Challenges facing indigenous peoples of Asia spotlighted as UN Forum continues 2014 session

Date of publication: 
19 May 2014

Non-recognition and marginalization of indigenous populations of Asia, home to two-thirds of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples, and a growing concern of rising violence against indigenous women and girls surfaced at the mid-way point of the annual UN gathering of indigenous peoples around the world.

“Violence against indigenous women came out very, very strongly” during the half day dialogue Thursday, 15 May, on the Asian region of the 13th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN Headquarters, Forum member Raja Devashish Roy of Bangladesh told reporters at a press conference after the morning session.

According to the Permanent Forum, indigenous women continue to pay the price of structural forms of violence and discrimination, as well as from the persistence of conflicts and militarized areas in a number of Asian countries.

“Numerous cases of rape, sexual enslavement and also killing of indigenous women and girls in conflicts have been reported in a number of countries; very few have been investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted,” the Forum said quoting information compiled by UN agencies.

The Permanent Forum, comprised of 16 independent experts, is one of three UN bodies that is mandated to deal specifically with indigenous peoples’ issues. The others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Some 1,500 indigenous participants from all regions of the world have come together for this year’s two-week meeting from 12 to 23 May at UN Headquarters where they are engaging with members of the Permanent Forum, UN Member States, and UN agencies in advancing the rights of indigenous peoples.

Opening the session on indigenous peoples in Asia, home to more than 2,000 civilizations and languages, forum member Joan Carling of the Philippines noted positive developments addressing concerns of indigenous peoples in Indonesia, Nepal and Japan, as well as by UN agencies.

But Ms. Carling, in her overview of the Asian region, cited examples of the extent of marginalization of indigenous peoples in the Asian region. She noted that in the Philippines in the aftermath of the super typhoon Yolanda (known outside the region as “Haiyan”), which left some 4 million people homeless, among those victims are indigenous peoples who were marginalized in the delivery of aid and remain left out of rehabilitation efforts.

She noted that the Yolanda case demonstrates the vulnerability of indigenous peoples in disasters, saying that Philippines situation mirrors indigenous people victims of tsunamis in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Ms. Carling also referred to how Asian indigenous peoples “are sacrificed in the name of development,” often experiencing displacement and relocation from their traditional territories, and dispossession of their lands and resources by projects like dam building. The building of 200 dams across Asia is likely to displace indigenous peoples and impact their livelihood, she said.

According to Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “Indigenous peoples in Asia are among the most discriminated against and are economically, socially and politically marginalized.”

“It is time that the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples is effectively implemented in order to address the negative impacts of militarization and economic liberalization on the territories of indigenous peoples, in Asia and across the globe,” said Dr. Dorough.

The Indigenous Peoples of Asia include groups that are often referred to as tribal peoples, hill tribes, scheduled tribes, janajati, orang asli, masyarakat adat, adivasis, ethnic minorities or nationalities.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2000. It provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the UN System through ECOSOC; raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of relevant activities within the UN System; and disseminates information on indigenous issues.


Intervention on SDGs, UNPFII 13

Statement on Agenda Item 7: On Post 2015 Development Agenda, UNPFII 13 delivered by Grace Balawag on behalf of the Asian Indigenous Caucus, together with the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN)

21 May 2014


Agenda Item 7: On Post 2015 Development Agenda
Statement delivered by Grace Balawag on behalf of the Asian Indigenous Caucus, together with the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN)

Thank you Madam Chair for this opportunity to share our views on this Agenda Item 7 on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. I take the floor on behalf of the Asian Indigenous Caucus and the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, and for the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact and Tebtebba, who have been proactively organizing our constituents in our countries, Asia region and at the global processes in order to understand better and contribute substantively and constructively to the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Post 2015 development process.

