Peoples’ Participation in Upcoming General Assembly among Top Concerns
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues concluded its fourteenth session today, sending nine draft reports to the Economic and Social Council containing proposals, recommendations and three draft decisions, including a call for the General Assembly to consider establishing a procedure to guarantee indigenous peoples’ participation in its seventieth session.
“Indigenous peoples come here every year with many harrowing stories of violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms in their countries”, said Forum Chair Megan Davis, giving a summary of the session’s highlights. They also come with valuable ideas for how States could implement the right to self-determination, as well as projects for United Nations agencies.
Addressing concerns that the Forum was seized with “naval gazing” while indigenous peoples worldwide continued to suffer serious abuses, she said next year’s agenda would include an item on “Implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, which would allow more time and flexibility for speakers on the floor. There would be less discursiveness in the plenary and the speakers list would be set in advance of the meeting. “The Forum reform is about increasing transparency, accountability and efficiency,” she said.
With that, the Forum sent to the Council a set of three draft decisions (document E/C.19/2015/L.10) on its future work. By draft decision I, it recommended that the Council authorize a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme “Indigenous languages: preservation and revitalization (articles 13 to 15 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)”. By draft decisions II and III, the Council would decide that the Forum’s fifteenth session would be held from 9 to 20 May 2016, and take note of the Forum’s report on its fourteenth session.
The Forum then approved as orally revised number of “draft reports”, which together would be combined into the final report of the fourteenth session.
Its first report, on the outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2015/L.2), recommended that States, indigenous peoples and the United Nations engage in a consultative process on the implementation of the outcome document at the local, national, regional and international level. It also recommended that the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs outline a procedure to guarantee the participation of indigenous representatives in the preparation of a system-wide plan to promote and protect indigenous rights.
By a report containing recommendations for the post—2015 development agenda (document E/C.19/2015/L.3), the Forum requested that States incorporate commitments made in the World Conference outcome document into that framework, especially action points on data disaggregation, land rights, the implementation of free, prior and informed consent, and access to justice, presented by indigenous speakers during the Assembly’s 2014 high-level stocktaking event. The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators and the Statistical Commission should work with indigenous peoples in developing indicators related to their rights, especially to land, territories and resources.
In approving its report on self-harm and suicide among children and young people (document E/C.19/2015/L.4), the Forum declared: “This global challenge affects indigenous peoples in all regions.” Yet, the Forum had received no information from United Nations entities on global initiatives, leading it to conclude that the issue was not a priority. As such, it urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a strategy and/or programme to tackle self-harm and suicide among indigenous children and young people, and all States to increase human and financial resources to prevent youth self-harm and suicide.
In its report on “Half-day discussion on the Pacific region” (document E/C.19/2015/L.5), the Forum raised concerns on the many reported cases of violations of the collective rights of indigenous peoples in the Pacific region, including those to self-determination. It reiterated a recommendation made at its seventh session that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees focus on the vulnerability of indigenous peoples in the Pacific region, particularly in view of the effects of climate change.
Turning to its comprehensive dialogue with United Nations agencies (document E/C.19/2015/L.7), the Forum recommended that Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organize trainings, as well as establish mechanisms, such as workshops, for engaging indigenous peoples in its instruments and bodies. It should provide a progress report on such activities at the Forum’s fifteenth session. It encouraged States to outline social policies that enhanced the production of traditional food and promoted recovery of lost drought-resistant varieties, in order to ensure food security.
In approving its report on human rights (document E/C.19/2015/L.8), the Forum requested States and United Nations agencies to ensure indigenous peoples’ participation in negotiations for the 25 to 27 September United Nations summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda. It recommended that treaty bodies scrutinize States’ reports and human rights records with a view to addressing “rights ritualism” — which Ms. Davis had previously described as “lip service” paid to indigenous rights while shielding institutional or structural resistance to their realization.
“The Permanent Forum highlights the unprincipled positions and actions of States that undermine indigenous peoples’ human rights […] and that such conduct prejudices indigenous peoples globally and serves to weaken the international human rights system,” it declared in the text. States must take steps to ensure that their commitments were not violated in international forums.
Looking ahead, the Forum’s report on future work, (document E/C.19/2015/L.9), outlined its intention to make the formulation of an indigenous peoples development index a recurring part of its agenda, and recommended that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) assist the Forum in the development of such an index. Valmaine Toki was appointed to conduct a study on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Pacific Ocean, and both Edward John and Dalee Sambo Dorough to study how States exploited weak procedural rules in international organizations to devalue the Declaration.
In final action, the Forum approved, as orally revised, its report on the venue, dates and proceedings of its fourteenth session (document E/C.19/2015/L.6), introduced by Kara-Kys Arakchaa, Forum Member from the Russian Federation. By its terms, the Forum informed the Council of procedural and substantive actions taken during the session, including its opening and duration, the election of its officers, its agenda and the adoption of its draft decisions and recommendations.
Also speaking were the representatives of Nepal and Bolivia.
Wilton Littlechild, Expert member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, also addressed the Forum.