Implementation of Indigenous Rights Declaration Should Be Regarded as Political, Moral, Legal Imperative without Qualification, Third Committee Told

18 October 2010
General AssemblyGA/SHC/3982
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Third Committee

18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)

Implementation of Indigenous Rights Declaration Should Be Regarded as Political,

Moral, Legal Imperative without Qualification, Third Committee Told


Special Rapporteur James Anaya Says Three Key Issues Addressed in Past Year;

Development with Identity, Right to Participation, Convention Implementation

The implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should not be obscured by a discussion about whether or not it is a legally binding document and should be regarded as a “political, moral and legal imperative” without qualification, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today, as it began its discussion of indigenous issues and the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.

“The Declaration has a significant normative weight grounded in its high degree of legitimacy as a product of decades of struggle and advocacy by indigenous peoples,” said James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “Further, that normative weight is augmented by the Declaration’s grounding in the human rights principles of the United Nations Charter and other international treaties.”

He called for concerted action by Member States and the United Nations system to faithfully implement the rights contained in the Declaration, as he presented a report to the Committee on his recent activities and efforts to coordinate work with other United Nations mechanisms.

Noting that minimum steps already being undertaken by some States, beyond endorsement, needed to take root more broadly and that experiences should be shared, he said, “A great deal remains to be done to see the rights and objectives of the Declaration become a reality in the lives of indigenous peoples throughout the world.”

Implementation was one of three key areas he addressed during his work in the past year, he told delegates, the others being the right of indigenous people to development with culture and identity and the right of indigenous people to participation.

“I emphasize the need for promoting capacity building for indigenous peoples, the strengthening of indigenous people’s own institutions and self-government structures, and the need to provide the opportunity for indigenous peoples to participate as equal partners in the development process,” he said, while pointing out that indigenous people faced particular social and economic disadvantages and concerns.

He added that the right to participation of indigenous peoples in decision making had to be understood in its “external and internal dimensions.”  The external dimension consisted of indigenous peoples participating in the broader public life of the States and in the international arena, particularly about measures that affected indigenous people’s particular interests; and the internal dimension related to indigenous people’s exercise of autonomy and self-government.

Rachel Mayanja, the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender issue and advancement of women, also noted that poverty reduction strategies had to ensure the participation of indigenous people, since development projects in the name of progress had been known to displace indigenous people from their lands and disregard their needs.

Indigenous people, who constituted 5 per cent of the world’s population but 15 per cent of the world’s poor, needed to be “agents of change” themselves, she said to the Committee.  She also called for Governments to scale up their initiatives concerning indigenous people in order to meet targets of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and to redouble their efforts to advance the economic and social standing of indigenous people.

Stating that the adoption of UNDRIP in 2007 was the “most significant development” carried out during the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, she said that the Declaration was a crucial step in creating an international human rights framework for indigenous people and had become a key reference point in national and international proceedings regarding violations of indigenous people’s rights.

Also speaking before the Committee today was Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Global Issues Section of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who reported on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, noting that its funding had enabled indigenous representatives to attend sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Representatives of the following countries and organizations also spoke today: Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Belize (on behalf of CARICOM), Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, United States, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Guyana, Venezuela, Guatemala, Suriname, El Salvador, Nepal, Argentina, International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Organization of Parliaments (IPU), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Additionally, taking the floor today to conclude the Committee’s discussion on the rights of children were the representatives of Kuwait, El Salvador, Nepal, Malawi, Bahrain, Morocco, Armenia, Botswana, and Azerbaijan, as well as representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 18 October, to begin consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights, the implementation of human rights instruments and comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The Committee will hear presentations by the Chairperson of the Committee against Torture and the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3979.)  It also began its discussion on indigenous issues.

It had before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations (document A/65/163).  The report indicates the activities undertaken with the resources of the Fund, its income and expenditure, and the pledges and payments made to the Fund.  It also reports on the twenty-second and twenty-third sessions of the Board of Trustees, held in 2009 and 2010, respectively.  The Board foresees the need for an additional $868,560 prior to the twenty-fourth session of the Board, to be held from 7 to 11 February 2011, in order to fund a sufficient number of the new applicants expected in 2011 and to satisfactorily fulfil its mandate.

The Committee also had before it a note from the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples (document A/65/264), in which the Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, focuses on the right of indigenous peoples to development with culture and identity, their right to participation, and the obligation of States to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  With regard to development, the report notes how the extraction of natural resources and the building of mega-projects such as dams and transportation facilities are often undertaken without consulting affected indigenous peoples or obtaining their consent.  Meanwhile, indigenous peoples are all too often not properly incorporated into development programmes that are supposed to benefit them.  The report thus identifies a need for Governments to do more to fold the goal of increasing indigenous self-determination into their development policies.

Turning to the right to participation, the Special Rapporteur suggests that special measures may be required to ensure that indigenous peoples can participate on an equal footing in the public and political life of States.  At the same time, indigenous peoples themselves must continue to strengthen their capacities to control and manage their own affairs and to participate in decision-making in a spirit of cooperation and partnership with government authorities.  It was all too apparent that a great deal remains to be done to see the objectives of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples become an everyday reality; it showed how much more still has to be done, rather than how much has been achieved. 

Finally, the Committee also had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the midterm assessment of the progress made in the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (document A/65/166).  The report concludes that substantive advances have been made towards achievement of the goal and objectives of the Decade, commencing on 1 January 2005.  The importance of the adoption, in 2007, of UNDRIP and the role it has had in the consolidation of a human rights-based approach to indigenous peoples’ issues at the intergovernmental and national levels is acknowledged.  However, a substantial gap is identified between intentions at the policy level and the actual implementation of specific objectives of the Second Decade.  It is stressed that further efforts must be made to transform initiatives at the policy level into effective action for and with indigenous peoples.  Member States are encouraged to establish national legislative frameworks and institutional policies and mechanisms regarding indigenous peoples’ issues, as well as special national committees on the Decade to promote the implementation of its goal and objectives more effectively.  Increased funding, mainstreaming and upscaling of successful programmes on indigenous peoples’ issues are also urgently required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for the world’s indigenous peoples.

KHALED ALAJMI ( Kuwait) said that it was necessary to increase progress in strategic areas regarding such issues as children in armed conflict.  Stressing support for universal ratification by 2012 of international agreements related to children’s rights, Kuwait signed the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning children in armed conflict (OPAC) and or the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  Kuwait believed that the family was at the base of society, and granted protection to children and mothers from physical and spiritual exploitation.  The country’s ministry of labour and social affairs made efforts to protect children, and the Government had set up institutions to protect children, orphans, and the disabled.

Through the ministry of health, the Government supervised health by providing primary healthcare, which was the best in the region, he said.  Recent statistics on children in Kuwait regarding health and education showed that the percentage of children completing primary school was 100 per cent in 2009.  The percentage of child mortality at five years of age was 2 per 1,000 births, showing that Kuwait was making progress in healthcare.  Additionally, Kuwait drew attention to the case of Palestinian children in the occupied territories, the blockade of Gaza and the violation of children’s rights by forces of occupation. The Government asked the United Nations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to place the rights of Palestinian children at the head of their list of priorities.  Kuwait would spare no efforts in protecting the rights of the child and would support all international initiatives regarding the universal rights of the child.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ ( El Salvador) underlined the importance his Government had attached to the rights of the child, with its secretariat for social inclusion coordinating the work of various ministries.  With the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO), El Salvador has adopted a programme to end the worst forms of child labour by 2015 and all forms of child labour by 2020.  It was also putting in place from 2011 an integrated national system of protection for children and adolescents, incorporating the most recent comments of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

From November 2009, an inter-institutional panel had been addressing the issue of street children in metropolitan San Salvador, with the active participation of the government, municipalities and social organizations.  Another committee had been dealing with trafficking in persons, while efforts to combat sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence in the educational system had been stepped up.  The Government had also been striving to guarantee the effective right of participation for children and adolescents in public policies and public management.  El Salvador appreciated the support of UNICEF for its national efforts and it was committed to participating on the agency’s executive board.  The negative impact of the illicit activities of gangs, or “maras,” was a challenge that needed to be confronted through international cooperation and a firm national commitment.

