Indigenous Peoples Disproportionately Impacted by Climate Change, Systematically Targeted for Defending Freedoms, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum

HR/5389
18 April 2018
Seventeenth Session, 5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Indigenous Peoples Disproportionately Impacted by Climate Change, Systematically Targeted for Defending Freedoms, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum

Indigenous peoples were overrepresented among the poor, disproportionately impacted by climate change and systematically targeted for defending their freedoms, experts told the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today as it covered a range of infringements upon collective rights to lands, territories and natural resources.

The day featured two interactive dialogues.  In the first, panellist Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, decried the dismal state of protection of those collective rights.  Even in countries where laws recognized them, there was weak implementation, and further, contradictory and stronger enforcement of laws governing mining, forestry and agriculture.

In Mexico, for example, agrarian reform had not effectively resolved land disputes or overlapping land claims, she said.  Nor had it provided adequate safeguards for indigenous peoples affected by megaprojects or recognized traditional boundary systems, concepts of territories or forms of organization and representation.

She also dismissed claims that she was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines‑New People's Army.  Placing her name on a list associating her with the terrorist group was unacceptable, she said, asking the Philippines Government to remove her from that list.

Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, said consultations with indigenous peoples were mere pro forma exercises, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent was often neglected in both law and practice.  He drew attention to widespread intimidation of indigenous peoples who cooperated with the United Nations, urging victims to communicate such cases confidentially, to include in the Secretary‑General’s 2018 report on reprisals.

Adama Dieng, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, said protection was an essential responsibility of States.  He likewise encouraged indigenous peoples to send his Office early warning information and recommendations on how to better protect their rights.

With that in mind, indigenous participants offered numerous examples of repression, with the speaker from the World Amazigh Congress pointing to some 300 advocates currently in Moroccan prisons.  In Algeria, Kabyle were being unjustifiably harassed.  Forty‑seven Tuareg people had been killed in the last two years in a push to evict them and exploit their natural resources.  “Tuaregs are treated as terrorists,” she said.

Along similar lines, the speaker from Ogaden Youth and Student Union said Ethiopia had silenced people in the Ogaden region to the extent that no one had submitted information for the Secretary‑General’s last report on reprisals.  She asked what could be done to raise the profile of cases against “those of us who are literally harassed on UN premises and beyond”.  There were early warning signs of genocide in Ogaden and she urged the Special Adviser to advise.

In the afternoon dialogue, panellist Gabor Rona, Chair‑Rapporteur of the Working Group on mercenaries, said transnational companies often extracted natural resources in less developed countries or areas where “State power is weak and corruption is strong”.  Threats were used against local peoples exercising rights of free speech and association to oppose extractive projects and defend their lands, he explained.

Panellist Albert K. Barume, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlighted the gap between indigenous rights and their implementation.  The Ogiek people of Kenya, for example, had requested the body to facilitate dialogue with that Government.  The Sami Parliament of Finland had requested help to revive the Sami Act of 1995.

Binota Dhamai, Chair of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that over 33 years, the Fund had supported the participation of more than 2,000 indigenous peoples in United Nations human rights mechanisms.  However, uncertainty about future contributions would impact delivery of its mandate.

When the floor was opened for debate, a number of indigenous participants again voiced their concerns, with the speaker from the Crimean Tatars Youth Centre decrying that detention, questioning and arrest had become a daily reality.  He asked the Special Rapporteur to visit Ukraine.

A speaker representing the Boushie family said her brother, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation in Canada, had been shot by a non-indigenous farmer in 2016 who was acquitted of all charges by an all‑white jury.  She called on the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism to carry out a study on systemic racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples in the Canadian legal system.

The speaker from the First People of the Kalahari, where his people had lived for thousands of years, said that 50 years ago, the area was titled the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a decision that continued to plague their lives.  He urged Botswana to sign a binding agreement with the communities living there recognizing their rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Whatever their land was called, it belonged to them, he said, and the Government had no right to take it.

Several Government representatives also took the floor, with Finland’s delegate, on behalf of the Nordic countries, welcoming the Expert Mechanism’s first‑ever visit in February and advice for revising the Sami Parliament Act.  Mexico’s delegate, meanwhile, said his Government was grateful for the Mechanism’s visit to examine how the new Constitution respected indigenous people’s rights.

