Indigenous women faced myriad forms of violence, and in the United States, murder rates that were 10 times the national average, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues heard today, as participants considered the range of problems impairing or outright blocking the exercise of basic rights.
Terri Henry, Forum expert from the United States, said violence against indigenous women occurred “from birth to death” and touched every American Indian nation. A range of factors influenced that trend, from domestic abuse to the transient “man camp” culture of the oil industry. A proposal before Congress to recognize 5 May as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native American Women and Girls had garnered support from 186 tribal states and nations. She urged the Forum to support it, as well.
In an introductory statement, Tarcila Rivera Zea, Forum expert from Peru, recommended that the Commission on the Status of Women hold a high-level dialogue on indigenous women that would coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women in 2020. She commended the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), among others, for having made space for women’s participation. “We will be seen as agents of change,” she said.
Throughout the day, indigenous participants spotlighted areas of particular concern, with the speaker from the Commission on Human Rights — Philippines stressing that indigenous rural women had lower health indicators than their urban peers. That was due, in part, to the Government’s no-home-birth policy, which meant local governments penalized delivery through traditional birth attendants. There were almost no health facilities in isolated areas, and very few indigenous children were registered at birth, as they were not born in hospitals.
The speaker from the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives said indigenous midwives, and their contributions to positive health outcomes, were largely unacknowledged in State health systems. That practice must be supported by State health policy and integration, she said, stressing that the systematic barriers preventing indigenous peoples from accessing such care violated the Declaration and constituted a threat to cultural survival.
Some participants said such structural mistreatment could be traced back, in part, to the boarding school era, particularly in the United States and Canada, and the patriarchal attitudes prevailing at that time.
The speaker from the Blackstar Community for Better Living Initiative, Inc., who had survived Canada’s child welfare system, said indigenous children were routinely “apprehended” because they lived in poverty, with a single parent, with large families in a small dwelling, had chronic disease or missed school. He described the murder of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old weighing 72 pounds whose remains had been found in a Manitoba river. The non-indigenous male charged with her murder had been acquitted despite audio and other evidence.
The speaker from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said colonial genocide in Canada was rooted in the papal bull. Residential schools had stripped indigenous peoples of their languages and cultures. As Pope Francis had said, he would not apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system. He pressed the Forum to call on the Church to reinstate the healing fund for victims, and on the Pope to rescind the papal bull.
The issue was one of many raised by indigenous participants to put Governments on notice about dangers to their sacred lands, territories and natural resources.
“I will not be silent and will speak about the water crisis” affecting the Menominee people, said the eight-year-old speaker from the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. Describing the risks of locating the Back 40 metallic sulphide mine in the United States State of Michigan, she said: “We need all to help us stop this mine if we are going to survive as a people. We need you more than ever.”
Several Government representatives also took the floor, with the United States delegate noting that the 2013 Violence against Women Reauthorization Act addressed a jurisdictional loophole that had left Native American women vulnerable to violence by non-native American people.
Bangladesh’s delegate pointed out that any development project carried out in the Chittagong Hill Tracts area was done through consultations with ethnic groups, while Brazil’s delegate noted that access to health care was universal and publicly funded, with more than 800 health teams operating in indigenous lands.
Mariam Wallet Mohamed Aboubakrine (Mali), Chair of the Permanent Forum, also spoke.
Also making statements were representatives of Namibia, Viet Nam, Finland, South Africa, Ecuador, Chile, Norway, Philippines, Denmark, Guyana, Australia, Japan, Paraguay, El Salvador, Chile, Nepal, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Russian Federation, Bolivia, New Zealand, Canada (also for Australia), as well as the Sámi Parliament in Norway.
Also speaking were officials from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Representatives of the following funds and non-governmental organizations also participated: Consello Indigenista Missionerio of Brazil, Canada World Youth, Asian Indigenous Peoples Caucus, Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, International Indian Treaty Council, Comision de la Juventud ECMIA, Minority Rights Group, Parbatya Chattagram jana Samhati Samiti, Tonatierra, Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, RIPON, New Zealand Nurses Organization, Global Embassy Activist for Peace, Aadivasi Ekta Parishad, Cultural Survival, National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, Comite Indigena Organizador del Simposio, World Sindhi Congress, Passionist International, Ogaden Peoples Rights Organization, International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS, Gwich’in Steering Committee, Chimuguguruaction, Flying Eagle Woman Fund, Yolngu Nation and Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Crown Council, Union of British Colombia Indian Chiefs, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Iwgia Gogola, Asamblea Nacional Indígena Plural por la Autonomía, Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, American Indian Movement — West, Green Climate Fund, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Native Youth Alliance, Sengwer Indigenous Peoples – Kenya, United Confederation of Taino People, Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation, Indigenous Peoples’ Organization of Bangladesh, CIDOB, Forest People’s Programme, Congres Mondial Amazigh, International Indian Treaty Council, Flying Eagle Woman Fund, Chittagong Hill Tracts Jumma Refugees’ Welfare Association and the Organización de Pueblos Indigenas de la Amazonia Colombiana.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 20 April, to continue its seventeenth session.
