Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3825
    20 October 2005

    Respect for Sustainable Development, Human Rights Essential to Eliminating Poverty of Indigenous People, Third Committee Told

    As it Begins Discussion of Indigenous Issues, Committee Hears Introduction of Six Draft Resolutions on Women's Concerns

    NEW YORK, 19 October (UN Headquarters) -- World leaders must respect and promote the sustainable development and human rights of indigenous peoples in order to eradicate the persistent, widespread poverty and hunger threatening their very survival, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it began its general discussion of indigenous issues.

    Poverty and extreme poverty affected indigenous people more severely than the rest of the population, he said.  Their poverty indicators were generally above the national average, particularly for indigenous women.  Educational services for indigenous children were generally below recommended minimum standards, and programmes were not tailored to those children's needs, leading to extremely high dropout rates.  However, the Millennium Development Goals failed to take these factors into account in many cases.

    Very often governments made decisions without consulting indigenous groups beforehand and failed to provide adequate protection of their rights, livelihoods and culture, he added.  The right of indigenous groups to prior consultation and informed consent must be introduced into public policy and be required before making decisions on investment and development projects, as well as enacting legislation that would directly affect indigenous people.

    Similarly, Johan Schölvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, said a majority of the world's indigenous peoples continued to live on the margins of society.  The world's indigenous people numbered some 370 million, which was approximately five per cent of the world's population, but they represented some 12 per cent of the world's poor.  The United Nations development agenda should continue its focus on indigenous issues, which encompassed economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

    In that regard, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had noted that without taking into account the voices of indigenous peoples, millennium target processes might lead to accelerated assimilation, thus prolonging and even worsening the marginalization and poverty of indigenous groups.  Indigenous peoples regarded the world holistically, and believed that a sustainable future lay in the collective well-being and harmonious relation with the earth.  As development thinkers and policymakers, Member States should draw from that philosophy to bring about concrete and positive change in their lives.

    Echoing that claim, the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) stressed that national and local authorities must protect the rights of indigenous peoples and eliminate discrimination against them, including through effective development and implementation of legislation.  The widening of ethnic inequalities in countries where indigenous and tribal people lived had demonstrated that conventional anti-poverty policies had failed to tackle their socio-economic exclusion.  That situation must be redressed for the benefit of indigenous peoples and for reasons of social equity and policy effectiveness.

    The ILO was finalizing an ethnic "audit" of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) in 14 countries to see whether and how indigenous peoples' needs and rights were taken into account and involved in preparation of the Papers.  The ILO's studies on Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and their relevance for indigenous groups in Cambodia, Cameroon and Nepal outlined several recommendations to improve indigenous peoples' participation in implementing national poverty reduction strategies and to ensure incorporation of their concerns. 

    During the general discussion that followed, several representatives underscored the need during the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples for the international community to act in a concerted and focused manner to improve the economic, social, cultural and political status of indigenous peoples.  Numerous speakers stressed that indigenous peoples continued to be among the poorest and most marginalized, and many called for a finalized United Nations declaration on their rights as a matter of priority.

    The Committee also heard the introduction of six draft resolutions on the advancement of women, including drafts on an in-depth study on all forms of violence against women; the United Nations Development Fund for Women; improvement of the situation of women in rural areas; future operation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women; violence against women migrant workers; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

    Speaking during the discussion were the representatives of Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Venezuela (on behalf of the ANDEAN Community), Estonia, Germany, Fiji and Guyana.

    Representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also made statements.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 October, to continue its debate of indigenous issues.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion of issues concerning indigenous people and hear the introduction of six draft resolutions on the advancement of women.

    The Committee had before it the Secretary-General's report on the Draft Programme of Action for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (documents A/60/270 and A/60/270/Add.1), which states that a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, one of the major objectives of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People that began 1 January 2005, had yet to be adopted.  It also outlines an action programme for the Decade based on five key objectives.

    The objectives include promoting non-discriminatory laws, policies, resources and programmes; promoting full participation of indigenous groups in decisions that affect their lifestyles, traditional lands and territories and cultural integrity; altering development policies to ensure respect for indigenous peoples' cultural and linguistic diversity; adopting targeted policies, programmes and budgets for development of indigenous peoples, particularly children, women and youth; and creating strong mechanisms to monitor implementation of legal, policy and operational frameworks for protecting indigenous peoples and improving their lives.

