Indigenous Peoples Need Greater Voice in Decisions Affecting Their Lives, Speakers Stress, as Permanent Forum Continues Session

HR/5391
20 April 2018
Seventeenth Session, 9th Meeting (AM)

Indigenous Peoples Need Greater Voice in Decisions Affecting Their Lives, Speakers Stress, as Permanent Forum Continues Session

Indigenous peoples must be more involved in the work of the United Nations, and allowed to determine who participated on their behalf, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said today, with some questioning Governments’ commitment to further consider that issue.

Sofia Borges, Office of the President of the General Assembly, said the President had conducted consultations with Member States over two consecutive sessions to enable that participation.  “The outcome was not what many of you expected,” she acknowledged.  “But there was progress.”

She said the President had held the first of three informal hearings with indigenous peoples, requested by resolution 71/321, on 17 April.  A summary from that hearing would inform negotiations during the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session, when it would next consider the question of expanded participation.

Following those remarks, Jens Dahl, Permanent Forum expert from Denmark, voiced support for a new status for indigenous peoples within the United Nations, allowing them greater ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives.  But he also underscored the need for a definition of indigenous governing institutions that respected their different organizational levels and systems.

On that point, the speaker from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said only her people spoke for themselves.  She supported the creation of a new status for indigenous people.  To qualify, indigenous governing institutions should be comprised of legitimate indigenous peoples, who were not self‑determined, but rather, determined by history.  Those governing institutions should consult Government leaders and be allowed to attend any meeting where their rights were being discussed.  They also should be allowed to submit documents and take part in United Nations activities on a permanent basis.

The speaker from the University of Alaska meanwhile underscored the importance of the right to self‑determination in relation to self‑identification.  There should be no provision for States to proscribe standards for who was or was not an indigenous people or peoples.

While it was important to create space for indigenous peoples in the whole of the United Nations, she did not support reforming the Forum to do so.  Instead, she recommended revising the “Dodson principles”, which stated that any proposal for indigenous peoples to participate must be “reasonable, necessary and improve and strengthen” their rights.  It must also be in line with the principles of equality, non‑discrimination and prohibition of racial discrimination.

Several Government representatives also took the floor, with New Zealand’s delegate acknowledging that the intergovernmental process had been “disappointing”.  Nonetheless, the Government’s work with Maori was based on partnership, and it would refine its efforts through direct engagement with Maori and their organizations.  The 17 April interactive hearing was an important step for ensuring consultations with indigenous peoples continued ahead of 2020.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said any new decision should not degrade indigenous peoples’ existing participation options.  She questioned what would happen without an internationally agreed definition of indigenous peoples and how those peoples would be identified.  There were no strict criteria in place and national legislation was based on different approaches.

An indigenous speaker from the Batani Foundation of the Russian Federation drew attention to a young local leader who had spoken out and had then been forced to apply for political asylum in the European Union.  She had been fired from her job and her husband was forced to sell his business.  Their house had been burned down so the land could be used for mining.  The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation had accused their children of breaking the law.  “This is the norm,” he insisted.  “You must not believe what the official voices say.”

Representatives of the following organizations also spoke:  Asociacion Nacional Indigena Salvadorena; New Zealand Drug Foundation; LIENIP; Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus; Sami Parliament of Sweden; Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazónica; Metis Settlements General Council; Nation of Hawai’i; Finnish Sami Youth Organization; Blackstar Community for Better Living Initiative Inc. (speaking on behalf of AIM‑West/Thorne Bordeaux); Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines; Congres Mondial Amazigh; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs; Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON); National Human Rights Commission of Nepal; Elleyada; Aadivasi ekta parishad; Llancalil Araucania; as well as an indigenous speaker from Colombia.

The Executive Secretary of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and Co‑Chair of the Inter‑Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues also spoke, as did Permanent Forum Experts from the United States, Australia and Mexico.

Also speaking today were officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as representatives of Finland (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States), Namibia, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Pakistan and the European Union.

The Permanent Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 23 April to continue its seventeenth session.

