Still A Dark Life For UP’s Tribals Promised Land Titles Under FRA, These Forest Dwellers Have Instead Been Slapped With Criminal Cases
Ashish Tripathi TNN
Sonbhadra:Chief minister Mayawati’s poster along with that of Goddess Lakshmi pasted side by side on the outer wall of the Shyam Lal’s hut in Harra village of Sonbhadra explains the kind of reverence these dalit forest dwellers have for the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo.
Goddess Lakshmi brings prosperity. And the posters of Mayawati promised to bring prosperity through implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 which provides forest dwellers individual and community rights on forest land. But Lal, a daily wager, and his family are still waiting to be blessed by Goddess Lakshmi and Mayawati. “My forefathers worked as labourers and were dependent on forest produce. I am doing the same. After the introduction of FRA, I was happy that my seven children would have a better future. But my claim for the land was rejected. Officials asked me to bring the proof that my family has been living in the forest for past 75 years. How can an illiterate like me provide residential status for the period which also includes the British rule,” said Lal. “Forget about the land, now we are facing displacement threat as forest department is planting trees on the small patch of land we have built our huts,” he added. “We sought help from leaders of various parties. Congress leader said the UPA government gave the FRA and BSP leaders said the decision to plant trees by forest department across India has been taken by the Centre. SP and BJP leaders blame Congress and BSP. I don’t know whom to believe,” said a dejected Lal. The story of Lal is similar to over 55,000 forest dwellers in Sonbhadra whose claims under the FRA have been rejected.
As per the FRA, a family belonging to scheduled tribe living in forest till December 2005 will be entitled to maximum four hectares of land. However, the law demands 75 years’ residential proof from other communities dependent on the forest for similar benefit. Sonbhadra was the first district where FRA was implemented in UP by the BSP government in December 2009.
So far, over 65,000 claims have been filed but titles have been given to around 10,500 dwellers only and that too who hail from the scheduled tribe category. If entire state is taken into account, out of total 92,419 claims filed till December last year, 13,921 have been accepted while rest 72,797 have been rejected. Of total titles distributed, 791 are community rights and 13,130 are individual rights. The total land distributed under the FRA is over 13,084 hectare. However, what forest dwellers have got in abundance here is criminal cases lodged by police and forest department during the course of agitations to get their rights.
“We have been slapped with criminal cases for encroachment, cutting trees and obstructing official work. For one offence, cases have been lodged under the forest law as well as the Indian Penal Code,” said Lal, who has 41 cases against him. Rajendra of Kurwa village, who has 10 criminals cases in his name, said the Mayawati government had announced in October 2010 that all criminal cases against forest dwellers will be withdrawn but nothing substantial has been done.
“Officials asked us to plead guilty and they will be dispose of the case by slapping a small fine. But pleading guilty would mean a criminal history. Only cases under forest laws will be disposed but those under Indian Penal Code will continue. So what’s the use of the exercise,” he added. Majority of these forest dwellers live in abject poverty. Their villages have no schools, health centre, drainage system and roads.
However, the condition of the tribals who have got land under the FRA is slightly better. Ram Bali of Baiga scheduled tribe in Basauli village of Sonbhadra got 0.5 hecatare land. “Now at least we have a roof over and a small land for agriculture but the criminal cases are still pending against us,” Said Bali. Besides Sonbhadra, around 3,500 land titles have also been distributed in other districts including Lakhimpur Kheri, Gonda, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur and Chitrakoot. “
The objective of the FRA was to undo the historical injustice done to forest dwellers. UP government took some steps but the nexus of forest personnel, police, bureaucrat and mafia involved in illegal tree cutting, mining and exploitation of forest resources created hurdles,” said Rajnish, an activist working for Tharu tribe. Tharu tribe living in and around Dudhwa national park in Lakhimpur Kheri has been a major beneficiary of the FRA. In fact, Surma is the first forest village in the country, situated in a wildlife national park, to have got the status of revenue village. Out of 340 families in the village, 289 have got land titles. Around 46 tribal villages along the park have got status of Ambedkar villages. “Money was sactioned for construction of 86 houses under the Mahamaya housing scheme and concrete roads are being laid. Besides, two primary schools and a high school have also been sanctioned for the tribal area around the national park,” said Ram Chandra Rana, a Tharu tribal leader. However, in Gonda, out of five Taungya villages, land titles have been distributed in only one. Taungya is a community comprising dalits and backward bonded labourers who regenerated forests in UP during the British period.
