While progress had been made on a range of pressing challenges amid the world’s embrace of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, far more must be done to ensure that indigenous peoples were not left behind, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues heard today, during the opening of its sixteenth session.
Mariam Wallet Mohamed Aboubakrine (Burkina Faso), newly elected Chair of the sixteenth session, said that, while modest progress had been seen since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, fresh attention was needed to its implementation. The current session, running until 5 May, would focus on the theme “the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, she added.
As an advisory body of the Economic and Social Council, the Permanent Forum had an important role in the follow-up to and review of the 2030 Agenda, she said. “The odds we face in getting our rights respected and our self-determined development operationalized are many,” she added. “Thus, the approach is to strengthen partnerships so that we can consolidate and expand on our gains.”
Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, stated: “We have responded,” in regard to the request by indigenous peoples and Member States for increased engagement by the United Nations system. Citing the Organization’s initiatives across 17 agencies, he said such efforts would continue through the new international development phase guided by the 2030 Agenda.
Nonetheless, there was always room for improvement, he said. Describing the Declaration as a “road map”, he noted that indigenous peoples continued disproportionately to suffer poverty, discrimination and poor health care. “Their collective and individual rights are too often denied. This is unacceptable. We can do better. We must do better,” he stressed.
Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women, highlighted the place of indigenous women and girls in the discussions and outcomes of the most recent session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Appealing to Member States to contribute to ongoing efforts and support further progress, she said the international community could no longer tolerate a situation in which such precious stakeholders and actors for sustainable development were not only left behind, but also the furthest to reach.
Durga Prasad Bhattarai (Nepal), Vice-President of the General Assembly, also noted that far more needed to be done to fully realize the human rights of indigenous peoples. Underscoring the importance of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he said targeted strategies would ensure that indigenous peoples could fully participate in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Elaborating on that point, Cristián Barros Melet (Chile), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, although the 2030 Agenda pledged to leave no one behind, voluntary national reviews on implementation of the Goals highlighted that very risk for indigenous peoples. The Forum could make a significant contribution to the next high-level political forum on sustainable development, he said, encouraging indigenous peoples to be more involved in the realization of the 2030 Agenda.
Providing a national perspective, Canada’s Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs said her delegation included seven indigenous parliamentarians, and that several indigenous leaders from Canada had played a significant role at the United Nations. Reconciliation and decolonization were ongoing journeys that must feel like a partnership, although partisanship and ideology remained obstacles. “In Canada, we understand that reconciliation must include all Canadians,” she said. “It’s not just an indigenous issue. It is, for us, a Canadian imperative.” Going forward, all voices must be heard at the United Nations, including those of opposition parties and indigenous leaders.
As the Permanent forum’s afternoon meeting commenced, Les Malezar, Permanent Forum member from Australia, paid tribute to four people — Augusto Williamson-Diaz, Erica Irene-Daes, Henriette Rasmussen and Rodolfo Stavenhagen — who had worked towards the Declaration and who had passed away over the past year and a half. They, among others, should be remembered for their efforts which enabled indigenous peoples to celebrate the Declaration as a standard of equality and non-discrimination, he said.
Following that, ministers, senior officials and representatives of Member States, international bodies and non-governmental organizations participated in a discussion on measures taken to implement the Declaration.
South Africa’s Deputy Minister from that country’s department on traditional affairs noted that it might be time to consider the possibility of a legally binding convention on the rights of indigenous peoples. Other speakers drew attention to the particular situations in their respective countries. Some also noted how few countries had ratified the International Labour Organization’s Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, also known as ILO 169, since its adoption in 1989.
The Permanent Forum also adopted the agenda (document E/C.19/2017/1) and the organization of work (document E./C.9/2017/L.1), and elected the following Vice-Chairs: Phoolman Chaudhary, Jens Dahl, Jesus Guadalupe Fuentes Blanca and Terri Henry. It also elected Brian Keane as Rapporteur.
