12 October 2018
Seventy-third Session, 16th Meeting (AM)

Respect for Traditional Self-Governance, Informed Consent in Decisions Critical to Upholding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Mandate Holder Tells Third Committee

Self-governance and multilateral support are critical to fulfilling the aims of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today in a half‑day discussion on the matter.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said almost every indigenous group faces extreme marginalization and human rights violations.  As such, it is critically important to protect and promote their institutions and governance systems.  At the core of this issue are the rights to autonomy and self‑determination.  Stressing that she would focus more on this topic over the next year, she urged States to provide recommendations on strengthening self‑governance, as there are many good examples.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates said that while it is difficult to describe what indigenous self‑governance systems are, they include a range of unique institutions — some centuries old — that establish rules for relating with one another, and are characterized by different histories, contexts and struggles that have shaped them.

Some pointed out that indigenous rights defenders often face peril.  In fact, 2017 was the deadliest year yet for human rights defenders, said the European Union’s delegate — and a disproportionate number of the 197 documented killings were of indigenous people.  Norway’s representative advocated a zero‑tolerance approach to such killings and asked how rights defenders can better cooperate with Governments, both local and nationally.

South Africa’s delegate said the multiple socioeconomic challenges faced by communities in his country are directly linked to the dispossession of land.  Addressing the issue of land ownership is essential.  As such, the Government has restored a sizeable amount of land to previously disadvantaged groups, he said.

Others underscored the need to involve indigenous peoples and institutions in decisions affecting them, especially at the United Nations.  Finland’s representative, on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, commended the Special Rapporteur for increasing cooperation with the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Canada’s delegate emphasized the need to renew relationships between Governments and indigenous peoples, calling it essential to building self‑determining indigenous nations that govern themselves.  Along those lines, Guatemala’s delegate said the Government will work to rescue and revitalize indigenous languages — 22 Maya languages, along with Grifuna and Xinka.

Also speaking today were the representatives of El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mexico (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples), Iraq, Russian Federation, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, United States, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Australia, Ecuador, Namibia, Panama, Iran, Spain, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Fiji, Malaysia, Ukraine, Cameroon and Cuba, as well as the Holy See and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 October, to begin its debate on human rights.


The Third Committee met this morning to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.  Before it was a report by the Secretary‑General on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/73/137), as well as a Secretariat note transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/73/176).

Interactive Dialogue

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, shed light on the structural reasons behind the human rights violations and marginalization that indigenous peoples face in almost every country:  international investment and free trade agreements, conservation and climate change mitigation projects, increasing attacks, criminalization and murder among them.  She stressed the importance of protecting indigenous peoples’ own institutions and ways of governing themselves as solutions to the challenges they face.  There are many examples of indigenous self‑governance systems and while difficult to narrowly describe what such practices comprise, the report refers to centuries‑old systems that establish rules on relating to one other, including through customary, oral and written laws, as well as dispute mechanisms.

Many traditional governance systems have proven better than external actors in ensuring peace and security, she said, citing improved public services, conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation, conflict prevention, access to justice, and self‑determination.  While indigenous peoples’ right to govern themselves is well established, they face limited financial and human resources, and lack control over efforts to ensure their governance systems align with international human rights standards.  Describing her efforts over the last year, she said she visited Mexico and Guatemala.  She investigated a worrying escalation of violence, criminalization, harassment and threats against indigenous peoples, especially when defending their rights to their lands and territories, which often arise when leaders voice concerns over projects related to extractive industries, agribusiness, infrastructure, dams and logging.

When the floor was opened for discussion, the representative of the Philippines echoed concerns over respect for the free, prior and informed consent of people whose lands and territories are affected by development decisions.  He underscored the importance of values, cultures and traditions to indigenous peoples’ well‑being.

