By Rebeca Spires, SNDdeN:
I participated in two earlier sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in New York. At this session I was pleased to see the presence of women in greater numbers and they were more active and articulate. There were increased opportunities for indigenous participants to speak in plenary sessions and for the first time there was an interactive dialog in a plenary session for indigenous peoples only. Government representatives were not allowed to attend this session so that the indigenous could freely voice their concerns and complaints brought up in other sessions but always rebutted by the states.
All too often indigenous peoples report harassment, discrimination, racism, criminalization, imprisonment, torture, and assassination. The Inuit and Sami reported violations of their rights by the Russian Federation and a debate ensued between the indigenous and the governmental representatives. The statement of the World Bank, represented by an Andean native person, was strongly contested by many participants which also provoked an intense debate. Other complaints are about education and health practices that do not attend to the peoples’ needs or violate their customs and cultures.
Indigenous peoples are not naïve or reticent but are very aware of and articulate about their rights and the multiple, sometimes subtle, ways they are violated. In government sessions there were insistence and urging for more indigenous voices to be heard. I perceive that indigenous participation has grown in quantity and quality in these 15 years, reflected by changing policies in UN structures and member nations. This gives great hope and engenders great appreciation for the valuable work of the UN in protecting peoples’ rights and equitable access to the world’s goods, while protecting and honoring Mother Earth and all her children – human and not.
View short videos of other Indigenous Forum participants: bit.ly/1TqtvEi