Decrying Violence against Indigenous Rights Defenders, Speakers Urge Protection of Native Lands from Development Aggression, as Permanent Forum Continues

HR/5388
17 April 2018
Seventeenth Session, 3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Decrying Violence against Indigenous Rights Defenders, Speakers Urge Protection of Native Lands from Development Aggression, as Permanent Forum Continues

Government decisions to build roads, power plants and dams in the name of prosperity threatened the lives of indigenous peoples around the world, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, amid calls to protect native lands and resources from such development aggression.

Throughout the day, indigenous speakers decried policies and laws that denied collective land rights, violated treaties and criminalized rights defenders.  Others pointed to Government encroachment, failure to identify indigenous lands, and “green colonialism” — whereby development projects displaced livestock and other needed natural resources – all without free, prior and informed consent.

In Asia, said the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact speaker, indigenous peoples protesting megaprojects were being arrested, even killed, for taking action.  In the Philippines, at least 34 indigenous human rights defenders had been accused of being terrorists, with similar scenarios playing out in Cambodia and Bangladesh.  The Forum must call on States stop repressing indigenous peoples and create mechanisms to protect their access to justice.

In the Arctic, such projects threatened indigenous peoples’ food security, said the Arctic Caucus speaker.  Governments must establish national institutions that allowed them to own and manage their lands and resources.

In that context, the speaker from the International Indigenous Women’s Forum expressed concern about the safety and security of human rights defenders in Latin America and Asia.  She advocated technical and financial assistance for indigenous women, and inclusion of gender‑disaggregated data to ensure their empowerment.  The Forum held an interactive dialogue to address those challenges.

The current economic crisis was essentially a spiritual one, said the speaker from Nacionalidad Sapara de Ecuador.  Amazonia tropical forests, where his people had always dwelled, brought together the greatest concentration of spiritual life, “from the smallest ant to the greatest tree”.  However, oil exploration and road projects threatened them.  “Nature has rights,” he said.  States must develop a new vision of the natural world as a spiritual one.

Pointing one way forward, the Premier of Nunavut said he represented Canada’s newest territory, stressing:  “The Nunavut Agreement forever changes the land of Canada.”  Nunavut had created its own government, with a mandate to incorporate Inuit values and traditional knowledge into all decisions, policies and legislation.  Its story was one of successful negotiation with the Canadian Government in exercising the right to self‑determination.

In another example, the World Bank Group speaker discussed an $80 million loan to support the Indigenous Peoples’ Development Plan in Panama.  Jointly created with indigenous peoples and Panama, the project would strengthen governance and improve access to basic services in accordance with the indigenous peoples’ vision and development priorities.

Les Malezer, Permanent Forum expert from Australia, cited a 2004 expert paper to the Sub‑Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights regarding indigenous peoples’ permanent sovereignty over their resources, which set the legal basis for why such sovereignty existed.  Also, articles 27, 37 and 40 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called on States to create independent dispute resolution mechanisms.

With that in mind, Australia’s Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said native title was first recognized by common law in 1992, through a court decision in Marlborough that dismissed the idea that Australia had been “empty land” prior to European arrival.  Native title was not granted; it was recognized.  It was based on traditional laws and customs; it could be exclusive or non‑exclusive.  State land rights were collective.  Australia supported the economic use of native title through licensing, he said, to ensure that indigenous peoples could take advantage of economic opportunity.

The day also featured two round table interactive dialogues.  During the first, panellists explored the various uses of mapping to increase indigenous people’s bargaining power with Governments.

Panellist Shapiom Noningo Sesen of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation in Peru said his people had used mapping to prove that their ancestors lived on that land.  “I can say this is my territory and I wish to preserve it appropriately as my ancestors did,” he said.  In that way, his people invited Peru to consider how to enable “the right kind of development”, whether economic, social or political.

Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) added that mapping provided the technical undergirding for community‑level territorial demarcation.  That was important, he said, because oil, timber, gold, cocoa and other companies also used mapping.  “Even though they’re in New York, they know where these resources are,” he said.

The second panel addressed those issues in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with Joan Carling of the Tebtebba Foundation pressing States to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights in national development plans.  She cited Colombia’s recognition of those rights, and similar efforts by Canada.

