Report on he 20th session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (Third day - Afternoon)
Wednesday AM, July 24, 2002
Afternoon Session 1:00 p.m.
Ambreen Hisbani,WORLD SINDHI CONGRESS (WSC)
The state of Sindhis in Pakistan is getting worse year-by-year. Through various laws and policies the government has systematically been denying their rights to development. The constitution of Pakistan, which remains suspended by the current military government, does not provide adequate and fair representation to Sindhi people in any major decision-making bodies. The policies of Federal Government of Pakistan have been unfair in distribution of finances and other resources. The most dominant province, Punjab, has been appropriating the water from River Indus causing a severe scarcity of water in Sindh. According to findings of one NGO Madadgar in Sindh there were 1,391 suicides in Sindh in 2000. They have shown a year-by-year increase in these figures reaching to an alarming figure of five cases per day. The Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) reported that provinces of Sindh and Balochistan are the most ‘deprived’ provinces while the Punjab, is the least deprived among all four provinces. Despite of this research Federal Govt. allocated 56% of Poverty Reduction funds to Panjab in Budget 2002.
There is an open discrimination in job hiring in Pakistan. For example, the actual employment of rural Sindhis in Federal jobs is only about 5%. More than 50% of the officially counted population of 30 million lives below poverty line in Sindh. A recent article reported that during the last 10 years, out of 112 development projects funded by the largest bilateral donor to Pakistan, only two were located in Sindh. A bulk Highway development budget is spent on Punjab and only 15% of it goes to Sindh. In June this year Government declared 10 major district of Sindh as calamity-hit areas, but did not provide any remedy. The calamity affecting these areas is stated as indicate irrigation water supply from Panjab that caused desertification and drought conditions. Agriculture remains the major source of income of Indigenous people, but the region’s agricultural industry is victim to the current unequal water distribution from River Indus. The conditions are so bad that the sea water has started moving upstream thereby causing devastation of the delta region destroying animal, bird and fish life and livelihood of people who live there. An undemocratic and un-constitutional federal body, without any consultation from the Government of Sindh, has sanctioned the building of a “Thal Canal” (costing Rs. 30.5 billion) further depriving the lower riparian of Sindh of their due share in the water. The Govt has started looking for international donors to finance the Thal Canal Project
The Left Bank Out Fall Drainage (LBOD) has been built against the wishes of People of Sindh. This project is considered as the largest saline water drainage scheme in Asia. The LBOD crosses through the 200 km of agriculture land of Sindh carrying the saline, industrial pollution, and poisonous pesticide water. For this project the Government has displaced thousands of indigenous Sindhis with out proper compensation. 8 international donors, including WB and Asian Development Bank, funded this project. LBOD is a major threat to the environment and ecosystem of seashores, and the agricultural land of southern Sindh. The 1971 constitution of Pakistan, does not provide equal opportunity and representation to the people of Sindh in the federal structure. Sindhis have very minimal representation in all policy-making bodies. The minimal representation of sindhis are the one who are hand-picked (not elected) to secure the systematic dominance over the people and resources. Our land has become an asset and source of colonial exploitation under discriminatory policies of Pakistan. I request Mr. Chairman to highlight the issue of Sindh with Pakistani Mission personally. We request from the United Nations and other International community to influence the Pakistan government diplomatically as well as by getting the free and fair consent of Indigenous Sindhis before any loan and grant agreements. We request that 20% of all development projects must be located in rural Sindh.
Sirjana Subba, Kirat Yaktuhung Chumlung
In Nepal IPs have never been partners in development projects, we are considered passive beneficiaries without a role in decision making The Nepali government in its parliamentary session in 2001 passed a bill to establish the National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities. Its vice president and members should be nominated from IP communities, but the government has not taken initiative to fulfill the posts. One section of dominant society is utilizing the wealth and resources whereas IPs are not. There is a separation between have and have-nots. Overall development is only possible with control over natural resources. Without free, prior and informed consent, IPs cannot have equal access and control over resources. Development of IPs is not possible without recognizing our right to self-determination and it is not possible with militarization, colonization, and oppression.
Princess Makou Djouma, Cameroon Indigenous
We IPs of Africa wish indigenous problems be viewed as a whole. Traditional chieftains do not have their rights. How can they become assistants to African administrations? We propose the WGIP research this question and request the UN to pressure African governments to stop administrations from taking over the powers of traditional chiefs in order to stifle our traditions in favor of imported ones. We call upon NGOs to protest together. We deplore loss of our culture. We remind the African administration they should seek partnerships with IPs. We also recommend the strengthening of the WG.
Agenda Item 4c Working relationship between PF, SR and WG.
Mililani Trask, Na Koa Ikaika O Ka La Hui
The creation of the WGIP in 1982 marked a significant milestone in the history of the UN because it reflected the understanding and acceptance of the system of one of its most significant failings – the exclusion of hundreds of millions of peoples and all of the world’s indigenous cultures. The UN was created by the powerful nation/states who won WWI and who wanted to create an international forum, which could be a vehicle for the peaceful resolution of global conflict and provide a global framework for economic development and cooperation among states. It was presumed at the time that states had the capacity to achieve these goals in and of themselves. In the years between 1945 and 1982, the UN system and its state members came to realize that global development could not be addressed without direct meaningful participation of all parties involved: those who were stakeholders and those who were right holders; those who had power and those who were victims of power; the indigenous and the non indigenous. It was this fundamental understanding and the facts presented in the UN study on discrimination against IPS that prompted ECOSOC to move for the establishment of the WGIP in 1982.
