Participants Also Take Up Special Needs of Young People in Implementing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The empowerment of indigenous women as powerful agents of change could only strengthen their communities and nations in the face of environmental and other challenges, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues heard today.
Addressing the Forum’s ongoing sixteenth session, speakers recalled the many challenges faced by indigenous women — sexual violence, lack of educational opportunities and their absence from decision-making — but many also cast a spotlight on what they could achieve going forward.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s speaker said innovative models existed where communities drove social change by using cultural knowledge — in art, traditional foods, tourism and therapeutic trades — to create economic opportunities. She recommended that the Permanent Forum urge States to adequately fund indigenous organizations to promote self-determination and women’s participation, and to establish accountability measures as a way of reducing violence, imprisonment and child removals.
Finland’s representative, on behalf of the Nordic countries, called indigenous women change agents who passed indigenous culture and language on to future generations. Identifying and addressing discrimination, as well as the causes and consequences of violence against indigenous women and girls, “goes to the heart of promoting gender equality and empowerment,” he said, emphasizing that indigenous women and girls must be free to make informed decisions over their own bodies.
The speaker from the International Indian Treaty Council, referring to the use of toxic pesticide, said environmental violence impacted the right to health, including reproductive health. Her counterpart from the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network said States and indigenous communities should create mechanisms to ensure equal access to land tenure for indigenous women. The speaker of the Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee said the role of men and boys should be encouraged to combat violence against women.
Today’s meeting also took up the situation of indigenous youth, with speakers emphasizing the importance of addressing their special needs in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Many called for an end the criminalization of protests seeking to protect indigenous people’s rights.
In the morning, the Permanent Forum continued its discussion of the six mandated areas related to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many speakers emphasized the challenges faced by their communities that involved land and water rights as well as the right to self-determination.
In that context, the speaker from Pahtamawiikan, stressing that indigenous peoples would be victimized by “America’s new bully-in-chief”, requested that a peacekeeping force be deployed throughout the United States. His counterpart from the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade said it was time to “unsettle” settler States and adopt an enforceable covenant on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, setting out several recommendations, said States and corporations must be held accountable for ensuring that resource development did not violate treaty rights.
The speaker from the Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia said that, while Colombia was in the midst of a peace process, indigenous peoples’ rights were being violated, with dozens killed in April in the absence of legislation to protect them. In Africa, said the speaker from the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, indigenous peoples used to be a political taboo, but it was essential to discuss them in order to tackle deep-rooted social and political ills.
From Asia, the speaker from the Society for Threatened Peoples said that, in 2016 and 2017, China had increased pressure on the Uyghur people and their cultural and linguistic rights. Responding, China’s delegate said that was a false statement and that not all countries had indigenous peoples.
Commenting on the discussion, Les Malezer, Permanent Forum member from Australia, said rights must be recognized and respected within the laws of a State. The plethora of reported violations of prior consent principles clearly indicated that the rule of law was not being applied, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, Nepal, Viet Nam, Guyana, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Russian Federation, Ecuador and Denmark.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, Indonesia National Commission on Human Rights, Forest Peoples’ Programme, Kimberly Land Council of Australia, American Indian Law Alliance, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas-Campesinas de Bolivia, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, National Khoi and San Council, Confederacíon Sindical de Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc., National Indigenous Women’s Forum, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Centro para la Autonomia y Desarollo de los Pueblos Indigenas, Kapaeeng Foundation, Land Is Life, Inc., VIVAT International and Franciscans International, Assyrian Aid Society, International Native Tradition Interchange, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, Te Hika o Papauma, Global Centre of Indigenous Language Excellence, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, Fiji Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation, CHIRAPAQ, National Human Rights Institution of Norway, MADRE, International Indigenous Women’s Forum, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, Indigenous Peoples’ Law and Policy Programme, Gitanmaax Band, Finnish Sami Youth Organization, Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact and National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
Representatives from the International Development Law Organization, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also spoke.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Chair of the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women, addressed the Permanent Forum by video message.
Permanent Forum members from Denmark, Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Russian Federation, Finland, Cameroon and the United States made interventions.
The Permanent Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 28 April, to continue its sixteenth session.
OBED BAPELA (South Africa) said progress in service delivery had been achieved in areas including health, housing and rural development. The pre-1994 fragmented race-based health system had been replaced with a comprehensive one serving all. South Africa had embarked on protecting traditional medicine and health practices, including the conservation of vital plants, animals and minerals and current initiatives addressed all pertinent issues affecting cultural rights.