Introductory Statements — Indigenous Women, Youth and Children
TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, Forum expert from Peru, pressed States to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against indigenous women, young people, children, elder persons and persons with disabilities. Taking an indigenous perspective on the Sustainable Development Goals, she said “we are having some measure of impact”. The Forum should recommend that the Commission on the Status of Women hold an interactive high-level dialogue on indigenous women, coinciding with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women, in 2020. It should be in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
She drew attention to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for having made space for indigenous women’s participation. “We will be seen as agents of change and as rights holders,” she stressed. However, they were far from seeing full respect for our collective rights to land, territories and natural resources, and to self-determination, with free prior and informed consent.
She said indigenous peoples continued to be forcibly removed from their lands and seen as criminals for defending their rights. In the context of climate change, food insecurity and environmental damage, indigenous women were at a huge disadvantage, unable to address labour market inequalities. Education had huge ethnic, gender and geographic gaps. Indigenous students received low-quality education due to a lack of cultural and other sensitivity. They faced fresh forms of violence from gangs and drug traffickers. Turning to migration, she said indigenous women faced high incidence of suicide, maternal mortality and HIV incidence, and lacked family-planning services. Due to patriarchal and religious attitudes, “our people are kept impoverished”, she said, pressing States and indigenous groups to build partnerships based on horizontal dialogue, reciprocity, and complementarity of generations and gender.
LUIS MORA, Chief, Gender Human Rights and Cultural Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), introduced a fact sheet which brought together, for the first time, available data on the maternal health status of indigenous women and adolescent girls. He said it painted “an alarming picture” that underscored the urgent need for action if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be achieved. He went on to note that, out of the 170 recommendations issued by the Permanent Forum since its establishment, only 10 had been reported by Member States to have been completed. A main challenge for the Forum was the low response rate from Member States, with only 37 having submitted reports for the annual session, and Mexico being the only Member States that had sent more than 10 reports. Moreover, he said, the reports focused more often on processes and activities, but not on results.
TERRI HENRY, Forum expert from the United States, said the boarding school era and other laws and policies of the United States were factors behind the violence against indigenous women. Such abuse occurred from birth to death, touching every American Indian nation. American Indian women faced murder rates that were 10 times the national average. A large percentage of those deaths stemmed from a multitude of causes, from domestic violence to the transient workers in the oil industry, she said, citing “man camps” in North Dakota. More must be done to prevent such disappearances and murders. There was a proposal before Congress to recognize 5 May as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native American Women and Girls. To date, 186 tribal states and nations had expressed support for that proposal, and she urged the Forum to support it, as well.
Ms. ZEA, Forum expert from Peru, said Mexico had a highest rate of implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, followed by Denmark, Norway, Burkina Faso and Botswana, thanking them for their good practices.
ROYAL J.K. UI/O/OO, Deputy Minister of Marginalized Communities of Namibia, said situations of marginalized communities had been a challenging one to address due to inappropriateness of interventions that had created structural dependence, tensions with other communities, alcohol abuse, low education among marginalized communities and lack of strategies to define integration and mainstreaming, which in turn, resulted in a fragmented approach. Yet, Namibia was committed to improving the lives of marginalized communities, in line with its Declaration obligations. It continued to observe the International Day on World Indigenous Peoples. Education access was the highest priority.
ANTONELLA CARDONE, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said indigenous women were at the core of efforts to reduce poverty. The Fund’s Executive Board had approved 16 projects for indigenous peoples and communities around the world, having invested $184 million through loans and grants. She drew attention to the 2018 appeal for the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility, which ensured indigenous communities could access financing to solve rural development challenges. Its board was comprised mostly of indigenous peoples’ representatives. Thus far, it had supported 127 projects, and this year, would focus on youth. She looked forward to receiving applications.
LEAH TANODRA-ARMAMENTO, Commission on Human Rights — Philippines, said indigenous women were mainly concerned about their health, especially their reproductive health. As the Government had implemented a no-home-birth policy, local governments had penalized delivery through traditional birth attendants. Another concern was that health facilities in isolated areas had not been established, resulting in poor health indicators for indigenous women as compared to those in more easily accessible areas. Another issue was that most indigenous children were not registered at birth, as they had not been born in hospitals or health centres.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said his country, through a dedicated secretariat within its Ministry of Health, operated a health system that specifically addressed the needs of its 1 million indigenous peoples. Access to health care was universal and publicly funded, he said, with more than 800 health teams operating in indigenous lands. Special projects had been set up to reduce maternal and child mortality, he said, adding that respect was also given to indigenous traditional knowledge.