In the performance of the WGIP in the last 20 years, the following are self-evident:
1. The WG must be maintained by the UN system because it performs a crucial mandate no other organ has.
2. The WG works with and complements PFII.
3. The WG is appropriately placed within the UN Human Rights division.
4. Although the WG has accomplished significant achievements, more work is needed under its mandate.
Mandate 1 is a critical mandate not addressed by any other body. It is charged with reviewing national developments pertaining to the promotion and protection of HR of IPs and with developing legal standards concerning the rights of IPs. In conjunction the WGIP undertook the DDRIP in 1985; it completed it in 1993. The DD represents the most significant development in the promotion and protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of IPs since the UN was established. It is the first international instrument drafted with the full participation of the global IP community. Because the procedures of the WGIP did not allow states to veto language, the final draft truly reflects the perspectives of IPs and global consensus of states who were also allowed to participate freely. The structure and procedures of the WGIP are unique in the UN System. They reflect the broadest most inclusive and most democratic structure in the UN. All IPs, nations and organizations are admitted to the WGIP. Its presiding body is comprised of independent experts. Its sessions have the greatest number of delegates from civil society than any other UN organ. Because no state voting is allowed, regional and geopolitical disagreements do not disrupt the work of the body. IP delegates and states enter into debates, which are open, frank and honest. The process provides for the broadest participation in problem-solving and fashioning solutions. Most critically the WGIP is the body, which reviews national developments pertaining to the promotion and protection of HR of IPs. Historic date (Cobo) and current data (Durban Report) verify that IP continue to be denied the protections of HR covenants and continue to be victims of genocide and racist policies of states. It is the only UN body charged with reviewing state activities, which impact on the rights of the worlds 300+ million IPs.
Mandate 2 is separate and distinct from the PFII Its mandate is not duplicative but complementary to the mandate of the PF. The PF was created to advise ECOSOC on issues pertaining to IPs and coordinate UN agency work, which impacts on IPs. The standards set by the WGIP and the HR issues presented to the body, inform and supplement the work of the PFII.
Mandate 3. The WGIP is advisory to the sub commission of HR and its parent body, the HR Commission. This is critical in terms of protecting and promoting HR of IPs. The PFII has no direct means of impacting the HR bodies of the UN system of documenting HR abuses for the UN HR division. The PFII was created to advise ECOSOC on issues pertaining to the HR of IPs, but the issues are identified and clarified by the WGIP. In addition the PFII cannot enunciate standards relating to IPs is the sole jurisdiction of the WGIP. The procedures of the PFII allow state appointees to block or veto consensus. Because of this, the PFII will never be able to set protective standards in instances where state actions and policies abridge IHR. The historical and current record of states’ dealings with Is is replete with examples of the most egregious and genocidal policies again IPs If the WGIP is not maintained by the UN System, these inhumane practices and policies of states will not be identifies or addressed by the UN System.
Mandate3. The WGIP has accomplished many significant achievements. For the first time in western juridical history, there are human rights standards for the world’s 300+ million IPs The WGIP has undertaken and published studies in critical areas such as treaty rights, cultural heritage and the relationship of IPs to land. The thematic focal topics of the WGIP have generated current data in the field of HR in many specific area including health, education, and the administration of justice, globalization, economic social and cultural development and children. These data inform the work of the UN System and its specialized agencies.
These accomplishments, as significant as they are, do not address other emerging and historical issues impacting indigenous peoples. At present, there is no global consensus or standards on the meaning of terms such as “free and informed prior consent or “protections for indigenous intellectual property and traditional knowledge,” nor has a competent study been undertaken on the impact of globalization in indigenous peoples. These are but a few of the areas, which need to be addressed by the WGIP.
Conclusion; The achievements of the WGIP demonstrate that it performs a critical service to the world’s IP, the UN System, Civil Society and States. The UN System must continue to demonstrate its commitment to the principles enunciated in the Human Rights Conventions and the Universal Declaration or HR by maintaining the WGIP as the foundation of the UN Human Rights Division.
The Russian delegation considers the most important question to be coordination. In the near future, the interested states and community need to reform the relative UN human rights bodies. We believe it is important to bring it into compliance of the rights and interests of the states and IPs. In the future, the PFII should be given the status of the basic UN body for the protection of indigenous rights. The WG and SR could draw upon knowledge in the field to provide PFII for advisory services. As the PF becomes established and its role in decision-making is clear, we can reduce the activities of the other body.
