‘Doctrine of Discovery’, Used for Centuries to Justify Seizure of Indigenous Land, Subjugate Peoples, Must Be Repudiated by United Nations, Permanent Forum Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘Doctrine of Discovery’, Used for Centuries to Justify Seizure of Indigenous Land,
Subjugate Peoples, Must Be Repudiated by United Nations, Permanent Forum Told
Speakers Call for Mechanism to Investigate Historical Land Claims;
Also Holds Dialogue on Land Use and Participatory Mechanisms in Arctic
The Doctrine of Discovery had been used for centuries to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominating nations, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, urging the expert body to study the creation of a special mechanism, under United Nations auspices, to investigate historical land claims.
Those forceful calls came amid continued debate on this year’s special theme: the enduring impact of the Discovery Doctrine on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests covered under articles 28 and 37 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Throughout the day, representatives of indigenous groups, Governments and United Nations funds, agencies and programmes aired their views on the need to more justly reflect indigenous rights and freedoms in national constitutions and other comprehensive agreements.
Indigenous and native peoples spoke out against continued use of the internationally recognized principle of “terra nullius” — which describes land belonging to no one but that could, in some cases, be acquired through occupation — as well as anachronistic norms, like the Regalian Doctrine, under which private land title emanates from the Spanish crown. Such principles were based on racist, unscientific assumptions, many said, and could not be used by States to justify the “theft” of native lands, territories or natural resources.
Others argued that the Discovery Doctrine — and its contemporary effect — should be studied by the Permanent Forum, as should indigenous legal systems to understand how they regarded its application. The term “conquest” should not be used in a manner to suggest that conquest had occurred. Echoing the comments of many, Steven Newcomb of the North American Caucus said the original free and independent existence of indigenous peoples — and their relationship with their territories — predated domination by western Christendom. That free existence was the source of their birthright.
For their part, Government representatives described efforts to compensate indigenous peoples for past and present inequities. Mexico’s delegate said electoral justice was one way to guarantee rights. “With electoral justice, we redress social injustice”, he declared. It was important to recognize customary law and respect the rights to self-determination and self-recognition. Consultations were needed to understand whether elections should take place under ordinary systems, or in accordance with traditional systems.
Chile’s representative said his country had participated in negotiations to create the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and had voted in favour of the text in the General Assembly. Chile recognized First Peoples as a fundamental part of the nation’s identity and culture. That commitment was reflected in a policy intended to fill the gap between the “two populations”.
Still other speakers pointed out that “terra nullius” had impeded conservation practices, contrary to the intended purpose of those measures. Gonzalo Oviedo, Senior Advisor on Social Policy at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) highlighted the need to correct those processes in cases where indigenous peoples had suffered losses. IUCN was working with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the President of the Permanent Forum to improve processes for naming international heritage sites.
Robert Williams, Professor of Native American Studies, University of Arizona, who spoke on yesterday’s panel on the Discovery Doctrine, said that outrage over the Doctrine explained the repeated and compelling calls for the General Assembly to renounce such documents, and to make it clear that they could not be used by States to claim indigenous lands, territories or natural resources. Assembly action was essential, he said, because of the false position that territorial sovereignty asserted under those doctrines was a “we’re sorry, we can’t do anything about it” fact.
Panellist Moana Jackson, Maori Lawyer from New Zealand, added that one could only surmise from the “astounding” silence by States that had benefitted from the Doctrine that they presumed it held legitimacy. “That is, at best, unfortunate, and at worst, an evasion of their responsibilities,” he said.
Going forward, redefining relationships through constitutional review was important for outlining a vision of reconciliation, peace and justice, said Valmaine Toki, Permanent Forum Member from New Zealand. She suggested a return to an indigenous perspective in such constructive agreements.
In other business, Expert Dalee Sambo Dorough, from the United States, introduced the Permanent Forum’s study on the Indigenous participatory mechanisms in the Arctic Council, the Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development principles in the Inuit Nuaat and the Laponia management system (document E/CN.9/2012/10.), and Expert Anna Naykachina, from Russian Federation, introduced the study on the impacts of land use change and climate change on indigenous reindeer herders’ livelihoods and land management, including culturally adjusted Criteria for indigenous land use (document E/CN.19/2014.4).
Participating in the debate on the “Doctrine of Discovery” were representatives of the following: Asian Indigenous People’s Caucus, Indigenous People’s of Africa Coordinating Committee, Pacific Indigenous Caucus, Latin American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, Indigenous Parliament of Venezuela, United Federation of Taino Peoples/Project Access Global Training Caucus, International Indigenous Forum for Women (FIMI), International Indian Treaty Council, Maori Caucus, San Caucus, Onondaga Nation, Australia Human Rights Commission, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples International, North East Zone, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, National Native Title Council of Australia, Consejo nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu, Centro para la Autonomia y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indigenas, and the North Africa Indigenous Caucus (TUNFA)
Speaking as Observers in the Forum were the representatives of Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, and Australia.
The Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union spoke on that topic, as did a representative of the Holy See.
The representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), also participated in that debate.
Also making brief statements were Permanent Forum members Saul Vicente Vazquez, of Mexico, Valmaine Toki, of New Zealand, and Alvaro Esteban Pop of Guatemala.
Speaking on the studies introduced were the representatives of the Arctic Caucus, Association of the indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East Russian Federation (RAIPON), Association of World Reindeer Herders, and the Saami Council.
Representatives of Russian Federation, Sweden, and Finland also commented on the reports, as did a representative of the Government of Greenland (Denmark).
A representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also spoke.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday to continue its dialogue on the on the special theme for the session, the impact of the “Discovery Doctrine”.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continued its open debate on the special theme for the year: “The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests (articles 28 and 37 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)”. For more information, see Press Release HR/5086.
