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Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
10th Meeting (AM)
Delegates Underscore Need for National Governments to Protect People over Profits
Hearing from delegates on the multiple ways in which their respective countries had failed to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite having supported its adoption, members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues discussed today how the body could be more effective in encouraging implementation.On the final day of its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, Mexico’s representative said that, with the adoption of the Declaration, countries had the responsibility to implement it, stressing that implementation should be more than merely a catalogue of laws. Instead it required a creative response across all levels of Government in the defence of the rights of indigenous peoples. In light of that, Mexico urged the Forum to organize a special meeting where countries could exchange information on how they were promoting those rights.
Expanding on that theme, Guatemala’s delegate called for a linking of ideas to create a new social fabric that would take indigenous issues into account. Prompted by the Guatemalan Government’s stronger embrace of its indigenous populations, a new spirit was fostering a more participative democracy in the country. Addressing the rights of indigenous peoples should not be separate from a State’s broader goals, and the new attitude was helping to strengthen “ethnic self-esteem” at minimal social and economic cost.
But a Forum member from Bolivia cautioned that, while States seemed to acknowledge indigenous peoples’ rights by enacting various laws in support of them, reports from the grass roots suggested the laws were hardly ever implemented. In fact, several delegates pointed out that the goals of respecting the lands and waters of indigenous peoples and promoting national economic growth and rising prosperity were often diametrically opposed and, when choosing between the two, countries too often favoured profit over people.
Describing how his country’s policies favoured transnational corporations and a small number of national enterprises, a representative of Communidad Campesina de Tauria Arequipa Peru said those companies had left the indigenous people with only the pollution of their lands and lakes. The State had been spreading the “good news” that Peru had enjoyed its largest growth rate compared to gross domestic product, while State policies had led to the pillaging of the nation’s forests.
A speaker for the Asociacion de Mujeres Andinas said the search for energy sources paid no heed to the lives of indigenous peoples as mining operations changed the landscape and disturbed indigenous production methods and economic organization. The Forum should recommend that mining and oil exploration in indigenous territories respect international standards guaranteeing the right to life and health. When engaged in exploration and production, mining and oil companies should apply the same standards they would in their own countries.
Noting that infrastructure projects financed by European Union member countries continued to force indigenous peoples from their homelands, while European mining companies devastated the environment, the Chair of the European Parliament called on the European Union to develop a normative framework for dealing with such issues in a way that respected human rights. It should also develop the capacity to mediate between indigenous communities and State authorities that were in conflict.
Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, acknowledged the difficulties of holding countries accountable, but stressed that the Forum provided a critical way to encourage implementation. In the closing statement, and his final address to the Forum before stepping down from his post, he said that, although the Forum and the Office of the Special Rapporteur were not legal mechanisms, they were among the places where complaints, accusations and statements about the situation of indigenous peoples could be presented. Without that opportunity, the international community would have no way to find out what was really going on. The Forum therefore afforded crucial opportunities for dialogue, and the intense activity brought to its dialogue would bear fruit for the world’s indigenous peoples.
Other members discussed various changes that could further improve the Forum’s effectiveness, recalling the study presented yesterday on United Nations structures, procedures and mechanisms to address the human rights of indigenous peoples. A speaker from Spain said an expert mechanism proposed in the study would be different from the one currently being established and deserved further discussion. The study also called for a mechanism to channel the demands and proposals of indigenous parties, which should be considered in more detail.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Colombia and Viet Nam.
The representative of Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
A representative from the Observer Mission of the Holy See and a member of the Customary Senate of New Caledonia also spoke.
Others speaking during the dialogue were representatives of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade; Indigenous Environmental Network; AIDESEP, an umbrella organization in Peru; NASAI (Peru); Retrieve Foundation; Haudenosaunee peoples; Grandmothers of Mother Earth; Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (on behalf of the Montagnard Foundation); Friends of the Earth International (on behalf of the Mooka and Kalara United Families within the Wiradjuri Nation of Australia); Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea Foundation; Dewan Adat Papua; Boro People’s Forum for Peace and Rights; Autonomia Eraiki; World Hmong People’s Congress; Ainu Resource Centre; Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organization; Conseil national authochtone; Arctic Caucus; Middle East Caucus; Ethiopian World Federation (on behalf of the International Indigenous Historical Society, the Longhouse 1, Taitu Betul International University, Sankofa International Academy, Deborah Light of Israel, Survival for Life, Makeda’s Remnant, Negus Inter Café and Learning Centre and Taad-Yinga); International Native Tradition Exchange; and the Ahwazi Human Rights Organization.
Wilton Littlechild, Special Rapporteur, offered a prayer in support of a young indigenous woman believed to have died recently in suspicious circumstances.
The Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 30 April, to take up issues on indigenous children and youth, the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, urban indigenous peoples and migration, and customary laws pertaining to traditional indigenous knowledge.
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