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Seventy-first Session,
17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)

Food and Agriculture Organization Calls Indigenous Peoples ‘True Custodians of Biodiversity’ as Third Committee Holds Day-long Debate on Their Rights

Speakers in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today called for concrete steps to protect indigenous peoples’ rights, including through obtaining free, prior and informed consent and enhancing their participation in both national policy design and at the United Nations.

In a day-long debate, delegates stressed the need to obtain indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent on decisions affecting their lives in a timely fashion.  That was particularly important for projects threatening their territories, said the Permanent Observer of the Holy See, who lamented that indigenous homelands had been taken without consultation.  “Extractive companies, public works, and even well-intentioned land conservationists often displace them,” he said. 

Early consultations and the availability of relevant documentation in indigenous languages were key elements for meaningful engagement, said the Philippines’ delegate, noting that consent must be obtained for all matters affecting indigenous peoples and their lands.  Indigenous peoples played an important role as “the true custodians of biodiversity,” added the Food and Agriculture Organization’s speaker.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, broadly echoed those points.  Presenting her third report, she said the establishment of national parks, for example, had often involved forced displacement, killings, non-recognition of indigenous authority, denial of access to livelihoods and subsequent loss of culture.  Her report suggested ways in which indigenous peoples’ rights could be better protected in practice and policy.

Several speakers pointed to the need for greater participation in the international arena.  Denmark’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, urged that indigenous peoples’ have their own category for participating in United Nations meetings.  Mexico’s representative, speaking for the Group of Friends of Indigenous People, said Member States, indigenous peoples, civil society and the United Nations Secretariat to strengthen efforts to ensure that the greatest possible number of indigenous peoples would continue to have their views represented on the multilateral stage. 

Other speakers took a different view, with the Russian Federation’s delegate cautioning that efforts to increase indigenous participation at the United Nations should take a balanced approach.  There were already two platforms for involvement:  the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

Still, others focused on the need for reconciliation at the national level in order to create social cohesion.  Canada’s delegate said such efforts required a shift in how Canadians viewed and interacted with one another.  The Government was re-engaging in a renewed nation-to-nation process with indigenous peoples to address issues most important to them.  Colombia’s delegate, meanwhile, said his Government offered training for indigenous women to participate in peace processes.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Denmark, United States, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Bolivia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Japan, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Iran, Ukraine, Algeria, Fiji, Malaysia, New Zealand, Brazil, Nepal and Ecuador, as well as the European Union and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 18 October, to consider its agenda item on human rights.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its general discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples.  It had before it two notes of the Secretary-General, the first transmitting the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/71/228), and the second transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (A/71/229).

Introductory Remarks

JAVIER HERNÁNDEZ VALENCIA, Senior Human Rights Officer of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented the biennial report on the status of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/71/228), which he said supported the participation of 181 indigenous representatives in the relevant human rights mechanisms.  Between January 2014 and June 2016, the Fund had received nearly $1.4 million from 14 donors.  He encouraged all States and donors to contribute so that the Fund could continue to ensure the strong participation of indigenous peoples in international processes.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, presenting her third annual report (document A/71/229), emphasized how conservation efforts, such as the establishment of national parks and conservation areas, had infringed upon indigenous peoples’ rights in a serious and systematic way.  Those activities often involved forced displacement, killings, non-recognition of their authority, denial of access to livelihood activities and spiritual sites, and subsequent loss of culture.  Her report suggested ways in which indigenous peoples’ rights could be better protected in practice and in policy.

Indigenous people had an important role to play as environmental guardians, she said.  Areas where indigenous peoples had been granted land rights had been better conserved and protected against deforestation than adjacent lands.  Yet, Governments often lacked the capacity and political will to protect land effectively, and in many areas where indigenous people had not been granted land rights, there had been frequent incursions by extractive industries and agribusiness.  Indigenous people must be involved in making decisions affecting them, and States must review their policy and legislative frameworks so as to incorporate full recognition of indigenous rights.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) could do its part by obtaining prior and informed consent before designating an area as a World Heritage site.