JACQUELINE BERNADETTE CARINO, Asia Caucus, said the Regalian Doctrine referred to the rights of the King of Spain, conferred through his conquest of the Philippines. The Doctrine provided the basis for subsequent laws depriving indigenous peoples of their lands, by outlining that title must be traced to the Spanish crown, or thereafter, to the United States Government, which contravened indigenous rights. The Philippines Constitution stated that all lands and natural resources in the public domain belonged to the State. The Regalian Doctrine was at the core of the conflict between indigenous peoples and the Philippines Government. Indigenous peoples were asserting their right to self-determination when confronted with mining, logging and dam projects. On the other hand, the Government was insisting on the right to take over resources for the public good. That resulted in serious violations of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Doctrine of Native Title had arisen from a 1909 United States Supreme Court decision in a case that had been filed by her great grandfather versus the colonial Government in the Philippines, she said. That Government had appropriated indigenous lands for the establishment of a military camp. The Supreme Court had declared that, because the land had been held by individuals prior to the Spanish conquest, it hence would be held in the same manner. The lands had not been in the public domain prior to the Spanish conquest. She insisted that the Doctrine of Discovery, including the Regalian Doctrine, be abrogated; that the Doctrine of Native Title be upheld; and that all laws and policies under the Regalian Doctrine be reversed.
CARLOS MARIA AQUINO, Vice Minister of Justice of Paraguay, said indigenous peoples — recognized as existing prior to the formation of the Paraguayan State — had the right to freely apply their political, economic, social and cultural systems, and observe customary norms, provided those norms did not violate the Constitution. Paraguay had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 through its law 234 (1993). The national plan for human rights was launched in 2011 in full compliance with the Vienna Programme of Action.
He said it outlined four strategic axes, one of which sought to guarantee the property and possession of lands by indigenous peoples, respecting those living in voluntary isolation. It also proposed awareness-building about the multicultural nature of Paraguay. The Government planned to design human rights indicators — a self-assessment mechanism — based on methodological guidelines. Among other efforts, the Human Rights Ministry had published information on ILO Convention No. 169, while the Supreme Court of Justice had organized an international seminar on the property rights of indigenous peoples. New challenges required new orientations in public policy and a deep respect for the identity of indigenous peoples.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union, encouraged all States to increase their efforts to ensure the full respect for indigenous peoples’ rights. Supporting the core United Nations mechanisms addressing indigenous issues — the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Permanent Forum — he welcomed the current focus on violence against indigenous women and girls, as it was important to recognize that poverty and discrimination increased the risk of such abuse.
He said indigenous rights were being mainstreamed into the Union’s development cooperation, noting that a rights-based approach was taken in the financial support for indigenous peoples around the world. The key principle for safeguarding indigenous peoples’ rights was to ensure their full participation and the free and prior informed consent of the communities concerned. The Union provided financial support for the development of the Arctic region, and neighbouring areas, through a regional approach. He cited the “Kolarctic” programme in that regard. Voicing deep concern about the threats of climate change, he said the Union had participated in activities carried out under the Convention on Biological Diversity by supporting indigenous peoples’ contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
AGNES LEINA, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, said that her delegation would urge the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples to hold a special dialogue session with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to study the importance of the Richtersveld constitutional case and the problem of “terra nullius” — “land belonging to no one” — which had inspired legal discrimination across Africa. It should also cooperate to identify specific problems faced by nomadic indigenous peoples in relation to land and natural resource tenure, as a result of “terra nullius” and agricultural and sedentary biases in colonial and post-colonial legislation and constitutions. That work should be carried out in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The end result of such a session should be a broad-based study on the situation of indigenous peoples of Africa that would consider the impact of principles that had long led to land seizures by colonial Powers. As most indigenous people in Africa were mobile land users, they had been unable to show that they were permanent residents on their land, even if they had used, or lived on, it for centuries. The first major effort to address legal issues regarding the annexation of aboriginal land and titles had taken place only in 2001, when the Constitutional Court of South Africa had ruled on the land and mineral rights issue of the indigenous Nama pastoralists against mining interests. She said that, going forward, the Forum should stress the importance of indigenous traditions and cultures in the context of land rights and stewardship.
JULIA RAMOS (Bolivia) said that indigenous people and communities continued to face the “harsh reality” of the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. Yet, those people, especially indigenous women, continued to stand firm, live on their lands and seek better lives. For the first time, Bolivia had elected a President that truly understood the needs and demands of the country’s indigenous people.
“Whatever the colour of our skin, whatever the texture of our hair, we deserve the same opportunities. We deserve to live decent lives,” she declared, adding that grass roots movements in Bolivia were making solid progress in areas such as food security, which would ultimately help the entire country. While much remained to be done, she said indigenous people were determined “to get out from under the table and sit at it” to work with the State to ensure that all people were on an equal footing. She also said that professional women should share their experiences with women in the informal sector, who also had important life lessons to share.
SERENA HECKLER, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, drew attention to some of the agency’s activities to promote the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, including pressing ahead with work on its policy to engage with those peoples. That process, begun in 2010, aimed to appropriately position UNESCO’s programmes, procedures and activities with respect to the new international landscape that was emerging, in the wake of the adoption of the Declaration. It also sought to build awareness and provide guidance to staff and committees, in order to effectively implement the Convention in all UNESCO’s work.
As education was at the core of its mandate, UNESCO was carrying out a range of relevant activities, she said, mentioning, among others, an Asia multilingual Education working group that was working to remove barriers of access to quality education for ethno-linguistic communities, through coordinating technical and substantive support to relevant initiatives throughout Asia. She also cited UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge System (LINKS), which collaborated with indigenous education experts, local communities and education ministers to implement projects in Nicaragua and the Solomon Islands aimed at reinforcing mother language education and incorporating indigenous knowledge into education materials and curriculums.
LOPAKA LUIS ULUMAHEIHEI, Pacific Indigenous Caucus, urged all Member States to ensure that their respective national legislative bodies undid colonial legal structures and ensured that all polices and laws were in line with the tenets of the Declaration. Such national authorities must also submit to a periodic review of their land tenure policies. They should provide indigenous peoples the legal and political mandate to “decolonize” national constitutions, especially concerning land rights. He also recommended that the Forum “be bold” in advocating the dismantling of the Discovery Doctrine across all Member States.