Madam Chair, Members of the Permanent Forum, and Member Sates: Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples; however, Asian Indigenous Peoples are still among the most marginalized and impoverished sectors due to non-recognition of Indigenous Peoples in some countries; and also due to continuous neglect and deprivation of basic social and economic services for IP communities and territories. Aggravating this marginal situation of Indigenous Peoples in Asia, is the current development paradigm of governments, wherein the economic priorities include the resource extractive industries on large-scale mining and logging, mega-hydro electric dams, monocrop industrial plantations, among others, which are being implemented within indigenous customary lands and territories. All these called “development aggression” projects have resulted to violation of basic human rights of indigenous Peoples, including indigenous women and children, to the worst scenarios of killing and criminalizing indigenous leaders and activists who led opposition to such types of large-scale and destructive projects to our lands and resources. These had also caused dislocation and further marginalization of the Indigenous Peoples from our customary lands and territories, and the disruption of the continuing practice of our traditional knowledge, occupations and more sustainable livelihoods.

It is within this context of these Indigenous Peoples continuing concerns and issues, that we would like to raise your urgent attention and support on the importance of effective participation and inclusion of our issues and concerns in the SDGs/Post-2015 development agenda. The Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group has been actively participating in the processes. However, despite our efforts, we note a severe diminishment of explicit and direct recognition of Indigenous Peoples and our multi-faceted issues and rights in the current draft document on the SDG.
Madam Chair, Members of the Permanent Forum, UN Agencies and Member States, we particularly call on your support to the following recommendations in relation to the SDGs/Post 2015 Development Agenda:

That the SDGs and Post 2015 Development Agenda should make a separate reference to Indigenous Peoples, and not lumped up with marginalized or vulnerable groups. We have distinct identities as indigenous peoples and we have a legal instrument, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which protect our identity and rights. With over 370 million people who identify themselves as indigenous, it is important for Indigenous Peoples to have a specific recognition within the SDGs/Post-2015 development agenda. We do not want to face the same mistakes of the Millenium Development Goals, where Indigenous Peoples were invisible. We want to contribute and be active partners in defining and in the achievement of SDGs and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Inclusion of a target on protecting individual and collective land rights of indigenous peoples and land tenure under poverty eradication: Indigenous Peoples are increasingly losing on a number of issues such as poverty eradication, employment, human rights, culture, health and education. We would like to emphasize that Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately reflected among the very poor and this relates to lack of recognition of our land rights. To focus on the measure of well-being rather than on income alone as most Indigenous Peoples rely on non-monetary forms of income such as subsistence resources from hunting, gathering, pastoralism, and small scale agriculture and farming, which make up to 90% of our livelihoods. Monetary measure of poverty such as the $2/day poverty threshold is not sufficient and can contribute to impoverishing Indigenous Peoples. We should move beyond the single-dimensional mind frame and collectively come up with a formula and indicators that truly reflect the measure of well-being such as access to resources, water, status of health and others. Related to the poverty issue, we would like to recommend to officially recognize traditional occupations as forms of employment as essential to achieving and sustaining Indigenous Peoples’ and other communities’ well-being. One of the main areas of concern is the lack of attention to culture. Culture is central to indigenous life and our identity and survival as Indigenous Peoples. We would like to see recognition of culture and a more concrete language that would ensure protection of cultural legacy and practices, without which, we can not be identified as distinct Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, we are is asking to include targets that respect and protect cultural diversity, the right and access to culturally appropriate education based on inter-culturalism and bi-linguism, and promote intergenerational transfer of Indigenous Peoples’ cultural heritage, traditional knowledge systems and practices. We are also greatly concerned that the draft SDGs and the Post 2015 development agenda fails to adequately address human rights as a framework for sustainable development. Thinking that human rights is a given is of course a wonderful prospect for the future generations but unfortunately, is not the case in the current political, economic and environmental realities across the globe. With this, we are pushing for a stand-alone goal on human rights and ”zero” targets on discrimination and violation based on gender, age, income, disability, ethnic origin, and etc. Finally, we would like to call on the private sector and international financial institutions to remain accountable and fully respect human rights and the environmental protection. It is extremely important that Indigenous Peoples voices are heard in the context of rights. Therefore, in addition to mandating independent human rights and environmental impact assessments, we are asking to include a target requiring governments, business and corporations to recognize and adhere to principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) that would provide Indigenous Peoples leverage and a tool to keep our ancestral domains intact and free from encroaching industrial development.