Also speaking during the panels were Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma Circle Chief and member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission, Helena del Carmen Yánez Loza, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations; and Marion Barthelemy, Director, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Also speaking in the discussion of the 2018 theme were speakers from the following indigenous peoples organizations:  Assembly of First Nations of Canada, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation, African Commission Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Organizacion Indigena de Colombia and the Sámi Parliament in Finland.

Permanent Forum experts from Norway, Cameroon, United Republic of Tanzania, Ecuador and Peru also spoke, as did the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Also participating as observers were representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Bolivia, Australia (also on behalf of the Torres Strait Regional Authority), Panama, Russian Federation, United States, Cuba and Mexico (in his national capacity), as well as the European Union.

Officials from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights also delivered remarks.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, 18 April, to continue its 2018 session.

Introduction of Report

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum expert from Norway, presented the Secretariat’s note (document E/C.19/2018/7) on the International expert group meeting on the theme “Sustainable Development in the Territories of Indigenous Peoples”, which contained the report of that meeting, held in New York from 23 to 25 January 2018.  The report highlighted the link among indigenous peoples’ control of their territories, their rights and their food sovereignty.  Defending their territories was not only a way to promote their well‑being but an important element to advance the global climate change agenda.  In the report, the expert group expressed concern about an emergent trend to dissociate humane rights from sustainable development discourse.

He described various misconceptions of indigenous peoples that were used to falsely justify the confiscation of their lands and evictions.  He said that experts had documented ways in which land alienation and land‑grabbing were followed by human rights violations.  The experts were concerned about “green‑grabbing”, which was unrecognized as a source of land alienation.  The experts recommended that the Permanent Forum include a special consideration to autonomy and constructive arrangement and that it support mechanisms to include indigenous peoples in key decision‑making processes on topics such as climate change and biodiversity.

Regarding the Permanent Forum’s general theme, the expert group stated that indigenous peoples had deep connections to their lands as integral to their identity but that only a few countries recognized their rights to those lands, he said.  With the adoption in 2007 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an urgent need to address land alienation was recognized but the situation had only gotten worse since then.  Some States were evicting indigenous peoples from their lands so they could be used by private companies.  Land‑grabbing was on the rise and without addressing it indigenous peoples would not benefit from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Statements

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Assembly of First Nations of Canada and Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recommended that States work in partnership with indigenous peoples to develop legislative and decision‑making processes to ensure respect for their lands, territories and resources, with free, prior and informed consent.  States must meet their commitments to dismantle colonial laws and end litigation based on denial of indigenous peoples’ rights.  They must work with indigenous peoples to develop tools to help Government officials respect the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and cite the Declaration when advancing legislation related to their rights.  The Assembly of First Nations was working with indigenous peoples in Ecuador in their legal battle in Canada against Chevron regarding the massive environmental damage inflicted on their territories.  “You simply cannot tell a people they have no right to say no,” he said, recommending joint processes designed with indigenous peoples.

The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples (Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Spain) said her delegation applied public policies in a cross‑cutting manner and defined actions for the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights.  Recognizing the complexity of addressing issues pertaining to lands and natural resources, she advocated direct dialogue to reach agreement.  It was crucial that States consulted and cooperated with indigenous peoples, and obtain their free, prior and informed consent for approval of projects affecting their lands, territories and other resources.  She also reaffirmed her delegation’s commitment to the Declaration.

The representative of the World Bank Group stated that the Group had continued to engage with indigenous peoples in confronting climate change through various initiatives.  In March, the World Bank Group’s Board of Directors had also approved an $80 million loan to support the Indigenous Peoples’ Development Plan in Panama.  Jointly created by indigenous peoples, the Government of Panama and the World Bank, the project would strengthen governance capacity and improve access to basic services and infrastructure in accordance with the indigenous peoples’ vision and development priorities.

AMINATU GAMBO, International Indigenous Women’s Forum, expressed concern about the safety and security of indigenous women and of human rights defenders, including in Latin America and Asia.  She invited the Permanent Forum to hold an interactive dialogue addressing the safety of indigenous women.  The access to ownership and control of land territories was fundamental for women.  She called for some technical and financial assistance for indigenous women, and the inclusion of gender‑disaggregated data to ensure their empowerment.

The representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed the upcoming International Year of Indigenous Languages.  CELAC recognized the significant role of indigenous peoples in sustainable development and their rights to potable water and water suitable for irrigation.  The economic empowerment, inclusion and development of indigenous peoples, particularly women, through the establishment of indigenous‑owned businesses could enable them to improve their social, cultural, civil and political engagement as well as to achieve greater economic independence to build more sustainable and resilient communities and contribute to the broader economy.

GERVAIS NZOA, Permanent Forum expert from Cameroon, responding to remarks by the World Bank Group representative, said the experts often visited local communities and in the case of the Congo Basin, had practical experience to share.

The representative of the European Union said that in its action plan on human rights and democracy, the bloc had committed to promote economic, social and cultural rights, and step up efforts to protect human rights defenders.  In May 2017, its Foreign Affairs Council issued conclusions on indigenous peoples, underlining the importance of prioritizing actions that addressed violence against indigenous peoples in the context of land, natural resources, biodiversity and climate.  As land‑grabbing seemed to be more frequent, the European Union was stepping up its support.  Through its development cooperation, it supported projects that empowered indigenous peoples to engage in dialogue on land and natural resources.

MAKSIM LAPTANDER, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation, said he was a deer herder from the Arctic region, where the world’s largest reindeer herding population lived. In his area, there were six such communities.  The one he headed was based on the territorial land plot principle; it comprised 18 families.  The main activity was meat production and reindeer raising.  There were some 10,000 reindeer, producing 40 tonnes of meat each year.  It was among the most productive in the Ural region.

ELIFURAHA LALTAIKA, Permanent Forum expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, said access to collective rights was trans‑generational, in line with the principle of environmental stewardship.  That safeguarded the land rights of future generations.  Indeed, there was a deeply felt emotional and spiritual bond with lands and resources.  Citing the African Court in Arusha, he said the destruction of traditional lands led to distortion of indigenous peoples’ spirituality.  Customary law was being subordinated to statutory laws which were unfriendly to indigenous peoples’ land rights, and he called on academic institutions, among others, to examine that nexus between customary rights and land tenure to safeguard such tenure.

PAUL QUASSA, Premier of Nunavut, speaking on behalf of Canada, said he represented Canada’s newest territory, as the Inuit had signed the most comprehensive land claims pact in history.  “The Nunavut Agreement forever changes the land of Canada,” he said.  Nunavut was now one of Canada’s three territories and 10 provinces.  It had created its own government to represent all citizens, with a mandate to incorporate Inuit values and traditional knowledge into all decisions, policies and legislation.  Having signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement 25 years ago, he was proud to have been elected head of state of the territorial government.  Nunavut’s story was one of successful negotiations between the Canadian Government and indigenous peoples in exercising the right to self-determination.

TRISHA RIEDY, Manager, Programme in Peacemaking and Conflict Prevention, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), said the training programme was developed in response to indigenous peoples’ requests to enhance their ability to engage in negotiation and realize their rights.  There were 483 indigenous representatives who had completed the programme; 4 had been part of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  She thanked Canada and Sweden for their support.

The representative of the African Commission Working Group on Indigenous Populations, outlined efforts related to indigenous peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and resources in Africa.  He commended the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the related Court, for their work on a specific community case which addressed such collective rights.  National courts, such as South Africa’s Constitutional Court, and Botswana’s High Court, had made “tremendous” decisions to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.  Nonetheless, he voiced concern that those decisions were not being implemented and that indigenous peoples had been excluded from development planning in Africa, citing for example the Maputo Protocol, which did not mention indigenous women.

FERNANDO HUANACUNI MAMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, recommended that the Permanent Forum be strengthened and its name changed to the “Forum of the Rights of Indigenous People”, as called for by President Evo Morales Ayma.  He highlighted the diversity in the Bolivian Parliament thanks to the high representation of indigenous peoples and women.  Legal provisions also helped to combat discriminations against indigenous peoples in Bolivia.