Statement By James Anaya,
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
66th session of the General Assembly
17 October 2011
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honor to once again present a report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the many indigenous peoples, Governments, United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations and others for the cooperation and support they have provided me in my work as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Since I started my work as Special Rapporteur in May 2008, I have undertaken a range of activities to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide and to promote steps to improve their conditions. This year, my written report to the General Assembly describes the work I have carried out during the first three years of my mandate as Special Rapporteur. Included is an overview of the thematic issues that I have examined during this time.
As I note in my written report, my activities fall into four interrelated areas: these are promotion of good practices; reporting on country situations; examination of cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies.
With respect to the promotion of good practices, at the request of indigenous peoples, Governments and international institutions, I have worked to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous rights. I have engaged in this work on an ongoing basis, and have travelled to several countries to assist indigenous peoples and Governments in this regard. For example, I travelled to Ecuador to offer input on a law being developed to coordinate the state and indigenous justice systems. Also, I recently visited Suriname and provided orientation on the measures needed to secure the land and resource rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in the country, in light of binding decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Regarding my work reporting on the situation of indigenous peoples in specific countries, since the start of my mandate in May 2008, I have visited and issued reports on Brazil, Nepal, Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, the Sápmi region (that is, the traditional territory of the Sami indigenous people) of Norway, Sweden and Finland, the Republic of Congo, and New Caledonia. I have also conducted follow-up visits to Chile, Colombia and New Zealand to evaluate the implementation of recommendations made by my predecessor. Future confirmed visits include Argentina in November 2011 and the United States in 2012.
Additionally, on a daily basis I receive allegations of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in specific cases and often, in response, communicate my concerns about the allegations to the Governments concerned. In some cases, I have visited the countries involved and issued reports with observations and recommendations. I have issued in depth reports, for example, on the situation of indigenous peoples affected by mining projects in Guatemala, on hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica and Panama; and on the circumstances surrounding the violent conflict in Bagua, Peru between police and indigenous people who were protesting natural resource extraction laws and policies in that country.
Finally, with respect to thematic issues, I have focused on issues that are of common concern to indigenous peoples across the globe and that arise in all aspects of my work. In this connection, my reports to the Human Rights Council have examined the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples and the responsibility of corporations to respect human rights when engaging in activities that affect indigenous peoples.
My report on the duty to consult explains this duty’s normative grounding in United Nations and regional human rights instruments. I also address the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples prior to moving forward with an initiative, and measures that States can take to build confidence and trust in consultation procedures.
My report on corporate responsibility discusses the due diligence that corporations must exercise when engaging or planning activities that affect indigenous peoples. This includes: identifying whether and how indigenous peoples may be affected; respecting indigenous peoples rights to land, territories and natural resources; carrying out impact studies; and establishing mitigations measures and benefit-sharing.
Building on this previous thematic work, this year I devoted part of my annual report to the Human Rights Council to providing preliminary observations on the issue of extractive industries operating in or near indigenous peoples’ territories.
I have observed throughout my work that the issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world. In numerous country-specific and special reports, and in my review of particular cases, I have examined various situations in which extractive industry activities generate effects that infringe upon indigenous peoples’ rights.
I have observed the negative, even catastrophic, impact of extractive industries on the social, cultural and economic rights of indigenous peoples. I have seen examples of negligent projects implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the peoples concerned. I have also examined in my work several cases in which disputes related to extractive industries have escalated and erupted into violence. I have seen that, in many areas, there is an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about extractive activities.