We look forward to participating actively and constructively in the SDG/Post 2015 development process, and to sharing perspectives and examples of best practices of the protection of our individual and collective political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
21 May 2014


Indigenous peoples hold sustainable solutions to environmental crises

27 May 2014

I first met Victoria Tauli-Corpuz 11 years ago in Rome. An indigenous Filipina activist, Vicky was attending a meeting on indigenous peoples’ rights at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations rural development agency where I work. In fact, it was the first time indigenous peoples’ representatives had ever been invited to IFAD’s offices on the outskirts of the Eternal City. Since then, IFAD and the UN system as a whole have made progress on bringing indigenous issues and priorities into the mainstream of our work – though we still have plenty more to do.

Flash forward to New York this spring, when I heard Vicky’s name called by the chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the General Assembly hall at UN headquarters. Through the forum, indigenous peoples’ representatives advise the world body and its member states on indigenous peoples’ rights and development. A few weeks before its annual session kicked off in early May, Vicky had been named Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I felt a sense of pride and admiration, which I’m sure was widely shared in the crowded hall. Vicky is the first woman to be appointed to this critical and sometimes delicate role. As Special Rapporteur, she will be responsible for promoting indigenous peoples’ rights through new laws, programmes and agreements between indigenous communities and national governments. She will also report on the overall human rights status of indigenous peoples in different countries.

But even more striking than Vicky’s appointment to the post was her message to the members of the Permanent Forum.

“It is time to step out of the paradigm of victimhood,” she said, “because we, indigenous peoples, can provide sustainable solutions to the world’s crises. Indigenous peoples are not to be seen only as endangered victims to be protected … but also as carriers of knowledge and traditions that – far from being ancient and outdated – can offer concrete solutions to modern crises.”

For example, Vicky pointed out that climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing developing and developed countries alike. Indigenous peoples can help the world address this challenge through sustainable practices that stem from their holistic view of life, she said, adding that indigenous communities have preserved the ecosystems in which they live for millennia.

Vicky went on to highlight another relevant challenge: preserving the biodiversity of food, which has declined as a result of industrial food production. Areas that are home to indigenous peoples also happen to host some of the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems, she noted. This is partly because biodiversity is central to indigenous land management strategies. At the same time, indigenous territories have not been subject to the intensive development and extraction of natural resources that has depleted biodiversity elsewhere.

For indigenous peoples, food is not a commodity. Instead, it is traditionally linked to social, cultural and spiritual values, and a worldview that centres on being nourished by mother earth and nourishing her in return.
Not surprisingly, indigenous women are often the bearers of precious knowledge on food and crop biodiversity that is passed down through the generations. This knowledge has so far been largely neglected outside of indigenous communities. Yet indigenous agricultural and environmental practices can be useful tools in building a global response to hunger and malnutrition.

“We need to stop seeing indigenous peoples only as victims, and we need to stop regarding their knowledge as ancient, outdated, belonging merely to the past,” Vicky asserted at the Permanent Forum. Of course, she was right. In fact, indigenous knowledge is truly modern when it comes to sustainable development. It is a key to the future of food production, agricultural development and environmental preservation.

As Vicky has suggested, the world ignores the great contributions of indigenous peoples at its own peril. Protecting and respecting their rights is fundamental. Valuing their knowledge and building upon their untapped potential is equally important to us all. Thankfully, Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and millions of other indigenous women and men, are determined to make their voices heard.

Antonella Cordone is technical adviser and coordinator for indigenous and tribal issues at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)


Cambodian Minorities Join Meetings at UN Headquarters in New York

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer –

22 May 2014

WASHINGTON DC — A group representing Cambodia’s indigenous communities traveled to New York this week, meeting with UN officials and other minority groups from 70 countries.

