Concluding Session, Permanent Forum Approves Three Draft Decisions, Including 2024 Programme, International Meeting on Indigenous People in Greening Economy
Closing its twenty-second session this afternoon, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues sent three draft decisions to the Economic and Social Council for formal adoption as it approved several recommendations on this year’s priority theme, “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach”.
By draft decision I, the Economic and Social Council would authorize a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme “Indigenous Peoples in a greening economy”. By draft decisions II and III, that 54-nation organ would set the dates for the Permanent Forum’s twenty-third session — at United Nations Headquarters from 15 to 26 April 2024 — and the provisional agenda for that meeting. All three draft decisions are contained in document E/C.19/2023/L.3.
Presented by its Rapporteur, Tove Søvndahl Gant (Denmark), the Permanent Forum’s orally revised and approved recommendations related to: “Thematic dialogues” (document E/C.19/2023/L.4/Rev.1); “Special theme of the session: ‘Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach’” (document E/C.19/2023/L.5/Rev.1); and “Human rights dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (document E/C.19/2023/L.6/Rev.1).
They also pertained to: “Future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues considered by the Economic and Social Council, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and emerging issues” (document E/C.19/2023/L.7); “Discussion on the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum (economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights), with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/C.19/2023/L.8); “Dialogue with the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes” (document E/C.19/2023/L.9); and “Dialogue with Members States” and “Regional dialogues” (document E/C.19/2023/L.10) as well as an informal paper on “Future work” and “Human rights”.
In closing remarks, Permanent Forum Chair Darío José Mejía Montalvo (Colombia) said: “We have seen first-hand what it looks like when hope assumes a vibrant colour.” Each statement, side event and activity reflected the colossal and collective work seeking to ensure the dignity of all — men, women, young people and elder persons were always in sync when they shared their experiences and desires. Such wealth of transformative potential is available to the world if it opens up more decision-making spaces for Indigenous People while ensuring their participation, he underscored.
However, it is unacceptable that the Permanent Forum continues to hear how Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders are threatened, harassed and killed for defending their home, he declared. Their right to self-determination and self-governance does not threaten Member States’ unity nor territorial integrity but rather serves to facilitate the full expression of their political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions as well as those belonging to Indigenous Peoples. He also voiced his grief in hearing about Indigenous children in jails and detention centres, reminding Member States of their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, States have the responsibility to protect the Permanent Forum’s participants from reprisals and ensure their safe return to their countries of origin.
It is also not acceptable to continue using the term “Indigenous Peoples and local communities”, he added, explaining that this formulation leads to erroneous interpretations which undermine the very status of Indigenous Peoples. As such, the Organization’s entities and all States parties to treaties on the environment, biodiversity and the climate must cease this practice; working methods must clearly and accurately reflect Indigenous Peoples’ identities; and the Organization as a whole must undertake a consistent approach in upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is aligned with the Secretary-General’s Call to Action.
“The Permanent Forum is not merely a single event — the efforts made during our sessions are not simply words that are spoken and then forgotten,” he pointed out, stressing: “The result of the Forum’s annual session takes the form of immense debates — robust debates — conclusions [and] thoughts being shared and that is our contribution to multilateralism: to make peace, development [and] human rights a reality for and with the Indigenous Peoples of the world.”
Darío Iza Pilaquinga, President of the Governing Council of the Kitu Kara People, read a poem to the Permanent Forum, stating that he brought with him the trees and rivers, ancestors and grandparents, the spirit of the jungle and the energy of the mountains. “Do you see them? Do you feel them? They are all in this room,” he observed. He also said he came with the “creak of ancient trees” and his own “painful blood” from rivers thick with mercury and arsenic. “My blood contains death from the Amazon region,” he stressed, expressing hope that, tomorrow, children will rise and find their waters cleaned of death and pain.
He also said he brought the notes and songs of persecuted birds, who seem to be “mere tenants in a world of owners”. Today, a mountain disappears — forests and rivers will follow. Stressing that he stands alongside the Earth, which continues to be sacrificed, he said that, today, he will “dance the dance of resistance”. His people are the mountains, lakes, deserts, swamps, forests, rivers and reservoirs, he underscored. “We inhabit the trees, we walk through jaguars, and we are the song of the hummingbird,” he said, adding: “We care for each other and build, holding up the world so it doesn’t fall into capitalism’s abyss.”
The Permanent Forum also approved the report of its twenty-second session (document E/CN.19/2023/L.2), which will be finalized by the Rapporteur with the support of the Secretariat.
The 8th-12th Meetings were not covered.