Follow-up to Outcome Document of World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

ALVARO POP, Executive Secretary of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and Co‑Chair of the Inter‑Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues, acknowledged the efforts of the human rights defenders working for the right of indigenous peoples, sometimes at the cost of their own life.  Significant steps and progress had been made, including with the implementation of the communication group aimed to raise awareness of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The group was led by the Organization’s Department of Public Information with more than 10 agencies and many resources devoted to the mission.  The Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues had been involved in many countries, working together with national teams of the United Nations, to streamline the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on indigenous rights‑related matters with joint activities and programmes.  The Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean was cited as a positive example of regional cooperation and a significant step forward for the region.

Despite progress in implementing the Declaration, gaps remained in the formal acknowledgment of the rights of indigenous peoples, such as in the Sustainable Development Goals, he continued.  United Nations agencies must give priority to indigenous peoples and the latter must have a strong voice in the process.  The 2018 meeting of the Inter‑Agency Support Group would take place in Colombia in order to coordinate the work of the agencies.  The Group’s plan of action continued to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples with a gender and cross generational sensitive approach.  The viewpoint of indigenous peoples must be reflected in that work, especially for women and young people.  Indigenous women had to be more involved in the drafting of public policies to prevent the violence they were victims of.  The process to adopt the plan of action was intense and promising.

SOFIA BORGES, Office of the President of the General Assembly, said the organ had worked to advance the rights of indigenous peoples.  The Assembly had adopted the Declaration on the Rights to Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and organized the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.  Calling the Declaration “a breakthrough”, she said the Conference meanwhile reaffirmed the commitment of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples organizations before adopting legislation affecting them.

Recalling that resolution 70/232 had requested the Assembly President to consult Member States on indigenous peoples’ participation in United Nations bodies, she said the Office had conducted consultations over two consecutive sessions to enable that participation.  “The outcome was not what many of you expected,” she acknowledged. “But there was progress.”

Also, resolution 71/321 had four mandates, she said, including a request for the Assembly President to preside over informal hearings, the first of which had been held on 17 April.  The summary from that hearing would inform negotiations during the seventy‑fifth session.  On a related note, she said the President would hold a youth dialogue on 30 May to discuss education, employment and prevention of violent extremism.

MELANIE BENJAMIN, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said that her people shared a common origin and were present across the United States and Canada.  They were a self‑governing indigenous nation with an active and growing community, and possessed natural resources.  They protected their people, homeland and nature.  As a sovereign nation they had a stake on human rights, climate change and other issues relevant to their people.  Only the Ojibwe spoke for themselves and they did so with a strong and proud mind, voice and character.  She urged the United Nations to establish a new status for indigenous people so they could be active participants in issues that mattered to them.  To qualify for that status, groups should be indigenous governing institutions and should be legitimate indigenous peoples, which was not self‑determined but determined by history.  Indigenous governing institutions should involve and consult Government leaders and be allowed to attend any relevant meeting of the United Nations where their own rights were under discussion.  They should be allowed to submit documents and take part in United Nations activities on a permanent basis.

TERRI HENRY, Permanent Forum expert from the United States, said there was an imbalance in the reach and the work the United Nations could do for indigenous peoples, noting that it could not do work in the United States as it was a developed country.  Unfortunately for those in the United States, there was a lot of need there.  She said she would like to meet with tribal leaders to resolve some of those issues.

As a former tribal leader, she requested funding to organize regional consultations.  More broadly, indigenous peoples noted a “gatekeeping” perspective on the Forum’s work.  “It feels like issue of participation is kind of dead,” she said, requesting attention and that the Forum “breathe new life” into the issue of participation.

LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum expert from Australia, said the Forum must show stronger leadership to make things happen and ensure indigenous peoples participated meaningfully in the work of the United Nations.  The Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference, held in Alta, Norway in 2013, had identified priority actions for indigenous peoples’ rights to be pursued.  At the Conference, “there was a lot of effort put into what needs to happen at the United Nations and with Member States,” he said, noting that many of those priorities had made it to the Alta outcome document.

However, there were also limitations, he said, noting “there should be a good review of the achievements”.  While a review had been held two years after the outcome’s adoption, “there really has to be a further review on the implementation of the outcome document”.  The United Nations system had fallen short of taking steps to achieve the rights of indigenous peoples, he asserted.

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum expert from Denmark, said the Declaration would never have come through had indigenous peoples not unified.  No one had really challenged the legitimacy of those who had negotiated the Declaration.  He voiced support for a new status for indigenous peoples within the United Nations, but raised questions about indigenous governing institutions.  “How can we develop a definition that respects peoples with different organizational levels and systems?” he asked.

