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UN: Tenth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The following is a brief summary of the 3rd and 4th Meetings during the Tenth Session of the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that was held on May 17.
RRI board member Victoria Tauli-Corpuz offered her insight to the meetings as Special Rapporteur. Find a full summary and more attendee statements here.
Continued Obstructions to – and Denial of – Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Land, Forests Resulting in Ongoing Marginalization, Poverty Permanent Forum Told
More Than 50 Speakers Focus Debate on Indigenous Peoples and Forests; Issue of Free, Prior Informed Consent for Development on Indigenous Lands
Despite progress made in ensuring the rights of indigenous communities around the world, indigenous peoples still lacked enough say in what happened on, and to, their territories, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was told today during a day-long discussion focused on the environment and free, prior and informed consent.
Over 50 speakers from national and local Governments and representatives of indigenous communities and United Nations agencies participated in today’s debate, which was framed around reports on the follow-up to previous recommendations of the Permanent Forum on those issues. The wide-ranging discussion highlighted how continued obstructions to — and even blatant denial of — the basic rights of indigenous peoples to land and forests, resulted in their ongoing marginalization and persistent poverty.
Making introductory comments on the concept of free, prior and informed consent in the afternoon, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Permanent Forum member from the United States, said the profound relationship between indigenous peoples and their environment was critical to that concept. This was especially true in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources, and to self-determination. Further, free, prior and informed consent must be understood in all cases as a double right that include both the right to give, or to withhold consent.
Joining a number of other speakers, she pointed out that several critical international institutions, such as the World Bank, had not yet fully embraced free, prior and informed consent, while misconceptions of consent predominated among States. That was the case, despite the fact that free, prior and informed consent was essential to all development projects and the principle had emerged as the desired standard in protecting the rights if indigenous peoples. Moreover, it was increasingly recognized that what was at stake was, in fact, the present and future of a people, not simply the specific and limited benefits of a development project.
In presenting the report of the International Expert Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Forests during the morning session, Edward John, Forum member from Canada, said the onus of proof was often placed on indigenous peoples because Governments continued to deny the existence of underlying rights until they had been proved. Even when the courts did make a decision, enforcement mechanisms were often missing, he said.
Against that backdrop, the report recommended that the United Nations provide, to lawyers and other judicial officers, training on the customary laws of indigenous peoples. It also stressed that extractive industries must go further in ensuring respect of indigenous peoples. Echoing many other speakers today, Mr. .John expressed particular concern that many forestry industry groups and corporate social responsibility guidelines were frequently voluntary and too often went unused and un-enforced.
Providing an oral summary of a soon-to-be-published study on indigenous peoples and forests, Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said indigenous peoples retained the closest relationship of any humans with forests. Nonetheless, the study — which had looked at a broad range of forests, dry land forests in Africa to tropical and other forests — revealed that the formulation of national forest laws and programmes often systematically undermined the customary rights of indigenous peoples.
She said that, while some actions had been taken by Governments in the areas of reforestation and increasing forest cover, on the whole, those actions had not translated into the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples on the ground. The study concluded that, if the tenure rights of indigenous peoples were respected and promoted, forests would be better kept.
She also noted that participants to the recent sixteenth Conference of Parties meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun had stressed that countries wishing to implement the UN-Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation In Developing Countries (REDD) must also implement several crucial safeguards related to indigenous peoples to promote: respect for indigenous rights; respect for biodiversity; better forest governance; and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples.
Echoing those conclusions, a number of speakers said the Permanent Forum must take further action to ensure that the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests were respected. Among other things, monitoring mechanisms on how those rights were being respected must be implemented, some said. Others called on States to comply with report’s recommendations regarding the right to own traditional forest areas and the need to develop or amend national legislation to comply with the United Nations treaty and other international instruments.
Throughout the debate on the environment, speakers called attention to the lack of participation by indigenous peoples in the international climate change dialogue, with many of them expressing fear, anger and alarm at the consequences of such exclusion.
Along those lines, several speakers said the Permanent Forum must urge the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change to research the full effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, as well as ways to build resilience to its effects. The Forum should also urge States to: use free and prior informed consent and self-determination processes when engaging indigenous peoples in carbon economies; and ban leaching as a mining practice on all lands.
Many delegates also called for the appointment of a Permanent Forum member as Special Rapporteur to conduct studies on existing and potential violations of the human rights of indigenous people affected by carbon markets, the Clean Development Mechanism and the REDD+-type projects, and to report to the forum at its 2012 session.
Paul Kanyinke Sena, Permanent Forum member from Kenya, outlined the Forum’s earlier recommendations on the environment. Forum members from Bangladesh and Mexico also offered comments.
Participating in today’s debate were the representatives of Mexico, New Zealand, Bolivia, Denmark, Nicaragua, Canada, Bolivia, Mexico and Chile.
Representatives of theFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also spoke, as did delegates from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Inter-American Development Bank, and Asian Development Bank.
