Speakers Underline Health Risks, Environmental Threats Posed to Indigenous Peoples by Extractive Industries, Energy Projects, as Permanent Forum Continues

HR/5357
3 May 2017
Sixteenth Session, 13th Meeting* (PM)

Speakers Underline Health Risks, Environmental Threats Posed to Indigenous Peoples by Extractive Industries, Energy Projects, as Permanent Forum Continues

Extractive industries and energy projects continued to broach ancestral lands, threatening their environmental health and the people living on them, speakers told the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today.

To address such corporate land grabs, Governments must provide effective protection measures, delegates said during the conclusion of a discussion on “implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” — economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.  (See Press Release HR/5353.)

Indigenous peoples’ speakers from North America said nuclear power plants in Canada and the United States were damaging their health and their lands and water.  A representative of the Asemblea Nacional Indigena Plural por la Autonomia said Mexico had not fully respected the Declaration when it came to protecting natural resources.

In a similar vein, calls were made for the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization to examine cases involving indigenous lands in the United States, including the state of Hawai’i.  Some speakers called for the Permanent Forum to offer new, stronger options to implement the Declaration.  Other areas of concerns were highlighted, including elders who had not been granted citizenship in Thailand, discrimination facing the Boro people in India, killings in Peru and an ongoing health crisis in Chiapas, Mexico.

Concerns were also raised during the continuation of a discussion on “follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum”, contained in documents E/C.19/2017/3, E/C.19/2017/6, E/C.19/2017/7 and E/C.19/2017/8, on the issue of the empowerment of women.  (See Press Release HR/5354.)

During the debate, a representative of the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization said thousands of indigenous pastoral women had been raped by the Ethiopian army and a local paramilitary force called the Liyu police.  Women were also being arbitrarily detained and tortured, and forced to make perilous journeys to seek haven, exposing them to further abuse.  States and the United Nations must invest time and resources into preventing conditions that led to violations of the Declaration, he said, recommending that a fact-finding mission be sent to the Ogaden region and that measures be taken to resolve the conflict there.

Delivering statements during the discussions were representatives of Indonesia and Ecuador, as well as a Member of Parliament of Mexico.

Also speaking were representatives of Boro Women’s Justice Forum, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, Consejo Shiibo Konibo Xetebo Coshikox, Greater Sylhet Indigenous Peoples Forum of Bangladesh, Anishinabek Nation, Yamasi People, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA) and the International Native Tradition Interchange.

Permanent Forum members from Denmark and Ecuador also spoke.

The Permanent Forum will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 May to continue its work.

Presentation of Report

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum member from Denmark, provided an overview of a dialogue with 17 United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies that had been held last week.  Areas of the United Nations system-wide action plan were examined and participants presented highlights on good practices and key messages and the role of indigenous peoples in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Statements

INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia) said that her Government was an active member of the Human Rights Council and was cooperating with various United Nations human rights mechanisms.  However, this “august forum was being misused” by certain groups claiming to be genuine representatives of the tribes of Papua.  Instead of contributing constructively to the welfare of Indonesian communities, they were making false statements and violating the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the State.  Calling for an end to such allegations, she added that despite challenges on the ground, the Indonesian Government continued to be guided by rule of law and justice and the specific interests of “our Papuan brothers and sisters”.

ANJALI PROBHA DAIMARI, Boro Women’s Justice Forum, said the Indian Government’s “one nation, one culture” policy was forcing the indigenous Boro people to assimilate and integrate culturally, socially and politically.  Customary laws were not being recognized, while the imposition of alien culture was destroying the very essence of the Boro people’s lives.  She recommended that the Government stop discriminating against the indigenous peoples, safeguard minority and indigenous cultures as called for in the Constitution, take measures to help those cultures to flourish, and combat propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination against indigenous and tribal people in India.

DIEGO SAAVEDRA, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, said instruments must be created to establish minimum standards for indigenous peoples’ participation in various organizations.  He also recommended that a database be created to compile information on human rights defenders.

GUILLERMO SANTIAGO RODRIGUEZ, Member of Parliament of Mexico, said indigenous groups in Chiapas were suffering in poor conditions, including in the field of health.  In the face of a health crisis, the Government was responsible for the current situation.

RONALD SUÁREZ, Consejo Shiibo Konibo Xetebo Coshikox, said threats against his people had been on the rise, with killings, intimidation, racial discrimination and a lack of access to justice taking place in the face of corporations trying to access ancestral lands.  He demanded the full recognition of ancestral land from Peru and for the Government to stop illegal land grabs.

SAMARJIT SINGHA, Greater Sylhet Indigenous Peoples Forum of Bangladesh, said that many indigenous people’s languages were in danger, including his mother-tongue Bishnupriya Manipuri, which had been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an endangered language.  It was vital to encourage indigenous children to use their mother-tongue at homes and outside, while also introducing multilingual education at least at the primary level in indigenous areas.  Further, though all the trees, insects and other creatures followed the laws of nature, the human race had forgotten those laws and had fallen into a pattern of killing and violence.  Humanity must accept the principle of “right thought and right actions”, he said.