Permanent Forum experts from Denmark, Ecuador and Finland also spoke.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada, Chile, Spain, Brazil, Russian Federation, Philippines, Japan, as well as the European Union and the Sami Parliament in Finland.

A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also delivered a statement.

Representatives from the following indigenous groups also participated: Finnish Sami Youth Organization, International Indian Treaty Council, Coalition of Indigenous Peoples, Māori Law Society, people living in voluntary isolation in Brazil, Ecuarunari, Associacao Dos Povos Indigenas Karipuna, Crimean Tatars, Indigenous Peoples Organization Australia, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Endorois Welfare Council, Parlamento Rapa Nui, Assembly of First Nations of Canada and Coalition on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Comision de Juristas Indigenas en la Republica Argentina CJIRA/Tribal Link, Congress of Aboriginal People, Consejo Regional Indigena del Medio Amazonas-Universidad del Rosario, Organizacion de Pueblos Indigenas de la Amazonia Colombiana, Mohawk Language Custodians Association, Associação Xavante Warã , Metis Settlements General Council, Tonatierra, Indigenous World Association, Confederacion Indigena Tayrona, AIM WEST‑International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios Aymara and Congres Mondial Amazigh.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 19 April, to continue its seventeenth session.

Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

VICTORIA TAULI‑CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that a significant focus of her mandate dealt with indigenous peoples’ collective right to lands, territories and resources, and it was the concern indigenous peoples raised most often when she liaised with them.  While indigenous peoples historically had contributed the least to climate change, they were among those most affected by its consequences.  Indigenous peoples also continued to be overrepresented among the poorest and most marginalized, having fewer resources and resilience to cope with climate change.  Their active role in finding solutions to the problems caused by climate change was gradually being recognized.  During her visit to Mexico, she observed a serious pattern of exclusion and discrimination against indigenous peoples.  Access to justice was particularly difficult for indigenous peoples affected by gross human rights violations, but some good practices were also seen with the recognition of their rights to autonomy and self‑determination in the Mexican Constitution.

The Special Rapporteur said her mandate also involved action upon information of alleged violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in specific situations.  Although several Governments had responded to her communications regarding specific cases, she was concerned about several others that had not.  Criminalization, acts of violence and other risks faced by indigenous people were on the rise.  While existing studies had addressed the situation of attacks against environmental human rights defenders, further analysis of the individual and collective impact on indigenous peoples was needed.

ADAMA DIENG, Special Adviser of the Secretary‑General on the Prevention of Genocide, said his role was as a catalyst — both within the United Nations and in advocating the prevention of such atrocities by alerting the Secretary‑General, and through him, the Security Council, about worrying developments.  He called on Member States to meet their international law obligations, notably International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which came into force in 1991, and the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He also urged full implementation of measures related to prior, free and informed consent, stressing that “indigenous peoples need to be fully involved in decisions that affect them”, especially those related to the environment.  Their protection was an essential responsibility of States, linked to their duty to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and their incitement.  Prevention was central to the responsibility to protect.

National authorities were responsible for preventing such crimes through the design and implementation of national policy, and he encouraged them to strengthen institutions to protect all populations without discrimination.  They must also carry out proper risk assessments and reduce risk through national parliaments, which could schedule annual debates on atrocity crimes; constitutions and ombudspersons, who could publish thematic annual reports inclusive of risk factors, and offer recommendations to address them.

He encouraged indigenous peoples to send his Office early warning information and recommendations on how to better protect their rights.  Indeed, the challenge of protecting indigenous peoples was universal.  He was committed to working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to shine a “spotlight on your concerns”, and work with national institutions to strengthen prevention.

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York Office, said that the Declaration had informed constitutions, policies and both regional and national law.  Yet, as was the case with all too many such instruments, there were significant challenges in its implementation.

For its part, the Human Rights Office worked towards the Declaration’s implementation at the national level, he said, in settings as diverse as Mexico, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Its staff regularly took part in capacity‑building, monitoring, technical cooperation for law and policymaking, and supported strategic litigation.  Noting that “consultations” with indigenous peoples were mere pro forma exercises, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent was often neglected in both law and practice, he said indigenous peoples were also habitually overlooked when it came to deriving benefits from ill‑conceived development ventures.

