Consent, Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Decisions Affecting Them Vital to Advancing Their Rights, Special Rapporteur Tells Third Committee

Recognition and inclusion of indigenous peoples were central to the promotion of peace, human rights and sustainable development, said speakers as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) held its discussion on the matter.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stressed that failure to recognize indigenous peoples as such denied them their rights enshrined in international human rights law.  Briefing the Committee, she said that even in countries that recognized the rights of indigenous peoples, legislative inconsistencies persisted.

She said legislative gaps, especially those related to encroachment by extractive industries and infrastructure megaprojects, were the main threats for most indigenous peoples.  Policymaking must be participatory and address underlying causes of poverty, including the denial of self-determination, she stressed.

Exclusion of indigenous peoples was the result, and cause, of discrimination and racism, she said, adding that even though indigenous peoples accounted for 5 per cent of the global population, they made up 33 per cent of those living in extreme rural poverty.  Answering questions from representatives, she added that indigenous peoples were the victims of 50 per cent of all extrajudicial killings and they required access to justice.

In the day-long debate, Mexico’s delegate, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said indigenous communities were often among the most disadvantaged compared to the rest of the populations in all other countries where they lived.  They were also overrepresented among the poor, the illiterate and the unemployed.

Efforts to lift indigenous peoples out of poverty and foster inclusive development required their greater participation in policymaking, said El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  She called for more inclusion of indigenous leaders in the United Nations, stressing that their knowledge must be transmitted to future generations, especially as their innovation and practices could promote sustainable development.

Norway’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the United Nations must follow up on the call to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in international platforms and on issues affecting them.

Pursuing greater cooperation within the United Nations through dynamic dialogue with indigenous peoples would deepen support for consensual outcomes, added the representative of the European Union.

Inclusion of indigenous interests must be extended to the business sector to promote their economic inclusion, speakers said.  Consideration of traditional indigenous-led initiatives across the agricultural, fisheries and tourism sectors would improve crop productivity and promote sustainable land use and conservation, said the representative of Belize, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Speakers also recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to autonomy and self-determination, with Bolivia’s representative noting that legislation in his country recognized religious autonomy, prohibited discrimination and promoted intercultural and plurilingual education, which recognized over 30 indigenous languages.  Canada’s delegate meanwhile said that laws must account for the views and definitions of self-determination of indigenous communities, adding that the principle was a pillar for Canadian policy on the matter.

On a related point, China’s representative said there was no global consensus on the definition of “indigenous peoples”.  Arrangements for enhancing their participation in United Nations meetings must be in line with the United Nations Charter.

Also speaking were representatives of Japan, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Iraq, the Russian Federation, Namibia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, Bolivia, South Africa, Iran, Ukraine, Paraguay, Venezuela, the Philippines, Ecuador, Honduras, as well as an observer from the Holy See.

Also speaking were representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 13 October, to begin its debate on human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its general discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples.  It had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/72/186).

Interactive Dialogue

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, emphasized that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had become a normative standard with widespread recognition.  Its impact was visible in national legal frameworks and constitutional reform efforts.  Progress was also being made through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals which set targets and indicators relevant to indigenous peoples.  However, certain States still failed to recognize indigenous peoples as such, she said, stressing that lack of recognition denied them their rights enshrined in international human rights law.

Even in countries that recognized the rights of indigenous peoples, she said, inconsistencies existed between such legislation and other laws.  Legislation on investment and extractive activities in many States, for example, seriously obstructed the Declaration’s implementation.  Encroachment resulting from intensified extractive industries, agribusiness and infrastructure megaprojects remained the main threats for most indigenous peoples.  Those inconsistencies meant that the Declaration, while not openly challenged, was far from being implemented.  Policy must be based on participation and address underlying causes of poverty, including the denial of self-determination, she stressed.

She said exclusion of indigenous peoples was the result, and cause, of discrimination and racism.  Noting that 33 per cent of people living in extreme rural poverty came from indigenous communities, she called attention to the devastating effects of climate change.  Yet, indigenous peoples were uniquely positioned to adapt to climate change and were repositories of knowledge on how to cope with climate-related challenges.  Recalling several country visits made to assess indigenous peoples’ situation, she urged Member States to promote meaningful consultation, full participation of indigenous peoples in society and respect for their right to self-determination.

Interaction with the Special Rapporteur

The representative of Brazil agreed on the need for disaggregated data and for indicators that were significant in terms of indigenous peoples’ rights, and asked the Special Rapporteur to discuss identifiers for indigenous peoples.

The representative of the European Union said the international community must recognize the important role of indigenous human rights defenders, and asked for details on measures that would allow indigenous peoples to participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The representative of Mexico asked about necessary measures towards giving greater visibility to certain indigenous traditional economic practices.  Comments about the situation of indigenous peoples in urban areas were also welcomed.

The representative of Australia asked the Special Rapporteur for proposals to strengthen the participation of indigenous peoples in the international system, a point echoed by the representative of South Africa, who also asked about enhancing indigenous peoples’ participation.

The representative of Canada asked if the Special Rapporteur had identified any particular challenges faced by women indigenous human rights defenders.

The representative of Cuba asked about the key elements States should include in their practical measures taken in response to her recommendations.

Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ, responding, said there were many references to indigenous peoples in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in both the Goals and the targets.  To the question on indigenous peoples’ economic activity, she said the illegalization of traditional production should be repealed, and public policies should review existing policies insofar as they discriminated against indigenous peoples.  The education system should also become more sensitive to indigenous peoples’ history and knowledge.  There was an overlap between better-kept national forests and parks, and traditional peoples’ land rights, a point recognized in various United Nations declarations on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

To a query on urban indigenous peoples, she said many indigenous peoples in urban centres constituted the urban poor because they lacked land and rights.  She had reviewed conditional cash-transfer programmes, and discussed with Member States how they could enhance the participation of indigenous communities.

Regarding the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, she said the private sector wanted national laws and policies to be implemented.  On mainstreaming a coherent approach within the United Nations system, she said it was important that indigenous peoples were not seen as an obstacle to development.  More broadly, she said indigenous women must be supported in terms of their education and health, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had developed good programmes in that latter regard.  Indigenous peoples represented just 5 per cent of the global population, but 50 per cent of extrajudicial killings, she said, emphasizing that they required access to justice.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Lithuania, Spain, Norway, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Ukraine.

Statements

LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Caribbean States had worked to ensure indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making.  Governments recognized that indigenous peoples had unique cultures and had worked to harmonize their institutional and political systems with existing national systems and processes through legislation.  They had also incorporated traditional indigenous-led initiatives across the agricultural fisheries and tourism sectors, recognizing that much could be learned from indigenous peoples about biodiversity, crop productivity, sustainable land use and conservation.

However, he noted, progress in adopting and incorporating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been slow.  He urged countries to ensure that their indigenous populations continued to advance not only in harmony with their customary traditions, but with other ethnic groups.  He also called on Governments and donors to increase their support to the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples which had been instrumental in ensuring that indigenous communities could participate in international mechanisms, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Human Rights Council.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Group on Friends on Indigenous Peoples, said indigenous peoples continue to be vulnerable and marginalized.  They had been left out of development processes due to historical and continued colonization, racism and other forms of discrimination.  “They are often among the most disadvantaged compared to the rest of the populations in all other countries where they live, and are often overrepresented among the poor, the illiterate and the unemployed,” he said.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda was of vital importance to the 370 million indigenous peoples around the world, he said engaging them would strengthen the implementation of that framework.

He said progress had been made, citing the sixteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this year, and the Commission on the Status of Women, which had made the empowerment of indigenous women a focus area.  Also, the General Assembly high-level event in April marked the Declaration’s tenth anniversary, with Member States reviewing commitments made at the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The consultation process of indigenous peoples within the United Nations had also advanced this year, with the adoption of a resolution on that issue which was the result of two years of intense dialogue, both among States and between States and indigenous populations.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the Community’s commitment to the outcome document of the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples, including the recommendation to cooperate closely with indigenous peoples.  She urged all relevant international agencies to foster greater participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making, notably through more inclusion of indigenous leaders in United Nations meetings.  Indigenous women continued to face multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion, including violence.  Their economic empowerment would bring down such barriers to development.