Interactive Dialogue

When the floor opened, delegates asked about good practices in the realization of indigenous rights in conservation, the use of free, prior and informed consent and enhanced participation.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ replied that informed consent was crucial for conservation projects and guidelines were needed when creating and maintaining national parks.  Concerning gaps in legal provisions, she drew attention to the sustainable use of land in that regard, stressing also that human rights law and environmental law must be applied as appropriate.  Indigenous rights must be strengthened in human rights law and environmental law.  She acknowledged the importance of forest laws in India in the protection of indigenous territories.  To a question about complaint mechanisms for conservation, she said a resolution was needed for a more systematic approach to reporting and addressing complaints.  Regarding calls for enhanced international cooperation, she said that relevant mechanisms had agreed to strengthen their collaboration at their last joint meeting.  She underlined the importance of enhancing indigenous peoples’ participation at the United Nations, including by creating a separate category for them.  Equitable participation must be ensured, she said, and self-identification taken into account.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Spain, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, European Union, India, Morocco, Norway, Brazil, Denmark and the United Republic of Tanzania.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/232 urged Governments and the United Nations to develop and implement appropriate measures to realize commitments made at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  CELAC welcomed a system-wide action to ensure a coherent, “one voice” approach to achieving the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  As part of that process, indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions, Member States and other stakeholders should engage in an inclusive process.

Poverty eradication, a prerequisite for sustainable development, required global, regional and national efforts, she said.  It could not be achieved without the inclusion of groups in vulnerable situations, such as indigenous peoples.  Equity, social and financial inclusion and access to fair credit were crucial for access to justice, participation and well-being.  For its part, CELAC supported sustainable local and cultural practices of indigenous peoples and communities through water management and agricultural programmes.  The group also placed high priority on including youth and women in its work with indigenous communities.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Community had established ministries and commissions to ensure that indigenous peoples were represented within the national framework and provided with a secure platform for guaranteeing their participation in matters affecting their social, cultural and economic development.  As a growing number of indigenous languages faced extinction, she called on CARICOM’s indigenous populations to continue working to revitalize their languages.  Only through a combined commitment could the erosion of those largely oral traditions and philosophies be stopped.  She also called on the General Assembly to proclaim 2018 as International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The 2030 Agenda must be promoted from a human rights-based perspective, she said, in accordance with the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Expressing support for the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, she noted that its initial mandate had been expanded four times to allow for the participation of indigenous communities and organizations in various groups, forums and sessions, including the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies.  CARICOM would continue to work to combat discrimination and marginalization of indigenous people in the region, and stood firm in its dedication to providing them an environment of inclusion.

FERNANDO DE LA MORA (Mexico), speaking for the Group of Friends of Indigenous People, recognized the value of working in partnership with indigenous people to protect biodiversity and supported their effective participation in the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation initiatives.  The Voluntary Fund had supported the participation of more than 2,000 indigenous representatives in major United Nations decision-making processes, in addition to protecting and promoting indigenous peoples’ rights.

He urged Member States, indigenous peoples, civil society and the United Nations Secretariat to strengthen efforts to ensure that the greatest possible number of indigenous peoples would continue to have their views represented on the multilateral stage.  He also welcomed the Human Rights Council’s request to initiate a global study on best practices and challenges related to discrimination against indigenous peoples in business, with a special focus on women entrepreneurs.  