Arturo Hernandez Basave, Mexico
The government of Mexico has set the building of a new relationship between IP, the state and national societies. This was the purpose of the constitutional reform of the Commission of Passification (COCOPA) presented to congress in December 2000. The reform, approved on 21 August 2001 includes the aspiration of IPs to autonomy, self-determination, respect for their procedures in terms of justice, social organization, cultural sphere and standards of human rights. Mexico is undergoing intense period of democratization. The federal executive branch has told about its full willingness to make progress and to achieve economic and social development in a context that will provide national unity. Mexico wants to reaffirm its commitment to the DDRIP in the context of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples because can deepen our discussion. Mexico is interested in the good functioning of PF. As a subsidiary body, the PF has the potential to become a leadership organ of reference. For these reasons, Mexico attaches great importance to ECOSOC and the General Assembly’s allocation of budgetary resources for a proper secretariat. My government sees no duplication however it does see complimentarity. The study of events of promotion and protection of human rights of IPs as well as drafting norms on IP rights are vital. The WG must help the PF. Finally; I would like to express my delegation waits with special interest the report of the SR on IPs.
Hasegawa Yusuki, Ainu Resource Center and Association of Indigenous
Peoples in the Ryukus
We have been able to gain our self-identity. We gain valuable experience through this work. We have supported our movement in Japan to reclaim our rights. It would be a great loss to us if that would change. The establishment of the PF is a major historical achievement. Most Ainu People and Okinawa people are proud of participation in the international arena. We hold high hopes for future of this organization. Unfortunately, the final session contained major differences. Many IPs have pointed out the PF and WG have two distinctly different missions. Concerning this the WG receives information directly from IPs. The WG is an invaluable place where we can share and the stand setting activities can be protected. The achievement of the WG is just as important today as it was twenty years ago. Some governments who seek the discontinuation of the WG are mistaken. There are still many IPs in Asia region that do not know about the existence of the WGIP. IPs who have had human rights violated that Sec Gen Kofi Annan would like to welcome IPs to the PF. In conclusion, I would like to make request to Japanese government to recognize IPs in Japan and look at right of self- determination. We sincerely hope and fully expect Japanese government will guarantee the continuation of both organizations.
Lucio Flores, Federaction des Povos Indigenas do Brasil
These spaces have led to international discussions in regard to indigenous rights. We are very concerned about the future of our IPs especially since new instruments have been created to exploit our peoples. We believe the future lies in the strength we have to create harmony with nature. We believe the future lies in the progress of IPs and international dialogue, particularly with international support of the PF and WG, which are complimentary. This will create citizenship for IPs. We speak over 160 languages yet we are only 350,000 people. Currently, we have problem with guarantee of our land and this creates conflict. We also suffer due to the threats by mining and lumber and monoculture business. These companies pollute our water and kill our flora and fauna. We also suffer the breakdown of our indigenous society. We see large hydroelectric dams destroy our rivers. We believe it is time to maintain our work to protect and promote human rights. We should broaden and strengthen our international presence through the PF. We are interested in hearing the SR report. We also believe these forum will continue to raise new awareness. In this dialogue, we can find the voice and the decision.
John Sinclair, Canada
There is now an unprecedented growth of IPs work in the world. We are looking for most effective roles and responsibilities so we can promote effectiveness and put IPs on the agenda of the world community. Canada is also encouraged by the first report of the SR. With respect to the first meeting, that it was a resounding success.
Canada wants to support the PF to build partnership of state, IPs and UN. Canada is committed to continue with the WGDDRIP. Canada regards its contribution to the advancement of indigenous question. How to best educate the world community and how best to set standards is important. In this respect, Canada would like to repeat, consistent with ECOSOC, a review will be conducted concerning indigenous issues. The Secretary General can be assured of Canada’s involvement.
Ms. Awata Ao, World Council of Churches
I am from Nagaland and I bring greetings. The history of the people of Nagaland and struggle for SD is a long one and one of hardship. For many years we have been able to bring our concerns to this WG so that in this forum our values will add to the call for basic human rights. We have celebrated the coming together of the WG. With the establishment of the PF, we have another important forum to share issues we believe need to be heard. Both forums allow us opportunity to strengthen existing partnership. Each one has a unique mandate to fulfill. WG puts IPs rights as put in the DDRIP. The PF is to provide advice and recommendation to the ECOSOC and the specialized agencies and thus raising awareness. We believe that the mandates of both bodies are complimentary. Both are also necessary for continued work on indigenous issues. Since PF is part of ECOSOC it should have its own secretariat.
Estebancio Castro, IITC
The IITC, Treaty Six First Nations and Kuna Youth Movement have been involved in this process since the beginning. During the declaration’s 12 years drafting process, every effort was made to accommodate views of UN experts, IPs and states. The resulting declaration represents the minimum standard required to ensure full recognition of the rights of IPs.
