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ZIF Seminar paper: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Note (1) – Understanding the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(As requested we hereby post the seminar paper)



Introduction: Under the re-structuring/reorganization of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) into the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), mechanisms under the former UNCHR were reviewed and the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) was eventually dissolved in 2006. Indigenous leaders and representatives lobbied for the retention of the WGIP because it is very important to maintain a mechanism within the HRC that will address the particular human rights issues and concerns of indigenous peoples. But with the dissolution of the WGIP, it is then imperative to lobby for an expert mechanism on indigenous peoples rights under the HRC With the support of the government of Bolivia and other friendly governments to indigenous peoples, a resolution was then submitted and approved for the establishment on an expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, and as far as possible consisting of indigenous members. In December 2007, an informal session of HRC members and indigenous leaders was held to discuss the mandate, composition, methods of work and related concerns for the establishment of the expert mechanism. Indigenous peoples’ representatives also submitted its proposals for the expert mechanism to the HRC.

After a series of negotiations to build a consensus amongst governments supportive of the Expert Mechanism, the final draft resolution for adoption of the HRC was a watered down version of the proposals made by indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, indigenous representatives agreed not to oppose it in light of the urgent need to have a mechanism established under the HRC that will address the human rights issues of indigenous peoples.

The consensus draft of the States was adopted during the December 2007 session of the HRC as UNHRC Resolution 6/ 36.

Mandate of the Expert Mechanism

a. The mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was created by resolution 6/36 of the Human Rights Council; it establishes the Expert Mechanism as a subsidiary expert body with the mandate to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples in the manner and formed requested by the Council.

b. Human Rights Council resolution 6/36 stipulates that the thematic expertise of the Expert Mechanism should focus mainly on studies and research-based advice, although it may suggest proposals to the Council for its consideration and approval, within the scope of its work as set out by the Council.

c. To report annually to the Council on its work.

Composition of the Expert Mechanism
a. Shall consist of five independent experts and that the selection and appointment process, give due regard to experts of indigenous origin;
b. Members shall serve for a three-year period and may be re-elected for another period
c. Appointed members of the Expert Mechanism: 2008-2010
1. Jose Molintas, Ibaloi – Philippines
2. Jannie Lasimbang, Kadazan- Malaysia
3. Jose Carlos Morales, Bribri- Costa Rica
4. John Henriksen, Saami- Norway
5. Catherine Odimba Kombe, Congo

Methods of Work

a. Expert Mechanism meets once annually three days in its first year and thereafter for up to five days, and that the sessions may be a combination of open and private meetings;

b. should determine its own methods of work, although the Expert Mechanism shall not adopt resolutions or decisions;

c. that the annual meeting of the Expert Mechanism shall be open to the participation, as observers, of States, United Nations mechanisms, bodies and specialized agencies, funds and programmes, intergovernmental organizations, regional organizations and mechanisms in the field of human rights, national human rights institutions and other relevant national bodies, academics and experts on indigenous issues, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council; the meeting shall also be open to indigenous peoples’ organizations and non-governmental organizations,

d. in order for the Expert Mechanism to enhance cooperation and avoid duplicating the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people and the Permanent Forum, that it shall invite the Special Rapporteur and a member of the Permanent Forum to attend and contribute to its annual meeting;

Progress so far

a. In resolution 9/7, the Human Rights Council requested the Expert Mechanism to prepare a study on lessons learned and challenges to achieve the implementation of the right of indigenous peoples to education and to conclude by 2009. The Expert Mechanism was also requested to seek input from indigenous peoples’ organizations, Member States, and relevant stakeholders, including international and regional organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, national human rights institutions and civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations for their work.

b. At its inaugural session, held at the United Nations in Geneva from 1-3 October 2008, the Expert Mechanism conducted preliminary substantive discussions concerning indigenous peoples’ right to education, and elaborated on possible methods for carrying out the thematic research related to the right to education. Participants at the first session were invited to share their views on these issues with the Members of the Expert Mechanism.

c. In light of Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Members of the Expert Mechanism agreed that the study should also elaborate and focus on the right of indigenous peoples to establish and control their own education systems and institutions that provide education in their own languages conducted in a manner appropriate to indigenous peoples’ cultures and their methods of teaching and learning.

d. The Members of the Expert Mechanism agreed that the study should encompass the following elements: (a) a human rights-based analysis of the scope and content of the right to education; (b) elaboration on indigenous education systems; (c) lessons learned with regard to creating national laws and policies enabling the realization of the right to education of indigenous peoples; (d) challenges and measures to achieve the implementation of the right of indigenous peoples to education; and (d) a set of general thematic recommendations on indigenous peoples’ right to education.

e. The study was prepared by members of the Expert Mechanism based submissions by indigenous peoples’ organizations, members states, relevant international and regional organizations, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, relevant UN agencies, national human rights institutions and civil society organizations, as well as through its own study pertaining to achieving the implementation of the right of indigenous peoples to education, including lessons learned, case studies, challenges and recommendations.

f. The report of the first session, indicating among others the agenda for the second session is scheduled from 10 -14 August, 2009 was presented to the HRC in March 2009; but ended without a resolution by the HRC. However, at the HRC’s 11th session, Canada and the US made a statement proposing a postponement of the second session to allow the HRC to make a decision on the theme to be discussed. Clearly, these two countries were unhappy that the Expert Mechanism would be discussing the UNDRIP. Many states however did not support the views of Canada and the US, saying that the HRC should not micro-manage its subsidiary bodies.
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