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Land Rights, Critical Need to Preserve Indigenous Languages Stressed by Speakers, as Permanent Forum Continues Debate

Calls for action to preserve indigenous languages took centre stage today as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues entered the penultimate day of its fifteenth session, also taking up such critical issues as health, education, human rights, economic and social development, environment and culture.

A number of speakers decried the loss of indigenous languages as a result of the cultural destruction which had been perpetrated against them for generations.  Others noted that the right to receive an education in one’s mother tongue — as enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — was the only way to keep indigenous languages alive.

In that regard, a representative of the Indigenous Language Caucus said that approximately 500 languages were projected to be lost by 2030.  To prevent that, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) should fulfil its mandate to protect cultural diversity, while United Nations treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms should evaluate language protection as a human right.  Additionally, she proposed the establishment of a special fund to support and revitalize indigenous languages, to be financed by States and other institutions.

The speaker for the Botswana Khwedom Council decried the fact that, in his country, education was still not available to indigenous peoples in their own languages, in contradiction to the Declaration.  The Government, he said, wrongly believed that mother tongue education would undermine nation-building.  He recommended that the Forum ask the Government about that concern, and for Botswana to begin negotiations with indigenous people on recognition of indigenous culture.

In a similar vein, a representative of the organization Cultural Survival introduced the newly formed caucus on “alternative communication”, which he said utilized traditional media and the Internet to foster cultural communication.  He asked the Forum to recognize the caucus and expressed hope that the body could ensure that communicators for indigenous issues were given the space and time to issue appropriate recommendations to the Forum.

A student at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies described a number of challenges that hindered Native Hawaiians from accessing education in their own language and cultural perspective.  Among several related recommendations, he proposed that the Forum work with UNESCO on the expansion of schools that utilized indigenous language immersion and culture-based curricula.

A Forum member from Kenya took note of the many recommendations made today on the subject of indigenous languages.  The preservation of such languages required freedom of expression through the local media, he said, calling on States that placed restrictions on media outlets to reverse those policies.

Among other issues spotlighted throughout the day-long session was the right of indigenous peoples to land and natural resources.  In that regard, a representative of the American Indian Movement West expressed concern that water was being consumed at an alarming rate, used in unsustainable ways and contaminated.  Stressing the need for free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples before any project affecting their land, territories or other resources, she added that States must provide effective mechanisms for fair and just redress for adverse impacts from such projects.

The speaker from American Indian Law Alliance declared:  “Our indigenous sisters and brothers, while in peaceful protest, are being detained, criminalized, persecuted and killed daily in efforts to protect their homelands from extractive industries and Member States.”  As a result of the never-ending quest for consumption of natural resources, indigenous communities were left devastated.

Also speaking today were representatives of Botswana, Bolivia, Bangladesh, South Africa, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guyana, Nepal, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Representatives of the following organizations also spoke:  Federation of Saskatchewan, Finnish Sami Parliament, Global Caucus for Indigenous Peoples with Disabilities, AMAN, Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, NGO Federation Kanaky, National Toshaos Council, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Saami Council, GAPSCA, Greater Sylhet Indigenous Peoples Forum, CONAMAQ – Bolivia, National Indigenous Women Forum, Indigenous Education Network, Pacific Caucus, Habitat Pro, National Association for the Advancement of Indigenous Peoples, Himalayan Indigenous Women of Nepal, Dylacha, Indigenous Network of Education for Change, Foro Internacional Indígena del Abya Yala, National Indian Youth Council, Yamasi People, Shimin Gaikou Centre, International Native Tradition Interchange, Pacific Disability Forum and Pahtamawikan.

Also making interventions was a representative of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Forum members from Kenya, Canada, Bolivia, United States, Bangladesh and New Zealand also participated, as did a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 20 May, to conclude its fifteenth session.

Statements

SLUMBER TSOGWANE, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, noting that all his country’s tribes and ethnic groups were indigenous, said other sections of the population — especially remote area communities — were generally socially and economically marginalized and deserved special attention.  Botswana continued to make steady progress in addressing their needs, in particular through the Affirmative Action Framework for Remote Area Communities of 2014.  In addition, the national policy on culture outlined issues of cultural preservation and development, and the Government was in the process of developing an indigenous knowledge systems policy as a framework to protect cultural practices and enhance the contribution of communities to their own socioeconomic development.  Describing other relevant policies, he said the Government had established a consultative structure to address the interests of remote area communities.

A representative from the highlands of Bolivia, said drug trafficking had been growing in indigenous territories and cities.  In addition, pollution from mining caused forced displacement, while acts of femicide betrayed public policies and legislation for women.  Educational systems did not value indigenous culture, but rather taught foreign cultures to indigenous children.  Peoples of Titicaca would be the first to suffer from the toxic effects of nuclear development; ancestral territories would be affected as well.  The Forum should consider a body or strategy that would look onsite whether International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 was being implemented for indigenous peoples, she said, adding that the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples should visit to view the terrible situation.

MARGARET BEAR, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said they were in possession of a treaty with the crown of Great Britain that Canada must honour.  That country’s announcement that it would support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without reservation made clear that it intended to redefine the Declaration in order to bring it into compliance with its constitution.  She cautioned that such an approach would downgrade the Declaration and her peoples’ treaty would remain in a breeched state.  Warning that “genocide” would continue unabated, she said such acts had long been “routine” in the absence of global observance or punishment, adding that they had been constructed to rob indigenous peoples of their culture, land and children.  To end genocide, she said, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations proposed, among other recommendations, that the Permanent Forum decide to identify “genocide and its effects on ingenious peoples” as a theme for a future session; that it convene an expert seminar on that topic before that session; that it invite the United Nations Special Adviser on Genocide to the session as a presenter; that the Permanent Forum authorize a study on genocide and its effects on indigenous peoples; that it develop an ongoing education programme on genocide; that the United Nations issue a declaration on genocide of indigenous peoples; that the Doctrine of Discovery be renounced immediately; and that the Permanent Forum include the 2016 North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus report as an official part of its proceedings.

NABA BIKRAM KISHORE TRIPURA, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tract Affairs of Bangladesh, said his country considered all its citizens to be indigenous.  However, it was the Government’s policy to protect, preserve and promote the culture and tradition of small ethnic communities making up roughly 2 per cent of the population.  As an outcome of the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, institutions had been created to ensure the rights of that area’s tribal peoples, he said.  Measures had also been taken to implement remaining provisions of the Peace Accord, expedite the resolution of land disputes, reduce conflicts over land resources, strengthen decentralization and devolution, and continue dialogue and consultation.

NEIL MCFARLANE, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that wherever data on indigenous people were collected, Governments were better equipped to track progress towards reducing disaster risk and understanding how it affected indigenous communities.  The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 called upon Governments to engage with indigenous peoples, recognizing that their knowledge offered important contributions for development and implementation of plans.  Efforts were enriched by an understanding of how indigenous peoples viewed disaster resilience, the role of ecosystems, and the role of elders and young people in preventing and recovering from disasters.  The 2015 International Day on Disaster Risk Reduction focused on indigenous peoples, he noted.

Mr. JUUSO, Finnish Sami Parliament, noting that the status and rights of the Sami as indigenous people in his State were protected by national legislation and international law, nonetheless expressed concern that their distinct culture was in danger.  He expressed hope that Finland would become a pioneer for the human rights of his people.  The authority of the elected Sami Parliament had been controversial, as had their rights to self-determination and lands.  He invited United Nations human rights officials to read the Parliament’s report on the current situation of the Sami people in Finland.  That document highlighted their concerns, including about recommendations by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for Finland to consult with the Sami on legislation concerning them, which the State had not taken into account.  He also encouraged Finland to implement the Declaration.

NANCY BORDEAUX, American Indian Movement West, said that without clean water, there was no life.  The world faced a water crisis unlike anything seen before, as water was consumed at an alarming rate, used in unsustainable ways and contaminated.  The Declaration provided for consultation and good-faith cooperation in seeking the free and informed consent of indigenous peoples before the approval of any project affecting their land, territories or other resources, particularly in connection with the development, use or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources, she emphasized.  States must provide effective mechanisms for fair and just redress for adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impacts, she added, stressing the need for States, as well as indigenous peoples, to support indigenous-led water initiatives such as the upcoming “Mni Wakan:  Decade of Water Summit”, to be held in Minnesota, United States, in April 2017.

CHARLES NWAILA (South Africa) said that his country’s inclusive reconstruction and development agenda and its constitution provided for the fulfilment of the human rights of all South Africans without any distinction whatsoever.  The Bill of Rights stipulated that everyone had a right to receive an education in the language of their choice.  Pro-poor policies had helped an estimated 9 million learners benefit from a no-fee school policy, and millions of additional students had benefited from free nutrition and school transport programmes.  The Bill of Rights further stipulated that everyone had a right to health care, including reproductive health care, nutritional care and emergency medical treatment.  It also stipulated that everyone had a right to an environment that was not harmful to their well-being.  “This does not mean that our country is perfect,” he said, but in a few decades it had made significant progress in reversing centuries of discrimination.

Ms. MONTUFAR CONTRERAS, Global Caucus for Indigenous Peoples with Disabilities, urged Member States to implement the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with a special focus on indigenous people with disabilities.  They must be consulted at the highest level in the creation of policies and legislation, she said.  Recalling that a study on the challenges faced by indigenous people with disabilities had been presented during the Permanent Forum’s twelfth session, she said many of its recommendations were yet to be implemented.  The Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Issues included a commitment to help indigenous people with disabilities realize all their inalienable rights, she noted, urging decision-makers to “walk in our wheels” and discover the skills and abilities of indigenous people with disabilities, who could make valuable contributions in a number of areas.

KEIKABILE MOGODU, Botswana Khwedom Council, said indigenous peoples in the State bemoaned the position taken by the Government concerning the language in which education was provided.  While access to education was ensured, it was not available to indigenous people in their own language, in contradiction to the Declaration.  The Government, he said, wrongly believed that mother tongue education would undermine nation-building.  He recommended the Forum ask the Government about that concern, and for Botswana to begin negotiations with indigenous people on recognition of indigenous culture.

OLGA FERREIRA DE LÓPEZ, Congresswoman from Paraguay, described the various actions her Government was taking to implement the Declaration in the areas of health, education, gender equality, poverty reduction and the participation of indigenous women in the political process.  Noting her country’s open invitation to all Human Rights Council special procedures, she said that Parliament was considering legislation to ensure that the State respected consultations with indigenous peoples with regard to territory and the environment.  It was also working with the Secretariat of the Forum and the others in the United Nations system on developing a national plan for indigenous peoples.