She welcomed the decision to declare 2019 as the Year for Indigenous Languages, committing CELAC to disseminating the indigenous languages that were part of its Members’ cultures.  Efforts must transmit the knowledge of indigenous peoples to future generations, as their innovation and practices could promote sustainable development.  Without inclusion of vulnerable groups, sustainable development could not be achieved.  Equality, financial inclusion and access to fair financial tools were central to ensuring dignified lives for indigenous peoples.  With that in mind, measures must be put in place to strengthen the production means of indigenous peoples, including in agriculture, to ensure the fair and sustainable use of resources.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), also speaking on behalf of Denmark together with Greenland, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said the Nordic countries strongly supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly its emphasis on the right to self-government and participation.  The Declaration’s key principles were now embodied in the new Draft Nordic Saami Convention, an agreement reached by Finland, Norway and Sweden earlier this year, and submitted to the three Sami Parliaments in those countries.

For its part, he said, the United Nations must follow up on the call to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in international platforms and on issues affecting them.  Greater involvement of indigenous peoples from all regions of the world would help advance the agenda.  He also expressed concern that human rights defenders working to protect the social and economic rights of indigenous peoples were vulnerable to violence and killings.  He called on States to protect those activists and all indigenous peoples from attacks.  The situation faced by indigenous women and girls was “particularly severe”, he added, as they often faced complex human rights abuses and sexual violence.

DÖRTHE WACKER (European Union) said that for the first time in 15 years, the European Union had adopted its Council conclusions on indigenous peoples.  Those conclusions took stock of the European Union’s human rights policies, financing instruments and contributions to international advancement and development.  They also acknowledged that there was room to enhance impact, and to ensure that actions were more effective and evenly applied.  The Council had underscored the importance of addressing discrimination and inequalities based on indigenous origin, and recommended that priority be accorded to addressing threats and violence against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, particularly in the context of land and natural resource protection.

She said the European Council also underscored the importance of enhancing opportunities for dialogue with indigenous peoples at all levels of European Union cooperation.  Noting the recently adopted General Assembly resolution on including indigenous voices, she emphasized that engaging in dynamic exchanges would deepen support for consensual outcomes.  Citing the New European Consensus for Development adopted in June, she welcomed its grounding in the 2030 Agenda, thereby ensuring alignment and more effective delivery on the ground.  She also commended the decision of the Human Rights Council to discuss inclusion of indigenous peoples in development strategies and projects.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said the Government had made efforts to develop comprehensive policies that ensured the dignity of indigenous peoples was fully respected and their status was promoted.  In Japan, the indigenous Ainu peoples lived on Hokkaido island and had a unique language, religion and culture.  The Government aimed to raise awareness of Ainu culture, as well as improve living standards through education and employment assistance, and modernization of agriculture and fisheries.  Japan had helped to improve the living standards of indigenous peoples around the world in cooperation with the United Nations, among other actors.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador) associating herself with CELAC, said indigenous peoples had historically been invisible and undervalued.  A general law on culture included a number of chapters on the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights.  El Salvador had established spaces to foster dialogue with indigenous peoples, including a multi-sectoral round table governing indigenous questions in the country.  Their full participation was promoted in any process affecting them, she said, reiterating her country’s commitment to promoting and protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.  Through cooperation with States, El Salvador’s indigenous peoples would not be left behind.

Mr. FAUSTO-GONZALEZ, youth delegate from Mexico, said his country was a pluricultural nation, and that indigenous peoples formed the root of its identity.  Noting that Mexico had played a central role in negotiating the Declaration, he said that accord guided Mexico’s policy in all areas related to indigenous peoples’ development.  He expressed regret that no agreement had been reached on a new category of participation for indigenous peoples during the present session, and support for both the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Member States must respect the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those of women and girls, and of persons with disabilities.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru) said his country was committed to promoting social equality for indigenous peoples in line with relevant international instruments. Dialogue with indigenous communities and civil society was being undertaken, and included concerns over industrial activities.  Moreover, laws promoted multiculturalism and the use of indigenous languages to ensure linguistic rights, while programmes had provided the most remote indigenous communities with access to social services.  A census of indigenous households was set to take place and ask questions related to ethnic identification, as a means to improve living conditions.  He echoed calls for greater participation of indigenous peoples within the United Nations and said Peru was leading efforts to include gender issues in the agenda of indigenous peoples.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, stressed the importance of respecting national laws on indigenous peoples’ rights.  Colombia’s Constitutional Court had played a decisive role in implementing rights outlined in the Declaration and recognized the need to respect the autonomous rights of indigenous communities.  Several such communities in Colombia were already administering their education systems.  The recent peace agreement in Colombia also identified the vulnerabilities of indigenous peoples.  The Government was implementing a series of safeguard plans, developed with input from indigenous communities.  He closed by highlighting that Colombia was the first country in the region to have established participatory protection mechanisms for indigenous peoples.

FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of Friends of the Indigenous Peoples and with CELAC, said the Declaration was growing in importance as the most advanced and comprehensive international human rights instrument on indigenous rights.  Brazil agreed with the customary international law nature of the Declaration’s provisions dealing with racial discrimination.  The resolution on indigenous peoples’ participation, adopted a month ago, had set the stage for a consensual solution during the seventy-fifth session.  Noting that regional consultations would offer more legitimacy and diversity to the debate, he said Brazil stood ready to offer its best practices, and cited successful policies in promoting education in indigenous languages.

WILLIAM ISHAYA ODISHO (Iraq) said his country had sought to harmonize national and international legislation so as to safeguard the rights of all citizens.  Iraqis were equal before the law, he said, adding that the Declaration had affirmed the continuous role of the United Nations in the protection of indigenous rights.  He commended achievements made in the last two decades, including the setting up of the Permanent Forum and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said her country was among the few where the status of indigenous peoples was enshrined in all levels of policymaking.  Cooperative decision-making was being developed and mechanisms to address indigenous peoples’ concerns were in place.  The Office of the Ombudsman had been identified as a critical tool in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.  Greater knowledge sharing was needed to implement the Declaration, she said, adding that her country was prepared to engage with all stakeholders to share best practices.  Noting that the Declaration contained provisions for States to form national policy, she advocated increased capacity-building to improve the work of relevant United Nations bodies.  The welfare and future of indigenous peoples hinged on the actions of States and international agencies, she concluded.

LAHYA ITEDHIMBWA SHIKONGO (Namibia) said all Namibians had full constitutional rights.  Programmes were in place to assist the most vulnerable sectors of society as a means to promote prosperity, with clear duty-bearers identified to assist marginalized communities.  Vulnerable communities typically had high illiteracy rates, she noted, and efforts sought to improve education infrastructure and provide food at school to increase enrolment and retention.  Marginalized communities were isolated in remote rural areas and relied on subsistence farming.  As such, agricultural benefits and grants were provided.  She welcomed assistance from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in developing ways to empower the most marginalized sectors of Namibia.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), associating herself with CELAC and with the Group of Friends on Indigenous People, welcomed the Assembly’s approval of the resolution on indigenous peoples, which recognized the need to continue addressing the issue of participation.  In the last 10 years, Nicaragua had made progress in ownership of community property, as well as in achieving food security.  Through a law on medicine, indigenous peoples’ knowledge was being integrated in the field of health, while through implementation of a law on the autonomous educational system, schoolchildren received education in several languages.

Mr. COPERO (Cuba), associating himself with the CELAC, said indigenous peoples had historically been subjected to discrimination, plundering of their resources and even genocide.  “They have been stripped of cultural, intellectual or religious property,” he added.  In addition to adopting the Declaration 10 years ago, progress had been made in legislation that sought to provide greater social protection to native communities.  While some countries had incorporated such measures into their institutions, many native communities still faced violence, racism, and major economic and social disadvantages.  “All cultures have the right to preserve the traditional practices inherent to their identity,” he stressed.  Indigenous peoples must be empowered to preserve their institutions and spiritual traditions without discrimination.  In that context, he expressed support for Bolivia’s right to defend and protect coca leaf chewing as a tradition.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) called for increased international cooperation and recognition of the tenacity of indigenous peoples to implement the Declaration. Legislation was in place recognizing their rights, including laws covering traditional languages, ancestral rights and peace.  Also, an operational guide had been developed to ensure that policymaking complied with obligations to consult indigenous peoples, while health programmes sought to preserve traditional health practices and long-term strategies — aligned with the 2030 Agenda — were focused on indigenous peoples, with cultural activities taking centre stage.  He urged Member States to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and engage in positive dialogue.

