UN forum on indigenous issues opens 2016 session with focus on conflict, peace and resolution

9 May 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the launch of a plan to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples who are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands and resources.

“I am pleased to send greetings to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,” Mr. Ban said via video message at the opening of the forum's 15th session, held in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York. “I welcome your focus on conflict, peace and resolution.”

More than 1,000 indigenous participants from all regions of the world are expected to attend the annual two-week Forum, this year held from 9 to 20 May. The issues of peace and conflict, often relating to indigenous peoples' lands, territories and resources, and to their rights and distinct identities, will be at the forefront of this year's discussions.

“Lasting peace requires that indigenous peoples have access to cultural, social and economic justice,” the UN chief highlighted. “The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples called on the United Nations to ensure a coherent approach. In response, we have developed a System-Wide Action Plan, which we will launch today,” he said.

Noting that it is essential for the global community work as one to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. Ban commended the President of the General Assembly for beginning consultations on the further participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations.

“Member States are beginning implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendia Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Secretary-General underlined. “We must ensure that indigenous peoples, including women, participate and benefit.”

Following a ceremonial welcome by the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Todadaho Sid Hill, today's opening session of the Forum is also set to feature remarks from Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Sven Jürgenson.

In his address to the Forum, Mr. Jürgenson highlighted that 2016 has been deemed the year of implementation: “I encourage all indigenous peoples to continue to engage in this important process,” he said. “I also encourage Member States to work with indigenous peoples, not only because they have the right to participate in the development process, but also because they have extremely valuable contributions to make for all.”

Noting that the 2030 Agenda gives the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues a “new and important responsibility,” the senior UN official encouraged it to guide ECOSOC on how to ensure that indigenous peoples are not “left behind.”

“What are indigenous peoples’ specific situations, challenges, successes, contributions in our common journey towards sustainable development,” Mr. Jürgenson specified. “You are the experts – and we count on you to bring that expertise into the discussion.”

Meanwhile, the President of the 70th session of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, recalled that since taking office, he has “sought to advance openness, transparency and inclusion” in how the UN General Assembly conducts its work.

“To me, this includes the ability of indigenous peoples to engage at the UN on matters that affect them,” Mr. Lykketoft noted. “These are peoples, after all, who not only have a right to contribute or who can provide enriching input, but who have been targeted when then speak up and historically excluded at all levels resulting in great harm to their communities, their heritage, their livelihoods and even their identity.”

“The current consultations provide a historical opportunity for Member States and Indigenous Peoples to improve and strengthen the participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations,” he added.


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