KAI SAUER (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States, expressed support for the consensus resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2017 that ensured indigenous participation in United Nations processes that affected their lives.  It was essential to respect the framework provided by that text, he said, stressing:  “The United Nations must listen to voices from indigenous peoples.”  The informal hearing held on that matter by the Assembly President was an essential tool in preparing for further action at the organ’s seventy‑fifth session, he said, urging all relevant United Nations bodies to follow up on the call for enhanced efforts to facilitate that preparation.  As a first step, the Human Rights Council could decide to convene a panel discussion or an expert workshop on how to realize indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions at the Council.

GARRETT O’BRIEN (European Union) said that in May 2017, for the first time in 15 years, it had adopted Human Rights Council conclusions on indigenous peoples, in line with the Declaration.  Through its human rights and development policies, the bloc had worked to advance recognition of indigenous peoples.  The conclusions noted there was room in its policy framework to make the Union’s action more effective.  It had worked to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation in various institutions.  The most important feature of the “New European Consensus for Development” was that it was based on 2030 Agenda and mentioned indigenous peoples as among those requiring special attention.

DAVID GARCIA, Asociacion Nacional Indigena Salvadorena, described various violations against indigenous peoples’ rights in the United States state of Arizona, including against migrants by the border patrol.  Citing the Declaration’s article 4 — that indigenous peoples had right to autonomy or self‑determination in matters relating to internal or local affairs — he said article 5 outlined their right to maintain legal, social and other institutions, while participating fully in economic and other aspects of state life if they wished.  In 2016, his people had opposed the building of a wall on the border of Arizona, as had the National Council of American Indians.

ROYAL UIOOO, Deputy Minister for Marginalized Communities of Namibia, said the Government had outlined land resettlement among other measures to eradicate poverty.  Education access was its highest priority.  Noting that 60 per cent of the Ministry’s budget was spent on education, he said many indigenous communities were in vulnerable positions and their native languages were not used in instruction.  Namibia was working to integrate the San language, among others, into schools to enable children from marginalized communities to learn in their mother tongue.  The provision of land to the landless was also considered important.

ANA PERSIC, Science Specialist at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the specialized agency’s engagement with indigenous peoples was underpinned by intercultural dialogue and the reinforcement of sustainable development through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.  Drawing attention to its support for endangered languages, mother tongue education, education for sustainable development, indigenous knowledge in science and environmental decision‑making, cultural diversity and building knowledge societies, she said one outcome of UNESCO’s 2017 Executive Board session had been a policy on engaging with indigenous peoples.  The issue was also reflected in the agency’s 2014‑2021 Medium‑Term Strategy, its normative instruments and its technical programmes.

JULIA AMUA WHAIPOOTI, New Zealand Drug Foundation, said that her country’s Government was building a new prison, 50 per cent of which would be filled with Maori people, although they only represented 15 per cent of New Zealand’s population.  That overrepresentation was not proving effective towards improving the country and hurt the Maori people the most.  The Government had failed to react to requests for change of the situation and the Maori people were still much more likely to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned.  She urged the Special Rapporteur to visit New Zealand and consider that issue.

JESUS GUADALUPE FUENTES BLANCO, Permanent Forum expert from Mexico, praised the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean as a positive example of consensus.  It provided opportunities for dialogue and should be replicated in other parts of the world with a similar if not identical structure.  At the end of the day we all walked the same path so we needed common solutions.

RACHEL O’CONNOR (Australia) was pleased to have taken part in the outcome document.  Her country had a proud history in protecting and promoting human rights.  Working in partnership with civil society was needed.  Closing the gap was not about reaching a target but about how the Government and the indigenous people could work together.  Indigenous people must be involved to close the gap in the next 10 years.

MARTIN OELZ, International Labour Organization (ILO), welcomed that Luxembourg’s Parliament had recently favoured ratification of Convention 169.  Ensuring further ratifications required highlighting the added value of having a clear legal framework in place for respecting rights.  Where implementing measures had been put in place, institutional capacities had remained weak, especially for participation.