RUKKA SOMBOLINGGI, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), described recent progress in the promotion of indigenous rights in Indonesia.  In 2014, the country’s President had featured indigenous peoples in his agenda for the first time.  Describing the country’s commitment to set up a presidential task force on indigenous peoples to begin reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the State, taking into account past misconduct, she nevertheless said that pledge had yet to be implemented.  Calling on the Government to implement those commitments, and to release indigenous leaders who remained in prison, she said the reality of indigenous peoples in her country was one of criminalization and removal in the name of development.  In that regard, she called on Member States to ensure the end of killings, arrests and harassments of indigenous peoples around the world.  Indigenous land was still being given over to companies and the rights of those peoples in Indonesia continued to be violated.  She called on the Forum and other relevant United Nations agencies to work closely with national human rights institutions in the future.

VICTORIA SAAVEDRA, Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, said the commitment of States to improving indigenous education was critical.  Guerrero State in Mexico had many indigenous residents and a high rate of illiteracy, he said, describing local plans to integrate indigenous peoples in his university’s work.  For example, the institution had recently opened a University Indigenous House.  Guerrero was the leading producer of several illegal drugs — a situation which had led to high rates of crime — and it suffered from high rates of suicide among indigenous young people.  Those youth also suffered from systematic killings and forced displacement.  He recommended that a delegation from the Forum visit Guerrero to witness those challenges first-hand, and that the State establish an institution of indigenous languages.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador) welcomed the Commission on the Status of Women’s decision to consider the empowerment of indigenous women at its next session.  Supporting progress on the participation of indigenous peoples in relevant United Nations meetings, he underlined proposals for a binding instrument to sanction transnational corporations that violated human rights and harmed nature.  Ecuador would support a mention of indigenous peoples in the New Urban Agenda that would be adopted at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, as well as the General Assembly’s decision to hold a high-level meeting to mark the tenth anniversary of the Declaration that would take stock of achievements, identify challenges going forward and clarify whether to proclaim a third international decade.

BETTY LYONS, President of the American Indian Law Alliance, affirmed that indigenous peoples faced marginalization in negotiations of multilateral environmental treaties, and that procedural injustices translated into substantive injustices.  Indigenous people had a sacred relationship with the gifts of Mother Earth and a mandate to protect them.  However, she said, “Our indigenous sisters and brothers, while in peaceful protest, are being detained, criminalized, persecuted and killed daily in efforts to protect their homelands from extractive industries and Member States.”  As a result of the never-ending quest for consumption of natural resources, indigenous communities were left with devastation.  That destruction was a violation of the United Nations Charter and multiple treaties.  As water degradation was particularly harmful, she recommended that a study on sacred waters in North and South America be conducted, and that all relevant agreements be respected.  She also affirmed the need for prior and free consent from indigenous communities before extractive operations were conducted in their territories.

ANSELMO XUNIC, Cultural Survival, introduced the newly formed caucus on “alternative communication”, stressing the need to ensure cultural pluralism and harmony with Mother Nature.  That caucus utilized traditional media and the Internet in order to foster cultural communication with the broad support of many stakeholders.  “We must teach how to address our struggles in line with human nature”, he said, adding that indigenous peoples must learn about the United Nations system.  He asked the Forum to recognize the caucus of alternative communication, and expressed hope that the body could ensure that communicators for indigenous issues were given the space and time to issue appropriate recommendations to the Forum.

Ms. ALVAREZ (Bolivia) recalled that her Government had organized two preparatory meetings before the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which had resulted in outcome documents.  At the Conference, leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples.  Her State had recently adopted a plan calling for collective action, recognizing International Labour Organization Convention 169 and the Declaration.  Bolivia was the only country in the world that had the Declaration set into its law, she said, noting that it had set up indigenous universities that were free to attend.  It also had bilingual teachers and had deployed various measures related to health and traditional medicine.  Furthermore, the State had adopted a law to combat violence against women and had set up social housing in indigenous communities.  The Government guaranteed and fostered the full realization of the human rights of indigenous peoples, including the right to free expression.

LINDA MANAKA INFANTE, Indigenous Language Caucus, said that approximately 500 languages were projected to be lost by 2030.  To prevent that, she made five recommendations, including that the Development Operations Coordination Office require resident coordinators, country teams and support groups to include action plans for protecting and reviving threatened languages.  In addition, UNESCO should fulfil its mandate to protect cultural diversity, and treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms must view language protection as a human right.  Furthermore, a special fund to support and revitalize indigenous languages should be financed by States and churches and other religious institutions, as they were largely responsible for the loss of languages and culture.  Finally, Governments must support indigenous peoples’ reporting on their own determined indicators towards progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Agenda’s pledge to leave no one behind could only be realized if those recommendations were adopted.

EVARISTE WAYARIDRI, Federation of NGOs in Kanaky, recalling that his country remained on the list of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, said living conditions for Kanak had worsened in many ways, particularly for youth.  While a referendum on self-determination would take place in 2018, non-Caledonians would be authorized to participate, he said, noting how the construction of two new nickel plants had resulted in massive migratory flows that made Kanaks a minority in their own country.  Among his recommendations, he asked that the Special Rapporteur visit Kanaky ahead of France’s universal periodic review in 2018.  He also recommended that the Forum consider the impact of such trade agreements as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and remind the United Nations of its decolonization duties.

SYDNEY ALLICOCK, Vice-President of Guyana, said much had been achieved with regard to the implementation of the Declaration and the outcome of the 2014 World Conference.  His Government had outlined a 10-point plan aimed at realizing improvements in the lives of hinterland residents, most of whom were indigenous.  That proposal ensured that every child would receive an education and it focused on reducing poverty and bolstering economic independence for indigenous people.  It sought energy security through the use of renewable energy, including solar and wind power, and put in place programmes to help accelerate employment training and the creation of new jobs.  There was also a focus on agriculture processing and other economic ventures that would strengthen employment.  “Land is life,” he said, recognizing that claims and controversies existed with regard to land titling and demarcation.  The Government was working to set up a body to address those disputes, he said, describing the provision of additional public services in the country’s hinterland.

JOEL FREDRICKS, Chairman of the National Toshaos Council, highlighted several key issues faced by indigenous peoples in Guyana.  The Amerindian Act required strengthening to assure indigenous peoples full rights and protection of their traditional lands and resources, particularly with respect to mining, addressing climate change and the environment.  Indigenous peoples needed to be provided education in their own languages, he said, adding that indigenous peoples needed more support in the area of economic and social development.  While a month was dedicated each year to the celebration of indigenous culture and heritage, there was a need for stronger support for the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages.  His organization supported the Government’s commitment to the Declaration and looked forward to its full integration at the policy and legislative levels, and called for the ratification of ILO Convention 169.

HAUOLIHIWAHIWA MONIZ, a student at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, said that the college strongly endorsed fusing traditional knowledge into modern-day curricula, as recommended by the Permanent Forum study on the topic.  There were still many challenges that hindered native Hawaiians from accessing education in their own language and cultural perspective.  The Center therefore requested the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to review the situation first-hand.  In addition, States should be urged to provide support for research towards revitalizing traditional modes of learning, and the Forum should work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on expansion of schools that utilized indigenous language immersion and culture-based curriculums.  Furthermore, the Forum should urge States to provide comprehensive funding for indigenous peoples to attend higher education, and should re-inscribe Hawaii on the list of non-self-governing territories.

AILA BIRET SELFORS, Saami Council, noting the closure of a school that gave education in the South Sami language, recommended that a decade of indigenous languages be proclaimed at both the international and national levels.  Emphasizing that “a lack of statistics is a way to marginalize indigenous peoples”, she recommended that Member States improve the collection and sharing of data highlighting the progress made on indigenous peoples’ priorities.  Furthermore, Member States should also implement the Declaration, including indigenous peoples’ property rights over land and natural resources as well as their right to free, prior and informed consent.

BADI BOFF BRASCO, Groupe d’Action pour la Promotion Socio-Culturelle et l’Alphabétisation, said that his international non-governmental organization held special consultative status at the United Nations, and dealt with issues related to the Congolese diaspora, in particular through advocacy and lobbying around the world.  The organization worked to ensure the emergence of appropriate, democratic and visionary leadership, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights.  Among other things, it advocated for maternal health services and for the care of indigenous children with disabilities.  It worked with the Batwa and other indigenous groups in the areas of social and economic development and health care in South Kivu and Goma.  The organization’s attendance at the Forum would allow it to share the challenges facing the indigenous peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, including intimidation, arrests and the denial of their right to their traditional land and natural resources.  The country’s authorities were complicit in those activities, he said.

JOSEPH GOKO MUTANGAH, Forum member from Kenya, said indigenous peoples faced many challenges related to the depletion of natural resources and disappearance of water sources.  It was time to address those challenges.  Many recommendations had also been put forward regarding indigenous languages and knowledge, but their preservation required freedom of expression through the local media.  He therefore called on States that placed restrictions on media outlets to promptly reverse those policies.

SAMARJIT SINGHA, Greater Sylhet Indigenous Peoples Forum, said it was crucial that States promote multilingual education in indigenous languages, stressing that indigenous children faced multiple barriers to participating in public education.  Among those were language and bullying, which had led them to drop out of school at a higher rate than the majority population.  He drew attention to Bangladesh’s promotion of a mother tongue multilingual education programme, which provided learning materials in six indigenous languages, and he looked forward to its expansion into other languages, including that of the Manipuri community.

MAMANI NAVARRO, El Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), said progress in defending collective rights had been made in Bolivia.  Traditional medicines, such as the coca leaf, were accorded value.  Progress was being made while the struggle of forefathers was not forgotten.  He maintained that certain individuals could not be allowed to speak unilaterally on behalf of all the indigenous people of Bolivia; they could only speak on their own behalf.

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the first World Indigenous Games in Brazil was an event that covered all of the Forum’s mandated areas by promoting health, education, development and human rights.  He asked the Forum to thank the organizers and to support the second such Games, which were planned for Canada.

YASSO KANTI BHATTACHAN, National Indigenous Women Forum, said Nepal had made efforts to improve economic and social development by excluding indigenous peoples and contravening the Declaration and the related ILO Convention.  She urged the Forum and relevant United Nations agencies to press Nepal to reform the new Constitution by respecting collective rights, developing common and country-specific indicators, collecting disaggregated data and monitoring the country’s progress in the six mandated areas.  She also urged Nepal, the United Nations and international aid agencies to align policies, plans and strategies with the Declaration.

SURAPORN SURIYAMONTON, Indigenous Peoples Foundation for Education and Environment and the Indigenous Education Network in Thailand, presented reports that examined enjoyment of human rights by indigenous people in the State, as well as their access to quality education.  Both reports, she said, could be found on the website of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  The most serious issue addressed by the first report was loss of land rights, along with the dire threats faced by rights defenders.  The second document showed that progress had been made in education policy while implementation had lagged.  That report recommended the mainstreaming of mother-tongue-based multilingual education in conjunction with indigenous education that garnered the effective participation of communities.  She called for more concerted promotion of the Declaration by United Nations organizations in Thailand.

Mr. OHORELLA, Pacific Caucus, said the global campaign for the tenth anniversary of the Declaration in 2017 would advance that instrument and realize the dreams of his ancestors.  While the Alta process aimed to serve the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, its outcome document could help advance advocacy for indigenous rights well beyond the event.  He supported holding a follow-up meeting in 2018 to report on progress made in the implementation of the indigenous action plan.

Mr. NIAHOSA, Habitat Pro, stated that a funding gap had impacted her organization’s advocacy work.  Noting that its efforts were especially relevant to indigenous youth in urban settings who were being alienated from their culture and lands, she said:  “We cannot stop our work just because we lack State funding”.  Education was the solution.  It was critical to ensure that indigenous youth had a safe environment for cultural practices and expressions, especially through indigenous-led education, such as the first World Indigenous School in Los Angeles.  The United Nations should engage indigenous groups to share their experiences and conduct a study on the implementation of national education policies to increase participation and access.

TUSHKA HUMOC XELUP, National Association for the Advancement of Indigenous Peoples, stated that indigenous peoples must be recognized by colonizing societies as members of the human family.  That process of recognition must start with the leadership of such societies.  Describing his organization’s accomplishments and plans for the coming year, he said that last week the group had registered 16 delegates.  However, he added:  “The ears of justice ignored their presence”.  In 2015, when they had first attended the Permanent Forum, they had not been allowed to make a statement.  The direct descendants of the first-contact indigenous people of America were not allowed to be recognized as who they were, but instead were forced to accept “paper genocide”, misclassification and forced United States citizenship.  They were assimilated as African-Americans and other false identities.  The United States must respect the right to identify as an American Aborigine.  When that country ended its fraud, discrimination, misidentification and apartheid against its own indigenous people, then indigenous peoples around the world would begin to benefit more broadly from implementation of Declaration provisions on conflict resolution and peace.

PARBATI THAPA MAGAR, Himalayan Indigenous Women of Nepal, said that indigenous peoples in her country were marginalized, disadvantaged and sometimes discriminated against.  They were never part of the mainstream of national life.  The Constitution that followed the abolishment of the monarchy stated that every Nepalese community should have the right to promote its language, culture and heritage, but while that sounded promising, it remained to be seen how that would be translated into reality.  Indigenous women faced such challenges as unemployment, early marriage, lack of education and pressure to have several babies in hopes of bearing a son.  Health care was difficult to access and many women could not tend to their own well-being due to a lack of education and limited resources.

EDWARD JOHN, Forum member from Canada, referred to the recent statement by that country’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who said the State would fully support the Declaration without qualification.  However, he said, she “raised a bit of confusion” when she added that Canada intended to adopt the Declaration in accordance with the country’s Constitution.  Domestic law should not trump international human rights standards.  Canada should withdraw its reservations to the outcome document at the next General Assembly session, implement a national action plan for achieving the Declaration and set up a high-level Cabinet committee on indigenous issues.  “There is room for optimism,” he said, adding that commitments, once made, had to be honoured.

GREGORY THUAN DIT DIEUDONNE, Dylacha, said he represented the Evenki people in the Republic of Buryatia in far eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation.  Their land was rich in natural gas, oil and minerals, including nephrite or jade.  Private corporations, supported by the Government, “wildly exploited” those resources.  Dylacha’s efforts to allow the Evenks to utilize their resources had seen so much economic success that it had established an art gallery and museum.  Corporations, supported by Russian authorities, had noticed, and now Dylacha no longer existed because of measures taken by Russian authorities.  Evenki leaders, fearing for their lives, had fled.  He was disheartened to hear representatives of the Russian Federation boast about their success.  “I have the impression I don’t live in the same world as them,” he said. “It is false.  It is a lie.”  There had been destruction of a clan, arbitrary application of federal legislation and annihilation of economic activities.  He called for a study of such practices under article 26 of the Declaration relating to the use of natural resources.

ILLA MAINALI (Nepal) said her country was committed to the cause of indigenous peoples though articles that promoted affirmative action as outlined in the Constitution, which had been written by the constituent assembly adopted through broad approval.  She also countered the claims of one non-governmental organization, calling them baseless.

TAWERA TAHURI, speaking on WAI 2478 bill on Marise Lant, described a case alleging that New Zealand authorities had breached the Treaty of Waitangi while engaged in its review and reform of the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.  On 29 January 2016, authorities advised a tribunal that it had released a new version of the bill. The tribunal had found that without Maori support for the changes, there would be a breach of treaty.  It recommended national consultations, but this had not occurred, she stated.  There had only been informational meetings.  The tribunal’s report, released in March, had found that the bill contravened the treaty as most Maori cited concerns about the process.  The overwhelming message was for the authorities to slow down the pace of reform and ensure that the majority understood the proposals and gave their free, prior and informed consent to them.

ATAMA KATAMA, Indigenous Education Network for Change, said that, in the midst of neoliberal globalization, youth bore the brunt of State and corporate plunder of the land through the extraction of natural resources, the establishment of eco parks and top-down development.  The displacement of indigenous peoples resulted in a gap between youth and the older generation, he said, adding that young people had not been spared from the impact of militarization.  In several countries, young activists were subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention and extrajudicial execution.  In the Philippines, the State had attacked efforts to set up an education centre, and in Indonesia, youth living in hamlets lacked access to education.  Indigenous women and girls meanwhile faced sexual abuse perpetrated by military agents.  He made a number of recommendations that included a role for indigenous youth in peacebuilding initiatives and post-conflict development policies and programmes.

CHONVIPAT CHANGTRAKUL (Thailand) said the ministries of culture and education had taken measures to preserve ethnic culture, notably the establishment of folklore and museums, as well as linguistic study.  She had taken note of the concerns raised today.

Mr. BASTIDA MUÑOZ, Foro Internacional Indígena del Abya Yala, said 45 per cent of global biodiversity was in Latin America, where indigenous communities comprised a significant portion of the population in Paraguay, Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru.  Property rights had been threatened.  The traditional knowledge that communities had developed throughout history played an important role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining “ecosystemic” harmony.  Thousands of medicines had been derived from products grown by indigenous peoples, yet laboratories had not shared the proceeds.  Collective protection — beyond the Nagoya Protocol — through a sui generis system, such as biocultural protocols, could be an alternative to the plundering of tangible and intangible elements.

MELISSA WASSANA, National Indian Youth Council, said indigenous people had a right to full enjoyment of all human rights.  Each of the 567 Native American tribes in the United States had their own unique life and culture, she said, adding that the Declaration should be legally binding.  She went on to note the high drop-out and suicide rate among indigenous peoples in the United States, and underscored the importance of education.

Ms. LIMA, National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu, said three universities in Bolivia taught in the Aymara language, conveying ancestral knowledge to indigenous youth.  She went on to emphasize the role of communication, saying Bolivia would host a regional forum on the topic in 2017.  By law, she added, indigenous people in Bolivia participated in United Nations events on issues which affected them.

LORI JOHNSTON, Yamasi People, urged the Forum to address sustainable economic practices by increasing indigenous peoples’ participation in their implementation.  Many indigenous peoples did not have prostitution, prison, slavery or rape before colonists arrived.  But they did have thriving economies.  The 2030 Agenda promoted the colonial institutions of rape, prostitution, prison and slavery, on which the dominant world currencies depended.  They were not sustainable economic foundations.  Financing should prioritize support for indigenous economic models, through traditional trade that excluded prostitution, rape, prison and slavery.  The Forum should study indigenous economies that enabled stable societies.  Work should address aspects of indigenous economies that would benefit the wider world and indigenous peoples, who would otherwise be extinguished.

AKIYO INOKOK, Shimin Gaikou Centre, called on the national and local governments of Japan to ensure the full participation of the Ainu people in formulating legislation to improve their living standards and advance their education.  The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Committee both had recommended that Japan recognize the Ryukyuan people as indigenous.  They both pointed to the participation of Ryukyuan non-governmental organizations at the United Nations for more than 20 years.  Noting that the Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent State before annexation by Japan in 1879, he requested Japan to establish an independent expert committee to verify how it had become part of Japan and whether its peoples were indigenous.  A similar committee to verify the history of the Ainu people should also be established, he added.

Ms. KENARAHDRY, International Native Tradition Interchange, suggested the appointment of an ambassador for the world’s indigenous peoples.  They had long been treated like children, he said, when in fact they deserved to be treated like the most powerful kingdom.  He added that traditional education models could not fight the onslaught of colonialism and genocide, and that much of the world’s wealth had been taken from indigenous lands.

DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Forum member from the United States, said that she saw a trend emerging in the discussion that suggested a growing disconnect between the international commitments made by States which adopted the Declaration and their national actions, which failed to uphold those commitments.  Although not legally binding, the Declaration contained several provisions which fell into the category of customary international law, including the right to self-determination, autonomy and self-government, land rights and reparations.  Regarding human rights defenders, she said that indigenous peoples defending land rights were too often shot.  That was unacceptable, she said, adding that the trend was going towards greater violations of human rights, not an uplifting of those rights.

DEVASHISH ROY, Forum member from Bangladesh, commenting on statements by States that did not consider that they had indigenous peoples, said that all States were obliged to adopt national action plans to address the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples following the World Conference.  The United Nations could not be expected to adopt other declarations on the matter.  The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities insufficiently addressed indigenous peoples’ situations, and they had not been involved in processes dealing with minorities.  Speaking, in addition, on the statement made by the representative of Bangladesh on the Chittagong Hill Tracts, he affirmed that the country’s engagement on the issue had grown more constructive.

PARBATI THAPA MAGAR, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network and the Nepal Indigenous Disabled Association, asked that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs prepare briefing notes on the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities.  The Forum should reintroduce a study on indigenous children with disabilities, focusing on both developed and developing countries.  Furthermore, it should urge the Council to consider including representation of indigenous persons with disabilities as a criterion in determining the election of Forum members.

MARIA EUGENIA CHOQUE QUISPE, Forum member from Bolivia, discussed the creation of a plurinational State in her country, calling it a work in progress.  It was a process of decolonization, she said, but it was hard to break away from the colonial mind set.

VALMAINE TOKI, Forum member from New Zealand, recalled that the body was making a number of changes to ensure that its work was more effective.  However, her indigenous sister from Guam — who had travelled to the Forum at great expense — had not had a chance to speak.  The Forum was meant to be for indigenous peoples, and States were observers, she said; while the attendance of States was important, they could be given reduced speaking time in order to allow all indigenous speakers to participate.  United Nations agencies had a responsibility to implement the Declaration in their work, and for indigenous peoples to be mere observers in those discussions was unacceptable.  Indeed, as independent, sovereign people, indigenous peoples must have equal status to States.

Ms. DAVIS, Pahtamawikan, said choices about the planet had historically been made using a “win-lose” mentality and destructive and “death-producing” approaches.  The planet was in peril, and each person of every race and nation was “of the earth”.  Health care and gender equality were fundamental rights of American Indians and all people; however, indigenous peoples were considered conquered peoples with no voice.  They had endured genocide, the exploitation of their land and resources and victimization through acculturalization.  Pointing to other structures that oppressed indigenous peoples, including foreign aid, social services, prisons, the military and indigenous reservations, she went on to say that private industry had become rich on the blood of indigenous people.

News

United Nations Mechanisms Handling Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Must Better Identify Strengths of Mandates to Increase Effectiveness, Speakers Say in Permanent Forum

The three main bodies charged with promoting indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide must better identify the strengths and limits of their respective mandates in order to work together more effectively, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said today, drawing attention to unresolved cases of human rights abuses, some of which had endured generations.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said more coordination with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Forum itself would better protect indigenous peoples’ rights.  Her work focused on country visits, responding to human rights violations, promoting good practices and carrying out thematic studies.

Updating on her mandate, she said she had visited Sápmi, Honduras and Brazil and would present her findings to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council later this year.  She had presented her report on Paraguay in September, which referred to one Guarani community that had finally received title to community lands it had claimed for more than 26 years.

Her report on the situation of indigenous women and girls highlighted a “complex spectrum” of human rights abuses influenced by patriarchal power structures, she said, while another report, presented to the General Assembly in 2015, explored investments in mining and other infrastructure development.  Going forward, she would publish a report on the impacts of conservation on indigenous peoples’ rights.

Ms. Tauli-Corpuz was part of an interactive dialogue in which Alexey Tsykarev, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, Chair of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples; and Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the Field of Cultural Rights updated on their work and fielded questions on untangling overlap in their mandates.

Ms. Bennoune said her March report to the Human Rights Council reviewed the framework for cultural rights, with a thematic focus on the intentional destruction of cultural heritage.  She planned to present further thoughts on that topic to the General Assembly this fall.  She would support the Forum in integrating culture into related activities, asking participants to draw her attention to cases she should consider and provide thematic information that she could use in her reports.

Mr. Tsykarev said the Expert Mechanism had adopted two reports at its eighth session in July 2015:  a study on the protection and promotion of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, and an updated report on best practices and appropriate measures to obtain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Human Rights Council had requested studies on the mental health of indigenous youth, the right of indigenous women to sexual and reproductive health care, and on non-communicable diseases.

Mr. Pyagbara said that this year, 56 indigenous representatives had been selected to attend the Forum and other relevant meetings.  In addition, the Fund’s Board had recommended that a budget be set aside to support the participation of another 38 indigenous representatives in the Human Rights Council, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies.

In the ensuing discussion, indigenous speakers issued impassioned pleas for recognition, promotion and protection, with a representative of Tonatierra describing his community’s painful experience losing 43 students “forcibly disappeared” by the Mexican Government in 2014.  “We expect our children delivered back alive to our families in order to find peace,” he said, requesting the Special Rapporteur to visit and for the Mexican Government to allow such a trip.

A representative of Comité de Unidad Campesina said indigenous peoples were being portrayed as “enemies” by corporate lawyers.  “They come and assassinate us”, he said, referring to the killing of Honduran indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, a leader of the Lenca people.

A representative of the American Indian Law Alliance decried the redistribution of water from one region in Mexico to another that had better economic and technological capacity.  “All we want is for the laws to be respected,” he said, requesting the Special Rapporteur to visit.

Edward John, Forum member from Canada, said the experience of his country’s residential schools amounted to genocide as the children who were forced to attend became the agents of destruction of indigenous culture.  He supported the establishment of a mechanism for the repatriation of ceremonial objects.

To better tackle such cases, the United States delegate said that strengthening — and formalizing — the Expert Mechanism’s relationship with the Special Rapporteur would allow the latter to be more effective.

Joseph Goko Mutangah, Forum member from Kenya, agreed that the overlap of responsibilities must be “ironed out” so that it was clear who would take the lead in carrying out specific mandates.

Without more funding, others said, there was a risk that indigenous peoples’ participation in United Nations sessions would suffer.

The Permanent Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 17 May, to continue its fifteenth session.

Interactive Dialogue

This morning, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held an interactive dialogue featuring:  Alexey Tsykarev, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, Chair of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples; Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the Field of Cultural Rights; and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr. TSYKAREV, describing the Expert Mechanism’s work over the past year, said the body had held its eighth session in July 2015 with the participation of over 50 Member States and 150 indigenous representatives, civil society members, academics and other stakeholders.  It had finalized and adopted two reports, including a study on the protection and promotion of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and an updated report on best practices and appropriate measures to obtain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Outlining some of the advice included in the former, he said that, among other items, the study had recommended that States ensure that the benefits arising from the use of indigenous lands, territories and resources such as World Heritage Sites be provided to indigenous communities in a fair and transparent way.  Noting that such recommendations had been presented to the Human Rights Council, he said the body had requested that the Expert Mechanism carry out a study on the rights of indigenous peoples, which would focus on the mental health of youth, the right of indigenous women to sexual and reproductive health care and on non-communicable diseases.  He also discussed the Expert Mechanisms’ upcoming ninth session, slated to take place in Geneva in July.

Mr. PYAGBARA said the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples had celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2015.  Since its inception, the Fund had supported the participation of some 2,000 indigenous men, women, youth, elders and persons with disabilities from around the world.  Noting that its scope and mandate had expanded over the years, he said that so far in 2016, 56 indigenous representatives had been selected to attend the Permanent Forum and other relevant meetings.  In addition, the Fund’s Board had recommended that a budget be set aside to support the participation of another 38 representatives of indigenous communities and organizations in sessions of the Human Rights Council, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies that would take place from July 2016 to March 2017.  In 2016, the Fund had also supported participation in two extraordinary meetings related to the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  He expressed concern that without predictable, sustainable and adequate funding, the Board would face difficulties in carrying out its ever-expanding mandate.  After assessing the present financial needs of the Fund and in view of the two additional expansions of its mandate, the Board recommended a target of $780,000 for the biennium 2016-2017.

Ms. BENNOUNE, providing an overview of her first report to the Human Rights Council, presented in March, said it reviewed the framework for cultural rights, with a thematic focus on the intentional destruction of cultural heritage.  She planned to present further thoughts on that topic to the General Assembly in the fall and welcomed any input before July.  Cultural rights were an integral part of human rights, which were universal, interrelated and interdependent, she said, highlighting the importance of individual cultural rights and the collective exercise of them, as stressed in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  She had made clear in her report that it was critical that cultural rights be upheld in conflict contexts without discrimination.  She was also concerned about the destruction of intangible cultural rights — such as the teaching of indigenous languages — as well as the preservation of natural cultural heritage.

The intentional destruction of cultural heritage was a violation of human rights, she said.  Her report found that culture was inherently important, as well as in relation to its human dimension.  Cultural rights were a fundamental resource to other rights, such as the freedom of expression, conscience, religion and development.  At the Human Rights Council, a cross-regional statement by Cyprus was endorsed by unprecedented coalition of 145 States, welcoming plans to prioritize the topic as a human rights issue.  She would work with indigenous peoples to ensure that issue included their views.  Going forward, she would support the Forum in integrating culture into related activities.  She asked participants to draw her attention to cases she should consider and provide thematic information for use in her reports.  She would stress the importance of indigenous cultural heritage and highlight its intentional destruction as it related to indigenous peoples.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ, presenting her second report, said she had made three official visits to Sápmi, Honduras and Brazil, the reports of which would be presented to the Human Rights Council this year.  She also had presented her country report on Paraguay to the Council in September, noting that one Guarani community had received title to the community lands it had been claiming for more than 26 years.  During her trip to Honduras, indigenous peoples had expressed concern about a hydroelectric dam approved through national legislation on which they had not been consulted.  Members of the Lenca communities who opposed the dam had reported cases of killings, threats and intimidation, including the assassination of Berta Cáceres in March.

Her visit to Brazil in March coincided with the heightened political crisis, she said, commending Brazil for better ensuring indigenous rights.  However, she noted the absence of progress in resolving long-standing issues, noting that there had been “worrying” regressions in the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, including proposals for constitutional amendments and laws undermining their rights to lands, the stalling of demarcation processes and mega projects on or near indigenous properties.

During her visit to Sápmi, she had heard concerns about the scope and content of the State duty to consult the Sami people and obtain their consent for natural resource projects based on their natural territories.  Turning to her report on the situation of indigenous women and girls, she said indigenous women had experienced a “complex spectrum” of human rights abuses influenced by patriarchal power structures and discrimination, and based on gender, class, socioeconomic circumstances and violations to the right to self-determination.  In indigenous communities with matriarchal practices, the loss of lands undermined women’s status and roles, including their livelihoods, while compensation following land seizure tended to benefit men.  Another report, presented to the Assembly in 2015, explored investments in mining and other infrastructure development.  Going forward, she would publish a report on conservation and its impacts on indigenous peoples’ rights.

In the ensuing discussion, a number of representatives of indigenous groups issued impassioned pleas for the recognition, promotion and protection of their rights.  Several Government delegates shared steps being undertaken at the national level to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

In that vein, the representative of Mexico said that her country was working to guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to justice by providing interpreters and translators fluent in indigenous languages.  In the area of gender equality, the Government had provided guidance to some 40,000 indigenous women on sexual and reproductive health and the prevention of gender-related violence.

Some representatives also asked specific questions to the panellists.  In that regard, the representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States, asked what the most pressing obstacles were to achieving the full empowerment and enjoyment of rights of indigenous women.  He asked Mr. Tsykarev how the mandate of the Expert Mechanism could be improved, and what the main areas of concern were in the area of indigenous peoples’ right to health.

DALEE SAMBO DOROUGH, Forum member from the United States, warned that, while violence against indigenous women was a crucial matter requiring urgent attention, some States were using the issue to deflect attention away from the root causes of violence — efforts of indigenous women to defend their rights to their land, territories and resources.

Addressing Ms. Bennoune, she drew attention to the International Law Association’s recent finding that cultural rights were part of customary international law, which triggered important responsibilities on the part of States.  Noting the trend of increased violence against indigenous peoples defending their rights, she proposed the creation of a United Nations declaration on the rights of human rights defenders.

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission had heard many cases of the destruction of cultural heritage.  However, some steps forward had been seen.  In that regard, he recalled that the four Maskwacis Cree First Nations had recently adopted a declaration proclaiming their official language to be Cree.

A representative of the organization Tonatierra described his community’s painful experience losing 43 students who had been forcibly disappeared by the Mexican Government in 2014.  In reality, tens of thousands of people had been disappeared, he said, asking for support and solidarity from the international community.  Noting that those children were known to be alive, he stressed:  “we expect our children delivered back alive to our families in order to find peace.”

The Government of Mexico was untrustworthy, he said, calling for the creation of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of recommendations made by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts and to ensure that the Government returned the lost children.  Finally, he requested Ms. Tauli-Corpuz to visit Ayotzinapa and for the Mexican Government to allow such a visit.

A representative of the Youth Caucus spoke about operational paragraph 15 of the Declaration, suggesting that joint actions of the three indigenous peoples’ mechanisms include a study, a joint side event during the Forum’s sixteenth session and a dialogue on the findings of those activities.  He asked others in the room, especially indigenous groups, how they had “given life” to that paragraph.

MARÍA EUGENIA CHOQUE QUISPE, Forum member from Bolivia, urged coordination among the three mechanisms, stressing that cultural rights included spiritual rights, a point not raised in the report.  Violence against indigenous women and girls was especially important, as it reinforced their poverty and institutionalized discrimination.  “These issues must be brought up more often,” she said.  She urged more focus on the 43 students who had disappeared.

The representative of Costa Rica spoke about constitutional reforms that laid out a pluri-ethnic policy that aimed to build an inclusive, diverse population.  Indigenous peoples continued to face challenges and the Government was working to better fulfil its obligations in that context.

A representative of the American Indian Law Alliance, noting that he represented an ancestral people from Mexico, decried the redistribution of water from one region to another that had better economic and technological capacity.  “We want free, prior and informed consent,” he said, citing non-compliance with a judicial order for such.  An aqueduct near the Yaki River had been cancelled without such consent.  “All we want is for the laws to be respected,” he said, requesting the Special Rapporteur to visit.

JOSEPH GOKO MUTANGAH, Forum member from Kenya, said there were overlaps among the duties of the three mechanisms, which must be harmonized so it was clear who took the lead in implementing the same mandate.  Cultural heritage, especially in Africa, was at risk of disappearing, in part due to environmental degradation.  Cultural heritage sites were “living libraries” that required preservation.

A representative of Comité de Unidad Campesina, focusing on repression in Latin America, said indigenous peoples were being portrayed as “enemies” by lawyers for electric and other companies.  “They come and assassinate us”, he said, referring to Berta Cáceres in Honduras.  In Guatemala, the State was involved in repression.  He urged Guatemala to comply with resolutions issued by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, which had suspended the hydroelectric and other projects.

The representative of the United States said no one person with limited resources could fully address the mandate.  By strengthening — and formalizing — the Expert Mechanism’s relationship with the Special Rapporteur, he hoped that the latter would be more effective.  In considering what functions should be carried out by which Office, “we need to remain realistic about what each entity can reasonably accomplish”.

The representative of the Finnish Sami Youth Organization spoke about the indifference of the Finnish State, stressing that “youth are forced to choose between being young and being Sami”, protecting themselves from hate speech, among other things.  By ignoring such behaviour, Finland had increased mistrust.  Noting the costs of forced assimilation on future generations, she invited the Special Rapporteur to visit.

A representative of the indigenous organization Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) raised the issue of how indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination was being supported by Member States.  In Australia, for example, the Government claimed to be implementing the Declaration, but it refused to use the terms “self-determination” or “free, prior and informed consent”.  It also refused to support the right of indigenous people to have their own national representative body.

The representative of Australia said her country would continue to support the work of the three mechanisms, and asked the experts how their work could be best utilized by Member States.

EDWARD JOHN, Forum member from Canada, said the experience of his country’s residential schools amounted to genocide as the children that were forced to attend them became the agents of the destruction of indigenous culture.  Today, States should take proactive steps to assist indigenous youth to reconnect with their cultures.  He supported the establishment of a mechanism for the repatriation of ceremonial objects, or “cultural treasures”.

A representative of the indigenous organization Aty Guasu said leaders of the Guarani people in Brazil were being threatened and suffered from intimidation by police.  Noting that the Guarani had been expelled from much of their territory, he issued an urgent appeal to the Brazilian authorities for a definite demarcation of his people’s land.  Requesting a study by the Special Representative on the situation faced by the Guarani, he also requested the Forum to help end the ethnocide that was being committed against his people.

An indigenous representative from Botswana said the indigenous San people were suffering as a result of the Government’s policy not to recognize them as a distinct group.  Calling for a “second phase of independence” in Africa which would recognize indigenous cultures and languages, he said the findings of a report of the Special Rapporteur on Botswana had yet to be implemented.

An indigenous representative from the Russian Federation said the indigenous Sakha people faced challenges from transnational corporations, which cared only about profit and which were infringing upon indigenous territory.  Those companies must work within the framework of the rights of indigenous peoples, she stressed, calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to ratify the Declaration and prevent the transfer of indigenous lands to transnational companies.

A representative of the indigenous organization Regional Indian Council of Cauca (CRIC) recalled that Colombia was in the process of ending the armed conflict that had lasted more than 50 years.  Urging the Government to ensure the effective participation of indigenous people, she cited systematic violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights, in particular related to the mining industry, and the emergence of paramilitarism.

Mr. TSYKAREV, in closing remarks, urged a focus on country cases, as well as enhanced dialogue among States, businesses and indigenous peoples.  “We need more financial support,” notably from the Secretariat, he said, agreeing that his office’s mandate must be reviewed along with those of the other two mechanisms.

Mr. PYAGBARA expressed solidarity with the families of the 43 missing students.  The Fund needed support, especially from States, without which indigenous peoples’ participation in United Nations meetings could not be enhanced.

Ms. BENNOUNE said she was eager to receive further documentation about cases mentioned today, expressing outrage that the destruction of indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage had not adequately been considered.  She emphasized the connection between peoples and their heritage.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ said the violation of rights to lands, territories and resources, as well as entrenched discrimination, exacerbated the situation of indigenous women.  Investment agreements favoured investor rights, eclipsing human rights, which did not have enforcement mechanisms.  Indigenous peoples must participate in such agreements, which currently were being negotiated in secret.

__________

*     The 9th Meeting was closed.

News

Speakers Condemn Gender-Based Violence, Including Rape as ‘Weapon of War’, in Commission on Status of Women Discussion

Describing national policies aimed at boosting the status of women and protecting their human rights, speakers today condemned gender-based violence — including the use of rape as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism — as the Commission on the Status of Women entered the second day of its sixtieth annual session.

“[Women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”, said Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom.  Women had the right to live free of fear, she said, noting that her country had recently launched a new cross-Government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.

Throughout the day, speakers echoed the importance of implementing national policies to combat gender-based violence and other human rights violations.  Among those was Maria Filomena Delgado, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, who cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence and early marriage in her country.  She noted that her country had in 2015 created a domestic violence hotline, as well as family counselling centres and shelters.

Tatau Godinho, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, described her country’s programme to fight gender-based violence, known as “Women:  living without violence”, which had set up 27 facilities to provide help for female victims of violence.  In addition, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide, which imposed harsher penalties for those who harmed or killed women or girls.

Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, described gender-based violence as a great concern for her country.  The Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination, she said, noting that the country’s Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, enacted in May 2015, criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape and economic and political marginalization.

Among the obstacles to ending gender-based violence was the persistence of traditional stereotypes of masculinity, said Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.

Laurence Rossignol, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, said human rights violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.

Similarly, Maxime Prévot, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, agreed that violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights.  No custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  The international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism, he stressed.

Also speaking today were ministers and other senior officials from Botswana (on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Canada, Morocco, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Japan, Peru, Israel, Poland, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Iceland, Austria, Mozambique, South Africa, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Norway, Czech Republic, Cuba, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Paraguay, Mali, Latvia, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, India, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Guinea, Mongolia, Honduras, Viet Nam, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Kenya, Jordan, Afghanistan, Suriname, Liechtenstein, Zambia, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, China, Sri Lanka, Mauritania, Uganda, South Sudan, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Argentina, Turkmenistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Bahamas, Chile, Russian Federation, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Tonga and Solomon Islands.

Statements

EDWIN J. BATSHU, Minister for Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said women’s economic empowerment and strengthening the policy and legal frameworks to combat violence against women and children were priority areas for the Community’s gender and development programme.  In addition, the Community’s Protocol on Gender and Development had been aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Beijing+20 Review and the African Union Agenda 2063, while since 1999, SADC had sponsored the resolution on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS.  Expressing concern that the majority of new HIV infections occurred among adolescent girls and young women in eastern and Southern Africa, he said in sub-Saharan Africa, infection rates were twice as high among girls and young women as compared to boys and men.  Keeping girls in school and providing culturally sensitive and age appropriate sex education had a positive impact on sexual and reproductive health.

DELILAH GORE, Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development of Papua New Guinea, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said gender equality and poverty alleviation was the “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals, and she supported accelerating commitments in those areas under the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  There was now gender parity in primary education in most Pacific countries and improved legislative frameworks to prevent and respond to violence against women.  Urging the Secretary-General to advance gender-sensitive implementation of the sustainable development agenda, she said the Forum was committed to addressing gender-based inequalities and violence, discrimination, poverty and a lack of economic opportunities, among other issues.  She advocated strengthening institutional capacities, such as gender-sensitive data collection; enhancing partnerships among Governments, civil society, the private sector and faith-based organizations; and supporting resource mobilization to advance gender equality.

PATRICIA HAJDU, Minister for the Status of Women of Canada, said her country would remain a world leader in the advancement of gender equality and realization of women’s human rights, as the former was not only a human rights issue but an essential part of social justice, peace, security and prosperity.  As gender-based violence was a reality for women and girls, she was engaging with experts, grass-roots organizations, and provincial and territorial governments to develop a comprehensive federal strategy to end such abuse, as well as improve services for survivors.  The disproportionate rate of such abuse against indigenous women was a major concern, and, as such, her State had launched an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, having met with survivors and loved ones.  In the coming months, it would announce the details of that study and its contribution to Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.

BASSIMA HAKKAOUI, Minister for Solidarity, Women and Social Development of Morocco, said the Government had spared no effort in empowering women and girls.  The 2011 Constitution enshrined principles of equality.  The 2012-2016 gender equality plan included 24 goals related to women’s empowerment.  A draft law aimed to establish a gender equality and anti-discrimination agency, she said, adding that the Council for Family and Childhood had been created.  During elections in September 2015, women had been elected to 12 per cent of the seats in Parliament and 22 per cent of those seats in municipal governments.  In 2011, a family solidarity forum had been created for divorced women with children, and a social cohesion support fund had also been created.  The Government was providing direct support to widowed mothers.  Despite progress in Morocco and elsewhere, more efforts were needed to enshrine women’s cultural, political and economic rights.  That required more cooperation worldwide.

MARIA FILOMENA DELGADO, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, pointed to her country’s national legal instruments for combating domestic violence, promoting gender equality, supporting rural women, providing basic education for children, reducing illiteracy, protecting domestic workers and supporting youth.  Women now occupied 38 per cent of parliamentary seats and 23 per cent of cabinet minister positions.  A quota system required 40 per cent women’s representation in decision-making bodies.  She cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and early marriage through a national youth development plan and campaign to end early marriage and pregnancy.  In 2015, the Government created a domestic violence hotline, family counselling centres and shelters.  

ANJA KOPAČ MRAK, Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, pointed to the creation of a new advisory body in her Ministry comprising non-governmental, academic and Government administration experts to mainstream gender policy across all sectors and ministries, and to the adoption last year of the 2015-2020 national gender equality policy.  Thanks to mandatory gender quotas, women now occupied 35.6 per cent of parliamentary seats and half of Cabinet seats.  The Government was preparing legislation aimed at increasing women’s participation in corporate boards.  Slovenia was committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, including for family planning.  Combating violence against women and girls was also high on the national political agenda.  Slovenia had ratified the Council or Europe’s Istanbul Convention.  Stalking and forced marriage had been legally declared offences.  Special attention was given to women asylum seekers and refugee women and girls, who were at high risk for sexual violence and early and forced marriage.  

LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Gender Equality of Luxembourg, advocated a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, underscoring women’s important role in the attainment of all Sustainable Development Goals in all areas.  She urged eliminating discrimination and promoting true equality by working for a better balance in sharing domestic, political and social responsibilities.  “We must be proactive to achieve tangible progress in equality and decision-making,” she said, by implementing a broad array of binding measures, including legislative and awareness-raising aimed at dismantling stereotypes and questioning the traditional responsibilities between men and women.  The strength of the 2030 Agenda was in its universal nature.  Luxembourg’s priorities included the establishment of quotas for political decision-making, as well as voluntary quotas for economic decision-making, and combating gender stereotypes.  It would ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also called the Istanbul Convention.

YOJI MUTO, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Japan, welcomed that gender parity had been included in the 2030 Agenda, a common recognition that it was necessary for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.  A society where “all women shine” was a priority for the Cabinet, based on the idea that women’s empowerment was essential for achieving sustainable growth.  In December 2015, it had drafted the Fourth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, covering the next five years.  Women and girls today suffered from violent extremism and displacement by regional conflicts, an issue that must be addressed.  Women also must be given the opportunity to exercise their abilities to the fullest extent, he said, stressing the importance of securing high quality education for girls.  Japan sought to enhance its partnerships, including with UN-Women.

MARCELA HUAITA, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, reaffirmed the commitments made in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing and their respective reviews, stressing that the gender equality goals, found across all Sustainable Development Goals, were reflected in her State’s efforts to empower women.  “My country wants gender equality to be cross-cutting,” she said, noting that women were their own agents of development, as well as for their families and communities.  Citing examples, she said the “Juntos” programme focused on access to education and health, covering more than 1 million women.  Another programme provided food to 2 million children.  Peru was also the first country in South America to develop an action plan for gender and climate change.  On the economic front, intersectoral policies promoted women’s empowerment in trade and tourism, among other areas.

GILA GAMLIEL, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, said that today women in her country held leading positions in Government, business and academia.  Despite living in a region where women were often excluded from positions of power, Israel had had a female Prime Minster.  Currently, her country had a female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, fighter pilots and an Arab woman was Chairperson of the Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Knesset.  Committed to full gender equality, she had created a plan for every Government office to submit a gender budget.  More than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, including two Arab Israeli lawmakers.  The Cabinet recently approved a landmark billion-dollar budget aimed at reducing the social gaps and improving living conditions for Arab citizens and other minority groups.  Millions of women were affected by conflict and were often the first victims of war.  Women had to be afforded the opportunity to take part in conflict resolution.  They were powerful agents of moderation, particularly in the face of extremism.   Especially in the Middle East, women were an untapped potential for more peaceful societies.

WOJCIECH KACZMARCZYK, Minister for Equal Treatment and Civil Society of Poland, pointed to his Government’s active involvement in initiatives to promote and protect women’s rights within the United Nations system, European Union, Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).  Women in Poland were becoming more visible and active in all areas of public life, including in politics and the economy.  The principle of equal treatment was enshrined in the Constitution.  Government programmes aimed to improve women’s status and opportunities in the labour market and erase gender stereotypes.  To ensure work-life balance, the Government guaranteed parental leave for six months.  Efforts were under way to reduce the gender wage gap.  The concept of family mainstreaming was being promoted widely within social, political, education and health-care policies.

KANG EUN-HEE, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, stressed her Government’s focus on women’s empowerment and economic participation.  She pointed to skills’ enhancement and entrepreneurship programmes offered at university career development centres.  Such facilities also provided support for women start-up companies and provided training for women in occupations traditionally dominated by men.  Companies were required to publicly disclose hiring policies to protect women from discrimination.  Women’s economic participation could only be strengthened when home and work life was balanced.  Towards that end, the Government had strengthened maternity leave and required that all public institutions had family friendly policies by 2017.  Women’s empowerment must be in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals.   The Korean Government planned to give $200 million in the next five years to improve the lives of girls in developing nations.  The Government supported women with disabilities.  It was working with UN-Women to build safe cities for girls.

ISSA BIN SAAD AL JAFALI AL NUAIMI, Minister for Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs of Qatar, said gender equality was enshrined in national legislation, which was aligned with international instruments to which his country was party.  Women had taken a lead role in devising national strategies and development plans, raising their status, while Qatar’s “Vision 2030” strategy highlighted women’s role in policymaking and participation in all facets of life.  Government agencies and civil society worked to support women’s rights.  Qatar’s success in implementing plans to empower women had been seen in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, which had ranked the country first among Arab States in that regard, and thirty-first internationally in human development.  He drew attention to the difficult conditions of Palestinian women, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

EYGLÓ HARÐARDÓTTIR, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing of Iceland, said the Commission must focus on how to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in a gender-responsive manner, and called on States to ratify or accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  She said that women were “not going to wait for 117 years for gender equality”, which, according to the World Economic Forum, was the amount of time it would take if we continued at the current speed.  For its part, Iceland aimed to better protect women from domestic violence by removing the perpetrator from the home and making restraining orders more effective.  It also had made the purchase of sexual services and profiting from prostitution illegal, while not penalizing prostitutes.  It planned to ratify the Istanbul Convention this spring.

GABRIELE HEINISCH-HOSEK, Federal Minister for Education and Women’s Affairs of Austria, associating herself with the European Union, said the empowerment of women and girls was both a determinant for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and a main goal of that plan.  Her country would continue to advance towards gender equality in all areas of life.  Tackling gender stereotypes in order to diversify women and girls’ education and career choices was a priority.  Austria would continue to work towards eliminating women’s disadvantages in the labour market by increasing women’s participation and wages.  Comprehensive actions would be taken to promote gender-sensitive health and improve the health literacy of female migrants.  Protecting women and girls from violence was among her central concerns, and an important amendment to the criminal law had entered into force at the start of 2016, defining cyberbullying as a new form of violence punishable under that law.

CIDÁLIA MANUEL CHAÚQUE OLIVEIRA, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Action of Mozambique, pointed to efforts to promote girls’ education in order to achieve gender parity and women’s access to health services, with a focus on prenatal care and the creation of waiting rooms for pregnant women.  Mozambique had had a female Prime Minister, and today women held the position of Speaker of Parliament and Attorney General.  She pointed to provisions in laws on the family, human trafficking, domestic violence and land ownership to better protect women.  Mozambique had a multisectoral mechanism to assist women victims of violence.  The Government had adopted gender-responsive budgeting to empower women in various sectors.  Mozambique’s Agrarian Development Fund gave preferential terms to women entrepreneurs.  Maternal mortality was being reduced thanks to better access to health care, including sexual reproductive health, family planning and disease prevention.  A national strategy aimed to end early marriage and other harmful social practices.

SUSAN SHABANGU, Minister for Women of South Africa, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said her Government had consistently empowered women and promoted gender equality.  The 2010-2030 national development plan was aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  A commitment to women’s empowerment and addressing gender oppression and racism through gender mainstreaming was as at the heart of South Africa’s democracy.  This year marked the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the continent’s Year of Human Rights.  Her Government was committed to ending violence against women and girls and had hosted a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the subject in December.  She supported the call for United Nations reform, particularly in appointing a woman Secretary-General.

HALA MOHAMMED JABER AL ANSARI, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Women of Bahrain, said gender mainstreaming was required of all State institutions and the Supreme Council for Women supported that process.  A national strategy was recently established to protect women from domestic violence.  To encourage women’s economic entrepreneurship and access to the labour market, the Supreme Council for Women had set up a centre offering consultancy services, a fund with initial capital of $5 million offering loans to microprojects and a $100 million fund that offered low-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses.  Free legal aid, family counselling and divorce settlement services were offered to support family stability.  The Court of Cessation Law had been amended to allow for rulings of the Sharia Judiciary Court to be challenged.  The Procedures Law before Sharia Courts had been amended to reflect that is was now mandatory to refer family disputes to the Family Reconciliation Office before being brought to the Court.  Divorced, widowed and unmarried orphaned women were allowed to benefit from housing services.