DORA NATH ARYAL ( Nepal) noted that the nation was party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had ratified the ILO convention on forced labour and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Conventions on child welfare and trafficking in women and children for prostitution.  Along those lines, a child labour prevention committee and fund had been established and the exploitation of children was strictly outlawed and upheld in the nation’s constitution, which incorporated children’s rights as a fundamental right.  Nepal, he stated, had also successfully implemented the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group by releasing all under-age people from the cantonments, integrating them into society and adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards child recruitment.

As for national projects, Nepal was implementing the National Action Plan on Education for All (2001-2015) and the School Sector Reform Plan (2009-2016) to ensure inclusive access to a compulsory primary education of good quality, he said.  In addition, the Government had formulated several programs on the welfare of children, such as capacity building for children’s welfare homes, operation of a children’s help line, identification and management of street children, and rehabilitation and protection of children at risk.  He added that children’s libraries and child development programmes were provided in the majority of the nation’s districts.  Concerning health, the Government was working to increase child immunization from 83 percent to 100 percent and had introduced free maternity and basic health services for women and children.   Despite challenges, Nepal was on course to meet the Millennium Development Goals related to child survival and maternal health.  Considering the difficulties faced by least developed countries emerging from conflict, Nepal had embarked on a path that promoted and protected the rights of the child in a holistic manner

MR. MWANYULA (Malawi) noted that the delegation aligned with the statements delivered by Namibia, on behalf of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77, and China and confirmed its commitment to submit periodic reports to CRC.   Malawi, he said, had made it a deliberate policy to decentralise implementation of policies and programmes that deal with children and young people, ensuring that resources reached the intended individuals and empowering people at the grass-roots level.  In 2010, he noted that the nation had adopted the Child Protection Act, which addressed such issues as child trafficking, forced marriages, the pledging of a child as security for a loan, child labour and corporal punishment. The Community Victim Support Units, comprised of child protection workers, police officers, teachers and traditional leaders, ensured a holistic, grass-roots implementation.

With regard to protecting the rights of children who were in conflict with the law, juvenile Justice Courts had been established in four cities to try children in child-friendly courts and, concerning child labour, a Law Enforcement Training Manual and, National Child Labour Database had been established.  Cases of child labour in Malawi were now very minimal.  In view of the continuing battle against HIV and AIDS pandemic, a cash transfer scheme had been undertaken to assist orphans and child-headed families, with free post-primary education extended to orphans.  Guidelines on standards and management were also provided for institutionalized orphan care.  As regarded children with disabilities, the Special Needs Department had been created to provide equal access to education and training programs.

SHAIKHA NOORA AHMED AL-KHALIFA ( Bahrain) said that her country focused great attention on children, and its laws upheld values concerning the rights of the child.  Bahrain’s constitution protected childhood and motherhood, against abuse and neglect, and promoted the growth of the young.  Bahrain, aware of the importance of the younger generation in building its future through progress and development, implemented laws to preserve the rights of the child.  Having acceded to the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1992, Bahrain provided children with health needs, basic needs like food and shelter, health services and access to medication and treatment, special healthcare if disabled, and education.

To safeguard healthcare, Bahrain provided pre- and post- natal care through care units spread all over the country, she said.  The health ministry provided primary health services, including periodic medical check-ups for children under six-years old, basic vaccination, and attention to pregnant mothers and delivery in hospitals.  Infant mortality in Bahrain was eight per 1,000 live births and maternity leave had been extended from 45 to 60 days.  Legislation concerning education promoted the cultural and psychological development of children.  The protection of children from violence was carried out under the Ministry of Social Development.  Field visits were carried out to remote areas to better understand the needs of children, particularly those with special needs.  Public institutions supported children’s sports.  The country’s royal charitable institution took care of orphaned children, providing monthly pay to meet their needs and provide them with decent life.

HASSAN EL MKHANTAR ( Morocco) explained that several laws in his country had been amended to reflect the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it had ratified on 21 June 1993.  The criminal code set the age of majority for criminal offences at 18 years and youth tribunals had been established.  Under the labour code, work by children under the age of 18 was prohibited, and penalties for offenders had been strengthened.  Several bodies had been created to promote dialogue and coordination on the rights of children, notably a national congress on the issue and a children’s Parliament.

Following implementation of a national strategy, the rate of illiteracy had come down to less than 20 per cent, and it was hoped that illiteracy would be virtually eradicated by 2015, he said.  Great progress had been achieved in keeping children in school until at least the age of 15.  Several programmes and measures had been adopted to address the promotion of a culture of children’s rights, the reintegration of street children and disabled children.  Preventing juvenile delinquency was another priority; to that end, measures had been taken to create jobs, develop social activities and bring young people in difficulty into social life.

ANI KOCHARYAN ( Armenia) affirmed the country’s belief that the promotion of the rights of the child was a priority and its commitment to working with the United Nations and other organizations concerned with these rights.  Armenia ratified all of the most important international instruments, including the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, as well as agreements concerning child labour, adoption, abduction and protection against exploitation and abuse.  In April 2010, Armenia submitted joint reports on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and looked forward to receiving recommendations from the monitoring committee.

Armenia supported cooperation with UNICEF, which had helped develop the country’s national priorities and national program.  Armenia’s national program contributed to child heath and nutrition.  It acknowledged the need to shift from assistance to development through local capacity building and plans to solve such issues as poverty reduction and securing child protection.  Armenia agreed to implement such measures as the improvement of legislation protecting children’s rights in line with international standards.  Armenia’s national council to protect children was an advisory body aimed at fostering the implementation of the national policy on children’s rights and the development of a child protection system.  Since 2006, a system for the protection of children had operated at the national level in Armenia, promoting a uniform state policy with regard to children’s rights.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE ( Botswana) recalled how children worldwide had remained subject to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, violence and exploitation.  The lack of a family environment, destruction of social safety nets and instability resulting from armed conflict meant that children were more likely to be subjected to forced labour, sale and trafficking, recruitment into armed groups and forces, early marriages and sexual exploitation.  Enhanced efforts to combat such social ills were supported by Botswana.  In education, there had been significant and sustained progress to build more primary and secondary schools in Botswana; in 2009 the country had 803 schools, including 742 public primary schools.  Public and private spending on higher education had been growing by about 4 per cent a year over the past decade.  An “education hub” had been established to create centres of excellence in areas in which the country had a comparative advantage, while a readmission policy assisted children who had dropped out of school.

Notable progress had been made in the provision of health care and in combating HIV/AIDS, he said.  Ninety per cent of children were fully immunized by the time they were one-year old, while 89 per cent of HIV expectant mothers had received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.  Gaps and challenges hindering high-impact interventions were being addressed through a number of national strategies.  Various development partners, civil society organizations and the private sector had played an important role in helping Botswana tackle HIV/AIDS and other development challenges; he thanked them for their support.

ASIF GARAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that his country was a protector of the rights of children, that the Convention on the Rights of the Children and the Optional Protocols had made a contribution to that matter, and that Member States could add value by acceding to these treaties.  Problems that remained concerning children’s rights included child soldiers, the denial of the girl child’s right to education, the loss of parents due to HIV/AIDS and female genital mutilation.  An important step in the implementation of those instruments was the establishment of programmes and policies that ensured that care was provided in early life. Azerbaijan was committed to reducing infant mortality by half and had made progress when compared to previous results.  The country was also working on the situation of children without parental care and returning children back to their families.  Additionally, last year was the “year of children” in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s action plan addressed the special needs of vulnerable children and the encouragement of their talent.  The country particularly appreciated calls to put child labour on top of the international agenda, believing the problem required strong political will.

While inspired to attain further achievements, Azerbaijan was still facing challenges, such as the protracted conflict with Armenia and its devastating consequences, he said.  One out of nine people in Azerbaijan had become an internally displaced person or refugee – the world’s highest proportion of internally displaced persons – and a large number of those people were children. Many children grew up in camps, and the task of solving housing problems would continue, due to the conflict.  Azerbaijan affirmed the strong support of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for children in armed conflict and for the framework for 2009-2012.  The country supported Member State establishment of appropriate strategies and exchanges of information, particularly regarding the release and reintegration of children.  Concerning principles for internally displaced children, Azerbaijan also supported the inclusion of children in peace processes and peace agreements.  Another challenging issue was children who had been taken hostage and were missing.  Azerbaijan had sponsored General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolutions, asking members to identify measures for locating such children, and Azerbaijan was the main co-sponsor for a resolution regarding missing persons.

WALTER FULLEMANN, on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the international community had worked over the last decade to improve the mental and physical integrity of children by implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  However, there had been a failure to recognize conflict as a major barrier to primary education, improved maternal health, lower child mortality and the Millennium Development Goals.  Children were often the victims of direct and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including killing, maiming, sexual violence and recruitment into the military and armed groups.  Children were often victims of the indirect effects of war, such as inadequate health care, food and water, which resulted in the deaths of many more children than bullets and bombs.

He offered several examples of how war and violence infringed child rights.  First, some violations of international law might deprive children of the most basic elements required for normal development, particularly in the early stages of childhood.  Second, conflict often impeded access to good health care for women and children at a time when they most needed it.  Third, the ICRC recognized that forcing people to flee their homes was one of the most devastating consequences, in humanitarian terms, of modern-day conflict.  Fourth, in the panic and chaos surrounding displacement, many children found themselves alone and separated from their families; in such situations children as young as eight or nine assumed adult roles.  That took a huge toll on the mental and physical health of the child.  The experience of war harmed children’s physical development and the violence they witnessed left lasting psychological scars.  Much of what children suffered could be prevented through better compliance with international humanitarian law by all warring parties.  The representative urged United Nations Member States to remain committed to children affected by armed conflict and ensure respect, protection and assistance for children in all circumstances, including times of extreme danger.

BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the issue of protection of the rights of children was one of extreme importance to the Order of Malta, particularly in dealing with treatable and preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, and HIV/AIDS, which accounted for half of infant deaths.  Low cost prevention and treatment measures could save most of those children.  The Order was recording success and was increasing the reach of its programmes for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in such countries as Argentina, Mexico, Angola, South Africa, Cambodia, and elsewhere.  Its programmes for prevention and treatment of malaria and tuberculosis in children and adults were also well known.

He said many mother-child health programmes of the Order, like the one in Cambodia, focused on nutrition.  The Order not only educated on the importance of adequate nutrition, but also provided mothers with the means to plant and maintain vegetable gardens at home.  So far, over 500 families had successfully planted and maintained such gardens in that Cambodian programme.  The Order also oversaw nutrition centres for undernourished and malnourished children in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Working with partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Order had distributed seeds and small livestock to parents and taught them about planting and nutrition.  He added that, in one of the largest areas of conflict in the world – the Middle East, the Order had continued to provide birth and medical services to the population.  The Holy Family Hospital, established in 1989 in Bethlehem, provided a comprehensive neonatal intensive care unit for premature infants; in addition to other vital services, including Mobile Outreach Clinics.  The Hospital was set to deliver its 50,000th baby this year, a clear example of how the Order, even in an area of such conflict, was working to preserve the rights of the most vulnerable.

ELENA GASTALDO, on behalf of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that in May the ILO launched its second global report on child labour entitled “Accelerating Actions against Child Labour.”  The report contained the most recent data on child labour disaggregated by sex, age and region.  The analysis of the data pointed toward a slowing down of global progress in eliminating child labour.  The global number of child labour had declined between 2005 and 2008, but the rate of decline had been just 3 percent, compared to a 10 percent decline recorded from 2000 to 2004.  The good news was that the overall pattern of child labour reduction had been maintained; the more harmful the work and the more vulnerable the children involved, the faster the decline.  However, a staggering 115 million were still exposed to hazardous work.  Greatest progress had been recorded among children aged 5 to 14.  The number of children in child labour in this age group declined by 10 percent, and the number of children in hazardous work fell by 31 percent over four years.  That trend was in line with previous estimates and confirmed that child labour declined faster in its worst forms and among the most vulnerable.

The report was launched on the eve of a Global Conference on Child Labour. On the final day, participants adopted the Roadmap for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, she said.  In addition, the outcome document of the High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals addressed the need to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.  It called for steps by Member States to assist in the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.  Child labour had its roots in poverty; and throughout the world, thousands of children were working as domestic helpers.  In June 2010, the International Labour Conference (ILC) adopted landmark conclusions on decent work for domestic workers. In conclusion, the ILO warned that the world community must not allow the economic downturn to become an excuse for inaction.

Indigenous Issues:  Introductory Statements

RACHEL MAYANJA, the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women said that it was just two months ago that the United Nations celebrated the annual International Day of the World's Indigenous People.  The theme was the cultural wealth that indigenous people had contributed to humankind, such as history, music and art.  An event was hosted in New York where filmmakers from places such as Siberia, Alaska, and the Caribbean screened their work.  They spoke about their aspirations and desire to tell world about their communities.  The International Day of the World's Indigenous People was celebrated through events and ceremonies throughout the world, and through advocacy groups that brought attention to the needs of indigenous people.  She stated that the focus on the culture and development of indigenous people was an especially rich and attractive theme that was accessible to many.

Given that the midpoint of the Second International Decade of World’s Indigenous People was also taking place, attention and action should be mobilized to meet the stated goals, she said.  Noting that an assessment of progress had been carried out, she discussed a few of its highlights.  The most significant development had been the adoption of UNDRIP in 2007 by the General Assembly.  That was a crucial step in creating an international human rights framework for indigenous people.  Since 2007, the Declaration had become a key reference point and document in national and international proceedings regarding violations of indigenous people’s rights.

More international organizations were establishing guidelines to include indigenous people, she said, explaining that States had set up programs to address the marginalized situations of indigenous people.  Recent achievements included the creation of consultative institutions regarding indigenous people and the formation of their own political parties.  Russia, Nepal and Ecuador had set examples in those arenas.  She also expressed sincere appreciation to Member States that had generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues. Such activities were vital for implementing the mandate and goal of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.

While discussing the “signposts of progress”, she alerted the Third Committee that, at the current pace of change, many of the objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People might not be met. Very few States had recognized their indigenous communities and fewer had granted them protection.  The human rights of indigenous people were endangered, their land and resources were denied to them, and aspects of advocacy on their behalf were handicapped.  In places where there was recognition, political participation of indigenous people was low.  Numbers of indigenous women representing their communities was at particularly at low levels.

To meet targets, government initiatives needed to be scaled up, she said. International frameworks had to be made operational through policies and programmes to address social and economic injustices.  Some projects, in the name of progress, had actually displaced indigenous people from their lands and had disregarded their needs.  Poverty reduction strategies had to include indigenous issues and ensure the activity of indigenous people, which needed to be agents of change themselves.  Indigenous people constituted 5 per cent of the world’s population, but made up 15 per cent of the world’s poor.  They experienced higher levels of health problems, such as infant mortality and tuberculosis.  They faced issues of violence, brutality and disposition of their lands.  There was progress in chipping away at their desperate conditions, but the assessment findings should concern all Member States.  She called on the international community, heeding the assessment’s recommendations, to redouble its efforts and advance the economic and social standing of indigenous people.

CHARLES RADCLIFFE, Chief, Global Issues Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), then presented the High Commissioner’s report on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations (document A/65/163), which provides information on the activities of the Fund and the decisions adopted by its Board of Trustees at its meetings on 16 to 20 March 2009 (when it considered 686 applications from indigenous communities and organizations, and recommended for approval 111 grants totalling about $412,022) and 8 to 12 February 2010 (when it considered 328 applications and recommended for approval 101 grants totalling about $412,524).  In both cases, the funds enabled indigenous representatives to attend sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The report also reflected the Board’s support for a proposal to expand the mandate of the Fund, in order to provide financial support for indigenous people to participate in meetings of the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights treaty bodies.