GULVAYRA KUTSENKO, LIENIP, said her organization had taken part in the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  Not all problems had been resolved.  LIENIP sought to strengthen indigenous peoples’ roles in northern Siberia and had held various workshops.  It also was working to translate international documents into local languages.  Hers was the only organization in the Russian Federation that had enabled such translations, and it had done so in 11 indigenous languages.  She advocated for the establishment of a translation fund so all indigenous peoples could understand important documents in their own languages.

TARIA TAHANA (New Zealand) said the Government recognized the Treaty of Waitangi alongside other existing legal and institutional frameworks.  Its work with Maori was based on partnership, and it was working to refine its efforts through direct engagement with Maori and their organizations.  It would focus on improving the relationship improved between the Crown and Maori, she said, calling the 17 April interactive hearing an important next step for ensuring consultations with indigenous peoples continued ahead of 2020, and acknowledging that the related intergovernmental process had been “disappointing”.

GAM SHIMRAY from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus said, on enhancing indigenous peoples’ participation at the United Nations, he recommended the Forum elaborate to Member States on the importance of regional consultations, in line with indigenous peoples’ right to self‑determination; work with United Nations agencies to demand that a regional consultation be held; and call on Asian Governments to respect indigenous peoples’ views on who would participate and identify the requirement for participation.

WILSON MAKGALANCHECHE (South Africa) said that the lip service area was over and that we needed to move from rhetoric to reality to improve the shameful conditions in which indigenous peoples were living.  He expressed concern over the activities of companies that polluted the water and resources on the lands of indigenous peoples and a new convention needed to be establish in that regard.  He welcomed the upcoming International Year of Indigenous Languages.

PER-OLOF NUTTI, Sami Parliament of Sweden, also speaking on behalf of Sami parliaments in Finland and Norway, advocated for legislative, policy and administrative measures to achieve the aims of the Declaration.  Sweden, Finland and Norway had not adopted related action plans or strategies.  Sami parliaments would not accept a convention that was not in line with the Declaration.  They would report on such issues at the eighteenth session.  They had participated in the Assembly President’s process to increase indigenous peoples’ representation at the United Nations, however noted Member States’ unwillingness to consult in good faith.  All indigenous peoples’ organizations should have the same participatory rights as Member States.  He cited the indigenous peoples’ platform created under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a good example.

ALBERTO CEPEDA ORVAÑANOS (Mexico) said his country was a multi‑ethnic and pluricultural nation.  The Government promoted indigenous peoples’ rights at the United Nations, having driven the process ahead of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the outcome document of which offered a road map for addressing related issues in international forums.  At the Human Rights Council, Guatemala and Mexico had submitted a resolution to extend the mandates of experts so they could comply with the outcome document.  He welcomed the President’s 17 April interactive hearing.

DIEGO SAAVEDRA, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, said indigenous peoples had been excluded from decisions made on investment policies, reducing free, prior and informed consent to mere administrative steps.  Governments and indigenous peoples were protagonists in discussions with the private sector.  The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were “very far” from constituting effective tools to advance indigenous peoples’ participation.  He drew attention to violence against indigenous rights defenders, noting that in Peru, an indigenous woman had been shot through the heart.  The Forum should take measures to prevent such violence.

JUAN P. CRISOSTOMO (Chile) said the Government had in 2017 presented its first human rights plan for indigenous peoples.  That plan had been drawn up based on meetings with indigenous peoples from Chile’s five regions.  It focused in part on the promotion of equality and non‑discrimination, and of human rights in the education system.  Also, the chapter on human rights in Chile’s national plan included the importance of advancing indigenous peoples’ identity.  Also in 2017, Chile launched its first human rights plans so that companies could implement the United Nations Guiding Principles, having consulted beforehand with indigenous peoples.

BLAKE DESJARLAIS, Metis Settlements General Council, highlighted their concern with Canada, who picked and chose who they wanted to collaborate with.  The Government maintained control over decision‑making and traditional land was taken away from indigenous people.  He called on Canada to protect indigenous lands and start an immediate dialogue to recognize the lands and jurisdiction.

ANA S. SANDOVAL ESPÍNOLA (Paraguay) said the country supported the outcome document of the Forum.  Paraguay concluded the first stage of a national plan to which Government representatives, United Nations and other partners took part.  Meetings with indigenous peoples throughout the country were being held and the national plan would be finalized in 2019.