“We must be guided by the idea that the purpose of development is to increase well‑being throughout society,” he said.  It was time to recognize indigenous peoples’ role as stewards of the environment, a role both crucial amid indiscriminate resource extraction, uncontrolled development and a changing climate, yet also dangerous, as those claiming their rights on the front lines of disputes risked their lives to protect their lands.  He drew attention to widespread intimidation and reprisals against indigenous peoples who cooperated with the United Nations, acts intended to warn others against such recourse.  He urged victims to communicate such cases confidentially at reprisals@ohchr.org, especially for inclusion in the Secretary‑General’s 2018 report on reprisals.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, indigenous speakers raised several questions related to the protection of their land, livelihood, rights, life and the rights and lives of human rights defenders.

The representative of the Finnish Sami Youth Organization said the Artic railroad project endangered the Sami’s land and livelihood.

The representative of Canada raised the importance of the protection of human rights defenders, including those of indigenous peoples, as outlined in recent guidelines published by his Government.

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum Expert from Denmark, sought advice from the panel regarding Governments retaliating against indigenous peoples for collaborating with the United Nations.

Mr. GILMOUR acknowledged those acts of reprisal, which he pointed out were carried out by Governments under different pretences.  They could not be prevented, he said, but could be highlighted in order for awareness to be raised.

Ms. TAULI‑CORPUZ expressed concern about the worrying trend of Governments using anti‑terrorism laws against indigenous peoples simply trying to protect their land and livelihood.  She said that she would publish a report on the matter.  In some countries, the livelihood of indigenous peoples was not only threatened by projects but was also considered illegal by nature.  That issue would too be featured in a special report.  She expressed regret over plans to shrink the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah — an issue raised by an indigenous representative during the meeting — stressing that the Monument used to be considered an example of a sacred protected area and ecosystem.

In a second round of questions and comments, indigenous representatives offered numerous examples of repression, with the speaker from the World Amazigh Congress stressing that some 300 advocates were currently in Moroccan prisons.  In Algeria, Kabyle and self‑determination advocates were being repressed and many associations continued to face unjustifiable restrictions.  Further, 47 Tuareg people had been killed in the last two years in a push to evict them and exploit their natural resources.  “Tuaregs are treated as terrorists,” she said, despite facing terrorism daily.

Along similar lines, the speaker from Ogaden Youth and Student Union said the Ethiopian Government had silenced indigenous peoples to the extent that no one had submitted information for the Secretary‑General’s last report on reprisals, as they were fearful of retaliation.  She asked the Assistant Secretary‑General what measures could be taken to raise the profile of such horrific cases against “those of us who are literally harassed on UN premises and beyond”.  She alerted to the early warning signs of genocide in Ogaden and urged the Special Adviser on Genocide to monitor and advise on that situation.

The speaker from the International Indian Treaty Council said 30,000 indigenous people were incarcerated in 23 states of the United States.  Due to federal Government jurisdiction, mandatory minimum sentences meant that they faced harsher punishment than non‑natives for the same crimes.

The speaker from the Coalition of Indigenous Peoples said Canada’s Truth Commission, along with a former Supreme Court justice, had concluded that the country’s former residential school policy constituted cultural genocide.  He asked whether the Special Adviser on Genocide would also study that question.

The speaker from the Māori Law Society said that since the 1840 British colonization, successive New Zealand Governments had taken Māori natural resources — including geothermal reservoirs, forests, natural gas, oil, gold, silver, iron, the seabed — and now it was denying the Māori’s right to fresh water resources.  Amid such asset-stripping, the Māori were at high risk for jail and drug and alcohol abuse.

A speaker representing people living in voluntary isolation in Brazil said there were 114 such registered groups.  However, the Government had recently weakened the body overseeing their protection, and as a result, their delimited lands were not being effectively protected.  He cited the alleged massacre of the “archers” tribe last year, which had stemmed from budget cuts related to their protection.  More than 5,000 illegal miners had invaded their land, and he pressed the Permanent Forum to set up official dialogue with the Government.

A few Permanent Forum experts offered their perspectives on such situations, with Lourdes Tiban Guala, Permanent Forum expert from Ecuador, describing a new State‑sponsored neocolonialism that sought to repress the right to free, prior and informed consent.  New laws sought to qualify indigenous peoples’ gatherings as illegal, and she asked about setting up a United Nations fund to ensure that indigenous peoples could attend debates and events without fear of retaliation.