He went on to say that, for centuries, there had been a concerted effort to evict indigenous and first peoples from their sovereign and sacred lands. The ongoing project to disenfranchise those people had amounted to “one of the greatest crimes known to humankind”, and had altered the trajectory of indigenous men, women and future generations. For indigenous people of the Pacific region, the Doctrine continued to impact their efforts to use or gain access to their ancestral lands. That Doctrine, which had been significantly cited to support legal decisions that ignored or invalidated aboriginal land possession in favour of colonial or post-colonial Governments, had reinforced the concept of genocide for countless people in the region, including in the Hawaiian islands. He called for the demilitarization of the Hawaiian Islands, where the native people continued to live in deplorable conditions.
In another example of the impact of the Doctrine, he said the arrogance of Australia’s colonizers continued to negatively affect the aboriginal peoples of the Torres Island Strait through the forcible removal from their lands, segregation and assimilation. At the same time, non-indigenous people had been given immense opportunities to lease, purchase, inherit and exploit the lands and resources to the detriment of the traditional and sovereign powers. The Caucus, therefore, called urgently on States to overturn legal philosophies and decisions that had enabled the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands and waters.
STEVEN NEWCOMB, North American Caucus, recommended that the United Nations confirm that the Doctrine of Discovery was legally and morally wrong, and could not be relied upon by Governments in law-making or litigation. The Permanent Forum should safeguard indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in European-derived frameworks, and be encouraged — in cooperation with States — to study the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous lands, as well as its use by States as a basis for policies and laws. The findings of such studies should be presented to the Forum.
He also recommended that a meeting be held to study the effects of domination on indigenous peoples. The Permanent Forum should urge States to repeal laws based on the Doctrine. Further, there must be educational opportunities for young people to learn about the Doctrine and refute it. Appropriate United Nations bodies should carry out an educational campaign to raise awareness. The term “conquest” should not be used by the Permanent Forum in a manner to suggest that conquest had occurred. The original free and independent existence of indigenous peoples, and their relationship with their territories, predated the domination of western Christendom. That free existence was the source of their birthright.
DIEGO MOREJÓN (Brazil) said 13 per cent of his country was recognized as indigenous land. Some 400 of those lands had been formally declared as such, while 300 others were currently being formalized. Brazil respected the autonomy of dozens of isolated indigenous peoples, with policies aimed at protecting their lands to prevent peoples from being affected — in the twenty-first century — by the mistakes of colonization.
He said Brazil considered indigenous peoples as “protagonists” in the upcoming Rio+20 Conference. Brazil’s policy on the protection of indigenous lands was one of redress. Put into practice by the Brazilian National Indigenous Foundation, it took into account indigenous human rights, as well as historical, social and cultural characteristics. The assurance of full ownership by indigenous peoples of their lands was an indispensable measure to foster demographic recovery. Brazil’s redress policy aimed at correcting “asymmetries” stemming from colonization. On 2 May, the Supreme Federal Court confirmed the rights of the Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe people over the Caramuru Paraguassu indigenous land, in the state of Bahia, ending a legal dispute that had endured for almost a century.
GONZALO OVIEDO, Senior Advisor on Social Policy, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), recognized that the despoilment of indigenous lands derived from the Doctrine of Discovery. Some conservation practices — including the establishment of protected areas — had, at times, deprived peoples of their rights and lands from being protected, through “terra nullius”. He was aware of the need to correct those processes in cases where indigenous peoples had suffered losses. Progress had been made in having a rights-based focus, through work to promote indigenous peoples’ rights in conservation throughout the world. IUCN had worked to promote better governance, as a fundamental part of environmental sustainability.
With other advisory bodies last November, IUCN worked with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the President of the Permanent Forum to improve processes for naming international heritage sites. In that context, he urged that the principle of free, prior and informed consent be respected in the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD), and other environmental conservation practices. IUCN’s fifth international congress would identify opportunities to apply rights-based focuses in support of human well-being and environmental sustainability. Discussion would centre on how to ensure more indigenous peoples could join IUCN, and he urged them to apply for membership.
ORTENZIA HIDALGO, Latin American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, said European conquerors used the cross and the sword to impose their doctrine; one god and one king. They obtained a papal dispensation to Christianize indigenous peoples — and created the criminal notion of superior and inferior races. That was the cruel origin of capitalism. Today, multinational corporations prioritized economies based on extractive activities, especially in petroleum, water and timber. They invaded indigenous territories and systematically violated rights.
“The new god is free trade”, she said, and Mother Earth was being abused. That “extractionist” neoliberal model was reaching its end. World summits did not provide any real space for indigenous peoples to participate. Those responsible for climate change talked about a “green economy” only as a way to persist in policies that pillaged mother earth. She urged the United Nations to ensure that indigenous peoples exercised their rights to self-determination, and to free, prior and informed consultation and consent, especially on any climate change or sustainable development programme that impacted indigenous rights. She also called for a moratorium on extractive activities on indigenous lands.
ESTEBAN RAMOS, President of the Indigenous Parliament of Venezuela, said that, as had been the case of other countries in the region, the Discovery Doctrine had been used to strip the people of their land in the name of Christianity. While Simon Bolivar had liberated the indigenous people from reservations and had ensured their rights were respected, many of those innovations had been later thrown out.
In that regard, the current Bolivarian progressive Government had worked assiduously to undo the structures of the Doctrine that remained in place. The current Constitution included a chapter on the rights of indigenous people, with a specific focus on ancestral land rights. The Constitution also set out the framework for a true multi-ethnic and plurinational society. There was no doubt that the Government had undertaken great efforts to return the lands to indigenous people for their benefit.
PAULINE SUKHAI, Minister of Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, said that her country had not escaped colonialism and its impact. The earlier post-independence period had offered little consolation regarding the redress of wrongs against indigenous peoples. Against such a backdrop, Guyana, home to some 70,000 indigenous peoples, had taken on the challenge of ensuring that issues regarding indigenous peoples were mainstreamed into national development priorities, thus providing a solid platform for those peoples to participate at all levels in national development. It would also allow them to self-govern village-level projects and developments.
