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ZIF Seminar paper: PERMANENT FORUM FOR INDIGENOUS ISSUES

(As requested we hereby post the seminar paper)

This session discusses the policy processes involved in establishing the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues within the United Nations system. It provides a brief historical overview of the process leading to the establishment of a permanent forum, including some of the core issues which were discussed. It illustrative of a policy process at the United Nations in terms of the length of time involved and the complex issues which may arise as part of the process but also demonstrates the strength and value of indigenous cooperation and solidarity. This session also examines the type of work in which the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been involved.

The United Nations system is highly complex and intricate organization with numerous organs, programs and bodies. It is very important for indigenous peoples to be as well informed as possible of the existing United Nations structure in order to be able to play a key role in the Permanent Forum and to ensure it develops into an effective and competent body with the legitimacy, power and authority to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples.

? Historical Overview of the Process for a Permanent Forum

In the process leading to the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues the following are significant in order to gain an insight into what are the key issues of concern to indigenous peoples:

? Indigenous peoples at the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations first introduced the concept of the forum in the latter part of the 1980’s;

? A United Nations Meeting of Experts on Internal Self-government for Indigenous Peoples, held in Nuuk, Greenland in September 1991 recommended that the rights of indigenous peoples be addressed on a permanent basis within the United Nations system;

? The World Conference on Human Rights held in June 1993 in Vienna recommended the General Assembly consider the establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system. Following up on this recommendation, the General Assembly requested the Commission on Human Rights to give priority consideration to this issue (resolution 48/163 of 21 December 1993);

? The Commission on Human Rights asked the WGIP to look into this question through its resolution 1994/28 of 4 March 1994. The WGIP recommended that further consultations be held on the subject, a recommendation endorsed by the General Assembly through resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994;

? In June 1995, the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland hosted the first workshop on the “possible establishment of a permanent forum” in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the participation of twenty-one governments, twenty-one representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations and two independent experts;

? In 1995, the Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights recommended that the permanent forum be established in the early part of the International Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This objective was included by the General Assembly in the programme of activities for the Decade;

? In another development, in December 1995, the General Assembly asked the Secretary-General to undertake a review of the existing mechanisms, procedures and programs within the United Nations relevant to indigenous peoples, in close consultation with governments and taking into account the views of indigenous peoples (resolution 50/157);

? The report of the review was submitted to the General Assembly at its fifty-first session as requested. It was conducted on the basis of information received from governments, United Nations organs and agencies, inter-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations;

? The review was instrumental in pointing out that although different United Nations organs and agencies have mandates and projects affecting indigenous peoples, either directly or indirectly, there exist two substantial gaps:

• the lack of mechanisms to ensure regular exchange of information between governments, the United Nations system and indigenous people on an ongoing basis; and

• the absence of adequate procedures to accommodate the effective involvement of indigenous peoples in the work of the United Nations;

? The Government of Chile offered to host a second workshop on the permanent forum. This was welcomed by the Commission on Human Rights (resolution 1997/30 of 11 April 1997) and the Commission decided to include an agenda item entitled “Indigenous issues;”

? The indigenous peoples decided to hold their own meeting to discuss the issue and the first International Indigenous Peoples` Conference for the Creation of a Permanent Forum within the United Nations was held in Temuco, Chile 6-9 May 1997. It was organized by Aukin Wallmapu Ngulam, an indigenous organization and the indigenous peoples used this event to prepare for the UN workshop on the issue;

? The indigenous meeting in Temuco called for the rapid establishment of the permanent forum at the highest possible level with the participation of indigenous peoples on an equal footing with governments;

? It also demanded that the mandate of the permanent forum be broad enough to include all areas of concern to indigenous peoples – e.g. cultural, civil, political, social and economic rights, health issues, the rights of women and children, development, education, the environment, human rights, resolution of conflicts etc. as well as the coordination of activities of the United Nations agencies;

• The expansion of the mandate of any future permanent forum to cover all issues related to indigenous peoples lands and lives was expressed as a key issue especially in the context of attempts to limit it to human rights only;

? The Second Workshop on a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples within the United Nations system held in Santiago de Chile from 30 June to 2 July 1997 recommended that the Commission on Human Rights at its next session i.e. March-April 1998, should consider how to further the process of the establishment of a permanent forum including through concrete proposals to Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for action;

? In July 1997, at it 15th session, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations endorsed the recommendations of the Santiago Workshop, and decided that it would focus on the questions relating to membership, participation and mandate of a permanent forum at its next session. Also to be discussed were issues relating to equitable geographical distribution, and the open and authentic representation of indigenous nations, peoples, organizations and communities;

? A Second International Indigenous Peoples` Conference on the Establishment of a Permanent Forum within the United Nations was held in Ukupseni-Iskardup, Comarca Kuna Yala, Panama, from 3 to 6 March 1998. The Conference was organized by an indigenous organization – Asociacion Napguana;