KELEI TAYLOR (Nation of Hawai’i), describing the “pu’uhonua” — or “place of refuge” — model to address the issue of homelessness, said it created a safe, nurturing environment and helped people gain stability.  Noting that the model could work beyond Hawai’i, he said the pu’uhonua community non‑profit had negotiated with the Governor’s office, working to reframe public perception and sentiment.  The pu’uhonua model reflected what happened when Governments failed and communities took responsibility for their people, he said, describing it as a community‑based solution to the problems of homelessness, poverty and others impacting the most vulnerable.  In that regard, he recommended that the Permanent Forum use social media platforms to share success stories such as that of the pu’uhonua, where communities took the leading role in caring for themselves without State assistance.

JORGE JIMÉNEZ (El Salvador), noting that his country had signed the Declaration in 2009, said that period had also launched an “era of inclusion” of four historically marginalized groups.  Taking a rights‑based approach, El Salvador had recognized before the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) that it was a multi‑ethnic, plurinational State.  In 2014, the Government had allowed for “extra recognition” of indigenous peoples, he said, citing laws on culture and the development of crafts.  Various bills had also sought to establish a legal framework to enable respect of indigenous peoples’ rights.  El Salvador was now considering the creation of a council to advise on indigenous peoples’ spirituality.

DALEE DOROUGH, University of Alaska, underscored the importance of the right to self‑determination in relation to self‑identification as an indigenous people or peoples.  Citing a remark by Canada’s delegate that there should be no provision for States to proscribe standards for who was or was not an indigenous people or peoples, she said it was important to create space for indigenous peoples in the whole of the United Nations, especially the General Assembly.  She did not support reforming the Forum to advance that kind of needed space.  The Dodson principles, created during the Declaration’s drafting, should be revised to enhance participation.  They currently stated that any proposal for indigenous peoples to participate must be “reasonable, necessary and improve and strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples”.  It must also be in line with the principles of equality, non‑discrimination and prohibition of racial discrimination.

PATRICIA CHAVEZ (Bolivia) said indigenous peoples were recognized as indigenous parliamentarians.  Describing her experience as a young female deputy within Parliament, she said indigenous peoples “have gone through a great deal of experiences to get to this point”, enduring a “long night of exclusion and ignorance” about their knowledge and cosmovisions.  In Bolivia, they had made significant progress over 10 years and today represented the State.  She called for the creation of an international congress to safeguard indigenous peoples’ rights.

The representative of the Finnish Sami Youth Organization said that the mental health issues of Finnish Sami youth needed to be addressed by the State, including but not limited to depression.  The widespread issue of suicide amongst Sami youth was not well known and was higher than the national rate.  Mental illnesses and drug abuses were an acute problem and the feeling that youth were not an integral part of society created a feeling of hopelessness which lead to those issues.  The general trauma of Sami people was not addressed and had contributed to the issue of mental health for youth.  The effect of one suicide alone was enormous on a small community.  Culturally sensitive support was needed so that the Sami people could find their own ways to support one another.

ELIAN GONZALEZ PATAL (Guatemala) said the country had undertaken tangible activities for public policies that benefited indigenous people.  For example, that included providing entrepreneurship programmes and better labour market access to indigenous women.  The Government also provided indigenous peoples with access to justice and promoted gender equality in electoral processes throughout the country.  A national census was under way that would allow better planning, and indigenous issues would be mainstreamed into State budgets.  Guatemala endorsed the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

ARNOLD BLACKSTAR, Blackstar Community for Better Living Initiative Inc., speaking on behalf of AIM‑West/Thorne Bordeaux, underlined the Declaration’s stipulations protecting indigenous peoples’ spiritual relationship to water and the oceans.  Noting the likelihood of future wars and conflicts over water, he recommended that the Permanent Forum help convene an indigenous coordinating water group to respond to such challenges and support indigenous water initiatives around the world.  In addition, the Forum should convene a group to begin initial discussions towards creating a specialized “world indigenous peoples water forum”.

The representative of the Russian Federation welcomed consultations to strengthen indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations, which allowed for analysing all proposals and agreeing on a mechanism for allowing them to take part in discussions directly affecting their lives.  Any new decision should not degrade their existing participation options.  In terms of accreditation, she said all subjective factors must be excluded so as not to risk their being discriminated against.  She questioned what would happen, however, without an internationally agreed definition of indigenous peoples and how they would be identified.  There were no strict criteria in place.  National legislation was based on different approaches.

