Underdevelopment, Poverty of Latin America’s Indigenous Peoples Stem from Historic Wrongs; Strategic Means for Correction Needs ‘Urgent Revision’, Forum Told
Indigenous Leaders Urged to Identify Strategies ‘to Advance Our Struggle’,
As Permanent Forum Ends First Week with Discussion on Latin America and Caribbean
The uneven development and persistent socio-economic gaps suffered by indigenous populations across the Latin America and Caribbean region undoubtedly stemmed from the historical wrongs committed on its first peoples and the strategic means for correcting those wrongs needed urgent revision, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was told today during a half-day discussion on that region, as it rounded out the first week of its tenth session.
Making introductory remarks, Pauline Sukhai, Minister for Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, said the current situation of indigenous peoples varied from State to State throughout the region, but despite incremental activism to change the status of indigenous peoples, socio-economic gaps between them and non-indigenous citizens remained visibly pronounced, while their livelihood options were extremely restricted.
Given the dynamic geopolitical, economic and social environment in the Latin America and Caribbean region, national Governments should have no difficulty in focusing increased and targeted investment on providing resources to educate and train indigenous peoples, she said. Indeed, doing so would yield results in resolving many existing social shortcomings. It would also create opportunities for indigenous populations to effectively respond to their evolving circumstances.
“As leaders and facilitators, we must be able to articulate our position as indigenous peoples in a focused manner,” she said, stressing that, “to remain relevant, we should re-examine our approach and identify useful strategies to advance our struggles to achieve the objectives and goals of our people”.
Further, she said, “indigenous peoples should not have to […] reinvent the wheel”. To that end, they should use the Permanent Forum not just to highlight the current state of affairs, but to share in achievements so that those examples could act as a “live wire” for colleagues to act more strategically in addressing indigenous issues.
Stressing that exclusion and poverty prevented indigenous peoples from enjoying their rights, Heraldo Muñoz, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), underlined the need for tax-funded social programmes to “break with intergenerational poverty and inequality” among indigenous communities.
Outlining the depth of that inequality, he said the regional Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrated that indigenous peoples and people of Afro-Caribbean descent were in the worst situation, with many living on less than $1 per day. Among those, women and young people, as well as those with disabilities and of Afro-Caribbean descent, were especially vulnerable.
Noting that the Millennium Development Goals and poverty reduction in general would not be possible without addressing the needs of indigenous peoples, he said improved governance and increased decision-making for their communities were also needed. While the United Nations system had made significant progress in those areas, he stressed that further work must also encourage South-South cooperation, allowing people to apply those rights more effectively.
Speaking on behalf of several indigenous organizations, Adolpho Chavez of the Amazon Basin Caucus emphasized the role of democracy in giving indigenous peoples more control over their futures. While noting that democracy was very different in practice for indigenous communities, as compared to States whose systems were based strictly on economic power, he nevertheless noted that democratic processes were the only way to bridge the divide between those who governed and those who were governed.
Also speaking on behalf of indigenous organizations, Margarita Guitierrez suggested affirmative action was needed to show that it was a new era of inclusion, rather than exclusion, for indigenous peoples. To that end — and echoing many participants from earlier in the week — she called for the United Nations to review the name of the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur in order to consider changing the phrase “indigenous issues” to “indigenous peoples”. She also called for more training and capacity-building for United Nations staff to heighten awareness of indigenous rights throughout the Organization.
Saul Vicente Vasquez, Forum member from Mexico, pointed out that, despite the many challenges working against them, indigenous peoples had kept their culture and tradition, and still believed in a better future. To further support them, he recommended that the Forum review the efficacy of United Nations mechanisms in ensuring that States protected the rights of indigenous peoples, and draw up proposals for legal mechanisms to foster free, prior and informed consent. He also he underlined the need for a more practical application of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
During the ensuing discussion, representatives of indigenous organizations and civil society as well as delegates from Member States provided further details on the situation of indigenous communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with many underscoring the particular vulnerabilities faced by indigenous women, children and youth. Several speakers suggested the Forum should hold a session on indigenous women, while others called for it to intensify its focus on indigenous youth by addressing the particular issues they faced, including cultural diversity, suicide and a loss of their roots.
A representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said health data from the region showed “deep inequalities”. For example, an indigenous child ran a 70 per cent higher risk of dying before the age of five than a non-indigenous child. In addition, there was less professional care for indigenous women giving birth, less vaccinations of indigenous children and lower rates of treatment for childhood diseases.
Similarly, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said one socio-demographic study on indigenous and afro-descendant youth in Latin America conducted by UNFPA had highlighted inequalities and policy challenges. Against that backdrop, she said the Population Fund had, since 2008, carried out a regional programme to empower and strengthen indigenous women’s organizations. It was also supporting constitutional processes within the framework of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia and Ecuador, and it had contributed to health policy and protocol development in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.
