Indigenous Forum

Note:  A complete summary of today’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting will be available after its conclusion.


OBED BAPELA (South Africa) said progress in service delivery had been achieved in areas including health, housing and rural development.  The pre-1994 fragmented race-based health system had been replaced with a comprehensive one serving all.  South Africa had embarked on protecting traditional medicine and health practices, including the conservation of vital plants, animals and minerals and current initiatives addressed all pertinent issues affecting cultural rights.

GRAND CHIEF WILTON LITTLECHILD, a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recommended that the Permanent Forum remind States of their international commitments to end poverty and hunger, protect human rights, promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and ensure lasting protection of the planet and natural resources.  It should emphasize that poverty represented a denial of human rights and human dignity.  It should further underline that the impacts of poverty were interrelated and compounded by unsustainable development, as well as reiterate that States must respect treaties with indigenous peoples.  For their part, States and corporations must be held accountable for ensuring that resource development did not violate treaty rights, he said, pressing the Permanent Forum to remind States that indigenous peoples’ right to development was an integral part of their right to self-determination.

VALENTIN LOPEZ, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, said her people were part of a federally unrecognized tribe from California, raising two heritage-related concerns.  The California Mission Foundation, along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was seeking to have a portion of the El Camino Real listed as a recognized site, which would steal indigenous heritage.  The tribe’s most sacred site, Juristac, was being threatened by a proposed sand and gravel mining project.  If approved, it would demonstrate the continued destruction and domination of the Mutsun peoples, cultures, environments and spirituality.

NAME TO COME, International Development Law Organization, said every person should live in dignity under the rule of law based on principles of social inclusion and sustainable development.  To advance the principles of equality, the organization had worked to ensure legal pluralism, ensuring that common law existed in legal systems to extend justice beyond court houses in a manner that respected traditional law.  It also had adopted a plan focusing on access to justice and ending inequality while recognizing the need to work with customary justice.

LUIS FERNANDO ARIAS, Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia, said the country was currently in a peace process, yet indigenous peoples continued to have their rights violated, with dozens killed in April in the absence of Government legislation to protect them.  Vigilantes were operating in regions of Colombia, he said, asking the Permanent Forum to organize a mission there to monitor and verify the situation on the ground.

SANDRAYATI MONIAGA, Indonesia National Commission on Human Rights, said the majority of communal lands had not been returned to indigenous peoples, whose leaders faced resistance to their efforts to remedy that situation.  The Commission supported robust efforts to end those conflicts and human rights violations, she said, calling on Governments and related organizations to suspend projects that had resulted in or sustained the current situation.  Root causes must be examined, she said, requesting that Indonesia expedite a bill on the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and establish an institution to promote those actions.

MILKA CHEPKORIR, Forest Peoples’ Programme, speaking on behalf of 11 organizations, raised concerns about indigenous communities that had been displaced from their lands because of conservation-related efforts.  Citing several examples, she said thousands had been evicted from ancestral lands in the United Republic of Tanzania and called for heightened attention to the issue.

ANTHONY WATSON, Kimberley Land Council of Australia, called on the Permanent Forum to urge States to acknowledge that implementation of the Declaration would only come through indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making.  Australia should review and overhaul the country’s native title legislation, and make the resolution of native title land claims a priority.  Native title rights must be given due recognition as propriety or property rights.

BOB ANTONE, American Indian Law Alliance, emphasized dangers in such places as Ontario, where, in one location, indigenous people lived in the vicinity of 62 petrochemical plants.  He called for a United Nations convention on water, and for the Organization to address conflicts that industrialized nations were having with Earth and the climate.  He also requested United Nations assistance in the areas of indigenous youth and international travel.

LUCIO AYALA SIRIPI, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indigenas Campesinas y Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, cited advances that had been made by his country’s indigenous peoples.  Regular meetings enabled representatives to discuss future projects with the President.  However, while progress had been made in the last 11 years, more must be done, he said.

BIDHAYAK CHAKMA, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, said the human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts had worsened due to, among other things, non-recognition of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh and opposition among Bengali settlers to implementation of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord.  Atrocities by the security forces had intensified, as well, he said, recommending that the Permanent Forum and international community encourage Bangladesh to set out a road map for the full implementation of the Accord and to end a culture of impunity so as to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to justice.

