Advancing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

  • 18 May 2009

UNITED NATIONS — Some 2,000 indigenous representatives from all regions of the world have gathered here for the eighth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Government representatives, civil society, academia, some 35 UN system bodies and other inter-governmental organizations are also engaged in the Forum, which will focus on implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other key topics are the relationship between indigenous peoples and industrial corporations and the situation of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, including the serious impact of climate change in that region.

Towards implementation of the Indigenous Declaration

After more than two decades of negotiations, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. This landmark document recognizes the rights of the world’s nearly 400 million indigenous peoples and outlaws discrimination against them, emphasizing their rights to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions. The declaration gained momentum last month when Australia officially endorsed the Declaration after previously having voted against it.

Honouring indigenous perspectives on reproductive health and rights

Three years ago the indigenous forum recommended that UNFPA “fully incorporate a cultural perspective into health policies, programmes and reproductive health services aimed at providing indigenous women with quality health care, including emergency obstetric care, voluntary family planning and skilled attendance at birth”. Even before that recommendation, UNFPA had been emphasizing the cultural aspects of these issues and has developed resource materials and case studies to foster a culturally sensitive approach in its development efforts.

By taking into account different world views, including different religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds, the culturally sensitive and human rights-based approaches adopted by UNFPA encourages finding locally grown solutions in order to ensure ownership and sustainability of development efforts, and advance human rights.

The contribution of UNFPA

UNFPA will also be one of the six UN agencies that will take part for the first time in an in-depth dialogue with the UN Permanent Forum on 26 May from 4 to 6 pm. The objective of the dialogue is to present the UNFPA work and to receive inputs and suggestions by the Forum on how to move forward UNFPA’s support programmes in favour of indigenous peoples.

As an input to this discussion, UNFPAhas prepared a report as an input to the Forum that examines its work with indigenous or ethnic minority populations in Argentina, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname and Viet Nam. Some of the Fund’s culturally sensitive work in Latin America will be featured at an upcoming film festival.

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