MARTIN OELZ, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that more and more indigenous women and men were employed in wide variety of sectors. Often, however, their opportunities were limited to the informal economy where violation of fundamental rights were more likely to occur. With a limited awareness of their rights, indigenous peoples found themselves trapped in new cycles of marginalization that must be broken. He discussed ILO’s efforts to address the situation, which included growing its knowledge base, awareness-raising activities and promoting dialogue between relevant actors, including indigenous peoples. He also reviewed projects that ILO was undertaking in Bolivia, Bangladesh and Guatemala.
FRANCISCO LOEBENS, Consello Indigenista Missionerio of Brazil, said killings of indigenous peoples in a remote corner of Brazil in August 2017 pointed to the fact that isolated people were being slaughtered in the Amazonian region. Lands under Government protection did not mean that people who lived there had protection from invaders. He requested that the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples draw up a special report on the situation of isolated groups and to make recommendations to States in the Amazonian region. Studies should be carried out to determine the locations of such groups and more resources allocated to them, he said, calling also for the immediate withdrawal of illegal presences on their land.
NGUYEN LIEN HUONG (Viet Nam) said there were 54 ethnic groups, but none fell into the category of indigenous peoples. Ethnic policies focused on ensuring equal rights. The Education Ministry had worked with UNICEF on a pilot project for bilingual education. There were more than 5,500 classes taught in ethnic languages.
MARTIN PAUL, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, described colonial genocide and discrimination in Canada, rooted in the papal bull, which had led to indigenous children being stolen by child welfare agencies and denial of indigenous peoples’ rights to their land and resources. Moreover, residential schools had stripped indigenous peoples of their languages and cultures. The Catholic Church had agreed to establish a healing fund for survivors of the residential school system. Pope Francis had said he would not apologize for the Church’s role in that system. He urged the Pope to do so. He pressed the Forum to call on the Church to reinstate the healing fund, and on the Pope to rescind the papal bull.
LAURLE PHIPPS (United States) reiterated support for the Declaration, noting that her country supported revitalizing native languages and implementing the 2012 memorandum of understanding between the Departments of Education, Interior and Health and Human Services. In 2017, the Department of Education’s Indian Education Office had offered the first grants under its Native American language programme, and had also expanded native youth community projects. The 2013 Violence against Women Reauthorization Act addressed a jurisdictional loophole that had left Native American women vulnerable to violence by non-native American people.
ANNIE ANINGMIUQ, Canada World Youth, said United Nations had refused to acknowledge the indigenous nations while supporting colonial States, such as Canada and the United States. Colonial Powers should be held accountable by international organizations such as the United Nations. The lack of an international tribunal to address violations of indigenous peoples’ rights showed that the United Nations was not truly ready to stand by indigenous peoples.
KAI SAUER (Finland) said that developing the Arctic region for people was a priority and that collaboration with indigenous peoples in that regard was very important. The long-term development of the Arctic depended on a complex network being examined by a joint task force and it was critical that the Sámi Parliament was heard, informed and consulted in that process.
The representative of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Caucus said Governments in Asia refused to recognize the existence of peoples on their territories. Laws related to indigenous issues were either absent, limited, conditional or not fully implemented. They also did not extend to all indigenous peoples in a particular country, leading to their denial of basic rights and services, including collective rights to lands, territories and natural resources. They were denied access to justice when fighting for their rights. She advocated for strong systems of accountability within States. She urged States to adopt the term “indigenous peoples” and accord them legal standing and implement existing laws guaranteeing respect for economic, political, cultural and other rights.
WILSON MAKGALANCHECHE (South Africa) said the Government supported the Forum’s decisions in relation to the six mandated areas, which were critical for indigenous peoples to attain their rights. International cooperation and partnership with the United Nations should be improved to complement national efforts to realize such aspirations, he said, adding that the Government had restored a sizeable land area to previously disadvantaged groups, including the Khoisan.
BEATRICE DUNCAN, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, highlighted the need to protect the lands and resources of indigenous peoples. Land-extraction was a threat to the well-being of indigenous women and girls, who were also at risk in the Sahel region because of violent extremism. All forms of attacks were a violation of human rights, and mechanisms to prevent and punish such acts were needed.
MARIAN CISNEROS, President, Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku, said that climate change and global warming continued to destroy Mother Earth and that development of the oil, timber and extractive industries had a harmful impact on indigenous lands.
