Indigenous People’s Knowledge, Insight Needed to Address Global Climate Crisis, Speakers Stress, as Permanent Forum Opens Session
The knowledge and insight of Indigenous People must be harnessed to address the global climate crisis, speakers told the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today, as it opened its twenty-second session amidst observations that such People’s participation must be enhanced, and their rights protected if the international community is to enjoy the benefit of their custodial experience in tackling these existential challenges.
Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, opening the meeting with a traditional ceremonial welcome, offered thanks for the Earth, the wind, the thunder, the sun and the moon — all that was put here for the people of the world. He then urged the Forum to “put our minds together kindly and respectfully and, as one, give thanks to the Creator so we can be at peace and contentment as we walk about here on Earth”.
Darío José Mejía Montalvo (Colombia), following his election by acclamation as Chair of the Forum’s twenty-second session, paid tribute to all Indigenous Peoples’ ancestors and the leaders and allies who lost their lives defending their people and territories. He underscored that climate change and biodiversity loss cannot be resolved without Indigenous Peoples’ real participation, as their territories are at the heart of this discussion. “It is now time for States and international bodies of the United Nations to set their quotas for action and practices behind their words and guarantee," he stressed.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, echoed that, noting that Indigenous People have pioneered sustainable land management and climate adaptation for thousands of years. The so-called “green economy” is not a new concept for Indigenous Peoples; it is a way of life that stretches back millennia. In the Sahel, ancient farming techniques are breathing life into the semi-arid region. Across the Amazon, Indigenous agriculture has preserved and enhanced the rainforest’s ecology, and in the Himalayas, Indigenous systems preserve soil, reduce erosion and conserve water.
Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, noting Indigenous People’s recognition of the link between the planet’s health and people’s health, observed: “It took us a long time to learn from you and we are still paying a huge price for our slow learning curve.” “It is high time we recognized how urgently we should act to save people and planet […] and acknowledged our mutual responsibilities to each other,” he stressed, underscoring that the experience and insight of Indigenous Peoples are needed for the United Nations to address the factors impacting their health and well-being.
On that point, Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia, recalled his meeting with an indigenous leader who told him several decades ago that removing oil from the planet was akin to “taking the blood of the earth, and this would not be without consequence” — something Western science would not realize until much later. Underscoring that the climate crisis cannot be resolved without ceasing certain extractive activities, he noted that global discussions are moving away from the core of the problem as powerful countries now devote resources to war.
Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the Permanent Forum, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, plays a crucial role in informing the Council's work, particularly towards implementing the 2030 Agenda. The priority theme on the connections between human health and the planet’s health is especially relevant to the upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development on accelerating the recovery from COVID-19 and fully implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, spotlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, also detailed the disproportionate effects of this and other stark inequalities on Indigenous People. He observed that many of these problems can be traced back to their removal from their traditional lands or territories.
Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior of the United States, in that vein, noted that her country’s Government is taking historic steps to unravel the enduring, intergenerational trauma perpetuated by the same Department she now leads. She detailed several such initiatives, including the designation of Avi Kwa Ame — over 500,000 acres in southern Nevada — as the country’s newest national monument. She also said that repatriation laws are also ensuring that ancestral remains and cultural heritage are being returned to their rightful resting places and to their rightful owners. “If we are going to collectively heal from the wrongs of the past — while building the world we all deserve — Indigenous Peoples everywhere must be brought into the fold,” she underscored.
In the afternoon, the Forum held two thematic dialogues, during which speakers commented on the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, the General Recommendation of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) concerning Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous platforms established within United Nations entities.
In other business, the Forum elected by acclamation Suleiman Mamutov (Ukraine), Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Chad), Hannah McGlade (Australia), Hanieh Moghani (Iran) and Geoffrey Roth (United States) as Vice-Chairs of the twenty-second session, along with Tove Søvndahl Gant (Denmark) as Rapporteur. It also adopted the provisional agenda for the twenty-second session (document E/C.19/2023/1) and its work programme (document E/C.19/2023/L.1).
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 April, to continue its twenty-second session.