GRAND CHIEF WILTON LITTLECHILD, a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recommended that the Permanent Forum remind States of their international commitments to end poverty and hunger, protect human rights, promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and ensure lasting protection of the planet and natural resources. It should emphasize that poverty represented a denial of human rights and human dignity. It should further underline that the impacts of poverty were interrelated and compounded by unsustainable development, as well as reiterate that States must respect treaties with indigenous peoples. For their part, States and corporations must be held accountable for ensuring that resource development did not violate treaty rights, he said, pressing the Permanent Forum to remind States that indigenous peoples’ right to development was an integral part of their right to self-determination.
VALENTIN LOPEZ, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, said her people were part of a federally unrecognized tribe from California, raising two heritage-related concerns. The California Mission Foundation, along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was seeking to have a portion of the El Camino Real listed as a recognized site, which would steal indigenous heritage. The tribe’s most sacred site, Juristac, was being threatened by a proposed sand and gravel mining project. If approved, it would demonstrate the continued destruction and domination of the Mutsun peoples, cultures, environments and spirituality.
JUDIT ARENAS, International Development Law Organization, said every person should live in dignity under the rule of law based on principles of social inclusion and sustainable development. To advance the principles of equality, the organization had worked to ensure legal pluralism, ensuring that common law existed in legal systems to extend justice beyond court houses in a manner that respected traditional law. It also had adopted a plan focusing on access to justice and ending inequality while recognizing the need to work with customary justice.
LUIS FERNANDO ARIAS, Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia, said the country was currently in a peace process, yet indigenous peoples continued to have their rights violated, with dozens killed in April in the absence of Government legislation to protect them. Vigilantes were operating in regions of Colombia, he said, asking the Permanent Forum to organize a mission there to monitor and verify the situation on the ground.
SANDRAYATI MONIAGA, Indonesia National Commission on Human Rights, said the majority of communal lands had not been returned to indigenous peoples, whose leaders faced resistance to their efforts to remedy that situation. The Commission supported robust efforts to end those conflicts and human rights violations, she said, calling on Governments and related organizations to suspend projects that had resulted in or sustained the current situation. Root causes must be examined, she said, requesting that Indonesia expedite a bill on the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and establish an institution to promote those actions.
MILKA CHEPKORIR, Forest Peoples’ Programme, speaking on behalf of 11 organizations, raised concerns about indigenous communities displaced from their lands because of conservation-related efforts. Citing several examples, she said thousands had been evicted from ancestral lands in the United Republic of Tanzania and called for heightened attention to the issue.
ANTHONY WATSON, Kimberley Land Council of Australia, called on the Permanent Forum to urge States to acknowledge that implementation of the Declaration would only come through indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making. Australia should review and overhaul the country’s native title legislation, and make the resolution of native title land claims a priority. Native title rights must be given due recognition as propriety or property rights.
BOB ANTONE, American Indian Law Alliance, emphasized dangers in such places as Ontario, where, in one location, indigenous people lived in the vicinity of 62 petrochemical plants. He called for a United Nations convention on water, and for the Organization to address conflicts that industrialized nations were having with Earth and the climate. He also requested United Nations assistance in the areas of indigenous youth and international travel.
LUCIO AYALA SIRIPI, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indigenas Campesinas y Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, cited advances that had been made by his country’s indigenous peoples. Regular meetings enabled representatives to discuss future projects with the President. However, while progress had been made in the last 11 years, more must be done, he said.
BIDHAYAK CHAKMA, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, said the human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts had worsened due to, among other things, non-recognition of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh and opposition among Bengali settlers to implementation of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord. Atrocities by the security forces had intensified, as well, he said, recommending that the Permanent Forum and international community encourage Bangladesh to set out a road map for the full implementation of the Accord and to end a culture of impunity so as to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to justice.
FABIANA DEL POPOLO, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said rights must be monitored and work related to implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was being carried out. Projects targeted communities who were bordering on extinction and other groups, including women and youth. Highlighting population and housing efforts, she said ECLAC had organized a seminar to raise awareness and identify indicators for tracking progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
CECIL LE FLEUR, National Khoi and San Council, said South Africa had started to formalize key legislative and policy approaches, but more must be done. Target areas to be addressed included collective rights, such as recognition of customary institutions, languages, land rights and land-related issues.
VICTOR CABEZAS VALENCIA, Confederacíon Sindical de Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, said there were many concerns over the respect for indigenous peoples. He urged all Governments to put their commitments into action in order to affect real change in realizing the rights of all indigenous peoples.
