Speakers Call for Full Inclusion, Participation Actualizing Permanent Forum’s Six Mandated Points, as Twenty-Second Session Continues
Calls for Indigenous Peoples’ full inclusion took centre stage once again as the Permanent Forum today continued its twenty-second session, with speakers underscoring their need to ensure their full participation in realizing the Forum’s six mandated points, including their social and economic development and the preservation of their culture and languages, as well as their environment.
At the top of the meeting, Vital Bambanze, Permanent Forum member from Burundi, presented the report of the international Group of Experts on the “truth, transitional justice and reconciliation processes” held in Chile in 2022. Among other things, he said that the experiences suffered by Indigenous Peoples originate from colonialism and are linked to armed conflict, exploitation of land and natural resources, and systematic violence against them, he said. More so, in the context of prolonged national conflict, Indigenous Peoples have rarely been consulted in peace and reconciliation processes, he pointed out, stressing the urgency of reparation measures, he pointed out.
The Deputy Minister for Marginalized Communities of Namibia, on that note, recalled the effects of colonialism and apartheid on his country — which led to the pervasive loss of land and resources by Indigenous communities. “Namibia fully acknowledges the connection of Indigenous Peoples to the land,” as well as the need to adopt and implement specific measures of affirmative action, he said. These efforts are best supported through the creation of national policies to protect the social, economic and political rights of Indigenous communities, he added.
The representative of Colombia, also recounted her country’s experience, underlining the importance of overcoming Colombia’s historic debt to Indigenous Peoples. To this end, the development of public policies and combating structural forces of discrimination is vital. Much still remains to be done to ensure the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, she said, urging States to implement the recommendations that emanate from the Permanent Forum.
However, the representative of Chagossian Voices, as well as other Indigenous speakers, brought to light examples of systematic disregard by Governments and authorities. He pointed out that 50 years ago the Governments of the United States and United Kingdom forcibly exiled and forbade the return of the Chagossian people to the Chagos Archipelago. His people had been one of the healthiest communities on the planet, but in exile, they live in poverty, and are victims of marginalization, racism and discrimination. No official apology or remorse has been offered to the Chagossian people, he stressed, calling for an urgent investigation and review of how the Organization will protect their Indigenous rights.
The representative of the National Congress of American Indians and Native American Rights Fund, in a similar vein, spotlighted the rampant misappropriation and misuse of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, cultural experiences and genetic resources in violation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons. Adequate legal protections are still lacking, he said, urging Member States to ensure the full participation of Indigenous Peoples in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) diplomatic conference on a draft genetic resources and associated knowledge instrument.
Like many speakers today, both the representatives of Ogiek People’s Development Programme and RAIPON underlined the need to preserve the cultural identity and languages of Indigenous Peoples, with RAIPON’s delegate suggesting an international conference for Indigenous teachers of Indigenous languages and culture.
As well, the representative of the Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú (CHIRAPAQ) said States must implement policies and educational plans that promote the formation of cultural identities and intercultural citizenship, with full Indigenous participation. She warned that movements against Indigenous rights are gaining more power, bolstered by disinformation that seeks to delegitimize Indigenous demands.
Addressing that concern, the representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), noted that article 16 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acknowledges such peoples’ right to establish their own media. Media is essential for providing reliable information, raising awareness and inspiring action to address global challenges, she said, adding that free, independent and pluralistic media contributes to diversity, openness and inclusion in society, also providing an indicator of good governance.
Several delegations, including the representative of the Saami Council stressed that the green shift cannot happen by compromising cultures that have kept the ecosystems intact. “We do not protect our lands for others to destroy,” he declared, adding that the global community needs to abandon fossil fuels and reduce emissions while transiting into alternative energy sources, without placing the burden of this shift on Indigenous Peoples.
Nonetheless, the representative of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity, on that note, underscored that the Framework acknowledged that there should be full participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. More so, the Framework provides a road map for addressing environmental challenges being faced worldwide through diversity, conservation and sustainable use, as those components are essential for a more just and sustainable future for all.