The representative of New Zealand, citing the Maori people’s representation in Parliament to influence national policies, nonetheless acknowledged that more must be done on self‑governance and said a bill is in progress to promote the social, economic and psychological well‑being of Maori communities.  She asked for examples of how indigenous peoples’ rights can be respected in sustainable development decisions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said there is a lack of understanding about areas in his country.  Noting that the Russian Federation is a federated State with many ethnic groups, he described relevant legislation, among which are laws for the Sami people.  He expressed hope that the Special Rapporteur will consider the specifics of his multi‑ethnic country.

The representative of Canada said the principle of free, prior and informed consent cannot be underestimated and asked whether the Special Rapporteur found any common obstacles that hinder indigenous peoples’ self‑governance.

The representative of Mexico, expressing appreciation for the Special Rapporteur’s visit, said his country is ready to discuss new measures.  Recalling that 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, he asked about best practices on the role of languages in self‑governance systems.

The representative of Norway urged a zero‑tolerance approach to the killing of human rights defenders.  Citing Sustainable Development Goal 15 (life on land), he asked how indigenous human rights defenders and Governments are cooperating at local and national levels.

The representative of South Africa asked for recommendations pertaining to traditional leadership.

The representative of the United States said his country is working to improve the political life of indigenous peoples belonging to federally recognized tribes.  He enquired about how to achieve better education and health outcomes for indigenous women and girls at the local level.

The representative of the European Union, expressing concern over violence committed in the context of land and natural resources, asked about the private sector’s role in protecting indigenous people’s rights, as well as about protection mechanisms to be put in place.

The representative of Brazil, calling self‑governance a core area and yardstick for national policymaking, asked for recommendations on how best to apply self‑governance to education and health policies.

The representative of Ecuador expressed an openness to dialogue as a way to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.  As 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, he asked how the Special Rapporteur will contribute to its celebration.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ responded that her main recommendation is to engage in good faith with Government and to work with indigenous peoples to realize the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Such efforts will eventually lead to better partnerships.  Governments must carry out social and human rights impact assessments during the approval process for large‑scale projects, she said, stressing that they also have a role to play in accessing justice.

Citing various examples of cooperation in the areas of education, health and social services, she said that on disaster mitigation, it is critical to view such efforts in the context of a full report on the topic next year.  As for celebrating the International Year, she said indigenous languages are part of indigenous governance and justice.  Results are better in countries that have taken multilingual approaches.  Constructive engagement is the best approach to surmount obstacles and reduce conflict.  If the private sector engages in dialogue, it reduces the costs of a project.


RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the group’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s decision to declare 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, he stressed that indigenous peoples have the right to preserve their history, as traditional knowledge supports social life and cultural heritage.  Obstacles to justice for women, children, youth, elder people and persons with disabilities must be eliminated, he said, also affirming their right to participate in decisions and stressing the importance of promoting awareness.  Creating resilient communities strengthens economies, he said, declaring:  “The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] gives us opportunities to narrow the gap of the rights of indigenous people.”

GLENTIS THOMAS (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the group’s member States continue to work in partnership with their indigenous communities in establishing human rights standards.  Spotlighting strategic and targeted interventions in regional plans as well as those of individual States — which are aligned with the 2030 Agenda — he described laws and policies aimed at preserving indigenous culture and identity, and guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination.  Welcoming the work of the Voluntary Fund and efforts to implement the system‑wide action plan to realize the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he also expressed support for the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, reiterating his call on Governments to institutionalize the Conference’s commitments in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples.  CARICOM States continue to make important progress in ensuring the human rights and socioeconomic well‑being of indigenous peoples, he said, citing a measurable improvement in the provision of education and health care.  “Even so, we acknowledge that much more needs to be done to bridge the development gap between our indigenous and non‑indigenous populations,” he said.