The Minister of Heritage of Ecuador also participated in the discussion, as did representatives of Chile, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and El Salvador.
The Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union also commented.
Representatives from the following indigenous organizations also shared observations: Latin American and Caribbean Caucus, Conclave Global de Jovénes Indígenas, Global Caucus, Organización Maya Visión, International Indigenous Women’s Forum of Nicaragua, AIM-WEST and Consejo Cinco de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras.
Speakers from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also offered comments, as did the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nicaragua.
The Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 23 May, to hold a comprehensive dialogue with United Nations agencies and funds, before holding a half-day discussion on the right to water and indigenous peoples.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met today to continue its tenth session, which is a review year in the Forum’s three-year work cycle. It was expected to hold a half-day discussion on Central and South America and the Caribbean. For more information, please see Press Release HR/5050.
Opening the presentation on Central and South America and the Caribbean, SAUL VICENTE VASQUEZ, Forum member from Mexico, highlighted statistics on the indigenous populations in that region, including the presence of 520 different groups of indigenous peoples. According to estimates, there were at least 420 languages from 99 different linguistic families spoken, many of which were cross-border in nature.
In terms of their lands and territories, he said, indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean lived in different ecosystems with a balanced and spiritual relationship with them. Most of those ecosystems were characterized as being in geographic areas containing the world’s greatest biodiversity and conservation. Varied and different, those ecosystems ranged from wetlands to deserts and were located in river basins and coastal regions of different oceans. Rich in minerals and gas, they were highly attractive for mining and extractive industries, as well as to illegal trafficking in flora and fauna.
He said that, while efforts had been made to protect the claims of indigenous peoples, the legal order continued to obey a homogenous cultural order. Many States had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, and most had adhered to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They included legal and regulatory frameworks that acknowledged the rights of indigenous peoples, but there was significant divide — a deficit, even — between the intention of those frameworks and their implementation. The laws that acknowledged the rights of indigenous peoples were often violated, or simply not observed. Further, States did not always observe their obligations under a range of international instruments and were pressured by national and multinational corporations.
He stressed that indigenous peoples should be consulted on those matters. Indeed, the Special Rapporteur was paying special attention to that, including in his recent reports. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had also been requested to carry out further research. Recent attention focused on climate change and indigenous peoples, which was a challenge to all communities, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. For their part, indigenous peoples were strongly calling for actions to contain the catastrophe and keep their lives from becoming another commodity. For that reason, he underlined the need for a more practical application of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
At the same time, indigenous peoples continued to oppose mega projects and the actions of national and transnational corporations that did not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples over their territories, he said. One significant challenge in that struggle was the divide between laws that protected indigenous peoples’ rights and the implementation of those laws. Citing one example, he said Brazil was planning to build power plants on the land of indigenous peoples, with them having no say in the matter.
Despite those challenges, however, indigenous peoples had kept their culture and tradition, and still believed in a better future, he said. To further support them, he recommended that the Forum review the efficacy of United Nations mechanisms to ensure that States protected the rights of indigenous peoples, and draw up proposals for legal mechanisms to foster free, prior and informed consent. That would be useful in the context of work done by the United Nations, as well as by transnational corporations. In particular, he suggested the Forum go back to paragraphs 75‑78 in the report of its third session, as well as paragraph 72 from the report of its fourth session.
HERALDO MUÑOZ, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that, as much remained to be done, the Forum should work with indigenous peoples and States to promote both the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention No. 169. There were approximately 400 indigenous groups in Latin America that enriched the cultural diversity of all, and extended the concepts of well-being and development into public policy. However, exclusion and poverty prevented them from enjoying their rights, he said. The regional Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean stressed that indigenous peoples and people of Afro-Caribbean descent were in the worst situation, many living on less than $1 per day. Among those, women, young people, those with disabilities and those of Afro-Caribbean descent were especially vulnerable, he added. The Millennium Development Goals, and poverty reduction in general, would not happen without addressing the needs of those people, he stressed.
The region needed to “break with intergenerational poverty and inequality”, and, to that aim, more social programmes were needed and should be funded by fiscal and tax systems. Improved governance and increased decision-making for the indigenous and those in poverty were also needed on a priority basis. Free, prior and informed consent, as well as guaranteed participation was needed. The United Nations system had made significant progress in those areas, he said. During the current session, the experiences of many groups and States in Latin America had been explored, but work needed to go beyond that to encourage South-South cooperation, allowing people to apply those rights more effectively.
