The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues closed its twenty-first session today, approving a raft of recommendations related to its theme — “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent” — as well as three draft decisions to be sent to the Economic and Social Council for formal adoption.
By draft decision I, the Council would authorize a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme “Truth, transitional justice and reconciliation processes”. By draft decisions II and III, the Council would set the dates for the Permanent Forum’s twenty-second session — at Headquarters from 17 to 28 April 2023 — and the provisional agenda for that meeting. All three drafts are contained in document E/C.19/2022/L.3.
In closing remarks, Chair Darío José Mejía Montalvo, Forum member from Colombia, said there is still not a comprehensive understanding of the rights of indigenous peoples. Despite Governments knowing about threats to their sovereignty, they continue to grant access to extractive businesses without their consent. While the Forum values the determination of some Governments to ensure that these issues are discussed at the United Nations, “it would be better if businesses stopped trying to grab our land”, he said.
It is also unacceptable that indigenous human rights defenders continue to be harassed and killed. “This form of neo-colonialism must stop,” he insisted. These realities can change if States fulfil their international commitments and act in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For their part, United Nations country teams and resident coordinators can help indigenous peoples by working to establish mechanisms for their recognition, and importantly, contributing the funding necessary to enact these changes, he said.
The recommendations, presented by Rapporteur Tove Søvndahl Gant, Forum member from Denmark, and approved as orally revised by the Forum, related to: “Thematic dialogues” (document E/C.19/2022/L.4/Rev.1); “Discussion on the theme ‘Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior and informed consent’” (document E/C.19/2022/L.5/Rev.1); and “The rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (document E/C.19/2022/L.6/Rev.1).
They also pertained to: “Discussion on the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum (economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights), with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/C.19/2022/L.7); “Future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues considered by the Economic and Social Council and emerging issues” (document E/C.19/2022/L.8); and “Dialogue with the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes” (document E/C.19/2022/L.9), as well as those contained in an informal paper related to its “Dialogue with Member States” and “Regional dialogues”.
Sven-Erik Soosaar, Forum member from Estonia, commented on the Forum’s recommendations related to “regional dialogues”, explaining the contribution by the Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia region consists of only a few sentences, which does not capture the full scale of discussions. A central issue expressed in several statements focused on the “full-scale war” the Russian Federation is waging on Ukraine.
“It is not possible to remain silent regarding this war,” he said, as it not only affects Crimean Tatars, Krymchaks and Karaites in Ukraine, but also indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation. Describing the regional discussion, he said indigenous youth of Ukraine living in occupied areas are being forcibly drafted into the Russian army, in violation of international law. There is also a disproportionate representation of the Russian Federation’s indigenous peoples in the Russian army, carrying out the aggression against Ukraine.
He said none of the proposals reflecting these concerns could be included in the report, due to “obvious reasons”. Forum members should be independent experts, but “unfortunately, this is not always the case”, he said. This hampers its work and leads to the failure to address acute problems, such as the aggression.
“Our report fails to explicitly address the main issue expressed by many representatives of indigenous peoples in the region,” including the military aggression by the Russian Federation against its neighbour and its suppression and prosecution of indigenous activists. He expressed hope that the Economic and Social Council and the Forum itself will take the measures necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the subsidiary body’s work.
The Permanent Forum also approved the report of its twenty-first session (document E/CN.19/2022/L.2), as orally revised, which will be finalized by the Rapporteur.
* The 10th & 11th Meetings were closed.