    The report recommends that the Decade Coordinator submit annual reports to the General Assembly on progress in implementing the Decade and the Assembly should conduct mid-term and end-term assessments.

    The addendum to the report contains proposals for implementing the Decade from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

    Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people (document A/60/358), which transmits the report of Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.

    In addition, the Committee had before it draft resolutions on an in-depth study on all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/60/L.12); the United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/C.3/60/L.13); improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/60/L.14; future operation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document A/C.3/60/L.15); violence against women migrant workers (document A/C.3/60/L.16); and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/60/L.17).

    Introduction of draft resolutions

    PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France), introducing the draft resolution on the In-depth study on all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/60/L.12), said the resolution had the support of more than 60 co-sponsors from all geographical regions.  There was consensus among all on the subject, but there were difficulties in measuring the scale of violence, so in past there had been different views on the appropriate means to address the violence.  The purpose of the draft resolution was to demonstrate the will of States, and to ensure the subject stayed on the United Nations agenda while welcoming work that had already been done.  It also stressed the importance of the process of the study, especially in terms of coordination and cooperation within the United Nations system in its preparation.  In addition, the draft resolution encouraged Member States to contribute to the budget for the study.

    MU'TAZ HYASSAT (Jordan), introducing the draft resolution on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (document A/C.3/60/L.13), said the draft resolution highlighted the developments and focus of UNIFEM.  He added that informal consultations were still ongoing, and a revised text might be introduced in due course.  He also expressed hope that the Committee would adopt the draft resolution by consensus.

    Introducing the draft resolution on the Improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/60/L.14), OCHIR ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said globalization presented a host of challenges for people in developing countries, and especially in rural areas.  The role of women in agricultural production and rural economies was crucial, as they produced more than half of the food grown worldwide.  However, they still faced serious challenges in areas, such as a lack of empowerment, owning their own land, health care and financial services.  It was also necessary to allow women to participate in the decision-making process, among other things.  The draft resolution invited Member States to mobilize resources to increase the access of women.  She added that proposals and changes to the draft had been received, and consultations were currently ongoing.  A revised document would be submitted in due course.

    ARIEL BOWEN (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, introduced a draft on the future operation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), (document A/c.3/60/L.15), saying that in broadening its horizons the Institute had responded positively to research needs of current women's issues in developing countries.  INSTRAW had made remarkable progress in recent time, seeking to firmly secure future operations on a more predictable, sustainable path.

    FELIX DE LEON (Philippines), also speaking on behalf of Indonesia, introduced a draft on violence against women migrant workers, (document A/C.3/60/L.16), noting that the draft reflected recent developments in this area such as the increasing feminization of international migration; the tendency of migrant women to be employed in the informal economy and in less skilled work, thus making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation; and the need for gender policies on migration.  Migration was usually represented as a gender-neutral phenomenon, leaving migrant women invisible and vulnerable to abuse. 

    The resolution intended to generate greater awareness of migrant workers' gender-sensitive nature and the need to step up assistance to protect female migrant workers.

    ANNE MERCHANT (Norway) introduced a draft, as orally amended, on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/C.3/60/L.17), saying the draft's mainstreaming focus was to authorize the Committee to hold extra sessions in the two forthcoming years and to be able to meet on a temporary basis in parallel working groups in order to enhance its ability to discharge all its responsibilities.

    Statements on Indigenous People

    JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, said the World Summit had reaffirmed the priority of multilateralism in today's complex and interdependent world.  It had also expressed strong support for the comprehensive United Nations development agenda, which was a result of a series of world conferences and summits, including the outcomes of the Millennium Summit.  That broad development agenda recognized the critical importance of addressing groups rendered vulnerable and marginalized, and in particular the importance of indigenous peoples' issues and concerns in eradicating extreme poverty.

    He said the international community must continue to not only reaffirm commitments, but, more importantly, ensure the implementation of the work that had been undertaken on indigenous issues within the United Nations system and beyond.  That was of vital importance since the glaring reality still continued that a majority of the world's indigenous peoples continued to live on the margins of society, and their existence, social integrity and cultures continued to be threatened.  The world's indigenous people numbered some 370 million, which was approximately five per cent of the world's population, but they represented some 12 per cent of the world's poor.  It therefore remained imperative that the broad agenda of development should also continue its focus on indigenous issues, which encompassed economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

    In that regard, the Permanent Forum, a pioneer and unique body on indigenous issues within the United Nations system, had issued recommendations in a number of key areas that spoke to the broader United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals.  The Forum noted concern that unless the particular situation and voices of indigenous peoples were taken into account, millennium target processes might lead to accelerated assimilation, thus prolonging and even worsening their marginalization, discrimination and poverty.  It also stressed that education should take into account the identities, languages, cultural and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.  He added that indigenous peoples regarded the world holistically, and believed that a sustainable future was in the collective well-being and harmonious relation with the earth.  As development thinkers and policymakers, it was necessary for Member States to draw from that philosophy to bring about concrete and positive change in the lives of the world's indigenous peoples.