He noted that a regional consultative group had been working to boost efforts on indigenous issues, including by promoting the Declaration in the region, holding regional workshops on the application of the ILO Convention No. 169, and other projects. United Nations agencies had different projects of their own on those matters, he recalled, citing several examples from ILO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and others. Efforts were also needed to encourage “comprehensive development” across the region, which could be strengthened by supporting efforts at the national level.
Among its other projects, UNDP, through its regional office, had been worked closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other regional groups, as well as indigenous communities, promoting knowledge of the Declaration. It had organized national meetings in Mexico, Paraguay and Nicaragua, where it had also set up a consultative council of indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent. The policy development section of UNDP had worked on electoral support, developing initiatives to boost the political involvement of indigenous peoples, especially women and young people. Those projects had been especially constructive in Mexico and Bolivia, he said. United Nations agencies had supported missions of experts in the region, as well as work undertaken in preparation for the current session, such as a caucus in Managua last April. UNDP was continuing to work on “outstanding challenges”, together with indigenous peoples, to ensure that their rights prevailed, he said.
PAULINE SUKHAI, Minister for Amerindian Affairs of Guyana, said the current situation of indigenous peoples varied from State to State and there was incremental activism to effect change on socio-economic, human rights, land tenure security, legislations, the environment, culture and participation in local and regional decision-making. The Forum provided the decision-making on matters of concern to indigenous peoples at the international level. Nonetheless, it was, she said, “fair to say that after years of struggle, the desired results have not yet been attained in most countries”.
Within the region, the socio-economic gaps were still visibly pronounced with respect to the status of indigenous peoples and the fragilities of existing livelihood options, she said. The uneven development across the region and the existing disparity and gaps between the urban and hinterland areas, where the majority of indigenous peoples lived, undoubtedly stemmed from the historical wrongs committed on its first peoples. Governments in the region had, through national programmes and projects, including in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, facilitated the advancement and development of indigenous communities. Changes had also occurred as a direct response to intensified actions stemming from international conventions and instruments, including the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Still, the strategic means for correcting the historical wrongs that continued to affect the approach to indigenous issues needed urgent revision, she said. Governments in the region should have no difficulty in focusing increased and targeted investment that provided resources to educate and train indigenous human resources. Doing so would, she suggested, yield results in resolving many existing social shortcomings and create opportunities for indigenous populations to effectively respond to their evolving circumstances. Serious political will was also required to deal with the issue of land rights and ownership, she said, stressing that by increasing the asset base for families and communities, tenure security provided one of the greatest sources for the full development of indigenous peoples.
“As leaders and facilitators, we must be able to articulate our position as indigenous peoples in a focused manner,” she said. “To remain relevant, we should re-examine our approach and identify useful strategies to advance our struggles to achieve the objectives and goals of our people.”
Noting that the Latin America and Caribbean region was positioned with a dynamic geopolitical, economic and social environment, she said its Governments must aspire to offer “studied positions that will result in actions at all levels that will effect positive change in the lives of our peoples”. For its part, Guyana was working continuously and consistently to address the historical wrongs committed against its indigenous peoples and to ensure a progressive reduction of existing disparities. Among other things, it was working in a collaborative partnership to develop policies and programmes to transform the socio-economic and governance structure of villages and to enhance cultural identity.
Guyana’s approach to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples could serve to strengthen the strategies of countries in the region, she said, adding that, “today, indigenous peoples should not have to walk the tightropes and reinvent the wheel”. To that end, they should use the Forum to not only highlight the state of affairs, but to share in achievements so that they could act as a “live wire” for colleagues to act in more strategic ways in addressing indigenous issues.
In Guyana, there was a modern legal framework of laws developed by Amerindians themselves, she said, underscoring that significant advancement. The Amerindian Act, which had been passed in February 2006, provided for the indigenous peoples to use and access their forest resources and traditional lands. It also recognized community councils, according them authority to submit applications for land titles. Moreover, the Constitution and existing legal framework also allowed villages to engage in legal proceedings if there were claims regarding boundary demarcation and other issues.
She noted that the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs had been set up and mandated to protect the collective rights of Amerindians through polices and programmes aimed at socio-economic development. The Government had also invested in the social sector, and had developed a low-carbon development strategy as a new pathway to development. Among its major components were protections of indigenous land rights and the creation of livelihood opportunities for Amerindians. The Government had also stated that villages with titled lands could participate directly in the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) plus model.
Noting that those policies had been developed through the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, she underscored the authority given to villages to develop their own community management plans and fiduciary concerns. Indeed, no indigenous community was forced to take any decision without consultations and the exercise of free, prior and informed consent.
