Indigenous Forum

| April 26, 2017

Note:  A complete summary of today's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting will be available after its conclusion.


NAME TO COME, Government of Greenland (Denmark), said that in the midst of rapid environmental change, indigenous knowledge could help to improve decision-making on sustainable development and on climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Drawing attention to Greenland’s initiatives in that regard, she urged States to ensure the recognition and vitality of indigenous knowledge, protect it from misappropriation, and accept its links with the conservation of biodiversity conservation and management of natural resources.

DEIDRE MCGRENRA, Chief, America Liaison Office, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said the Fund’s partnership with indigenous peoples had grown to comprise 123 projects, as well as $1.6 million in loans and $40 million in grants to indigenous peoples.  IFAD also supported the development of innovative solutions in the area of securing land tenure, among others.

NINA VEYSALOVA, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, said her organization had conducted a number of major events to encourage the involvement of indigenous youth.  She also emphasized the need to develop the competencies of indigenous peoples, saying that would help them determine their future.

SLUMBER TSOGWANE, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, said that, since adopting an affirmative action framework for communities in remote areas, his country had established programmes to empower their use of land and natural resources for economic gain and cultural purposes.  He reaffirmed Botswana’s commitment to the Declaration.

NAME TO COME, International Labour Organization (ILO), announced today’s launch of a report on indigenous peoples and climate change.  Providing a snapshot of the situation, he said issues that had been addressed included forced displacement, gender inequality and a lack of recognition of indigenous rights.  Those and other conditions posed formidable challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Indigenous peoples had a critical role to play at the forefront of climate action, given their contributions to a green economy.  However, they must be empowered as agents of change and their access to decent work must be ensured.

NAME TO COME (Namibia) said national efforts had seen results, stressing that education support had facilitated enrolment, investment in infrastructure had produced positive achievements and settlement programmes had been implemented.  Namibia had also provided support to communities in areas ranging from health to assistance for burials.

NAME TO COME, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), said programmes had been tailored to enhance indigenous peoples’ abilities to engage in negotiations that would further the promotion and protection of their rights.  Land and resources were other pressing issues, he said, noting that UNITAR had provided training to help resolve conflict in a mutually beneficial manner.  It also had sought increased participation for women.

JERALD JOSEPH, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, said about 20 per cent of the complaints received by the Commission related to indigenous peoples, a sign of their awareness of their rights.  Many of their complaints dealt with encroachment on traditional lands for the purposes of logging, plantations and mining.  He urged Malaysia to call for a moratorium on the development of indigenous lands pending the implementation of recommendations by a task force on that issue.

VALERIE GARRIDO-LOWE, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Guyana, said her country, in partnership with Canada, had launched a sun-dried tomato project in hinterland communities which illustrated how modern science could be wed to traditional indigenous agricultural knowledge.  She also described efforts to overcome logistical challenges that hinterland communities faced in accessing schools.

NAME TO COME, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said informed and prior consent was not only a procedural matter, but also connected to the right to self-determination.  That was a flagship principle for the Union.  He said all Government, non-governmental and environmental actors should adopt a binding standard on the rights of indigenous peoples related to the environment.

TUOMAS ASLAK JUUSO, Sami Parliament of Finland, expressed his objection to a recent treaty between Finland and Norway that infringed on traditional Sami fishing rights.  The Parliament had not been consulted on the treaty, which had far-reaching implications for the Sami.  It violated Sami culture, land rights and the principle of self-determination.

NAME TO COME, Russian Federation, said the Government was reviewing land use legislation that incorporated proposals from the Parliament of the Chukotka region.

SANDRA DEL PINO, Cultural Diversity Adviser, Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), said significant progress had been made by her organization on indigenous youth health in Latin America.  A recent forum on the issue had drawn attention to several issues, she said, including the need for culturally oriented health care, a lack of data on indigenous youth health and the underrecognized value of indigenous medicine.

PANIA NEWTON, Save Our Unique Landscape, said the New Zealand authorities were currently threatening her people’s land, including ancestral burial caves and precolonial sites.  Descendants of colonial land owners had used special housing legislation to drive forward urban development.  Recent actions included the sale of ancestral land to a housing corporation, which had contravened articles of the Declaration, she said, calling on the Permanent Forum to act and request New Zealand’s authorities to respect her people’s land and rights.

