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Human Rights Council considers indigenous issues
Friday, 24 September 2010 18:38

                                                                                     

On 20 September 2010 the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr James Anaya, presented his third annual report to the Human Rights Council, pursuant to Council Resolution 6/12. Mr Anaya noted that he hoped the US and Canada would reverse their opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However an NGO brought to the attention of the Council the opposition some States, including Canada, had voiced in negotiations on the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, against efforts to use the word 'peoples' (as opposed to 'people') in conjunction with 'human rights' in the title of the mandate.

 

Many States welcomed the focus of the Special Rapporteur's report on the duties of corporate entities with respect to indigenous peoples' rights. While there was agreement with the Special Rapporteur's view that it was the State's duty to protect against potential human rights abuses by business enterprises, several States (Mexico, US, Norway, Brazil and the EU) appreciated Mr Anaya's attempt to also clarify the responsibility of companies to respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples.

 

Australia, Botswana, Colombia, the Russian Federation and Ecuador commented on the Special Rapporteur's recent visits to those countries and welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur, expressing a firm commitment to continue working with Mr Anaya on the promotion of indigenous rights. The countries concerned also informed the Special Rapporteur and the Council of a number of efforts and measures undertaken by their governments to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples. These initiatives include: new domestic legislation on the rights of indigenous peoples (Russian Federation); training to improve understanding of the co-existence of indigenous law and ordinary law, as part of a process of establishing a mechanism in which these two legal systems will function in a cooperative manner (Ecuador); measures aimed at closing the gap of life expectancy, mortality rates, employment outcomes and education opportunities, as well as the establishment in November 2009 of a new indigenous representative body, known as the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (Australia).

 

However, the Russian Federation, Australia and Botswana pointed out some inaccuracies in the report, related respectively to the treatment of indigenous peoples during the Soviet Period, the Northern Territory Emergency Response, and the marginalisation of some communities such as the Basarwa. China said special procedures should check the truthfulness of information used, so as to ensure the credibility of the system.

 

The coordination of the work done by the three mandates devoted to indigenous issues, namely the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was greatly valued by a few States for its constructive results (Bolivia, the EU, Denmark, and Mexico). Some States (the EU and Denmark) asked the Special Rapporteur to further elaborate on how to improve the ability of these three mechanisms to supplement each other in promoting the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. New Zealand and Denmark also commended the Special Rapporteur for his initiative in meeting in person with representatives of indigenous peoples and individuals wishing to raise allegations in the margins of the meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Special Rapporteur said this practice had provided a means for indigenous peoples to express their views within the UN, but it required improvement due to a significant lack of time during meetings.

 

The Council also heard a presentation from the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr Jose Carlos Morales, on the report of its third session. The EU, Mexico, China, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Australia and Denmark welcomed the report on the progress of its study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making. They stated that the Expert Mechanism allowed a space for constructive dialogue for indigenous peoples. Mexico said the question of participation of indigenous peoples warranted serious consideration and follow up by the Council.    

 

Mr Morales highlighted the proposal to organise, at future sessions of the Council, a panel discussion on the follow-up to the Expert Mechanism's study on the right of indigenous peoples to education. While the US appreciated the recommendation to have more panel discussions focused on issues facing indigenous people, the Russian Federation opposed it on the grounds that the Council had an extremely heavy workload and the Permanent Forum already had panel discussions where all indigenous issues were discussed.

 

On the issue of the practical implications of a change in the mandate of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, Bolivia said the extension of the Voluntary Fund's mandate in order to cover the sessions of the Council and the treaty bodies was a way of putting into practice the requirement that these bodies be non-discriminatory and inclusive. Argentina also said it would not oppose this possible change in the mandate of the Voluntary Fund.

 

Finally with regard to the rescheduling of the Council's session, whereby the bulk of the issues relating to indigenous peoples were considered on Tuesday as opposed to the original plan of Monday, Denmark and Norway underscored the inconveniences this rescheduling had caused to some indigenous peoples (who had planned to attend the session only on Monday) and called for more predictability in the scheduling of the Council. This concern was also raised by indigenous groups during the debate.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 September 2010 18:50
 
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