By Holly Jonas, ICCA Consortium International Policy Coordinator
Joining more than a thousand representatives of Indigenous peoples from around the world, a delegation of ICCA Consortium Members and Honorary members* participated in the 18th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), which took place from 22 April to 3 May 2019 at the UN Headquarters in New York City (USA). The 18th session of the Forum included a discussion of the main theme of “traditional knowledge: generation, transmission and protection” as well as many other sessions on topics such as the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and regional dialogues between Indigenous peoples and member states.
During the dialogue on 24 April with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, discussion focused on the worrying escalation in criminalisation and harassment of Indigenous peoples, especially when defending and exercising rights to their territories and natural resources (see summary by UN Meetings coverage).
The Forum also featured a thematic discussion on conservation and the rights of Indigenous peoples on 1 May. (This followed an International Expert Group Meeting on the same theme, held from 23-25 January 2019 in Nairobi, in which the ICCA Consortium participated through our Member Natural Justice.) During the thematic discussion at the UNPFII, our Members and Honorary members contributed several statements on key issues of concern to ICCAs-territories of life (summarised here).
In the official report of the 18th session of the Forum, the following recommendations on “Environment” (one of the six mandated areas of the PFII) are of particular relevance:
“36. … Research increasingly and consistently demonstrates that recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories and resources is the most effective way to safeguard biological diversity and protect the ecological integrity of critical ecosystems. Ecological knowledge systems and resource management strategies of indigenous peoples play a key role in implementing truly sustainable conservation strategies and policies…
38. The Permanent Forum expresses concern about continuing violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in relation to conservation initiatives and will continue to advance efforts to develop concrete action to ensure that conservation strategies and programmes are in line with the Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples].
39. The Permanent Forum recommends that the specialist group on indigenous peoples, customary and environmental law and human rights within the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature host a series of regional meetings to discuss the development of standards for the conservation of indigenous peoples’ lands and waters by 2020, together with indigenous peoples, NGOs and other stakeholders, in consultation with the Forum, United Nations special rapporteurs and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
40. The Permanent Forum urges the member organizations of the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights to commission independent evaluations of the impact of their organizations’ work on indigenous peoples.
41. The Permanent Forum recommends that the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination conduct a study on the use of private military and security companies in conservation and their impact on the rights of indigenous peoples.”
In the report on its future work, the Forum appointed three Forum members to conduct and present the following studies to the next session of the Forum in 2020:
- “Best practices in the protection of indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources: A case of hunter gatherers in East Africa” (to be conducted by Elifuraha Laltaika);
- “Indigenous Peoples Autonomies: experiences and perspectives” (to be conducted by Jens Dahl); and
- “The development of standards and redress mechanisms for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights in conservation” (to be conducted by Brian Keane).
The 19th session of the UNPFII will be held from 13-24 April 2020 at the UN Headquarters in New York City, with the main theme of “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16”.
- Official report of the 18th session of the UNPFII: English | Français | Español
- Videos from the 18th Session of the UNPFII (click this drop-down tab on the webpage)
- UN Meetings coverage of the 18th session of the UNPFII
- Opening statement by Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer
(Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity) at the 18th session of the UNPFII
- UNPFII concept note and backgrounder on the thematic discussion on “Conservation and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” held on 1 May 2019
- Report of the International Expert Group Meeting on the Theme “Conservation and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” held from 23-25 January 2019 in Nairobi: English | Français | Español
* ICCA Consortium Members and Honorary members who participated in the 18th session of the UNPFII included (among others): Joseph Itongwa (Member – ANAPAC RDC and Secretariat), Giovanni Reyes (Council member with special responsibility for the ICCAs of Indigenous peoples), Thomas Jalong (Council member with special responsibility for Southeast Asia), Kanyinke Sena (Member – IPACC), Ruth Alipaz Cuqui (Bolivian ICCA Consortium), Aslak Holmberg (Honorary member), Mrinalini Rai (Honorary member), Jessica Brown and Brent Mitchell (Member – Quebec Labrador Foundation), Terence Hay-Edie (Honorary member and partner – GEF SGP), Delfin Ganapin (Honorary member) and Holly Jonas (Secretariat).