20 September 2017
The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples under the theme “Tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The panellists were Dalí Anger, Coordinator of Red de Jovenes Indigenes de America Latina, and Karla General, Attorney at the Indian Law Resource Centre. The moderator of the discussion was Albert Kwokwo Barume, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In her opening remarks, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlined that a decade after the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, many indigenous children and youth continued to live on the margins, deprived of opportunity, esteem and protection. Infant and maternal mortality, alcohol and substance abuse remained high; their access to education, employment and healthcare persistently low. Much of that suffering stemmed from the deeply rooted trauma that was forced assimilation.
Albert Kwokwo Barume, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and panel moderator, said that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a unique human rights instrument as it was one of the first decisions made by the Human Rights Council. It was appropriate to reflect on it due to the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Dalí Anger, Coordinator of Red de Jovenes Indigenes de America Latina, stated that the main concern of indigenous youth was to determine what it meant to be an indigenous young person, and their feeling of non-representation. The question of migration was also important, as many young people were simply moving to the cities. Indigenous education was also an important topic as it had to be centred on the history, not just to be translated content. Another important issue was the sexual and reproductive health of indigenous peoples, particularly adolescents.
Karla General, Attorney at Indian Law Resource Centre, highlighted the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a historic achievement and the most significant development in international human rights law in decades. And yet, many challenges remained ahead. In 2017, authentic and representative indigenous voices were still denied access to the United Nations. Without indigenous voices, decisions made in international forums would not be responsive to the lived realities of indigenous peoples at home, Ms. General stressed.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers underlined that the full participation of indigenous peoples was essential for progress in the implementation of rights for those communities, and urged all States to put in place mechanisms that would ensure their full participation. They also wondered how the Sustainable Development Agenda could assist in combatting institutional discrimination of indigenous peoples. It was important to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoyed full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination. Some speakers noted that self-determination was an absolute prerequisite for the recognition of indigenous rights, and they expressed concern about the lack of financing for the empowerment of indigenous peoples.
Speaking were Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Greece, Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, Philippines, China, Canada, Paraguay, Mexico, Iran, Spain, Lesotho, Russian Federation, Chile, Malaysia, Holy See, Ecuador, Bolivia, United States, Venezuela, and Mongolia.
The United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development also spoke.
The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Ombudsman’s Office of Ecuador, Conselho Indigenista Missionário, Amnesty International, Australian Human Rights Commission, Defence for Children International, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Indian Council of South America.
During its midday meeting the Council will continue its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. It will then hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the afternoon, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee, to be followed by a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, introduced the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples, convened pursuant to Council resolution 18/8. In line with Council resolution 33/13, the panel discussion would focus on the theme “Tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded of the arrival in Geneva of the Cayuga Chief Deskaheh of the Iroquois nation in 1923. He had sought to address the League of Nations on the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada, having witnessed the cruel deprivation of those rights in his home land. For a year he had remained in Geneva, seeking a noble hearing of his petition, only to be met with what he had later called “cruel indifference.” Nevertheless, the legacy of his rights-based expectation and demand had not been silenced by the passage of time into irrelevance and redundancy. Ninety-four years later and a decade on from the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Deskaheh’s great granddaughter, Karla General, was present in Geneva for the annual panel. The Declaration had informed constitutions, statutes, and regional and national laws. But how did an indigenous child or youth view the past and future implementation of the Declaration? Were their lives materially different from that of their fore-mothers and fore-fathers? How should implementation proceed to better reflect indigenous concerns in the rapidly changing and interconnected world? In this, human rights mechanisms had an important role to play. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had been the first of the core human rights treaties to include specific references to indigenous peoples, reaffirming that indigenous children had the right to enjoy their cultures, religions, languages, and had the right to education. The Committee on the Rights of the Child had highlighted the impacts of exploitation on indigenous children working in extractive industries. Reflecting the global struggle for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, the human rights mechanisms, including other treaty bodies, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Universal Periodic Review were actively engaged for implementation of the Declaration.