We have participated in this process in good faith working under the principle that international standards must be applied without discrimination based on the quality of rights and dignity of all members of the human family. It is extremely disappointing that contrary to this sacred principle certain states continued to propose the end of the WG. The proposal which if accepted would undermine and diminish the rights of IPs. The WGIP is the only place that IPs express directly their concerns in the human rights system of the UN. It is the only place where the victims and interested peoples can participate and it has also opened the doors to others sectors of the world’s population. It is the only body that has a mandate for protection, promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Therefore, the IITC is not attending the funeral of the WG. We are attending to witness the arising of new challenges such as standard setting and mechanisms to consolidation and implementation and also institutional strengthening. We believe that standard setting has not concluded its task. The WGIP would elaborate standards on handbook minimum rules of ethical rules conduct for MNC and TNCs that operate in indigenous territory. The WG would elaborate a handbook on practical implementation on instruments relating to intellectual property and other issues that is also mentioned in the Martinez Cobo report, an obligatory reference for this WG. In this way, the IITC , Confederacy of Six Treaty study would like to recommend a seminar on the treaty study to evaluate the original intent the work carried out and its implementation of the Study on Treaty, agreements and other constructive arrangement between states and IPs. Although, we believe that the States should have taken the lead if need be in recognizing equal rights for IPs as a matter of racial equality and nondiscrimination we also take positions presented by some stages participating with IPs in this process as an indicator of how much progress has been made as well as how much more work remains to be done. IPs delegations expressed their adament opposition to this proposal, whatever its original intent our fundamental questions to the members of this WGIP and observer states is why is overt racial discrimination directed against IP still tolerated in the international arena after these many years of our participation in good faith? While we recognize and applaud the considerable evolution in the position of many states, we also see that a very few seem to be holding the recognition of our rights as IPs hostage to their own fears and vested interests. Only through the vital, transparent discussions which continue to take place in this WG session, will we have the opportunity to constructively address and calm these fears, and to refocus narrow interests on the wider benefits and rewards of a true partnerships between Peoples and Nations, based on mutual recognition and reciprocal respect.
The IITC, Confederacy of Treaty Six Nations and Kuna Youth movement request the firm support of the WGIP in continuing this vital process by extending its mandate in this session. We call upon you to move towards its continuity without this proposal to eliminate the WGIP that would discriminate against IPs in their full enjoyment of the fundamental rights to express their concerns within the UN system accorded to all Peoples under international law. For all of our children and for all of our relations, we thank you for your attention.
Jose Morales, Maya Children of Guatemala, OTM
I would like to ask a question first of all in regards to the serious deterioration of women, children and IPs of the world. States have ceded their power and influence to increase power of TNCs. We have very few hopes in terms of achieving development for IPs under current circumstances. Globalization has created catastrophes such as the dramatic fall of coffee. Hundreds of people are now unemployed and the few left working have miserable salaries. How can we anticipate progress for humanity? It is absolutely necessary that government representatives especially those with IPs we cannot allow ourselves to throw away this mechanism. We must fight for this group to be maintained. The WGIP could draft standards for TNCs so they do not destroy the life and land of IPs. It could draft principles for the protection of traditional knowledge and on free, prior and informed consent. It could also draft a study on sovereignty over natural resources. This would all help complete the work of IPs. Yes, there are internal problems and we need reconciliation. We can’t be blamed for what is not our fault. We request our brothers and sisters and government and NGOs to not throw in the trash what cost us so much effort to create.
Chair Miguel Alfonso Martinez
I would underscore two issues. The first is I have not heard a single statement on behalf of the IPs who have taken the floor except to defend the maintenance of the WG. The establishment of the PF and SR cannot be justification of this body. Even the government representatives that took the floor to different degrees and different tones with respectful nuance with what was said and not said, I heard no objection to the continuation of the WG. This should give WG members satisfaction. It means we must once again rethink how we can go about our work and reconcile our different mandates in IPs problems and how that works in UN. Here in Geneva, I am saying the manipulations that have been put forth to end the group. It is important to see what arguments are being justified for complete disappearance of new body. It is proper to publicly vent them. I would like to thank everyone in the WG for the confidence especially the IPs. I say I am not speaking for myself but on behalf of all WG members we will do everything to be worthy of your confidence. I declare the general debate on this item closed.
Agenda Item 4a Achievements and vision for the future
Joji Carino, IP Caucus
This statement reflects the view of the IPs. We IPs delegates from all over the world have the following statement on the UN WGIP and IP. The WGIP has served as the focal point within the UN for the promotion and protection of indigenous rights. It has supported DDRIP, UN voluntary fund, Un year, Un decade, technical seminars on sefl-government, human rights natural resource, health and indigenous children, SR, Land and treaty construction, UN fellowship program and the Internaitonl day of IP. These activities have raised the profile internationally. The broad mandate and democratic process has nurtured the development of hundreds of experts in human rights. Indeed, in its 20 years life, it has been authoritative space in international discord. Moreover the UN working group has provided the opportunity to meet and depend on partnership. Recognizing this achievement doesn’t mean continuing in its habitual ways. Human rights continue to develop and we see no reason why that would not happen. IP determine responses to colonialism and oppression. The IP Caucus challenges itself to deal with normative challenges. International standards on these themes are important. The DDRIP is of utmost importance. The UNWGIP resulted in its broad endorsement to secure standards. In the words of UNHCHR states DDRIP is the link between HR and Development. Thus economic improvement cannot be envisaged with rights over land. In the economic base that land provides, there needs to be recognition. Land and culture, development, spiritual knowledge and values are one.