TAWERA TAHURI, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc., speaking for several other groups, raised concerns about oil drilling and the threat of spills in New Zealand. She and dozens of other indigenous peoples strongly opposed seismic surveying and drilling, which violated their rights to their territories. Expressing opposition to ocean abuse, she noted the forthcoming World Oceans Conference and called on the Permanent Forum to establish a separate co-commission for oceans that would examine and act on those issues.
YASSO KANTI BHATTACHAN, National Indigenous Women’s Forum, discussed the situation in Nepal where, she said the Constitution gave primacy to the dominant caste. It should instead be amended or rewritten to make it fully compatible with the Declaration, urging the Government to establish a mechanism for legislative consultation with indigenous peoples.
HAWE HAMMAN BOUBA, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, said the issue of indigenous peoples used to be a political taboo in Africa, but it was essential to discuss them in order to tackle the deep-rooted ills thwarting progress towards democracy, good governance, development and justice. There had been some positive developments, including the ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 (Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries) in Congo and the Central African Republic. However, indigenous peoples in Africa continued to face discrimination and marginalization, as well as loss of their land to agro-industries, dam and road building, and oil, mineral and forest exploitation.
HEATHER BEAR, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said that, in Canada, the status quo remained in terms of meaningful action related to indigenous peoples and their organizations. Indigenous communities were in crisis: children went to bed hungry every night and water was often unsafe to drink. Canada must take giant leaps rather than baby steps in fully implementing the Declaration, she said, and must respect, promote and enforce indigenous peoples’ treaty rights.
ILLA MAINALI (Nepal) said her country had taken steps, despite budget constraints, to address the rights of all. The rights of indigenous peoples were protected in the Constitution and the Government continued to do its best to address concerns.
KARINA WILLIS, Centro para la Autonomia y Desarollo de los Pueblos Indigenas, said she had worked for years to combat violence against women and children in communities on the coast of Nicaragua. The Government had made progress and communities had made gains in education, health and other areas. In addition, the legal framework recognized and respected indigenous peoples’ rights, in line with the Declaration.
JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum member from Denmark, said States had a responsibility to act in good faith and solve issues of all kinds. He urged indigenous peoples to negotiate with Governments to solve problems. Yet, reports today had shown that indigenous peoples faced extrajudicial killings in Colombia and violations had been mentioned about communities in Bangladesh. He urged Governments to negotiate solutions with indigenous peoples.
TARCILA TIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, said addressing the needs of indigenous women, children and youth was an unresolved issue at all levels. She urged States that intended — and had committed — to respecting their rights to solve problems involving access to health care, education and healthy food.
BABLU CHAKMA, Kapaeeng Foundation, said land-grabbing, in Bangladesh and worldwide, had displaced thousands of families, evicted communities and must be addressed. Most violations against indigenous peoples in Bangladesh centred on land, and the rehabilitation of Bengalis settled outside the Chittagong Hill Tracts was essential. He urged the Permanent Forum to encourage Bangladesh to adopt the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission rules of business and to allocate to it adequate funds and personnel.
ELIFURAHA LALTAIKA, Permanent Forum member from South Africa, said evictions due to conservation efforts must be addressed and had long needed a close examination. Recurrent evictions persisted, he said, including in Africa.
ROSA RAMOS, Land Is Life, Inc., noting that Chile had many types of land, said indigenous peoples lived in the desert, among other areas. With traditional and historical knowledge of water systems, indigenous peoples’ rights must be recognized and water sources must be respected, she said, citing threats to natural resources from geothermal energy developments and corporations that polluted.
ANTHONY JAY VAN DUNK, Pahtamawiikan, stressing that indigenous peoples would be victimized by the actions of “America’s new bully-in-chief”, requested that a peacekeeping force be deployed throughout the United States. A vehicle should also be created that would enable charges to be dropped against political prisoners who had stood up for clean water at Standing Rock, he said.
JESÚS GUADALUPE FUENTES BLANCO, Permanent Forum member from Mexico, noting the absence of some participants from the room when their time had come to speak, called on participants to remain in the room, closely follow the proceedings and make full use of speaking time.
ODILE COIRIER, Franciscans International and Vivat International, said those two groups were deeply focused on the situation affecting indigenous peoples in West Papua, the Philippines and Brazil. In those areas, Governments too often lacked respect for their right to health and she urged States to allocate funds for indigenous health care, document and identify indigenous health needs and ensure that solutions were designed with the consent of the communities concerned.