    Speaking on his own behalf, Mr. SCHÖLVINCK said that a number of key developments had taken place on indigenous issues since last year within the United Nations system.  The fourth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had resulted in key recommendations to the Economic and Social Council, and more broadly, the United Nations system, as well as governments, indigenous organizations, other non-governmental organizations and civil society at large.  The Forum also stressed the need for prioritization, implementation, monitoring and coordination in its work.  It appointed experts among its members as special rapporteurs to conduct an analysis of the recommendations of the Forum's first three sessions and their status of implementation, with an effort to prioritize among recommendations; prepare a paper on methods of work of the Forum; and create productive relations with the Forum on Forests.

    The year also bore witness to the development of a draft comprehensive programme of action for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, he continued.  In addition, over the last few years, the composition of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues had expanded and now counted 23 United Nations and other non-governmental entities among its members.  Furthermore, last year's resolution of the General Assembly placed indigenous issues on the Assembly's agenda as an annual item.  That revealed a commitment of Member States to end the marginalization of indigenous issues in public policies and to promote active indigenous participation.

    RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said that in the period covered by his report, he had visited Colombia, Canada and South Africa; participated in the sixty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights, the thirty-seventh session of the African Commission on Human And Peoples' Rights, the fourth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the twenty-third session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations; and had held separate meetings with those bodies' members to maintain close cooperation.  The available information revealed that poverty and extreme poverty affected indigenous people more severely than the rest of the population, both in their communities of origin and in urban areas.  Poverty indicators for indigenous people were generally above the national average, particularly for indigenous women.  Urgent, coordinated measures were needed to tackle the feminization of poverty, as were comprehensive public policies to eradicate multidimensional poverty.

    Educational services for indigenous children were generally below recommended minimum standards, and programmes were not adapted to those children's realities, leading to extremely high dropout rates, he said.  Qualitative strategies, not just quantitative, were needed for the communities concerned.  Violations of indigenous peoples' human rights and fundamental freedoms included cases of extra-judiciary killings, death threats and allegations of violations over land rights conflicts, access to natural resources and the environment, and the lack of access to basic social services.  Despite ongoing efforts to implement recommendations adopted at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, most countries continued to report high numbers of cases of discrimination against indigenous people on ethnic grounds.  In some places, authorities had criminalized legitimate movements that demanded recognition of their human rights.  That trend had increased in the framework of the war on terrorism, he said, stressing that in no way should societies' legitimate concerns to combat terrorism be used as a pretext to curtail indigenous peoples' human rights or to create patterns of discrimination and intolerance against them.

    The situations of violent conflict that affected several countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa were having devastating effects on the indigenous communities, he said.  In some cases, human rights violations were such that the very survival of some small and particularly vulnerable communities was in peril.  During the review period, he had maintained regular contact with the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.  In that regard, prevention was key.  Early warning mechanisms were important to be able to react promptly to such threats.  In the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit, world leaders recognized that the sustainable development of indigenous peoples and their communities was crucial to eradicating poverty and hunger, and they reaffirmed their commitment to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples.  The International Labour Organization's Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples was an excellent tool for dialogue, he said, stressing the need to ensure that States' parties respected, promoted and ratified it.

    Discussion

    During the ensuing question-and-answer period, Mr. STAVENHAGEN fielded inquiries from several speakers to elaborate on specific aspects of his report.  He said it was very important that the millennium targets took into account the human rights of indigenous people regarding the goal to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, achieve primary universal education, end discrimination against women, achieve gender equality and protect and promote human rights in all government policies.  In many cases, such policies did not take those rights into account and very often Governments made decisions without consulting indigenous groups beforehand.  The right to prior consultation should be introduced into public policy and required before any investment and development decisions, or before adopting laws that would directly affect indigenous people.  However, consultation was not enough.  Consent was also crucial.