Many indigenous children and youth nowadays continued to live on the margins, deprived of opportunity, esteem and protection. Infant and maternal mortality, alcohol and substance abuse remained high; their access to education, employment and healthcare persistently low. Much of that suffering stemmed from the deeply rooted trauma that was forced assimilation. By what means could the international community ensure that young indigenous women and men, boys and girls were free to exercise their desire to live in harmony with their identity: to exercise their equal rights to live in dignity? First, indigenous children and youth had to be partners of equal dignity when it came to implementing their rights under the Declaration. In addition to lifting up the voices of indigenous children and youth, quality, sufficient and appropriate data had to be collected and analysed if policies affecting indigenous peoples’ lives were to be based on sound evidence. The collection of data was essential to the comprehensive assessment of the extent and range of challenges confronting indigenous peoples today. The Sustainable Development Goals made explicit reference to indigenous peoples and to the imperative of their sustained and inclusive development. Most importantly, decisive rights-based action was needed and that was owed to indigenous peoples all over the world. Myriad recommendations for implementation of the Declaration had been issued and evidence had been gathered. The new mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically emphasised follow-up with States on implementing recommendations from all human rights bodies, and that was an opportunity not to be squandered, Ms. Gilmore concluded.
Statements by the Moderator and Panellists
ALBERT K. BARUME, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Moderator of the Panel, said that the unique human rights instrument of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had started in Room XX, as it was one of the first decisions made by the Human Rights Council. It was appropriate to reflect on it at its tenth anniversary. He introduced the two panellists.
DALÍ ANGEL, Coordinator, Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de América Latina, said she would be presenting the perspective of the network of indigenous young people of her region. Latin American and Caribbean networks had wondered if there was any report on the situation of indigenous youth, and took it upon themselves to report on the situation in the region. The main concern had focused on the issue of what it meant to be an indigenous young person. Every different culture had a different perception and view of what it meant to be an indigenous person. Some took into account age, others biological considerations. Young people did not always feel represented. There could be no homogeneity of the concept of being indigenous. There was little disaggregated data that was usable in the report. Discriminatory practices in some societies were also studied. Young people often said there should be awareness-raising campaigns around the census, giving new meaning to identifying as “indigenous” in the census. The question of migration was also important, as many young people were simply moving to the cities. Indigenous people had to be considered both in urban and rural areas. Education was also an important topic. It had to be centred on the history, not just to be translated content. Another important issue was the sexual and reproductive health of indigenous peoples, particularly adolescents. The topic had to be tackled in a comprehensive way, but it should also be culturally appropriate. Indigenous youth had to be part of their indigenous communities, but also to join the capitalist world.
KARLA GENERAL, Attorney, India Law Resource Centre, started by saying that indigenous peoples around the world deserved an answer to the following question: did the world really believe that all peoples were entitled to equal protection under international law? In 2007, after 30 years of debate, the United Nations had adopted its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The adoption of the Declaration had been an historic achievement and the most significant development in international human rights law in decades. And yet, many challenges remained ahead. In 2017, authentic and representative indigenous voices were sill denied access to the United Nations. The Council and other United Nations bodies recognized that their existing rules did not generally permit the participation of indigenous peoples’ governments at the United Nations as such, unless they were able to acquire consultative status as non-governmental organizations. But indigenous governments were not non-governmental organizations. On September 8, the General Assembly adopted a compromise resolution that simply encouraged other United Nations bodies to enhance participation, once again denying the opportunity for indigenous governments to participate in matters affecting their interests. Without indigenous voices, decisions made in international forums would not be responsive to the lived realities of indigenous peoples at home. If indigenous voices continued to be left out of decision-making, the most horrific rights violations would continue – the killings of land defenders and human rights activists, the land grabs and rush for natural resources, the epidemic levels of violence against and trafficking of women and children, the movement of extractive industry to indigenous lands, and continued destruction of indigenous cultural ways of living.
Last year, as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend their land rights, indigenous and environmental rights. If indigenous peoples had a voice at the United Nations, they could tell themselves that their situation had improved very little in the 10 years since the adoption of the Declaration because decisions continued to be made without the benefit of their views and experience. The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples had presented a rare opportunity to implement the Declaration. Together with over 150 tribal nations and indigenous organizations, the Law Resource Centre advocated for concrete steps that the United Nations could take to achieve the objectives of the Declaration. The outcome document recommitted Member States to the rights of indigenous peoples and resulted in new commitments to establish international mechanisms to further implement the Declaration. One such mechanism was the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which the Council decided to strengthen last year. The mechanism could become a credible independent body that could monitor and report on States’ compliance with the Declaration. It would also be able to assist States in the implementation of existing recommendations of treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.
