Indigenous peoples continue to be among the most impoverished and most marginalised in the world. They suffer multiple discriminations regarding access to health, education, economic opportunity and respect of their rights.
We believe the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous persons needs to be urgently redefined. Mutual respect and recognition must be the ground out of which this renewed relationship grows.
A corollary of this mutual recognition is a commitment to encourage the development of indigenous leadership, especially of indigenous women. So often they are key players in dealing with conflict. They hold the key to positive improvements in health, education and the social development of their communities. At the same time it is often the same women who lack access to the resources of health and education. Indigenous and tribal peoples deserve special consideration in efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals.
1. REGARDING MILLENNIUM GOALS 1 and 2
Countries with Indigenous populations should give particular attention to these citizens in their national plan for reducing by half the number of people living in extreme poverty. In working to fulfil the aspirations of the Millennium Declaration, appropriate indigenous models of development must be designed. Indigenous peoples must be fully active partners in the decision-making processes that shape these new models.
The poverty of so many Indigenous peoples is a result of colonialism, dispossession of their traditionally inhabited lands and continuing violations of their human rights. Hunger has grown greatly as a result of ‘free trade’ mechanisms , the extremely high cost of seeds and fertilizers and the cutting of subsidies. Even those who remain on their land are often unable to cultivate it any longer.
Too often impunity is enjoyed by States and individuals who violate the human rights and the right to self-determination of Indigenous peoples round the world.
Countries with Indigenous populations should give priority to providing access to primary education for both indigenous girls and boys. Education must be offered in ways sensitive to their culture. It should help restore their sense of identity as indigenous persons within a global reality. The right of self-determination allows people to freely express and transmit their culture. It can also help them preserve traditional knowledge about bio-diversity, traditional medicine, working methods, social and political deliberation.
There is a need to educate and promote awareness within global civil society of the urgency of developing international human rights standards and Indigenous peoples.
2. SECOND DECADE OF THE WORLD’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
We rejoice that a second decade has been declared. A major task of the first Decade, the adoption of the draft United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was not achieved. We believe it imperative that the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples be finalised and approved.
The United Nations initiated a universal human rights standard-setting process that bore fruit in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the two human rights Covenants. The process remains unfinished until the rights of Indigenous peoples are recognised in an international instrument
The Draft Declaration has been discussed for more than a decade. Some States continue to impede progress in the completion of this task. Such extended negotiations would be
deemed unacceptable in relation to any other issue or to any other group of people.
3. FREE, PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT.
Indigenous people often live in places of great biodiversity, natural resources, water sources etc. They continue to suffer exploitation of their lands and resources. Unable to exercise informed consent, they often find themselves deprived of these basic supports to their lives, culture and religious identity.
There is an urgent need to activate the issue of free, prior and informed consent in relation to their rights to lands, cultural properties and resources. This concept applies also to the mutual obligations and relationship with the State or with non-indigenous groups as outlined in treaties and agreements.
4. INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENT
The current intellectual property regime does not protect the interests of indigenous peoples, because customary law and collective systems are not recognised. Because of this, indigenous communities are severely disadvantaged. The Decade stated as a goal the ‘further development of international standards as well as national legislation for the protection and promotion of the human rights of indigenous people’
We ask that consideration be given to creating an international instrument to deal with the collective nature of indigenous knowledge and resources vested in the people and not an individual. Such an instrument must be grounded in human rights.
5. COHERENCE WITHIN UN MECHANISMS.
The Economic and Social Council has called for greater coherence within and across all the UN mechanisms that deal with issues affecting indigenous peoples. We support this call and further ask that the issues and concerns of indigenous peoples be more fully mainstreamed throughout the UN system, its substantive Commissions and agencies.
(Prepared by the Working Group of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, February 2005)