GWENDOLYN PIMENTEL GANA, Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, a national human rights institution, said the Commission had been created by the Constitution as a check and balance on the State.  Such institutions should be accredited at the United Nations as such and be separate from a people’s organization or a Government.  The Commission had conducted an inquiry on indigenous peoples and created an observatory, or inter‑agency platform.  The inquiry had found that indigenous identity was threatened in the Philippines and that free, prior and informed consent had been undermined.  There was also insufficient capacity among State duty bearers to fulfil indigenous peoples’ right to development.

The representative of Pakistan reiterated the need for clear understanding of the notion of indigenous peoples and expressed confidence that the issue would be given the priority it deserved.

An indigenous speaker from Colombia said her people had a centuries‑old presence in a certain region of Colombia.  However, Colombia’s peace agreement had not yet advanced their rights, she said, citing the presence of extractive industries and related pollution on her people’s land.  Colombia should carry out measures recommended by the University of Cartagena study.

KAMIRA NAIT SID, Congres Mondial Amazigh, welcomed the participation of indigenous peoples in the Forum and advocated for greater work and progress for them.  Beyond the observer status, indigenous peoples had to be an integral part of decisions and processes.  She highlighted the situation of human rights defenders who were threatened and killed and urged the United Nations to take urgent action to protect them.

JUDY WILSON, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said that the Forum had to allow for the full participation of indigenous peoples and ensure the resources and capacities to allow them to fully participate.  She supported and celebrated the outcome document as a positive step forward.  Highlighting the central role that indigenous women played in society, she noted that they faced threats, violence and crisis.

NINA VEISALOVA, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON), said indigenous peoples must tell Governments to implement the Declaration.  In the Russian Federation, there were legislation and safeguards for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.  However, she would continue to remind States to fully respect those rights in line with their respective constitutions.

The representative of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal said the Commission was a constitutional body with a broad mandate to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.  She recommended that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples work with the Commission, as it was already mobilizing its resources to encourage lawmakers to ensure meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples.

PAVEL SULYANDZIGA, Batani Foundation of the Russian Federation, said the Russian Federation had claimed there were no problems related to indigenous peoples.  However, he voiced concern over a young local leader who had spoken out and then had been forced to apply for political asylum in the European Union.  That person had been fired from her job and her husband had been forced to sell his business.  Their house was burned down because their land was to be used for mining.  The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation had intimidated their children, accusing them of breaking the law.  “This is the norm,” he insisted.  “You must not believe what the official voices say.”

DOMINIC KUNAK, Elleyada, an ethno‑cultural organization, pressed the Forum to make a call to action for best practices by fostering collaboration.  Indeed, concerted efforts were needed to develop the Declaration’s articles in practice.  Indigenous peoples had been expelled from their lands by various types of companies, causing them moral suffering.

NICHOLAS BARALA, Aadivasi ekta parishad, said that India had a land rights act, forest act and many others that were relevant to the indigenous peoples.  But constitutional entities were not implementing existing laws.  Indigenous peoples should manage their lands and resources entirely.  Violence and opposition were a daily reality, as well as killing and rape.

RUBEN SANCHEZ, Llancalil Araucania, said that Chile had been occupying their land for more than 100 years.  His people were threatened by construction industries and exploitation of natural resources with the complicity of the State.  He called for respect, dialogue and understanding.  Anti‑terrorism provisions should not be the response.

A representative of the Office of the President of the General Assembly said he would convey the comments made today to the President.  The Assembly’s mandate was clear.  It was a mandate received by States and the Assembly would fulfil it. There would be three interactive hearings, the first had been held on 17 April and the others would be held in 2018 and 2019.  He encouraged indigenous peoples to participate in order to reach the goal outlined in the relevant resolution.  The message of the Office was one of encouragement and hope.  “We understand clearly that this issue is very complex,” he said.  “It takes time.”  But, with full engagement, including by Member States, the mandate would be fulfilled.

Mr. POP said the fund for indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean would make available its plan for dialogue.

Ms. BENJAMIN expressed support for a process that was sensitive to how indigenous peoples were organized, as well as building on the consensus outlined in the Alta document.

For information media. Not an official record.