LUIS MALES (Ecuador) said that each year saw the disappearance of hundreds of languages, and with them, the knowledge embodied in indigenous peoples. Indeed, the wealth of nations lay in the diversity of thought and how it was expressed. He encouraged international cooperation and Governments, non‑governmental organizations and others to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages. He urged Latin American and Caribbean nations to hold an open dialogue on indigenous languages in order to elaborate strategies for celebrating the International Year.
JULIANA YESHING, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, said during the sixth World Conservation Congress, the International Union had decided to create a membership category for indigenous peoples’ organizations. She encouraged others to explore how indigenous voices could be expressed in the governance of their organizations, adding that the Union had a history of working with indigenous peoples.
The representative of the International Indian Treaty Council said that the United Nations must take more active role in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples to water, housing and freedom from the discriminations they experienced. Mexico imported pesticides from the United States that were very dangerous for the health of workers that came in contact with them. He highlighted the importance of community-based education, indigenous-run schools and the preservation and use of indigenous languages.
The representative of Chile said that a series of executive measures were under way for indigenous peoples, especially women, to rehabilitate their ancestral language and support entrepreneur projects within their communities. The prevention of violence against women and girls was also a priority. He highlighted the importance of the establishment of the Ministry and Council for Indigenous Peoples.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization said FAO and the Government of Mexico had held a forum aimed at managing hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. Participants had underscored the importance of gender disaggregated data on indigenous women, which would help reduce atrocities they faced. Participants had also cited the importance of public policies on which indigenous women had been consulted, and their ancestral knowledge had been recognized. FAO’s Director-General had made indigenous women a priority, he said, citing a campaign to raise awareness of indigenous women’s contributions to food security. Last year, 18 indigenous youth had taken internships at FAO.
The representative of the Comision de la Juventud ECMIA described challenges faced by indigenous women, children and youth, underscored the need to broaden the discussion to include a gender and youth perspective. State recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights was lagging. Indigenous peoples had been forced to migrate to urban centres, having been prevented from accessing education and other basic services. “We lose our identity in the process and harmonious relationship with our territories,” she said.
MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said that preservation and development of indigenous languages were crucial. Cross-border collaboration was needed and used for the preservation of the Sámi language. The committee for the development and use of the Sámi language had proposed measures and submitted a report to a broad public hearing. The Government had initiated new measures to remedy the lack of Sámi language teachers and translators. The effective participation of indigenous peoples was crucial in the preservation of their languages.
The representative of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus said she was eight years old. “I will not be silent and will speak about the water crisis” affecting the Menominee people in the State of Wisconsin in the United States, she said. Citing the Back 40 Mine project in the State of Michigan, she said: “We need all to help us stop this mine if we are going to survive as a people. We need you more than ever.”
MD. NURUL AMIN, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs of Bangladesh, recalled that the Government had signed the historic Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord to end a decades-long insurgency and peacefully resolve land disputes. It was committed to full implementation of that accord through active engagement and consultations with all concerned. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council managed the leasing and transfer of land. The dispute resolution commission act sought to resolve land disputes through a judicial process. Any development project in the area was done through consultations with ethnic groups.
CARL SODERBERGH, Minority Rights Group, said his organization had worked with UNFPA and UN-Women to produce a fact sheet on indigenous women’s health, noting the importance of disaggregated data. Entering into the project, his organization had understood such data was lacking; it later became dismayed over how little data was actually available. Only 27 other reports had analysed collective ethnicity data; in only 8 had the data said anything about indigeneity. Indigenous women were more than three times at risk of not accessing ante-natal care, he said, citing also culturally inappropriate health facilities. Indigenous women must be fully involved in the design and conduct of health surveys, he stressed.
TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines) said that there were 14 million indigenous people in the Philippines. The Constitution ensured the rights of indigenous peoples to manage their ancestral domains but they still faced challenges, including to land ownership. Response mechanisms were at work to promote dialogue with an emphasis on indigenous women as peacebuilders. Culturally adapted education strategies were implemented.
MANGAL KUMAR CHAKMA, Parbatya Chattagram jana Samhati Samiti, said that the criminalization of indigenous peoples had been intensified to silence them and urged the Government of Bangladesh to end culture of impunity.
JEPPE HOLM NIELSEN (Denmark) said the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples had stressed the rights of indigenous youth to participate in decision-making. Denmark had reviewed its portfolio of development programmes through a youth lens. Young people represented unique resources as rights defenders, entrepreneurs and citizens. He said he was impressed by the work and methodology of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, noting that Denmark had increased support to the national youth council and allocated funds to its programmes.
