UNPO Members Active At UN Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues
Representatives from at least eight UNPO Member organizations were present at the 10th Session of the Permanent Forum, which ran from 16 – 27 May 2011 at UN Headquarters in New York City.
UNPO Members were well represented at this year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The Ahwazi Arabs, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cordillera, Crimean Tatars, Degar Montagnard, Hmong, Khmer Krom and Ogoni all sent representatives to attend and participate in the Forum, which is held every year at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. 2011 was a review year for the Forum, meaning the work coming out of the previous session was reviewed and reports which were assigned during the previous session were presented to the Forum. UNPO Members attended and participated in numerous side events, and several UNPO Members were able to make interventions at the Forum.
Karim Abdian of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization and Jill Carino of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance both spoke at a side conference co-hosted by UNPO and the Society for Threatened Peoples. The event highlighted some of the major issues facing indigenous populations in relation to the extraction of natural resources on their lands. It also explored the reasons why actions to oppose such extraction projects are often unsuccessful, and explored a number of possible methods for holding governments and corporations accountable to international standards of human rights.
In addition to activities directly involving the Forum, UNPO Members used their presence in New York as an opportunity to meet with one another in order to share knowledge and plan for future joint action. A UNPO Secretariat Staff member was also present, and coordinated a training for the Hmong, Degar Montagnard and Khmer Krom youth representatives.
Chittagong Hill Tracts
The International Jumma Organization in association with Friends of CHT, Bangladesh organized a large rally outside of the United Nations during the second week of the UNPFII. Speakers at the rally emphasized the need for the government of Bangladesh to implement the 1997 CHT Accord, which it had signed and therefore had a duty to uphold. Speakers also condemned the continued militarization of the region, which is a major violation of the Accord. The rally was part of a larger campaign at the 10th Session of the UNPFII on behalf of the indigenous population of the CHT. The International Jumma Organization also organized a press conference on 24 May 2011, held in the press room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The press conference addressed the recent report of Mr. Lars-Anders Baer, member of the UNPFII, on the implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997. Mr. Baer presented his report to the Forum on the following day.
Side Event for the IPMSDL
This event was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, an international movement that stands for the right of indigenous peoples to govern themselves, free from state oppression and human rights violations. A representative from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) took the stage at this event to discuss the extraction of oil from Ogoni land, a process which has had serious detrimental effects on the lives and environments of the Ogoni people.
The Permanent Forum also provides the opportunity for indigenous representatives to make oral statements to the Forum. A number of UNPO Members delivered powerful statements during the Forum. Sarah Dekdeken of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance spoke on the topic of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), making a number of recommendations to ensure the genuine implementation of this important principle of indigenous rights in the context of resource development projects that affect them. Abduraman Egiz of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People spoke later in the Forum on the pressing issue of repatriation, resettlement and restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people who were subjected to massive deportation from their lands in Crimea in 1944 and were kept in exile for decades. The Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus delivered a statement of solidarity for the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, expressing serious concern for the appalling human rights situation in the region.
Meetings with the Office of Dr. James Anaya
The 10th Session of the UNPFII also presented an opportunity for UNPO Member representatives to arrange meetings with Dr. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. UNPO and youth representatives of the Degar Montagnards attended one such meeting with Dr. Anaya’s office, where they presented information about the current human rights situation in the Central Highlands.
The 10th Session was closed by statements from the Chairperson of the Forum, Ms. Mirna Cunningham, who highlighted some of the insights gained over the course of the Forum and expressed a committment to be even better prepared for the Forum's next Session.