She went on to say that the rights of indigenous peoples were entrenched in Guyana’s Constitution through the 2006 Amerindian Act. That legislation provided for, among others, land rights, resource management, self-governance and other aspects of indigenous livelihood. In many ways, the Constitution and the relevant legislative polices echoed the Declaration, she said, adding that indigenous peoples were also represented in the institutions dealing with matters relating to their well-being. “ Guyana, however, is not blinded by its progress and recognizes that there is much to be done to further enhance indigenous priorities into the national development process,” she concluded.
PELLICIER MIGDALIA, Unified Confederation of Taino Peoples, Project Access Global Training Caucus, said the impacts of the Discovery Doctrine were still blatantly prevalent today in, among others, deforestation, mining, the proliferation of environmental toxins, and the construction of hydro-electric dams and other mega projects. She unequivocally rejected the Discovery Doctrine, the principle of “terra nullius”, and the use of the term “conquest” to describe the process of non-indigenous settlement in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples.
She said that her group also noted the recent decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on truth, justice and reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. It proposed that the Permanent Forum’s Expert Group Meeting consider, within the next year, the development of conflict resolution and peacebuilding models, based on a framework set out in the relevant articles of the Declaration. Finally, she proposed that traditional and indigenous holders of knowledge and practice, as well as indigenous women and youth, attend the Expert Group Meetings.
DAVID LAWSON, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative to the Congo and Director of the UNFPA Country Office in Gabon, said that with the numbers of indigenous peoples of Congo having decreased sharply since 2007, their very existence was at risk. Indigenous communities in that country struggled with high maternal mortality, and increased vulnerability to sexual violence due to isolation. Another key challenge was that those communities continued to practice medicine in ways that contradicted modern medical procedures. Yet, the Congo Government was committed to addressing the situation and had drawn on the advantages of UNFPA to provide technical and other assistance in that regard.
He said the agency’s main objective was to reduce maternal and infant mortality among indigenous women and newborns, and to prevent HIV infections and adolescent pregnancies. UNFPA had contributed to a legal reform process under way in the country, including in the formulation of policies and programmes that recognized the importance of increasing access to culturally acceptable sexual and reproductive health services.
He also noted that, with legislative elections set to be held this year, the Fund was working with indigenous women, local authorities, parliamentarians and the Congo Government, with financial support from the United States, on an innovative programme aimed at enhancing indigenous women’s participation in policy decision-making processes. That initiative would help ensure they would be able to vote in July and in local polls next year, as well as prepare them to run for elections themselves.
ANGEL PEREZ, Comisión de la Juventud Indígena/FIMI, recommended that States implement constitutional reforms in order to: include the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples; implement mechanisms for their participation in a constitutional review; implement sensitization campaigns and training for authorities charged with the administration of justice; design and implement measures to ensure compliance with international conventions, such as the Declaration; and implement mechanisms to promote the participation of indigenous youth in political processes. In sum, she affirmed her commitment to the Permanent Forum, saying she would fight for recognition of all indigenous peoples’ rights.
JUAN PABLO CRISOSTONO (Chile) said his country had participated in negotiations for the establishment of the Declaration and had voted in favour of the text in the General Assembly. Discussing Chilean policy, he highlighted the recognition of the “first peoples” as a fundamental part of national identity and culture. That commitment was reflected in a policy that respected first peoples’ customs, and was intended to fill the gap between the “two populations” in Chile. A participatory view was needed to protect indigenous peoples, including their culture, identity and education.
He said that Chile, to work with indigenous peoples — at times in a broadened institutional structure — had adopted instruments with an indigenous focus. To encourage participation — and compliance with ILO Convention 169 — Chile had developed, with indigenous peoples, plans for development, training and support. Chile was working hard to ensure it had regulations to govern a consultation process. From 2012-2013, the Government would undertake constitutional reforms to recognize indigenous peoples and the multicultural nature of Chile. Scholarships had been given to first peoples, especially for university studies. Indigenous peoples were meeting the Millennium Development Goals and the Government was working to obtain better information, so that policies could be better focused on indigenous peoples.
DANIKA LITTLECHILD, International Indian Treaty Council, condemned the Doctrine of Discovery in its past and current manifestations. Its devastating impact had been seen in continued violence, imposed development, destruction of sacred sites and forced relocation of indigenous peoples. She recognized recent advances in the international arena in dispute resolution between indigenous peoples and States. She cited the 20 April 2012 adoption of strong language at the fourteenth session of negotiations for the proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Washington, D.C.
In that context, she recommended the development of models for conflict resolution, restitution, redress and peacebuilding using the framework offered through the Declaration in articles 27, 28 and 40. The Expert Group Meeting would offer indigenous peoples a chance to discuss such ideas. She strongly urged the Permanent Forum to recommend that its name be changed to the “United Nations Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.
ALEJANDRO LUNA RAMOS (Mexico) shared the Forum’s belief that there must be compensation for the exclusion that indigenous peoples faced. He referred to the Doctrine of Discovery in that context, and policies of domination. Mexico understood the need to combat the exclusion faced by indigenous communities, especially by providing electoral justice to guarantee peoples rights and defend the rights of citizens and communities. “With electoral justice, we redress social injustice,” he said.
In Oaxaca and Michoacán, actions had been taken in defence of electoral justice, he explained, describing the findings of one particular case. In that context, he underlined the importance of full recognition of indigenous customary law; the exercise of redressing deficiencies in reports presented by indigenous peoples; respect for the rights to self-determination and self-recognition; and respect for the right to consultations, in order to understand whether elections should take place under the ordinary system or in accordance with the traditional system.
CATHERINE DAVIS, Maori Caucus, recommended that, in recognizing the urgent imperative to remedy the profound prejudice her peoples faced, the Permanent Forum should urge the Government of New Zealand not to implement any findings from its current constitutional review process without the free, prior and informed consent of the Maori peoples. New Zealand’s human rights protections were fragile, as Parliament could routinely pass discriminatory legislation.