ADOLPHO CHAVEZ of the Amazon Basin Caucus, speaking on behalf of several indigenous organizations, said the issues being considered were of great concern to the indigenous peoples of Latin America. Democracy, which was important on all continents, was very different in practice for indigenous peoples as compared to States whose systems were based strictly on economic power. He recalled a comment made the previous day to the effect that indigenous peoples “no longer wished to be an issue”, but wanted to be recognized as people, and stressed: “We’re still a nightmare; we’re still a source of concern to States.” In response, it was necessary to begin choosing those who would administer justice in each State, though a democratic process. That was the only way to “breach the divide” between those who governed and those who were governed.
First, the administration of justice required indigenous participation, as indigenous peoples, too, could be elected, he said. Second, on the subject of poverty that was experienced first-hand by many indigenous peoples, there must be more accountability on the part of elected officials. States needed to accept their responsibilities regarding their economic and social development policies. Centralized, western-style economy had “shattered” the form of indigenous life, he said. It was necessary, among other things, to decentralize the Expert Mechanism, making it more able to monitor the Declaration and the recommendations of the Forum in different regions. Further, the implementation of the Declaration — which was law in Bolivia — should be monitored by the Forum. The Forum also needed to lay the groundwork for the 2014 Indigenous Peoples' Conference, he stressed.
Also speaking on behalf of indigenous organizations, MARGARITA GUITIERREZ said the United Nations should outline a “before” and “after” picture stemming from the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Organization itself should also harmonize its roles and regulations, she said. Moreover, the United Nations should review the name of the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur. Affirmative action was needed to show that it was a new era of inclusion, rather than exclusion for indigenous peoples and changing the name of that body and that office was necessary. Training and capacity-building should also be provided to United Nations staff, since there was often no awareness at the Organization of indigenous rights.
Stressing that national legislation should also be harmonized, she underlined free, prior and informed consent as essential. That was particularly true since the rights of indigenous peoples continued to be violated. The Forum should consider eliminating prohibitions against the chewing of coca leaves. Also, a session on indigenous women should be held. She called on United Nations institutions to respect the rights of indigenous peoples on the borders between the United States and Mexico and the United States and Canada. She said a balance must be struck with respect to water, noting that many indigenous peoples only had access to dirty water and did not receive drinking water.
Tuning to climate change, she recommended the United Nations system promote preparatory meetings for indigenous peoples ahead of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, “Rio+20”. Further, economic development models that indigenous peoples wanted should be created and implemented. She stressed that there were two very different views, and the phrases “green culture” and “eco culture” were often used. However, that was simply life for indigenous peoples.
PAOLO MANDEVILLE, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nicaragua, said he wished to share some lessons learned on the mechanism of dialogue that the United Nations was developing with indigenous peoples in Nicaragua. Along with OHCHR and UNDP, it had set up a consultative committee, which was a forum for the exchange of experiences and knowledge between indigenous peoples and United Nations officials. The committee advised the United Nations and its agencies in order to ensure that the rights and principles enshrined in the Organization’s human rights instruments became a reality. The committee was made up of 12 members, six from different groups of indigenous peoples, three of African descent and three people well known for their experience with, and knowledge and commitment to, the rights of indigenous peoples. It also took into account a gender perspective, socio-linguistic differences and other factors.
In its short life, the committee had shown that it was an instrument that “could have an impact” on the plans and activities of the United Nations, he said. It had played an important role in key strategic national programmes, such as the implementation of ILO Convention No. 169, which Nicaragua had ratified in 2010, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was a unique forum to analyse the present and the future, he said, and had encouraged a dialogue that was a “prerequisite” for building an intercultural society. That work would only be sustainable, however, if more alliances were built and more resources were available to it. The fact that it existed in Nicaragua, he stressed, was a strong indicator of the country’s commitment to the rights of indigenous people.
PETER SCHWAIGER, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, underlined that the Union was integrating the issue of indigenous peoples into its development strategies. Indeed, the Union sought, as a thematic priority, to support specific actions at the country, transnational and regional levels. Outlining a wide range of country- and region-specific projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, he said the bloc was financing projects to mobilize indigenous peoples around development, democracy, human rights and decision-making. It was also focusing on creating educational opportunities that promoted local languages and social cohesion, and that reduced discrimination and racism. In general, the Union aimed to develop the capacity of indigenous peoples to pursue their rights. Projects also promoted sustainable forest management and supported poverty reduction among indigenous communities. Outlining a number of specific projects, he noted 40 programmes in Colombia, many of which aimed to end discrimination of indigenous peoples. He stressed that the main challenge for the Union remained keeping momentum and ensuring the continued dialogue with indigenous organizations and communities.