In my view, a lack of common understanding about key issues related to extractive industries and about applicable standards, among all actors concerned, is a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights in this context. Additionally, I have observed significant legal and policy gaps and lack of coherence in standards related to extractive industries in countries across all regions.
My work over the first term of my mandate has demonstrated to me that there is need for change in the current state of affairs if indigenous rights standards are to have a meaningful effect on State and corporate policies and action as they relate to indigenous peoples. An initial step towards such change would be the establishment of a common understanding among indigenous peoples, governmental actors, businesses enterprises, and others. Without such understanding, the application of indigenous rights standards will continue to be contested or ignored, and indigenous peoples will continue to be vulnerable to serious abuses of their individual and collective human rights.
Thus, I have determined that the issue of extractive industries will be a major focus of my work through the remainder of my mandate.
Towards this end, over the next approximately two and a half years, I will endeavor to hold a series of expert meetings and consultations with indigenous peoples, States, and business enterprises, in regions throughout the world. In addition to this, I intend to launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions or issues related to extractive industries. Through this forum, indigenous peoples and others will have the opportunity to submit information on their experiences with extractive industries, as well as to respond to specific questions.
I will listen carefully and draw extensively on views and experiences that all stakeholders share with me through this process. In addition, I will gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples during my ongoing work examining cases of alleged human rights violations and in carrying out country visits.
It is important to note that, while I will focus on the cross cutting thematic issue of extractive industries during the remainder of my mandate, I will also continue to consider as appropriate the broad range of issues that affect indigenous peoples and monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations, through my four work areas described above.
I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly. Although I am encouraged by positive developments in many places, I remain concerned about the reality of ongoing struggles and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights throughout the world.
Through my work, I hope to help achieve the future envisioned by the General Assembly when it adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, a future in which indigenous peoples’ distinct identities and cultures are fully valued, and a future in which they have the opportunity to control their own destinies, under conditions of equality, within the broader societies in which they live.
I thank you Mr. Chairperson, and all those present, for your kind attention. I look forward to our interactive dialogue.
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
Special Rapporteur Highlights ‘Negative, Even Catastrophic’ Impact of Extractive
Industries on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in Third Committee Statement
James Anaya Says Issue Will Be Major Focus of Work during New Mandate;
Hopes to Facilitate ‘Common Understanding’ about Key Issues, Applicable Standards
Underscoring the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of extractive industries on the social, cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today that the issue would be a major focus during his second mandated term which runs until May 2014.
“The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” James Anaya said, as the Committee began its annual discussion on indigenous issues and the Second International Decade of the World’s indigenous People. Mr. Anaya was first appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008 and was appointed to a second three-year term this past May.
He said negligent projects had been implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the people concerned. Consequently, disputes related to extractive industries had sometimes escalated into violence, and there was an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about those industries.
Against that backdrop, the absence of a common understanding about key issues and applicable standards among all actors concerned formed a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights, he said. Significant legal and policy gaps, as well as a lack of coherence in standards related to those industries in all countries and regions, contributed to the situation.
For indigenous rights to have a meaningful effect on States and corporate policies and actions related to indigenous peoples, a common understanding among indigenous peoples, Government actors, business enterprise and others was required, and he planned to hold a series of expert meetings and consultations. He would also launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions and issues, and would gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples.
At the same time, he assured States that he would continue to consider the broad range of issues that affected indigenous peoples and to monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations by promoting good practices, reporting on country situations, examining cases of alleged human rights violations and presenting thematic studies.
During a question-and-answer session following his initial presentation, Mr. Anaya cautioned that indigenous peoples should not be confronted with decisions or proposals that were already highly developed during consultations with Governments or corporations on activities and projects affecting them. Rather, they should be involved at the very earliest design stage of such any initiative or project, particularly to overcome a legacy of mistrust and ill treatment.
