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Consult with Indigenous Peoples before Making Decisions That Affect Them, Speaker Tells States, as Permanent Forum Continues Session

Indigenous peoples — guardians of nature — must be consulted before States greenlight development projects, members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, as the body concluded a discussion on its six mandate areas — economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights.

Phoolman Chaudhary (Nepal) highlighted the need for States to consult with indigenous peoples before making decisions, especially on development projects that affect them.  He called for greater attention to the issue of indigenous languages disappearing and urged States to remove hazardous chemicals from indigenous lands.

Irma Pineda Santiago (Mexico) urged the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to address misappropriation of intellectual property of indigenous peoples, pointing out that extractive industry activities take resources away from indigenous peoples.  WIPO must protect their cultural heritage and traditions, including crafts, sports and science.

Vital Bambanze (Burundi) said that indigenous peoples should benefit from attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and protection of nature.  In certain States, however, their participation in decision-making is a gift, not a right.  States should engage indigenous peoples before they make decisions, such as signing development projects.

Geoffrey Roth (United States) highlighted a landmark decision by North Dakota to make it mandatory to teach native American history in elemental schools.  Five tribes are now involved in designing the curriculum.  On access to health care and COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization and the Permanent Forum must sit together to discuss inclusion of indigenous peoples in responses.  He expressed hope that future Forum sessions will not be held in a virtual format, insisting that indigenous peoples need to meet face-to-face in New York.  He also stressed the importance of hearing the opinions of indigenous peoples in selecting Forum members.

Aleksei Tsykarev (Russian Federation) stressed the need to protect the rights of indigenous children, urging the Permanent Forum and the United Nations Children’s Fund to develop a strategy on education of indigenous children.  He also underscored the importance of regional dialogues.  Regions with active participation of indigenous peoples are seeing better results.

Anne Nuorgam (Finland) pointed out that few indigenous youth participated in the current session, stressing the need for their greater involvement.  They are already leaders of today and their participation must be supported by adequate funding.

Simón Freddy Condo Riveros (Bolivia) said that vaccination is a human right and all people must have access to vaccines.  He also urged the United Nations to heed a call by a group to investigate the massacre of 36 indigenous individuals.

Representatives of indigenous peoples organizations and Member States also exchanged views.

A speaker from Elatia Partnership said actions towards Sustainable Development Goal 16 must include addressing indigenous peoples’ quest for justice, calling on States and the Permanent Forum to establish and support mechanisms to collect disaggregated data on violations of indigenous peoples’ rights, and make courtrooms friendlier for them through eliminating language barriers and providing legal aid and clinics.

A speaker from the International Union for Conservation of Nature said that the World Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nature to be held in September will highlight the contributions of indigenous peoples to nature conservation and establish priorities and enhanced measures for actions by States, conservation organizations and development agencies.  The organization was selected as one of the two implementing agencies to design a Global Environment Facility project to enhance indigenous peoples’ efforts to steward lands, waters and natural resources.

A speaker from FIMI called upon the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to adopt the new General Recommendation on Indigenous Women and Girls by January 2022, ensuring legal rights and human protections for indigenous women.  She also asked the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and United Nations Development Programme to establish training mechanisms for indigenous women organizations.

A speaker from Interculturales Bolivia asked that the United Nations Secretary-General and the Permanent Forum lend support for an investigation into the killing of 36 indigenous individuals and destruction of their sacred symbol.

A speaker from Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation urged the Government of Viet Nam to recognize Khmer Krom as indigenous peoples, not as an ethnic minority.

The representative of Viet Nam said her multi-ethnic country respects all ethnic groups.  Poverty has been reduced in areas lived in by those groups, and ethnic minorities are represented on legislative bodies and discrimination against them is strictly prohibited.

The representative of Mexico said her country has 624 indigenous municipalities and the rights of indigenous peoples are enshrined in Article 2 of the country’s Constitution.  Her country recognizes indigenous peoples right to self-determination, including the right to speak their own languages.  In the run-up to the International Decade on Indigenous Languages from 2022 to 2032, the University of Indigenous Languages was established.

The representative of Japan said that the Diet adopted resolutions in 2008 recognizing the Ainu population as an indigenous people, and in 2019, enacted legislation on comprehensive promotion of local Ainu communities, industries and cultural exchanges through tourism.  The act established subsidiaries to promote Ainu culture.  In July 2020, Japan opened a national centre for the revitalization of the Ainu culture.

The representative of the Russian Federation explained how reindeer herding is systematically supported by the State.  About 20 small and medium-size enterprises on reindeer domestication are supported by the Government, she said, drawing attention to the world conference on reindeer herding to be held in the fall of 2021.

The representative of Guyana said her country stands firm on the inclusion of indigenous peoples in its national development agenda.  They are included in many programmes being implemented, such as the land titling of indigenous communities and the low carbon development strategy.  The Government is working to ensure indigenous peoples are included in online scholarship programmes as well as other training opportunities.  This is complemented by efforts to improve their access to information and communications technology.

A representative of the International Labour Organization drew attention to the usefulness of the Indigenous Navigator, a set of tools for indigenous peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education; Escuela Global De Liderazgo De Mujeres Indígenas; Native Council of Prince Edward Island; Asociación De Mujeres Abogadas Indígenas; Khmao-Ugra; Semilla Warunkwa; COICA; Derecho, Ambiente Y Recursos Naturales; Asian Indigenous People’s Caucus; and Sami Parliament in Sweden.  Representatives of Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Chile, Ukraine, Nepal, El Salvador, Nicaragua and China also spoke.

The Permanent Forum will reconvene at 3 p.m. Friday, 30 April to conclude its work.

For information media. Not an official record.