Cambodia’s minorities face a host of problems, particularly as they try to maintain a way of life that relies on traditions and the forest, which is threatened by economic development, illegal logging and other woes.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues aims to address governance issues that fall under the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Pheap Sochea, a youth representative, said he had come to raise the issues faced by Cambodian minorities, “regarding land issues, natural resources, forestry, mining, and hydropower dams.”

“The development in Cambodia so far has only agreement between the government and the companies, there was never a study about the effects,” he said. “Even though it was built, indigenous people did not allow to take part. So when the projects are coming or granted, the development plans affect indigenous people and evicted them.”

But UN member nations have a duty to uphold their obligations, including to minorities, he said. More meetings are expected later this year to bring high-level officials together with minority representatives to discuss the issues, he added.


TO SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR JAMES ANAYA: Our sincerest thanks go to you.

Statement: Thirteenth Session of the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 2014

20 May 2014

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Statement by Professor James Anaya Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous Peoples, Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

20 May 2014, New York

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Member States,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honor to once again address the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and all those attending the session. This is my last statement to the Forum in my capacity as Special Rapporteur, since – after 6 years in this position – I will be ending my mandate at the beginning of next month.I would like to warmly congratulate Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, who has been named by the Human Rights Council as my successor. I am confident thatVicky will do an excellent job as Special Rapporteur, as she brings to the position a wealth of experience and knowledge and demonstrated dedication to advancing the rights of indigenous peoples on a global scale.

As I bring to a close my own work as Special Rapporteur, I am grateful for the opportunity today to once again share some of my experiences and thoughts, and to hear from representatives of indigenouspeoples, Governments and others during the interactive dialogue.

Throughout my two three-year terms as Special Rapporteur, I have devoted significant attention to refining my work methods within the framework of my mandate provided by the Human Rights Council. I have tried to develop work methods oriented towards building a constructive dialogue with indigenous peoples, Governments, United Nations agencies and others inorder to address challenging issues and situations and build on advances already made. In carrying out my work I have sought to coordinate appropriately with the various relevant mechanisms of the United Nations, especially the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In accordance with my mandate, my activities have been within four interrelated work areas: promoting good practices; country reports; cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies. Within each of my work areas, I have built upon established work methods generally employed by Human Rights Council special procedures, while also developing new ones, especially in relation to the promotion of good practices and addressing cases of alleged human rights violations through the communications procedure. In my final report to the General Assembly presented in October of last year, I provide an overview of these work methods as I have developed them over the course of my mandate.

In my view, the innovation in work methods has contributed to greater responsiveness to the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples and to assisting States and other actors to address those concerns. I have tried to move beyond reacting to denouncements of alleged human rights violations, to helping to assist indigenous peoples and States to develop concrete proposals and programmes of action for advancing the rights of indigenous peoples.

With respect to my analysis of the situations of indigenous peoples in specific countries, I would like to provide some comments on my final three country reports, which were developed over the past year in connection with visits to Canada, Panama and Peru.

My report on the situation of indigenous peoples in Canada follows my visit to various locations across that country in October 2013. In my report I highlight that Canada’s relationship with the indigenous peoples within its borders is governed by a well-developed legal framework and a number of policy initiatives that in many respects are protective of indigenous peoples’ rights.

But despite these positive elements, daunting challenges remain. The numerous initiatives that have been taken at the federal and provincial/territorial levels to address the problems faced by indigenous peoples have been insufficient. The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginal claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.

As I stress in my report, indigenous peoples’ concerns merit higher priority at all levels and within and branches of government. Concerted measures, based on mutual understanding and real partnership with aboriginal peoples, through their own representative institutions, are vital to establishing long-term solutions. To that end, it is necessary for Canada to arrive at a common understanding with indigenous peoples ofobjectives and goals that are based on full respect for their constitutional, treaty, and internationally-recognized rights.