JAMES ANAYA, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, presented his second report to the General Assembly, in which he described his activities and efforts to coordinate his work with other United Nations mechanisms.  The report also discussed three key issues that he addressed during the past year:  the right of indigenous people to development with culture and identity, the right of indigenous people to participation and the obligation of States to implement UNDRIP.  He stated that, in conjunction with efforts to cooperate with other United Nations mechanisms, he had continued to carry out work in four principal areas:  promoting good practices, communications relating to alleged human rights violations, country reports and thematic studies.

Explaining that his efforts to promote good practices involved advocating for endorsement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by those States that had not voted in favour of it in the General Assembly, he said, “That support will only be meaningful if the standards expressed in the Declaration are effectively implemented.”  He discussed his work over the past year to promote good practices of implementation by providing technical assistance for domestic legal reforms, including legislation in Ecuador to harmonize the indigenous customary legal system with the State judicial system and in Colombia for adequate procedures of consultation with indigenous peoples.

Having also been directed by the Human Rights Council to receive and exchange information on cases of alleged violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples, he had received daily letters, emails and phone calls concerning their hardships, such as invasion of their land by resource-hungry enterprises, forcible removal from their lands, and violence and threats against their lives.  “These cases attest to the widespread and systemic human rights problems indigenous peoples continue to face around the globe and the ongoing need for systemic and coordinated action to address these problems,” he said, noting that he was communicating with Governments and conducting site visits, such as to Guatemala, in order to formulate appropriate recommendations to address the situations. He also continued to report on the overall situation of indigenous peoples in various countries, including Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, Colombia, Ecuador, New Zealand and the Sampi region of Finland, Norway and Sweden.  Further, he had continued efforts to better understand cross-cutting issues of concern to the indigenous peoples around the world, such as the responsibilities of private companies to respect the rights of indigenous people.

With regard to his cooperative engagement with the Permanent Forum and Expert Mechanism, he noted that the theme of the ninth session – development with identity and culture – was a right of all people, including the indigenous peoples.  However, there were particular concerns relating to indigenous peoples with regard to development activities, which stemmed from the extreme social and economic disadvantages they faced, such as dispossession of land and natural resources, exclusion from decision-making and aspirations to maintain their distinct identities and cultures.  He emphasized the need to promote indigenous self-determination in the development process, capacity building for indigenous peoples, and strengthening of indigenous peoples’ own institutions so that they could participate as equals in the development process.  With regard to the right to participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making, he said that it had to be understood in its external and internal dimension.  The “external dimension” consisted of indigenous peoples participating in the broader public life of the States; and the “internal dimension” related to indigenous people’s exercise of autonomy and self-government.

Additionally, he focused on the need for concerted action by Member States and the United Nations system regarding the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, saying, “A great deal remains to be done to see the rights and objectives of the Declaration become a reality in the lives of indigenous peoples throughout the world.”  He highlighted that a commitment to these rights should not be obscured by a discussion about whether or not it is a legally binding document, as it had significant normative weight grounded in its high degree of legitimacy as a product of years of struggle and advocacy by indigenous peoples, which was augmented by its grounding in the human rights principles of the United Nations Charter.  “Implementation of the Declaration should be regarded as a political, moral and, yes legal imperative without qualification,” he stated.  Reaffirming his commitment to the objectives of this mandate and the inspiration he drew from “the perseverance of indigenous peoples in pursuit of their aspirations and the challenges they overcome,” he said:  “As always, I remain cautiously optimistic for a better future for the world’s indigenous people.”

Question and Answer Session

The Special Rapporteur then took questions from a number of delegations.

Responding to a question from the representative of Guatemala about indigenous peoples and the mining industry, he stressed the need not only for consultation, but also for confidence-building between the State and indigenous peoples.  Mining projects had been rejected by indigenous peoples because of negative experiences in the past, when for instance communities had been forced to move and violence was used.  Before the start of a mining venture, it should be explained to indigenous peoples what it would be doing.  That would lead to a better consultation process and, at least, the possibility of the venture having positive benefits for all stakeholders.

Responding to the representative of Australia, Mr. Anaya said he would be interested in seeing specific data about improvements brought about by the Northern Territory National Emergency Response.  As for strengthening the interest of affected women and children, he said that such an effort needed to start with indigenous women.  During his visit to Australia, he had been very impressed by their organization and leadership capacity; they had told him about the need for their involvement and to be included in initiatives aimed at benefiting them.

Responding to a number of questions from the representative of Iran, he said he had provided a number of examples about good practices.  He cited, by way of example, Suriname which had asked for his input on a law to demarcate indigenous people’s lands.  The Special Rapporteur always looked forward to engaging with those who sought his cooperation with reforms, always in consultation with indigenous people.  The major challenge had been the magnitude of problems worldwide and the constant requests he had received to address them.  “My mandate is worldwide and simply the magnitude of the kinds of problems, the extent and breath of them, is a challenge,” he said.  He could stand to have more assistance from the UN system, but that was an ongoing challenge for the United Nations system, not only his mandate.  He had participated in a number of seminars and meetings with the Expert Mechanism on Thematic Studies; he sought to engage fully with its work, while avoiding duplication.  He also collaborated with other special procedure mandate holders, several of whom would be participating in November on a seminar on indigenous lands and human rights.

In answer to a question from the representative of Mexico, he said that increased political support for implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a matter of central concern for him.  Concrete steps needed to be taken, because most indigenous peoples in the world had no idea what the Declaration was; “it is that distant from them.”  The Declaration and the work of the United Nations were not ends in themselves; political will had to take hold within governments and the United Nations system and all aspects of government had to be involved in addressing the rights of indigenous peoples.

Responding to questions from the representative of the European Union, he said that, while development projects intended to benefit indigenous peoples were necessary, they must involve those peoples in their design from the outset.  Indigenous peoples were not just objects, but protagonists.  Programmes often failed to take hold because they had not been designed to fit the lives and vision of indigenous peoples, when they should be seen by them as instruments of their own self-determination.

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the observation of the representative of Canada that her country took a different view on the proper characterization of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, before reiterating the need to move forward on indigenous people’s participation in development projects.  Work was needed on models of participation, but the “ultimate model” would be one in which indigenous people took on a project in their own right.  However, the need for a cooperative model would always remain.

Responding to the representative of Botswana, who inquired about the interference of development on the culture of indigenous peoples, he replied that, like all cultures, those of indigenous peoples were “dynamic”.  What was important was for them to be genuine partners in development projects.  They should be full partners, in both the planning stages and during implementation.

Responding to the representative of Nicaragua, he agreed on the need to educate indigenous peoples in the assertion of their rights.  Indigenous peoples in Nicaragua and elsewhere had shown themselves capable of providing that education, but they needed the support of States and the United Nations system.  There were a number of examples of initiatives undertaken by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Government officials needed to be educated as well, because public servants were responsible for the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.  The Special Rapporteur was sometimes surprised, when he spoke with local officials, how little they knew about those rights and the international instruments which underpinned them.

Mr. Anaya thanked the representative of Bolivia, who commented on the participation of indigenous peoples at the international level, and his counterpart from Brazil, with whom he shared an interest on the idea of a thematic study on isolated indigenous peoples, a subject that deserved attention at greater depth.  Turning to a question from Botswana about non-State actors, he said that States were responsible for ensuring that corporations acted in a manner which upheld human rights.  Very often, corporations engaged in consultation with indigenous peoples, but very often they did not do it very well.  States bore responsibility for guaranteeing consultations with indigenous peoples.  If that task were delegated to companies, then it still fell on the State to uphold appropriate guarantees.  “They should not just leave it to the corporations without being themselves involved in the consultation process,” he said.

Finally, in response to the representative of the United States, he concurred with the need to move forward with concrete measures to include indigenous peoples in participatory processes and the making of decisions which affected them.  “It is a matter of targeted efforts to overcome patterns of exclusion,” he said.  Concrete measures, backed by adequate political will, were needed to overcome the “daunting” problems experienced by indigenous peoples.


NICOLAS BURNIAT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the rights of indigenous peoples, as set out in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, were supported by the European Union, which was also committed to combating discrimination and social exclusion.  The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an important venue for providing the Human Rights Council with concrete advice on better promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the Declaration.  The European Union also supported the work of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Anaya.

