The plan to ensure indigenous peoples have a voice at the UN
This story is published as part of the Global Bureau of Indigenous Affairs, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today and High Country News. Native News Online also contributed to this article.
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, concluded its 21st session on Friday, calling on governments, courts and UN agencies to put in place mechanisms to support and protect the lands and lives of indigenous peoples. Indigenous Peoples. He also recommended that indigenous peoples be given more opportunities to participate in the UN General Assembly process through “enhanced participation” – a measure that could elevate the forum to a level comparable to that of member states.
The forum is one of the few official venues where indigenous voices are reliably heard at the UN, but its role is limited by a structure that only allows UNPFII members to make recommendations to other bodies. of the United Nations, such as the Economic and Social Council or UNESCO. Nations, communities and indigenous peoples are classified as non-governmental organizations and cannot vote or speak in UN bodies without invitation, including the General Assembly.
“A fundamental first step for increased participation would be for the United Nations to recognize that the tribes have a right to be here and have a right to be able to attend,” said Geoffrey Roth, a Standing Rock Sioux descendant and member of the ‘UNPFII. With increased participation, Roth says, indigenous peoples could engage directly, and equally, with member states to ensure rights are protected and concerns are heard.
“We need the full leadership support of the United Nations to address Indigenous human rights,” said Hannah McGlade, a Noongar woman and UNPFII member from Australia. “We must not lose sight of the changes that can come from our engagement, advocacy and work with Member States.
Throughout the forum, indigenous representatives and leaders from around the world highlighted their concerns and challenges regarding free, prior and informed consent, or FPIC – a consultation process designed to protect the development rights of indigenous peoples. . They also discussed how unsafe mining practices driving the transition to green energy threaten indigenous peoples around the world, the impact of harmful conservation practices on traditional territories, and the need to pay urgent attention to violence against indigenous land defenders and women.
In a draft report presented Friday by UNPFII leaders, members urged countries to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including calling on the United States and Canada to develop national action plans to implement the agreement. Both countries signed on to support UNDRIP after years of opposition, but have generally not taken steps to codify these international rights into their legal systems.
According to the forum’s proposals, relevant United Nations agencies, such as the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and UNESCO, would initiate studies on the implementation of FPIC, the impacts of industrial fishing on indigenous communities, and develop and align internal policies to protect human rights. regarding intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum also recommended that the World Health Organization incorporate Indigenous cultures into the social determinants of health policy.
The forum also called on UN member states to immediately implement court rulings, particularly in Norway, where a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Sami people has yet to be enforced, and in Kenya. , where the government has failed to implement the recommendations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to return ancestral lands and provide restitution to Endorois who were evicted in the 1970s to create a wildlife sanctuary. He also called on the Tanzanian government to immediately stop the eviction of the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
“This is truly a very difficult moment for the Permanent Forum, which continues to be a subsidiary body,” said Darío José Mejía Montalvo, the president of the forum, in an interview. “We still don’t have enough voice in these bodies where decisions are made at the United Nations and in states.”
Despite the challenges and limitations of the UNPFII, Mejía Montalvo believes it can help elevate the concerns of indigenous peoples around the world and empower them to push for change in their countries. A sentiment shared by Geoffrey Roth who hopes to put pressure on international bodies such as the World Bank to start changing things. Roth says the push could be to stipulate that the World Bank has a process in place to ensure member states receiving funds have a strong FPIC policy. If they don’t, he says, the World Bank might refuse to work there. “The money is where the power is – and the World Bank is the pocketbook,” he said.
Leaders say next year’s session will focus on global health and climate change.