For their part, Government representatives outlined measures for respecting indigenous rights, with Chile’s delegate pointing to laws setting out standards for that purpose.  An advisory commission headed by the bishop had been created to solve problems in the Atacama region.  Chile was committed to constitutionally recognizing indigenous peoples.  Spain’s delegate meanwhile said her Government had paid particular attention to indigenous rights as a Human Rights Council member since 1 January.  She voiced concern over the situation of disabled indigenous peoples whose interests must be a global priority.  The European Union delegate said the bloc was monitoring violence against indigenous rights defenders and had prioritized actions that addressed such abuse, while Brazil’s delegate recalled the standing invitation his Government had issued to all Special Rapporteurs.

Offering another perspective, the International Labour Organization representative cited a 2017 report focused on indigenous peoples, climate change and the world of work.  Indigenous peoples were essential in the formulation of adaptation and mitigation policies, he said, noting that Convention 169 and “Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all” provided a framework for ensuring their emergence as partners.  He asked panellists how national and international policies could more coherently address challenges in that context.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ replied that there were various reports on how to respect free, prior and informed consent during consultations.  That principle could not be addressed separately from indigenous peoples’ rights over their lands, territories and natural resources.  In addition, indigenous peoples had also developed their own protocols for outsiders wanting to pursue a project in their areas.

A representative of the Special Adviser of the Secretary‑General on the Prevention of Genocide reiterated the Office’s invitation to receive information.  While it was not in a position to determine whether a crime had been committed, the Office would study information and engage Governments on addressing such issues.

Dialogue with Chair of Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

ALBERT K. BARUME, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that body had produced reports on topics including rights to language, education, health, access to justice and participation in decision‑making.  In July, it had held its tenth session in Geneva, attended by 150 representatives of indigenous peoples’ organizations and civil society organizations and others.  During that session, two substantive reports had been finalized.  The first was a study of business practices and challenges — Report on Indigenous People’s Businesses — underling the human rights foundation of those businesses.  It also underlined the role of informed consent in indigenous economies as well as particular marginalization suffered by women and youth, and identified human rights obstacles preventing indigenous people from engaging fully in business practices.  Such obstacles included discrimination and prejudice and the lack of legal protection for land and resources.  The report ended with intervention suggestions for United Nations agencies and other stakeholders.

He went on to detail a second report presented at the body’s tenth session.  That report documented the application of the Declaration by various entities including United Nations specialized agencies, multilateral actors and national bodies.  It distilled trends from numerous practices which could inspire cross‑fertilization between those actors.  Many good practices in the report could be replicated elsewhere, he said.  However, he highlighted the gap between indigenous rights and their effective implementation, expressing hope that the report would be used to track which rights protected by the Declaration were “falling off the radar”, and which relevant bodies should be engaged, encouraged and supported in that regard.  In 2018, the Ogiek people of Kenya had requested that the Expert Mechanism facilitate human rights dialogue involving that country’s Government.  It had also received a request from the Sami Parliament of Finland to revive the Sami Act of 1995.  As a result, the Mechanism had undertaken a mission to that country in February and had subsequently submitted an advisory note to Finland and the Sami Parliament.  Also, the Mechanism had visited Mexico in March in connection with a new provision to that country’s Constitution regarding indigenous people.  Such requests and missions illustrated the constructive role the body could play on the ground and had provided a learning curve for it.

He noted that the body’s eleventh session would be held in Geneva from 9 to 13 July 2018.  That session would include an agenda item on country engagement requests in order to provide the relevant stakeholders a platform to share their experiences, as well as a dialogue with human rights institutions.  The Mechanism would also present a draft of its thematic study focusing on free, prior and informed consent at the session.  For 2019, the Mechanism was organizing a study on migration and the rights of indigenous peoples.  He concluded with a plea to indigenous youth to make the most of the currently widened space for indigenous people’s rights, stressing that the space had been hard‑fought by their elders and should be put to good use.

GABOR RONA, Chair‑Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said that the Working Group had focused on the need for robust regulation of private military and security companies with particular focus on accountability for violators and support for victims.  It was also assessing the role of companies in the extractive industries and their impact on human rights, including the right to self‑determination.  The Working Group noted common issues of concern, including matters of cultural and environmental protection and the right of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources.  “Very often, transnational companies extract natural resources in less developed countries or areas where State power is weak and corruption is strong,” he said, adding that the exploitation of natural resources, including oil, gas and minerals, by transnational companies had frequently been cited as a major factor in triggering, escalating or sustaining conflicts.  The use of private military and security companies often fed insecurity in communities, obstructing the right to self‑determination of local peoples.