ALBERT KWOKWO BARUME, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Panel Moderator, highlighted a number of points from the presentations, such as indigenous youth searching for their identity. If the burden of getting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples implemented in the next 10 years was on the shoulders of indigenous youth, they needed their identity more than anything else. They continued to face identity challenges and they had to hide who they were due to continued practices of discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes. Why were indigenous peoples invisible in many censuses? Secondly, indigenous youth faced particular other challenges, such as migration. They were forced to leave their communities and move to urban areas where they faced another layer of discrimination. They were outside their comfort zone. The third point was indigenous education which was critical for the implementation of the Declaration. Indigenous youth needed culturally sensitive education, taking into account their identities. They also faced challenges in sexual and reproductive health rights. Indigenous youth remained heavily burdened and took on the huge responsibility for the implementation of the Declaration.
The space that indigenous peoples had at the United Nations did provide opportunities, but could be widened. The panel discussion would seek to identify good practices over the past 10 years, and to define the role of indigenous youth in the implementation of the Declaration. Naturally, they should be playing a leading role. What was the way forward now that the Declaration had been adopted and following the first 10 years of adoption? It was supposed to address hundreds of years of structural discrimination of indigenous peoples. How could they undo such long-lasting types of human rights violations? Even though discrimination against indigenous peoples was never written into a law, it was pervasive. There had been a timid trend of change, but only in terms of standards setting and institutional creation. Some countries had adopted some laws and policies, established indigenous councils, and set up truth and reconciliation commissions.
Denmark, speaking on behalf of Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and Greenland, said within those countries’ regions, examples of implementation of the principles of the Declaration included the establishment of the Saami Parliaments and the self-government authorities of Greenland. The panel was asked how the interplay and cross-fertilization between the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and existing human rights mechanisms could be strengthened. European Union said implementation gaps were described convincingly by the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The panellists were asked for ways to ensure better protection to indigenous women, children, youth, persons with disabilities and those forcibly displaced or in violent conflict.
Greece welcomed the discussion on the rights of indigenous people, and considered the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a landmark. Indigenous people should be constructively encouraged to exercise their rights, building a solid relation between themselves and the States they lived in. Australia said its indigenous affairs agenda was consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The panel was asked to share examples of training programmes to support civil servants to design and implement government policies consistent with the ends of the Declaration. Brazil said it had around one million self-identified indigenous people who belonged to 305 ethnicities and spoke 247 recognized indigenous languages. The Brazilian Government had a historical commitment to indigenous people which was why it had engaged in the process of negotiating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Guatemala recalled it had sponsored the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 10 years ago and had engaged in an evaluation of its implementation in 2012. A national Congress on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been held. Guatemala had streamlined indigenous rights into policies and various institutions focused on indigenous rights had been put in place. Philippines said it would continue to uphold the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, including their right to self-determination, premised on the understanding that this right did not impinge on the territorial integrity of political unity. The Philippines promoted and protected its 112 indigenous groups, which comprised 15 per cent of its population, through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. United Nations Population Fund strove to promote indigenous peoples equal right to health and family planning and helped them have access to these services free from discrimination. Another objective was to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoyed full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination. The participation of indigenous peoples in the policies and programmes that affected their rights was important.
China regretted that some groups of indigenous peoples were living on the periphery of society and faced violence. China believed that the international community should focus on the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly its art. 46, adding that the rights of indigenous peoples should not be used to undermine the sovereignty of States. The participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations institutions should be improved. Canada was committed to implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to self-determination. Indigenous peoples should participate fully in issues of their interest in the United Nations. How could they make room for indigenous youth to tell their own stories and positively shape collective commitments and aspirations for indigenous peoples? Paraguay outlined that it had hosted a world conference on indigenous peoples in 2014. Action plans had been implemented with the participation of indigenous peoples to meet the goals of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2016, an interdisciplinary governmental team had opened a dialogue with indigenous organizations in order to address several issues related to the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.
Mexico underlined that the full participation of indigenous peoples was essential for progress in the implementation of rights for indigenous communities, and it urged all States to put in place mechanisms that would ensure their full participation. How could the Sustainable Development Agenda assist in combatting institutional discrimination of indigenous peoples?
Ombudsman’s Office of Ecuador explained that its mandate was to promote and protect human rights, and to have a bearing on public policies. In 2012 training modules had been organised on the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Conselho Indigenista Missionário noted that self-determination was an absolute prerequisite for the recognition of indigenous rights. It was concerned about the situation of indigenous communities in the Amazon region in Brazil, including the lack of financing for the empowerment of indigenous peoples. Amnesty International said that much remained to be done in order to implement the rights of indigenous peoples. In Peru, indigenous peoples were exposed to heavy metals and other chemical substances; in Canada there was no adequate police investigation of cases of missing indigenous girls; in India indigenous lands were bought fraudulently by companies, whereas in Brazil the Government undermined the process of titling indigenous lands.