Also speaking were representatives of: Torres Strait Regional Authority of Australia; Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus; International Indian Treaty Council, Arctic Caucus; Asia Indigenous People’s Caucus; North American Indigenous Peoples; Global Caucus; Organization of Farming Women in Bolivia; Indigenous Peoples Organization of Australia; International Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Tropical Forests; Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center; New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council; National Indigenous Higher Education Network of Australia; and Consultoría de los Pueblos Indigenas en el Norte de México.
Also: Native Women’s Association of Canada; European Patent Organization; Global Indigenous Youth Caucus; Saami Parliament; Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action of the Asia Caucus; Indigenous Peoples of African Coordinating Committee; Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North; Indigenous World Association; Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network; Rapanui Parliament; Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens Committee; Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples; Assembly of First Nations; Coordinator of Indigenous Organization of the Amazon River Basin; and Salamanca High School Model Permanent Forum.
The Permanent Forum will reconvene in open session at 3 p.m., Wednesday, 18 May, to consider recommendations on human rights.
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 address follow-up to its recommendations on: economic and social development; environment; and free, prior and informed consent. For more information, please see Press Release HR/5050.
Introduction of Reports
Outlining the Permanent Forum’s earlier recommendations on the environment, PAUL KANYINKE SENA, Forum member from Kenya, said they covered a range of issues, including climate change, traditional knowledge, asset sharing, water, renewable energy, reindeer herding and forests, among others. He noted that environmental issues were also included in a number of articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which specifically addressed the need for States to give due recognition to the traditions and practices of indigenous peoples and to take measures to ensure that their natural lands and resources were not used without their free, prior and informed consent.
Environmental issues also continued to be linked to sustainability, as well as to means of eradicating poverty from the world in a number of bodies and agreements on the environment, he said. Among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would clearly have an impact on indigenous peoples and the meeting of UNFCCC Conference of Parties-17, which would be held in Durban, South Africa later this year, would include critical discussions, he said.
Introducing the report of the International Expert Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Forests, EDWARD JOHN, Forum Member from Canada, recalled yesterday’s address by the Secretary-General in which he pointed out that an estimated one to two indigenous languages died each week. Mr. JOHN underscored the relation between that remark and forests by highlighting the close relationship between indigenous peoples and everything around them, including forests. He said the report of the Expert Meeting included as its overall recommendation that the report should be endorsed by the Permanent Forum.
More specifically, he said the report’s conclusions included 16 individual recommendations on material rights, participation and capacity, good practices and the role of industry. While there had been a fair amount of focus on the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests, there had not been enough focus on the right to land. Among other things, the onus of proof was placed on indigenous peoples because State Governments continued to deny the existence of the underlying rights, until they had been proved. Even when the courts did make a decision, enforcement mechanisms were often missing. The recommendations on participation and capacity included a specific suggestion that the General Assembly include the full and effective participation of the Permanent Forum and indigenous peoples in the preparation for Rio+20, as well as in the Forum on Forests. It also said the United Nations should provide to lawyers and other judicial officers training on the customary laws of indigenous peoples.
He said that, in terms of good practices, the report called for greater implementation of the provisions of the United Nations declaration. Regarding the role of industry, the report stressed that extractive industries should respect indigenous peoples and should only enter their territory following a fairly negotiated agreement. He expressed concern that many forestry industry groups and corporate social responsibility guidelines were frequently voluntary and too often went unused and un-enforced. Overall, the goal was to ensure that indigenous peoples had a say in what happened on, and to, their territories, he stressed.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur, orally presented a study on indigenous peoples and forests, which, she said, would soon be ready for publication. She said that the study had looked at a broad range of forests, ranging from dry land forests in Africa to tropical and other forests. The indigenous peoples in forests had been marginalized, mostly because their rights to continue to control and manage had been violated. Today, indigenous peoples retained the closest relationship of any humans with forests. The study had examined the formulation of national forest laws and programmes, which it found had systematically undermined the customary rights of indigenous peoples. Industrial and commercial forestry, for example, with the pulp and paper industries, were contributing to limiting the multiple uses of forests. While some actions had been taken by Governments in the areas of reforestation and increasing forest cover, on the whole, those actions had not translated into the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples on the ground. The study concluded that if the tenure rights of indigenous peoples were respected and promoted, forests would be better kept.
“Indigenous peoples are really the best keepers of the forests,” she said. She added that, in Cancun, delegates had stressed that countries wishing to implement the UN-Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation In Developing Countries (REDD) must also implement several crucial safeguards related to indigenous peoples: respect for indigenous rights; respect for biodiversity; better forest governance; and ensuring the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples. Land tenure and gender issues should also be taken into consideration. Moreover, among other recommendations, the Special Rapporteur’s study stressed that the Permanent Forum should make sure that the material rights of indigenous peoples to forests should be respected, and that monitoring mechanisms on how those rights were being respected must be implemented.
Posted By Adam Houston at 2:59pm on May 18, 2011
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