TUPAC ENRIQUE, Tonatierra, said that, during her visit to Mexico, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been prohibited from visiting a certain facility and working to identify the whereabouts of students who had gone missing in Guerrero State in 2014. Also, the Forum’s report last year referenced the need to make the Declaration into a convention. He urged the Forum to follow up on that issue, as he would not be satisfied with a system-wide action plan.
AYLA BAKKALLI, Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, highlighted the situation of the children of Crimea, which was currently occupied by the Russian Federation. Crimean Tatar youth had been forced to leave their native homeland. Crimean Tatar youth were sentenced to prison and people were brutalized in front of their families, including their children. She called on the international community to address the situation in Crimea.
VALARIE GARRIDO-LOWE (Guyana) said that indigenous peoples were making progress thanks to special funds which supported indigenous villages and communities. Special programmes were supporting businesses led by youth and indigenous women. Those initiatives were helping several communities and would pave the way for self-sufficiency among indigenous peoples.
NINO VESSEALVA, RIPON, emphasized the role of young people in the future of indigenous communities. An annual youth forum focused on developing young leaders. She suggested that the United Nations bring indigenous youth into the Organization in order to strengthen their roles as leaders. In the Russian Federation, indigenous women played multiple important roles.
KERRI NUKU, New Zealand Nurses Organization, said Maori women were protectors of humanity and land, as well as nurturers and organizers of communities and future generations, roles that were marginalized in New Zealand legislation. Recalling New Zealand’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, she said the Government had failed in the areas of pay parity and equitable health services. It was unacceptable that such issues were not addressed nationally. There was structural discrimination in terms of gender and ethnicity. She recommended that the United Nations set up an independent body for monitoring the Declaration.
GABRIELA LARA, Global Embassy Activist for Peace, highlighted the importance of education as a way to teach the wisdom of indigenous peoples, transform the hearts and minds of children, as well as plant early on the seed of respect for indigenous people.
NICHOLAS BARALA, Aadivasi Ekta Parishad, said he was representing 200 million indigenous peoples in India. Development projects were taking their lands away and brought on human rights violations, including killings and rapes. Indigenous people were treated as second-class citizens in their country and lived in extreme poverty and hunger.
ARNOLD BLACKSTAR, Blackstar Community for Better Living Initiative Inc., spoke today as a survivor of Canada’s child welfare system. Indigenous children were routinely subjected to discrimination by that system. They were apprehended because they lived in poverty, with a single parent, with large families in a small dwelling, had chronic disease or missed school. He described the case of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old weighing 72 pounds who had been murdered and whose remains had been found in a Manitoba river. The non-indigenous male charged with her murder had been acquitted despite audio and other evidence.
DEV KUMAR SUNUWAR, Cultural Survival, said he spoke on behalf of the Indigenous Media and Communications Caucus. In his home country of Nepal, media excluded indigenous languages, hampering indigenous people’s ability to access information in a language they understood. Around the world, indigenous communities were creating media “by and owned by our communities”. “We are evidence that indigenous peoples have whole-heartedly embraced this form of expression,” he said, often forced to do so under threat by Governments.
The representative of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives sought to protect indigenous midwifery. Indigenous midwives, and their contributions to positive health outcomes, were largely unacknowledged in State health systems. Indigenous midwifery must be supported by State health policy and integration. The systematic barriers preventing indigenous peoples from accessing such care violated the Declaration and constituted a threat to cultural survival.
NILO CAYUQUEO, Comite Indigena Organizador del Simposio, presented workshops organized by his organization and mentioned their publications. He welcomed the delegations of Indigenous peoples at the United Nations, but said that, although they kept asking for the same rights, the situation was not different and indigenous peoples were still killed, imprisoned and repressed.
SAGHIR SHAIKH, World Sindhi Congress, said that violence and discrimination against Sindhi progress had reached an unprecedented level. Pakistan and China were collaborating on projects that damaged the environment and the Governments were not complying with norms in place. The livelihood of the Sindhi people was threatened and Sindhi political groups were targeted for voicing their opposition to Government projects.
REY ONDAP, Passionist International, voiced contempt over the continued inaction by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, pointing to the “Capion massacre” on 17 October 2012. He also cited the killing of two men near Lake Sebu who had stood firm against a coffee plantation and coal exploration. They had been branded communists and murdered in 2017 by the 27th and 33rd infantry battalions.