ELIZABETH GONZALEZ, of the Latin American and Caribbean Caucus, demanded that the State of Paraguay return the lands of indigenous peoples, as established in the 2005-2006 rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She reminded Paraguay that compliance with the rulings of that Court was an international obligation that was binding. In the case of Argentina, that country should undertake serious commitments towards respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples in the Grand Chaco region, as called for by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its seventy-sixth session in 2010. In accordance with international legislation, she also supported the fight for compensation, and called on the Forum to monitor recommendations made regarding the Grand Chaco region in its previous sessions. She also called on the United Nations system to make greater efforts to find a “fair and lasting solutions” to the challenges facing indigenous communities.
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS, Minister of Heritage of Ecuador, said her Government believed that full participation of indigenous peoples was important in the Andean region and underlined the importance of their sumak kawsay, or “cosmovision”, which called for well-being, sustainability, equality, social justice, reciprocity and harmony with nature. She said 22 constitutional articles formed the basis of the State’s respect for the difference of indigenous peoples and the recognition of their rights to live according to their own beliefs. In that regard, she highlighted the national plan for good living, not development, which included, among other things, 12 goals and policies related to collective rights. She also underlined the right to political participation as key to promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.
She said that, through its Ministry of Heritage, as well as the Millennium Development Goals Fund, the Ecuadorian Government sought to reduce poverty and boost social inclusion by eliminating discrimination, including on the basis of gender. Sustainable forms of living were being promoted through cultural endeavours that were frequently organized by indigenous women. Specific efforts targeted the Amazon region. Great attention had been paid to gender and intercultural perspectives, in order to change the situation of indigenous women, including in the area of health. Concluding, she particularly acknowledged the importance of dialogue between indigenous peoples and the State in creating public policy.
MARIA INES DE SILVA BARBOSA of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) shared some initiatives taken by PAHO alongside other agencies and organizations. Through its department of gender equality, it had created the region’s first technical and consultative group on health, she said. It consisted of four Member State representatives, along with the participation of the Permanent Forum, ILO, Brazil, Mexico, UNICEF and women’s organizations from Africa, among others.
Specialists from civil society and other experts also took part. The group’s work aimed to assess the “multicultural outlook” potential in health policies, as well as the impact of policies on the health of indigenous peoples in the Americas. The group had recently taken stock of progress achieved to date, and was planning for the 2012-2013 period. Among other projects, it was trying to identify and consider strategic conflicts that needed to be addressed, and had put forward a recommendation that it needed to specify consultative mechanisms, and institutionalize and finance them. The initiative deserved the attention of the Forum, she stressed, recommending that all other similar initiatives should be based on the principles enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
TANIA PARIONA TARQUI of Conclave Global de Jovénes Indígenas said there was a lack of continuous and good information from demographic censuses on the diversity of indigenous peoples. She also noted that indigenous women and children suffered daily from violence. She expressed concerns over the lack of participation by indigenous youth at the United Nations and other international forums. She said indigenous youth, who were forced to leave their communities to pursue work, were slowly losing touch with their roots and history. She recommended working with the United Nations agencies to promote specific programmes aimed at improving health education of youth from indigenous communities. Funds should also be provided to create policies and programmes for indigenous youth. She called for the Forum to intensify its focus on indigenous youth by focusing on the issues they faced, including cultural diversity, suicide and a loss of their roots. She also noted the problem of trafficking in children and child pornography. Donors should create special funds to boost the participation of indigenous peoples in the Forum, she added.
SEBASTIAN DONOSO (Chile) said his delegation had last addressed the Forum on the heels of one of his country’s biggest tragedies, the earthquake of 2010. Rebuilding in its wake, development would be boosted by one of Chile’s most important assets, its multiculturalism. More and better opportunities and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples must be a part of that rebuilding, he stressed. He informed the Forum that the Government was launching a consultation on indigenous institutions, in line with ILO Convention No. 169, that would tackle three important issues: the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights; laws that would create a national council for indigenous peoples; and a permanent procedure to regulate the participation and consultation of indigenous peoples with regard to large-scale development projects that would affect them.
Chile aimed to include as many peoples and institutions as possible in those processes, he said. Chile believed that consultation on indigenous institutions was a “step forward” and a “historic opportunity” to include indigenous peoples in all of its institutions. National work was focused on fostering respect for indigenous rights, “improving and correcting” the delivery of land, restructuring existing institutions and continuing with effective consultation and participation. Chile was also creating “focused policies” relevant to indigenous peoples. With regard to Easter Island and the Rapanui people, a process of dialogue had been launched with working groups made up of politicians and local representatives. The Government and the Rapanui people had both shown a willingness to work together, and had made progress. Finally, he repeated his country’s open invitation for the Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, to visit Chile.