The Permanent Forum will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 April, to continue its work.
Introduction to Report
VITAL BAMBANZE, Permanent Forum member from Burundi, presenting the report of the international Group of Experts on the “truth, transitional justice and reconciliation processes” held in Santiago, Chile, in 2022, said transitional justice is based on four fundamental pillars: truth, justice reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. The experiences suffered by Indigenous Peoples originate from colonialism and are linked to armed conflict, exploitation of land and natural resources, and systematic violence against them. They often find themselves in situations of armed conflict and militarization due to many factors linked to economic interests that affect their land, territories and resources.
Citing various declarations on human rights which have not been respected, he said militarization leads to violence, displacement and sexual abuse, among others, which in turn can lead to poverty and regression in social development. Initiatives, such as peace agreements, are the basis for peaceful negotiations. However, most of these negotiated peace agreements are not applied or applied only in a piecemeal manner, he said, stressing the urgency of remedying grave violations against Indigenous Peoples.
The Group of Experts’ meeting brought together members of the Permanent Forum, Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts on transitional justice, the United Nations system, representatives of Indigenous Peoples, and academics, he continued. It aimed at rethinking mechanisms for seeking transitional justice and reconciliation to address the needs of Indigenous Peoples. It also sought to identify good practices in the implementation of transitional justice processes. Experts looked at the areas of conflict resolution, obstacles to participation, and learnings from work with and by Indigenous Peoples, among others.
In the context of prolonged national conflict, Indigenous Peoples have rarely been consulted in peace and reconciliation processes, he pointed out, stressing that States should guarantee their rights and provide them swift access to socioeconomic rights after ill treatment. Indigenous authorities must be recognized in State dialogue mechanisms, and strategic alliances must be built to support victims in their healing. Underscoring the importance of reparation measures, he said Governments must examine their constitutional and legal framework relating to Indigenous Peoples and provide Government representatives training on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, detailing other recommendations.
The representative of Sweden, also speaking for Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Iceland and Norway, said that Indigenous knowledge is essential for addressing challenges such as climate adaptation. She noted that, to improve participation and collaboration with the Sámi people, new laws have been enacted in Finland, Norway and Sweden stipulating that State agencies must consult with such people on matters that concern them. Further, to spread knowledge of past abuses and promote reconciliation, Finland, Norway and Sweden have established “truth commissions”. Condemning all forms of violence and harassment against Indigenous human-rights defenders — both online and offline — she called on all States to ensure a safe, enabling space for such individuals.
The representative of the International Indian Treaty Council called on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, underlining the need for the free, informed consent of Indigenous Peoples in this area. This is especially true for those suffering the consequences stemming from the use of highly dangerous substances in their territory, such as those documented in studies carried out by the Yaqui people. Noting the request for a group of Indigenous experts to produce a document on this topic for analysis in Geneva in the fall of 2023, he called for continued support for this process to achieve justice for the use of dangerous substances in the United States.
The representative of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) emphasized that Indigenous representatives are needed “now more than ever” to address myriad global challenges. To this end, UNITAR’s training programme to enhance such representatives’ conflict-prevention and peacemaking capacities was developed in 2000, based on the requests of Indigenous Peoples and United Nations Special Rapporteurs. As marginalization in the political and economic spheres and conflict over land and resources are two of the challenges Indigenous Peoples continue to face, UNITAR’s training focuses on these areas. UNITAR also actively seeks the contribution of Indigenous women in this endeavour, reporting that such individuals compose 40 per cent of UNITAR’s alumni. Such alumni work at the national, regional and international levels towards the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons, she added.
MARCELO CORDOBA, Ministro de Gestión y Desarrollo de Pueblos y Nacionalidades of Ecuador, said the people of Indigenous nations and the people of Ecuador ensure the full achievement of their rights and support cultural and linguistic sharing. A full education curriculum respects all Indigenous nations based on their own indigenous language. His Government, among other things, is reviewing a platform that would enable online teaching and the issuance of language certificates for all the nations. President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador signed a declaration which requires revision of the education law to include the rights of boys and girls of indigenous backgrounds to have proper structures, qualified teachers, good food and good learning materials.