There was little reason for complacency, however, he said.  Indigenous peoples faced discrimination, marginalization, racism and intolerance in many parts of the world.  Many also lived in poverty.  Climate change especially affected indigenous peoples by threatening their survival and traditional lifestyles and cultures.  In northern Europe, Member States of the European Union would continue to cooperate with indigenous communities, in consultation with local indigenous authorities.  The Declaration was an important tool for addressing indigenous issues.  The European Union was pleased to note the growing support for the Declaration; New Zealand and Australia had decided to join it, while the United States and Canada were considering following suit.

The European Union sought to better the lot of indigenous peoples through its development cooperation strategies, he said.  Those were based on the principle of effective participation in projects related to the development of indigenous peoples and on their free, prior and informed consent.  In cases where indigenous peoples lived in bordering countries, cross-border cooperation was important for promoting the possibilities of maintaining their traditional ways of living; in that regard, European Union member States were committed to enhancing regional cooperation.

JANINE COYE-FELSON ( Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the region was committed to the advancement of the Second International Decade and its theme “Partnership for action and dignity.”  She reaffirmed the commitment to ensuring the development of the region’s indigenous populations through the preservation of their “culture and identity”, and to guarantee their fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination, in accordance with the respective constitutions.  She supported and echoed the call for additional funding to augment the very important work of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, which facilitated the continued representation of indigenous communities and organizations in the work of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous People.

She went on to say that the establishment of the Fund had not only allowed for the continuous engagement of indigenous populations within the United Nations system, but had also allowed for and fostered the strengthening of partnerships for cooperation in the wider international arena.  Indigenous populations constituted almost one third of the world’s extremely poor rural persons, and their socio-economic well-being was thus critical to international progress in poverty eradication and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. CARICOM Member States continued to work in mainstream indigenous perspectives in its various national development agendas; however the various exogenous shocks had placed enormous pressures on the overall progress in the achievement of sustainable development.  It was important to also take into account the larger context within which efforts were being deployed and the challenges that bore upon those efforts.

CARICOM Member States depended on the support of the international community to buttress national and regional initiatives aimed toward further progress towards sustainable development that would rebound to the benefit of all peoples, particularly those most vulnerable, such as indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous women and girls.  The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an elaboration of the specific cultural, historical, social and economic circumstances peculiar to indigenous peoples, and was reflective of years of advocacy and struggle.  Thus, CARICOM called on the international community to fully embrace this landmark Declaration, and to further deepen the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.  CARICOM would continue to build on the advances it had made in the protection of indigenous rights through consultations with civil society, through the education of society at large, and through continued partnerships with indigenous peoples at all levels.

JANNE TAALAS ( Finland) said he made this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, which were firm supporters of the rights of indigenous peoples.  Indeed, most of the indigenous people in Europe lived within the territory of those countries, and thus, the aim was to strengthen the status of indigenous peoples by promoting the realization of the objectives of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007.  The Declaration contextualized all existing rights for indigenous peoples and, therefore, provided the natural frame of reference for the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights; it also was a goal-setting policy document promoting cooperation between governments and indigenous peoples.  The Nordic countries were in the process of translating the Declaration into their national languages and indigenous languages, with the objective of increasing awareness of the Declaration among such bodies as different public authorities, the Parliament and independent supervisory mechanisms.

Participation in the decision making process was important for the rights of indigenous people, and thus, the right of indigenous people to participate and the States’ duty to consult were core elements in the Declaration.  The objective of consultations should be to obtain the consent of indigenous people concerned. Although the consultation requirement did not provide indigenous peoples with veto power, there was a need to frame consultation procedures so that consensus could be built.  Representatives of indigenous peoples ought to be invited to participate also in international processes on matters that concerned them directly.  To give an example, the representatives from the Sámi Parliaments in the Nordic countries were formally part of the national delegations to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  However, when those representatives addressed the Forum, they spoke on behalf of their own indigenous political bodies and not on behalf of their respective governments.

The Nordic countries welcomed the work of three mechanisms for the protection of indigenous peoples:  The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  The mechanisms were complementary and there was coordination to avoid duplication of work.  The Nordic countries highly appreciated the work of the Special Rapporteur and his very proactive approach, as well as the interim report he submitted to the General Assembly, which touched on important issues, such as the right of indigenous peoples to participation.  He highlighted the importance of the independence of all special procedure mandate holders.  He added that the role of regional cooperation should not be forgotten and he highlighted efforts made by the Arctic Council to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and improve their situation.  In the 2009 Tromso Declaration, the Council emphasized the engagement of indigenous peoples as being fundamental to addressing circumpolar challenges and opportunities.

PABLO BERTI OLIVA ( Cuba) said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples constituted a step forward, but that could not be the final stage and the international community must redouble its efforts in supporting the cause.  The Declaration was an international benchmark contributing to actions in the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and significant results had been achieved, but work must be continued towards achieving the stated goals.  Cuba reaffirmed Article 3 of the Declaration regarding the right of indigenous people to self-determination, to freely determine their political status and to economic, political and social development.

Some human rights standards for indigenous peoples had been achieved, but they continued to face violations such as violence, dispossession of land, forced eviction, and denial of land rights, especially in powerful countries, he said.  Urgent action was necessary to guarantee that indigenous people owned and used their land resources.  Few countries recognized the rights of indigenous people to their land.  Cuba recognized the full rights of indigenous peoples, and found development parameters that did not ignore the needs of indigenous people.  Cuba supported the free exercise of indigenous people’s rights.

OCTAVIO ERRAZURIZ (Chile) said that a year after ILO Convention No. 169 was entered into force in his country, in September 2009, Chile wanted indigenous people to become empowered and develop, not just through public subsidiaries, but through their specific skills and capacities that harmonized with their culture. The Government had set priorities for the discussion of constitutional reforms that would constitutionally recognize indigenous people and he hoped it would be approved soon.  The Chilean President also had instructed regional and provincial authorities to include traditional indigenous authorities in all official ceremonies that concerned them.

Another example of the Government’s work was the creation of the Council of Ministers for Indigenous Affairs, already operating and responsible for advising the President on the creation and coordination of public policies on indigenous people.  Since nearly 70 per cent of Chile’s indigenous people lived in urban areas, the policies now geared toward inhabitants in rural areas would be supplemented, with a special plan for each region with a sizeable indigenous population, such as the Araucania Plan which established education and entrepreneurship targets for that region.  On land policy, the Government had reactivated mechanisms to transfer land to indigenous people in transparent and objective conditions.  Each land transfer would be accompanied by a production support agreement that would benefit the new owners.  He added that the Convention was being implemented through domestic legislation, particularly the Indigenous Law and the “Law on the Marine Coastal Area of Indigenous Peoples.”

YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) supported the right of indigenous people to participate in decision-making as a fundamental right, and as the basis for the enjoyment of other human rights, as expressed in the report of United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya.  She said, for indigenous peoples, that right to consultation needed to be through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent.  To address that issue, Mexico was preparing a law project that had a national scope, and all those steps were aimed at implementing the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights.

Also, to ensure the participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples in the public policies of the government, the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples had an advisory board consisting of some 140 counsellors representing the indigenous peoples of Mexico.  Accordingly, last December, the Programme for the Development of Indigenous Peoples from 2009 to 2012 was adopted.  Its objectives were linked to the issues raised by the Rapporteur in his report, in particular those promoting the harmonization of the national legal framework of indigenous rights and creating conditions for the respect and full exercise of those rights.  Mexico also supported the extension of the mandate of the Voluntary Fund of the United Nations for indigenous peoples and, in that regard, welcomed Bolivia’s submission for the Committee’s consideration of a draft resolution, which, among other aspects, took up the recommendation of the Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the Fund in order to help representatives of indigenous communalities and organizations to attend sessions of that Council and treaty bodies

CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said the indigenous population in Colombia totalled nearly 1.4 million, including 82 peoples and 4,141 communities.  While they made up 3.4 per cent of the country’s population, they owned 34 million hectares of land, equal to 30 per cent of the country’s national territory.  Colombia had been progressively strengthening its legal and constitutional framework, its special jurisprudence on indigenous rights and general policies to protect that segment of its population.  There was now a Permanent Bureau of Consultations and the National Bureau of Human Rights for Indigenous People, which helped those communities participate in the country’s development.