LOURDES TIBAN GUALA, Permanent Forum expert from Ecuador, denounced the murder of three journalists in Ecuador the week before.  Highlighting the importance of indigenous languages, she condemned the use of bilingual education and called on all States to translate the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into national law.

ANTONELLA CORDONE, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), highlighted the link between the right to territories and resources and biological diversity.  The lack of territory control put indigenous peoples at risk.  Food security and land security were also inseparable.  The Fund viewed indigenous peoples as a key part of the solution to solve the challenges faced in rural areas.

The representative of the Organizacion Indigena de Colombia said progress had been made on territorial claims in Colombia.  Decree 2333, for example, on dispossessed ancestral lands was relevant, and no progress had been made on related issues, contrary to the granting of mining rights.  She voiced concern over legislation threatening indigenous peoples’ survival, citing Law 1767, on zones of rural economic and social development interests, which jeopardized the traditional management of ancestral lands, notably in Amazonian areas.  Efforts were also under way to revise another law allowing businesses to exploit forest protection areas.

LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum expert from Australia, emphasized that rights to lands, territories and resources were mentioned throughout the Declaration, notably preambular paragraph 6, stressing genuine effort to restore lands, territories and resources.  He stressed importance of access to resources to allow for development and wealth, which was part of the right to self‑determination.  Articles 27, 37 and 40 called on States to create independent mechanisms, with indigenous peoples, to resolve disputes.  However, disputes by indigenous peoples to establish their rights were resolved by State‑based systems.  He cited a 2004 expert paper to the Sub‑Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights regarding indigenous peoples’ permanent sovereignty over their resources, which set the legal basis for why such sovereignty existed.

TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum expert from Peru, describing IFAD’s technical advisory role, said the Fund could recommend International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 to States that were signatories to that instrument, when discussing territorial rights and access to resources.  States were often challenged to create provisions to ensure compliance with such instruments, and she urged them to redouble their efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples could access traditional lands and resources.

ALBERT BARUME (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that in the Sahel region, as in many other parts of the world, when communities were denied rights to their territories they were at higher risk for conflict and became potential ground for extremism.  Territories and resources were the basis for indigenous livelihood.  The Expert Mechanism encouraged a livelihood approach to mainstream a human rights approach into indigenous land management when their territories were dispossessed.

The Deputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Australia described the country’s land rights and native title systems.  Native title was first recognized by Australia common law in 1992, he said, citing a court decision in Marlborough that had dismissed the idea that Australia had been “empty land” prior to European arrival.  Today, Australia provided a system for claiming native title, and negotiating how it related to other interests.  It was not granted; it was recognized.  It was based on traditional laws and customs; it could be exclusive or non‑exclusive.  State land rights were not invested in the individual; they were collective.  At present, native title recognized over 34 per cent of land.  Three per cent of land was covered by both systems.  Native title could only be claimed on some areas of land or water.  Australia supported the economic use of native title through licensing, which sought to ensure that indigenous peoples were well placed to take advantage of economic opportunity.  Traditional owners were key partners, he said, stressing that consultations and agreement were vital to any land use and development.

The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that despite some improvement to registering private lands there was a delay in recognizing the collective right to land, making indigenous peoples vulnerable.  When the right to land was respected, biodiversity thrived.  Indigenous youth and women were integral to efforts to defend the rights of indigenous peoples.

The representative of the Sámi Parliament of Finland said that the Sámis’ right to land and natural resources was not guaranteed by State legislation.  The Sámi Parliament warned that the increase in investment in Arctic natural resources in recent years was likely to cause conflicts with indigenous communities living in those areas.  In June 2017, the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communication had launched a study on the creation of an Arctic railway, without taking into account the concerns of indigenous communities and without obtaining free consent of the Sámi Parliament.  That railway project has no support from the Sami Parliament, which called on the Expert Mechanism to find a negotiated solution to this dispute.

FELICIANO JIMENEZ, Vice-Minister for Indigenous Issues of Panama, said indigenous peoples were behind the country’s recognition of collective lands and worked for respect for such lands.  Discussing the comarcas and tierras collectivas, he said Panama recognized identity culture and traditional government systems.  In 2010, it had created a dialogue process to make progress on the main sources of conflict.  Among other efforts, it had created a bureau of Government and indigenous peoples and drawn up guidelines to bridge the poverty gap, incorporating indigenous customs, values and visions of the cosmos into Government policies.  The main challenge was to implement that plan in order to integrate indigenous peoples.