    Regarding whether he had been in contact with the International Red Cross to assist indigenous peoples involved in armed conflict, he noted the seriousness of human rights violations in those situations and the importance of contacting the Red Cross, saying he planned to do so as soon as possible.

    As to how Governments were using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to clamp down on indigenous groups, he said in many cases indigenous people's actions to claim their socio-economic rights were considered acts of terrorism.  In that regard, his report referred to repeated complaints in many countries visited.

    Regarding the reaction of Governments to his recommendations, he said at its session this year the Human Rights Commission had recommended that the Special Rapporteur conduct a study, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, on implementation and follow-up of recommendations to various countries.  He had invited those countries' Governments to provide information in a timely manner regarding their current and future plans to implement the recommendations, and noted that certain countries were making serious efforts to do so.

    Regarding the role of humanitarian aid in mitigating the negative impact of natural disasters on indigenous communities, such as those in Guatemala, he expressed solidarity with the people of Guatemala over the recent hurricane's devastating impact on indigenous communities there.  Humanitarian assistance was important but was not enough.  In Guatemala and elsewhere, the effects of natural disasters were also a result of poor socio-economic policies.  It was necessary to review such polices so that they would really contribute to indigenous people's well-being and development and allow indigenous peoples to decide themselves on how to use their natural resources and their environment, as well as maintain their human rights and cultural identities.

    Asked whether countries were in fact respecting the right of indigenous peoples to prior consultation and the need for consent, he said the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had organized early this year a meeting on that regard.  While there was growing agreement, governments, authorities and multilateral agencies continued to make decisions about investments and activities affecting indigenous peoples without consulting them beforehand.  He had received complaints from many indigenous communities that no consultations had been carried out or that the consultations conducted had not been balanced of meaningful.  Such consultations must be done properly and to the satisfaction of indigenous groups.

    Statements

    DINA SHOMAN (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the past decade had resulted in a growing understanding of the obstacles faced by indigenous people in preserving their cultures, livelihoods and communities, while improving their living conditions.  The Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People was intended to further strengthen international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programmes and specific programmes and projects, increased technical assistance and relevant standard-setting activities.  Among the major achievements of the first Decade was the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  Its function as a forum for dialogue between States, indigenous organizations, the United Nations system and other inter-governmental organizations, and as a catalyst for change, had made it both invaluable and indispensable.

    Notwithstanding the important advances made during the first Decade, indigenous peoples in many countries continued to be among the poorest and most marginalized, she said.  The traditions of indigenous peoples and their understandings of the harmony between lives and the environment had taught people how to better appreciate the gifts of nature.  That was a small part of the contributions they had made and continued to make towards sustainable development.  CARICOM therefore realized the importance of strengthening the human and institutional capacities of indigenous people to allow them to better participate in decision-making processes at all levels.  The finalization of a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples should be a matter of priority for the Second Decade.  The declaration should not fall below existing international standards, and consideration should be given to innovative methods for the Commission on Human Rights Working Group, she added.

    ELEYDA GARCÍA-MATOS (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Andean Community, said the Community's member countries had steadfastly advanced in promoting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples.  The subject was crucial given the character of the Community's people, and was closely linked to sustainable development and human rights.  The Community had adopted an integral plan for social development, which included 20 projects to eradicate poverty, as well as provide education and health to the most neglected.  The Governments were working together to focus on the tasks of social and economic development, in particular on the struggle against poverty and in obtaining decent jobs.  Poverty affected indigenous peoples, and the Andean Community hoped that the United Nations would work for measures of cooperation and assistance for those countries most lagging behind in combating poverty, taking into account the special needs of indigenous peoples.

    The Community also firmly supported all efforts aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights and indigenous peoples, and she emphasized the need to strengthen and increase international cooperation to solve problems in the areas that indigenous peoples faced.  That included an equitable approach at the world level with the inclusion of the respect of the cultural and linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples, as well as programmes and policies for their development, focusing in particular on women, children and young indigenous peoples.  Despite important progress that had been achieved in the past decade, the Community believed that a great deal still needed to be done, and the United Nations could count on the Community to achieve the goals of the Second Decade.  She expressed hope that during the Second Decade, Member States would be able to count on an instrument of the United Nations of a binding nature to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  She also hoped that there would be a firm decision to continue to develop a strategy aimed at promoting the full participation of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in seeking a better life and ensuring their own development.