GILBERT ZACARIAS MAMANI PACO (Bolivia), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said that 60 per cent of Bolivia’s population was indigenous.  The election of President Evo Morales and approval of a new Constitution had allowed for indigenous peoples to freely exist and fully exercise their rights.  Indigenous peoples formed a central pillar of the State and decision-making with a large number of indigenous men and women represented in the National Assembly, he said.  Legislation also recognized religious autonomy, prohibited discrimination, and promoted intercultural and plurilingual education that recognized over 30 indigenous languages.  He said Bolivia would continue to eradicate colonial practices and defend indigenous peoples at all levels.

Ms. CRANFIELD (Canada) reaffirmed her full support for the Declaration, without qualification, saying it set forth the necessary principles, norms and standards for reconciliation to flourish.  Canada was committed to advancing the indigenous peoples’ rights through respect, cooperation and partnership.  The Government was undertaking a review of all relevant laws to better respond to the needs of indigenous communities and to understand how they viewed and defined self-determination.  The right to self-determination was a guiding principle of Canada’s work with indigenous peoples, he said, expressing support for the right of indigenous peoples to be heard in decisions that affected them at the national, regional and international levels.

MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa), stressing that the historical injustices faced by indigenous peoples that continued to manifest today could not be tolerated, said South Africa’s Constitution was based on the principle of non-discrimination and ensuring the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, equally and without prejudice.  The Government had taken measures to give practical effect to the rights enshrined in the Declaration, including through the “Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill” and the “Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill”, as well as the restoration of cultural and religious sites.  In addition, it had prioritized the six mandated areas affecting the rights of indigenous peoples aimed at ensuring essential service delivery.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said indigenous peoples should be treated as dignified partners within the United Nations and in their relationships with States and society at large.  States were obliged to seek the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples on all matters concerning them, and upholding their collective right to their lands and resources.  “By doing so, we guarantee not only that their voices are heard but that indigenous peoples are given the political, economic and social space necessary to affirm their identity and to become agents of their own development and destiny,” he said.  Countries must put in place national policies that required consultations and the explicit consent of indigenous peoples, based on the principle of subsidiarity, before development projects were approved and carried out on ancestral lands.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) recognized the tenth anniversary of the Declaration, noting that even in affluent parts of the world, indigenous peoples still experienced poverty, and were among the most disadvantaged.  As they were among the furthest behind, they should thus be reached first.  Greater monitoring was needed to ensure the Declaration’s implementation, he said, calling the inhumane treatment of indigenous peoples by colonizing powers “a dark chapter of human history”.  False creeds and doctrines had been used to savage indigenous peoples’ rights for decades, and negative stereotypes continued to have effects.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said his country recognized Crimean Tatars as indigenous peoples and their right to self-determination within sovereign Ukraine.  Enhanced cooperation with indigenous representatives would enrich United Nations bodies.  An Order from the International Court of Justice had urged the Russian Federation to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the Crimean Tatar community, but that country had ignored its legal commitments.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board had also decided to continue monitoring the situation on the temporarily occupied Crimea.  Russian criminal laws were being applied in Crimea retroactively to persecute civil society activists.  He thus called for an international response to human rights violations in Crimea, with pressure applied on the Kremlin that would return “the aggressor State” to the tenets of international law.

ANA SOLEDAD SANDOVAL ESPÍNOLA (Paraguay), associating herself with CELAC, said there were 19 groups of indigenous peoples in her country.  As linguistic diversity formed part of Paraguay’s cultural heritage, indigenous languages were widely used by Paraguayans.  The country had consecrated their land rights in the Constitution and ensured that their communities were included in political processes.  The Government also promoted and protected indigenous peoples’ rights with health care programs, cash transfers and accommodation for those in need.  A national action plan was being developed to protect the interests of indigenous communities.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said that despite recent progress, some indigenous groups still suffered unfair treatment, discrimination and violence.  Many had not been guaranteed basic human rights and their survival was severely challenged.  Countries with indigenous populations had a responsibility to demonstrate political will and develop national plans to implement all related goals.  Priority must be given to eliminating poverty and spurring economic development for indigenous peoples, ensuring their equal access to land, education and resources.  It was also essential to conserve their unique cultures and languages.  Also, there was no global consensus on the definition of “indigenous peoples”.  Not all countries had indigenous peoples; “still less should native residents be equated to indigenous people”.  Specific arrangements for enhancing participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations meetings must be in line with the Charter of the United Nations, and respect States’ sovereignty, territorial integrity and political unity.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with CELAC, said the tenth anniversary of the Declaration was an occasion to reaffirm the rights of all indigenous peoples, who had historically been oppressed.  Today, in Venezuela, the Day of Indigenous Resistance was commemorated, he said, underscoring the importance of remembering the spiritual values of native ethnicities which had disappeared after colonial atrocities.  Their history must be remembered.  Native peoples had social, political and cultural rights, as well as a right to heritage.  A new ministry had made a significant difference for indigenous peoples, who were part of Venezuela’s pluriculturality.  He reaffirmed Venezuela’s commitment to the permanent defence of indigenous peoples.