Madam Chairperson,

Central to all of my work has been advocacy to advance commitment to, and operationalization of, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. My appointment as Special Rapporteur came just a fewmonths after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration inSeptember of 2007. The adoption of this instrument marked a historical moment of recognition of the existence of indigenous peoples who are characterized by distinct cultural identities, and who have suffered and in many ways continue to suffer, widespread and systematic deprivation of their human rights. At the same time, the Declaration paints a vision that is an alternative to this widespread deprivation of human rights, a vision of a world in which indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights are affirmed and respected.Throughout my tenure as Special Rapporteur, I have witnessed indigenous peoples striving to make this alternative vision a reality, amid daunting challenges, and I have also seen some progress to that end as States and multiple international institutions have moved to develop policies and programs to advance respect for indigenous peoples’ rights.

The Declaration represents both a significant achievement and a challenge for the global movement to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. On the one hand,it stands as an embodiment of a significant level of consensus that has been generated about the content of indigenous peoples rights and as a catalyst for incremental steps toward the implementation of those rights. On the other hand, the Declaration reminds us of how far there still is to go to see these rightsfully implemented across the globe and firmly embedded in the practice of States and other influential actors at both the international and domestic levels. As I have said on numerous occasions, greater efforts need to be made to bridge this implementation gap. And I believe it is well understood that bridging the implementation gap must to be a central focus of the planned high-level General Assembly meeting for a World Conference of Indigenous Peoples.

In thinking about the continuing challenge of implementation that the Declaration lays before us, I would like to turn our focus on the achievements that the Declaration represents. I believe it bears taking stock of the basic elements of the indigenous rights movement that have yielded those achievements, while we contemplate now how to gain further progress toward the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of the World Conference and beyond. I would like to highlight three such animating characteristics of the indigenous rights movement.

First, the indigenous rights movement has been enlightening. It has been a force to enlighten and educate about the presence of indigenous peoples in the world today, about their conditions, aspirations and contributions; a force to make known that indigenous peoples are not just historical figures to be relegated to images of savagery or romanticism. Indigenous peoples and their allies have used various means – including advocacy in the political arena, the media, the courts, academic platforms, the arts and international forums such as this one – to raise awareness about the present day manifestations of historical oppression that indigenous peoples continue to suffer as well as about what they bring to the world’s rich cultural mosaic and knowledge. This enlightenment has been an essential precondition for mobilizing social and political forces to recognize indigenous peoples and their rights. Yet as I have found in my work as Special Rapporteur, there is still a great deal of ignorance in the world about indigenous peoples, and that ignorance continues to breed attitudes that resist needed change. I am convinced that more, broader and deeper enlightenment and education are needed to bring about the kind of social and political climate that will yield more decisive steps toward operationalizing the rights that areenshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A second element of the indigenous rights movement that has animated progress is a pragmatic tendency, a tendency to be pragmatic and constructive in the search for solutions that are grounded in fundamental principles. This principled pragmatism can beseen in the historical treaty making by indigenous nations by which they sought to reach arrangements that were both respectful of their sovereignty and accommodating to the presence of European settlers. It can also be seen at work when indigenous peoples moved to gain access to the United Nations in the 1970s within existing limitations on participation, eventually to gain a permanent presence in the United Nations as exhibited by this Forum. Pragmatism and constructive problem solving will undoubtedly be key to the success of continuing efforts to gain greater participation within the United Nations, both in the context of ongoing discussions toward the anticipated World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and in other contexts. In more local settings, as Special Rapporteur I have seen numerous instances in which indigenous peoples have been able to use existing domestic legal arrangements to their advantage, despite flawed or weak aspects of those legal arrangements, and in doing so build precedents and practices that are ultimately conducive to the exercise of their rights. In their pragmatism indigenous peoples and their allies have known to distinguish principle from dogmatism, to distinguish enduring truths and rights from the conventions and doctrine that are transient and circumstantial. They have been creative andopen to building common ground for peaceful coexistence and amicable relations.