The representative of the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights, said the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, approved by the Human Rights Council in 2011 through resolution 17/4, applied to all States and enterprises regardless of size, industry and structure.  The Working Group, created by the same resolution, comprised five independent experts, one each from the five regional groups tasked with supporting implementation of the Guiding Principles.  He cited two special reports for the General Assembly:  one on indigenous peoples and the Guiding Principles, and the other on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities related to the sugar and palm oil industries.

NAPAU PEDRO STEPHEN, Chairperson, Torres Strait Regional Authority of Australia, discussed the history of the peoples from the Torres Strait and their struggles to create the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

IGOR BARINOV (Russian Federation) said that all people in his country had equal access to their cultural heritage and the right to organize.  Indigenous people had the right to use various categories of land and natural resources.  They also had the right to claim compensation for losses incurred.

MANARI USHIGUA, Nacionalidad Sapara de Ecuador, said the world had split into material and spiritual sides, stressing:  “We are flouting spiritual life, which feeds the cosmos.”  The current economic crisis was essentially a spiritual one.  “We cannot live in a world of mere things,” he said, noting that Amazonia tropical forests, where his people had always dwelled, brought together the greatest concentration of spiritual life, “from the smallest ant to the greatest tree”.  They were a major interrelated network, yet oil exploration and road projects threatened their spiritual life.  “We feel this,” he said.  The vision of nature was spiritual.  The ways of connecting to it and the commitment to sustaining it were the contributions the peoples of the Amazon could make to mankind.  The State must take measures to defend his people from any extractive activities, he said, and develop a new vision of the natural world as a spiritual one.  “Nature has rights,” he said, as it was made up of spiritual beings.

The representative of the United States said her Government worked with federally recognized Native American tribes to protect and manage tribal lands and resources.  It had expanded financial assistance to help those tribes assume regulatory authority for addressing environmental laws.  The United States also had helped state‑recognized tribes and community‑based organizations address public health, cultural and other protection needs.  Citing a visit by Forum expert Victoria Tauli‑Corpuz, she said the United States disagreed with her findings, as its agencies regularly consulted with tribal governments.  It had complex regulatory framework governing energy and infrastructure which determined how consultations with those tribes occurred.

MASAKI TOMOCHI, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, said projects, such as the 100 dams across East and South‑East Asia and plantation expansions, were being opposed by indigenous peoples due to violation of their land rights.  They were being arrested and even killed for taking legitimate actions against development aggression.  In the Philippines, for example, at least 34 indigenous human rights defenders had been accused of being terrorists, a situation similar to those in Cambodia and Bangladesh.  She pressed the Forum to recommend that States stop repressing indigenous peoples and create a mechanism to protect access to justice for indigenous rights’ defenders.  It should also recommend inclusion of indigenous peoples in development planning at local, national, regional and global levels.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), aligning herself with El Salvador on behalf of CELAC, expressed concern that political and economic interests were used to justify the deprivation of the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands and resources, which had led to their marginalization.  States had the duty to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to their territories.

HJALMAR DAHL, Arctic Caucus, stated that the collective right to land was an integral part of indigenous culture and language.  He expressed concern about the impact of development on the Artic territories, including the resulting threat to food security.  Development must become more sustainable and it must not threaten food security for indigenous people.  States should establish national institutions to establish indigenous peoples’ ownership of their lands and resources.

ROBERTO SERRANO ALTAMIRANO, Director General, La Comision Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indigenas, Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous peoples, said that the Government of Mexico promoted actions to protect indigenous rights.  The promotion of tourist initiatives had also helped the communities to improve their income level.  While there was a lot to learn from indigenous peoples and recognizing the value in working in partnership with them to protect biodiversity, technical transfer was vital to enable indigenous peoples to take part in conservation issues.