? The Meeting in Kuna Yala called for the speedy establishment of a permanent forum within the United Nations system, reporting directly to ECOSOC with the following mandate:

• Promotion of peace and prosperity for indigenous peoples;
• To deal with all matters relating to indigenous peoples;
• Coordination within the United Nations system of activities relating to indigenous peoples;
• To give guidance and advice to States, specialized agencies and other relevant bodies;
• To disseminate information on the conditions and needs of indigenous peoples;
• To promote understanding between peoples with a view to facilitating the prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes;
• To ensure compliance with existing national and international norms;
• To issue proposals for harmonizing norms or laws with international law in the area of indigenous issues.

? The meeting in Kuna Yala also proposed that the permanent forum`s terms of reference should include civil, political and social rights of indigenous peoples, cultural rights, human rights, lands and territories, environment, health, children, women, development, education, bio-diversity, constitutional reform with emphasis on recognition of the cultural diversity of States, conflict prevention, development of national legislation etc.;

? The indigenous participants identified two main categories of participants in the permanent forum:

• It was proposed that an equal number of government and indigenous representatives should be members in the permanent forum with the right to vote;

• United Nations organs and specialized agencies, non-governmental organizations and independent experts should have the opportunity to participate as observers without the right to vote.

? In its resolution 1998/20 of 9 April 1998, the Commission on Human Rights welcomed the recommendations from the Santiago Workshop. It decided to establish an open-ended inter-sessional ad hoc working group to elaborate and consider further proposals for the possible establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system;

? The Commission on Human Rights also decided that the participation in the ad hoc working group would be according to the same procedures as agreed upon for the working group on the draft declaration (resolution 1995/32) whereby a separate procedure for accreditation of indigenous organizations was established;

? Other Indigenous Regional Meetings:

? The First Asian Indigenous Peoples Workshop on a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations was held in Indore, India from 23 to 25 September 1998

• The meeting called for the speedy establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples in order to facilitate dialogue between UN member states, indigenous peoples, specialized agencies and others on issues and concerns affecting indigenous peoples;

• The permanent forum should be at the highest level and no lower than a body reporting to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations;

• The mandate of the Forum should be as broad as possible and contain all matters concerning indigenous peoples amongst which should be included civil, political, economic, social, cultural, developmental, environmental, health, education, language, land, resources, territorial, gender and children’s rights;

• The Forum should be composed of an equal number of representatives of indigenous peoples and Member States, as full voting members on an equal basis. Others should participate as observers without the right to vote;

• A new Secretariat should be established for the permanent forum, staffed by qualified indigenous persons.

? Arctic indigenous peoples representatives met in Geneva on 10 December 1998 to discuss the establishment of a permanent forum. The Arctic Indigenous Peoples` Declaration on the Establishment of a Permanent Forum was adopted at this meeting. Salient points include:

• The swift establishment of a high level permanent forum for indigenous peoples within the United Nations;

• The overall goal of the Forum should be to promote peace and prosperity in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, by developing friendly relations among nations and peoples based on respect for the principle of equal rights;

• The Forum should be for dialogue between governments, indigenous peoples and the United Nations system on issues affecting indigenous peoples;

• The mandate should enable the Forum to deal effectively with the full range of issues covered by the mandate of the Economic and Social Council of concern to indigenous peoples. It should include, but not be limited to, submission of proposals, recommendations and reports to ECOSOC and coordination of all matters pertaining to indigenous peoples;

• It should be established at the level of ECOSOC and be composed of equal number of representatives of indigenous peoples and Governments, acting as full voting members on equal basis.

• It should be serviced by a new Secretariat, staffed by indigenous persons

? An International Conference on Indigenous Peoples from Eastern, Central and Southern Africa was held in Arusha, Tanzania from 18 to 22 January 1999:

• The Conference supported existing indigenous declarations and called for: (i) the speedy creation of the forum; (ii) at the highest possible level within the United Nations, and no lower than at the level of the Economic and Social Council; (iii) indigenous peoples and governments to be members of the forum, with the right to vote, in equal numbers, and elected for a period of four years; (iv) that it should have a broad mandate to cover all the concerns of indigenous peoples in the field of cutural, civil, political and economic rights, health, the rights of women and children, education, development, the environment, human rights and conflict prevention.

? Commission on Human Rights Inter-Sessional Ad Hoc Working Groups

Two inter-sessional working groups of the Commission on Human Rights were convened to discuss the possible establishment of a Permanent Forum for indigenous peoples in the UN system. Indigenous peoples could participate based on a flexible accreditation system, along with governments.