A third and final characteristic the indigenous rights movement I would like to mention is its optimism. I believe optimism animated the great Iroquois, or Haudenosunee, Chief Deskaheh, when he travelled to the League of Nations in 1923, with hopes of a response that could lead to justice for his people. Even though his efforts did not bear immediate fruit, that same optimism was present in subsequent efforts by indigenous peoples to appeal to the international community. That same optimism allowed indigenous peoples, once having gained a foothold in the United Nations, to propose and imagine a day when there would be a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And that same optimism now helps drive the multiple efforts across the globe in multiple settings to see the rights enshrined in the Declaration made reality in indigenous peoples’ everyday lives. As I have been welcomed into indigenous communities in several countries during my time as Special Rapporteur, I have learned of their struggles and challenges, but at the same time amid the struggles I have consistently seen optimism that looks beyond the present to a better future, if only a distant future.

Six years ago, after I had just been named Special Rapporteur, another great Haudenosaunee Chief, Oren Lyons, came up to me here at the Permanent Forum and expressed the optimism that is an importantcharacteristic of the indigenous rights movement, while reminding me of thetasks ahead. He looked at me and said, “We have a lot of work to do, Jim, but the wind is on our backs.” Six years later, I think the wind is still at on our backs, as we confront the challenges before us.

Madam Chairperson,

I would like to conclude by expressing my deep gratitude to the indigenous peoples, States, members of the Permanent Forum, non-governmental organizations and others who have supported my work during my two consecutive terms as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. My sincerest thanks also go to the staff at the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the University of Arizona who have helped me with the work on a day-to-day basis. I cannot express with words how highly rewarding to me personally this work as been and how I privileged I feel to have served in this way. I wish all the best to Vicky Tauli Corpuz as she continues the work of the mandate, and I urge all concerned to support her in the work.

I thank you Madam Chairperson, and all those present, for your kind attention.



23 May 2014
Economic and Social Council – HR/5187 –

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Thirteenth Session, 16th Meeting (PM)

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues concluded its thirteenth session today, sending nine draft reports to the Economic and Social Council containing proposals, recommendations and five draft decisions, including a call for the General Assembly President to act swiftly to ensure the fullest participation of indigenous peoples in all aspects of the World Conference set for September.

“We know that, with Member State cooperation, with respect for and recognition of the minimum international human rights standards embraced by the Declaration, genuine good governance can become a reality,” said Permanent Forum Chair Dalee Sambo Dorough, as she provided an overview of the thirteenth session, held under the theme of “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46”.

She highlighted discussions on the sexual health and reproductive rights of indigenous peoples, and more broadly, human rights. Such issues must be addressed in a substantive and “intellectually honest” fashion, she said, stressing: “Our common desire is to respect our past, gain recognition and respect for our present status and rights, and promote those rights to ensure our future.”

Speaking on behalf of the Assembly President, Crispin Gregoire, his Special Adviser, updated the Forum on preparations for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, saying that Member States had not reached a consensus on two proposals with regard to indigenous peoples and the Conference. The President would, next week, announce his intentions for future actions in the lead-up to the high-level event.

Before Forum members took action on the texts, Government delegates exchanged views on a current impasse over the scope of indigenous peoples’ participation in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples — with many speakers calling for speedy resolution of the matter.

Mexico’s speaker said his delegation was profoundly concerned about the manner in which the World Conference had been planned. Mexico and the group of countries supporting the Conference accepted the agenda proposed by the President of the General Assembly. As yet, his delegation had not received any instructions on how to proceed in the matter and appealed to the President for solutions. Expressing support for his statement were the representatives of Norway, Denmark (on behalf of Greenland), Guatemala, Finland, Bolivia, Australia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Sweden, Panama and the United States.

In response, a representative of the indigenous Global Coordinating Group called on all Member States to honour the modalities resolution (resolution 66/296) with regard to the Conference. She regretted the President’s failure to take decisive action and said that the impasse clearly demonstrated that Member States were unable to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and represented a serious setback for relations between indigenous peoples and States.