TADODAHO SID HILL, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, opened the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues with the traditional ceremonial welcome. Noting it is the Creator’s way that a number of people come together in thanksgiving, he called to all participants: “All of you, listen. We come of one mind” to offer gratitude to Mother Earth, and all that was put here for the people of the world. He also expressed gratitude for the gentle winds that still provide fresh air, to the thunders that bring water, to the sun that warms the Earth and to the “night-time sun, the moon, our grandmother”, all of whom carry on their duties. He gave thanks, as well, for the compassion sent to humankind by the Creator, adding that “we are fortunate that He has given us a way to make things right”. He then urged the Forum to “put our minds together kindly and respectfully, as one, give thanks to the Creator so we can be at peace and contentment as we walk about here on Earth”.
DARÍO JOSÉ MEJÍA MONTALVO (Colombia), Chair of the twenty-second session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, paid tribute to all Indigenous Peoples’ ancestors and the leaders and allies who lost their lives defending their peoples and territories. The Forum belongs to them and the more than 470,000 people that represent 6.7 per cent of the global population,” he underscored, adding that it is the greatest meeting of cultural and political diversity in the world from the United Nations’ five official regions, as well as the seven sociocultural regions of the Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Peoples, like many others, are wondering about the challenges their descendants will face, he said, noting that for most Indigenous Peoples, the answers come from their value systems and their knowledge, and their mission is to care for their territories. Spotlighting all the people suffering from hunger, facing extreme poverty or being forced to leave their homes, he stressed that all those realities are forcing Indigenous Peoples to consider the wisdom of decisions in international and national platforms. “Climate is the language of the Earth,” he said. For this reason, it is incomprehensible that some climate action measures are designed to protect some ecosystems but not others.
Those measures can result in greater segmentation of indigenous peoples and may even cause harm, he pointed out. While it is common to hear the expression “to leave no one behind” on the international stage, perhaps those leading are not on the right path. Indigenous Peoples are prepared to sit around the table, offer solutions and share their experiences. More so, climate change and biodiversity cannot be resolved without Indigenous Peoples’ real participation, as their territories are at the heart of this discussion.
“It is now time for States and international bodies of the United Nations to set their quotas for action and practices behind their words and guarantee that Indigenous Peoples can participate through their elected representatives in the decisions that affect their planet in an equal footing to States,” he stated. He called for an end to the persecution of Indigenous Peoples acting in defence of human rights and nature, as well as an end to the media’s stigmatization of Indigenous leaders.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that Indigenous Peoples “reflect humanity’s magnificent diversity”, with more than 5,000 different cultures and over 4,000 different languages. While their customs and traditions vary widely, their challenges are strikingly similar, including marginalization, human rights violations, illegal exploitation of resource-rich territories and eviction from ancestral lands. Further, while Indigenous People make up around 5 per cent of the world’s population, they constitute 15 per cent of the world’s poorest. Indigenous women — keepers of so much rich heritage — often suffer the most. “My message today is clear,” he stressed “The United Nations stands with you.”
Indigenous movements across the world — often led by women and young people — have been spearheading efforts to protect nature and preserve biodiversity. For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples have pioneered sustainable land management and climate adaption. In the Sahel, ancient farming techniques are breathing life into the semi-arid region. Across the Amazon, Indigenous agriculture has preserved and enhanced the rainforest’s ecology, and in the Himalayas, Indigenous systems preserve soil, reduce erosion and conserve water. Yet, Indigenous Peoples live on the front lines of the climate emergency, while having done nothing to cause the crisis. “Last year, I travelled to Suriname and had the extraordinary privilege of visiting with the Kaliña peoples. I saw first hand how climate change is devastating their lands, destroying their way of life, and threatening their very survival,” he reported.
Indigenous Peoples have done nothing to cause the climate crisis, but often face the worst and most immediate impacts, he said, adding that Indigenous Peoples hold many of the solutions to the climate crisis and are guardians of the world’s biodiversity. Therefore, climate justice and the scale-up of finance and capacities for adaptation and loss and damage must be accelerated. The so-called “green economy” is not a new concept for Indigenous Peoples; it is a way of life that stretches back millennia. Since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, the United Nations has steadily broadened their participation in the Organization’s work. The Declaration has been utilized in courts and galvanized political action, including the development of national action plans. The Organization, he affirmed, is committed to keep promoting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in policies and programming at all levels, in addition to amplifying their voices.
CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, welcoming the indigenous peoples who travelled from far and wide to be in New York, said: “We gather today to hear your concerns and aspirations, to learn from your wisdom — and to celebrate the rich linguistic and cultural diversity represented in your communities.” Spotlighting the world’s interconnected crises from climate change and conflict to biodiversity loss and human rights violations, he pointed out that for Indigenous Peoples, the planet’s health and people’s health are intrinsically linked. “It took us a long time to learn from you and we are still paying a huge price for our slow learning curve,” he said.
In order for the United Nations to address the factors impacting their health and well-being in a holistic and rights-based manner, the experience and insight of Indigenous Peoples are needed, he continued. More so, their full participation in processes that affect their rights is a core tenet of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and vital to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at local, regional and international levels. Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral knowledge, nurtured over centuries, has paved the way for the development of many modern medicines. As well, guardians of 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, Indigenous People hold traditional proficiency in how to adapt, mitigate and reduce climate risks.
He invited Indigenous Peoples to enrich the global community’s understanding and bolster its quest for transformative solutions which promote peace and wisely use the forces of nature instead of trying to overpower them. The doors to their wider participation in the economies and the political processes, as well as decisions affecting their traditional ways of life, must be in line with the principle of free, prior and informed consent. On 20 April, he will hold the third Interactive Hearing with Indigenous Peoples to enhance the participation of Indigenous representatives and institutions in the work of the United Nations. “It is high time we recognized how urgently we should act to save people and planet […] and acknowledged our mutual responsibilities to each other,” he stressed. “How we handle our inherited responsibilities will indicate what kind of world we leave for our children,” he added.
GUSTAVO PETRO, President of Colombia, recalled his meeting with Roberto Cobaria of the U’wa people several decades ago, during which the Indigenous leader told him that removing oil from the planet was akin to “taking out the blood of the earth, and this would not be without consequence”. Later, Western science concluded that extracting and using oil was extinguishing life on the planet. Thus, Indigenous Peoples’ vision of the cosmos, understanding of life and quest for balance with nature “was absolutely spot-on and a practical necessity for the reality of life”. These two systems of knowledge — one ancestral, one Western — came to the same conclusion, he emphasized; namely, “if we remove oil from the entrails of the earth, humanity will perish”.
Noting that Colombia is working to empower Indigenous People, many of whom live in forests, he stressed that the Amazon rainforest is vital for balancing the global climate and its revitalization is a global imperative. To that end, Colombia will convene a summit of countries with territorial responsibility over the rainforest in August in Belém. He expressed hope that the Indigenous Peoples living in the Amazon rainforest will grant their support so that the summit can “actually be a merger between the Indigenous desire for this vital balance and the political reality that emerges from the administrations and agendas of Governments who have sovereignty over this territory”.
But, “the climate crisis cannot be resolved unless we stop extracting oil, coal and gas”, he underscored. Yet, global discussions are moving away from the core of the problem, as powerful countries now devoted their resources to war, giving them a way out of the climate crisis. Thus, pressure towards global peace is fundamental. Further, the international community cannot wait for private capital to solve the climate crisis. The accumulation of wealth has created the greatest harm humanity has ever known — “the capacity for its own extinction”. States must plan for the massive investments needed to immediately transition to decarbonized economies. He added that Mr. Cobaria was right: “If we remove oil from the earth, life will disintegrate.”
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the Permanent Forum, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, plays a crucial role in informing the Council's work, particularly towards implementing the 2030 Agenda. The priority theme on the connections between human health and the planet’s health is especially relevant to the upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development on accelerating the recovery from COVID-19 and fully implementing the 2030 Agenda.
The 2022 high-level political forum recognized the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous peoples, she continued. The Ministerial Declaration commended the important contributions of Indigenous Peoples as guardians of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, and as agents of change in responding to climate change. She invited the Permanent Forum to provide recommendations and inputs to the review of the Sustainable Development Goals at the 2023 high-level political forum.
She also called upon Member States to strengthen their collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and ensure that their rights and priorities are contained in the voluntary national reviews. In September, the United Nations will hold the second Sustainable Development Goals Summit where Heads of State and Government, at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, will review its implementation. Noting the increased cooperation and collaboration of the Permanent Forum with other Council subsidiary bodies, she said that she also looks forward to seeing the continued participation of Indigenous youth at the Youth Forum, together with the Indigenous Youth Caucus.