As the meeting commenced, Mónica Michelena Díaz from Uruguay sounded the traditional conch to signal the opening of the sixteenth session. Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, delivered his ceremonial welcome statement, emphasizing that all living beings must live as one. The Creator had known that the peoples of Earth needed help and had provided protectors to watch over them. Giving thanks to the Earth, sky and the protectors, he asked all participants to do the same.
Also speaking were representatives of Cameroon, El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and in its national capacity), Botswana, Venezuela, Norway, Mexico, Guyana, Bolivia, Colombia, Finland, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Australia, Panama, Cuba, Russian Federation and Guatemala. An observer of the Holy See also spoke.
Representatives of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Labour Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and International Fund for Agricultural Development also spoke.
Other speakers today were representatives of the Australian Human Right Commission, International Indian Treaty Council, Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, Te Hiko o Papauma Mandated Iwi Authority, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, Tonatierra, Indigenous Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean, Boro Women’s Justice Forum, Assyrian Aid Society in Iraq, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and Two Feathers International.
Permanent Forum members and experts from Australia, Ecuador and Peru spoke, as well.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 25 April, to continue its work.
TODADAHO SID HILL, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, delivered the annual ceremonial welcome to the Forum, emphasizing that all living beings must live as one. The Creator had known the people on Earth needed help and provided protectors to watch over them and selected a man, Handsome Lake, as a leader. Giving thanks to the Earth, sky and protectors, he asked all participants to follow suit.
DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), Vice-President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson (Fiji), noting that 2017 marked the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that discussions were ongoing within the Assembly on ways to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples within the Organization. In that regard, he encouraged Member States and indigenous peoples to participate in upcoming dialogues on a comprehensive draft text addressing the matter.
Far more needed to be done to fully realize the human rights of indigenous peoples, he continued, underscoring the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Targeted strategies would ensure that indigenous peoples could fully participate in implementing those accords. As well, issues of particular importance to indigenous communities must be addressed, he emphasized, highlighting the Ocean Conference to be held at Headquarters in June.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, as an advisory body of the Council, the Forum had an important role to play in providing specialized advice and recommendations. It was essential to review progress made to date and to consider what additional efforts were required. Although the 2030 Agenda included a promise to leave no one behind, voluntary national reviews on implementation of the Goals had highlighted the risk of indigenous peoples being left behind.
He underscored the contribution that the Forum could make to the next High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and encouraged indigenous peoples to be more involved in the realization of the 2030 Agenda. The Forum should meanwhile continue its collaboration with other Council bodies. Its recommendations would help ensure that provisions of the Declaration were promoted, he said, expressing hope that the Forum would provide advice and guidelines which ensured indigenous issues remained an integral part of the United Nations work.
MARIAM WALLET MOHAMED ABOUBAKRINE (Burkina Faso), Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that, while modest progress had been seen since the Declaration’s adoption, fresh attention was needed to implement the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations was increasingly engaged in indigenous issues, including through the system-wide action plan on the rights of indigenous peoples, the review of the Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and current consultations to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations. Still, Member States needed to include diversity, democracy and equal opportunities for all their inhabitants regardless of their cultural identities. The gap must be narrowed between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies on the ground.
She said the sixteenth session of the Permanent Forum would also focus on the empowerment of indigenous women and youth and would hold a discussion following up on the World Conference to provide an overview of recent developments and national action plans. Dialogues with Member States, indigenous peoples and the United Nations system would also take place, providing an opportunity to identify challenges and opportunities.
“The odds we face in getting our rights respected and our self-determined development operationalized are many,” she said. “Thus, the approach is to strengthen partnerships so that we can consolidate and expand on our gains.” As an advisory body of the Economic and Social Council, the Forum had an important role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. She urged Member States to give due consideration to the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly through the elaboration of national programmes, to ensure they were not left behind.