KAI SAUER (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, highlighted issues of particular importance:  the enhanced participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in all relevant United Nations bodies on issues affecting them.  Underscoring the importance of indigenous peoples’ right to self‑governance, he commended efforts by the Special Rapporteur to increase cooperation with various parts of the United Nations, notably by participating in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

DÖRTHE WACKER, European Union delegation, said attacks on indigenous peoples defending their land are a result of their marginalization — if not exclusion — from vital decisions.  Noting that 2017 was the deadliest year yet for human rights defenders, she said a disproportionate number of the 197 documented killings were indigenous rights defenders.  The European Union prioritizes the fight against discrimination and inequality based on indigenous origin or identity, and calls for action to address such violence in the context of land and natural resources, environmental protection, biodiversity and climate‑related matters.  In response, the bloc is stepping up its support to indigenous peoples under its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.  In 2018, it will grant €5 million to rights defenders and groups working on indigenous issues.  There is also urgent need to address land grabbing, along with its roots:  lack of accountability and poor governance.  “We believe that respect for the right to customary land and resources is essential for the definition of accountability, good governance and a global rules‑based order,” she said, underscoring support for the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said indigenous peoples face specific vulnerabilities and marginalization.  He stressed the need to ensure the sustainable development of those in most vulnerable situations, and to both revitalize and promote indigenous languages.  Efforts must be made to enable the participation of indigenous representatives and institutions in relevant United Nations meetings.  Further, Governments and intergovernmental and non‑governmental organizations should continue to contribute to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples.  He reiterated the call for measures pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and underscored the importance of consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples to that end.

AZIZ MOHAMED (Iraq) welcomed the outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, reaffirming respect for and strengthening of their rights.  Commending the United Nations important role in this regard, he reiterated Iraq’s commitment to upholding and promoting indigenous peoples’ rights, in order to ensure their dignified life, in accordance with sustainable development principles, which form the framework for consolidation in Iraq.

ROMAN G. KASHAEV (Russian Federation) stressed the Government’s continuous support for indigenous peoples in international and national cooperation, especially peoples in the North, Siberia and Far East.  Underscoring the importance of social and economic well‑being, as well as preservation of traditional lands, he said dispute settlement measures have been put in place, while the policies of industrial companies ensure the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.  The Government will establish an organizational committee to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages.  Stressing the importance of sharing experiences and best practices, he said protection of indigenous rights must be a global priority, cautioning against making indigenous peoples pawns in artificial and politicized conflicts.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said the country is working to implement the United Nations Declaration, and has devised specific policies for indigenous groups, such as protection for those who are isolated.  Recently, a norm was established for a system to sanction conduct that might contravene indigenous peoples’ rights.  Peru is incorporating indigenous languages into public services, seeking to improve access to justice, among other things.  Further, a conference was held on indigenous languages, he added.

Ms. NICHOLAS-MACKENZIE (Canada), emphasizing the need to renew relationships between Governments and indigenous peoples, said recognition is essential to rebuilding strong, self‑determining indigenous nations that govern themselves for the benefit of their communities.  Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision‑making in matters that affect them through their own representative institutions.  Canada is engaging in collaborative, community‑driven discussions to respond to the unique rights, needs and interests of indigenous peoples.  The recognition of indigenous rights is integral to achieving a more sustainable world, she asserted.

Ms. ADALI FRIAS (Mexico) underscored her Government’s support for indigenous peoples, especially their participation in multilateral forums such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in which Mexican indigenous women have participated.  Urging better coordination among special procedures, she said ending violence against indigenous women is of critical importance.  She expressed support for the participation of indigenous representatives in relevant United Nations meetings.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said the recognition of indigenous peoples’ institutions and their right to participation in public affairs is fundamental to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Underscoring Brazil’s commitment to free, prior and informed consent, he said indigenous peoples’ political participation has increased over the years.  Sônia Guajajara and Joênia Wapichana symbolized this positive trend in recent general elections.  Ms. Guajajara successfully argued the case of indigenous peoples during debates and mainstreamed the importance of their political representation.  Ms. Wapichana became the first indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives.