The presence of private security forces alongside the extractive companies could exacerbate the imbalance in the power relationship between local peoples, and it posed obstacles to the realization of collective rights of indigenous peoples to lands and resources, he said.  The Group was concerned about repeated human rights abuses committed by private security personnel.  Unjustifiable or excessive use of force, pre‑textual deprivation of liberty and threats were used as forms of reprisal against local peoples exercising rights of free speech and association to oppose extractive projects and defend their land, resources and environmental rights, he said, adding that in extreme cases personnel were involved in “beating, torture, rape, extrajudicial eviction, arbitrary arrest and killing”.  The impunity enjoyed by the personnel intensified fear and anxiety among local peoples and communities.  Various efforts had been made to identify legal obligations and good practices, he said, stressing that the Working Group called for robust international regulation on the issue.

BINOTA DHAMAI, Chair of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that over the past 33 years, the Fund had supported the participation of more than 2,000 indigenous women, men, youth, elders and indigenous peoples with disabilities in United Nations human rights mechanisms and contributed to important developments on indigenous issues.  The Fund supported indigenous representatives who would otherwise not be able to attend meetings and those who would be able to contribute to a deeper knowledge of the problems affecting indigenous populations.  In addition, the Fund allocated resources to build the capacity of indigenous peoples to make them truly effective participants in the meetings.

The uncertainty about the future contributions would continue to impact the delivery of the Fund’s mandate, he said.  Expanding the Fund’s mandate created new opportunities for indigenous peoples to voice their concerns at the United Nations, but it also meant increasing demands for support.  The work of the Fund was supported by voluntary contributions from Governments, non‑governmental organizations and other private and public entities.

The Chair then opened the floor for a formal debate.

Statements

KAI SAUER (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, noted that indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders were particularly vulnerable to violence and killings.  He called on all States to defend those promoting indigenous peoples’ rights and ensure their safety.  He recalled with concern reports on the situation of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and stressed strong support for his mandate and other Human Rights Council special procedures.  He welcomed the Expert Mechanism’s first‑ever country mission to Finland in February and the advice it had provided to the ongoing work to revise the Sami Parliament Act.

BLANCA CHANCOSA, Vice‑Chair of Ecuarunari, expressed concern over the lack of security at the border of Ecuador and Colombia.  She proposed that the United Nations fact‑finding mission in Colombia and human rights organizations organize a mission to that border to see that the rule of law was upheld and human rights respected.  Indigenous peoples were particularly vulnerable because of the armed conflict and they were being evicted from their lands.

ROBERTO SERRANO ALTAMIRANO (Mexico) said that his Government was grateful for the technical visit carried out by the Mechanism’s representative examining how the new Constitution was being implemented with respect to indigenous peoples’ rights.  He welcomed the July 2017 decision that the body’s next annual study would focus on the issue of free, prior and informed consent.  Mexico gave priority to that issue and looked forward to setting up an institutional framework in that regard.

JUMANDA GAKELEBONE, First People of the Kalahari, said his people had lived in the Kalahari for thousands of years.  Only 50 years ago, his land was titled the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a decision which was plaguing their lives.  He called on the Botswana Government for a binding agreement with the communities living there recognizing their legitimate rights under the Declaration.  Whatever their land was called, it still belonged to them and the Government did not have the right to take it.

Mr. DAHL, Permanent Forum Expert from Denmark, suggested making a recommendation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to use the names that indigenous people called themselves rather than those used by Governments which were often derogatory.

The representative of the Russian Federation said several ombudsman positions had been established in that country relating to human rights.  Moreover, a mechanism for indigenous peoples’ interaction with industry and corporations had been established.  She noted that 193 peoples had equal rights to preservation of culture, economic and social rights both at the State and regional levels.  She expressed regret about political issues being brought up, calling for all members of the Permanent Forum to refrain from that practice.

ADRIANO KARIPUNA, Associacao Dos Povos Indigenas Karipuna, delivered a statement in Portuguese.

A representative from Crimean Tatars, saying that the group had been subjected to oppression by the Russian Federation on its territory that had led to lawlessness and impunity, asked the Special Rapporteur to urgently intervene.