Providing an overview of the session’s work programme, she said the General Assembly President would conduct consultations 26 April and 3 May on the participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations meetings. For the first time, an indigenous media zone had been organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information. She also called on all representatives of Member States, indigenous peoples and the United Nations system to work together to make meaningful and worthwhile changes for the survival, dignity and well-being of all indigenous peoples. “The promotion and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples benefits us all,” she stated.
LENNI MONTIEL, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, speaking for Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, outlined United Nations actions, including hosting in 2014 the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and adopting in 2015 a system-wide action plan that identified concrete measures to support the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Currently, 17 United Nations agencies had provided information on their implementation of the action plan in all six action areas. Country-level implementation was critical, he said, highlighting that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs was facilitating dialogues between indigenous peoples and Governments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar, Nepal and Paraguay, and was supporting national processed to implement the Declaration in Namibia, Kenya, Cambodia and the Philippines.
Noting that indigenous peoples and Member States had requested increased engagement of the United Nations system, he added that “we have responded”, and cited further examples of such efforts, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). Those efforts would continue through the new international development phase guided by the 2030 Agenda.
“There is always room for improvement,” he stated. “We have the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as a road map. We have the system-wide action plan to guide the United Nations support. Yet, indigenous peoples continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, discrimination and poor health care. Their collective and individual rights are too often denied. This is unacceptable. We can do better. We must do better.”
CAROLYN BENNETT, Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada, said her country was formally retracting its concerns regarding paragraphs 3 and 20 of the 2014 Outcome Document from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Those paragraphs, which were about free, prior and informed consent, went to the heart of the Declaration. “In Canada, we understand that reconciliation must include all Canadians,” she said. “It’s not just an indigenous issue. It is, for us, a Canadian imperative.” Treaties signed between indigenous peoples and settlers must be honoured, and where they did not exist, new ways needed to be found to recognize indigenous rights and jurisdiction.
She said she was proud that Canada’s delegation to the Forum, including seven indigenous parliamentarians, and that several indigenous leaders from Canada had played a significant role at the United Nations. Going forward, it was crucial for all voices to be heard at the United Nations, including those of opposition parties and indigenous leaders. Reconciliation and decolonization were ongoing journeys that must feel like a partnership, although partisanship and ideology remained obstacles. In speaking to each other as equals, youth must be included at the table, she said, adding that the world needed to listen to the Forum’s wisdom and leadership.
LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the future of indigenous peoples, as well as the sustainable development project, would be jeopardized without the empowerment of indigenous women, who worldwide faced disproportionate levels of discrimination, exclusion and violence. Indigenous women and girls needed to be aware not only of their identity, but also their human rights, and they must claim those rights. She added that no traditional culture or custom could be invoked to justify and perpetrate violence and harmful practices against indigenous women.
The economic rights of indigenous women and the need for them to participate equally in decision-making, she underscored. Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services was a major area for redress, action and progress. Indigenous women were also major actors on the front lines of climate change action, she added, emphasizing their role as agents of change. Highlighting the place of indigenous women and girls in the discussions and outcomes of the most recent session of the Commission on the Status of Women, she said that the international community could no longer tolerate a situation in which such precious stakeholders and actors for sustainable development were not only left behind, but also the furthest to reach.
The Forum, beginning the discussion on the theme “tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: measures taken to implement the Declaration”, had before it a note by the Secretariat on that topic (document E/C.19/2017/4).
GERVAIS NZOA (Cameroon), opening the discussion, recalled that the Declaration was the international instrument that most thoroughly recognized the rights of indigenous peoples and had become the norm for national standards and international activities. The United Nations and its agencies must work to promote the full respect and implementation of its provisions. Although there had been significant progress in the 10 years since the Declaration’s adoption, indigenous peoples still continued to suffer exclusion, marginalization and other challenges that prevented them from enjoying their fundamental rights, including in the areas of education and health.