Colombia was advancing on several fronts to help those people, she said.  For example, it was registering the collective property of indigenous land in the resguardos (Colombian indigenous territories).  The Government’s Social Policy provided more extensive coverage for indigenous populations and 1.17 million people, out of 1.39 million indigenous men and women, were now covered under the Government-subsidized health system.  Indigenous children had priority access to free education programmes run by the Ministry of Education.  The visit of the Special Rapporteur in July 2009, and the visit of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, had helped strengthen the country’s progress in that area, identified challenges and made recommendations.  Colombia looked forward to the United Nations continued cooperation on the issue.

ALAN SÉLLOS ( Brazil) said the rights of indigenous peoples in his country were protected by an advanced legal and institutional framework.  Some 12.4 per cent of Brazil was demarcated into 488 indigenous lands, with another 123 lands in the process of demarcation.  Indigenous peoples were themselves involved in the demarcation process.  The decision of 64 different indigenous peoples not to maintain contact with non-indigenous society was respected.  A national census this year would enable the government to create new policies for protecting indigenous peoples throughout Brazil, and to make the necessary adjustments, particularly in the case of indigenous peoples living in urban areas.

The rights of indigenous peoples were enshrined in the Constitution, as well as in international instruments that had been ratified and recognized by Brazil, he said.  Their right to be consulted on mining and hydroelectric exploitation in indigenous lands was constitutionally protected.  Expensive changes to federal highway projects in Mato Grosso and Ceará states had been carried out to honour the wishes of concerned indigenous communities.  Brazil called upon all member States that had not yet done so to support the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; all States should “strive together to fully implement its provisions.”

MR. EGGLESTON( Australia) said that it had committed to closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage and had taken a number of steps to reset the relationship with indigenous Australians.  Making progress towards improving the lives of indigenous Australians in practical ways, the Council of Australian Governments had agreed to a partnership between all levels of government in key areas, including closing gaps in life-expectancy and mortality rates; early childhood education in remote communities and reading, writing and numeracy achievements; and employment outcomes.  Australia announced its support for UNDRIP on 3 April 2009.  In April 2010, a distinguished Australian Aboriginal human rights scholar, Megan Davis, was elected to serve as an independent expert member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, demonstrating the Government’s support for advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

The Government contributed this year to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for its study on indigenous people and the right to participate in decision-making, and looked forward to the release of the Mechanism’s report.  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people also visited Australia in August 2009.  The Australian Government had expressed its commitment to achieving constitutional recognition of the country’s indigenous peoples, and would be establishing a formal process to take the reform forward, including an Expert Panel comprised of indigenous leaders.  Regarding a national indigenous representative body, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was incorporated in April 2010 as an independent organization and was expected to be operational by January 2011.  The National Congress, designed by indigenous Australians, provided a central mechanism with which governments, the corporate and community sectors could engage and partner on indigenous reform initiatives. The Government also acknowledged the importance of culture to reconciliation and supported the repatriation of all Australian indigenous ancestral remains from overseas collections to their traditional lands or communities of origin.

RONALD D. GODARD ( United States) said his Government looked forward to participating in the strengthening of the United Nations’ response to indigenous concerns through the Expert Mechanism and the work of the Special Rapporteur.  Tribal leaders must be part of solutions and their voices must be heard at the policy-making table.  The United States had a unique legal and political relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes, by way of its Constitution, treaties, statues, executive orders and judicial decisions, and it dealt with 565 tribes on a government-to-government basis.  As the Secretary-General pointed out, many indigenous peoples were unable to engage with their governments even on an informal basis; the Government of the United States appealed to other Member States to consider that open dialogue with all communities, including indigenous peoples, strengthened policy development and resulted in the best outcomes for all.

In terms of international development, he said, indigenous organizations had been invited to openly compete with others for small development grants offered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which also supported indigenous efforts to title lands, strengthen environmental protection for traditional lands, and address challenges posed by living in urban areas.  Recognizing that some conservation efforts and development goals conflicted with the interests of indigenous communities, USAID was looking for solutions to those very complex issues.  To that end, the United States looked forward to the work of the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples and urbanization.

STANISLAV N. TOLKACH ( Russian Federation) said that his country was one of the largest multinational states in the world, where more than 160 million people lived, 46 million of which could be numbered among the indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples were vulnerable to the global changes taking place.  The Russian Federation endeavoured to strengthen international cooperation to tackle problems facing indigenous people.  The country was one of the initiators in proclaiming the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and, since 2008, had been carrying out measures, with some successes achieved.  A new approach of protecting indigenous people was adopted in the Russian Federation. Previously, all actions of the Russian Federation authorities were confined to direct state financial support, but now, the principal task was to assist with the mobilization of international resources, while increasing state support.  For the sustainable development of indigenous people, special attention needed to be paid to their independent economic development, including support for traditional activities, such as reindeer husbandry.  This was not just to support traditions, but to increase their competitiveness and profitability.

The Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on matters concerning northern and indigenous peoples established a working group to develop a draft federal law on state support for northern reindeer husbandry, he continued.  Discussion was also continuing on laws concerning hunting and fishing with a view to facilitating access to indigenous groups.  Additionally, efforts were taking place to regulate relations between industrial companies and indigenous communities, he said.  Methods of counting losses caused by industries that displaced indigenous people from their residences had been discussed between industries and people in the north, and an approval process had started in three regions.  Having experience with indigenous people, the Russian Federation expressed its readiness to collaborate constructively with other States, organizations and civil society.  The Russian Federation worked toward greater international cooperation, such as on the convention on biodiversity.  The Russian Federation was planning a symposium on intellectual property, supported by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in October and November this year in St. Petersburg, where mechanisms for protecting intellectual property and traditional folklore would be discussed by experts from dozens of countries.  The Russian Federation also participated in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Further, the Special Rapporteur visited the Russian Federation, and the recommendations he made were looked upon as a useful support for the Government’s work.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said her country was proud of its indigenous peoples and those of African ancestry, and that its Government of reconciliation and national unity under President Daniel Ortega Saavedra had sought to reverse their historic exclusion.  The fundamental right of indigenous peoples to live in social organization that corresponded with their historical and cultural traditions, to benefit from their natural resources and to preserve their culture and customs were guaranteed in the country’s Magna Carta and regulated by modern legislation that was a model for other States in the region.  Eleven compatriots of indigenous and African origin were in charge of important government ministries and institutions, and another 12 were in the National Assembly and Central American Parliament.

Several mechanisms had been established in Nicaragua to address the concerns of indigenous peoples, she said, including an indigenous affairs unit within the foreign ministry headed by a member of the Mayagna community.  Bilingual education in all indigenous mother tongues was guaranteed, with books available in those languages.  Ancestral possession of indigenous territory and natural resources in the Caribbean part of Nicaragua have been recognized, and land titles for 17.4 per cent of the national territory had been issued to indigenous peoples.  The government was firmly disposed to continue promoting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Nicaragua’s indigenous peoples and those of African descent.

TARA MORTON ( New Zealand) said that her Government remained committed to the fulfilment of the rights of indigenous people.  In keeping with New Zealand’s commitment to human rights and indigenous rights, the Government welcomed the opportunity to express its support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  At the centre of the relationship between the Government and Māori was the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Government was committed to resolving outstanding historical grievances, with a goal of completing the work by 2014.  The Treaty settlements process was supported by increased resources and funding.  Another significant event this year was the visit of James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, to New Zealand.  She expressed appreciation for Professor Anaya’s willingness to meet with ministers, Maori tribes, and non-governmental organizations and his ability to engage on a wide range of issues. The visit was an opportunity to take stock of progress.

This year, informative discussions took place on the issue of prior informed consent at the meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People. On this matter, New Zealand had developed, and would continue to rely upon, its own processes and institutions that afforded Māori opportunities for such involvement.  Those ranged from broad guarantees of participation and consultation to particular instances in which a requirement of consent was appropriate.  In both the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, she looked forward to sharing best practices and lessons learned with States, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations.

JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA ( Bolivia) said that three years and 33 days after the General Assembly adoption of the Declaration, his country fully agreed that it was the principal instrument of the United Nations system in evaluating the condition of indigenous peoples throughout the world and to identify the actions needed to address their situation.  The presence of indigenous peoples was not recognized in many States, which dealt with their situation as a general social problem.  Such an approach continued a trend of excluding indigenous peoples from national development efforts.  In light of such a blatant and systematic gap between political declarations and effective solutions, more momentum needed to be introduced into the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and a wide-ranging dialogue must be held with other United Nations bodies that could evaluate the measures required to overcome the serious issues mentioned in the Secretary General’s report.

Bolivia requested that all member States support the organization of a United Nations global conference on indigenous peoples in 2014, he said.  Its Government welcomed the measures adopted by the Human Rights Council to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and its resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  The agenda item regarding indigenous peoples should be revised, in order to refer to the promotion and protection of their rights.  The Declaration, as well as Convention 169 of ILO, concerning the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, were reflected in the Constitution of Bolivia, whose delegation would be presenting a draft resolution on indigenous peoples to the Committee for adoption.

GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana) said that Guyana was home to nine distinct indigenous groups – Akawaios, Arawaks, Arecunas, Caribs, Macusis, Patamonas, Wai Wais, Wapisianas and Warraus – each with their own language.  Those “Amerindians” comprised a little over 9 per cent of the population, and were an integral part of Guyanese society, contributing daily to political life, to economic and social development, and to Guyana’s rich cultural heritage.  To ensure that those indigenous peoples realized their full potential as individuals and communities, and enjoyed their human rights and fundamental freedoms, policies had been adopted and programmes implemented to promote their development, while enabling them to still maintain their cultural identities, languages and connection to traditional lands.

The revised Amerindian Act of 2006, the establishment of a Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and the inauguration of the constitutionally mandated Indigenous Peoples Commission last September, were tangible manifestations of a progressive policy to address indigenous issues through a harmonious and cooperative approach, based on principles of justice, respect for human rights, non-discrimination and good faith.  The key policy objective was the provision and expansion of vital services to Amerindian communities.  Guyana’s poverty eradication strategy included a focus on improving the socio-economic conditions of Amerindians.  The Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme offered grants to facilitate skills training, income generating opportunities, and promote security for Amerindian communities.  Guyana had put in place a Low Carbon Development Strategy as the key vehicle for marshalling use of the country’s extensive forest resources, which could benefit Amerindians, as they could opt into the Norway-supported Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDDS) plus initiative.  Against that national background, Guyana welcomed the increasing attention being accorded to indigenous issues by the international community, as indigenous people were often among the poorest of the poorest, experienced discrimination and marginalization from the mainstream, and were dispossessed of their traditional lands and cultures.

JORGE VALERO BRICENO ( Venezuela) said that indigenous peoples and communities had been victims of exploitation throughout history, which was why Venezuela commemorated October 12 as a “Day of Indigenous Resistance,” paying tribute to those who died because of the greed of colonizing powers.  Venezuela celebrated indigenous people, as they continued to be marginalized by those unaware of their rights.  The capitalist model of development, based on the overexploitation of human beings beyond ecological limits, generated poverty and inequality, human rights violations and the destruction of the environment.  That model attacked the cultural, social, and ecological integrity of the people of the world, especially indigenous people.  With the Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela was marching towards a socialist model in democracy and freedom, based on equality, social justice and respect for indigenous people and communities.  The Special Rapporteur’s report concerning the participation of indigenous people in decision-making that affected their interests and situation showed that there was a lack of consultation mechanisms throughout the world.

He said that, in Venezuela’s constitution, a chapter was devoted to indigenous people, recognizing their existence; social, political and economic customs; traditional medicine; languages; religions; habitat; and primary rights of ancestral lands, which were necessary to guarantee their way of life.  The law of demarcation of indigenous lands of 2001 obliged Venezuela to consult with indigenous people and to consider the demarcation of their land.  Venezuela, in defence of indigenous people, had declared that there could be no mining activities that would adversely affect their interests.  That was why coal mining concessions had ended – because it damaged biodiversity and water reserves in the area.  The ministry for indigenous peoples in Venezuela was headed by an indigenous woman, and the indigenous people had formed regional councils, which had been granted funding for projects to improve their quality of life.  His Government had worked to boost economic, social and agricultural development of first nations by offering training and educational programmes in environmental agriculture, in order to preserve biodiversity and encourage self-sufficient agriculture.

CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA (Guatemala), recalling the special importance that that country has given to indigenous peoples, underlined the visit that had been made by the Special Rapporteur to examine the situation between the mining industry and indigenous peoples in two parts of the country.  Guatemala was grateful that he had come to visit so quickly, as it agreed the problems stemming from the mining of natural resources and “mega-dam building projects” could have a disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples.  Throughout the world, the problems faced by indigenous peoples could be traced to a lack of participatory mechanisms, the absence of correct mitigation methods, and a lack of recognition of land ownership.

Regarding self-determination in development, Guatemala considered education as essential, so that indigenous communities could work to set their own priorities.  The Government had taken a number of measures, particularly relating to indigenous women, and last year it launched a campaign using social media to promote cultural diversity and combat discrimination against indigenous peoples. Because of poverty, indigenous peoples had been hard hit by the financial, food and fuel crises.  Climate change was another cause for concern; a summer drought in the centre of Guatemala had led to malnutrition, particularly among children, and natural disasters during the rainy season had had an impact on agriculture.

HENRY MACDONALD ( Suriname) said that his country aligned itself with the statement of CARICOM.  There were substantive advances made in the achievement of the goals and the objectives of the Second Decade of the World’s Indigenous People highlighted in the midterm assessment report.  However, the report also noted that there was insufficient implementation of the specific objectives of the Second Decade.  As the second half of the Second Decade advanced, Suriname would endeavour to contribute towards the goals and objectives of it.  Suriname also proclaimed 9 August as an official holiday in recognition of indigenous people in Suriname.  Indigenous and tribal people contributed to the multiethnic, multicultural and multi-linguistic society, and were divided into four distinct tribes, and next to the native people’s, Suriname’s tribal and forest-dependent population consisted of six tribes of Maroons, the descendents of Africans, who freed themselves from slavery during colonial times and established communities in the deep interior.  Their traditions were preserved, even after more than 300 years.

The President of Suriname, in his recent address to the 65th General Assembly, indicated that measures would be undertaken to break the cycle of the decade’s long isolation and marginalization of the indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname.  Based on the strong conviction that human capital was the most valuable asset of the country, particular attention would be paid to groups who, in the past, had very limited development opportunities, with the aim of creating a just society in which everyone participated.  International cooperation in that regard would be crucial and he would like to recall the recent renewed request for assistance from the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues in the formulation of legislation on land rights and the implementation of decisions of judicial authorities, in particular the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ ( El Salvador ), expressing pride in its multicultural nation and heritage, said that, in October 2010, his country had inaugurated its First National Indigenous Congress, which was an unprecedented event in the country’s history.  The Congress had resulted from deep reflection over the lengthy history of the country’s discrimination against its brothers and sisters, involving slavery and then persecution and extermination.  A statement by the President of El Salvador had been read, noting that it was the first attempt to form such a congress.  Decades ago, one was put down by force and, a few years later, the Government brought the same violence down on 33,000 indigenous women and children.  Indigenous people had to conceal their names, and to change the way they dressed and talked in order not to be identified, persecuted or even murdered.  The current Government was the first in El Salvador that wished to ask for the forgiveness of the indigenous people for the persecution of so many centuries.

He said that El Salvador promoted civil rights without any discrimination towards race, gender or religion.  The country, paying attention to the indigenous cultures, languages and beliefs, had created a social inclusion secretariat, chaired by the first lady of the republic, to foster conditions for the indigenous family.  El Salvador promoted social inclusion and reaffirmed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Government recognized that it was a process of domestic consultation, with a view towards progress.  El Salvador also would promote such programmes as the rehabilitation of indigenous languages and training in the rights of indigenous peoples.  The Government reiterated its political determination to strengthen international structures, in order to better address the historic challenges regarding indigenous issues.