While she noted that yesterday the Government’s representative had noted the “fundamental importance” of the Waitangi Treaty, she stressed that it was the Maori translation — not the English version — that remained of fundamental importance. Her delegation also believed that the ongoing constitutional review was merely cosmetic and that many of the changes under consideration were not in line with the aims of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
TINE MOREH SMITH (Norway) said the rights of the Saami people had been protected in that country since 1988. The relevant provisions of the Constitution had stressed that the Norwegian Government would ensure that the Saami culture and way of life was to be maintained and considered “a natural and historic” part of Norwegian society. It also stated that Norway had been founded on the land of two peoples, Saami and Norwegian.
SAUL VICENTE VASQUEZ, Permanent Forum expert from Mexico, said large multinational corporations continued to implement the Discovery Doctrine today, with “conquests” that included seizure of land and the erasing of fragile indigenous cultures. He cited relevant reports that hundreds of millions of hectares of land were sold each year “in the name of so-called civilization”. What was worse was that solutions to many of today’s challenges — climate change, food insecurity — actually perpetuated the conditions that had led to them, including consolidating power in a few countries and placing a handful of institutions in charge of implementing so-called globally agreed initiatives.
“The Declaration is the instrument we need to oppose and reverse the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery,” he said, calling for full recognition of the rights of indigenous people in all laws and polices worldwide. He also called for the name of the Forum to be changed to the “Permanent Forum of the United Nations for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. In addition, he called for a study on the creation of a mechanism to solve disputes between nation States and their indigenous peoples.
JOB MORRIS, San Caucus, said that the San of Southern Africa called for recognition of their land and resource rights in all the categories of land in that region — State land, freehold land, communal land, conservancies, wildlife management areas and reserved areas. The group also called for close consultation on all development projects, including those involving extractive resource exploration and exploitation. In all that, there should be no involuntary relocation from protected areas, including national parks, game reserves and monuments. He went on to say that San and other Africans rejected the Discovery Doctrine. “We have lived on the African continent for millions of years and occupied and utilized all of the habitats of the continent for years before Europeans arrived,” and he called on Southern African Governments, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union to recognize their role “as stewards and custodians of the Earth”.
Closing Remarks on the Special Theme
Panellist ROBERT WILLIAMS, Professor of Native American Studies, University of Arizona, said a number of interventions had been heard on the Doctrine of Discovery, and the use of legal principles to justify the expropriation and theft of indigenous lands. Speakers had cited the use of “terra nullius” in Australia and Africa, and the Regalian Doctrine in the Philippines. Regardless of the names of such instruments, their intent was the same: to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to the colonizing or dominating nation.
It was indisputable that such principles were clearly based on racist and unscientific assumptions, he said, which explained the repeated and compelling calls for the General Assembly to renounce such documents, and to make it clear that they were illegitimate, and could not be used by States as claims to indigenous lands, territories or natural resources. Assembly action was essential because of the false position that territorial sovereignty asserted under those doctrines was a fact — a “we’re sorry, we can’t do anything about it” approach. On the issue of temporality, there was a view that unlawfulness must be determined by prevailing law at a given time, he said, but which law: that of the colonizer or the indigenous people?
A colonial mindset was reflected in many State approaches in trying to resolve land claims, he said, citing Canada’s land claims process in that regard, which was typical of a failed approach. Canada had negotiated treaties with the proviso that the treaties were not intended to resolve historical claims. Rather, Canada said they were designed to assert certainty — notably by modifying Aboriginal rights title. “We’re told they must be forward-looking to provide a basis for economic development,” he said. He had been impressed by a suggestion by the Saami for a special mechanism to be created under United Nations auspices to investigate land claims. That would help ensure implementation of articles 28 and 37.
Panellist MOANA JACKSON, Maori Lawyer, New Zealand, said that during the discussion, there had been an “astounding” silence by States that had benefitted from the Doctrine of Discovery. One could only surmise that they presumed that the legitimacy under the Doctrine still held. “That is, at best, unfortunate and at worst an evasion of their responsibilities,” he said. New Zealand’s remarks were “blatantly dishonest” in the assertion that its relationship with indigenous peoples was particular and based on the Treaty of Waitangi. The delegate failed to say that while that treaty was being negotiated, the British had exercised the Doctrine of Discovery over the land twice. It was remarkable that New Zealand had chosen to ignore that fact.
Examination of the Doctrine of Discovery — and notions of its contemporary effect — should consider the question of legitimacy, he said. Indigenous peoples had no legitimacy at the time of the Doctrine’s promulgation. He agreed it should be studied, as should indigenous legal systems for how they regarded its application. Further, any study of the Doctrine should include use of the term “conquest”, which was tied into its ethos. He complimented all participants for their forthright views and their eloquence in expressing them. Finally, he had heard the disturbing news that the youth caucus had been banned from attending future sessions of the Permanent Forum. Some had had their badges removed because they had protested this morning. It was unacceptable that any young people should be banned simply for stating their rights. “That is at best a colonizing action on the part of this organization,” he said.
Rounding out the discussion, VALMAINE TOKI, Permanent Forum Member from New Zealand, said it was undisputed that the Doctrine of Discovery had been used to alienate and violate indigenous rights to land and culture. The process of redefining relationships through constitutional reviews provided an important lens to understanding the Doctrine, and outlining a vision for reconciliation, peace and justice. She suggested a return to an indigenous perspective in such constructive agreements. It was imperative that discussions continue among States, the United Nations and indigenous peoples, in order to build a future based on mutual respect, trust, equity and justice.
Chief OREN LYONS, speaking on behalf of the Onondaga Nation, said that with the General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration in 2007, indigenous people had finally “taken their places at the table of humanity.” Being at the table was very important because, according to an old Native American adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” And feasting had indeed been going on, with the ancestral lands of indigenous people the main course. But, after centuries of carnage that could be traced back to the Catholic Church and the Christian Crusades, the first peoples were now demanding an accounting.
