples varied from region to region and from country to country, she noted, and implementation needed to take into account regional and national diversity.  Colonialism had brought with it marginalization and discrimination, she said, but immediately after independence the Constitution promoted and protected the rights of all its citizens, investing in their empowerment, including minority groups.  As an example, she mentioned the Masai population, whose culture was an integral part of the national identity.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said over 800,000 Brazilians identified themselves as members of more than 300 indigenous peoples, speaking more than 270 languages.  The Government had made efforts to enforce the rights of indigenous peoples in domestic legislation, policies and concrete initiatives, he added, paying special attention to their traditional knowledge, medicines and practices, as well as their cultural and linguistic diversity.  The Government had also acknowledged the need to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent with regards to their lands, territories and resources.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his country was committed to ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples, and it recognized the World Conference as a historic moment to prevent communities from lagging behind.  In that regard, he continued, the outcome document should be a road map for States in advancing indigenous rights.  Further, he noted that the Government had undertaken great efforts to strengthen indigenous rights, translating their commitments into actions.  Concluding, he called for practical steps towards ensuring the effective implementation of indigenous rights by all relevant stakeholders. 

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) said the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples was high on the agenda of the Government, as shown by the important step taken to identify the concerned groups.  She then welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur, which identified the principle of self-identification as the main criteria for conducting a census of indigenous peoples.  National development plans had aimed at including indigenous peoples in matters concerning them and focused on areas including access to education and water.  Different realities in relation to indigenous peoples called for approaches that considered a variety of national contexts.

VIKTORIYA LUCHKA (Ukraine) welcomed the outcome document of the World Conference as a framework for common efforts aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples faced serious challenges in the process of preserving their identity and satisfying their social, economic and cultural needs.  “The occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation has brought about the atmosphere of tension, aggression and intolerance in the territory of the peninsula,” she said, saying the Crimean Tatar community was undergoing the most severe suppression.  Russian authorities, disregarding them as the indigenous peoples of Crimea, were systematically abusing their civil, political and cultural rights, she said, urging the United Nations and its Member States to stand by their side as they suffered from repression and an ideology of hate and intolerance.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala) said her country fully supported the World Conference and welcomed the outcome document adopted by the General Assembly.  Noting the progress made in fostering indigenous rights, customs and traditions, she said that Guatemala had developed a national public policy mechanism to eliminate racism and to live in harmony.  However, she stressed that there was more work to be done.  In conclusion, she reiterated her country’s commitment to ensuring full participation of indigenous peoples on the matters affecting them.

ADRIANA RUÍN (Costa Rica) said the World Conference had positive results in advancing indigenous rights.  Despite progress, she continued, indigenous communities continued to face challenges, including ongoing matters regarding their rights and the integrity of their cultural identities.  For its part, Costa Rica had ratified the ILO Convention 169 and the Government had instituted a constitutional reform in line with the World Conference outcome document, incorporating the rights of indigenous peoples, and making progress in cultural diversity and non-discrimination. 

LAUREN FLEJZOR, of the Food and Agricultural Organization, said its mandate was focused on the eradication of hunger, which could not be achieved without considering the special needs, rights and contributions of indigenous peoples.  Global recognition of how fundamental governance of tenure was to ensuring food security, she said, was reflected in its Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.  They contained important provisions that recognized indigenous peoples’ rights and customary tenure systems and acknowledged the social, cultural and spiritual value that land, fisheries and forests had for them, she added.  Indigenous peoples’ ancestral knowledge encapsulated solutions related to climate change, natural resource management and a variety of sustainable development challenges, but their poverty and vulnerability called for specific attention, she said.

KEVIN CASSIDY, of the International Labour Office, said the outcome of the World Conference provided a concrete road map for increasing efforts to strengthen the realization of the rights of more than 370 million people worldwide.  “Having a voice on issues directly affecting one’s future is the essence of decent work,” he said, calling for the outcome document to be included in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.  Challenges facing indigenous people remained, including loss of land, access to natural resources and the impact of climate change, as well as income and employment insecurity and lack of access to education and vocational training.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of the Russian Federation said the Government of Ukraine had finally taken interest in the issue of indigenous peoples.  As for the Tatar community living in Crimea, he said that their participation had improved since the union with the Russian Federation, including that their language had been recognized.

For information media. Not an official record.