To final to recognize one is to fail to recognize all. Work toward early adoption of the UN decade. The achievement allows us a new look. The world today is with deep imbalances. The UN Millennium goals focus on poverty. The upcoming summit is on Sustainable Development. IPs must be fully empowered to play a role in the goals of the UN. To do this we need all the existing mechanisms in the UN system to play their role. WGIP is the principal standard.
The newly established PF plays an advisory role in economic, social, culture and human rights. The SR gathers information and makes recommendation and how to remedy human rights violations. Any study of the mandate will underscore that they are complimentary to each other. Therefore in the spirit of revitalization we would like to propose a work plan with a strong focus on the standard setting mandate. Under 6, we will make further report. Further work on the right to development and examining standards for free, prior and informed consent. We also propose increase outputs between partnerships between WG members and IPs. This can be based on theme with partnership and again, work in synergy with the PF. Finally, all of us present here are united in meeting our goals. We can increase rather than decrease the human resources. The UN WG with its meager sources has done a lot in last 20 years. The IPs caucus is firmly committed to strengthen work in the future.
Rosario Chauque, Mujeres Indigenas en Accion por la vida
It is crucial for our people to have an international forum to defend our rights at the world level. The WGIP was important in launching the decade of IPs. It reinforced indigenous rights in article 75 of the constitution of Argentina in 1994. I prompted Argentina to ratify the ILO Convention 169 in 2001. For all these reasons we need the WGIP, since dspite signing the ILO convention, there has been little change in the discrimination of our people. We want to have representatives of the WGIP in our country. Regarding development, current legislation in our country, is not complied with. The National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, created by law 23/203 of 1985 to deal with IP rights is completely underfunded. It is impossible to speak of true development if there is no budget behind it. The indigenous Association of the Republic of Argentina was never invited to participate in the National Commission against Discrimination and Racism. This commission was particularly important for Indigenous women.
Nasieku Trayaia, Chief Legal Officer, Reto Women Association,
For all intents and purposes, the direction of the UN system with regard to IPs has been commendable. It has been distraught with all kinds of obstacles, from a lack of corporation from state governments for fear of internal dissent in respective member states, to logistical and legitimacy questions of the whole IPs issues ever since inception. From as early as the 1920s, when the Native American agitation for recognition of their rights was first registered with the UN, the system through the ILO has consistently grown from strength to strength. Whereas, there is still a long way to go for the world’s IPs, some headway has been made in terms of focusing not only on global development but also the commitment of some measure of material resources towards recognition and appraisal of IPs affairs within the UN system in general and the WG in particular. IPs all over the world have had only one major forum from which to express themselves without fear or retribution, the annual WG session take place in Geneva Switzerland every summer. When all is said and done, this is the single most important gain that we have made for ourselves and our communities spread throughout the globe.
A brief outline of the structure of the UN systems in relation to IPs is necessary in elucidating on this year’s theme. The structure as it were, is composed of subscribing foreign member states with the objectives of ensuring peace in the World. There are 189 member countries, E. Timor being the youngest and newest in the group. The organs responsible for the realization of the agenda of IP are mainly – the ILO, which appointed the initial committee of experts to draft issues relating to indigenous and tribal peoples of the world, the ECOSOC is a forum that enables IP organizations to make presentation to the Sec Council, the Security Council. This forum has become a household name in many corners of the world due to its expressive and working opportunity shared by us. It has opened up numerous opportunities for information sharing, liberal interaction and hence collective and individual representation by IP. Further the ECOSOC consolidates gains made at the WG forum by opening up UN resources and technical facilities to representatives of the IPs. It eases constraints on participation in the UN activities through regular sponsorship of selected groups and individuals to relevant meetings.
An increased level of awareness on the status of these communities has been noticed. Even among us, we are more self-conscious at all levels of socio-political structures in the world; many a times IPs quote the relevant UN resolutions and documents that sets out the legitimacy of their issues locally, regionally and internationally. In the world over, several organizational structures have come up in response to the need for representation at all levels according to needs. This has strengthened our own confidence in self-representation. Likewise it has exposed us to new dimension of how global decisions affect us directly or indirectly. The many environmental and human rights groups that grew in the ‘90s were spread by the IPs movement.
I hope one day to report in this forum, the success of having the Maa traditions, culture and customary law given the prominence they deserve in our national books and statutes. A dream that appears far fetched now but ask the Saamis, the Aboriginals, the American Indians amongst many others. Though they have each reported some negative points, which require redressing, we view their progress as a plus for all the IPs. Finally, we have to believe that one day our dream will become a reality. A strengthening of the WG and a widening of its jurisdiction will assist all the organizations represented here today and many more out there. Long live the WGIP and the UN system.