A representative from the Crimean Tatars Youth Centre said that detention, questioning and arrest had become a daily reality for Crimean Tatars youth, their language was being destroyed and only 7 schools were teaching courses in Crimean, 19 schools having been shut down.  He asked for the Special Rapporteur to visit Ukraine in due course.

CATHRYN A. EATOCK, Indigenous Peoples Organization Australia, said that the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was to investigate and report, and she was not a terrorist.  The Philippines Government had an obligation under relevant instruments to protect the fundamental rights of all people.  Domestic laws should not stigmatize the Special Rapporteur’s legitimate role.  She also called on the Australian Government and others to defend her mandate.

TUOMAS ASLAK JUUSO, Sami Parliament in Finland, recalled that the body had extended an invitation to the Expert Mechanism in November which had undertaken their first country engagement mission to Finland in February.  Sami self‑government was regulated by legislation, the Act on the Sami Parliament, which was currently under revision by a working group.  The Mechanism considered amendments to that legislation, meeting with stakeholders and identifying challenges.  It provided a technical advice note aiming to provide counsel to the negotiations for a new Sami Parliament Act.

QIUIOQ NIVI LOVSTROM, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, said her group was concerned about the indoctrination of youth through colonial education systems, which were neither built by nor made for indigenous peoples.  Many went to schools where their culture was not included and was instead regarded as a curiosity.  Interculturality should be an integral policy of States so that misconceptions about indigenous peoples could be overcome.

CARSON KIBURO KIBETT, Endorois Welfare Council, said that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights had reached a landmark decision in 2009 recognizing the Endorois’ rights over their ancestral lands.  As a result, the Kenyan Government had undertaken various reform processes.  However, it had yet to engage the Endorois and had made no action or commitment to initiate the process.  Further, the community had been under siege by criminal gangs killing, incapacitating and displacing indigenous peoples.  He appealed for a positive engagement to be initiated with Kenya to secure his people’s land rights.

The representative of the Philippines said her country had issued a declaration naming the Communist Party of the Philippines‑New People's Army as a terrorist organization on the basis of existing laws.  In that context, the inclusion of the Special Rapporteur in that list did not stem from her work in that role but instead, her participation in the Communist Party of the Philippines‑New People's Army.  The Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to present her case in court or present proof that the organization was not a terrorist group.

A representative of the Parlamento Rapa Nui said that a report submitted in 2003 demonstrated various breaches of sovereignty of the Rapa Nui people who were not allowed full access to their ancestral land.  A significant portion of land was owned by the State, but Chile had refused to return it to the local populations and their rights were not upheld.

The representative of Japan, in response to the statement by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, said that Okinawa has its own traditions and the Government of Japan sought to protect their rights and freedom under the Constitution.

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Assembly of First Nations of Canada and Coalition on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said Governments must adopt legislation to protect the rights of indigenous people.  Training programmes to help civil servants better understand the Declaration should also be organized and States should adopt mechanisms to ensure the full participation of indigenous peoples in implementing it.

SANDRA CEBALLOS, Comision de Juristas Indigenas en la Republica Argentina CJIRA/Tribal Link, said indigenous women were vulnerable to various forms of violence.  They were exposed to chemical poisoning as extractive industries encroached upon their lands.  She also noted cases of sexual violence and exploitation committed by staff members of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala.

ROBERT BERTRAND, Congress of Aboriginal People, said his organization sought to protect the rights of aboriginal people in Canada.  However, Métis and non‑status Indians remained among the most disadvantaged as both the federal and provincial governments had denied their rights.

NAZARETH CABRERA, Consejo Regional Indigena del Medio Amazonas‑Universidad del Rosario, said people in her community had been displaced from their land.  She called on the Government of Colombia to comply with land rights in the country and return to the land to her people.

A representative of the Organizacion de Pueblos Indigenas de la Amazonia Colombiana said that Colombia had granted concessions to extractive companies violating the rights of indigenous peoples and leading to conflict.  He called for effective measures to be taken so that those industries fully consulted indigenous peoples.  Traditional knowledge must be recognized to protect the land going forward.  Free, prior and informed consent must be adhered to in all decisions that affected indigenous peoples.