What the world community now called “international law” actually amounted to six centuries of crimes against humanity. The laws of nature, which were at the core of the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, would “eventually win out.” Meanwhile, all peoples of the world would need to cooperate; living in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition. That was vital because the planet was “out of balance” and in order to save it and all the species that dwelled upon it, the past would have to reconciled, and the future would need to be secured through collaborative efforts. Finally, he called for a study on the construct of the Discovery Doctrine and its impact to be compiled and submitted to the Permanent Forum by 2014. As for the work of the Forum, he asked: “When are we going to become ‘peoples’ instead of ‘issues’?”
Dialogue on Studies on Land Use and Participatory Mechanisms in the Arctic
The Permanent Forum turned briefly from its consideration of the Doctrine of Discovery and Expert Dalee Sambo Dorough, from the United States, introduced the Permanent Forum’s study on the Indigenous participatory mechanisms in the Arctic Council, the Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on resource development principles in the Inuit Nuaat and the Laponia management system (document E/CN.9/2012/10.), while Expert Anna Naykachina, from the Russian Federation, introduced the study on the impacts of land use change and climate change on indigenous reindeer herders’ livelihoods and land management, including culturally adjusted criteria for indigenous land use (document E/CN.19/2014.4).
AYASA MUKABENOVA, Senior Councillor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said reindeer husbandry was practiced by indigenous communities. It was a way of life for many peoples and it was protected by the Government, despite the lack of a federal law. She said that reindeer enterprises and large companies should establish partnerships, including regarding ownership. She said that reindeer husbandry was being negatively impacted by climate change and that should have been better reflected in the study. There was also a need to ensure that future studies focused on Canada and Alaska, in order to ensure the document was more balanced. She suggested deleting paragraphs 48, 47 and 53 in the study and replacing them with recommendations for all concerned Governments dealing with reindeer herding.
AQQALUQ LYNGE, Arctic Indigenous Peoples Caucus, welcomed the comprehensive study of the work of the Arctic Council, and said that it constantly worked to strengthen its capacity, an endeavour that required a great deal of fundraising. In the future, the Arctic Council and its Secretariat would be located in Norway. He noted that the Council had last year negotiated the historic agreement on “Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic”. The Council was a unique institution where indigenous peoples, organizations and Governments were working together and could be a model for other regions of the world, “if the respective Governments were democratically motivated”.
He went on to say that climate change was driving many trends in the Arctic region, including increased exploration of what multinational corporations were beginning to refer to as “the last frontier”, which might change demography of the region by importing cheap labour for large-scale projects. “The world needs to know that the Arctic is already inhabited; it is not a scientific laboratory; it is not a museum. It is our home,” he declared.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden) said his country was currently the 2011-2013 Chair of the Arctic Council. The region was heavily affected by climate change, technological development and increasing commercial activities. Temperatures were rising twice as fast as in other places on the planet. People living in the region had developed unrivalled coping and resilience skills. The Council provided a good example for how indigenous peoples participated in an intergovernmental structure. The six permanent participant organizations were integral to its work. The Council made decisions on programmes and projects that were relevant for sustainable development.
He said Sweden’s chairmanship prioritized issues to promote environmentally sustainable development, and consolidated the positive cooperation between the Arctic States and indigenous peoples. Highlighting some of those efforts, he said the profile of Arctic issues in international forums on climate change had been raised. Measures to reduce the presence of short-lived climate forcers — such as black carbon and methane — could play a significant role in limiting climate change. Environmental protection measures were under way, one of which aimed at increased use of environmental impact assessments for mining, shipping and oil extraction. Other efforts focused on the people of the Arctic, prioritizing food and water security, as well as language preservation.
SERENA HECKLER, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO attended the first board meeting of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Network in Tromso, Norway, in January, where it presented a proposal to support community-based observing systems, based on indigenous knowledge. On climate change, she said UNESCO would co-convene with the International Council for Science a session during the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development during the Rio+20 Conference.
It also would launch a technical report on indigenous knowledge and climate change assessment and adaptation, she said. UNESCO recognized the key role of culture in sustainable development, as well as the nexus between biological diversity and cultural diversity. In June 2010 and April 2012, UNESCO and the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity organized conferences on their joint programme of work related to biological and cultural diversity.
RODION SULYANDZIGA, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON), said indigenous peoples had the right to self-determination and could freely determine their political status. They had the right to territory, land and resources that historically belonged to them. They had the right to determine their own identities, in line with their own customs and traditions. States should cooperate with indigenous peoples, so they could receive free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples to develop indigenous resources. The industrialization of the Arctic region was taking place in the context of climate change.
He said the next decade would see serious trials for ethnic survival and development, amid the impact of climate change on traditional land use and expanding access to mineral resources. There would also be trials for Governments and businesses, and new standards set for social responsibility. He welcomed the Arctic Council as an example of cooperation between States and indigenous peoples. Indigenous rights to land were a most pressing issue. “The North should not be a colony for the use of resources,” he said. The main resource was not oil or gas, but people.
SUVIKKI SILVENNOINEN (Finland) said that, despite their rich cultures and identities, indigenous peoples were often among the most marginalized groups in society, deprived of participation in decision-making that affected their lives. Finland’s Constitution guaranteed the inviolability of human dignity and equality of every person’s fundamental rights. It recognized the status of the Saami as an indigenous people, and protected their right to collectively maintain and develop their language and culture.
She said an objective of the rights reform carried out in the 1990s was to increase the direct applicability of human rights by the courts in their decisions. Thereafter, they referred increasingly to those rights in the reasoning for their decisions. Legislative amendments had been made to improve the consideration of the status of the Saami as an indigenous people. The new Mining Act and Water Act, adopted in March 2011, prohibited measures that impaired their opportunities to engage in their culture and traditional livelihoods. They included provisions on hearing the Saami Parliament and on the right of that Parliament to appeal against decisions made pursuant to those laws.
MIKHAIL POGODAEV, Association of World Reindeer Herders, said that reindeer husbandry was an ancient way of life for at least 20 indigenous groups living in at least nine countries. As economic development expanded and climate change encroached, a new relationship must be forged among herders, national authorities, industries, and environmentalists. Authorities must be provided with better management tools. He said the permanent loss of pasture was the most critical issue for herders. There was a need to find a way to counter the impacts of climate change, as well as to develop and implement sustainable management plans.