JUWERIA ALI, Ogaden Peoples Rights Organization, said Ethiopia had transferred ethnic settlers into the Ogaden area as a way to change its demographic nature and transform it into a region where Somalis would be an indigenous minority. Its 2009 policy of intimidation and physical elimination had brought about a forced cultural assimilation. The 2009 anti-terrorism proclamation was used to silence political dissidents, journalists and others. Somalis in Ogaden were treated as second-class citizens. There was no educational outreach. Rather, State education excluded indigenous histories. Such alienation had lasting impacts, notably in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
CARMEN DEL PILAR MONTALVO PACAHUALA, International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS, talked about a young, indigenous woman who had become pregnant after a rape and was HIV positive and had tuberculosis. Better practices were needed with specific recommendations for indigenous people with HIV and AIDS. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS’ (UNAIDS) strategy did not mention indigenous peoples. The inclusion in society of indigenous peoples must also include their traditional medicine and ancestral knowledge. Collective action and partnerships were needed to tackle HIV and AIDS. Strategies must be adapted to mobilise communities, with measurable indicators for indigenous peoples.
JAMIL AHMED, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that there was an alarming trend of threats and violence against indigenous peoples worldwide. He expressed concern over the growing number of attacks on environmental defenders who were allies of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Those attacks were not only human rights issues, they also diminished the likelihood of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. To address that issue, UNEP had put together a policy for the protection of human rights defenders.
BERNADETTE DEMIENTIEFF, Gwich’in Steering Committee, said that the Committee represented 14 communities from Alaska and Canada. She asked that the aggressive advancement of lease sales stop and that the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be protected.
The representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS said that the Programme engaged with Indigenous peoples in many ways. The Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, had met with different indigenous groups whose members were living with HIV and AIDS. Indigenous peoples were particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Programme recognized the need for culturally appropriate initiatives that took into account the specificities of indigenous peoples.
The representative of Australia said that capacity-building had to be strengthened at all levels and that policies and programmes that affected indigenous lands and resources must be protected. Prior consent had to be given for any activity related to land and resources. “We are developed nations living in third-world country conditions,” she said.
FUJIKA ARIARAKAWA, Chimuguguruaction, said the colonization and military invasion of Okinawa remained severe, with much of the land occupied by a United States military base with support from Japan. Expressing concern about sexual assaults and threats to the educational development of youth, as well as the non‑return of skeletal bones removed from tombs nearly a century ago, she demanded that the Government of Japan correct outstanding issues.
RISTEN MUSTONEN, Sámi Parliament in Norway, said the Government of Finland was proposing to build a railway to the Arctic Ocean that would run through Sámi lands. According to the Government studies, the railway would have its worst effects on Sámi culture and livelihoods, as well as the environment. She asked the Forum to recommend that the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland to launch negotiations with the Sámi Parliament.
KAYTESHIA WESCOTT, Flying Eagle Woman Fund, said an open-pit mine developed by a Canadian company near the mouth of the Menominee River in Michigan would destroy ancestral mounds and pollute the river, which residents depended on for clean water. It would also destroy traditional medicines along the riverbank, such as tobacco and sweetgrass.
The representative of Japan said his country had steadily made efforts on indigenous issues. With regard to Okinawa, the Government recognized that its people had a unique culture and distinctive traditions. Guided by the Declaration, Japan would continue to engage with the issue in Okinawa.
YINGIYA GUYULA, Yolngu Nation and Aboriginal Rights Coalition, said that his people were suffering from discrimination including for housing, access to training, business development. The Forum had to develop international guidelines that reflected the rights of indigenous peoples and petition the Australian Government to utilize indigenous languages.
Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights to Lands, Territories and Resources
The representative of Bangladesh said that the resolution on land dispute was an ongoing process that required the participation of all.
The Chief of the Crown Council, said that the indigenous peoples had a profound relationship with their lands, which were crucial to their well-being. Indigenous peoples were vulnerable to climate change and a great deal was at stake due to climate change’s impact.
The representative of Paraguay said indigenous cultural heritage was a fundamental element of the country’s overall identity. The rights of indigenous people were recognized in the Constitution and they were entitled to participate in decisions that affected them. Going forward, Paraguay was preparing a national plan for indigenous peoples.
JUDY WILSON, Union of British Colombia Indian Chiefs, said Canada was breaching the principles and standards of the Declaration, with the Government pushing environmentally destructive projects to completion, including the Kinder Morgan pipeline. She went on to express concern about the murder of indigenous women and girls in Canada, as well as the “hypermasculine mentalities” prevailing at work camps attached to resource projects.
The representative of El Salvador reviewed the actions taken by his Government vis-à-vis indigenous peoples, including programmes to address the Forum’s main theme of the collective rights to land and resources. He went on to note the involvement of a great many women in protecting the land.
The representative of National Indigenous Yasso Ghandi Batakan recommended that the Forum call on the Nepalese Government to stop aggressive development on the lands of indigenous Peoples and ensure indigenous peoples’ ownership of their land.
The representative of Chile said that he believed in dialogue to build trust. Indigenous peoples were vulnerable to climate change. He advocated for new materials to replace plastics and reduce pollution, as well as for recycling to be taught in school as respect for nature was an indigenous value that needed to be protected.