SHOUSHAN TOWER, Assyrian Aid Society, noting the displacement of indigenous peoples by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), recommended that Iraq increase its budget for infrastructure in the Nineveh Plains region, rebuild homes there and implement investment projects that would create jobs for indigenous peoples. The university at Bakhdeda should be rebuilt and United Nations agencies should allocate funds to benefit the Nineveh Plains people.
FATHER REY ONDAP, Passionist International, emphasized the situation in the Sarangani province of the Philippines, where he said indigenous peoples suffered persistent poverty, as well as a lack of opportunities to improve their economic situation.
ROCIO VELANDIA, International Native Tradition Interchange, said she was currently involved in a fight to protect a river. Highlighting the lack of recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, she said corporations and States had violated the rights of Mother Earth. She called for the full application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration and ILO Convention 169, emphasizing that the current Standing Rock conflict in the United States to protect Mother Earth was widely supported and represented the fight for the right to clean water.
KAMIRA SID NAIT, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, said North African States had adopted the Declaration, but the reality was notably imperfect, with grave violations against her people being committed in Algeria by the police, including detentions and threats. Those crimes must end and be investigated, she said, appealing for assistance in that regard. In Morocco, women and children died from a lack of health care and from poverty, while land desecration and seizures had occurred without prior consent.
DIMITRI ZAITCEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, said special attention should be paid to water sources, as it was clear that ill-conceived industrial projects were causing irreparable damage to the environment. Indigenous peoples often faced such circumstances against their will, forced to either leave their homeland or live in it with serious damages. Forced migration was a problem, he said, proposing the discussion of those issues through a lens that recognized the “life or death” situations facing many indigenous peoples. A practical dialogue must explore what could be done and what was expected.
ANITA BROUGHTON, Kanienkehaka Traditional Council, asked the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to investigate New Zealand’s policy and settlement processes for her people, who had the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture by being forced into larger tribal groups before legislations was adopted. She also called on Member States to take steps to ensure that policies and processes did not subject small tribal groups to forced assimilation.
RUSSELL DIABO, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, said colonialism had brought slavery, depopulation and economic dependence to indigenous peoples with no punishment for settler States. Multinational corporations were a new form of colonialism, he said, and for indigenous peoples, there was no emancipation proclamation. It was time to unsettle settler States, adopt an enforceable covenant on the rights of indigenous peoples and end colonialism.
GUY REITER, Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa Flying Eagle Woman Fund for Peace , Justice and Sovereignty, referred to a proposed open-pit metallic sulphide mine on the banks of the Menominee River in Michigan. A Canadian development stage company had sought permits to undertake that project, located in the vicinity of Menominee burial mounds and raised agricultural gardens. “My story is your story. I hear it all the time,” he said, adding that indigenous peoples would not be silenced so long as their lands, language and culture were threatened.
QIVIOQ NIVI LOVSTROM, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, emphasized the importance of the collective voice of indigenous youth, who were the future of indigenous peoples. Stressing that extraction activities on indigenous lands and waters undermined their rights, she urged the Permanent Forum, Member States and the United Nations to review their mechanisms for indigenous youth participation, and condemned the intimidation tactics used by law enforcement against indigenous peoples.
ANNE NUORGAM, Permanent Forum member from Finland, said a conflict resolution mechanism was needed between indigenous peoples and Member States, or indigenous peoples and extractive industries. Almost all speakers today had underscored the importance of indigenous land rights and water resources, as well as the need for consent mechanisms.
DMITRII KHARAKKA-ZAITSEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, requested that participants share information on education for indigenous peoples, including for training indigenous language teachers, which would help the Permanent Forum develop its recommendations.
NAMAKA ROLLINS, Global Centre of Indigenous Language Excellence, said an expert group meeting had resulted in the Assembly’s declaration that 2019 would be the International Year of Indigenous Languages. A strategy report was being drafted on progress to date and actions to be taken, she said, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples and their languages within their respective States.
OMER KANAT, Society for Threatened Peoples, said that, in 2016 and 2017, China had increased pressure on the Uyghur people and their cultural and linguistic rights. Legal steps must be taken at all levels, he said, emphasizing that an interpretation of a new terrorism law could jeopardize indigenous communities and their rights to exist. He demanded that his people’s rights be respected.
LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum member from Australia, said rights must be recognized and respected within the laws of a State, including that to self-determination. He proposed a side event to explore, at the seventeenth session, those and related issues, stressing that the plethora of reported violations of prior consent principles clearly indicated that the rule of law was not being applied.
CHU GUANG (China) said the representative of the Society for Threatened Peoples made a false statement. China was unified, with many ethnic groups, including the Uyghurs. Not all countries had indigenous persons, he said, emphasizing that the Society for Threatened Peoples supported terrorist activities. Freedom and beliefs of all ethnic groups were protected in Xinjiang as were rights, he said.
THIDA CHAU, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, stressing that the right to self-identification could not be denied, said her people’s rights had been violated over land conflicts and the Government must step in to ensure that rights were upheld. Citing a range of damage to cultural heritage sites, she said the Declaration must do its job in protecting indigenous communities in Viet Nam.
GERVAIS NZOA, Permanent Forum member from Cameroon, described a lack of international pressure to ensure the Declaration’s full implementation and a dearth of dialogue between Governments and indigenous peoples. As the Permanent Forum evaluated that instrument’s implementation, emerging challenges must be addressed in order for the body to fulfil its mandate, he said, suggesting a review of working methods.
NGUYEN DUY THANH (Viet Nam) rejected claims by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, describing it as a foreign-based organization that aimed to separate the country. Viet Nam included 54 ethnic groups that had lived in harmony for generations. Citing economic development achievements, he said Viet Nam had also been implementing relevant human rights instruments.
ADI ASENACA CAUCAU, Fiji Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation, noting that his people’s rights had been violated, said there had been a lack of free, prior and informed consent and that election results had been questionable, with indigenous peoples barred from participating in the political process. There had been systematic abuse of indigenous rights in Fiji, preventing communities from achieving progress. He pressed the Permanent Forum to urge Fiji to respect the Declaration.
Mr. MALEZER, Permanent Forum member from Australia, said it was difficult for groups to speak to Governments. He welcomed Viet Nam’s representative to the discussion, and asked China’s representative — and other States that condemned indigenous groups or said they had links to terrorism — to provide examples of positive contributions.
Ms. RIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, said progress had been made in implementation efforts. Stressing that peoples or rights defenders could not be referred to as “terrorists”, she recalled that when indigenous peoples had first gathered to discuss such issues, they said “we are not an ethnicity” and that fact held true today.
BRIAN KEANE, Permanent Forum member from the United States, presented an update on the implementation of recommendations from the Forum’ fifteenth session. He reported progress in a number of areas, such as including the empowerment of indigenous women on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women, and increasing the participation of indigenous youth in United Nations entities.
Noting that the General Assembly had proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, through its resolution 71/178 on the rights of indigenous peoples, he said there had also been progress on implementing a system-wide action plan on the rights of indigenous peoples. Success in achieving recommendations depended on active follow-up, he explained. Recommendations that were concrete, actionable and adhered to the “SMART” criteria were the easiest to follow up on, he said, adding that recommendations should reflect the discussions and advice heard during Permanent Forum sessions.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, participants raised a number of issues related to the system-wide action plan, the work of Special Rapporteurs, human rights and land rights situations, and relations with Member States.
Mr. KEANE, in response, expressed his hope that a closed session next weekend would enable the Permanent Forum to have a frank and open dialogue with Governments.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), Chair of the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women, addressed the Permanent Forum by video message. A key message that had emerged from the session was that indigenous women could help solve many of the challenges faced by societies and women around the world. Indigenous women faced specific threats of domestic violence, sexual abuse, labour exploitation and trafficking, as well as the impact of climate change. Through its agreed conclusions, the Commission recognized that the economic empowerment and inclusion of indigenous women would enable them to achieve greater economic independence and build more resilient communities.
Mr. POYSARI (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said indigenous women were change agents who passed indigenous culture and language to future generations. Welcoming the system-wide action plan as being firmly rooted in a human rights- and gender-based approach, he said the differential impacts of policies and programmes on women, men, boys and girls must be considered. Identifying and addressing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as the causes and consequences of violence against indigenous women and girls “goes to the heart of promoting gender equality and empowerment”. Calling for the protection of their rights, including indigenous women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, he emphasized that they must be able to freely make informed decisions over their own bodies. The Forum and other United Nations bodies should also address the empowerment of indigenous women.