The representative of the National Congress of American Indians and Native American Rights Fund, said that despite over two decades of work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, adequate legal protections are still lacking. Rampant misappropriation and misuse of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge and cultural experiences, and genetic resources is ongoing, in violation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons. In July 2022, the World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly agreed to convene a diplomatic conference on a draft genetic resources and associated knowledge instrument no later than 2024, he said, calling on that organization’s member States to ensure the full and effective participation of the Indigenous Peoples therein. He also urged the Forum to recommend that those member States assist Indigenous Peoples in preparing for the conference and provide adequate funding to support their participation.
The representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), noting that article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acknowledges such Peoples’ right to establish their own media, pointed out that humanity increasingly relies on media to understand the world. It is essential for providing reliable information, raising awareness and inspiring action to address global challenges. Further, free, independent and pluralistic media contributes to diversity, openness and inclusion in society, also providing an indicator of good governance. She added that community and non-profit media — owned and run by the people it serves — allows greater focus on local issues and provides a public forum for debate and discussion.
The Deputy Minister for Marginalized Communities of Namibia underlined the need to protect Indigenous Peoples — and their cultural and traditional practices — from the consequences of climate change. To this end, the Government has established legal frameworks to mitigate such Peoples’ vulnerability in this area. “Namibia fully acknowledges the connection of Indigenous Peoples to the land,” he said, spotlighting the Government’s commitment to include every Namibian in disaster risk-management and risk-reduction strategies. Recalling the effects of colonialism and apartheid on his country — which led to the pervasive loss of land and resources by Indigenous communities — he said Namibia recognizes the need to adopt and implement specific measures of affirmative action. These are best supported through the creation of national policies to protect the social, economic and political rights of Indigenous communities, he added.
The representative of Chagossian Voices said it has been 50 years since the Chagossian people were forcibly exiled and forbidden to return to the Chagos Archipelago by the Governments of the United States and United Kingdom to make way for a United States military air base, turning their beautiful homeland into an instrument of war. On the island, they had been one of the healthiest communities on the planet through old age. In exile, they live in poverty, and are victims of marginalization, racism and discrimination. A United Kingdom court recognized in 2000 that they are belongers of the island and their exile was illegal. However, the United Nations has given their rights to the Mauritian Government who refuses to recognize them as a people. No official apology or remorse has been offered to the Chagossian people, he said, calling for an urgent investigation and review of how the Organization will protect their Indigenous rights.
The representative of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), noting that she is WIPO’s Indigenous Fellow, said that WIPO’s training, mentoring and matchmaking programme on intellectual property for Indigenous women entrepreneurs and local communities aims to support tradition-based community entrepreneurship. The programme has expanded regionally, she said, noting the start of a programme in 2022 supporting community entrepreneurship in four Indigenous Peoples nations. Intense negotiations at the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore continue with the objective of finalizing an international legal instrument or instruments relating to intellectual property, which will ensure the balance and effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, she said.
The representative of Colombia said the Permanent Forum allows Indigenous Peoples to take steps towards historical recognition. However, much still remains to be done to ensure the recognition of their rights. Indigenous participation is not a question that should be limited, she said, noting that this Forum should be present in all discussions that are relevant within the United Nations system and introduce recommendations of the existing framework. In turn, States should implement the recommendations that emanate from the Forum. She further underlined the importance of overcoming Colombia’s historic debt to Indigenous Peoples. To this end, the development of public policies and combating structural forces of discrimination is vital, she said.
The representative of the Saami Council asked: “If saving the world from climate devastation comes by sacrificing the Indigenous world to fulfil the needs of the colonial States, […] what future is left there for our youth?” The Indigenous Peoples cared for their lands and territory, guaranteeing their health and productivity. “We do not protect our lands for others to destroy,” he declared, adding that the global community needs to abandon fossil fuels and reduce emissions while transiting into alternative energy sources, without placing the burden of this shift on Indigenous Peoples. The green shift cannot happen by compromising cultures that have kept the ecosystems intact, he added, stressing the need to address the interconnected crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change.