“We are not demanding anything new, we simply wish that the United Nations adhered to principles of non-discrimination and the recognition of our rights,” she said, noting that the Declaration affirmed that the indigenous peoples were equal to all peoples.

Weighing in on the matter, Raja Devasish Roy, a Forum member from Bangladesh, said discussions among delegates over the last two weeks had spiralled into alarm over the Conference. Given the best of circumstances, if the interactive hearing took place in June, per the modalities resolution, a clear road map was needed that placed indigenous peoples in the “co-driver” seat. That would not mean they would steer proceedings for an outcome document, but that indigenous peoples and States would steer together. If the General Assembly were to reopen or weaken the resolution, it would be a “serious disservice” to indigenous peoples, undermining their confidence in the United Nations system. If Member States agreed to the resolution, then the process should be moved forward, he said.

When it proceeded to action, the Forum approved, as orally revised, its draft report on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (document E/C.19/2014/L.8). The Forum recommended that the President of the General Assembly take immediate steps to ensure the equal, direct and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples throughout all aspects and processes of the Conference in order to achieve an inclusive, constructive and comprehensive outcome that would genuinely promote the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Throughout the thirteenth session, held under the theme of “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46”, participants explored issues of self-determination, political participation and non-discrimination that formed the essence of indigenous peoples’ ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives, notably pertaining to land and natural resource administration.

In a wide-ranging text containing draft recommendations on the special theme (document E/C.19/2014/L.2), the Forum noted that transparency, responsiveness, consensus-building and equity were key aspects of good governance, yet indigenous peoples faced obstacles to exercising their rights in terms of “substance, content and procedure”. Whether considered individually or as a whole, the principles of good governance had been achieved by very few countries. “The rights of indigenous peoples must not be empty rights,” the Forum asserted in the report.

Self-determination, as the basis of good governance, meant that indigenous peoples were equal to all other peoples, the Forum stated. Indigenous forms of governance must be supported as they often complied with indigenous peoples’ identity, customs, rituals and rights to their territories, it stated, calling for more coordination between the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and indigenous peoples through their representative institutions.

In the area of health, the Forum, by the report, reaffirmed the rights of indigenous peoples to the highest attainable standards of health, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. It recommended that entities, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), collaborate with indigenous groups in all regions to develop guidelines for culturally safe sex education practices. The United Nations system should work with indigenous young people to address homophobia and transphobia, with a view to addressing the resulting issues of mental health, suicide and shame.

The Forum approved a set of five draft decisions, highlighted by a text on matters calling for action by the Economic and Social Council or brought to its attention (document E/C.19/2014/L.10). By draft decision I, the Council would authorize an international expert group meeting on the theme “Dialogue on an optional protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous People”, to be based on the study prepared on that topic (document E/C.19/2014/7). It would focus on land, territories and resource rights, along with the rights contained in the Declaration, notably those on self-determination, self-government and autonomy.

By draft decisions II and III, respectively, the Council would decide that the fourteenth session of the Forum would be held at United Nations Headquarters, from 20 April to 1 May 2015, and approve its provisional agenda. Draft decision IV would have the Council decide that further discussion was needed on the change of the Forum’s name to “Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, while draft decision V would have it decide that a one-day meeting for the Forum would be organized to discuss methods of work.

Approving a concise text on human rights matters (document E/C.19/2014/L.7), the Permanent Forum, reiterating its previous recommendations, recognized the need to review existing laws and constitutions based on international human rights norms and standards, especially related to persistent forms of racial discrimination in the context of indigenous peoples. It urged States to conduct an independent audit of their constitutional and other laws, policies and programmes to assess their consistency with the Declaration. It also urged all Member States and United Nations agencies and country teams to initiate indigenous human rights training in their institutions and activities.