FABIANA DEL POPOLO, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said rights must be monitored and work related to implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was being carried out.  Projects targeted communities who were bordering on extinction and other groups, including women and youth.  Highlighting population and housing efforts, she said ECLAC had organized a seminar to raise awareness and identify indicators for tracking progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

CECIL LE FLEUR, National Khoi and San Council, said South Africa had started to formalize key legislative and policy approaches, but more must be done.  Target areas to be addressed included collective rights, such as recognition of customary institutions, languages, land rights and land-related issues.

VICTOR CABEZAS VALENCIA, Confederacíon Sindical de Comunidades Interculturales de Bolivia, said there were many concerns over the respect for indigenous peoples.  He urged all Governments to put their commitments into action in order to affect real change in realizing the rights of all indigenous peoples.

TAWERA TAHURI, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc., speaking for several other groups, raised concerns about oil drilling and the threat of spills in New Zealand.  She and dozens of other indigenous peoples strongly opposed seismic surveying and drilling, which violated their rights to their territories.  Expressing opposition to ocean abuse, she noted the forthcoming World Oceans Conference and called on the Permanent Forum to establish a separate co-commission for oceans that would examine and act on those issues.

NAME TO COME, National Indigenous Women’s Forum, discussed the situation in Nepal where, she said the Constitution gave primacy to the dominant caste.  It should instead be amended or rewritten to make it fully compatible with the Declaration, urging the Government to establish a mechanism for legislative consultation with indigenous peoples.

HAWE HAMMAN BOUBA, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, said the issue of indigenous peoples used to be a political taboo in Africa, but it was essential to discuss them in order to tackle the deep-rooted ills thwarting progress towards democracy, good governance, development and justice.  There had been some positive developments, including the ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 in Congo and the Central African Republic.  However, indigenous peoples in Africa continued to face discrimination and marginalization, as well as loss of their land to agro-industries, dam and road building, and oil, mineral and forest exploitation.

HEATHER BEAR, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said that, in Canada, the status quo remained in terms of meaningful action related to indigenous peoples and their organizations.  Indigenous communities were in crisis:  children went to bed hungry every night and water was often unsafe to drink.  Canada must take giant leaps rather than baby steps in fully implementing the Declaration, she said, and must respect, promote and enforce indigenous peoples’ treaty rights.

NAME TO COME (Nepal) said her country had taken steps, despite budget constraints, to address the rights of all.  The rights of indigenous peoples were protected in the Constitution and the Government continued to do its best to address concerns.

KARINA WILLIS, Centro para la Autonomia y Desarollo de los Pueblos Indigenas, said she had worked for years to combat violence against women and children in communities on the coast of Nicaragua.  The Government had made progress and communities had made gains in education, health and other areas.  In addition, the legal framework recognized and respected indigenous peoples’ rights, in line with the Declaration.

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum member from Denmark, said States had a responsibility to act in good faith and solve issues of all kinds.  He urged indigenous peoples to negotiate with Governments to solve problems. Yet, reports today had shown that indigenous peoples faced extrajudicial killings in Colombia and violations had been mentioned about communities in Bangladesh.  He urged Governments to negotiate solutions with indigenous peoples.

TARCILA TIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, said addressing the needs of indigenous women, children and youth was an unresolved issue at all levels.  She urged States that intended — and had committed — to respecting their rights to solve problems involving access to health care, education and healthy food.

BABLU CHAKMA, Kapaeeng Foundation, said land-grabbing, in Bangladesh and worldwide, had displaced thousands of families, evicted communities and must be addressed.  Most violations against indigenous peoples in Bangladesh centred on land, and the rehabilitation of Bengalis settled outside the Chittagong Hill Tracts was essential.  He urged the Permanent Forum to encourage Bangladesh to adopt the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission rules of business and to allocate to it adequate funds and personnel.

ELIFURAHA LALTAIKA, Permanent Forum member from South Africa, said evictions due to conservation efforts must be addressed and had long needed a close examination.  Recurrent evictions persisted, he said, including in Africa.

ROSA RAMOS, Land Is Life, Inc., noting that Chile had many types of land, said indigenous peoples lived in the desert, among other areas.  With traditional and historical knowledge of water systems, indigenous peoples’ rights must be recognized and water sources must be respected, she said, citing threats to natural resources from geothermal energy developments and corporations that polluted.