LI JUNHUA, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the theme of this year’s session highlights health as “an equilibrium of spirituality, traditional medicine, biodiversity and interconnectedness with the world around us”. The connection that Indigenous Peoples have to their lands and territories deeply affects their health and well-being. However, Indigenous Peoples suffer higher rates of ill health and have a dramatically shorter life expectancy than other population groups living in the same countries. Contributing to these stark inequalities are generally inferior living conditions, lower income levels and employment, and less access to safe water, sanitation and health care, among others.
Many of these problems can be traced back to their removal from their traditional lands and territories, while others are attributable to climate change, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. Climate change continues to disrupt ecosystems and has caused changes in the availability and quality of natural resources, often with negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples’ health and livelihoods. As well, climate change is leading to more frequent and severe weather events, such as droughts, floods and storms, which can affect Indigenous Peoples’ access to food and water. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right to be actively involved in developing and determining their health programmes, to access their traditional medicines and to equally enjoy the highest-attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Among United Nations efforts, he said that, in the follow-up to the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, implementation of the United Nations System-Wide Action Plan on Indigenous Peoples through the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues is continuing. Efforts include protection of Indigenous human rights defenders, engagement with resident coordinators and country teams and enhanced participation in United Nations processes. Ensuring these rights will require work at the intersection of Indigenous land rights, climate action and biodiversity preservation to provide Indigenous Peoples with the support they need, he emphasized.
DEB HAALAND, Secretary of the Interior of the United States, noting she is a proud citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, said a new era is unfolding worldwide that includes indigenous knowledge, investments in tribal communities, and native worldviews at more decision-making tables. This ushers in a world that future generations deserve to inherit. “The work starts at home,” she underscored, noting that United States President Joseph R. Biden has launched an all-of-Government approach to strengthen indigenous communities in the United States through improved channels of communication, collaborate with global partners to expand this work beyond her country’s borders, and support key international instruments like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The pandemic exacerbated existing inequities across Native communities and disproportionately affected indigenous populations globally, she continued. This work includes building partnerships with tribal leaders and indigenous organizations to coordinate responses to address the pandemic’s impact. In 2021, her Government announced $785 million for the American Rescue Plan, funding efforts to hire and support school nurses, and the recruitment and retention of health-care professionals, among others. More so, through an historic $45 billion for the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, investments span across health care, education, economic development, cultural preservation, and importantly, tribes’ work in the face of the climate crisis.
“Nations must address the violence and severe gender inequities that persist for Indigenous communities globally, particularly Indigenous women and girls,” she said, also drawing attention the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by people with disabilities or members of the LGBTQI+ community, including two-spirit people. To address this painful legacy, she established the Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Indigenous women and girls are our future, and they are best positioned to uplift the needs of their communities and advance climate crisis solutions,” she emphasized. The Biden Administration is also taking historic steps to unravel enduring intergenerational trauma perpetuated by the same Department she now leads.
Against that backdrop, she detailed several initiatives, including the designation of Avi Kwa Ame — over 500,000 acres in southern Nevada — as the country’s newest national monument and work with Alaska’s Native Tribes to protect the salmon that have historically thrived — but now face existential threats to their survival. Language revitalization efforts are also being advanced in partnership with Native Hawaiian and Native American communities so that communities can rebuild what has been taken. Repatriation laws are also ensuring that ancestral remains and cultural heritage are being returned to their rightful resting places and to their rightful owners. "If we are going to collectively heal from the wrongs of the past, while building the world we all deserve — Indigenous Peoples everywhere must be brought into the fold,” she underscored, adding that the United States is committed to advancing this work on the global path, alongside the international community.
SÔNIA GUAJAJARA, Minister for Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, announced that, today, she is representing Brazil for the first time in its history as Minister for Indigenous Peoples. More so, it is also the first time that an Indigenous woman is speaking on behalf of Brazil. With this gesture, her country is sending the message that in the face of the climate emergency, it is no longer possible to guide nations without the presence of those who contribute most to the planet’s climate balance. The Indigenous Peoples have witnessed hate speech against them becoming public policy in Brazil where authorities have not only encouraged the invasion and theft of their lands, but allowed genocide practices, as what occurred with the Yanomami people. Moreover, deforestation has increased, and Indigenous leaders and partners continue to be assassinated.