Remarks by the Moderator and the Panellists
ALBERT K. BARUME, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Panel Moderator, invited the panellists to respond to questions on whether there could be training for civil servants, how to ensure the Declaration provided protection to the most vulnerable, and how to involve indigenous people in decision-making.
DALÍ ANGEL, Coordinator, Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de América Latina, said it was very important for young indigenous people to be able to express themselves. Promoting the participation of young indigenous people was not just setting aside places for young people, but special budgets were also needed. In Latin America, institutes had advisory youth groups. Youth indigenous advisory groups had to have a say in how programmes affecting them were put together. It was important for young indigenous people to be encouraged to participate in consultations. Attempts were being made to ensure that health institutions implemented health requirements.
KARLA GENERAL, Attorney, Indian Law Resource Centre, said it was important to learn on the ground the realities of indigenous peoples. Increased attention and emphasis was needed, as well as the utilization of the expertise of the United Nations, including its Special Rapporteurs. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had the ability to provide technical assistance, and that could be paired with help from the treaty bodies which had issued many reports. One was the review of the Universal Periodic Review, which would help create equilibrium between the world human rights agenda and the lived reality on the ground. Another question which had been mentioned was the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but in tandem with the United Nations Declaration, it had required almost 30 years of debate. The right to protection and security in armed conflict was especially important for women and children.
Iran noted that to achieve the aims of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, some good practices in certain States had been implemented, such as amending constitutions and approving domestic laws and policies. Despite those advances, indigenous peoples still faced many persistent challenges, namely in the United States. Spain reiterated its firm commitment to the defence of the rights of indigenous peoples. It was one of the few countries that had a special strategy to deal with the demands of indigenous peoples, and it participated in many international fora in that area. Lesotho noted that the limited political power of indigenous peoples meant that they were unable to improve their position. Greater political will on the part of States could lead to greater levels of recognition and respect for the human rights of indigenous peoples.
Russian Federation said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provided an opportunity to give effect to national efforts to promote the situation of indigenous peoples. Their status was legislatively enshrined in the national constitution in Russia and there were mechanisms for their political participation. Chile stated that it had introduced public policies and legislative changes to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples in a comprehensive manner. Despite progress, there was a need to stop implementing the terrorism law against the Mapuche people. Malaysia said that it placed special attention to the inherent and legitimate rights of its indigenous peoples. The Government had undertaken efforts to improve their economic and social conditions, and to cater to the needs of localised indigenous education, as well as to issue titles for indigenous lands.
Holy See said it promoted and sponsored partnership with indigenous peoples in various ways, adding that particular emphasis should be given to reconciling the right to development with care for the rights of indigenous peoples. It was essential that the voice of indigenous peoples was heard and respected. Ecuador welcomed the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and said there needed to be a collective effort by the international community to implement it. Ecuador hoped the content of the Declaration would guide State policy and practice. Bolivia said the same year Bolivia had signed the Declaration, it had been enshrined into law in Bolivia. In 2008, Bolivia had established indigenous community educational institutions, and Bolivia renewed its commitment to engage with various United Nations forums and mechanisms on the rights of indigenous peoples. The panel was asked what they saw as the role of indigenous youth faced with issues such as climate change.
United States welcomed the special examination of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide, noting that the Declaration recognized the role of human rights defenders on indigenous issues. The United States placed great importance on the General Assembly consultation process for participation at the United Nations. United Nations Development Programme expressed concern that the democratic space for indigenous human rights defenders was shrinking. The United Nations Development Programme remained committed to the rights of indigenous peoples. Venezuela said the General Assembly had adopted a historic international instrument 10 years ago, noting that Venezuela recognized the rights of indigenous peoples. But today, many indigenous people faced threats in their territory as a result of extractive industries.
Australian Human Rights Commission, through a video link, said the Declaration was a powerful tool with the potential to transform the lived reality of indigenous peoples. Key to this would be the institutional means to participate fully in decisions that affected them. Without a voice the empowerment of indigenous peoples would remain out of reach. Defence for Children International said the situation of indigenous peoples was still critical and some of these peoples were at risk of disappearance. State neglect endangered the survival of indigenous peoples. Public programmes were not sufficiently funded and coordinated and indigenous children and youth did not have space for participation in a way that allowed them to fully participate in society. CIVICUCS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, speaking on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organizations, said 2016 had been an even more murderous year than 2015 for those who stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. The number of killed had risen to 200 and spread to several countries across the world.