SONIA HECKADON, Regional Desk Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that through key partnerships with multiple stakeholders, UNFPA was working to advance indigenous peoples’ rights to life, health and freedom from gender-based violence, as set forth in articles 7, 22, 23 and 24 of the Declaration. It was paying particular attention to reproductive health rights and the special needs of indigenous women and girls, recognizing their right to traditional medicine, knowledge and health practices, while maintaining access to State-run social and health services. Since 2008, UNFPA had carried out a regional programme to empower and strengthen indigenous women’s organizations. It was supporting constitutional processes within the framework of the Declaration in Bolivia and Ecuador, and it had contributed to health policy and protocol development in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. Such strategic processes had resulted in the development of intercultural reproductive health models.
UNFPA was working to support inclusion of indigenous peoples in the population and housing censuses of nine Latin American and Caribbean nations and to support inclusion of an ethnic dimension in health registries and statistics in countries such as Chile, Nicaragua, Peru and Guatemala, she said. UNFPA’s socio-demographic study on indigenous and afro-descendant youth in Latin America had highlighted inequalities and policy challenges. Its socio-demographic analysis and publication on Amazonian indigenous people in Peru was being used for advocacy and to inform national and regional Governments on national population policy. Greater efforts were urgently needed to address the unacceptable levels of ill maternal health and persisting inequalities throughout the region. Programmes must be scaled up, laws enforced and health and social services more accessible culturally, geographically and financially.
POLICARPIO CHAI of the Global Caucus said the United Nations and its system should harmonize its internal policies and guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As had been recommended by other delegates, States should review the name of the Forum, and change it to “the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples”. The Special Rapporteur should have a parallel name change, he stressed. States should implement the principles of the Declaration and institute policies of free, prior and informed consent, as that right was linked to the “collective and individual dignity” of indigenous peoples. Additionally, their rights continued to be violated where mega-oil and –mining projects took place.
Among other recommendations, he asked the United Nations to respect the rights of migrant workers on the borders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, who were “not criminals”. He demanded that States supply safe drinking water to their indigenous populations and to consult with the indigenous on the issue of climate change. He told the Forum that it should play a relevant role in preparations for Rio+20, and that the United Nations should facilitate their participation in those preparations. He further urged States and international development agencies to create models that indigenous peoples “actually want for themselves”. On the Gran Chaco area conflict, he urged the United Nations system to continue its efforts towards achieving a fair and lasting solution, as the land was a “sacred place” under threat. In the Andean region, indigenous peoples should benefit from the resources stripped from their lands, he added.
FREDDY MAMANI (Bolivia) said his delegation had been active in passing General Assembly resolution 65/198, which called for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. He underlined the call for support for the Voluntary Fund, which facilitated the travel of indigenous peoples to a variety of United Nations rights bodies, as well as the Forum. Recalling that 62 per cent of Bolivia’s population was ethnically indigenous, he said an indigenous man had been elected President 500 years after colonization. In the five years since that election, significant progress had been made, despite the strength of the legacy of neo-liberal economic policies. He stressed that the chewing of the coca leaves should not be prohibited. The proposals of indigenous peoples should be taken into account by the framework for Rio+20, he said. Noting that his delegation would submit a resolution to declare 2013 the year of quinoa, he requested the Forum to support that resolution.
CARMEN ROSA VILLA of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for Central America said her office had obtained useful information on the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples and had shared it with the United Nations system. It had carried out a regional assessment with regard to the capacities of regional organizations, assessed the State organizations that should be providing for the rights of indigenous peoples and had called upon and worked with many groups of indigenous peoples. It was important to make sure that States were supported, through the United Nations system, in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, she stressed, which should include respect for indigenous rights in all its aspects.
The Declaration was “good tool” to guide that process, based on the principles of inclusion, participation and non-discrimination, she said. Further, the United Nations needed to enhance the capacities of country teams by creating focal points with knowledge of the rights of indigenous peoples. Together, the global community must ensure fundamental rights and freedoms efficiently, in particular by creating specific safeguard units to do so. Member States, and those who had drafted their specific commitments, should remember that the overall aim was to ensure the access and enjoyment of all human rights by indigenous peoples.
MARIANA FRANCISCO of Organización Maya Visión said the Guatemalan Government had yet to implement that country’s 1996 peace accords, as evidenced by the violence and insecurity indigenous Mayans were suffering there. In that context, she pointed to the recent massacre in Finca Los Cocos, La Libertad in Petén. Further, the Government had ratified ILO Convention No. 169, but had yet to implement it. She pointed to the Government’s refusal to recognize the consultations held with the Mayan people concerning exploitation of natural resources and indigenous lands. Nor had her Government implemented the Declaration. She asked the Permanent Forum to prepare a report on implementation of the Guatemala peace accords and a report on violence in Guatemalan society, including the violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights, notably the eviction of the indigenous Kekchi in Polochic Cobán Alta Verapaz. She asked the Permanent Forum to review the situation of the Mayan people, who continued to be displaced forcibly from their homes.