Tomas Alacron CAPAJ
The valid experience of 20 years will be cut off if the WGIP was to be suspended. Despite the valid experience and valuable work done, we are talking about the eradication of this organization. Guisse notes UN should create a body of guidelines for TNC. The General Assembly will very soon we will be sanctioning the Draft articles on The Responsibility of States for International Illegal Actions to be adopted by the UN Commission of International Law. That means that state who did not comply will be subject to sanctions. What that means is that UN will have to create preventative standards. Agenda 21 allow IPs to participate and the guidelines for this to happen. We have hydroelectric project in Peru, where people were involved in an uprising due to lack of prior consultation. In fact, I almost lost my life because I tried to promote dialogue, which took place later. The hydroelectric company is to be privatized is driven by water extracted form sources used by Ips since time immemorial. Our vision for the WG would be as follows, IPs experts can help in the main efforts, and we can contribute in drafting studies and standards. We think there should be a permanent delegation in Geneva to help fulfill the mandate of the WGIP and request the continuation of the WGIP
Jillian Dempster, New Zealand
For the past 20 years, the WG has been the focal point in the United Nations system for the concerns of IPs throughout the world. The openness of the WGIP session has given voice to indigenous concerns and aspirations. The WG is one of the largest forums in the human rights field as well as the world’s largest gathering of indigenous groups in the UN system. With the historical inaugural meeting of the PF, this year, it seems likely that the focal point of international indigenous activities may shift. New Zealand therefore considers it timely to reflect upon the achievements of the WG and IPs in the UN system. First and foremost, the WG has been a platform for indigenous participation in the UN system. It has been a forum for IPs to bring their concerns to the table. Since the first session of the WG, IPs have drawn attention to threats to their cultural, spiritual, literacy and scientific heritage. The WG has put these issues on the agenda, and assisted IPs who have similar aims to work together to develop creative solutions and to learn from each other’s experiences.
The opportunity for the world’s IPs to come together to share experiences is invaluable. To join in solidarity in confronting common challenges has provided IPs with a unified and powerful voice with which to register their concerns at the UN. The WG has raised the profile of IPs and achieved some significant milestones for IPs. Both the PFII and the DDRIP can trace their origins to the WGIP.
For Maori, the WG has provided an opportunity to highlight concerns and network with other IPs and to share ideas on how to address issues they face in their respective homelands. As well, there has been the opportunity to meet with a wide range of people with interests in the situation of IPs, including IPs from all over the world, academics who are experts in Indigenous issues and government representatives. From the perspective of the UN and member states, the WG has promoted greater understanding about IPs and in doing so, promoted respect. The WG has been a continuing reminder to not only the New Zealand government but to the international community of the collective social, economic, cultural and political concerns of IPs. Attention is increasingly focusing on the future of the WG in light of the establishment of the PF. In forming its final position on this matter, NZ will await the outcome of the review of the existing mechanisms, procedures and programs within the UN concerning indigenous issues. Whatever the outcome, we hope that it will bring fresh and practical benefits to IPs. In conclusion, may I reaffirm to you and your colleagues, NZ commitments to addressing issues affecting IPs.
Miki Towata, Association of Young Okinawan in the Ryukus
The violation of Indigenous Peoples human rights can never be justified by the military policy under the guise of security for all nationals. The Japanese government should apologize for the discriminatory act which Uchinanchu have continued receiving until now. Also the Japanese Government should guarantee the rights of Uchinanchu to self-determination. This happened not only to Okinawans but to other Indigenous Peoples whose home land was deprived of by the military presence of the national governments. In this regard, I request the UN Secretary General to submit the annual report to the General Assembly that the relationship between the military policy and the infringement of human rights from a perspective of the Indigenous Peoples should be clarified, keeping in collaboration with ECOSOC. We are pleased that PF was established.
Reiko Oshiro, Shimin Gakou Centre
The Shimin Gakou Centre was established in 1982 through efforts of IPs. Bearing history in mind, I would express gratitude to all participants of the past sessions. WGIP mandate is significant in the UN system. The voices of IPs should be directly reflected in the activity. In conclusion, we strongly stress for ECOSOC to address the historical meaning of the WGIP. In commemoration of the WGIP the recommendation is to renew its mandate in order to promote standard setting activity and to strengthen the role of the PF.
Ronald Barnes, Alaska
It is difficult to present a positive vision for the future for IPs. When we look at the principles and what we are supposed to be promoting, the multilateral treaties are being violated. States are protecting their acquired lands rather than making a real effort. At the WCAR, a few states hijacked the conference, and important things for IPs, were left out. The World Conference for Sustainable Development is the same. If you are powerful enough you slash and burn the rights of IPs with impunity. My vision for the WGIP; is the adoption of the DDRIP without reducing the minimum standards. We can use the WGIP to discuss imminent issues and use the WGIP to start supporting a World Conference on IPs. We need a lot more of important work in legal standard setting.
Jimid Mansayagan, Kebager te Ked Inged
Since the creation of the WG and the passing of the UNDD, the law remains on paper and there is no concrete implementation of this law. Dispossession continues in the Philippines. I have been attending this forum since 1989. Government does not listen to our concerns at home. This is the only place we can talk face to face. As we observe today, there are many new faces manifesting their rights as IPs. I would like to say WGIP and the PFII there is not duplication. They are complimentary.
Geoff Nettleton, Philippine indigenous Peoples Link
I first came to the UN 22 years ago after the murder by Philippine government troops of Kalinga Igorot leader Macliing Dulag. I attended the first session of this Working Group 20 years ago and so truly I can observe that much progress has been made. I observe also there have always been Governments and other agencies who want to see an end to this Working Group but I suggest this is because of its achievements and not because of its shortcomings.