THERESE R. CANTADA (Philippines) said the rights and protection of indigenous peoples was guaranteed by the Constitution, and her country continued to promote their participation in the making and implementation of policies and programmes affecting them.  For example, the Indigenous Peoples Education Programme sought to ensure education was truly inclusive and relevant to communities.  Culturally sensitive health programmes had been adopted, with the goal of eventually covering all indigenous communities in the Philippines.  Governments should continue their dialogue with indigenous peoples in efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable development.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, said his country had made progress in meeting the Declaration’s requirements.  The Constitution aimed to protect their rights, as did laws on equality and land use.  The Government also recognized the importance of maintaining indigenous identity, traditions, rituals, and had made it a priority to both ensure their full participation in society and protect their collective rights.  He stressed the importance of dialogue to help indigenous peoples overcome discrimination and promote inclusivity.

ROSA ELENA LOBO JUAREZ (Honduras), aligning herself with CELAC, said the Government had created public policy and taken actions that emphasized non-discrimination of indigenous and people of Afro-descent.  Also, a director had been appointed to ensure that the rights of those communities were respected.  Aware of the need for a prior consent law, the Government had launched a consultation process with indigenous and Afro-descent peoples, and their feedback had been included in a draft framework for the law.  She also stressed the importance of putting in place a permanent process of dialogue with indigenous and Afro-descent peoples to ensure their voices were heard.

MARIANN KOVACS, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that while the Declaration was a powerful tool to foster recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, there was still plenty of work to do towards its full implementation.  Indigenous peoples were often denied custodial rights to their lands and management of their natural resources, which placed them in a vulnerable position.  FAO’s work plan on indigenous peoples was based on, among other pillars, advocacy and capacity development.  Focus areas included indigenous youth and women, and the organization was finalizing a global campaign on the latter that built on leadership schools it had established in India, the Philippines, Peru and Bolivia.  The 2030 Agenda could not be achieved without ensuring proper consideration and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), underscored the pressing need to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights and contributions were more firmly embedded in national development strategies and programmes.  Those gains could be made through national mechanisms, procedures and institutions that included indigenous peoples in decision making.  It was also crucial that employers and workers come together to design roadmaps to protect their rights.  ILO had been increasingly addressing indigenous peoples’ issues through the Decent Work Agenda, which had a special focus on the economic and social rights of indigenous women.  With support from the Swedish International Development Agency, ILO was working in Bangladesh, Bolivia and Guatemala to strengthen national capacities for ensuring their right to decent work in the construction sector, among others.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation said in response to remarks by his counterpart from Ukraine that Crimean Tatars had the exact same rights as all other people on the Crimean peninsula, and the Russian Federation’s obligations applied everywhere equally.  Ukraine had done nothing to improve the situation of Crimean Tatars, as recommended by a long list of international organizations.  Crimean Tatars were being used for Ukraine’s political purposes.

The representative of Ukraine said the autonomous republic of Crimea and Sebastopol were in Ukrainian territory and attempts to annex them by the Russian Federation would not be accepted.  He reminded his counterpart from the Russian Federation that every day, information was received from Crimea regarding cases of persecution against Crimean Tatars.  Within the last day, six people had been illegally detained and nine activists had been arrested.  Targeted searches in the homes of Muslims exemplified persecution on religious grounds.  He urged all to adhere to and respect international law.

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