DÖRTHE WACKER, representative of the European Union delegation, described the bloc’s principles and policy guidance for its support to indigenous peoples, which had been crucial in its support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and its contribution to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.  Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the Global Public Goods Challenges programme of the Development Cooperation Instrument, the Union supported the Indigenous Navigator project.  That initiative helped indigenous communities develop reliable community-based and community-owned data in order to monitor progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In addition, the Policy and Toolbox on a Rights-based Approach to Development Cooperation reinforced measures to achieve the 2030 Agenda, she said.  That approach would help analyse challenges and opportunities for indigenous peoples.  When the European Union adopted the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, it included a decision to pursue the rights-based approach and to ensure the integration of human rights into all external actions.  The Action Plan emphasized economic, social and cultural rights, and included efforts to protect human rights defenders working on land-related human rights and indigenous issues.  She welcomed the Human Rights Council’s recent decision to amend the Expert Mechanism’s mandate in line with the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples outcome document.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said it was of utmost importance that indigenous peoples’ participation at the United Nations was enhanced.  Indigenous peoples must have their own category to participate in United Nations meetings.  Their right to self-determination and participation in decision-making was crucial, and must include consultations to obtain free, prior and informed consent.  He welcomed the revised mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as its initiative to carry out a global study on best practices and challenges related to indigenous rights.

KYLA BROOKE (United States) said her country had been a strong advocate for the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  She welcomed the revisions made to the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which would help promote, protect and fulfil indigenous rights.  The United States prioritized enhancing indigenous participation in United Nations meetings on issues that concerned them.  While supporting the expansion of the Voluntary Fund’s mandate to allow indigenous peoples to attend the most important meetings related to their rights, she called for greater transparency in managing the Fund and granting awards so as to ensure a more diverse pool of recipients.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru), endorsing the statement of CELAC, said indigenous peoples needed State protection and respect for their traditions and practices.  Peru promoted equality for indigenous peoples through laws and consultative processes between the State and indigenous communities.  His country had adapted public services to indigenous peoples’ ways of life and offered bilingual services.  It also recognized and protected indigenous lands, he said, pledging that the Government continue that work in a transparent and inclusive manner.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), outlining national efforts, said the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act recognized the right to self-governance and self-determination.  The free, prior and informed consent must be obtained for all matters affecting indigenous peoples and their lands, she said, stressing that the Philippines recognized the important role of indigenous peoples in environmental protection and biodiversity conservation.  The Government had carried out projects aimed at strengthening the governance and management of conserved areas in indigenous territories.

Ms. PEREZ SISTOS (Mexico) said countries must follow up on the commitments included in the outcome document.  Indigenous leadership in the public arena should be promoted to ensure that public programmes responded to indigenous needs.  Mexico had taken a number of measures to protect indigenous rights at the national level, including establishing a public defender’s office focused on indigenous peoples.  The Government welcomed efforts to increase indigenous participation in United Nations forums, and had presented a resolution to increase the number of experts in the Expert Mechanism.  Finally, a dialogue on the empowerment of indigenous women would enrich all Member States.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), associating himself with CELAC, stressed the importance of developing goals to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples, particularly in the areas of health and education.  Further, ancestral territories must be protected and indigenous peoples’ land rights must be guaranteed.  Colombia had made progress in protecting indigenous languages, and important documents had been translated into local languages.  Training had been carried out for indigenous women to participate in reconciliation processes.  The marginalization of indigenous peoples must be addressed, he said, stressing that they must be more involved in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

[fe/male]Ms. THOMAS NAME (Cuba), associating aligning herself with CELAC, said indigenous peoples had historically been subject to serious violations of their rights, brutal discrimination practices, plundering of resources and genocide.  In Cuba alone, slightly more than 30 years after colonization started, the population of 120,000 inhabitants had beenwas totally exterminated, he/she said.  Representing more than 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples continued to face serious rights violations of their rights.  Cuba reaffirmed thatA all cultures had the right to preserve the traditional practices inherent to their identity, she said, underlining the right of Andean indigenous peoples to their traditional and ancient practice of coca leaf chewing.  Cuba supported the right of Bolivia to defend and protect that tradition of its people.

IRINA ANICHINA (Russian Federation) said the responsibility for defining methods to ensure indigenous rights fell primarily on States.  For its part, the Russian Federation had long-term plans for the sustainable development of indigenous people in its north and far east.  She cautioned that efforts to increase indigenous participation in the United Nations should take a balanced approach.  There were already two platforms for such participation:  the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Moreover, some system entities had special procedures to include indigenous peoples’ participation in relevant issues.  That situation pointed to a need to better inform indigenous communities of opportunities for participation.

MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa) said her country had established the Pan South African Language Board, aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development and use of languages, including indigenous languages.  It also recognized traditional leadership structures through legislative measures and, recently, land claims for heritage and ancestral sites lodged by indigenous communities.  She called for the elaboration of a Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which would, among other assurances, ensure that perpetrators were punished for human rights violations against those peoples.  An international, legally binding instrument aimed at transnational corporations and other businesses was urgently needed to hold them accountable for their transgressions against indigenous people, their lands and resources, characterized by some of those people as genocide against their communities. 

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, stressed the importance of implementing the Declaration’s commitments.  For its part, Bolivia had developed public policies to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.  While rights to land and resources must be strengthened, a strategic action plan had been formulated to guarantee indigenous peoples’ rights, in line with the principle of living well.  The Government had worked to build a more inclusive society that included indigenous knowledge to reduce poverty and protect the environment.  She supported the United Nations process under way to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation in the Organization.

ANA SOLEDAD SANDOVAL ESPÍNOLA (Paraguay) said the Government was committed to protecting the rights of its indigenous communities, whose heritage informed the Paraguayan people’s cultural identity.  The Government had adopted an indigenous health law to allow culturally sensitive health services.  Social protection programmes also had been established to support indigenous communities.  Further, the Government was considering a bill that would compel it to consult indigenous peoples on territorial matters, while at the international level, Paraguay fully supported indigenous peoples’ participation on issues that affected them at United Nations.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said the international community relied on indigenous peoples’ knowledge and unique approach to development.  For that reason, their ongoing struggle to preserve their heritage, language, religious traditions was a concern for the entire world.  He expressed regret that indigenous peoples’ homelands had been taken without consultation, stressing:  “Extractive companies, public works, and even well-intentioned land conservationists often displace them.”  Indigenous peoples experienced higher poverty, unemployment, social insecurity.  They must be able to construct a humane alternative to globalization.  As the 2030 Agenda was at the heart of renewed efforts to change the current global narrative of exclusion, it was essential that indigenous peoples were active agents and not passive beneficiaries of such achievements.

JOSÉ ALBERTO SANDOVAL COJULÚN (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said all indigenous rights were important and must be protected.  He welcomed the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and recent Human Rights Council resolutions on indigenous rights, also noting with appreciation the cooperation among human rights mechanisms in the area of indigenous rights.  He underscored the importance of disaggregating data by age and gender in order to achieve the new Goals.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), endorsing the statement by CELAC, outlined a number of legal measures the Government had taken to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  The Government had adopted a human rights-based approach to indigenous issues and prioritized consultation and dialogue with indigenous communities.  He underscored the need for indigenous populations to establish who should participate or how those consultative mechanisms should develop.  Despite legal measures taken to protect their rights, Coast Rica’s indigenous communities continued to face challenges.  The Government was committed to taking all necessary measures to remedy those gaps.

CAMERON JELINSKI (Canada) said reconciliation was critical to renewing relations with indigenous peoples.  Such efforts required a shift in how the Government functioned and in how Canadians viewed and interacted with one another.  Canada was carrying out an engagement strategy to develop a national reconciliation framework and had recently launched a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.  This year, it had expressed full support, without qualification, for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It was re-engaging in a renewed nation-to-nation process with indigenous peoples to address issues most important to them.  Canada would continue to meet its obligations to ensure meaningful consultation, and where appropriate, accommodation, to ensure indigenous rights were protected.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said the participation of all marginalized groups was crucial to the achievement of inclusive, sustainable development.  For its part, Japan had carried out projects to promote and protect the rights of the Ainu indigenous people in close collaboration with the Ainu themselves, he said, noting that a national centre for the revitalization of Ainu culture offered language and other classes.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) expressed her delegation’s reservation to the claim that indigenous communities existed in its jurisdiction.  In the United Republic of Tanzania, the indigenous concept — which was intended to belittle local communities as inferior — had found favour during the colonial era.  As a result, underdeveloped societies had been defined as indigenous, rendering their culture “alien” and of low esteem.  Colonialism had subjected pastoralist societies in Africa to perpetual marginalization and discrimination, she said, noting that her country had therefore adopted measures to improve the well-being of all people, regardless of their ethnicity or tribal affiliation, to redress inherent imbalances.  Among other things, the Government had put in place constitutional and legislative mechanisms to protect pastoralists and hunter-gatherers against discrimination.  An independent judiciary heard and determined all disputes, including land disputes, from the grass-roots level and allegations of human rights violations.  “All Tanzanians of African descent are indigenous to Tanzania,” she concluded, emphasizing that the country therefore had no indigenous people as defined by the United Nations or the African Union.