Mr. Chairman, the biggest current challenge facing the UN system is how to control the massively powerful but unaccountable corporate sector. IPs often isolated and with insecure rights, and lacking inadequate information or support are facing massive pressures from the extractive industries (logging, mining, oil and gas). Historically, these have been among the most violent and abusive companies. They have caused conflict, social destruction and lasting environmental damage for which they continue to deny liability. The current and future plans of the mining industry threaten greater damage.
Yet in just a few weeks time at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, an event being in part financed by large extractive industry corporations, world leaders are proposing to endorse a plan of action toward sustainable development, which legitimizes the laughably dishonest concept of sustainable mining and calls for the further liberalization of mining laws and increases in mining operations especially in Africas as a route, so it is claimed, to sustainable development. The whole concept of sustainable development is being debased by such usage. Yet, this plan of action, under pressure from the corporations and a handful of governments who house the headquarters of the main mining companies resists the call of IPs and other sectors for stricter international regulation, control and effective monitoring of transnational corporation and instead promotes the discredited concept of self regulation through industry Codes of Conduct.
Mr. Chair the impacts of the mining have proved disastrous to many indigenous and other communities around the world. We might use voluntary codes of conflict to regulate our behavior at the dinner table but voluntary codes are inappropriate for such massive and dangerous activities performed by mining companies with appalling records as violators of laws and standards. Anything less than the development of legally binding standards enforced by monitoring and imposition of sanctions is a clear abrogation of our responsibilities. It is a license to abuse.
In conclusion, the WG offers the unique combination of a mandate for standard setting combined with the review of developments, which provides one of the only mechanisms for addressing the challenge of the corporate sector to IPs. IPs have no basis to trust the mining industry or many other TNCs. The many initiatives that are under industry control are rightly viewed with skepticism and largely boycotted. IPs need this venue, independent of corporations and founded on human rights in which to contribute to the development of standards on these issues. Mr. Chair, last year, I attended a workshop organized through the WG on this topic. It was viewed as a beginning and requires further action: We need a study on the impacts of extractive industries upon IPs; We need to study and elaborate the concept of free, prior and informed consent; There is a need to monitor generalized industry assertions and Code of Conduct in the reality of community experience; the WGIP must be strengthened and adapt to work with other initiatives within the UNOHCHR to develop standards in relation to TNCs and in cooperation with IPs to monitor their effectiveness. The removal of this under-resourced WGIP at this time when its work is far from done would be a further grave signal of the assent of corporate power within the Un and would be seen by many IPs as a sacrifice of their concerns in the push to globalization.
Kenneth Deer, Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake
The Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake sends its greetings to you and the other members of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations on this your 20th anniversary date. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Mohawks of Kahnawake have had a long relationship with the WGIP along with the other members of the Haudenosaunee also known as the Six Nations Iroqouis Confederacy.
You yourself have visited our community as well as the previous Chair Erica Irene Dates. This relationship has helped our people at various times particularly in the time of crisis.
We cannot review the past 20 years of the WGIP without mentioning the kind support this body gave to the Mohawk during the Oka Crisis of 1990. You demonstrated that in certain circumstances this working group can have an impact on an ongoing crisis by allowing both combatants to present their positions for all to hear and to encourage a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The government of Canada demonstrated that a government can cooperate with a human rights body such as this and the Subcommission while seeking to resolve the conflict within international human rights standards.
The Mohawk of Kahnawake are eternally thankful for your intervention at that time. It is unfortunate that some governments took exception with your handling of the Oka crisis. This body showed initiative and common sense and may have helped prevent a blood bath by keeping the crisis on the international agenda. Without this working group and your parent body, the Subcommission, there was nowhere else we could go. While some governments may criticize your actions as being outside your mandate, you demonstrated that you also have a moral obligation to protect the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and non one needs a written mandate to protect those rights under any circumstances.
Mr. Chair, the value of the WGIP goes far beyond your written mandates. Just look around you and you see the faces of IPs from every corner of the globe who come here with hope that someone will listen to them; someone in the UN system, if not now but sometime in the future, help their situation at home. Your working group sometimes presents the only opportunity for IP to meet with government officials who they can’t meet at home. This working group provides for the largest annual gathering of IPs anywhere in the world. Almost like an alternative UN for IPs, the Indigenous Caucus is the largest gathering of Indigenous representatives ever to gather on a regular basis; a strategic triumph that has spurred similar caucuses in almost every other UN meeting that affects IPs. We could go on and mention so many other tangible and intangible accomplishments of the WGIP but time restricts our intervention.
We cannot forget the reasons why IPs came here to Geneva to the League of Nations in 1923 and to the UN in 1977 and that was to seek justice because we cannot get justice in the domestic situations that we live in. That was the primary reason that IPs came here in 1977. We were seeking justice because we were not being recognized as peoples. We are still seeking that justice. This working group, low as it is on the UN totem pole, still has produced more solutions for our hopes and dreams than any other body in the UN. Perhaps that is why governments want to destroy this body.