    TIINA INTELMANN (Estonia) said that despite important advances of the first Decade of the World's Indigenous People, including the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, indigenous peoples in many countries continued to be among the poorest and the most marginalized.  It was also regrettable that the adoption of a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as one of the most important goals of the First Decade had not been achieved within the 10-year framework.  The rapid completion of a strong declaration should be a priority, without necessarily relating that project to the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 2004, as that would enable Member States to target the actions of the Decade to the implementation of the Declaration.

    The Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People coincided with the targeted timeframe for the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals.  The implementation of the Goals with regard to the indigenous peoples had to be viewed within the broader context of the Millennium Declaration, which brought together the three basic aims of the United Nations Charter:  peace and security; economic and social development; and human rights.  Indigenous peoples had the right to benefit from the Goals and from the other goals and aspirations contained in the Millennium Declaration to the same extent as all others.  Furthermore, actions to address the needs, rights and conditions of indigenous peoples should be a part of the efforts to reduce poverty.  The full and effective participation of indigenous peoples themselves was the key to the implementation of the Programme of Action.  It was also crucial to ensure the participation of the representatives of indigenous peoples in decision-making, and indigenous peoples should be fully involved in the definition, monitoring and evaluation of national strategies, which should address their poverty situation.

    MARTIN THÜEMMEL (Germany) said notable progress had been made in inter-agency cooperation on indigenous issues, and his Government strongly welcomed the proclamation of the Second Decade of the World's Indigenous People by the General Assembly in 2004, so as to ensure the continued advancement of the situation of indigenous people.  Germany would support its implementation and had pledged to contribute $75,000 to the new voluntary fund established in support of the Second Decade.  It also fully subscribed to the main objectives of both the First and the Second Decade, such as strengthening international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, health, culture and education.  Germany had promoted cooperation in those areas, particularly through its international development cooperation activities.

    Issues that needed to be addressed during the Second Decade included consistent mainstreaming of human rights and of gender issues in all development projects affecting indigenous peoples and communities; harmonization and coordination of strategies related to indigenous interests and issues of the multilateral development banks, relevant funds and programmes of the United Nations, regional organizations and national donors; developing strategies and implementing projects that directly benefited indigenous groups; and increasing the level of active participation of indigenous people in the planning and implementation of all projects that affected them directly or indirectly.

    He added that Germany was looking forward to the upcoming meeting of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration of Indigenous Rights, and hoped that in a spirit of compromise on the part of all parties concerned, it would be possible to finalize a text that gave justice to the legitimate claim of indigenous people to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    ISIKIA SAVUA (Fiji) said the draft Programme of Action for the Second Decade of the World Indigenous People contained some much needed initiatives to ensure that all indigenous peoples could fully exercise their rights and privileges under the conventions on human rights, as well as their collective right to real improvements in their standard of living and living conditions.  He endorsed the plan's five key objectives, including promotion of non-discrimination and inclusion of indigenous peoples' views in designing, implementing and evaluating national, regional and international norms governing laws, policies, resources and programmes.

    He supported "Agendas for Life" as the most suitable theme for the Second Decade because it engaged all stakeholders in partnership for further action enabling indigenous peoples to realize their human rights.  He supported the call for all Member States to create policies to reverse the ethnocentric perceptions of non-indigenous and indigenous peoples, which were often biased.  Fiji was committed to ensuring that the interest of indigenous peoples be realized through policies and legislation.  He supported the Agenda's recommendations regarding indigenous peoples' health, but expressed concern that cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation, alcoholism, child marriages and violence against women, youth and children, continued to negatively impact indigenous group's health. 

    He urged Member States to adopt targeted policies and programmes in partnership with indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations to stop those practices.  

    DONNETTE CHRISTINE CRITCHLOW (Guyana) said issues affecting indigenous peoples had for far too long largely gone unnoticed, resulting in their marginalization from the mainstream of society in many countries.  That unacceptable situation, which required urgent action, had led to Guyana's support for the inauguration of a Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples.  It was incumbent upon the international community to act in a concerted and focused manner to consolidate the gains of the past decade to improve the economic, social, cultural and political status of indigenous peoples.  Her Government reaffirmed the contribution of indigenous peoples to the development process and remained committed to respecting their cultural heritage and way of life, as well as the protection of their historical rights.