EUPHRASIE KOUASSI YAO, Minister for the Promotion of Women, Family and for the Protection of Children of Côte d’Ivoire, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, cited gains in various sectors.  A 2012 law allowed married women with families to enjoy a reduction in income tax that was equal to men.  In 2015, an education law made education mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16.  The Government also had strengthened a 10 billion franc support fund to help women carry out income-generating activities.  New buildings for the national gendarmerie had taken women’s needs into account.  Côte d’Ivoire must still rise to several challenges, she said, citing gender discrimination, and pursuit of legal reforms to improve women’s representation in parliament and local government bodies.  Her country would not cower in the face of terrorism, and instead continued to work for women’s empowerment.

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minster for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, said girls and women must have equal access to education, jobs and decision-making.  Empowerment was about education, the most important investment that could be made, and it was vital that girls started and completed their schooling.  Norway was doubling its financial contribution to education for development in the 2013-2017 period.  Empowerment was also about the absence of violence.  One in three women around the world had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, while more than 600 million women lived in countries where domestic violence was not punishable, she said, urging action against early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  Men had a crucial role to play in that regard.  Empowerment also meant that women must have control over their sexuality, and traditional values could not be used to deprive women of that right.

TATAU GODINHO, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, urged promotion and protection of human rights for all women and girls, stressing that the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in January had recognized the importance of women’s and feminist movements in advancing the sustainable development agenda.  For its part, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide.  The “Women:  living without violence” national programme had set up 27 facilities to provide help for women victims of violence.  Going forward, Brazil hoped to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, implement a comprehensive sex education in schools and have equal pay for work of equal value.

JIRI DIENSTBIER, Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, said the link between gender equality and sustainable development was clear.  Under-representation of women in decision-making, gender inequalities in the labour market, violence against women, persisting gender stereotypes or low engagement of men in care continued to hinder social development.  The active promotion of gender equality continued to be one of his Government’s priorities, having adopted, among other things, the Strategy for Equality of Women and Men in 2014.  Describing positive developments in the area of gender equality in the labour market, he went on to say that, in order to help reconcile work and private life, the Act on Children Groups had been adopted, guaranteeing pre-schoolers the right to a place in kindergarten from the age of four by 2017 and from the age of three by 2018.  Other progress included the adoption of a new Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence for 2015-2018 and a recently adopted Strategy for Human Rights and Democracy Promotion. 

TERESA BOUÉ, Secretary-General for the Federation of Cuban Women and Member of the Council of State of Cuba, said her country had enacted laws to ensure equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women.  Women in Cuba could elect and be elected.  They decided and directed their own lives and had the capacity to meet their needs.  They received the same pay as men for work of equal value and were entitled to the same benefits.  However, despite results achieved, gender gaps remained.  In the political arena, the United States Government had acknowledged the failure and the severe damaged caused by its economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.  While it had taken several recent positive steps, there was still no tangible progress, and the blockade continued to be an obstacle for the full development of the country and the advancement of women.  She therefore continued to demand its full lifting, and went on to call for compliance with all commitments regarding the transfer of resources and official development assistance (ODA). 

ALGIMANTA PABEDINSKIENE, Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, stressed the importance of effective national implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the goal of reaching gender parity in spheres of life.  In Lithuania the main objectives of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as former recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), had already been incorporated into national legislation and policies.  Its National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was based on a gender mainstreaming approach and was closely related to the 2030 Agenda.  Its main priorities included the promotion of equal opportunities for women and men in employment, the balancing of participation in decision-making, the promotion of gender mainstreaming and the strengthening of national institutions.  Such mechanisms, as well as their funding, were very important.  In her country, funds from the State budget were allocated annually for the implementation of the National Programme.

ALEJANDRA MORA MORA, Minister for Women’s Condition of Costa Rica, associating herself with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Central American Integration System and the Group of Friends of the Elderly, said her Government had prioritized socially responsible employment, rights protection, violence against women, political participation and strengthening the institutional framework for gender equality.  Sexual and reproductive rights remained a challenge and a cultural change was needed in that regard, to be achieved through training and awareness-raising.  As local elections had shown, it was not enough to have vertical gender parity.  Horizontal parity was needed to ensure that women were at the top of electoral lists, a point understood by the Constitutional Tribunal.  Costa Rica had a comprehensive platform to help victims of sexual harassment and trafficking.  She urged combating the normalization of sexual violence and the resulting pregnancies.

ONITIANA REALY, Minister for Population, Women and Social Protection of Madagascar, associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her Ministry was drafting and soon would have a new gender equality policy that would encourage all institutions to assume shared responsibility to advance that goal. Those bodies would soon be invited to put forward measures in their respective fields of work, a critical comprehensive approach.  “Gender equality is not solely a concern for women; it largely depends on men”, she said, noting that the Beijing Declaration was explicit on that point.  An education fund for vulnerable women had been set up with other ministries, as it was necessary to grant women’s access, and the drafting of a gender equality law was ongoing.

ANA BAIARDI, Minister for Women of Paraguay, noting that women’s empowerment and sustainable development must be viewed comprehensively, urged an end to all forms of gender-based violence.  She advocated more resources and partnerships to strengthen gender equality entities.  For its part, Paraguay had focused on women’s empowerment, women’s access to resources and work, and participation of indigenous and rural women.  It had passed laws on paid domestic work and on maternity and breast feeding.  For two years, Paraguay had worked with women’s policy organizations, feminist and women’s groups, UN-Women and others to draft a law on democratic parity, which had been submitted to Congress.  An amendment to the criminal code last year had deemed domestic violence a crime.  A more comprehensive approach was needed and Paraguay was studying a draft law on violence against women, which took femicide into account.

SANGARE OUMOU BA, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Children and Family of Mali, associating herself with Group of 77 and the African Group, said the session was taking place on the heels of the launch of the 2030 Agenda, which had among its core goals the eradication of poverty, the end of inequality and the promotion of prosperity while protecting the environment.  The empowerment of women was closely linked to sustainable development.  Her country was gradually emerging from a multidimensional crisis in which women and children had played the heaviest price; in that regard, she reaffirmed her Government’s determination to implement the provisions of the peace agreement.  It had also firmly committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 and those related to poverty, health and peace and security — each of which also took into account gender equality and women’s empowerment.  No sustainable development policy could yield results without women’s engagement in socioeconomic policies and political life.  Mali therefore sought to achieve greater participation of women in decision-making bodies. 

MAXIME PRÉVOT, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, aligning himself with the European Union, said sustainable development required the achievement of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  “We can no longer have taboos” when it came to contraception and sexual and reproductive health and services.  The systematic mainstreaming of gender equality in all the Sustainable Development Goals was critical, as was the determination to achieve Goal 5.  The 2030 Agenda was a formidable opportunity to put forward women as drivers of sustainable development.  Gender mainstreaming was a priority for Belgium, which had been the first country in the world to adopt legislation in that regard.  Violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights, he said, stressing that no custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  Furthermore, the international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war and terrorism; the crimes of the Da’esh group against women must be punished.

JĀNIS REIRS, Minister for Welfare of Latvia, associating himself with the European Union, said gender equality was smart economics.  In his country, the female employment rate was 70 per cent in 2015 and women made up 51 per cent of all employed persons.  One in three businesses in Latvia belonged to women.  However, gender segregation still existed in education and employment and that was reflected in the gender pay gap.  More efforts were being made to eliminate violence against women, with improvements to the legal framework in line with the Istanbul Convention and State-funded programmes being made available to victims and perpetrators alike.  Flexible child care enabled working parents to become economically independent.  Measures had been introduced to strengthen the role of fathers, as men and boys had a crucial role to play in gender equality.

ÅSA REGNÉR, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, noting that her country had a feminist Government, said gender power relations and traditional stereotypes of masculinity associated with violence had hindered gender equality.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.  Expressing deep concern that more than half a million women died annually in pregnancy and childbirth or from unsafe abortions, she said investments in those areas were investments in women’s empowerment, social justice and human rights.  Sweden had increased its contribution to women, peace and security issues, with a focus on promoting women’s participation in mediation and peace processes.

AISHA JUMMAI AL-HASSAN, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said the national gender policy and its strategic implementation framework and plan focused on reproductive health, education, countering violence against women, and economic empowerment.  Further, the Government had created programmes that addressed specific social needs, such as skills acquisition for youth, meals for primary school students and financial support to 1 million female marketers and artisans.  Describing gender-based violence as a great concern for her country, she noted that the Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination.  In that regard, the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act enacted in May 2015 criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape, and economic and political marginalization.

ROSALINDA DIMAPILIS-BALDOZ, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the United Nations had recognized her country’s President as an Impact Head of State Champion for the “HeForShe” campaign.  Indeed, 43 per cent of leaders in her Government were women, while an increasing number of women were senior leaders in private companies.  For the first time, a woman led the judiciary and the Commission on Audit.  A new labour law compliance system, with decent work indicators, had shifted from a regulatory to a developmental approach, which had increased compliance with gender standards.  The country had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 on domestic work and passed a law recognizing domestic helpers as workers with labour rights and benefits.

YOHANA SUSANA YEMBISE, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said gender equality and women’s empowerment commitments were reflected in such strategies as gender responsive planning and budgeting, while the national action plan on human rights for 2015-2019 outlined policies to protect women from violence and discrimination.  Further, the rural development law enabled equal access to the benefits of rural development.  Gender parity at almost all levels had helped reduce child marriage and illiteracy among women.  Health reforms had improved women’s access to reproductive health services.  The Government had enacted national action plans to eliminate trafficking in persons and to promote and protect women and children in social conflict areas, working with national human rights bodies in their implementation.

SAMIRA MERAI FRIAA, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood of Tunisia, said that her country valued equality between men and women and, in that regard, it truly appreciated the fifth goal of the 2030 Agenda.  The 2030 Agenda had been integrated into Tunisia’s 2016-2020 development plans.  Economic empowerment of women had been made a fundamental priority with a view to improving opportunities for women in the labour market.  Special attention was being given to women in rural areas and in border areas threatened by terrorists.  A national strategy to combat violence against women and girls had been implemented, with necessary services being provided to victims.  Utmost priority was given to peace and security, particularly in light of the transformations now under way in the Arab world.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister for State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said equal rights of men and women were guaranteed under the 1976 Constitution.  Further, relevant laws and policies were guided by a number of international and regional instruments, including the Women’s Convention and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.  Welcoming the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, she noted that it defined strategic policy goals to be prioritized for national action over the next 15 years.  The health and well-being of all citizens, and the promotion and protection of their rights, were central to national sustainable development efforts, including poverty eradication initiatives.  To reduce and prevent violence against women and girls, the Government had enacted, reviewed and amended legislation and partnered with civil society organizations to provide a range of services to victims and survivors, including shelters, hotlines and counselling, workshops and grants.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and Member of Parliament of Malawi, said the sixtieth session of the Commission came at a time when a plethora of global challenges were impacting women.  She described gender-related progress that had been achieved in her country, which had been due, among other things, to education and gender mainstreaming.  In addition, legislation was currently being reviewed with an eye to gender parity.  Maternal mortality rates had declined, as had the rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission and new HIV infection.  All Government sector heads of planning had been trained in gender-sensitive budgeting.

MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI, Minister for Women and Child Development of India, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country had achieved gender parity in primary education, while the disparity in secondary education was falling fast.  Remarkable progress had been made in reducing maternal death, while nearly half of all elected representatives to local governing bodies were women.  Various laws addressed all forms of violence against women and girls in a comprehensive manner.  Last year a multisectoral programme was launched to overcome deep-seated bias against the girl child.  One-stop centres provided medical help, police assistance, legal aid and psycho-social counselling under one roof, while efforts were being made to make the police more gender-responsive and sensitized.

DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, said gender equality, human rights and empowerment of women and girls were national priorities that were enshrined in the Constitution of her country.  Notable achievements included better provision of health services and increased representation of women in Parliament.  Primary and secondary education was free, while legislation was being enacted to make it easier for women to access resources for economic development.  The aim was for men and women, boys and girls, to benefit equally from economic development.  The current session of Parliament was amending a number of gender-related laws, including one that dealt with human trafficking.

NYASHA EUNICE ANNE CHIKWINYA, Minister for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, saying her country’s Constitution explicitly provided for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Although 29 per cent of women had acquired land, much remained to be done, given that 68 per cent of Zimbabwean women were farmers.  The Constitutional Court had banned child marriages after two young women who married before the age of 18 challenged the constitutionality of the Marriages Act.  The Government, through her Ministry, was pushing for a minimum prison sentence of 30 years for rapists, with life imprisonment for those who raped minors.  Climate change had a negative impact on rural women; it needed to be addressed with such measures as the introduction of drought-resistant crops and water conservation methods.

JULIA DUNCAN-CASSELL, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her Government had recently set in motion national processes aligned with its development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Liberia’s successes in the Millennium Development Goals were reflected in the reduction of maternal and child mortality, girls’ education and women’s empowerment.  Listing a number of other achievements related to gender quality and women’s empowerment — including the launch of the second phase of the national sexual and gender-based violence programme — she went on to say that the Domestic Violence Act submitted to the national legislature would strengthen the safety of women and forbid female genital mutilation.

NANA OYE LITHUR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, said women’s empowerment was not just a call for the protection of women’s human rights but also made good sustainable development sense.  “The opportunity to achieve sustainable development will be missed if the concerns of women, who constitute more than half of the global population, are not addressed”, she said.  Africa had made substantial progress towards the achievement of universal primary education, a high primary enrolment rate, improved girls’ enrolment and gender parity.  The continent was leading the world in terms of women’s representation in national parliaments.  Describing development progress made in her country — including the halving of poverty before the target date of 2015 — she went on to note a number of successes related specifically to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

ALEJANDRINA GERMAN, Minister for Women of the Dominican Republic, associating with the Group of 77, the Council of Ministers of Women, the Group of Friends of the Elderly, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the launch of the 2030 Agenda recognized women’s diversity, human rights and the need for development.  Her country had recently ratified the ILO Convention protecting the labour rights of women.  It had made progress on women’s economic empowerment, including training thousands of women in marketable technical skills.  Legal sanctions and other measures had been put in place to protect female victims of violence, and a hotline to support victims had been set up.  Furthermore, the Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health was set up in 2015.  To help achieve women’s goals related to the Agenda 2030, the Dominican Republic had a range of public policy tools to help solve the main challenges facing women and girls, and funds had been specifically allocated to target women’s issues.

CAMARA SANABA KABA, Minister for Social Action and the Advancement of Women and Children of Guinea, said that she was grateful for the solidarity of the women of the world when her country was dealing with Ebola.  Women in particular had been hit hard by the consequences of that crisis.  Several investors had left the country, including mining companies that had been a major source of financing for the State.  A slowdown in domestic and cross-border trade had had an adverse impact, and the agricultural sector, largely steered by women, had deteriorated.  International support was still needed in order to stabilize the economy for the benefit of all citizens, and particularly for women.

ERDENE SODNOMZUNDUI, Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said that, under revisions to the Criminal Code in 2015, domestic violence — for the first time — had been criminalized, with stiff penalties for intentional homicide or for serious injuries inflicted on victims of such violence.  Under a draft labour law, employers had to provide working conditions that were free of discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse.  Increasing women’s participation in decision-making, ensuring inclusive economic growth and targeted social welfare were still pressing challenges, but the country was committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and to raising public awareness of gender issues.

ANA AMINTA MADRID, Minister for the National Institute for Women of Honduras, listed a number of successes her country had made in the areas of gender equality and empowerment.  Those included:  the adoption of a national programme for solidarity credit for rural women; the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into public policy; the adoption of a gender equity law and a law for women’s full employment; and affirmative action programmes.  The country had also taken actions aimed at increasing the employment of teenagers and supporting migrants and female-headed households.  In addition, a specialized unit dealing with femicide and a comprehensive care centre for survivors of gender-based violence had been established, and a campaign for the prevention of violence against women had been launched.

CAROLINE DINENAGE, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom, said that, while progress had been made for women and girls around the world, “[women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”.  Gender equality was at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The United Kingdom had more women in work and more women-led businesses than ever before and it had reduced the gender pay gap to the lowest level ever.  However, economic freedom must go hand in hand with social freedom, in particular the right to live free from fear.  Last week, the country had launched a new cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy, which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.  That included tackling challenges facing women in the age of modern technology and social media.

PHẠM THỊ HẲI CHUYỂN, Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam, said that her country had, in its quest for gender equality, learned to be aware of the needs and aspirations of women in the development process and to promote women’s empowerment in all areas.  However, many challenges remained.  There had been no decline in violence against women in girls.  In rural, mountainous and remote areas, outmoded customs and traditions persisted.  Climate change was having a negative impact on both men and women, and a number of social policies stood in the way of women’s participation in management and leadership positions.  Mainstreaming gender equality in legal documents was also a challenge.

MARGUS TSAHKNA, Minister for Social Protection of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, said his country was committed to reducing the gender pay gap, preventing violence against women, promoting women’s rights and gender equality, and opening opportunities for women in information and communications technologies, an area in which it already stood out.  Digitalization created better educational opportunities for children in remote areas and in conflict situations.  Women and girls with Internet access could participate in society on more equal terms with men and make their voices more widely heard.  In Afghanistan, Estonia had been supporting a project that gave local women six months of information technology training, contributing to their economic empowerment and benefiting the community as a whole.

NOURA BINT MOHAMMED AL KAABI, Minister for Federal National Council Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the international community must commit to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Women made up close to one third of her country’s Cabinet, she said, adding that national partners with strong institutions were critical to achieving progress.  Effective monitoring of the implementation of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals would be critical and provide an opportunity for States to share best practices.  Gender equality was critical to peaceful societies, she said, noting the rise of extremism and the related increase in violations of the human rights of women and girls.  Her State was committed to strengthening the capacity of countries worldwide in post-conflict development.

LAURENCE ROSSIGNOL, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, noting that more than 20 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, said that more remained to be done to promote and protect women’s human rights.  For example, violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.  All international agendas, including the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, converged on the same goal:  upholding human rights.  There were an alarming number of unsafe abortions in places where the practice was banned, and States needed to eliminate legal barriers to safe abortions, especially in cases of rape or in the face of health threats such as the Zika virus.

YANIRA ARGUETA, Minister for Women of El Salvador, associating herself with the Central American Integration System and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said it was worth reflecting on the achievements that had been made.  Doing so would enable progress.  In her country, women were recognized as peacebuilders and drivers of good governance.  A specialized justice mechanism for women was being built, and measures to address violence against women would soon be adopted.  UN-Women had an important role to play in ensuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

SICILY KARIUKI, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affair

News

Desert sounds – Kalahari metalheads pursue a dream

Botswana’s heavy metal bands defy criticism – and heat – in their search for artistic freedom

See more of Frank Marshall’s photographs here

In the remorseless Kalahari heat, leather is not the most obvious choice of attire. But to a dedicated band of Batswana metalheads, it’s the only way to dress. The country’s heavy metal scene, imported from neighbouring South Africa, may be niche but its fans are passionate about their style. Dressed from head to toe in black leather, sporting cowboy boots, hats and exaggerated props, they draw some curious looks on the dusty streets.

“People think that we are rough, evil creatures, but [metal] teaches us to be free with expression, to do things on our own,” said Vulture, the vocalist of the band Overthrust. He says there is a long way to go before the genre is considered mainstream, but that audiences have grown steadily in the past decade.

TKB, bassist for the band Skinflint, which is based in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, says they are becoming a more familiar sight. “The culture doesn’t accept heavy metal fans, the people all look at you, but nowadays even the young boys know that this person is a metalhead.”

Botswana got its first heavy metal band, Metal Orizon, in the early 1990s. The group are still writing music and performing live today.

Their drummer, Selaelo, said the dress code was an important part of the act. “[Around] 1998 the unusual rock star outfit caused a lot of curiosity among hostile members of the public. This curiosity from non-rock lovers, I would say, brought more attention to the metalheads. Now that they had more attention, the rockers took [it] a step further by acting and posing in public. It was now more of a fashion, or the ‘in thing’ for those who loved the subculture.”

Selaelo added: “Some say our music is just noise and some perceive us as violent people … but that has not dampened our spirits. We will continue to show our worth in society and to follow our hearts for the love of metal.”

Metal Orizon are still pursuing their dream – to be able to make a living from their music.

There’s not much airplay for metal in Botswana, with only one radio show that broadcasts for 50 minutes a week on national radio. Fans keep up to date through word of mouth, swapping tapes and social networks.

Though attendance at concerts is small in comparison to the west, the scene has slowly built a steady fan base. To date, no western heavy metal act has performed in Botswana, and no Botswana metal act has performed outside the region.

The most popular band, by far, is Wrust, who have toured South Africa and played as a support act for the Brazilian heavyweights Sepultura. Wrust say they draw on western influences, with a local twist in the lyrics and delivery.

But vocalist Stux Daemon said traditional culture was harder to integrate. “You are going to try to use your surroundings to influence your music, your thoughts and your songwriting, but [Setswana culture] is not something we focus on,” he said.

The images are currently on display at the Rooke Gallery in Johannesburg

• This article was amended on 11 February 2013. The first paragraph referred to the metalheads as Botswanan. The main term for the people of Botswana is Batswana. This has been corrected.

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