We cannot allow governments who resist our right to self-determination, resist the use of the word peoples to describe us, who resist the DDRIP to destroy this working group. The future of the working group is to continue to find ways for IPs to find justice.
Chair Miguel Alfonso Martinez
You reminded me of the event. You were able to prevent Canadian government and municipal authorities endangering the stance by Canada. The Canadian federal government made it possible to avoid terrible international repercussions that had taken place. There was violence against the IPs and had truly been discriminated against. I would look at the WG as its capacity for dialogue. There was incredible tension. I would recall that reminds us that this was a decisive moment in this group. We were slowly losing the ability to act as a forum for dialogue for experts, governments to work directly and I thank you for reminding us of events that illustrate how much this body has the ability to facilitate difficult situations in international forum. Mohammed Handaine, Federation des Associations Amazighes du Maroc
The Amazighes have been marginalized. The identity of Amazigh is denied and also the educational and curriculum is not compatible. The mother tongue is not offered. In the area of government administration, only Arab first names can be used. Amazigh have created organizations. For 25 years, we have been fighting for our identity and this struggle has taken on many forms from armed struggle.
Chair Miguel Alfonso Martinez
I am sorry I am speaking. I apologize for interrupting but the topic at hand is not on the list.
International opinion has understood the various problems.
Chair Miguel Alfonso Martinez Sir, If you are not speaking on the item of the agenda I will withdraw your speaking privilege. Use the floor to talk about the topic at hand. If you continue, I will have to withdraw the floor.
The NGOs are aware of their limited role in civil society. (Chair withdraws the floor and moves on to next speaker)
Kamilla Shermatova, Altay Regional
The IPs of the Russia federation discovered the WG by themselves. They learned about it in the late 90s. The information of the UN work on IPs is not as well known as might be wished. Yet, it is one of the most representative bodies in the UN. We can also appeal directly to our government here. The creation of the PF is also very important but the WG should not end its work. Russian IPs began their work in these forums and gained their experience here. It is 20 years since the first session and the level of participation increases.
Nadir Bekirov, Maijlis of Crimean Tatar Peoples
The WGIP work proves that the beginning of the 3rd millennium the work of the UN is going change from the club of states to the community of nations and peoples with participation of civil society. The unique characteristic of the WG is the direct participation of IPs who have no statehood. This is the place where we can talk to our governments and it is a public discussion where no one can use violence but only arguments and international standards. This is very important. The creation of the PF as one of the results of the WGIP is very important but the functions are not the same because the PF is a channel where the interests of IP all over the world are formalized and represented through the legal channels of the UN. The PF will be too much involved in solution of concrete problems, whereas the WG will be for the exchange of broader experience.
Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, Indigenous Nationalist Party
Tripura, a tiny state of federal India was perhaps oldest Kingdom in world history, ruled by the Borok nation. During 20th century, refugees from the colonization and decolonization of the region overpowered the IPs of Tripura. There is even extinction where tribes cannot be found. Those surviving do not dare expose themselves as having rich culture heritage. They are likely to be washed away from face of the earth in the next half a century if initiative is not taken right now to protect them. UN human rights bodies and IPs should come forward to preserve these unprotected IPs.
Belkacem Lounes, Congress Mondail Amazigh
Amazigh have been living in North Africa since history begins. The protection of our Peoples is not a success. We feel there is no positive outcome yet we are here in this WG. We attend not because the UN is an instrument of the totalitarian states that do not recognize IPs in N. Africa. When IPs claim the right of SD, the reaction is the same. If we are here as we have been coming here it is because there is no hope for dialogue. The international forum of the WGIP is an important place to express our views. Thus, we are pleased to see the creation of the PFII.
End of Afternoon Session 6:00 p.m.
List of Abbreviations & Acronyms
DDRIP = UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
ECOSOC = UN Economic and Social Council
HRs = Human rights
IGOs = Inter-gouvernmental Organisations
IPs = Indigenous Peoples
IPOs = Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations
NGOs = Non-gouvernmental Organisations
OHCHR = UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
PFII = UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
SD = Self-determination
SR = Special Rapporteur
UN = United Nations
VFIP = UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples
VFID = UN Voluntary Fund on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
WCAR = UN World Conference Against Racism (Durban, 2001)
WG = Working Group
WGIP = UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations
WGDD = UN Working Group on the Draft Declaration
WSSD = UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002)
· To provide accurate summaries of daily intervention and a historical record of meetings.
· To respond to the recent change in ECOSOC rules limiting official reports to 16 pages.
· To complement other more long-term reporting processes, research and publications.
· To capture interventions that are given orally, spontaneously or during unofficial meetings that are not recorded in official reports.
· To enable members of indigenous communities to follow events who are not able to attend the meetings through timely, daily publication
Editorial team: Joshua Cooper, Mónica Castelo, Blaise Pantel, Eduardo Welsh, Suzy Faulkner
Disclaimer: Please note the statements are not the full versions
of the text and the information may not be an entirely accurate account of the
We apologize for any errors, omissions, or misinterpretations.