Respect for Traditional Self-Governance, Informed Consent in Decisions Critical to Upholding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Mandate Holder Tells UNGA Third Committee

Governance – Indigenous Peoples

Respect for Traditional Self-Governance, Informed Consent in Decisions Critical to Upholding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Mandate Holder Tells Third Committee
General Assembly, Third Committee
Seventy-third Session, 16th Meeting (AM)
12 October 2018
The Third Committee met this morning to consider the rights of indigenous peoples. Before it was a report by the Secretary General on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples (document A/73/137), as well as a Secretariat note transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples (document A/73/176).

Self-governance and multilateral support are critical to fulfilling the aims of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today in a half day discussion on the matter.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said almost every indigenous group faces extreme marginalization and human rights violations. As such, it is critically important to protect and promote their institutions and governance systems. At the core of this issue are the rights to autonomy and self determination. Stressing that she would focus more on this topic over the next year, she urged States to provide recommendations on strengthening self governance, as there are many good examples.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates said that while it is difficult to describe what indigenous self governance systems are, they include a range of unique institutions — some centuries old — that establish rules for relating with one another, and are characterized by different histories, contexts and struggles that have shaped them.

Some pointed out that indigenous rights defenders often face peril. In fact, 2017 was the deadliest year yet for human rights defenders, said the European Union’s delegate — and a disproportionate number of the 197 documented killings were of indigenous people. Norway’s representative advocated a zero tolerance approach to such killings and asked how rights defenders can better cooperate with Governments, both local and nationally.

South Africa’s delegate said the multiple socioeconomic challenges faced by communities in his country are directly linked to the dispossession of land. Addressing the issue of land ownership is essential. As such, the Government has restored a sizeable amount of land to previously disadvantaged groups, he said.

Others underscored the need to involve indigenous peoples and institutions in decisions affecting them, especially at the United Nations. Finland’s representative, on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, commended the Special Rapporteur for increasing cooperation with the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Canada’s delegate emphasized the need to renew relationships between Governments and indigenous peoples, calling it essential to building self determining indigenous nations that govern themselves. Along those lines, Guatemala’s delegate said the Government will work to rescue and revitalize indigenous languages — 22 Maya languages, along with Grifuna and Xinka.

Also speaking today were the representatives of El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mexico (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples), Iraq, Russian Federation, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, United States, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Australia, Ecuador, Namibia, Panama, Iran, Spain, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Fiji, Malaysia, Ukraine, Cameroon and Cuba, as well as the Holy See and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean…