Risk of serious setback for indigenous participation in the UN

During the last weeks, IWGIA has been receiving disturbing news from New York about the hesitancy of the current President of the General Assembly to reconfirm the appointment of an indigenous co-facilitator on an equal basis with a State representative to facilitate the debate and negotiations related to the process towards the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Not re-appointing an indigenous co-facilitator would signal a serious setback for the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights to participate in decision-making processes at the UN and will jeopardize indigenous peoples’ engagement in the process. The process towards the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that will take place in New York in September this year includes the negotiation of the outcome document, with a kick off dialogue meeting in Mexico planned for March-April and an interactive hearing to be held in New York in May-June. Indigenous peoples’ recommendations to and expectations for the outcome document are expressed in the Alta document adopted in June 2013 on the basis of indigenous peoples’ own global preparatory process. States put rules of procedures in front of substantial rights of indigenous peoples The hesitance of the President of the General Assembly to re-nominate the indigenous co-facilitator is reportedly due to pressure from some States, who referring to General Assembly procedures are against accepting a non-State representative acting as facilitator. Since the UN General Assembly in 2010 decided to hold a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, indigenous peoples have expressed their commitment to fully and effectively participate in this process, as well as their expectation that the UN will take this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to implement the right of Indigenous Peoples to participate in decision making that effects them, as it is enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Responding to this demand, in 2012, the then President of the General Assembly nominated Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, Permanent Representative of Mexico at the UN and John Henriksen from the Norwegian Sámi Parliament (nominated by indigenous peoples) as the co-facilitators of the negotiation process related to the UN resolution on the modalities of the World Conference, which was later adopted by consensus during the GA session in September 2012. This decision represented a historical step forward in the UN recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to fully participate in UN decision-making processes. If the current President of the UN General Assembly decides to go against the proposal of the indigenous peoples and not re-nominate John Henriksen as the indigenous co-facilitator, the UN will fail to demonstrate its aspiration to fulfil its own commitment to promote, respect and implement the rights of Indigenous peoples as for example reiterated in a recent report by the UN Secretary General. This is indeed of serious concern to indigenous peoples and support NGOs engaged in this process. European NGOs appeal to the President of the General Assembly On the basis of the above, on the 27th of January, IWGIA together with other European support NGOs submitted a letter to the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador John Ashe, appealing to him to take action and to nominate an indigenous co-facilitator for the process towards the WCIP. The signatories of the letter also express their support to indigenous peoples’ proposal to appoint Mr John Henriksen, international representative of the Sami Parliament in Norway, to fulfill this role.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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