He also suggested that participation mechanisms for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system were inadequate, because they were often built around existing mechanisms for non-State members. Borrowing the credentials of non-governmental organizations, or forming non-governmental organizations just to participate in relevant United Nations meetings created obstacles for many indigenous peoples, who had their own authority structures. Their leaders were not simply the heads of non-governmental organizations, but governmental authorities, and sufficient mechanisms must be developed to allow them to participate as such.
Earlier, Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, had underlined the need to make the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which now had universal support — a reality. “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.
She said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies, and it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” to secure the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and improve their lives.
A number of delegations during today’s debate voiced support for the Special Rapporteur’s stronger focus on extractive industries, with Suriname’s representative acknowledging the issue’s complexities. “We are aware that a delicate balance has to be found between, on the one hand, the opportunities these industries provide for sustainable development of the country as a whole, and guaranteeing that the rights of the indigenous peoples are respected, on the other hand,” he said.
Guatemala’s representative said it was clear that there was inadequate participation by indigenous peoples in both designing and benefiting from a host of projects, including those by extractive industries. The United States delegate invited Member States to review actions under her Government’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal process that included all groups.
Throughout the day, delegations highlighted the potential of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to open a new phase in the promotion and protection of their rights. Many stressed the need for indigenous participation before and during the meeting. In that vein, the Mexican delegation stressed that the Conference’s success would depend in large part on the ample and inclusive participation of all involved actors.
Also today, the Committee concluded its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Participating in that debate were the Observer of Palestine, and the Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Labour Organization.
Also participating in today’s debate on indigenous rights were delegates from Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), European Union, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guyana, Australia, Russian Federation, Japan, Cuba, Sweden, Turkey, Peru, Bolivia, New Zealand, Congo, Malaysia, Brazil, Nepal and Ecuador.
Speakers from the International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Labour Organization United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and World Intellectual Property Organization also commented.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 October, to begin its discussion on the implementation of human rights instruments and comprehensive implementation of follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights and begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples. (For more information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4010.)
It had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on rights of indigenous peoples (document A/66/288). The report of the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of his activities during the first three-year term of his mandate. He was originally appointed in May 2008, and his mandate was renewed for a second three-year term effective 1 May 2011. It describes his efforts to coordinate with global and regional mechanisms concerned with indigenous issues and outlines the work undertaken within four interrelated spheres of activity: promoting good practices, country reports, cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.
The report includes summaries of the thematic studies that the Special Rapporteur has included in his annual reports to the Human Rights Council. These include studies on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the duty of States to consult with, and obtain the consent of, indigenous peoples before adopting measures that affect them; the responsibility of corporations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples; and, building on these themes, issues related to extractive industries operating in, or near, indigenous peoples’ traditional territories.
Statements on Children’s Rights
YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said there had been little progress, if any, towards achieving children’s rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Palestinian children continued to suffer from the occupation’s impact. In addition to killing those children, the occupying forces had also illegally imprisoned and detained hundreds of children, seized and photographed them in a “mapping exercise”, and targeted and attacked homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship. In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions and evictions continued to render Palestinian children homeless. Roads leading to schools continued to be destroyed, while schools were also being given demolition orders. Children were repeatedly traumatized, never knowing when or if their home or school would be next.
Palestinian children living in the occupied Gaza Strip suffered from the same hardships, but they also had to endure the harsh and cruel ramifications of Israel’s illegal blockade, he said. Schools that were callously destroyed in 2008-2009 remained in rubble, while the international community’s reconstruction efforts were intentionally delayed by Israel. The international community must hold the Israeli occupying forces that committed crimes against Palestinian children accountable and bring them to justice. Moreover, reports, including by the United Nations, had documented the recent rise in lethal and violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians, including children, despite the responsibility of the occupying Power for the presence of settlers and their acts of lawlessness. He appealed for immediate and decisive action to bring Israel, the occupying Power, into compliance with international law, including its obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions.