Now is the time to move forward so that the rights and guarantees of Indigenous Peoples are not left at the disposal of rulers who despise human rights and the environment, she emphasized, calling on Member States to urgently guarantee Indigenous People’s presence, voices and action in spaces of power. Today, Indigenous Peoples in Brazil are holders of innumerable ancestral scientific knowledge. The Amazonian Indigenous Peoples unite several countries in South America, she said, underscoring that the Amazon is a biome essential to the health and preservation of the planet. It is very important that this be recognized not only at the Permanent Forum, but at all levels of the United Nations. Zero deforestation in the Amazon must be reached, not in 30 years, but now, she declared, calling on the Forum to help Member States identify ecosystems and territories at risk and prevent further degradation, and combat the climate emergency and biodiversity loss.
The floor then opened for the thematic dialogues on the International Decade of Indigenous Languages and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation No. 39 on Indigenous Women and Girls, featuring a keynote address by Gladys Acosta, former Chair of CEDAW.
Ms. ACOSTA said CEDAW’s General Recommendation No. 39 was adopted unanimously in October 2022 — the first time that a human rights treaty body issued a guideline focused exclusively on the discrimination suffered by women and girls. The rights of Indigenous women and girls are constantly violated and require greater promotion and protection of those rights. Self-identification, a principle that determines who are Indigenous women and girls, recognizes the roles they play in their communities, including as protectors of food security, the environment and biodiversity.
The history of colonialization, racism and forced displacement, among others, are the factors that underpin gender-based discrimination and the violence suffered by Indigenous women and girls, she added, underscoring the obligations of States parties to address the past. Describing the various forms of discrimination they face, she emphasized that Indigenous women have a huge capacity to protect their communities via care work, and protecting nature, biodiversity, ecosystems, food security and water resources.
Turning to the general obligations of State parties to the CEDAW Convention, she stressed that Indigenous women have effective access to adequate non-Indigenous and Indigenous justice systems that are free from racial and/or gender bias. Moreover, the due diligence application must be applied to prevent, investigate and grant reparations for all forms of gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls. States must also promote the active, meaningful and informed participation of Indigenous women in political and public life and at all levels of decision-making processes. A series of fundamental rights are protected by General Recommendation No. 39, and include, among others, the right to nationality, health, education and work. They are binding insofar as they draw on the articles of the Convention and specifically protect those rights.
The floor then opened for the interactive dialogue.
The representative of Canada, noting that he was the first member of Parliament elected from the Mi’gmaw Nation, yielded his time to Cassidy Caron, President of the Métis National Council. Ms. CARON stressed the need to recognize the resilience of women and girls internationally, and of Métis women at home. General Recommendation No. 39 provides the framework to empower Indigenous women and girls and to ensure their participation in political and public life. She then asked the Permanent Forum what it is doing to ensure enhanced participation for Indigenous women at the United Nations.
The representative of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) detailed ongoing work relating to the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. Among other initiatives, UNESCO is identifying specific flagship projects to highlight the importance of Indigenous languages. Also stressing the importance of grass-roots initiatives, he called on all Governments to consider national or regional action plans in this area, to financially support the International Decade and to identify such grass-roots projects for future consideration.
The representative of the International Indian Treaty Council thanked the Permanent Forum for recognizing environmental violence in its 2012 report of the expert group meeting concerning violence against women and girls. Exposure to toxic pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, uranium and mercury — along with sexual violence carried out in the context of extractive industries — continues to disproportionately impact Indigenous women’s reproductive and intergenerational health. She therefore requested that the Permanent Forum endorse paragraph 60 of General Recommendation No. 39, which relates to the link Indigenous women and girls have with a health environment and their lands.
The representative of Norway, also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, underlined the need for Indigenous Peoples’ languages to be alive and in active use in all domains. To succeed in this, she urged those present to make it easy to use these languages. Modern language technology is an important element in this regard. Accessibility for the Saami and Kalaallisut languages in digital media, for example, is lacking. She urged this issue be raised during the International Decade.
The representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), spotlighting General Recommendation No. 39, also stressed the need to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence perpetrated against such individuals, which is drastically underreported. As well, he urged that the General Recommendations must reach Indigenous women in their communities in a language and format accessible to them — efforts to which OHCHR will contribute.
The representative of the Inuit Circumpolar Council urged the Permanent Forum to call for the implementation of General Recommendation No. 39 by all States and to study how negative gendered policies and legislation — stemming from colonialism and beyond — affect the status of the rights of Indigenous women and girls today. She also underscored the need to “ask the difficult question” of why Indigenous women and girls globally continue to be overrepresented in statistics on violence against women.
The representative of Australia said that her country recognizes the pivotal leadership role played by Indigenous women and girls in their communities and families. Detailing several examples, she pointed out that Indigenous women lead key decision-making bodies in organizations affecting the lives of Indigenous Australians. Her country has a long history of trailblazing Indigenous women who broke barriers.
The representative of the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, said some of the Indigenous languages in Asia are on the path of extinction or critically endangered. He called on Member States, UNESCO and other stakeholders to request Governments in the Asian region to initiate national action plans that protect, preserve and promote Indigenous languages at the country level. Those Governments should also strengthen affirmative action for multilanguage education and cultural preservation, create favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing concerning Indigenous languages, and adopt a holistic human-rights-based approach towards the protection of Indigenous languages.
The representative of Mexico said his Government is making many efforts to recognize the importance of revitalizing the more than 60 languages in his country. On 15 March, it agreed to create the University of Indigenous Languages of Mexico to protect, promote, strengthen and revitalize Indigenous languages nationwide. In the State of Sonora, his Government created the University of the Yaqui People, he said, spotlighting its pivotal importance in the protection of Indigenous languages spoken in that part of the country. Moreover, the current administration has created 145 well-being universities to provide services to the poorest Indigenous Peoples, he said.
The representative of the National Organization of Indigenous Andean and Amazonian Women said that, in Peru, racism and classism by members of civil service, Congress and the media have become more visible through racist speech. “The Peruvian State does not care about the lives of our brothers,” she underscored, noting the impunity, as well as the use of judicial power to prosecute and criminalize Indigenous Peoples. “Indigenous women are protecting the lives of people and Mother Earth, and for defending those rights, we are prosecuted and killed,” she emphasized, voicing hope that recommendations are issued to States so that they comply with international conventions and treaties to which they are signatories. Further, States must be called upon to respect the rights of Indigenous women and girls who will continue to ensure the survival of their cultures.
Also speaking was a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as Hannah McGlade, Forum member from Australia, a Forum member from Bolivia and Li Nan, Forum member from China.
The Permanent Forum then held its “Dialogue on Indigenous platforms established within United Nations entities”, featuring keynote addresses by Joji Cariño, Co-Chair of the Convention on Biological Diversity Working Group on Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention; Myrna Cunningham, Chair of the Steering Committee of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Indigenous People’s Forum; and Graeme Reed, Focal Point, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform, Indigenous Peoples Organization Constituency.
Ms. CARIÑO said that the Working Group implemented several best practices, including nominating an Indigenous Co-Chair. ensuring the participation of Indigenous People and local communities in the Convention’s work, and establishing a voluntary funding mechanism so that such individuals can participate in all meetings of the Convention. Further, the Working Group developed guidelines for respecting and preserving traditional knowledge. The Working Group also offers diverse opportunities for Indigenous People and local communities to actively participate in shaping the global environmental agenda and enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ efforts to safeguard the diversity of life on Earth, she said, adding that the Working Group looks forward to continued cooperation with the Permanent Forum.
Ms. CUNNINGHAM said the IFAD Forum monitors the implementation of IFAD’s Indigenous Peoples’ policies. Since 2006, IFAD has been implementing five cycles of the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility — a fund made available to Indigenous communities, which has mobilized $2.5 million and supported 159 projects across 48 countries. The fund has an Indigenous system of governance and looks to improve Indigenous policies. Its primary activities include updating IFAD’s policies, which have incorporated the protection of Indigenous food security systems.