SYLVIA PLAIN, Anishinabek Nation, stated that her organization represented 33 communities in the province of Ontario, and wanted to raise awareness about two pending projects that would harm the Saint Lawrence River basin and two Great Lakes.  The project led by the Ontario Power Generation would cause nuclear waste to be shipped to the site for burial while the one led by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories would transport highly radioactive nuclear materials to the region.  While the companies had assured the public that their actions were backed by science, the community was cognizant of various dangers that could occur in the long term as a result.  As one of the current guardians of the Great Lakes, the Anishinabek Nation stood in opposition to those projects.

CARLOS DE JESÚS ALEJANDRO, Asamblea Nacional Indigena Plural por la Autonomia, stated that there were many gaps in the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Mexican State had not fully respected the Declaration when it came to protecting natural resources.  Mexico was in a condition of humanitarian crisis because people who identified as indigenous, who constituted 21 per cent of the population, did not have the benefit of intercultural public policies.  Recent budget cuts showed that there was little political will to assist them while they faced a variety of problems ranging from the mining and hydroelectric industries to the racist policies of United States President Donald Trump.

LUIS MALES (Ecuador) stated that his country’s Constitution recognized many official languages and semi-official languages of the indigenous peoples.  Reiterating his Government’s commitment to the languages and cultures of the indigenous peoples, he said that Ecuador had undertaken several actions, including research programmes and development programmes, to promote linguistic diversity.  Language was the heart of the culture of a people and was the result of centuries of tradition.  Ecuador was committed to promoting the legitimate aspirations of the indigenous peoples of the country.

LOURDES TIBÁN GUALA, Permanent Forum member from Ecuador, welcoming the statements made by the representatives from Mexico, said that it was necessary to acknowledge the work done by various indigenous leaders, in the form of a resolution adopted by the Forum.  That would also encourage the legislative processes pertaining to indigenous peoples that were being implemented in Mexico.  The rights of indigenous people were not negotiable and could not be bought or sold.

LORI JOHNSTON, Yamasi People, said the United States continued to use terrorist actions against her people, who suffered from a lack of access to health services, and poisoning from industries such as a nearby nuclear power plant and a weapons factory.  The United States had robbed the Yamasi people, hijacked resources and operated a veritable trafficking system.  She asked the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization to examine the United States occupation of indigenous lands.

TUENJAI DEETES, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, said indigenous peoples had not been granted Thai citizenship.  They did not speak Thai nor did they follow Thai law, but without citizenship, the elders could not receive Government benefits.  She proposed that the Government of Thailand grant indigenous elders citizenship.

MARIA MERCEDES GUOU, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), asked that Government projects on indigenous lands respect the rights of the people living there.  She asked that the Government of Ecuador review such cases and that the Permanent Forum provide guidance in that regard.

DONNA CAMVEL, Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, called on the Permanent Forum to facilitate stronger options for implementing the Declaration.  Indigenous peoples should be granted permanent observer status by the General Assembly and Hawai’i should be included on the list of lands to be decolonized.

BELEN BERNAL VILTE, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA), said that while the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an important document, its low implementation was a matter of grave concern.  Indigenous women and girls continued to experience violence of many different kinds.  That ranged from sexual and psychological violence to economic and spiritual violence.  The Permanent Forum must ensure that States implement the Declaration and design policies with the active participation of indigenous women’s organizations.  Other recommendations included creating labour markets for indigenous women and girls, ensuring their social security and providing quotas for them in private sector employment.

Sub-item (a)

ABDIRAHMAN MAHDI, Ogaden People’s Rights Organization, emphasized the rampant abuse of women in the eastern region.  Quoting African Rights Monitor, he said thousands of indigenous pastoral women had been raped by the Ethiopian army and a local paramilitary force called the Liyu police.  Women were also being arbitrarily detained and tortured, and forced to make perilous journeys to seek haven, exposing them to further abuse.  He recommended that States and the United Nations put time and resources into preventing conditions that led to violations of Article 7 of the Declaration.  He also said a fact-finding mission should be sent to the Ogaden region and that measures be taken to resolve the conflict there.

JOANN SPOTTED BEAR, International Native Tradition Interchange, greeted the Forum with a traditional greeting and said that in this very building, the United States had been supposed to ratify a treaty with indigenous peoples in 2014, but they had never done so.  The Dakota Access Pipeline was never supposed to go through North Dakota and the Keystone Pipeline was never supposed to go through South Dakota.  Problems caused by bitumen and benzene were rampant because of such projects, she added, calling on all indigenous peoples to support the struggle against the pipelines.  The United States should be sued for its failure to disclose information to the indigenous peoples.

Ms. JOHNSTON, Yamasi People, stated that the Forum must recommend that indigenous women leaders were included in peace negotiations.  The rape of indigenous women was a global problem and the use of rape and slavery by Governments and corporations must be addressed by the United Nations.  Yamasi people demanded that the Organization investigate the use of the colonial economic institution of slavery on indigenous peoples.  Sexual slavery caused women to withhold indigenous languages from their children in the hope that it would prevent their being discriminated against.  Systematic rape had been practised since the Europeans came to the Western hemisphere and was now being practised by developers, who used the children born of such unions to strip the indigenous community of their casino rights and other rights.

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*     The 11th and 12th Meetings were closed.

For information media. Not an official record.