FRANCISCO ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Colombia), aligning himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, stressed the importance of internal and international norms.  Underscoring the decisive role of the Constitutional Court in upholding indigenous peoples’ rights, he highlighted the right to preserve autonomy and cited various decrees in this regard.  Noting that 22 indigenous communities are self‑administrating, he drew attention to Colombia’s support for their institutions, as promotion of new social living models and efforts to foster diversity as a way to strengthen development.  He stressed the importance of protecting indigenous peoples, particularly those in isolated areas, and ensuring their rights through trainings, workshops for public entities and awareness‑raising.

Mr. SILVERMAN (United States) said combating violence against indigenous women and girls is a priority, especially in his country, which leads by example, notably through federal grants to support indigenous survivors, along with technical assistance to help maintain public safety.  The Department of Justice launched an initiative to increase tribes’ access to databases, especially to the National Sexual Offenders Registry.  The Department also provided $246 million to fund programs addressing the needs of sexual violence victims, while the Department of the Interior raises awareness about the trafficking of American Indian and Alaskan natives.  Further, the Trilateral Commission, established by the United States and Canada, has held three high‑level meetings on access to justice and empowering women.

MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa) said the multiple socioeconomic challenges faced by communities in her country are directly attributable to past discriminatory practices such as dispossession of land.  Addressing the empowerment of indigenous communities – including the issue of land ownership – is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  South Africa has therefore restored a sizeable amount of land to previously disadvantaged groups, she said, stressing that economic development requires equal access to land, territories, resources and opportunities.  She expressed concern over the destructive activities carried out on ancestral lands by transnational corporations and businesses, as well as the escalation in the criminalization and harassment of indigenous peoples who defend their rights to protect their lands, territories and resources.

JUAN MANUEL MONGELOS GALEANO (Paraguay), aligning himself with CELAC, recalled the importance of his country’s indigenous heritage and existence of 19 groups of indigenous peoples living in more than 400 communities.  The Constitution establishes that Paraguay is a pluricultural and bilingual country — Guaraní and Spanish being the two official languages.  Further, it acknowledges that the indigenous peoples of Paraguay came before the State’s creation, a fact which guarantees their participation in political life and decisions affecting them, as well as their right to communal land.  Paraguay has shown its readiness to comply with the final document of the World Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he added, underlining that it requires close cooperation between Governmental institutions and indigenous peoples.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said the Government continues to make progress on the restitution of collective and individual rights to indigenous peoples.  Nicaragua allocated $481,132 to strengthen indigenous territorial governance and recognized the rights of the communities of the Caribbean Coast to live under a political, administrative, social and cultural organization that corresponds to their traditions.  He spotlighted the bilingual and intercultural curriculum, which ensures learning in the mother tongue and establishes Spanish as a second language.  Nicaragua also uses traditional indigenous knowledge in the provision of health care, he added.

Ms. SUDMALIS (Australia) said women play a pivotal role in empowering communities to achieve the 2030 Agenda and overcome disadvantages.  However, indigenous women in Australia and many other countries often take on care responsibilities at a younger age, resulting in lower rates of education and participation in employment.  Pointing out that Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuing culture, she expressed pride in her country’s history and diversity.  The Government works with indigenous leaders and communities to support ownership and true partnership.  It also supports an indigenous‑designed and -led initiative — Empowered Communities — which recognizes the capacity of indigenous leaders and governance structures within communities.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said indigenous customs and decisions are recognized by the Constitution, as are 21 collective rights.  He affirmed the importance of interculturality, multinationality and preserving indigenous peoples’ identities.  He also drew attention to Ecuador’s bilingual education system, which includes all indigenous languages, noting that in July 2018, the Government created a secretariat for an intercultural bilingual system.  He called on States to redouble efforts to preserve ancestral languages during the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) recalled that under the colonialist apartheid regime, several ethnic groups were subjected to grave injustices that have left these groups disadvantaged.  The Government has recognized some of them as particularly marginalized, meriting special attention.  The challenges they face include lack of access to land, insufficient secure‑land tenure, low levels of education and food insecurity.  A development programme was put in place to improve their opportunities to earn a livelihood through resettlement initiatives, literacy projects and affirmative action measures aimed at providing employment opportunities.  Further, the State can recognize traditional community’s leadership and allow them to administer and execute customary laws and protect and promote their culture, languages, traditions and traditional values.