JOHN SCOTT, speaking on behalf of Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Convention on Biological Diversity, said traditional knowledge, customary sustainable use of biodiversity and the participation of indigenous peoples had been integrated in the Convention. Progress on traditional knowledge had been seen at the thirteenth Conference of States parties, where the Mo’otz Kuxtal Voluntary Guidelines also had been adopted, providing guidance to parties and other Governments on developing national arrangements to ensure the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in accessing their knowledge. Gains had also been made in ensuring indigenous peoples were included in the revision and implementation of national biodiversity strategies and action plans and in Convention-related meetings.
JUNE OSCAR, Australian Human Rights Commission, said women made many contributions while experiencing significant trauma from past policies and current contexts in which they lived. Greater emphasis on violence against women would ensure better outcomes. Innovative models existed, where communities drove social change by using cultural knowledge – in art, traditional foods, tourism and therapeutic culture-based economies - to create economic opportunities. The Permanent Forum should urge States to adequately fund indigenous organizations to promote self-determination and women’s participation, and to establish accountability measures as a way of highlighting progress on reducing violence, imprisonment and child removals.
VALERIE GARRIDO-LOWE, Minister of Parliament and Minister for Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs of Guyana, described the launch of a $5 million project to advance the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service programmes. Those programmes, which provided indigenous youth with the skills and materials needed for self-development, were complemented by Government provisions to ensure access to higher education and information and communications technology facilities within indigenous communities. On women’s empowerment, the Government had commissioned its first study on indigenous women and children, aimed at providing policymakers and others with substantive, evidence-based data to help address existing gaps in honouring the rights of Guyana’s First Peoples. It also continued to support indigenous women’s entrepreneurial development as a means of combatting poverty and was working to improve its delivery of social services, especially related to maternal health.
BEATRICE DUNCAN, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that, in Brazil, the organization was committed to empowering indigenous women in all aspects of their lives through a project carried out with Norway that enabled 24 leaders to act as “multipliers” and community mobilizers. Such initiatives helped to ensure that indigenous women participated in decision-making.
AGNES LEINA, Indigenous People of Africa Coordination Committee, recommended encouraging the role of men and boys in combating violence against women, that all African States launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage and prioritize indigenous women’s ownership, control and management of natural resources. Further, she urged the inclusion of women in all decision-making processes and that they be empowered economically through affirmative action and entrepreneurship.
Mr. MOORE (Canada) said only 36 per cent of indigenous women had a post-secondary education and were less likely than men or non-indigenous women to overcome economic barriers due to limited access to capital. Violence against women and girls in all social strata was an epidemic that “sickened” Canada. As such, an independent inquiry had been launched into the systemic causes of all forms of violence endured by indigenous women and girls, he said, stressing that economic empowerment was essential to restoring their authority and respect. Over the past two years, the Government had committed nearly Can$12 billion in funding to close the gap in socioeconomic outcomes for indigenous people.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting that Article 31 of the Declaration could uplift the rights of indigenous women, extended an invitation to the second World Indigenous People’s Games, taking place in Canada in July. Besides traditional games and sports, it would include cultural celebrations and human rights conferences, he said.
ELEANOR DICTAAN-BANG-OA, Asia Indigenous Women’s Network, demanded the withdrawal of military and other armed groups from indigenous communities. States and indigenous communities should facilitate mechanisms that would ensure equal access to land tenure for indigenous women and girls. She also emphasized the need to strengthen the ability of communities to address the factors underpinning violence against indigenous women.
JANINE MADELINE OTÁLORA MALASSIS, President Magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal of Mexico, said her country had made great steps towards guaranteeing equality. However, political violence obstructed the exercise of human rights. Therefore, Mexico had adopted a protocol to address such violence against women, she said, underscoring the need for mechanisms to facilitate indigenous women’s access to justice.
MARIA BELEN CONSTANZA BERNAL, CHIRAPAQ, recommended that women be included in the review of mechanisms for indigenous peoples. She also demanded freedom for incarcerated women and protection of their rights.
MARINA MOREIRA COSTA PITTELLA (Brazil) said her country had taken a number of steps to advance issues related to indigenous women, domestically and within the United Nations.
ANDREA CARMEN, International Indian Treaty Council, said environmental violence was a priority as it affected the right to health, including reproductive health. Halting those violations required passing national laws and implementing relevant conventions. The country review of Mexico had contained reports on the impacts of toxic pesticide use, including birth defects, reproductive impairments and infant and child deaths, she said, calling on that Government to stop importing such chemicals. She reiterated the call for a legal review of the United Nations chemical conventions.