With that in mind, he recommended that the Permanent Forum carry out a new study on the impact on herders of the loss of land. Moreover, the Forum should work to ensure that any changes to policies and arrangements that affected the world’s reindeer herding communities must be based on herders’ traditional knowledge and ensure that herders and other nomadic societies were actively included in decision-making processes.
MARIANNE LYKKE THOMSEN, Senior Policy Adviser, Government of Greenland (Denmark), encouraged the Permanent Forum to continue its good practice of carrying out thematic studies as a means to fostering information exchange and sharing of best practices among stakeholders. She said that while the Arctic Council was still a relatively young body, it had drawn increasing international attention because of its unique structure and methodology, especially concerning its studies on the impacts of climate change on the region. It had, over time, increased its focus on the human dimension and she expected that practice to continue in the future.
ANJA JONASSEN, Sami Council, said that since 2006, the Norwegian Supreme Court had held that reindeer husbandry would be governed by property laws. While that could have been seen as a step forward, in practical terms the livelihoods of reindeer herders were still being denied in favour of companies that wished to use traditional land and pastures for their own purposes. To achieve proper compensation and protect Saami livelihoods, the herders must be given the opportunity to take their claims to court. However, a single herder could not bear the costs of what were traditionally lengthy judicial proceedings. Therefore, she said, legal aid was absolutely necessary to help herders protect their livelihoods.
Discussion on Doctrine of Discovery
RAJA DEVASISH ROY, Permanent Forum expert from Bangladesh, agreed that the Discovery Doctrine had no legal standing. It was a racist exercise in legal gymnastics, which was dead. The Permanent Forum could best use its time in dealing with its legacies, which, unfortunately, were “alive and kicking” in national laws and policies on land, forests and natural resources, whether contrary to or in line with national constitutions. Most national constitutions declared that the State belonged to its citizens, including indigenous peoples. Thus, in theory, lands, territories and resources belonged to indigenous peoples. But, indigenous peoples in most countries remained “on the margins of power, law-making and policy-making”. By default, law-making remained an undemocratic exercise.
It was vital that States explore different ways to ensure indigenous participation in governance, he said, which was the only way that indigenous peoples could develop a partnership. They could then undo the legacies of “terra nullius” principles, the Regalian Doctrine and eminent domain, and replace them with a more plebeian people’s doctrine based on customary laws. Undoing the legacies of the Doctrine required compensation and other means of redress for violated land and territorial rights. Article 28 must be read in conjunction with article 27, which referred to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems in the context of adjudication and recognition. The process must be fair, impartial and transparent.
KATE GUMLEY (Australia) said her country’s legal and political systems looked to address the legacy of European settlement and work toward a reconciled future. On 2 June 1992, the High Court handed down the landmark “Mabo” decision, recognizing for the first time the existence of a category of indigenous settlement to land that had, in some circumstances, survived contact: “native title”. The Government was committed to building stronger relationships with indigenous peoples based on mutual respect, which was why it delivered a national apology to indigenous Australians on 13 February 2008.
Moreover, Australia was building goodwill by establishing the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, she said. The “Closing the Gap” strategy aimed to improve the lives of indigenous Australians in education, housing and employment. On 8 May 2012, the Government released its 2011-2012 budget, which provided $526 million over the next five years to close the gap by boosting education, health and family services. It aimed to increase opportunities for economic participation and employment for indigenous Australians.
MICHAEL GOODA, Australia Human Rights Commission, recommended the Permanent Forum urge States to respond to the First and Second Decades on the World’s Indigenous Peoples Programmes of Action by reviewing their constitutions and laws to ensure indigenous identities and rights were protected. The Permanent Forum should commend those States engaged in processes to recognize indigenous peoples in their constitutions and encourage them to ensure that the process of recognition adhered to the Declaration’s principles. It should also urge States to engage with indigenous peoples on what was necessary to bring the laws into compliance with the Declaration and the core treaty rights it incorporated.
He said the Australian Constitution had originally prevented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from being counted as Australians. To this day, it allowed voting restrictions based on race. It did not recognize the rights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had by virtue of being indigenous peoples of Australia. Anti-discrimination laws passed by Parliament could be amended, suspended, repealed or overruled by subsequent legislation. Australia must entrench non-discrimination in the Constitution. In 2010, an expert panel was appointed to consider options for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He urged the Government to consult with them to ensure a positive outcome when Australians were asked to vote.
LUCAS SWANEPOEL, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, reiterated that indigenous peoples and others that were to be discovered by Christians were not to be deprived of their liberty. They could enjoy liberty and possession of their property. That behaviour was outlined in the 1537 Papal bull, and reinforced in 1741 through other encyclicals and decrees. In 1987, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that position. The forced conversion of non-Christians was condemned by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
The idea that “wars of conquest” were justifiable was incompatible with the documents of that same Vatican Council, he explained. The Church recognized indigenous rights to education and development. The Holy See had always sought dialogue and reconciliation. It had conducted dialogues with indigenous peoples from around the world to reconcile the past and build a future that respected all peoples’ rights.
BRIGHTON DAWN FINGER, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, reminded the Permanent Forum that earlier in the day, while some of the Caucus’ members had stood peaceably to bring attention to the lack of participation of youth in the Forum’s work, many youth participants had had their accreditation revoked or had been escorted from the premises, while still others had been barred from entering the United Nations “simply because of the way they looked”. All that was clear proof that the effects of the Discovery Doctrine were still being felt and the rights of indigenous people were still being denied.
She went on to say that Doctrine was a perpetuation of global human rights violations that had yet to be properly recognized and remediated on the international stage. It was being used to separate indigenous youth from their families by the border enforcement policies of States. She said that such borders, which divided indigenous lands, communities and territories, had been drawn without free, prior and informed consent and, therefore, infringed on the rights of indigenous families and youth. The crux of the distinct rights of indigenous nations and peoples was the right to self-determination, and that principle was subjugated under the social constructions of superiority and the heart of the “Doctrine of Discovery and Domination”.