GABRIELA ESTRADA (Mexico) said that, to date, 22 of the countries that had signed the Convention on Biological Diversity had signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, which established modalities for use of, and access to, genetic resources. Among other things, it recognized the right of prior consent and the sharing of fair benefits under agreed principles. She said that, as countries made progress towards implementation, the protection umbrella would be strengthened. The Mexican Government was currently adapting the necessary legal framework prior to ratification. However, one challenge was ensuring that all countries in the region would participate, allowing the Protocol to come into force soon. Regional plans towards that end would clearly be needed, she said.
Turning to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), she said that regional consensus was needed to allow for regional negotiation. Calling for quicker negotiations to be completed on the three fields covered by the Committee, she said the more time that was spent without an agreement, the longer the rights of indigenous communities would continue to be violated. She suggested the Forum consider a recommendation to the Intergovernmental Committee on achieving progress.
ADALBERTO PADILLA of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said indigenous peoples had very close links to the land. Efforts to protect biodiversity and strengthen forest management, among others, must recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. However, indigenous territories and protected areas in Latin America were suffering from non-sustainable development, he said. Another challenge, which had been raised earlier by Mr. Muñoz of UNDP, was that there remained social and economic exclusion. That was most clearly manifested by hunger within indigenous communities and was also linked to the deterioration of the environment.
IUCN was committed to implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and was making efforts to improve its work in indigenous territories, in particular by taking a rights-based approach and implementing ILO Convention No. 169, among other things. Its technical assistance training programmes in the Latin American region included institutional capacity-building for indigenous groups, research on governance in indigenous territories, dialogue on the respect for rights, support for intercultural dialogue on climate change and energy issues at all levels, support for strategic planning, studies on the impact of the mining industry, support for corporate social responsibility programmes that takes into account indigenous practices and other actions. Nonetheless, he stressed, the world community had “a long way to go” in its recognition of indigenous rights.
GENARO ARISIO of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum of Nicaragua said some progress had been made in securing the rights of indigenous peoples in his country, including those related to land rights and land boundaries. He considered that all indigenous peoples shared the same goal, namely that of defending the natural resources on their territories. Nicaragua’s indigenous peoples were one step shy of attaining their rights, based on law 445. Among other things, they were working to develop different programmes with the Government. He requested that the Forum consider mechanisms to facilitate a wide-ranging debate on subjects of common interest, stressing that such mechanisms were critical to furthering indigenous interests.
ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ (Peru) said there were 13 different linguistic groups in his country, emphasizing the diversity of the indigenous communities. He said the Peruvian State was aware of the levels of poverty and exclusion faced by the indigenous populations and was working to meet the needs of indigenous peoples. In that regard, it had, in July 2010, named a vice-minister to oversee indigenous issues, thereby strengthening the institutional structure for indigenous issues. He stressed that, in recent months, the Supreme Constitutional Court of Peru had handed down four rulings to define consultations with indigenous peoples. Further, a June 2010 decision specifically stipulated the essential right to consultations through transparency, flexibility and preliminary implementation. The executive brand had also adopted a law that required the establishment of regulations regarding consultations between mining and industry and indigenous peoples. In that vein, he cited the example of one company whose license for a hydro-electric power project had not been renewed, due to a petition presented by indigenous peoples. Finally, he stressed that Peru would firmly defend the rights of indigenous peoples in conformity with its own international commitments.
DANIELA SIMIONI, speaking for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that following recommendations and input received from Latin American countries, data had been consolidated as an important part of the resources of ECLAC. For the 2010 census, the Commission had drafted handbooks with specific recommendations, provided technical assistance and workshops to indigenous organizations and ran a self-identification campaign, all of which had resulted in a boost in the participation of indigenous people in the census. However, more efforts were still needed to consolidate that process. The challenge was to improve the quality of information, she stressed, which required further participation from indigenous peoples.
Another significant challenge was to develop complementary instruments that would allow for better collection of indigenous rights data, she said. ECLAC had built a data bank for indigenous peoples, which contained a “huge amount” of demographic, health, employment and other data. It was currently based on the 2000 census, but would soon be updated to reflect 2010 figures. ECLAC had long stressed health and reproductive rights, noting that health data showed “deep inequalities”. For example, an indigenous child ran a 70 per cent higher risk of dying before the age of five than a non-indigenous child. There was less professional care for indigenous women giving birth, less vaccinations of indigenous children and lower rates of treatment for childhood diseases. ECLAC had been working with PAHO and other regional partners to include the identification of indigenous peoples in vital information and health registrars. The future challenges in the region remained “huge”, she concluded, and there were major gaps to close. Development in the region, therefore, needed to be “sustainable and fair”.