AMRIT RAI ( Nepal) said that the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a landmark event towards promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous people globally.  The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had an important advisory role to play; the reports, resolutions and recommendations of the Permanent Forum and other United Nations bodies dealing with indigenous issues had proved instrumental in raising global awareness about the need to protect the rights and promote the development of ethnic and indigenous communities worldwide.  Indigenous people around the world had retained unique social, cultural, economic and political characteristics; they shared common problems of identities and protection and promotion of their basic rights worldwide.  Yet, even after the creation of a number of normative policy and other practical tools at the international level on indigenous people’s issues, they continued to face exclusion, exploitation, discrimination and extreme poverty.

Nepal was a multiethnic, multilingual, and multirelgious country and currently, 59 groups were recognized as indigenous or ethnic nationalities, which was 37.2 percent of the country’s population.  Nepal’s Constituent Assembly was one off the most inclusive assemblies in the world, with 218 of the 601 members from indigenous nationalities.  Nepal ratified the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of ILO in September 2007.  The Government was committed to moving forward on legal practices of proportional inclusiveness, incorporating at all costs and levels of the State, including women, ethnic and indigenous communities. Special budgetary provision was made for special programmes for uplifting and empowerment of different castes, indigenous people and neglected groups.  In line with its commitment, the Government had invited the Special Rapporteur for a visit in November 2008.  In conclusion, Nepal was committed to safeguarding interests of various ethnic groups and peoples.

MARIA LUZ MELON ( Argentina) congratulated Bolivia on its proposed draft resolution.  The Government of Argentina had taken important steps in terms of recognition of, and reparations to, indigenous peoples.  Through a presidential decree, a special commission had been established that would have 180 days to put forward a draft law on the issue; it would also have the power to implement a territorial survey programme.  Representatives of indigenous peoples would be involved in its work, which would help “make good for what has been done in the past.”

A national census was being carried out in Argentina this year and the participation of indigenous peoples in its execution would be ensured, she said, with many communities being addressed in their native languages.  Support for the education of indigenous peoples would be strengthened, with no limit on university fellowships, and a total of 11 mostly FM radio stations would be funded under legislation governing audio-visual services for indigenous peoples.

ANKE STRAUSS, on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said it was an honour to address the Committee regarding the Special Rapporteur’s interim report on the situation of human rights of indigenous peoples.  For IOM, the right of indigenous people’s participation was significant, as they faced particular challenges with regard to their identity and culture, often being subject to great pressures to assimilate to the non-indigenous communities that hosted them.  There was a nexus between migration and development, the recognition that had been growing in recent years reflecting an increased interest in the far-reaching development implications for migrant flows for both home and host communities.

Globalization had an impact on indigenous peoples and compromised their lives in several respects, and was a factor in facilitating the movement of peoples, including rural-urban migration of indigenous peoples hoping for economic development in urban centres.  That movement could prove difficult for indigenous communities who had to adapt to their cultural practices, lifestyles and economic expectations to the new urban locations.  Migration might result in dilution of indigenous people’s customs and culture, and thus, special protections were necessary to relieve the pressure for assimilation that indigenous migrants might be subject to in order to avoid ethnic discrimination at the hands of the host society.  Encouraging cultural awareness could contribute to the elimination of discrimination.  Economic challenges remained pressing for indigenous peoples, as poverty levels could be double of non-indigenous communities in some countries.  Migration could be a response to the pressures and remittances had become an important source of income for many rural indigenous communities.  In some host communities indigenous migrants had commercialized arts and crafts to generate income and ensure their survival and some programmes were promoting cultural exchanges between communities of host and origin.

ANDA FILIP, on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that it was undeniable that the representation and participation of indigenous groups in public and political life carried great importance.  One forum of particular relevance in that context was the national parliament, as a central institution of any democracy.  Parliament not only represented the people, made laws and held government accountable, it was primary as the forum for mediating the competing interests of society.  Research carried out by the IPU, in close cooperation with UNDP, showed that while many parliaments had adopted measures to enhance political participation of indigenous peoples, much more needed to be done.  The recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples was an important precondition for effective participation in public life.  The task of recognizing indigenous peoples and defining their legal status rested with national parliaments.  A small but perhaps increasing number of parliamentarians self-identified as members of indigenous communities; as such, they had noted a gulf could separate the procedures and culture of the parliamentary institution from the more participatory and decision-making process of indigenous communities.

An indigenous Peruvian Congresswoman, Maria Sumire, reported that, “The parliament has always been elite.”  Her views were echoed by an indigenous Colombia Senator, Ernesto Ramiro Estacio, who described how, “in other parties, many decisions are made over lunch or coffee, among party leaders or elites”.  An IPU-UNDP survey of parliaments showed a considerable degree of understanding that the substantive interests of indigenous people ranged across a number of policy areas; some of the policy areas of special interest to indigenous peoples, such as land rights or the use of indigenous languages in the public sphere, were inherently controversial.  Some of the major findings pointed towards policy options for the consideration of parliaments and policymakers, and included:  adopting laws or motions that recognized diversity; engaging with mainstream political parties to promote diversity; ensuring prior consultation with indigenous people; building political alliances inside parliament to advance the indigenous legislative agenda; and holding government accountable for the implementation of laws for indigenous peoples.  These issues would be examined in detail at the upcoming International Parliamentary Conference on Parliaments, minorities and indigenous peoples, in Chiapas, Mexico at the end of October.

LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, consistent with its mandate to pursue a world free from hunger and malnutrition, the Organization approved, in August 2010, a Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which would ensure that all due efforts would be taken by FAO to respect, include and promote indigenous issues in its overall work.  The policy was motivated by the fact that indigenous communities made up a disproportionate share of the world’s food insecure, and by recognition that they had unique skills that might contribute to sustainable development.  FAO was also preparing Voluntary Guidelines to enhance responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources.  In parallel to the Voluntary Guidelines process, FAO was preparing an Implementation Guides on responsible governance of tenure for specific thematic areas, one of which would focus on indigenous peoples.  Early in 2011, FAO planned to host a Workshop on Gender, Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change.  The Workshop would look at the social dimensions of climate change in agriculture, with a focus on gender issues and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Many indigenous societies were poor and lived in remote areas; recent estimates indicated that, although indigenous people made up 5 per cent of the world’s total population, they comprised about 15 per cent of the global poor.  Overall, indigenous peoples were disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation, politico-economic marginalization and development activities that negatively affected their ecosystems, livelihoods, cultural heritage and nutritional status.  An agenda that pursued global food security, sustainable natural resources and poverty alleviation could not ignore indigenous people; in addition, they had to be regarded as equal partners in development, and thus were a critical partner in FAO’s work, which would be taken into account in the Organization’s New Strategic Framework.

XENIA VON LILIEN, speaking for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that, while indigenous peoples were among the poorest groups in the world, some evidence suggested that those poverty rates were starting to decline.  Through its engagement with indigenous people, IFAD had learned many lessons to guide its country strategies and programmes, operational programmes, and policy dialogue in support of indigenous peoples’ interests.  When present, indigenous peoples’ communities needed to be the principle drivers of efforts to end rural poverty.  Natural resource entitlements and local government institutions needed to be strengthened, and the empowerment of indigenous women required greater attention, as they faced significant hurdles to full enjoyment of their human rights.

IFAD’s new Policy on Engagement, approved in September 2009, aimed to enhance the Fund’s development effectiveness, and to empower indigenous peoples to overcome poverty by building upon their identity and culture.  As part of the policy, IFAD also planned to establish an Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD to provide an opportunity for dialogue and consultation among indigenous representatives, IFAD staff, and Member States, to assess and discuss ways to work together at the field level.  In addition to loans and grants, IFAD had also recently introduced the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility, which allowed for the building of direct partnerships with grass roots indigenous communities and organizations, and financed microprojects.  Because indigenous peoples maintained within their lands 80 per cent of the world’s diversity, they should also be an integral part of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.