The representative of Panama detailed a multisectoral Government strategy — implemented across 300 of Panama’s poorest zones — that seeks to “catalyse the territorial development process”, empower Indigenous women and implement programmes relating to schools, water, sanitation, agriculture and social security in order to combat poverty. Further, national legislation aims to allocate the economic resources necessary for intercultural education, expand bilingual education — recognizing Indigenous languages as “mother tongues” — and establish Indigenous universities. He also outlined Government efforts to build centres providing health, water and sanitation services, along with domestic law designed to protect traditional medical practices.
The representative of the Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú (CHIRAPAQ) pointed out that movements against Indigenous rights are gaining more power, bolstered by disinformation that seeks to delegitimize Indigenous demands. Underlining the need to generate conditions necessary for the full, effective exercise of Indigenous rights, she called on States to develop and implement policies and educational plans that promote the formation of cultural identities and intercultural citizenship. Such education should also contribute to the development of critical thinking and solidarity, thereby strengthening individuals’ ability to question and challenge inequalities. She called for full Indigenous participation in the design, implementation and assessment of such education plans to ensure that Indigenous systems of history, knowledge, culture, language, technology and values are reflected in national education systems in a dignified way.
The representative of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity said that the Framework supports the objectives of the Convention, including conservation, sustainable use of resources and equitable sharing of benefits, among others. The Framework also acknowledged that there should be full participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. To that end, it includes four outcome-oriented goals and 23 action-oriented targets, and specifically includes Indigenous rights to traditional territories. It also takes a major step towards environmental and social justice by balancing protection with human needs, including the sustainable use of wild spaces, as well as land used for agriculture and foresting. In addition, the Framework provides a road map for addressing environment challenges being faced worldwide through diversity, conservation and sustainable use, as those components are essential for a more just and sustainable future for all.
The representative of First Nations of Canada said that truth and reconciliation must include economic reconciliation. All the wealth in Canada is built upon First Nations’ land. All around the world, colonial States are stealing the wealth of Indigenous People — their inherent birth right — with thousands of years of effective resource management stolen without their prior and informed consent. Calling for a new economic deal, outside of the cyclical budgetary process, she said advancing economic reconciliation must go hand in hand with helping communities heal from intergenerational trauma. To this end, establishment of national healing funds to undo the damage of colonialism is pivotal. First Nations require sustainable funding commitment to deal with the intergenerational trauma from residential institutions, she said, describing schools as “institutions of assimilation and genocide”. She also drew attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The representative of the Yamal-Nenets Association of Indigenous Peoples, noting that over 500,000 reindeer live on traditional lands, said that herding them sustains livelihoods and provides for the continuation of knowledge. These reindeer need hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of pasture on which to graze, and the priority for Indigenous Peoples in this region is to maintain the quality of these traditional lands. In doing so, effective measures are required to manage the land and organize corridors thereon so that reindeer can continue to be fed. Stressing that maintaining the quality of the land is part of Indigenous Peoples’ mental health, lifestyle, language and identity, he recommended that the Permanent Forum map the traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples with the help of States and such peoples themselves.
The representative of Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation of Australia said that her organization focuses its advocacy on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Australia’s Northern Territory. All children jailed there are Aboriginal, and they are locked in blood-stained concrete cells for up to 23 hours per day where their behaviour is managed through force and isolation. Changes to bail laws in 2021 saw a 200 per cent increase in the number of children caged, and a 400 per cent increase in self-harm and attempted suicide for those inside. Underscoring that the incarceration of Indigenous children in Australia is a human-rights violation, she said it directly results from systemic racism that perpetuates cycles of marginalization. The root causes of this violence — such as ongoing colonialism — must be addressed, and she called on the United Nations to create global consensus that children’s prisons are never acceptable.