JAMES CHRISTIAN, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, said that the Australian Government must redouble efforts to ensure consent was given on all matters related to indigenous peoples. Thus far, the Government had refused to work with the Council.
The representative of Nepal said his country’s Constitution guaranteed the right of indigenous peoples to participate in State bodies, including Parliament. He also highlighted the application of best practices in community forestry, with indigenous people acting as managers and users of forests. That had led to the growth of forests in Nepal, as well as a reduction in inequality and poverty. He went on to say that an earlier statement by a non-governmental organization did not reflect reality.
JACKIE HUGGINS, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said that statements by senior Government officials about the state of human rights in Australia were “hypocritically in the extreme”. Following a visit to Australia, the Special Rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples had documented a plethora of human rights issues. Australia’s human rights record was better described as woeful rather than exemplary, she said, noting that despite making up 3 per cent of the population, aboriginal people made up 23 per cent of the Australian prison population.
The representative of Costa Rica discussed consultative mechanisms in his country for indigenous input on such projects as aqueducts and electrical facilities. He added the indigenous peoples continued to face challenges and that more work needed to be done with regard to reconciliation and equitable access to labour opportunities.
The representative of Iwgia Gogola, said that her indigenous community in Gogola had been manipulated by external groups. The community’s lands and resources were being destroyed, which prevented them from developing their economy.
The representative of Denmark said that self-government of indigenous people in Greenland was the result of a historical process and transfer of authority that had allowed Greenland to chart its own course with the development of natural resource. It was a good example of the management of resources of indigenous peoples.
The representative of the Asamblea Nacional Indígena Plural por la Autonomía expressed concern over the exploitation of resources and the militarization of indigenous territory in Mexico.
The representative of the Dominican Republic said it was useful and timely to count on indigenous delegations participating more actively in the work of the Rome-based food organizations, including the October session of the Committee on World Food Security. Their presence would be important with regard to nutrition, food security and land governance.
VICTORIA TAULI CORPUZ, Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, underscored the impact of “aquacide”, including the contamination of water as a result of resource extraction and the nuclear weapons industry. Noting that access to justice for indigenous peoples remained an issue, she recommended that a United Nations convention on water be negotiated with full participation of indigenous peoples. She added that the Forum should put into place a monitoring system for promoting and protecting indigenous rights.
VALENTINE LOPEZ, American Indian Movement-West, said a proposed sand and gravel mine on the southern border of Silicon Valley would turn four sacred hills into an open hole in the ground. He called on relevant county officials to deny a permit for the project. He underscored the threat posed by extractive industries to the climate, adding that indigenous peoples would never allow their ancestors to be erased from history.
Future Work of Permanent Forum
The representative of the Green Climate Fund said that many of the Funds’ projects involved indigenous peoples. The process of adaptation included increasing resilience of the most vulnerable people, including indigenous peoples. The support for preparatory activities was operating in 92 countries and was a key entry point for indigenous peoples. One of the Fund’s goals was to simplify access to climate finance for small-scale activities which could involve more indigenous peoples. The Fund’s policies were taking into account indigenous peoples’ inputs. The Fund recognized the key role played by indigenous peoples in addressing climate change.
The representative of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services said that the organization performed regular global assessments on the state of knowledge in biodiversity and ecosystems, including for issues relevant to indigenous peoples. Any Forum member could provide input in order to identify gaps or new sources so that the draft assessment could be recirculated and go through another round of edits.
MARIAM WALLET MOHAMED ABOUBAKRINE (Mali), Chair of the Permanent Forum, emphasized the key role of indigenous peoples in negotiating environmental instruments such as the Paris Agreement on climate change. They were impacted by climate change, but they could also contribute to mitigation and adaptation strategies. The Declaration should be a key framework in the formulation of development plans and it should be taken into consideration when addressing climate change at the national and global levels.
The representative of Guatemala noted his country’s efforts to comply with its obligations to consult with indigenous peoples, taking national development into account. Going forward, he added, peace and progress would not be possible without the active participation of indigenous women.
The representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said migration and climate change were the defining issues of the times. Mainly indigenous communities faced specific challenges, including land degradation, ocean acidification and rising sea levels. It was critical to remember that indigenous peoples and communities could be actors in the fight against climate change, she said, noting an IOM project in Papua New Guinea that aimed at helping indigenous communities to find solutions to avoid forced migration. She called for greater understanding of the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on indigenous peoples and communities around the world and to promote awareness of the issue at the policy level.
ALETHEA PHILLIPS, Native Youth Alliance, said that human rights violations took place at Standing Rock in the States of South Dakota and North Dakota of the United States. The indigenous peoples that had travelled to Standing Rock in solidarity were from all over the world. She said that the Indigenous people’s responsibility was to protect the land and unify with each other.