CLYDE BELLECOURT of AIM-WEST, noting that his non-colonial name was “Thunder Before the Storm”, said he was a founder of the American Indian Movement, which had been established in 1968 in response to a common assessment that nothing was being done to honour the American Indians and to respect their treaty rights. Referring to events during the 1973 Wounded Knee incident and the subsequent imprisonment of American Indian Movement leaders, he referred to the conclusions of the judge who oversaw the trial of those leaders that it was not the Native American people who were guilty, but the United States Government. He further stressed that the American Indian Movement had decided to form a treaty council because its founders determined American Indians would never survive as a community unless they brought their concerns before the world community, and even the world court.
Continuing, he said the battle for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been a 30-year struggle. While that particular battle had been won, it remained critical for indigenous peoples to stand together and fight the ongoing “monstrous” acts by which the water and resources of indigenous peoples were being taken around the world. He further demanded that President Barack Obama and his “war council” issue a public apology for the fact that American Indians continued to be attacked through the comparison of their most famous leader, Geronimo, with Osama bin Laden. It was time for the frontier mentality — “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” — to end, he stressed.
CARLOS EDUARDO DA CUNHA OLIVEIRA (Brazil) said that the day before, his delegation had spoken about initiatives under way in the Amazon region, which showed an increase in regional dialogue, as well as a “triple recognition” of indigenous rights, shared by many countries in the region. Nonetheless, the pursuit of a solution required increased dialogue and regional cooperation, and greater political attention. There were no alternatives to overcoming the issue through the joint mobilization of countries in the region, especially on border issues, land disputes and other key issues. Each country needed to recognize the territories and the rights of their indigenous peoples. In Brazil, there were almost 40 indigenous groups, who crossed international borders very naturally. That transnational migration was important, but people often did not recognize the benefits or risks entailed. Countries in the region needed to consider their own first nations, and how dialogue and communication with them was part of the effort as a whole.
In Brazil, 12.8 per cent of national territory belonged to indigenous peoples, he said. Territorial management and benefit sharing were very important there. Brazil also supported geographic information systems to protect the rights of ingenious peoples. It was ready to share its many experiences with other States in Latin America, he stressed. Finally, regarding the application of the right to consultation, the right was already “part and parcel” of the Constitution of Brazil, and had been further strengthened in 2002. There was also a new bill on the status of indigenous peoples currently before congress, he said.
JAIME ITURRI of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said his organization was working to mainstream climate change into agricultural programmes. That work went beyond the loss of lands and included the loss of traditional knowledge. Indeed, IFAD was working with the peoples of the Amazon basin regarding “natural barometers” by which their communities monitored rainfall and other weather. Referring to the responsibilities for and impact of climate change, he said it was as if indigenous peoples were looking in a window at a feast among the peoples of developed countries, for which they would be expected to pick up the tab. Despite the fact that indigenous peoples were not responsible for climate change, they could provide, from their traditional knowledge, possible solutions, he added.
BERTHA CACERES of Consejo Cinco de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras said that in her country, which had suffered many natural disasters and a 2009 coup d’état, there was a “systematic” violation of human rights. There were death squadrons and the use of torture, and those conditions had been exacerbated in the months following the coup d’état— which was linked with the “wish to kill all indigenous peoples”, she said. Furthermore, the international community was “condoning” those actions, when it should, rather, be an embarrassment for the whole of humanity, she said. There had been no attempt to end impunity. Colonialism held sway in Honduras, and was even more rampant today, she stressed.
There had been increases in pillaging and the murder of indigenous women, she said. There had also been a stronger presence of multinational companies in Honduras since the coup, she said, adding that they were backed by the United States and many international bodies. “Honduras is open for business” had become the new national slogan, as 50 new major electric projects and hundreds of new mining concessions had been granted, mostly on indigenous land. Additionally, the United States had established new army bases on indigenous lands and threatened to reactivate other, older bases. While the country was systematically violating ILO Convention No. 169, she said, the Honduras entrepreneurs association had vowed to ask the Government to remove itself from that Convention altogether, she concluded.
CAROLOS GARCIA (El Salvador) said that since 1 July 2009, his Government had radically changed its position and attitude towards indigenous peoples. Indeed, the President had defined that shift as a “180 degree” turn. Consequently, in 2010, the policy of non-recognition of indigenous peoples had been ended and steps taken for necessary reparations. In light of those changes, he underlined the need to promote active dialogue with indigenous peoples in El Salvador to reach a consensus in formulating public policies. He also stressed that the needs and rights of indigenous peoples must be included on the national agenda. He added that El Salvador’s support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was proof of its change in attitude.
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