UN Forum on Indigenous Issues to Focus on Rights

by | Apr 20, 2017 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 1 comment

The Vincentian Family is helping to facilitate several opportunities for indigenous persons to express their concerns during the 16th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations.  The Forum runs April 24-May 5 in New York.  This year marks the tenth anniversary of the UN’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Persons. (UNDRIP).

The 16th Forum will focus on measures taken to implement UNDRIP rights over the past decade, but Indigenous Peoples, no doubt,  will have plenty to say about needed actions to protect their rights. Indigenous Peoples have been the subject of land grabbing, murder, forced displacement for the sake of exploiting resources, discrimination, a system that typically measures development in terms of finance rather than well-being, criminalization for protecting their lands, and more.  One has only to think of environmentalist and Indigenous leader Berta Caceres Flores, of Honduras, who was assassinated in March, 2016, or the Awa people in Northern Brazil, forced from their home by loggers.

“When it comes to advocacy and social policy change, we believe that the most authentic voice is the voice of those on the margins.” – Sr. Catherine Prendergast, DC

A delegation from the Amazon will present cases related to violations of their human rights during two Vincentian Family-related PFII side events.   The  first, on April 25, is entitled, “Stories of Indigenous Peoples South and North: What is the Impact of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?”  The second, on April 26, is entitled, “Indigenous Peoples’ Human, Land, and Water Rights– Cases from the Amazonian Region and Beyond.”

The presentations are a coordinated effort between the NGO Mining Working Group and the Pan Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM). Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, CM, is serving as liaison between the two groups. (CLAPVI, the Latin American Conference of CM Visitors participates in REPAM as well).  In addition to the Congregation of the Mission, The Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity Federation are among several NGO groups supporting the side events.

The Amazonian delegation has documented 13 cases of human and territorial rights violations. Seven cases were presented several weeks ago to the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in Washington, DC.  Four more cases will be presented during the group’s participation in the PFII side events.

“We have been working hard to create a wide platform for them to advocate using their own voices and experiences,” commented Fr. Campuzano.

REPAM’s primary goal is to protect human rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon, promote Indigenous policies, and protect the Amazonian territory shared by Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The Amazonian delegates coming to New York for the event are participants in REPAM’s School of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the Daughters of Charity are co-sponsoring a side event, May 2, which will highlight realities, rights, and responses to climate change, particularly with regard to the displacement of Indigenous People. The panel will include speakers from the United Nations Environment Program and the Permanent Mission of Tuvalu to the UN, a Native American speaker, a speaker on rights, and a taped interview with some of the delegates from the Amazon.

“When it comes to advocacy and social policy change, we believe that the most authentic voice is the voice of those on the margins,” said Sister Catherine Prendergast, DC.

The Daughters of Charity event will be held in collaboration with other NGOs, including the NGO Committee on Migration, which features a subcommittee on Climate Induced Displacement. According to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related sudden onset hazards – such as floods, storms, wildfires, extreme temperature – each year since 2008.  Thousands of others flee their homes due to slow-onset hazards, such as droughts or coastal erosion linked to sea-level rise.

Vincentian efforts to give voice to Indigenous People are in keeping with the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in September, 2012. The principles promote inclusion of persons living in poverty in meaningful participation in the conduct of public affairs.  Such participation helps ensure that public policies meet the expressed needs of persons living in greatest poverty.  The Guiding Principles, which the UN General Assembly recognized in December, 2012, as a useful tool in formulating and implementing poverty-related policies, also speak of effective remedies in the event of actions and omissions that jeopardize or undermine human rights.

There are approximately 370 million Indigenous People in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups.  Indigenous People live throughout the globe, but the greatest number—about 70 percent—reside in Asia.  According to the World Bank, Indigenous People represent about five percent of the world’s population, but it is estimated that up to 15 percent of persons living in poverty globally, and up to one-third of rural persons living in poverty, are Indigenous.

Indigenous Peoples make up about 8 percent of the population in Latin America, the World Bank Reported in 2016.  But they represent about 14 percent of persons living in poverty and 17 percent of those living in extreme poverty in the Region. 2010 census data reflects that there were about 42 million Indigenous Peoples in Latin America. Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia were home to about 34 million Indigenous Peoples, or 80 percent of the regional total.

According to the Indigenous Peoples Literature web site, there is no rigid definition of what makes a group Indigenous, but the United Nations and the International Labor Organization provide characteristics that usually define an Indigenous group:

  • descended from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of their region.
  • maintaining a close tie to their land in both cultural and economic practices.
  • suffering from economic and political marginalization as a minority group.

The UN Development Program, in a 2016 report, reflects that average human development improved across all regions between 1990 and 2015.  Still, one in three persons lives in low levels of development as measured by the Human Development Index, the Program states. It points out that Indigenous Peoples are among several groups facing disadvantages that overlap and reinforce each other, increasing vulnerability, widening the progress gap across generations, and making it harder to catch up as the world moves on.

Let us know what efforts your Vincentian Family group is making to be present to indigenous persons.

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Kanet

    Dear Margaret,
    Thank you for this article. It gave me new information for me and insight about Indigenous people worldwide.

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