    Guyana was one of a few countries to have experienced an increase in its indigenous population.  According to the 2002 national census, the Amerindian population of the country had grown from 6.5 per cent in 1991 to 9.2 per cent in 2002.  Further, national legislation accorded equal rights and status to indigenous peoples, and policies and programmes had been adopted over the years to ensure their equal and full participation in national life.  Her Government's commitment to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals had also positively impacted indigenous communities, which now had better access to quality education and health care.  Pilot projects on native language instruction at the primary-school level were ongoing in some communities as a means of preserving cultural identity.  She added that indigenous people must be empowered to play a more central role in charting their future, and underscored the importance of their full and equal participation in all spheres of life.  All sides should count it as a failure if another decade was allowed to go by without the adoption of the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

    LUCA DALL'OGLIO, of the International Organization for Migration, said his Organization believed that in addressing the rights of indigenous peoples, the nexus between indigenous peoples and migration could not be overlooked.  Specific to that relationship was the experience by both migrants and indigenous people of social marginalization, exclusion and discrimination.  The challenges faced by migrants might be magnified for indigenous people, because indigenous migrants tended to be more marginalized than other migrants.  In turn, social marginalization, exclusion and discrimination of indigenous peoples limited their access to educational and employment opportunities, health care and other services.  Moreover, such treatment might restrict their ability to travel inside their own countries, and hinder their capacity to migrate transnationally through legal channels.  Also, increased rural to urban migration of indigenous peoples was caused by a variety of reasons, including loss of territory, loss of traditional livelihoods, and search for better economic opportunities.

    It was necessary to recognize the natural bond of indigenous people to their ancestral land, which could often extend beyond internationally recognized borders, he continued.  Indigenous peoples were more severely affected by development projects, pollution, environmental changes, militarization of land and armed conflict.  Displacement, loss of land and all other factors leading to the dismantling of traditional economies, value systems, and customary laws and practices, might cause migration of indigenous people, and might disproportionately impact indigenous women.  Thus, policies at the international, regional and national levels must not only be aimed at reducing ethnocentric stereotypes, but at fostering the inclusion of indigenous peoples in such policies and programmes.  It was also necessary to establish culturally appropriate development policies at the state level, he added.

    CLAUDE HAYLOCK, Representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the ILO had reasserted its ongoing commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples through the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, whose report A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All, stressed that indigenous people had suffered severely and their integration into the world economy had occurred without their free and prior informed consent and without adequate protection of their rights, livelihoods and culture.  The report concluded that there was a critical need for both national and local authorities to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and eliminate discrimination against them, including through effective development and implementation of legislation. 

    Indigenous people represented about 5 per cent of the world's population and 15 per cent of its poor, he said.  Indigenous and tribal women experienced the same disadvantages as their male peers, but often encountered additional barriers due to age and gender.  The widening of ethnic inequalities in countries where indigenous and tribal people lived had demonstrated that conventional anti-poverty polices had failed to tackle their socio-economic exclusion.  That situation must be redressed for the benefit of indigenous peoples and for reasons of social equity and policy effectiveness.  The ILO was finalizing an ethnic "audit" of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) in 14 countries to see whether and how indigenous peoples' needs and rights were taken into account and involved in preparation of the Papers.  The ILO's studies on PRSPs and their relevance for indigenous groups in Cambodia, Cameroon and Nepal outlined several recommendations to improve indigenous peoples' participation in implementing national poverty reduction strategies and ensure incorporation of their concerns. 

    S. RAMA RAO, representing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, including those of indigenous people, had constituted a part of his organization's work since 1998, although work on the specific issue of traditional cultural expressions and expressions of folklore dated back to the 1960s.  On the substantive side, the organization's inter-governmental committee recognized the need to address the interests and concerns of multi-stakeholders in a balanced manner, and the voices and experiences of indigenous peoples were vital aspects of that progress.  Intellectual property referred to the results of the creative intellectual activity of all, including indigenous and traditional communities and peoples, and the protection of indigenous peoples provided protection against misappropriation and misuse of creativity, reputation and distinctiveness.

    The work of the organization's inter-governmental committee took into account the collective interests of indigenous peoples in their traditional know-how and expressions of their traditional cultures.  It was cognizant of claims by indigenous peoples to use or authorize use of their knowledge and resources subject to their free, prior and informed consent.  The organization had also extended assistance to developing countries, as well as traditional and indigenous communities in different countries and regions.  In addition, it had collaborated with the United Nations and its affiliated agencies in matters dealing with indigenous issues, such as preparing a technical study on requirements of patent applications for genetic resources.

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