ELLEN GABRIEL, Mohawk Language Custodians Association, said that a trauma‑informed lens was required for examining indigenous people’s issues.  Historical trauma was defined as a cumulative psychological wounding of a generation.  In Canada, there was a conflict of interest because the Government had access to all the documents about colonization.

HIPARIDI DZUTSI WA TOP TIRO, Associação Xavante Warã, said that the soy crop, planted for export in Brazil’s Mato Grosso State, was causing great problems.  The agribusiness was destroying the forest around his people’s territories and polluting the water and air.  It contaminated the game essential for the A’uwe people’s rituals and threatened their existence.

GERALD CUNNINGHAM, Metis Settlements General Council, said they were the true stewards of their sacred lands, and called on Canada to recognize their council.  He appreciated Canada’s attempts to recognize indigenous rights, but expressed concern about State discrimination.  Canada had restricted its bilateral meetings with just three indigenous organizations, which was in conflict with the Declaration.

TUPAC ENRIQUE ACOSTA, Tonatierra, said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur must be strengthened, and called for her to investigate and formally assess the methodology of the doctrine of discovery in her country visits.

JAZMIN ALFARO, Indigenous World Association, said that, in 2013, the Special Rapporteur had visited El Salvador and produced a report noting that a century of military regimes had left a vacuum for the indigenous peoples there.  According to that document, the Government must facilitate the recovery of their identity and protect their rights, as well as provide reparations, among other recommendations.

DUNEN KANEYBIA MUELAS, Confederacion Indigena Tayrona, said that the area where she lived in Colombia included many different indigenous groups.  Mining companies operating there were using 50,000 hectares of land.  Her group rejected those projects, she said, noting that the rivers were being polluted.  Suitable reparations were needed, she emphasized.

JEAN ROACH, AIM WEST‑International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, called on the international community to support efforts to free Native American activist Leonard Peltier who had been imprisoned for 43 years.  She said the United States Government continued to violate the rights of indigenous peoples who were murdered, punished and jailed for standing up for their rights.

Q”APAJ CONDE, Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios Aymara, said violence and criminalization of young indigenous people had worsened.  He supported the use of the extended mandate to protect the rights of young indigenous people.

ANNE NUORGAM, Permanent Forum expert from Finland, said the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur needed to work together to protect indigenous peoples’ rights.

AMGHAR TOUMAST, Congres Mondial Amazigh, called for an end to the use of mercenaries by States who abused the rights of people in his community.  Such abuses were criminal acts.

Closing Remarks

Mr. BARUME thanked the States of Finland and Mexico, as well as the Sami Parliament and others, for their pioneering engagement with the Mechanism.  He went on to note that tensions between indigenous peoples and States were running high, which was unhealthy for all stakeholders.  That underlined the need for dialogue.  It was important to use the Mechanism’s new mandate as an opportunity to engage directly in conversation.  Responding to the Philippines’ delegate, he said the Mechanism had issued a statement supporting the Special Rapporteur because the onus of proof did not lie with her, but instead on the side of the Government.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ thanked the Government of Finland for its statement of support, adding that the support inspired her to remain strong and pursue her commitment to indigenous peoples’ rights.  Regarding the Finland delegate’s question, she said reprisals against indigenous peoples were growing.  She had held a hearing about that matter earlier.  Presentations by indigenous peoples from various regions about their criminalization had confirmed the situation.  Responding to the statement by the Philippines, she denied any membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines‑New People's Army, recalling that she had stated that fact clearly in the past.  The Government bore the responsibility to prove that rather than placing the onus on her.  Placing her name on a list associating her with the terrorist group was unacceptable, she said.  Her role as an independent expert was affected greatly by the situation.  She asked the Philippines Government to remove her from that list.

Mr. DHAMAI appealed to Member States and private entities alike to contribute to the Voluntary Fund so that indigenous representatives could participate in forums and contribute to the dialogue.

JADE BROWN-TOOTOOSIS, representing the Boushie family, said her brother, Colten Boushie, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation in Canada, was shot by a non‑indigenous farmer, Gerald Stanley, in August 2016.  An all‑white jury had acquitted Gerald Stanley of all charges and the Saskatchewan government had refused to appeal that decision despite many calls for them to do so.  “The Canadian justice system has failed Colten, our community and indigenous peoples,” she stressed, recommending that the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism undertake a study on systemic racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples in the Canadian legal system.

For information media. Not an official record.