A key component of the updated IFAD policy is to grant observer status to an Indigenous delegation in the meetings of the IFAD executive board, she added. The IFAD Forum also conducts its Indigenous Peoples’ forum, she said, recalling that the sixth forum was held in February, following consultations in the last quarter of 2022 in Asia, Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, with more than 150 participants. The Forum allows for recommendations on leadership of Indigenous People to find solutions to climate change; an exchange with IFAD senior management, including its president, regional officers, country managers; and the formulation of commitments to improve partnerships between IFAD and Indigenous Peoples.
Mr. REED said that the rights-based Paris Agreement led to progress for Indigenous Peoples within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including growing representation, respect for Indigenous knowledge systems, self-determination and calls for urgent, transformative climate action. This has provided a unique opportunity to amplify Indigenous Peoples’ solutions in their lands, waters and territories. He noted that the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform is the only constituent body within the Convention that provides for formal Indigenous participation. Further, the Platform’s upholding of the principles of self-selection and self-determination is both unique across the United Nations system and “an important lesson for the conversations we are having today”, he said.
The floor then opened for interactive dialogue.
The representative of Chile said that her country established concrete measures to protect Indigenous languages, including data-collection efforts to identify and preserve such languages. The Government also plans to initiate a dialogue with the Mapuche people as part of a policy to ensure that Indigenous languages are present throughout the national education system. In this way, Chile is committed to working together with Indigenous People to decide, with their input, how best to protect these languages.
The representative of the Convention on Biological Diversity stressed that the Convention’s Secretariat is committed to ensuring the participation of Indigenous People, including by inviting their representatives — particularly women and youth — to take part in shaping its programme of work. He added that the Convention’s Secretariat commits to listening to such individuals in order to “rebuild our relationship with nature” in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development said that the Group — the main coordination mechanism for Indigenous People within the Sustainable Development Goals process — engages annually in July during the high-level political forum on sustainable development. The theme for this year will focus on accelerating recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and about 40 States will present voluntary national reviews concerning their implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Throughout this process, Indigenous People must be legally recognized as rightsholders. Such national reviews must ensure full, effective and safe participation for such individuals.
The representative of Panama noted that Indigenous People play a crucial role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, as they have unique perspectives on how to reduce emissions and build climate resilience. Noting frequent discussions at the United Nations regarding rethinking humanity’s interaction with nature to tackle the climate crisis, he spotlighted the role of Indigenous People and local communities in achieving this reorientation.
The representative of Paraguay said that her country is committed to preserving and revitalizing Indigenous languages. The Government has established a commission focusing entirely on such languages, and is also working to contribute to the development of a global action plan. She also detailed national actions to ensure proper enjoyment of linguistic rights both at the individual and collective levels.
The representative of the Green Climate Fund, reported that the Fund is the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the world’s largest dedicated climate fund and manages over $40 billion in assets supporting the developing world’s transition to lowered emissions and strengthened climate resilience. A key partner in achieving this transition is the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group, composed only of Indigenous Peoples who have been self-selected by their regions. It advises the Fund and partners on Indigenous Peoples’ rights and issues, among other things.
The representative of the Ărramăt Project recalled the 2018 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) high-level expert seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ food systems, and the establishing of the Global-hub on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems. Following the Global-hub's support in its funding application process, the Ărramăt Project became the twentieth member of the Global-hub, working with others in elevating Indigenous knowledge and impacting policy, particularly regarding Indigenous food systems.
The representative of Guyana said his country is home to nine indigenous groups, each with their own unique language, culture and history. His Government has demonstrated strong commitment to preserving the linguistic diversity and cultural heritage of their peoples.
A second representative of Guyana stressed that opportunities must be provided for Indigenous women to assume leadership positions at all levels to ensure that they are at the decision-making table, addressing issues that affect them. Noting that she is the first female elected leader in her village, as well as a schoolteacher and an executive member of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Guyana, she said those positions allow her to contribute to the development of her village, as well as at the national level.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador and Indonesia, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as well as speakers from the following organizations: RAIPON Youth Association, International Indian Treaty Council, Ontario Native Women's Association, Cultural Survival, Global-hub on Indigenous Peoples Food and Knowledge Systems, and Chagossian Voices.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Forum member from Chad, and Tove Søvndahl Gant, Forum member from Denmark, also spoke.