Working Group 1 (February 1999)

The first session of the United Nations open-ended inter-sessional ad hoc working group on a permanent forum for indigenous peoples met at the United Nations Office at Geneva, from 15 to 19 February 1999. There were emerging views on the following issues

? There was general agreement that a permanent forum be established;

? The mandate of the forum should be broad and cover all issues affecting indigenous peoples including all human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as thematic issues such as health, development, the environment, education, culture, children, gender and other relevant matters;

? It was accepted that the Permanent Forum would serve at least as an advisory body to the United Nations system, regional intergovernmental organizations, and other interested parties;

? It should be organized as an open assembly in which all governments, indigenous peoples and organisations, international and regional intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and other experts or individuals could participate;

? It should have a “core group” or forum composed of a limited number of members from governments and indigenous peoples on an equal basis, representing all regions of the world in accordance with United Nations practice and reflecting the regions in which indigenous peoples live, and that this core group should have the responsibility for the Permanent Forum;

? It was agreed that the permanent forum should work on the basis of consensus;

? There was no clear recommendation on the selection, election or appointment of the members of the core group, but there was agreement that the representatives should be chosen on the basis of equitable distribution and in accordance with their own practices and customs;

? The working group expressed a preference for attaching the permanent forum to the Economic and Social Council, either directly or indirectly. It noted, however, that the placement of the permanent forum would depend upon its final mandate.

Working Group 2 (February 2000)

The Second Working Group to discuss establishing the Permanent Forum met in February 2000. There was consensus that a forum be established and also on a number of issues which laid the foundation for the elements to be included in the Permanent Forum (UN Document No. E/CN.4/2000/86 of 28 March 2000):

? Mandate: It should be an advisory body with persons serving in their independent capacity and deal with indigenous issues within the mandate of the Economic and Social Council and the themes of the Decade. It’s tasks would be to:
? Provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the parent body as well as programmes and agencies within the UN through the Council in the areas of Health, Education, Culture, Human Rights, Environment and Social development;
? Promote coordination within the UN system on activities relating to indigenous issues;
? Prepare and disseminate information on indigenous issues;

? Membership:
? Agreement that it should be geographically equitable and give due respect to gender balance;
? Different views on number from 18-30;
? Equal division between government and indigenous representative;

? Selection of Members:
? Government experts should be elected by ECOSOC;
? Indigenous experts through broad consultations but no agreement on who should appoint/confirm;
? Criteria/profile for indigenous members as proposed by the indigenous caucus included indigenous origin and regional and international experience, and that the procedures for each region should be decided by the indigenous peoples of that region.

? Participation of Observers:
? Governments, UN bodies, specialized agencies, indigenous representatives/organizations and NGOs could participate as observers;
? The procedures for accreditation should be on the basis of that used for the Working Group on Indigenous Populations;

? Meetings:
? Annual session of ten working days
? At UN headquarters or at the UN Office in Geneva;

? Secretariat:
? The Secretary-General of the UN shall provide the necessary staff, including indigenous experts;
? It should be financed by the regular budget of the UN
? Voluntary contributions should also be sought.

? Rules of procedure:
? The Permanent Forum was to establish its own rules of procedure, or follow those of ECOSOC, or that it should do so until it adopted its own rules of procedure.

? Review:
? The Permanent Forum should be reviewed five years after it was established;

? Name of the Forum:
? There was no consensus on the name of the Permanent Forum:
? Indigenous peoples wanted it to be called the “Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples” and some governments agreed;
? Others (governments) preferred it to be called the “Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.”

? Conclusion

On 28 July 2000, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the “Establishment of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues” (Resolution 2000/22).

This resolution broadly reflects the consensus reached at the second working group. It decided to establish the permanent forum:

? As a subsidiary organ of the Council;

? With 16 members – eight to be nominated by Governments and elected by the Council and eight to be appointed by the President of the Council following broad consultations with indigenous organizations;

? Members to serve in their personal capacity as independent experts for a period of three years;

? Indigenous organizations may participate as observers following the procedures applied at the Working Group on Indigenous Populations as may governments, agencies and NGOs;

? That it will serve as an advisory body to ECOSOC with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues including economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights;

? That is shall provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council as well as programmes, funds and agencies within the UN, through the Council;

? Raise awareness and promote the integration and coordination of activities relating to indigenous issues within the UN system;

? Prepare and disseminate information on indigenous issues;

? That it is to apply the rules of procedure of subsidiary organs of ECOSOC;

? It will work on the principle of consensus;

? It will hold annual sessions of ten working days – in Geneva, New York or any other place it decides to do so;

? Financing to come from the regular UN Budget;

? A review to take place within five years of its establishment;

? And that it is to review all existing mechanisms, procedures and programmes within the UN on indigenous issues, including the Working Group on Indigenous Populations with a view to avoiding duplication and overlap

? First Session of the Permanent Forum (May 2002)

The first session of the Permanent Forum is scheduled for May 2002 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The nomination process has been completed – deadline for submissions was 1 October 2001.
Regional consultations were held to nominate the indigenous members of the Permanent Forum.