The representative of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, spotlighting the importance of disaggregating data by ethnicity, underscored that Indigenous Peoples must be visible at the 2023 Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals. There, they must be able to raise their concerns regarding how the current development paradigm is causing further marginalization and human-rights violations for Indigenous Peoples, along with how the so-called “solutions” to address COVID-19 and climate change are resulting in increased inequality and poverty. She offered several suggestions aimed at addressing gaps in the implementation of the Goals and the realization of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including making such peoples visible in the monitoring and reporting of Goal indicators and collaborating with the Major Group to strengthen Indigenous engagement in the High-Level Political Forum and other events related to the Goals.
The representative of Nicaragua said his Government promotes all ethnic origins and roots. It incorporates the defence of nature, environment and Mother Earth in all its policies. A law on traditional and ancestral medicine recognizes the right to respect, protect and promote the practices and expressions of traditional medicine. His Government recognizes fully the communal rights to protect Indigenous land and the Costa-Carribe Nicaraguan people who have a special protection and untransferable rights over some 30 square kilometres covering 30 per cent of the national territory. His Government is committed to ensuring the participation of Indigenous People and people of Afro descent during the formulation and implementation of national initiatives.
The representative of Grand Council for the Mi'kmaq [Canadian], said that States must consult and cooperate with Indigenous Peoples to develop comprehensive action plans to fully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The national action plan must be formulated and adopted in partnership with Indigenous Peoples in a manner consistent with article 19 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and paragraph 3 of the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. He called on the United Nations system to support the implementation of national action plans to achieve the ends of the Declaration. It has been 10 years since Member States made a commitment to the outcome document at the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples. He encouraged delegations to look at Canada and the province of British Columbia for positive examples of legislation to implement the Declaration.
The representative of the Ogiek People’s Development Programme expressed concern over an alarming increase in the extinction and disappearance of Indigenous Peoples’ culture and language. Coming from the Ogiek community in Kenya, she cautioned that her Indigenous language is under threat. The Ogiek people continue to be subjected to massive loss of language, culture and biodiversity, and displacement from their territory led to assimilation that has heightened the language and culture loss. Despite efforts to revive their language, the Ogiek people struggle to protect their unique language, identity and way of life. Against this backdrop, she called on the Forum to address the Kenyan Government to restore the Ogiek people’s rights and promote their language and cultural identity.
The representative of the Sami Parliament of Finland said that climate change is affecting the mental health of the Sami in significant ways, with rising temperature and unpredictability of natural conditions and weather affecting their traditional livelihoods. The purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Sami people is to identify historical and current discrimination —including State assimilation policy and violations of rights — as well as to find out how these injustices affect the Sami people and their communities today. One of the prerequisites for the preparation of this process is psychosocial support, she said, voicing particular concern over the psychological distress caused by climate change.
The representative of RAIPON said his organization brings together 40 Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation, with 34 regional representations. RAIPON works on protecting and teaching Indigenous languages and traditions through educational programmes. He suggested that an international-level conference be held for Indigenous teachers of Indigenous languages and culture. Also noting his concern by the passive use of Indigenous languages, he urged that efforts be made protecting the use of native peoples’ languages. In addition, RAIPON’s Indigenous language educators teach Indigenous grammar and writing and, among other initiatives, is also actively training teachers in that regard. He also said that RAIPON was promoting creative initiatives to pave the way for education of native languages in Indigenous Peoples’ homelands.
Also speaking today were representatives from the following organizations: South Moluccan Organization; National Human Rights Institution — Norway; Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti Bangladesh; Crimean Tatar Resource Centre; New Zealand Nurses Organization; National Association of Friendship; Caucus Global de Jovenes Indigenas Organizacion Indigenas de Guatemala; Kapaeeng Foundation; International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs; Asociation Ak’Tenamit; Blackstar Community for Better Living Initiative; Association Tin Hinan; Land is Life, Ecuador; Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation; and Manaaki Matakaoa.
Representatives of South Africa, Viet Nam, Australia, Indonesia, Russian Federation, Guatemala, Mexico, Guyana, United States, Brazil, Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania also spoke.
Speaking today as well were representatives from the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).