REYES RODRIGUEZ (Mexico) said that 20 per cent of the Mexican population was indigenous and that affirmative action policies were in place to ensure indigenous peoples held positions and take part in Government.
The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), welcomed the Green Climate Fund’s contributions. The Programme was conducting an analysis that would compile lessons learned about ways to increase partnerships with indigenous peoples. The Programme welcomed the opportunity to continue its work with indigenous people, including on ways to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change.
MILKA CHEPKORIR KUTO, Sengwer Indigenous Peoples, Kenya, had appealed to the European Union to suspend its water project in Kenya but that request had been ignored. She was concerned that the European Union would resume its funding to the Kenya Forest Service and called on all States to stop their funding until the Kenya Forest Service would recognize and honour the land rights of indigenous peoples in that area. She called on the State to stop the harassment and forced evictions of the Sengwer People.
TAI PELLICIER, United Confederation of Taino People, said much remained to be done to ensure implementation of the Declaration in Puerto Rico. With the Government’s permission and protection, the archipelago of Borikén was being used as a dumpster for multinational corporations. She recommended that the Permanent Forum’s mandate be expanded, and called for no discrimination in United Nations funding programmes to indigenous peoples. She also proposed a special session or Expert Group meeting on indigenous peoples living in Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The representative of the Russian Federation, emphasizing how rapidly the Arctic environment was changing, drew attention to programmes that had been implemented in her country, with particular attention being given to compliance by extractive companies to environmental legislation. She also noted efforts to monitor the polar population and to dispose of oil drums and scrap metal.
NINA VEISALOVA, Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation, said that marrying traditional knowledge with that of scientists could save the environment, the natural world and Mother Earth. All States must recognize that, despite the measures they had taken, the land was still under threat.
The representative of Bolivia said no other country in the world had made so much progress in the realm of indigenous rights as Bolivia. He added that an international court of justice for indigenous peoples should be established to serve as a forum for their rights.
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organization of Bangladesh said the Permanent Forum should formulate a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of treaty agreements and other instruments between Governments and indigenous peoples.
The representative of New Zealand underscored the importance of engaging indigenous peoples when implementing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She also welcomed the approval of an indigenous peoples’ policy at the most recent meeting of the Green Climate Fund, which reflected the need to engage indigenous peoples to ensure that they drew benefits from the Fund.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Australia, raised the issue of indigenous peoples’ participation in United Nations bodies.
The representative of CIDOB of Bolivia said 2019 would be the International Year of Languages, but indigenous languages were disappearing. He added that an international tribunal should be established to uphold indigenous rights.
JOJI CARINO, Forest People’s Programme, said another set of local biodiversity outlooks would be published in 2020, offering evidence of the outcomes of global and national actions, and thus, promoting accountability. Community-based monitoring was a powerful tool for linking local agendas to grass‑roots empowerment. Among the findings, she noted that collective actions advanced strategic planning for biodiversity. As traditional lands held much of world’s biodiversity, supporting indigenous peoples’ actions could help preserve them.
BELKACEM LOUNES, Congres Mondial Amazigh, said indigenous peoples in North Africa suffered racism and trampling of their rights. It was most urgent to end the serious abuses against collective rights defenders, who had been killed and jailed, notably in Morocco, Algeria and Mali. The Forum’s next session should exclusively focus on the human rights of indigenous peoples.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, International Indian Treaty Council, said he brought good news: the second World Indigenous Nation Games had been held. More than 1,600 athletes had come together for the celebration and he especially thanked the First Nations for supporting the event. “When everyone else said no, the First Nations stepped up and said yes,” he said, with only two weeks to prepare. Noting that the event had brought 40 nations and 10,000 spectators together, along with 25 million Internet viewers, he encouraged all to join the World Indigenous Winter Games.
JOSEPHINE WAKNE, Flying Eagle Woman Fund, spoke about the Aquila sulphuric mine to be located on her ancestral burial grounds. “Water is not an element; it is a spirit and a soul saviour,” she said. “Help us save our ancestors and our water.” Another speaker added, on behalf of youth population, called on the Forum to help his people eradicate mines and pipelines that sacrificed the environment.
The representative of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Jumma Refugees’ Welfare Association discussed the situation of displaced persons following the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts accord.
CAROL GONZÁLES, Organización de Pueblos Indigenas de la Amazonia Colombiana, speaking on behalf of the National Commission for Indigenous Women of Colombia, asked the Permanent Forum for its help in ensuring that the Government of Columbia guarantee the protection of indigenous lands and stop mining companies from endangering Mother Earth.