In some countries, there was formal recognition of indigenous peoples and the corresponding allocation of adequate resources, he continued. However, the political will of States was lacking in some cases. As well, donor programmes were of concern to some indigenous peoples, along with an absence of international pressure to fully implement the Declaration. Dialogue between Governments and indigenous peoples was also lacking, although many countries had in place constitutional and legislative frameworks that acknowledged indigenous peoples.
RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed the renewal by the Human Rights Council of the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. CELAC was fully commit to implementing the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and supported the General Assembly’s decision to proclaim 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. He also recalled the challenges faced by indigenous peoples, including poverty reduction and sustaining economic and social development.
BEATRICE DUNCAN, Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples, said the Group — comprising 42 institutions — congratulated all indigenous peoples on the tenth anniversary of the Declaration. She went on to draw attention to a number of initiatives undertaken by the Group in recent years.
JUNE OSCAR, Australian Human Rights Commission, emphasized that entity’s role in promoting and protecting the human rights of indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples by facilitating dialogue between the indigenous people and the Government and by submitting regular reports to Parliament. While acknowledging a recent visit to Australia by the Special Rapporteur, she added that despite numerous reports and recommendations, the country’s indigenous peoples remained the most disadvantaged section of the population. The Commission looked forward to working with the Government in order to breathe new life into the Declaration by way of a national implementation strategy.
SLUMBER TSOGWANE, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, said that the Declaration was an important step forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples, who were entitled to, without discrimination, all human rights recognized in international law. His country’s Constitution guaranteed fundamental freedoms and the basic human rights, which included equality before the law.
TIMOTHY HERMANN of the Holy See recalled that Pope Francis had recently met with groups representing indigenous peoples. The Pope had repeatedly stressed that he wished to promote the deepest longings of indigenous peoples and raise public awareness about the many threats to their identities, and in some cases, their very existence. Every effort must be made to promote the harmonization of indigenous peoples’ right to development with the right to economic development. Furthermore, the right of prior and informed consent must always prevail. Indigenous communities should be the principle dialogue partners when projects were proposed that would impact their ancestral lands. Indigenous peoples deserved not only respect, but also the world’s gratitude and support.
SAUL VICENTE VAZQUEZ, International Indian Treaty Council, expressed concern regarding activities by Member States that were actively opposing provisions laid out in the Declaration. Many countries had failed to uphold the principles of free, prior and informed consent. He recalled that the new President of the United States had issued an executive order on key infrastructure projects, including those related to energy on indigenous-held lands. Indigenous peoples had not consulted on those issues, nor was consent given. His organization proposed that the next Forum focus on measures and protocols that would ensure free, prior and informed consent.
ALOHA NUÑEZ, Minister for People’s Power for Indigenous People of Venezuela, associated herself with CELAC and said that the past 20 years had seen unprecedented change in her country, especially for indigenous peoples who had been duly recognized in the Constitution. They accounted for 2.8 per cent of the population. A raft of laws had been put into place to defend indigenous peoples and their communities. Despite a never-ending assault by violent sectors of the opposition and the meddling in the country’s affairs from outside its borders, Venezuela would face the challenges of indigenous peoples and implement the outcomes of the World Conference.
YON FERNANDEZ DE LARRINOA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), summarized some of the work that entity was doing in support of the Declaration’s implementation.
RUSSELL DIABO, Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, drew attention to the Algonquins of Barrière Lake in Quebec, Canada. There, a customary system of government had been replaced by the colonial Indian Act and the community put under third-party management. Their situation had worsened as a result, he said, recommending that the Forum ask the Government of Canada to implement the Declaration, which it had said it endorsed.
ANNE KARIN OLLI, Minister for Local Government and Modernisation of Norway, noted that, at the national level, her Government was taking steps to further strengthen the rights of the Sami people to participate in decision-making processes. The Government was currently conducting consultations with Sámediggi on a draft bill regarding consultation procedures in matters that would affect the Sami people directly. Norway had also recently adopted a new regulation related to the protection of traditional knowledge which ensured that free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people were obtained when others accessed and used their traditional knowledge associated with genetic material. In January, Norway, Sweden and Finland had concluded negotiations on the Nordic Sami Convention. Furthermore, over the last ten years, Norway had taken some important steps to improve the situation of indigenous women and children affected by violence.