The regional division of indigenous members is based on a proposal at a workshop in Copenhagen in October 2000, and endorsed by the international indigenous caucus later that year:
1 seat Africa
1 seat Asia
1 seat Arctic/Europe
1 seat Central/South America and the Caribbean
1 seat Former USSR and Eastern Europe
1 seat North America
1 seat Pacific

1 seat To rotate among Africa, Asia and Central/South America and the Caribbean commencing with Central/South America and the Caribbean.
8 Seats

The Governments are to nominate their own members to be elected by ECOSOC. The distribution will be made on the normal five regional groups of the UN, with three rotating seats:
1 seat African States
1 seat Asian States
1 seat Eastern European States
1 seat Group of Latin American and Caribbean
1 seat Western European and Other States (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States)

3 seats To rotate among the five regional groups

No final decision has been made as to the Secretariat. Most indigenous peoples would like to see a separate secretariat staffed by competent indigenous persons, while some governments and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) wish to have it within the Office of the High Commissioner. The main argument against having it within the Office of the High Commissioner is that the mandate of the Permanent Forum goes beyond human rights. To have it in the OHCHR would be to limit the Permanent Forum to considering human rights issues only.

For indigenous peoples this is an achievement, a permanent body within the UN system mandated to address indigenous issues, operating on the basis of equal participation of indigenous and governmental experts. This is a unique body and as such the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead for the Permanent Forum are tremendous. The success of the Permanent Forum will depend on the active participation and interest of both indigenous peoples and governments to make sure it develops into a strong and effective body which can ably defend indigenous rights.

Methods of Work

The first session of the Forum was held at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, from 12 to 24 May 2002. It was attended by Members of the Permanent Forum, representatives of Governments, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental organizations, as well as a significant number of non-governmental organizations, indigenous organizations and academic institutions. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, terming the first session of the Forum “historic”, proclaimed to the world’s indigenous peoples, “You have a home at the United Nations.” The first session of the Forum focused more on methods of work.

Special Theme

Since second session, the Forum introduced principal theme for each session to elaborate in the meeting. The theme for the second session was chosen “Indigenous Children and Youth in order to focus attention on survival of indigenous peoples. Indigenous Women was chosen for the special theme of the third session and “Millennium Development Goals and Indigenous Peoples with a focus on Goal 1 to Eradicate Poverty and Extreme Hunger, and Goal 2 to achieve universal primary education” was decided to be special theme for the fourth session. The Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: Re-defining the Millennium Development Goals and Territories, Lands and Natural Resources were selected as special themes for the fifth and the sixth sessions respectively.

Inter-Agency Support Group

The Inter-Agency Support Group (IASG) was established to support and promote the mandate of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues within the United Nations system. Its mandate was later expanded to include support indigenous related mandates throughout the inter-governmental system. It allows the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations to analyze recommendations made by the Forum with a view to facilitating comprehensive and coordinated responses to the UNPFII. The IASG Chairmanship rotates annually. As of 2006, the Chairmanship has been held by the ILO, the World Bank, WIPO, UNDP, UNICEF and IFAD. They meet once a year for the aforesaid purposes. As of 2005, IASG includes 27 members, DESA, DPT, SCBD, FAO, IFAD, ILO, IOM, OCHA, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UNDP including RIPP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNPFA, UN-HABITAT, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNIDO, UNITAR, WIPO, WHO, WB, IADB, European Union, ECLAC and Commonwealth Secretariat.

Half Day session

In order to give special attention on situation of indigenous peoples in a particular region, Half Day session was introduced in the fifth session. Africa and Asia were chosen for the Half Day session in the fifth and sixth sessions of the Forum respectively.
Expert Workshops

The UNPFII decided to organize “Expert Workshop” on indigenous issues related topic in its second session in 2003 and the ECOSOC approved the request. Since then, the UNPFII organizes Expert Workshops every year between the sessions. The UNPFII decides themes for the workshops and produces recommendations for promotion of better situation for indigenous peoples. In the Workshop, members of the Forum, interested states, experts from UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, academic experts and experts from indigenous peoples are invited. The themes for workshops are “Data Collection and Disaggregation for Indigenous Peoples”in 2003, Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Indigenous Peoples in 2004, Partnerships between Indigenous Peoples, Governments and Civil Society and Traditional Knowledge in 2005, Millennium Development Goals, Indigenous Participation and Good Governance and Partnership Visions for The Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 2006, “Convention on Biological Diversity´s international regime on access and benefit-sharing and indigenous peoples´ rights” and “International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Protection of the Environment” in 2007.
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