Panel I

The Forum then held a round table discussion under the theme “Opportunities and challenges for mapping indigenous lands and titling indigenous lands, territories and resources”.  It featured presentations by:  Shapiom Noningo Sesen, representative, Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation of Peru; Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa, representative, FAO; and Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma Circle Chief and member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission.

Mr. SESEN underlined the importance of mapping for indigenous peoples, particularly in Peru.  Maps were meant for indigenous peoples to delimit their communal territories in order to show their borders to State officials.  Mapping also allowed for land zoning, using nature’s bounties and locating historic and sacred sites.  Mapping was also used in interactions with oil companies as they used their own maps.

Mr. LARRINOA stated that guaranteeing the right to land territories and resources was at the heart of achieving the 2030 Agenda.  Tenure issues were complex in private plots but were even more complex for collective rights, especially in the post‑colonial area as non‑productive lands were viewed as belonging to the Government.  Mapping was important as it increased indigenous peoples’ bargaining power when negotiating with Government or external actors.

Mr. ROY said the Chittagong Hill Tracts area was located in south‑eastern Bangladesh, bordering India and Myanmar.  The Chittagong Hills Tracts Accord came into being after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.  Today, the area featured legal pluralism.  The structure of land administration and management was represented by ministries, a Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, district councils, traditional chiefs, and sub‑district‑level bureaucrats.  Land titling was done at the district level, with traditional chiefs and sub‑chiefs issuing a formalization of “title”.  To obtain a title for a corporation or individual, an application must be filed with the headman.  The prior consent of the district council must be obtained before any land transfer occurred.  In the late 1970s, the Government bypassed that process when it gave land titles to Bengali‑speaking settlers without consulting the headmen.  It also had handed out leases to companies for commercial plantations.

Responding to various points raised in the ensuing interactive dialogue, Mr. SESEN recommended that the Permanent Forum carry out a comprehensive survey of indigenous peoples’ autonomous regions around the world.  He also recommended that they provide the Economic and Social Council Working Group on human rights good practices for natural resource management.

Mr. LARRINOA underscored the need for indigenous peoples to have a platform.  Also, “we need new metrics,” he said.  Rather than measuring production per square meter, he suggested creating biodiversity, biocultural and language metrics.

Mr. ROY, on the collective rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts system, said the role of traditional headsmen did allow collective rights to forests and other resources.  It was a safeguard against the acquisition of title by others.

Panel II

The Forum then held a panel discussion on “Update on the indigenous peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which featured three panellists:  Helena del Carmen Yánez Loza, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations; Marion Barthelemy, Director, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Joan Carling, Tebtebba Foundation.

Ms. DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA said that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goals 2, 6 and 15, the international community must change the way it consumed water.  The demand for water would increase 30 per cent by 2030.  Controlling water was controlling life, so access to water must be democratized.  The fight against climate change was key for Ecuador and international standards were needed to manage water.  She said $2 billion had been invested to provide water and sanitation to people in Ecuador.

Ms. BARTHELEMY said that the role of indigenous peoples was very present throughout the 2030 Agenda.  “Leaving no one behind” implied looking at who was at risk of being marginalized, including indigenous people.  In the 2030 Agenda, indigenous peoples were not only viewed as vulnerable populations; they were also included amongst the key players to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  The 2018 high‑level political forum on sustainable development would review implementation of several of the Goals that were critically important for indigenous people, as was Permanent Forum theme of “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.  The participation of indigenous peoples in the Forum was the result of the principle of inclusiveness established by the 2030 Agenda.  Indigenous groups were encouraged to prepare ways in which they wished to contribute to the Forum in 2018 and beyond.

Ms. CARLING stated that the 2017 high‑level political forum on sustainable development featured the voluntary national review of 43 countries, including 20 that included indigenous peoples.  A follow‑up was needed on the points raised by the reviews.  Despite the participation of indigenous peoples in the process, Governments did not conduct meaningful conversations with indigenous peoples, many of whom were not aware of the Sustainable Development Goals.  In 2017, awareness‑raising among indigenous peoples for the preparation of the 2018 high‑level political forum was still lacking.  More concrete actions at the local and national levels were required to realize the rights of indigenous peoples.  The protection of their rights would not only ensure no one was left behind but also enhance their contribution to sustainable development.

For information media. Not an official record.