Mongolia said promoting and protecting human rights was one of the key pillars of its foreign policy, which was fully committed to the principles of non-selectivity, universality and indivisibility of human rights. In this regard, it supported the international community’s efforts aimed at protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, noting that an enormous gap still remained between declarations and implementation.
IFAD-International Fund for Agricultural Development said during the past 10 years, it had set up instruments to enhance its development effectiveness in working with indigenous peoples’ communities. Examples of these were the Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD, established in 2011 as a mechanism for continuous dialogue, as well as the inclusion of data disaggregation by indigenous peoples in IFAD’s corporate Results and Impact Management System.
Indian Council of South America said over the last 10 years, the Declaration had not protected many indigenous peoples from the confiscation of territories, taking of resources, application of discriminating domestic law policies, and the reduction of free, prior and informed consent to pro forma consultation. States did not respect the Declaration, and indigenous peoples were killed and maimed in an attempt to protect their territories against States, which in turn, gave the right to corporations to do irreparable harm and destruction of indigenous territory and resources.
KARLA GENERAL, Attorney, Indian Law Resource Centre, said that 10 years had gone by with very little quantifiable improvement in the lives of indigenous peoples, but on the positive side a lot of good work was happening on the community and international levels. The challenge of the current generation was to bring those two together. Indigenous peoples should be allowed to exercise their rights such as hunting and fishing practices without being sued. A lot of good practices had been discussed, especially through decision-making institutions. The international community should be able to monitor the declaration because States would never do it on their own, they had to be nudged. National human rights institutions were key in that respect. The role of indigenous youth could not be overlooked.
DALÍ ANGEL, Coordinator, Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de América Latina, said she was asked about the role of young people in Mexico in face of natural disasters. In her region in Oaxaca, young people did not just work in humanitarian brigades, rebuilding houses and disseminating information. In those areas where natural disaster occurred, there was a need for reciprocity. They had seen that indigenous peoples’ way of organizing had been fundamental. They also had to think about the transfer of ancestral knowledge, and that this was an essential component in responding to natural disasters. Ten years on from the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there had been a lot of progress, but there were still many challenges for the implementation of the Declaration at the national level. Investing in young generations and supporting the upcoming generations was a way of supporting all generations.
GRAND CHIEF WILTON LITTLECHILD, Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, recalled that 40 years ago the second wave of indigenous leaders had convened here at the United Nations in Geneva. At the time, they could not enter the building. With a peaceful march, under the leadership of elders, they had been able to walk into the chambers of the United Nations. Reflecting on those 40 years, he recalled that it was very important to discuss not only the good practices and challenges, but to reflect on the contributions of indigenous peoples to the human family – contributions like recognition of spiritual rights. Historically, economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights had always been a domain of discussion here. However, after the indigenous peoples participated, there was a new bundle of rights, namely spiritual rights. On the question of how to protect Mother Earth, it was indigenous peoples who had brought that concern to the floor, and from which the world now benefited in a common way through climate protection.
There were other ways indigenous peoples had contributed. Today marked a second week of a second decade, a new era, focusing on new energy – namely youth. Looking at the progress achieved, one underlying principle was the call on all to work together, as States, indigenous leaders, civil society, and the United Nations. He reiterated that call today. Good practices had been also discussed by indigenous leaders and communities. They too had adopted the Declaration in their constitutions. Sadly, the international community had come full circle, and full, direct and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations was still absent. Just as they could not come 40 years ago, today, there were States present that did not want to allow indigenous peoples to participate in the decision-making process. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild had heard discussions for putting off that concern for another decade – another discussion. He emphasised the need to work on that participation now, in this new decade. There was also a need to implement the National Action Plans that had been repeated at different fora. In closing, he thanked the States and United Nations for their ongoing support in the last 10 years. He urged those who had still not found a way to recognize indigenous peoples or to support the Declaration, to join them in this future walk for peace. It made him feel good to come and watch a discussion – an interactive dialogue happening at the United Nations.
ALBERT KOWKWO BARUME, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Panel Moderator, highlighted the issue of building capacity. He truly believed that the Declaration was often misunderstood, simply because not many had read it fully. How was it possible to have an opinion about something you did not know anything about? He underlined the need for capacity building and education for civil servants. How many of those people, men and women, young civil servants, were familiar with the Declaration? Because it was misunderstood, people had no opportunity to appreciate it. One incredible contribution of the instrument in international law, namely the precedent of free, prior and informed consent, existed. This principle had not existed in a single international instrument before the Declaration had been adopted, and had proven to be extremely useful to Governments, communities, and other stakeholders, because it translated the very basic principles of inclusive governance.
For use of the information media; not an official record