CHU GUANG (China) reminded Member States that their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals — in particular, Goals 2 and 4 — obligated them to protect the rights of indigenous peoples by raising their income, securing land rights and increasing access to education.  Protection of indigenous rights must be enshrined in laws.  He welcomed the participation of indigenous representatives and institutions in United Nations discussions about their interests and rights, while noting that the concept of indigenous people was rooted in colonialism and that not every country had such communities.  Those living in their ancestral land should not be characterized as indigenous.  The participation of indigenous voices in the Organization’s forums must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, he said, adding that measures were needed to prevent non-Governmental organizations disguised as indigenous peoples from participating.

SOMAYYEH KARIMDOOST (Iran) said it was unfortunate that indigenous peoples had been deprived their inherent rights and that they even today were among the most disadvantaged communities.  With a view to the 2030 Agenda, she noted that as indigenous peoples were among those farthest behind, they should be reached first. The outcome of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples marked an important step in providing the framework to empower indigenous peoples at the national and international levels.  She cautioned against the trend of other groups introducing themselves as indigenous peoples; no entity should misuse that title and place the legitimate interests of indigenous peoples at risk.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), associating with the European Union, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the respect for human rights as enshrined in core United Nations texts, including those related to indigenous peoples and minorities.  Ukraine promoted the consolidation and development of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of all indigenous and minority peoples in its sovereign territory.  As part of that effort, it guaranteed the protection and self-determination of the Tatar people in Crimea, who he said had been subjected to systematic violations of human rights by the Russian Federation since the beginning of their occupation.  He recounted cases of abduction and abuse of their leadership, and displacements that had led to a 40,000-person reduction in their numbers.  Ukraine would spare no effort to protect human rights in occupied Crimea, including ensuring access for international monitoring organizations.  He appealed to partners to join in that effort.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said indigenous peoples should enjoy all the rights enshrined in various international instruments, taking into account the specificity of each country.  The identity of the Algerian people, described as indigenous during the colonial period, had been forged throughout history.  Its fundamental components — Islam, Arabism and Amazigh — had been enshrined in the Constitution to reflect the richness and unity of Algerian society.  As a unitary State, Algeria’s laws were based on citizens’ participation in governance and the values of social justice, equality and freedom.  Amazigh was an inseparable and indivisible element of national identity, which Algeria was committed to promoting in all its dimensions, notably through a high commission that aimed to rehabilitate Tamazight as a foundation of national identity.

Ms. CHAND (Fiji) said the policy of her Government was to empower indigenous institutions.  Their customs “must never again be manipulated for any political ends”.  For the first time in Fiji’s constitutional history, any indigenous land that had previously been acquired by the State for public purposes would revert to the customary owners when the land was no longer needed by the State.  The issue of indigenous rights was complex when that group constituted the majority of the population and when it had enjoyed political and land ownership rights both during and after colonization.  The rights of such a majority “must be approached with sensitivity to the rights of minority groups”, she said, stressing that “indigenous rights cannot be used to justify a monopoly over power, nor to create a community of privilege which survives only out of a sense of entitlement.” 