JAMES E. BUCKLEY, Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said 8 million children died before they were five years old and, though that number was at an all time low, roughly four in five of those deaths came from preventable diseases and malnutrition. “Low-cost prevention and treatment measures could save most of those children,” he said. The Order had made efforts in that regard, with successful programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and 32 centres in various countries for support of malnourished children and their families. The Order also provided birth and medical services in Palestine, while its international summer camps offered disabled youth an “unforgettable experience”. Profiting from child labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking were unsustainable and unconscionable practices — children must be allowed to fully engage in society to reach their fullest potential, he said.
ROBERT YOUNG of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that armed conflict and other situations of violence were leading causes of disability in children. In Afghanistan alone, it was estimated that a million children had been disabled as a result of the conflict, he said, adding that landmines, cluster bombs, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices continued to affect people long after a war had ended. Further, the indirect effects of armed conflict had a serious impact on children, seriously limiting their access to health care. The closures of urban and rural clinics due to violence led to increased risks of medical complications. Various simple diseases that had been left untreated were now causing permanent disabilities and unvaccinated children were sustaining permanent disabilities that could have been easily prevented. The number of children born with a disability was also higher in situations of conflict, because women had less access to proper health and decent living conditions during pregnancy and delivery. Attacks on health-care personnel and facilities, as well as armed vehicles, severely limited access to health care for civilians who were injured.
To minimize cases where children became disabled in times of conflict, it was crucial to increase respect for existing rules, he said. ICRC provided assistance directly or through existing structures. It provided support for the delivery of emergency care for war-wounded persons, providing such support in many mine- and weapon-contaminated areas. It also supported a physical rehabilitation programme and a special fund for the disabled. Rehabilitation was crucial, and measures to restore mobility were an essential part of fully integrating people with disabilities into society. He cited, in that respect, the case of a five-year-old amputee, who would require rehabilitation services throughout his or her life. In conflict situations, it would be “virtually impossible” to receive those services, resulting in that child’s limited mobility and reduced chances of going to school. Active participation in his or her society would also be greatly diminished.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said she was troubled by the continued sale of, and trafficking in, children. As the nature of those crimes was becoming increasingly international through information technologies, tourism and migration, the IOM sought to reverse the trend. Effective international cooperation between States would complement efforts by international organizations and civil society.
Turning to the situation of unaccompanied children, she said children went unaccompanied for a variety of reasons, including abandonment or their choice to leave home in search of family members abroad or educational and economic opportunities. The rights of migrant children had to be protected, regardless of their legal status in the country of destination and irrespective of whether they had actively participated in the decision to migrate. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a holistic approach for the protection of children; States now needed to provide for equally holistic implementation.
Expressing alarm by how children continued to be affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, she called for the safe return of children who had fled conflicts. Effective cross-border coordination would play a crucial role in that regard. Because ensuring the protection of children who had either been trafficked or had migrated across borders was a complex challenge, all relevant legal and practical gaps must be closed.
ALESSANDRO MOTTER of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said that, in compliance with the norms reinforced by the Convention and United Nations resolutions, constitutions of many countries contained provisions on health and health care. The challenge now was to ensure that women and children were aware of those rights, legal barriers were removed and resources were allocated. “All of this speaks directly to the role of parliaments,” she said, which represented citizens, shaped policies, made laws and approved budgets. It was gratifying to see that more parliaments were overseeing Government action to meet commitments on women’s and children’s access to health as a right. For its part, IPU was mobilizing support for the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health. It had launched a parliamentary dialogue on that topic that would produce a resolution next year, containing measures for parliaments to take to improve women’s and children’s health.
KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said the road map adopted at The Hague Global Child Labour Conference in 2010 called on Governments to assess the impact of policies on the worst forms of child labour and establish monitoring mechanisms. “Child labour degrades the human capital of a nation,” he said. Eliminating its practice could yield high social and economic returns. ILO’s updated Global Plan of Action called for universal ratification of ILO Conventions and stressed the need for “a special emphasis on Africa”, where challenges to tackling child labour had been compounded by armed conflict and natural disaster. More attention was also being paid to combating child trafficking in emergencies, through increasing knowledge of trafficking in the context of warfare. Also, ILO’s report on children in hazardous work urged that more be done to ensure all children remain in education at least until the minimum age of employment.
Indigenous Rights: Introductory Statement
DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noting that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples now had universal support, said it was now crucial to make the Declaration a reality, particularly given the fact that many indigenous peoples had been displaced and uprooted from their lands. Their natural resources were under threat, many of their languages were dying out, and often their very survival was in question. “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.
Against that backdrop, she said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies and there was a long way to go in securing the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and in substantially improving their lives.
She thanked the States and United Nations agencies that had generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, stressing that the Fund had helped indigenous peoples redefine development from a vision of equity and in a culturally appropriate way –or, development with identity. As in previous years, requests for support had been overwhelming and far beyond what could be provided, and she appealed to Member States to continue their generous contributions to help improve the lives of indigenous peoples.
Further noting the General Assembly’s decision to organize a high-level plenary meeting in 2014 to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, she said its objective would be to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including the implementation of the Declaration. That would, she stressed, advance the objectives of the United Nations towards peace and security, promote dispute resolution and achieve equality and justice for all. She would work to secure a genuine partnership among indigenous peoples and States to make the World Conference a success.
She went on to say that the World Conference would prove an excellent opportunity to secure inclusive and equitable sustainable development goals that also included the perspective of indigenous peoples. Next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) would also offer a chance to learn from the experiences and integrated knowledge systems of indigenous peoples.
Underlining the Declaration as a living document, she said it was time to move beyond the rhetoric. “We have to make sure that all these tools and instruments inspire us to implement in practice the policies and programmes that recognize and protect indigenous peoples’ rights and transform their visions and aspirations into reality,” she concluded.
Presentation by the Special Rapporteur
JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting that he took up his mandate in May 2008, said his activities fell into four interrelated areas: the promotion of good practices, reporting on country situations, examination of cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.
Outlining his work to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous rights, he said that, among others, he had travelled to Ecuador to offer input on a law being developed to coordinate the State and indigenous justice systems. Further, he had provided orientation on measures needed to secure the land and resource rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname owing to relevant binding decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
He had also issued reports on the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Nepal, Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, Republic of Congo and New Caledonia, as well as the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland. He said he had made follow-up visits to evaluate the implementation of his predecessor’s recommendations in Chile, Colombia and New Zealand, while his future confirmed visits included Argentina in 2011 and the United States in 2012.
In response to the allegations of specific violations of indigenous rights that he received on a daily basis, he said he often communicated with the Governments concerned. In some cases, he visited the countries involved and subsequently issued observations and recommendations. In some of those cases, he had issued in-depth reports on, for example, the situation of indigenous peoples affected by mining projects in Guatemala, on hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica and Panama and on the violent conflict in Bagua, Peru, between police and indigenous peoples protesting natural resource extraction laws and policies.
His thematic studies had focused on issues that were of common concern to indigenous peoples across the globe, he said. One report, on the duty to consult, explained that duty’s normative grounding in United Nations and regional human rights instruments, while addressing the circumstances in which obtaining free, prior and informed consent was required before an initiative could proceed. That report further touched on the measures that States could take to build confidence and trust in consultation processes. Meanwhile, another report on corporate responsibility discussed the contours of the due diligence companies must exercise when engaging or planning activities affecting indigenous peoples.
He noted that part of his annual report to the Human Rights Council was devoted to preliminary observations regarding extractive industries operating in, or near, the territories of indigenous peoples. “The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” he said, testifying that he had observed the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of those industries on the social, cultural and polit