PEDRO SITTON, National Director of Indigenous Territories, Panama, gave an overview of his country’s progress on legislation protecting languages, among other issues.  A political decision had been taken to sign ILO Convention 169 (Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries) and other initiatives had provided public services and access to drinking water, health and education.  As for legal security and land rights, he said that a law passed in 2008 gave indigenous communities title deeds over five areas of land.

PRATIMA GURUNG, Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network, said the Permanent Forum’s mandated areas were equally important to all groups, including women, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Exercising their rights meant that more attention must be paid to the multiple levels of discrimination they faced.  Gaps in access to rights must be addressed and narrowed, she said, calling for action in that regard.

DEVONNEY MCDAVIS (Nicaragua) said progress had been made on the rights of communal land ownership.  Efforts would continue to increase the productive capacity of food production systems using indigenous knowledge.  More communities had access to water and sanitation, she said, emphasizing that authorities had undertaken initiatives, including recognizing cultural identities.  Turning to health, she said indigenous knowledge was being applied.  On education, a legal framework had strengthened their rights.

MAROCS MATIAS ALONSO, Altepetl Nahua de la Montana de Guerrero, said progress was lagging on implementing the Declaration.  Countries, including Mexico, had not submitted required reports while poverty levels remained high alongside efforts to exploit their lands.  Indigenous peoples had a right to enjoy economic development, one of the many articles that were not being realized on the ground and Mexico’s national budgets had actually decreased.

NABA KUMAR KISHORE TRIPURA, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bangladesh, said the authorities had taken an inclusive and comprehensive approach to the region, which was home to 1 million people.  District councils now handled tourism, education, health and other services.  The Government employed a zero-tolerance approach to any form of human rights violations and was currently focused on addressing development challenges in the region, he said.

PHYLLIS YOUNG, American Indian Movement of Colorado, said she had taken part in many historic events, including a 1974 gathering at Standing Rock in which 97 nations had produced the International Indian Treaty Council.  She said that she had also drafted that Council’s Declaration of Continuing Independence.

LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum member from Australia, emphasized the importance of assuring the future of all indigenous peoples.  Citing court cases in which rulings had been handed down in their favour, he said that some of those verdicts had not been implemented.  Such issues must be discussed, he said, underlining the importance of dialogue between States and indigenous peoples.

JUAN EDUARDO FAÚNDEZ (Chile) said his country had not hesitated from implementing the Declaration.  Tolerance and respect for diversity were essential for a democratic and peace-loving country.  Today, indigenous peoples held important positions in national political life, but more must be done in that regard, he said, adding that Herculean efforts had been made to create better policies.  It was possible to integrate indigenous concerns into health-care systems with excellent results.

GWENDOLYN PIMENTEL-GANA, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, said desecration of the environment was, for indigenous peoples, tantamount to violating the right to life.  In the Philippines, Government policies had yet to fully reflect and consider indigenous customs and practices to preserve the environment.  Some policies and regulations criminalized certain indigenous practices, she said, adding that indigenous peoples’ unique world view must be encouraged and reinforced.

TEODORO L. LOCSIN, Jr. (Philippines), emphasizing that his country had long guaranteed the rights of indigenous peoples, said the challenge was not to fight prejudice, but plain greed.  For the self-protection of its indigenous peoples, the Government was promoting indigenous basic education.  Culturally sensitive health programmes had also been adopted and political power had been given to indigenous peoples.  He called on Member States to renew their commitment to the Declaration, to stop making excuses and work harder towards its realization.

TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, emphasized the theme of youth inclusion and invited participants to make related recommendations.

BRANDON MAKA’AWA’AWA, Nation of Hawai’i, said that, while waiting for Member States to fulfil their obligations, indigenous peoples must maintain their ancestral lands, preserve cultures, protect unique identities and seek solutions for themselves.  The Nation of Hawai’i used strategies that included working to win economic recognition.  Alongside 38 other indigenous nations, Hawai’I had declared its territory a food sovereignty zone in 2016 in order to restore and decolonize its traditional food sources.


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