By its report on the Asian region (document E/C.19/2014/L.3), the Forum expressed concern that most of its recommendations made to Asian States during its sixth session had yet to be implemented, and that climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, such as nuclear power plants and windmills, were being built in indigenous territories without the free, prior and informed consent, or the full participation of indigenous peoples. It recommended that States immediately begin the demarcation process of those lands, in line with customary laws, and ensure that such territories in Asia be free of State military interventions.

By a draft report on United Nations agencies (document E/C.19/2014/L.4), the Forum recommended that United Nations agencies convene a high-level meeting with representatives of indigenous women, underscoring the need to strengthen collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) in order to finalize a road map, including concrete actions and specific outcomes within their next strategic plan. The Forum also recommended that the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) convene platforms for dialogue with countries, United Nations agencies and private sector actors to find solutions to improve the economic empowerment of indigenous peoples.

Also by the draft report, the Forum recommended that United Nations agencies review their policies, which presently allowed them to assist only indigenous peoples in developing countries, and to urgently revise such policies to ensure that all indigenous peoples, in developed and developing countries, had access to resources, technical assistance and other support from all United Nations agencies and funds.

Approving a draft report on children and youth (document E/C.19/2014/L.5), the Forum addressed the poverty and inequality facing indigenous youth, urging States to generate statistics disaggregated by ethnicity, gender, indigenous identity, language skills and self-identification to allow for a more accurate assessment of whether indigenous children were benefiting from funds earmarked for them. It called on States to improve their data collection on self-harm and suicide among indigenous children and youth, and to fund and deliver training in suicide prevention and mental health awareness to all teaching and non-teaching staff in all indigenous schools. It also urged them to implement articles 11 and 13 of the Declaration, particularly with regard to the revitalization of indigenous peoples’ languages, while calling on the General Assembly to proclaim an international year of the world’s indigenous children.

By a draft report on the Forum’s future work (document E/C.19/2014/L.9), the Forum appointed individuals to conduct studies on a range of issues, including traditional knowledge, natural resource and green energy development, and the situation of indigenous children with disabilities. Further, it recommended that States review their official histories and national curricula to include heroes and personalities of indigenous peoples from their perspectives. Where genocide and/or mass violations of human rights of indigenous peoples had occurred, the Forum recommended that States assumed their responsibilities to ensure, through relevant post-conflict mechanism, that such atrocities were prevented in the future.

Finally, the Forum approved a draft report summarizing proceedings of its thirteenth session (document E/C.19/2014/L.6).

At the close of the meeting, a number of speakers delivered statements, including Ukraine’s representative, who announced that his Government had decided to support the Indigenous Rights Declaration. His Government recognized the need to advance legislation of indigenous peoples, so they could play an active role in national affairs. By joining those who supported the Declaration, Ukraine aimed to work towards the protection of indigenous peoples, including the Crimean Tatars.

Mustafa Cemíloglu, an indigenous parliamentarian from Ukraine and leader of the Crimean Tatars, said at the start of the year, his homeland had been annexed to the Russian Federation, violating the Budapest Memorandum. The Crimean Tatars had shown no armed opposition to the occupiers, but would work towards a solution through peaceful means and he counted on support from the international community and the Forum.

In response, a representative of the Russian Federation said Mr. Cemíloglu did not represent all Crimean Tatars. He recalled that 80 per cent of the Crimean peninsula had taken part in the referendum, with large numbers of Crimean Tatars. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar Peoples represented a minority of those peoples, he said.

Thanking the Forum and delegates for their interventions were Myrna Cunningham Kain and Les Malezer, indigenous representatives appointed to serve as the indigenous advisers to the President of the General Assembly with regard to the World Conference on Indigenous Issues. The Forum officially closed its session with a traditional prayer.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Indigenous World Association and Latin American Indigenous Peoples.

Rapporteur Valmaine Toki, a Forum member from New Zealand, introduced the nine reports and their respective oral revisions.

Mohammad Hassani Nejad Pirkouhi, a Forum member from Iran, also spoke.