MARIA ROSELIA POL CAL (Guatemala) said efforts had been made to advance the rights of indigenous women, including through initiatives to increase their participation. Guatemala had provided institutional budgetary support for related projects. The more people were involved in making decisions, the more democracy would take hold, she said.
PETTER WILLE, National Human Rights Institution of Norway, outlined a recent report on violence in indigenous communities, stressing that cultural and language barriers obstructed the use of health and social services. Police and other authorities must be more sensitive, he said, recommending that the Permanent Forum kept the issue of violence against indigenous women and girls high on the agenda.
RACHEL O’CONNOR (Australia) said empowering indigenous women strengthened their many contributions to society and the economy. Good education and financial security could supply women with more control over their lives. A national action plan with targeted funding aimed at improving conditions in order to break the cycle of family violence, among other problems.
LUCY MULENKEI, MADRE, speaking for several African indigenous women’s organizations and partners, recommended that Member States and United Nations agencies include women and girls in implementing national and global development frameworks. She urged the Permanent Forum to work closely with both United Nations agencies and indigenous groups to establish mechanisms to monitor implementation of the Declaration and to conduct a study on the impact of climate change on women. Urging Member States, United Nations agencies and donors to work with indigenous women at the national level to enhance economic opportunities, she reiterated that the seventeenth session’s theme should be water.
JACLYN WILLIAMS (New Zealand) said indigenous women had made many contributions to development, and the growth and expansion of services. Progress included higher numbers of women graduating from school and participating in the labour force. For its part, New Zealand had allocated funds towards projects targeting further gains.
TERESA ZAPETA, International Indigenous Women’s Forum, said priorities for action included providing financial resources for women’s leadership. She urged United Nations agencies to provide adequate programming budgets and expressed encouragement for efforts by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other organizations in that context.
LANISHA BELL (United States) said the international community must keep working to identify solutions to violence against indigenous women and girls. The United States had taken both domestic and international action in that regard, including the establishment of a North American Working Group on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls during a 2016 leaders summit. On indigenous youth, she emphasized work by the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which had the goal of making United States tribal nations prosperous and resilient. She was pleased to see so many indigenous youth at the Permanent Forum session.
JESSICA VEGA, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, said a recent meeting had reviewed the implementation of the Declaration. While there had been national and international progress on individual and collective rights, studies were needed to better guide actions towards addressing the range of objectives that had yet to be achieved. In implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, young people’s special needs must be addressed. She recommended that Member States and indigenous peoples invest in youth and the creation of a global consultative forum within the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with a view to eliminating hunger. The criminalization of protests to protect indigenous peoples’ rights also must stop.
NICOLA SHEPHERD, Division for Social Policy and Development, Co-Chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, said many entities had included indigenous youth in events, including intergovernmental sessions. Citing examples, she said the 2017 Commission on the Status of Women’s Youth Forum had recognized the preservation of indigenous culture and the role played by youth. Network members also had together and individually advanced gains by using technology in Cambodia and providing local support in Brazil.
IGOR BARINOV (Russian Federation), noting that his region was home to indigenous groups representing more than 32,000 people, said young indigenous entrepreneurs were provided funds to start businesses, and the Government had created a special School for Young Reindeer Herdsmen. Pointing to high alcoholism and unemployment levels in indigenous communities, he said prevention measures were under way, including job generation and improved access to housing and education. On Sustainable Development Goal target 4.5 on equal access to education, he said 92 per cent of school-aged indigenous children received an education in his region without having to leave their families, and which included studies in their native languages.
YON FERNANDEZ DE LARRINOA,, Food and Agriculture Organization, said FAO had worked alongside other United Nations agencies to enhance the leadership of indigenous women and youth, having recently hosted the Indigenous Youth Caucus in Rome, where they strategized and prepared their Rome Declaration. Pointing to other results that had emerged from that meeting, he said the Caucus had decided to host a Youth Forum in Rome and emphasized the need for discussions on global policies for food security, forestry and fishing. Indigenous youth must be taken into account in all policy-related programmes.
DMITRII KHARAKKA-ZAITSEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, said it would be helpful for indigenous groups to inform the Forum more regularly, focusing not only on a single example, but on providing a general overview of the situation in their regions.
AMINA AMHARECH, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, said youth suffered from apartheid in the pan-Arab States, alienated by religion and other elements. Discriminatory policies against the Amazigh people had provoked an identity crisis among youth in States where Governments acted as colonizers. Suicide, drug abuse or joining ISIL/Da’esh were grim choices, she said, encouraging support for better opportunities for young people.