DESIRÉE DEL CARMEN CEDEÑO RENGIFO (Panama) said her country signed an $80 million contract with the World Bank to implement a comprehensive development plan for indigenous peoples.  Its objectives include strengthening the indigenous authorities’ governance and improving the quality of public services provided on their territories.  The plan is based on a development model proposed by the indigenous peoples and implemented by the Government.  For the first time in Panamanian history, the plan stems from a national consensus among the 12 indigenous governing structures, embodying their own vision for development.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said it is essential to bolster the promotion and protection of the human rights, identity, culture and traditions of indigenous peoples in collective sustainable development efforts.  Calling on international, national and local stakeholders to respect indigenous peoples’ rights to their homelands and natural resources — including through strong protective measures and when interacting with extractive industries — she said the adoption and implementation of accepted recommendations under the Universal Periodic Review and strengthened monitoring mechanisms are equally crucial.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that despite the progress made in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples at the United Nations, the environmental, cultural and spiritual patrimony of many of those peoples remain under threat.  It is important to break with the old paradigm that views the Amazon and other resource‑rich areas — from which many indigenous peoples are forced to move — as zones to be either exploited or protected without consideration of the populations that call them home.  Such people must be included in all decisions that affect them, while priority must be given to initiatives that indigenous communities themselves are undertaking.  Indigenous peoples command an immense set of living traditions, the loss of which can be even more serious than the loss of biodiversity or damage to common ecological heritage.  They must be defended and preserved, he stressed.

MARÍA MAGDALENA CRUZ YÁBAR (Spain) underscored the need for greater efforts to protect indigenous peoples’ rights, citing International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principle of free, prior and informed consent.  Spain is among the few countries that has elaborated a special framework in this area, she said, drawing attention to ILO Convention No. 163 by promoting opportunities for dialogue at national and regional levels.  Spain intends to establish formal dialogue between States and indigenous peoples.  A rich civil society is a key element of democracy, she said, expressing support for mechanisms that allow human rights defenders to work in safe environments, outlining Spain’s plans for continued investment in building the capacity of indigenous leaders.

Mr. CARAZO (Costa Rica), aligning himself with CELAC, said the Constitution acknowledges the nation’s multi‑ethnic and pluricultural nature, allowing for the promotion, visibility, inclusion and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights and culture.  Through a general consultation mechanism, Costa Rica has opened a comprehensive dialogue — involving its 24 indigenous nations — on the consultation process.  The right to consultation ensures peoples’ ability to establish their own development priorities.  Moreover, it safeguards all their rights that may be impacted by administrative, legislative or private projects.  The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals must include indigenous peoples, through their own institutions and representatives, guaranteeing that development initiatives succeed.

LILIANA STEPHANIE OROPEZA ACOSTA (Bolivia), aligning herself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said her country has taken significant steps forward in implementing the United Nations Declaration.  Bolivia and Ecuador have coordinated and facilitated negotiations that led to the resolution establishing 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, she said, stressing that without proper measures, the history, traditions and memory of peoples will be lost.  Bolivia recognizes 36 indigenous languages, 4 of which are taught in addition to Spanish.  Bolivians also have “indigenized” their Constitution, thus guaranteeing recognition and equal opportunities for all its indigenous groups, she assured.