MAIHI OELZ, International Labour Organization, said ensuring indigenous peoples’ equal access to training and education, employment, decent working conditions, social protection and support for sustainable enterprises was of strategic importance. The Declaration had empowered indigenous peoples to claim their rights and the new global accords on development and climate change specifically acknowledge indigenous peoples. The Declaration had also helped to increase attention to the discrimination and exclusion faced by indigenous women and persons with disabilities. The real test of success would be whether those efforts translated into tangible improvements in the daily lives of the over 370 million indigenous women and men across all regions of the globe.
ANIKA BRAWTAN, Te Hika o Papauma Mandated Iwi Authority, said her group had chosen the right to refrain from forced assimilation and requested that the Forum appeal to the New Zealand Government to ensure that the Te Haika o Papauma would not be forced to assimilate. Te Haika o Papauma sought redress for historical wrongs, including the loss of millions of acres of lands. She expressed concern that the Government had allowed larger tribal groups to take actions that violated her group’s rights.
NUVIA MAGDALENA MAYORGA DELGADO (Mexico) said that the Declaration served to allow indigenous peoples to pursue development while preserving their own identity. Prior to the Forum, Mexico had made significant progress on the rights of indigenous peoples thanks to the country’s constitutional reforms of 2000. Mexico had sought to harmonize its legislation and bring it up to the standards of the Declaration. The right to free determination and autonomy was provided for under Article 4 of Mexico’s Constitution, fully and without restriction.
KIRI TOKI, World Intellectual Property Organization, recalled that, since 2009, the Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore was undertaking intense text-based negotiations. The objective was to reach an agreement on an international legal instrument or instruments that would ensure the balanced and effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. In September, the Property Organization’s General Assembly would be taking stock of the progress made during the 2016/2017 biennium and decide on next steps. Indigenous peoples participated in those negotiators as observers and important stakeholders.
MUSA USMAN NDAMBA, Mborobo Social and Cultural Development Association of Cameroon, said the Government in his country was taking laudable efforts to implement the Declaration, with the Ministry of Social Affairs being the focal point for indigenous peoples and other minority groups. He also pointed out that the Association prioritized education, especially by providing access to culturally appropriate education for indigenous children.
LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum member from Australia, noting that fewer than 30 States had ratified ILO Convention 169, said he would like to hear from States and indigenous peoples, in their interventions, what impediments might be standing in the way of that instrument’s adoption.
VALERIE GARRIDO, Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs of Guyana, said her Government had been working assiduously towards full implementation of the Declaration, including its Article III regarding indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. In addition, the Government had put into place an ambitious programme whereby funds were released to indigenous communities to undertake community development projects. She emphasized that the principle of free, prior and informed consent was always upheld.
GONZALO OVIEDO, International Union for Conservation of Nature, outlined how the organization was implementing the Declaration, including the creation of tools to address issues, including the right to land. Expressing support for the Permanent Forum’s efforts to advance further gains, he said a rights-based approach must be upheld. Despite gains over the last decade, the Union aimed at dovetailing efforts with the United Nations to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights were respected.
IRVINCE AUGUISTE, Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization, said the recognition by certain States of some provisions of the Declaration but not others was unacceptable. To remedy that trend, he called on indigenous peoples to establish an independent monitoring body and requested that the next four expert group meetings focused on implementation efforts.
CARLOS MAMANI CONDORI (Bolivia) said the Declaration was not a concession, but the fruit of a fight that had been waged by indigenous communities themselves. Bolivia had upheld the rights of indigenous peoples for the benefit of the whole country. He reminded all participants that the Declaration was about ancestral lands and had recognized indigenous peoples’ links with Mother Earth. For its part, Bolivia would continue to support all indigenous movements.