Ms. O’CONNOR (Australia) said ongoing efforts included support for families and a range of approaches to help young people achieve their aspirations. Health and well-being projects targeting indigenous youth were also being implemented.
IVAN INGRAM, Indigenous Peoples’ Law and Policy Programme, recommended that indigenous organizations work with the United Nations to end violence against children, and that Member States follow suit by making efforts to include that goal in related initiatives. Sexual violence, trafficking, forced marriage and recruitment to conflict were among the persistent abuses that required swift attention in order to prevent the damaging effects they had on children and youth.
INTY QUIMBO (Ecuador) said progress included indigenous people’s increased participation in the political sphere, which resulted from the enormous efforts of indigenous groups over the years. Ecuador had helped to empower indigenous youth through projects aimed at revitalizing languages and traditional knowledge.
AMANDA VICK, Gitanmaax Band, said the violation of women’s rights threatened their well-being. Environmental violence was another tragic occurrence, she said, pointing to the harmful results of pesticide use in Mexico. Calling on Member States to meet their treaty obligations, she pressed the Permanent Forum to make environmental violence and its effects on maternal health an agenda item and requested that a permanent seat be provided for a youth member.
PERNILLE BORGBO (Denmark) said creating action behind strong normative frameworks must start with the recognition of young people. Noting that youth figured prominently in Denmark’s new strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian action, she said a review had been commissioned to determine how the Government could optimize and operationalize the new youth focus within development cooperation. It was important to remember that indigenous youth were essential to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples, and that young people were valuable human rights defenders, entrepreneurs and citizens. Meaningful participation would begin with a willingness to listen to the concerns and priorities of indigenous youth.
PETRA LAITI, Finnish Sami Youth Organization, delivered a “message of fear and unrest” from Sami young people in Finland, where the Government had recently joined Norway in signing a treaty on the border river Deatnu, running entirely though Sami territory. As a result of the treaty, permission for use of traditional fishing methods had decreased by 80 per cent, she said, whereas tourists were granted fishing rights they had not previous enjoyed. “The transmission of traditional knowledge in the fishing culture has become severely endangered by the new legislation, and risks a very immediate extinction of a culture that goes back thousands of years,” she stressed, noting that the Sami had not been properly consulted in the drafting of the treaty. Finland, while supporting indigenous rights in the presence of the international community, continued to show nothing but indifference to the Sami domestically. She urged the Government to renegotiate the treaty with the full, equal and effective participation of the Sami, and youth in particular.
Ms. WILLIAMS (New Zealand), recalling that a 2015 Government review had found that a major transformation was needed to improve outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable people, including Maori youth, said a Ministry of Vulnerable Children had been created to help those young people restore their sense of self, promote their right to heal and reach their full potential. New Zealand promoted support for community-building, and indigenous youth had participated in decision‑making wherever possible. The Government had also created the “Voice” programme to support indigenous children and young people, and was implementing strategies to support Maori youth in developing their own programmes to prevent suicide.
DUNEN FANEIBYA MUELAS, Confederacion Indigena Tayrona, said indigenous women continued to march hand in hand despite many who tried to strike at them around the world. In Colombia’s Sierra Nevadas, the Government had granted mining rights and concessions that exploited indigenous lands, affecting the health and wellbeing of indigenous women and youth. Among other things, she requested the Colombia to formally invite the Special Rapporteur to visit the country to conduct a study on the situation of indigenous peoples.
BABLU CHAKMA, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, urged Asian States to ensure access to quality, mother-tongue-based education, as well as provide scholarships and quality health services, pay special attention to indigenous women and girls and immediately remedy violations to indigenous peoples’ land rights. He also urged United Nations agencies, media and international partners to monitor with indigenous peoples the progress and gaps of Member States in ensuring youth concerns were addressed.
CHRISTINE DIINDIISI MCCLEAVE, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, said that, since 2012, the Coalition had worked to address issues related to the role of the United States, which had yet to recognize its part in tragedies that had taken place in education institutions. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools had been an important contribution to models that others could follow, she said, emphasizing that investigations were needed into incidents at boarding schools in the United States.
Ms. RIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, said violence against women and children were serious issues that occurred in many countries. A more effective action plan was needed, including in partnership with United Nations agencies. Boarding schools, which had existed in most countries where evangelism thrived, had caused much sadness and must be investigated, as mentioned during discussions. Other actions were needed to address racism and to support youth.