With all that in mind, the Youth Caucus recommended that the United Nations fully recognize the “criminality and dehumanization” perpetuated by the Doctrine. That situation actually required a specific set of human rights protections. Truth meant nothing without acknowledging the crimes committed. Overall healing would depend on the willingness of those that had inherited the legacy of the crimes in question, including the Pope, to fully denounce the Doctrine and embrace recommendations for healing.
Finally, she called for the General Assembly to cancel altogether the mandate of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) — “the world piracy organization” — as that agency’s policies continued the exploitation of cultural heritage through the market economy and attempted to “legitimize theft from the inner sanctum of life itself”. The “bio-colonialism” perpetrated by the Convention on Biodiversity’s Nagoya Protocol, in conjunction with the World Trade Organization agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), must also be rejected.
MUNDA MEENAKASHI, Indian Confederation of Indigenous Tribal Peoples, North East Zone, discussed the history and ethnicity of north-east India and explained that the indigenous communities there wished to ensure the implementation by the Government of acts that guaranteed the protection and promotion of their rights, reversed colonial and post-colonial decisions and structures, and which could eventually lead to tribal self-rule. Land acquisition and mining should only take place in indigenous areas with the free, prior and informed consent of those communities. She called for the proper implementation of the articles of the United Nations Convention.
CELIA HERNANDEZ RODRIGUEZ, Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, said that the Discovery Doctrine had changed the face of indigenous societies, and had been especially harmful to women and children. As it was based on European Feudalism, the Doctrine had imposed those views on marriage and home life and had raised the needs and wishes of men over and above those of women and children. The binding effects of that had been the loss of leadership roles by women and the overall denegation of their position in society. The Doctrine aimed to ensure that women “could never be other than what general society thought she should be”. The use of violence against indigenous women and the restrictions placed on those women continued to ensure that they could not exercise autonomy over their own bodies. To repudiate and reverse the Doctrine’s ill-effects, she called for States to review and repeal laws that reflected the sexist and ethno-centric elements of the dogma. All States must adopt the Declaration and integrate its Articles as binding national laws, she said.
BRIAN WYATT, National Native Title Council of Australia, recommend that the Human Right’s Council’s universal periodic review process include a call on all States to report on implementation of the Indigenous Rights Convention, in particular the impact of the Discovery Doctrine and actions taken to redress it. The Forum should ensure that States were aware that the lingering effects of the Doctrine had led to unequal development. It should call on all segments of society to raise awareness about more modern doctrines of cultural superiority, which created obstacles for indigenous peoples today. The legal justification for the colonization of Australia had a “confused history”, but the impact of the Doctrine continued to be disastrous for the indigenous peoples of Australia and other former British colonies. The colonies of the area now known as Tasmania had been established more on the basis of arrogance than legal theory, he said, providing examples of how territories in Australia had, for hundreds of years, been acquired through “mediaeval fiction”. He called on the Permanent Forum to raise awareness about the situation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who continued to be severely marginalized.
DAVID CRISPIN ESPINOZA, Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), said that in Bolivia, there was a distinction between constitutional design and practice. Just as one “could not cover the sun with a finger”, one could not overlook the violation of collective rights. He urged that the State Constitution be respected. “We are being prevented from exercising our rights to autonomy and self-government,” he said, adding that indigenous people must regularly tackle financial and institutional obstacles. They had not been allowed to elect their representatives through their own procedures. A number of candidates self-identified as indigenous peoples had been subjected to a process of “pre-selection”. Community democracy practices had been ignored. That was an act of bad faith.
He said the Government had been urged to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to consultation and to free, prior, and informed consent, in line with the Constitution. The Government had not complied with those principles, as it wished to consult only after it carried out its activities. Such unconstitutional consultations had serious consequences, as had been seen in recent clashes over mining concessions. To avoid such conflict, CONAMAQ had proposed a consultation framework, to which the Government had not complied. He urged the United Nations to activate sanctions, due to Bolivia’s non-compliance, in order to stop the hostility towards indigenous peoples.
LLOYD BUSHEY, Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, said Governments were temporary. The Doctrine of Discovery was a pretext to justify the looting of indigenous peoples. Nation States then emerged — the heirs to past monarchies. Indigenous peoples were losing hope in the idea of their full rights being fully restored. In the near future, indigenous youth would be assimilated by non-indigenous mainstream society, due to globalization and a lack of opportunity. Some Governments had given positive signals, but much remained to be done.
He said the time had come for Governments and indigenous leaders to make greater commitments. The Permanent Forum must also make a “qualitative leap” by insisting that its resolutions be binding in nature, rather than weak recommendations that, in many cases, were simply filed away. “What we need is unity”, he said, suggesting that next year, the Forum discuss the co-opting of indigenous leaders by Governments and political parties. Often, when an indigenous leader held a post, the grass-roots felt they were no longer represented.
ABUBAKAR AL-BASHIR, North African Indigenous Caucus (TUNFA), said his caucus dealt with the situation of nomadic and traditional communities in a diverse group of countries that included Algeria, Libya, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. He added that in the name of socio-economic development, Governments in his region generally pursued policies that either marginalized indigenous peoples or tried to push them towards economic assimilation. That situation needed to be addressed, especially regarding territorial and pastoral structures. One major factor in finding solutions to that issue was access to and control over water sources. Such access was vital for the survival of nomadic communities in and around the Sahel. Tuareg groups were being particularly affected by the policies of regional Governments that contravened the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
ALVARO ESTEBAN POP, Permanent Forum Expert from Guatemala, said indigenous peoples must continue to strive for political participation in a world that basically ignored their perspectives. Moreover, indigenous peoples often did not communicate through dominant languages, and their cultures often did not require documentation that was considered appropriate for participation in national electoral processes. With that being the case, he believed the Permanent Forum should continue to press for recognition of indigenous traditions in democratic structures.
* *** *For information media • not an official record