End of Year Statement by Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mr. Alvaro Pop Ac, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues issued an end-of-year statement on December 31st. Read the full statement below:

We have come to the end of the year and the expiration of my mandate as Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Therefore, I wish to express my gratitude to all those with whom I have had the opportunity to work in recent years, and first of all to my indigenous brothers and sisters, who are the raison d’être of the Permanent Forum. I would also like to extend my thanks to the Member States, the United Nations system and civil society organizations that have supported our work. I also wish to thank the other Members of the Permanent Forum, whose mandate also concludes, for their hard work.

In 2016, the fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum was held. Indigenous peoples, Member States and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes discussed the six areas of the mandate of the Permanent Forum (economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights).

Special attention was paid to the theme “Indigenous Peoples: conflict, peace and resolution.” We noted that conflicts have started due to mining, logging, the oil and gas industries, and water use and preservation. We unanimous called for the preservation of the lives of indigenous human rights defenders so that they can carried out their work free from reprisals, harassment, intimidation or violence. Indigenous women made their voices heard against abuse and violation of their human rights.

As part of the follow-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples held in 2014, the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon launched the United Nations System-Wide Action Plan at the opening of the session of the Permanent Forum. The Plan of Action provides a powerful tool for the United Nations system, its country offices and resident coordinators to support Member States in their dialogues and work with indigenous peoples for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This year, for the first time, as part of our new working methods as well as to provide an opportunity to focus on specific issues and identify ways forward, members of the Permanent Forum conducted separate, focused, interactive dialogues with indigenous peoples, Member States and the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental bodies. There was general support for the closed meetings and the opportunity to have a space in which to address important issues. This initiative will be continued in future sessions.

An international expert meeting on “Indigenous languages: preservation and revitalization” was also held in 2016. Indigenous languages form the bedrock of continuity for the survival and well-being of indigenous cultures from one generation to the next. The Permanent Forum recommended that the General Assembly, by 2020, proclaim an international year of indigenous languages.

We are pleased that Member States responded positively to our recommendation and the General Assembly, in its resolution 71/178 of 19 December 2016, proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages and to take further urgent steps at the national and international levels.

Also, throughout this year, a series of consultations have been held on the participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations, and they will continue in early 2017. The process of enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations should consider constructing a road map for the recognition of indigenous peoples as permanent observers in the future. Such representation must ensure that the equitable voice of indigenous peoples is heard in all gatherings, assemblies, fora, summits and global conferences organized for the well-being of humanity.

Throughout the year, major global events were also held, such as COP22 in Marrakesh, which recognized the needs and concerns of indigenous peoples in the area of climate change, and launched the implementation of a local communities and indigenous peoples’ platform.

Moreover, the beginning of the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Objectives, presents an enormous opportunity. The Millennium Development Goals did not give visibility to the situation of indigenous peoples; however, the Agenda 2030 with its emphasis on leaving no one behind is a powerful tool to address the huge gaps that indigenous peoples still face.

An inclusive world for indigenous peoples means a world that respects our human rights. In fact, some projects that can be implemented under Agenda 2030, such as the expansion of hydroelectric power projects in our ancestral lands and territories, carry the risk of displacement and can have negative effects on indigenous peoples. However, if the implementation of Agenda 2030 fully complies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there will be consultations and the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples will be sought. Also in respect to the 2030 Agenda, we should not forget that an inclusive world for indigenous peoples also means a world where indigenous peoples are visible in national statistics.

The end of the year coincides with the end of the mandate of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I wish to thank him for all his work during these years and especially his support to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. I also would like to extend my warmest welcome to António Guterres, the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, who I am sure will support indigenous peoples in their efforts for the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peoples Indigenous Peoples. I would like to reiterate to the members of the Permanent Forum whose mandate also ends my most sincere thanks, and I am sure that the new members will enjoy the kind of support we have received.

I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of the agencies that have advanced in the implementation of the System-Wide Action Plan and implemented policies and definitions to ensure the free, previous, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, in particular regarding climate change, the fight against hunger, the strengthening of food security and sovereignty, and water, fishing and land rights.

We are living a change of era, and an era of changes. It is a moment in which the worldview of indigenous peoples will make a significant contribution significantly to the challenges we face to enhance democracy and ethics for the production of wealth for humanity. Their humanism and their relationship with nature will be resources that will enable us to better face the challenges of the future.

I wish you all the best for the New Year.