ROSA DALITUICAMA (Fiji), aligning herself with the Pacific small island developing States, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, affirmed the importance of land and resources for indigenous peoples.  Because of the importance of land to the traditions of most of the citizens of Fiji, about 87 per cent of all land is inalienable indigenous land.  Yet, like many other developing island States, Fiji faces the real threats of climate change and has identified over 63 coastal communities that require relocation due to rising sea levels.  A holistic approach is required for such relocations to preserve cultural identity, she pointed out, noting that this issue is addressed in the Local Communities and Indigenous People’s Platform adopted under Fiji’s presidency of the twenty‑third Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

LILIANA STEPHANIE OROPEZA ACOSTA (Malaysia) said her country is a beacon of diversity and multiculturalism with a rich mix of ethnicity, religions and historical influences.  Its indigenous community, the Orang Asli, comprises 13 per cent of the population.  Noting that some wish to preserve their traditions while others wish to modernize, including by moving to urban areas, she underlined the Government’s responsibility to both ensure respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and help them meet today’s challenges.  Recognition and promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights over their customary lands is critical, she said, noting that under the Aboriginal Peoples Act, the Government is able to declare any area exclusively inhabited by those peoples to be an aboriginal reserve.  She also outlined several policies to enhance indigenous peoples’ access to education.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said the Government guarantees the protection and enjoyment of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people within the sovereign and independent State of Ukraine.  It also recognizes the Tatars’ Mejlis — their executive body — as the competent authority of the Crimean Tatars.  Since the start of the temporary occupation of Crimea in February 2014, Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians have faced extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, discrimination and harassment.  Citing an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on those systemic problems — as well as an International Court of Justice order requiring the Russian Federation to refrain from imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions —she said that governing body remains banned in Crimea.  She demanded that the Russian Federation comply with its obligations as an occupying power, end its repressions against indigenous Crimean Tatars and comply with the Court’s order.  She further called upon the international community to condemn such actions by occupying authorities.

Ms. BANAKEN (Cameroon), aligning with the African Group and the Group of 77, stressed the importance of self‑governance.  Describing difficulties, she noted the lack of international definition of indigenous peoples.  Cameroon has 250 ethnic groups, she said, yet only the pygmy are considered as indigenous under international law.  Cameroon facilitates their participation in political life, she said, adding that the Government cooperates with this population on free, prior and informed consent.  In addition, she addressed forest resources and management issues, stressing that Cameroon works to promote the rights of indigenous peoples.

ÁNGEL ALEJANDRO CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba), aligning himself with CELAC, reaffirmed indigenous peoples’ right to preserve their institutions and spiritual traditions, without discrimination.  It is worrisome that indigenous peoples who have defended their right to land face increasing criminalization, he said, noting that the principle of free, prior and informed consent is not implemented.  Indigenous peoples must participate in the management and development of resources on the lands on which they live, and the State must guarantee that right.  Fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals should include measures to preserve traditional knowledge and ensuring indigenous peoples benefit from its use.  He urged the international community to promote actions that bring the United Nations Declaration to life.

Mr. CERTA, Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), said the Fund was created in 1992 to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.  Despite progress at global, regional and international levels, gaps in implementation persist and he described an action plan for women and youth organizations, which among other things, seeks to involve indigenous women in the creation of policies to combat violence.  The action plan also aims to improve historical relationships between States and indigenous peoples, he said, underscoring the need for a special adviser or envoy who can create awareness.  The Fund will establish a platform for youth and indigenous peoples which will focus on fairness and indigenous leadership, he said, highlighting the need to strengthen work with United Nations specialized agencies.

EDGAR ANDRÉS MOLINA LINARES (Guatemala), aligning himself with CELAC, said the Government has made considerable progress in complying with the United Nations Declaration, and will deploy efforts to both rescue and revitalize indigenous languages — 22 Maya languages, along with Grifuna and Xinka.  Guatemala is carrying out a specific policy focusing on indigenous peoples’ comprehensive development and respecting their ancestral lifestyles.  It also promotes their participation in various development councils.  Reaffirming Guatemala’s commitment to respect human rights, he acknowledged the Government’s responsibility to ensure indigenous peoples enjoy their individual and collective rights.  He urged Member States who still have not recognized their indigenous peoples to start a dialogue, so the United Nations Declaration may be universally implemented.

For information media. Not an official record.