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia) said the rights of all citizens were enshrined in the Constitution and that the Aboriginal Peoples Act provided further protection to those peoples in Malaysia.  The Government supported greater access to all levels of education and vocational training for all, measures that could be effective in reducing the education gap between indigenous peoples and the general population.  Balancing the need for development and the protection of indigenous rights required a holistic approach, he said, underscoring that indigenous peoples should be afforded the choice of whether to be part of mainstream society.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), associating himself with the Group of Friends on Indigenous Issues, noted that seeking and maintaining partnerships with indigenous peoples who were guardians of ancestral lands was critical for conserving natural resources and historical and cultural heritage.  New Zealand supported the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions at United Nations meetings on issues affecting them, as it was only through their participation that the final outcomes would have legitimacy.  He welcomed the strengthened mandate of the Expert Mechanism, calling it both desirable and appropriate that the United Nations’ work on indigenous peoples’ rights was properly funded. 

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), associating with CELAC and the Group of Friends on Indigenous Issues, called for geographical balance in indigenous representation at relevant United Nations meetings.  Brazil had made great advances in protecting the rights of its indigenous communities, whose territories comprised 12 per cent of the country’s land.  Between 2008 and 2016, 35 new indigenous lands had demarcated, representing an area the size of Portugal.  The Government had also taken measures to protect indigenous communities from violence, including a national programme for the protection of human rights defenders.  Finally, the country was promoting access to education among indigenous youth, and thanks to a quota and scholarship programme, the number of indigenous students attending universities had increased.

ILLA MAINALI (Nepal) said the Government placed great importance on protecting rights of indigenous groups, who constituted more than one-third of the population.  The Constitution guaranteed indigenous rights, including the right to a dignified life and participation in decision-making.  The Government recognized all mother tongues and guaranteed the right to primary school education in all national languages.  Moreover, it was committed to protecting indigenous communities from sexual violence and unlawful acquisition of lands, and had passed legislation requiring that 35 per cent of local Government budgets be allocated to programmes targeting indigenous nationalities.

CARLA MUCAVI, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said it was imperative to recognize the contributions of indigenous peoples to sustainable development.  They had a close link with the areas in which they lived, and, as such, were the true custodians of biodiversity.  FAO had supported the development of National Indigenous Peoples Action Plans in several South American countries, such as Honduras.  Looking forward, she noted that FAO was developing tailor-made guidelines, inviting Member States to express interest in them.  The 2030 Agenda could not be achieved without respect for indigenous peoples’ rights.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that despite the opportunity presented by the Goals for more inclusive development, many gaps remained around the recognition of indigenous rights.  As indigenous peoples were among those most affected by climate change, they could play an important role in climate action.  Public policies must allow indigenous peoples to innovate, improve market linkages, build enterprises or cooperatives and enhance their income generation.  For indigenous peoples to be meaningful partners in protecting the environment, they required access to decent work and social protection.  ILO promoted a rights-based approach in its collaboration with tripartite constituents, indigenous peoples’ organizations, and partners within the United Nations.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador), associating himself with CELAC, said the constitutional framework of his country was aligned with international instruments on human rights that guided public policies.  Ecuador looked to guarantee people's sense of belonging and social engagement with public policies that fostered social inclusion at all levels.   He underscored the value of implementing measures that aimed to include indigenous peoples, adding that Ecuador had begun hiring indigenous young people in diplomacy.  Protection of maternal languages was at the heart of Ecuador public policies, and the Government would work to ensure that indigenous languages continued to be handed down through generations.  No stone should be left unturned in ensuring indigenous peoples’ participation at the United Nations.

Rights of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to his Ukrainian counterpart, said that all human rights violations would be investigated.  Ukraine should explain why it had ignored the rights of the Tatars for 20 years.  That Government had been unwilling to look into crimes and educational difficulties, among other problems, he said, stressing that Ukraine was using Tatars for opportunistic political ends.

The representative of Ukraine quoted a United Nations monitoring report listing human rights issues in Crimea, saying that fundamental freedoms of association had been curtailed and that opposition voices had been silenced.  Human rights abuses committed by paramilitary groups remained unpunished.

For information media. Not an official record.