UN forum on indigenous issues wraps up third annual session

21 May 2004

Too many indigenous peoples face challenges over their land, cultures, languages and livelihood, but the declaration being drafted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights would be a specific international instrument on their rights and fundamental freedoms, UN General Assembly President Julian Hunte said today.

Too many indigenous peoples face challenges over their land, cultures, languages and livelihood, but the declaration being drafted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights would be a specific international instrument on their rights and fundamental freedoms, UN General Assembly President Julian Hunte said today.

Addressing the two-week Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which wrapped up its third annual session at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Hunte, from St. Lucia, said too many indigenous people remain outside the national decision-making activities that affect their daily lives.

The International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, ending this year, had established cooperation between many communities and the United Nations, he said. Indigenous peoples could rely on the General Assembly, called the "House of Mica" in an ancient Hopi prophecy, to welcome them in good faith, celebrate their civilizations and listen to them.

The 22nd session of the Commission's Working Group on Indigenous Populations is scheduled to take place from 19 to 23 July in Geneva under the theme "Indigenous Peoples and Conflict Resolution."

Mr. Hunte said it was timely to have made indigenous women the focus of the Forum's third session because they have suffered special marginalization, extreme poverty, discrimination and violence. He called on all UN Member States to make critical decisions to ensure gender equality.

At a concluding news conference, the Forum's Chairman, Ole Henrik Magga of Norway, said one of the recommendations on indigenous women would be to ask the Commission to appoint a Special Rapporteur on particular abuses.

The Rapporteur would study such genocidal practices as forced sterilization of females and using indigenous communities as subjects in nuclear testing, or storing nuclear waste on their land, he said.

 

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