ANTONELLA CORDONE, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provided an overview of concrete actions and results, including instruments that had been used to work with indigenous communities. Among other things, IFAD had established an indigenous forum to hold dialogues on a range of issues. Furthermore, free, prior and informed consent were principles that were being mainstreamed in IFAD programmes.
MAI THIN YU MON, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, said efforts to operationalize the implementation of the Declaration were part of her organization’s work. She urged Asian States to provide formal legal recognition of indigenous peoples, if they had not yet done so, and to respect the principles of consent. She recommended United Nations agencies and development partners to continue monitoring the Declaration’s implementation.
OBED BAPELA, Deputy Minister for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of South Africa, said that, on the occasion of the Declaration’s tenth anniversary, concrete action must be taken in order to give true meaning to the notion of leaving no one behind. Emphasizing the need to protect human rights defenders, particularly from corporate abuse, he said the Government had adopted an inclusive approach with regards to indigenous peoples. He added that it was time to reflect on the possibility of a legally binding convention on the rights of indigenous peoples.
KAMIRA NAIT SID, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, said the Secretariat’s notes contained no reference of the recognition of the rights of Amazigh people in the countries of North Africa, including Arabic and Islamic countries that preferred to call Amazigh a minority, thus denying their rights. That was a serious assault on the Amazigh, as well as an obstacle to the Declaration’s implementation.
LUIS ERNESTO, Deputy Minister for the Interior of Colombia, said that his country had achieved the highest standards of compliance with the Declaration with regard to dialogue and land ownership. Norms and standards had been issued to boost the standard of education and health care for indigenous peoples. Recalling the end of war in his country, he said the reality of life for Colombia’s indigenous peoples was vastly different from what it had been.
MARIO LUNA ROMARO, Tonatierra, said the situation of the Yaqui people in Mexico had not changed one jot. Treaties had been signed, but facts on the ground had not changed, and the State had failed to follow up on any judicial order. The Yaqui were not being heard and many sons and daughters found themselves behind bars. He said he hoped that violence against human rights defenders, including those involved with indigenous peoples, would end.
Mr. VALIMAA (Finland) underscored that indigenous people’s institutions, such as the Sami Parliament in Finland were not deemed non-governmental organizations, and therefore, lacked access to many United Nations meetings on issues affecting them. Enhancing indigenous people’s participation at the United Nations could only be achieved through partnership between indigenous people and Member States. Commending the work of the Commission on the Status of Women, he said it was important that the United Nations continued to recognize and support the essential role of indigenous women. Finland was committed to ensuring that the Sami, as an indigenous people, maintained and developed their own language and culture. However, he said, he recognized the challenges in reconciling the Government’s views with those of the Sami Parliament.
WILLIAM SOTO SANTIAGO, Indigenous Fund for Latin American and Caribbean Countries, said his organization’s efforts included recent initiatives targeting youth. Peoples from across the region could come together to discuss pressing issues, from women’s rights to ancestral land claims. Meetings always produced written proposals, with members currently drafting a constitution and charter for indigenous peoples and for Mother Earth.
DEVONNEY MCDAVIS (Nicaragua) said land ownership cases were being settled, with communities working together on the principle of shared use. A political reform in 2014 had changed terminology, from “indigenous” to “original” peoples. That change had seen the recognition of their rights in areas including dispensing justice, which, among other initiatives, had helped with the Declaration’s implementation.
ANJALI DAIMARI, Boro Women’s Justice Forum, said her people had been fighting for the right to self-determination, which had led to human rights violations, including youth and women being killed, maimed and exploited. The Boro people had being fighting for their rights for decades to no avail. India was evading the situation and should restore the Boro people’s rights and protect their land.
JORGE ALBERTO JIMENEZ (El Salvador) said his country was committed to putting an end to the social marginalization of indigenous peoples. El Salvador had begun a process to uphold the principles of consent and had worked on various issues, including the due recognition of indigenous peoples’ cultural wisdom. Reforms had been undertaken in legislation and the Constitution, opening doors to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples.
SHOUSHAN TOWER, Assyrian Aid Society, stressed that the indigenous peoples of the Middle East, specifically in Iraq, were facing increased challenges to their very existence. Since 2014, the Assyrian Christians had suffered genocide under Da’esh and many Assyrian historical sites and cities had been destroyed. Assyrian Christians were unable to go back to their homes due to political instability, the lack of security, basic public services and the massive amount of damage inflicted on the infrastructure. The Iraqi Parliament had designated the Nineveh Plains region a disaster area following its liberation, although trespassing and the confiscation of indigenous people’s lands continued.
PATRICIA O'CONNOR (Australia), speaking also for the Australian Human Rights Commission, said the tenth anniversary of the Declaration was an opportunity for States to reflect on its implementation. Ongoing dialogue would ensure that the Declaration would keep making a difference. Her Government was analysing its policies and initiatives in relation to the Declaration in order to identify successes, as well as gaps. She also noted she was interested in hearing about lessons learned — both negative and positive — from Member States and indigenous peoples.
CONDUCT HANG, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, said Governments could still deny the existence of their indigenous peoples. Countries specifically in Asia had yet to uphold ILO Convention 169. She recommended that a study be undertaken on those countries that did not recognize indigenous peoples, for the Declaration to be published in indigenous languages, and for Viet Nam to open a dialogue with its indigenous peoples.
ISBETH QUIEL (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, emphasized her country’s robust commitment to the Declaration, noting that it had adopted a raft of provisions with regard to its implementation. Indigenous peoples made up 12 per cent of Panama’s population, she said, adding that the country worked to uphold the values of indigenous peoples as a key part of its national identity.
Ms. GUERRERO, Two Feathers International, said empowering indigenous women was critical when addressing the issue of informed consent. In Colombia, communities were rooted in living in the Amazon area, using their knowledge of plants to feed and care for themselves. Mother Earth had provided people with emeralds, gold and oil, yet extracting or mining those resources was a violation. All goods that were underground must remain there, she said, emphasizing that the Earth must be protected.
LOURDES TIBÁN GUALA, Forum expert from Ecuador, said protecting land and territory was essential. In her country, reporting to communities on what people planned to do was not enough. Many believed the Declaration should not be domesticated and that it could just be filed and put away. States must work hard to ensure its implementation.
TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, Forum member from Peru, said the Declaration had covered rights that extended to education, the ability to establish organizations to protect and preserve land and to intellectual property. Yet, all the rights in the Declaration must be equally enjoyed by men and women. Economic empowerment was equally important and women must be included in those efforts. There were beautiful models of ideal initiatives, she said, urging that it was time to move from theory to action.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with CELAC, said that, 10 years after the adoption of the Declaration, many indigenous communities around the world still faced violence, racism and major economic and social disadvantages. Cuba supported the right of indigenous peoples to fully enjoy their traditional and millennial rights and to preserve their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions without discrimination. She reiterated her support for Bolivia’s right to defend and protect coca leaf chewing as a tradition of their indigenous communities. Actions must be aimed at harmonizing policies for the conservation of protected areas with respect for the ancestral values of indigenous peoples.
KRISTINA SUKACHEVA (Russian Federation) said steps at the international level to implement the Declaration must be matched by corresponding steps at the national level. She said her country was among the few in which the status of indigenous peoples were enshrined both legislatively and constitutionally. She went on to emphasize a pressing need for a database that would enable the exchange of positive experiences and best practices, as well as a further strengthening of the capabilities of specialized United Nations agencies.
Ms. DOMINGUEZ SEBASTIAN (Guatemala), associating herself with CELAC, said that, in 2016, her country hosted a well-attended seminar on challenges involved in implementing the Declaration. In education, bilingual text books had been published, while health and social services were being brought in line with cultural sensitivities. As well, the rights of indigenous peoples were being incorporated into land planning activities.