ANTHONY JAY VAN DUNK, Pahtamawiikan, stressing that indigenous peoples would be victimized by the actions of “America’s new bully-in-chief”, requested that a peacekeeping force be deployed throughout the United States.  A vehicle should also be created that would enable charges to be dropped against political prisoners who had stood up for clean water at Standing Rock, he said.

JESÚS GUADALUPE FUENTES BLANCO, Permanent Forum member from Mexico, noting the absence of some participants from the room when their time had come to speak, called on participants to remain in the room, closely follow the proceedings and make full use of speaking time.

ODILE COIRIER, Franciscans International and Vivat International, said those two groups were deeply focused on the situation affecting indigenous peoples in West Papua, the Philippines and Brazil.  In those areas, Governments too often lacked respect for their right to health and she urged States to allocate funds for indigenous health care, document and identify indigenous health needs and ensure that solutions were designed with the consent of the communities concerned.

SHOUSHAN TOWER, Assyrian Aid Society, noting the displacement of indigenous peoples by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), recommended that Iraq increase its budget for infrastructure in the Nineveh Plains region, rebuild homes there and implement investment projects that would create jobs for indigenous peoples.  The university at Bakhdeda should be rebuilt and United Nations agencies should allocate funds to benefit the Nineveh Plains people.

FATHER REY ONDAP, Passionist International, emphasized the situation in the Sarangani province of the Philippines, where he said indigenous peoples suffered persistent poverty, as well as a lack of opportunities to improve their economic situation.

ROCIO VELANDIA, International Native Tradition Interchange, said she was currently involved in a fight to protect a river.  Highlighting the lack of recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, she said corporations and States had violated the rights of Mother Earth.  She called for the full application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration and ILO Convention 169, emphasizing that the current Standing Rock conflict in the United States to protect Mother Earth was widely supported and represented the fight for the right to clean water.

AMINA AMHARECH, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, said North African States had adopted the Declaration, but the reality was notably imperfect, with grave violations against her people being committed in Algeria by the police, including detentions and threats.  Those crimes must end and be investigated, she said, appealing for assistance in that regard.  In Morocco, women and children died from a lack of health care and from poverty, while land desecration and seizures had occurred without prior consent.

DIMITRI ZAITCEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, said special attention should be paid to water sources, as it was clear that ill-conceived industrial projects were causing irreparable damage to the environment.  Indigenous peoples often faced such circumstances against their will, forced to either leave their homeland or live in it with serious damages.  Forced migration was a problem, he said, proposing the discussion of those issues through a lens that recognized the “life or death” situations facing many indigenous peoples.  A practical dialogue must explore what could be done and what was expected.

ANITA BROUGHTON, Te Hika o Papauma, asked the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to investigate New Zealand’s policy and settlement processes for her people, who had the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture by being forced into larger tribal groups before legislations was adopted.  She also called on Member States to take steps to ensure that policies and processes did not subject small tribal groups to forced assimilation.

NAME TO COME, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, said colonialism had brought slavery, depopulation and economic dependence to indigenous peoples with no punishment for settler States.  Multinational corporations were a new form of colonialism, she/he said, and for indigenous peoples, there was no emancipation proclamation.  It was time to unsettle settler States, adopt an enforceable covenant on the rights of indigenous peoples and end colonialism.

GUY REITER, Menominee Nation, referred to a proposed open-pit metallic sulphide mine on the banks of the Menominee River in Michigan.  A Canadian development stage company had sought permits to undertake that project, located in the vicinity of Menominee burial mounds and raised agricultural gardens.  “My story is your story.  I hear it all the time,” he said, adding that indigenous peoples would not be silenced so long as their lands, language and culture were threatened.

NAME TO COME, Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, emphasized the importance of the collective voice of indigenous youth, who were the future of indigenous peoples.  Stressing that extraction activities on indigenous lands and waters undermined their rights, she urged the Permanent Forum, Member States and the United Nations to review their mechanisms for indigenous youth participation, and condemned the intimidation tactics used by law enforcement against indigenous peoples.

ANNE NUORGAM, Permanent Forum member from Finland, said a conflict resolution mechanism was needed between indigenous peoples and Member States, or indigenous peoples and extractive industries.  Almost all speakers today had underscored the importance of indigenous land rights and water resources, as well as the need for consent mechanisms.

DMITRII KHARAKKA-ZAITSEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, requested that participants share information on education for indigenous peoples, including for training indigenous language teachers, which would help the Permanent Forum develop its recommendations.

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