The Indigenous World 2022: UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Permanent Forum) is an expert body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with a mandate to provide advice on Indige­nous issues to ECOSOC and, through it, to the UN agencies, funds and programmes; to raise awareness on Indigenous Peoples’ issues; promote the integra­tion and coordination of activities relating to Indigenous Peoples’ issues within the UN system; and promote respect for and full application of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and follow up on its effectiveness.

Established in 2000, the Permanent Forum is composed of 16 inde­pendent experts who serve a three-year term in a personal capacity. They may be re-elected or re-appointed for one addi­tional term. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and elected by the ECOSOC, based on the five regional groupings used by the UN, while eight are nominated directly by Indigenous Peoples’ or­ganizations and appointed by the ECOSOC President, one for each of the seven socio-cultural regions that broadly represent the world’s Indigenous Peoples, with one seat rotating between Asia, Africa, and Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Permanent Forum has a mandate to discuss Indigenous Peoples’ issues relating to the following thematic areas: culture, economic and social development, education, environ­ment, health and human rights.

The Permanent Forum meets each year for 10 working days. The annual sessions provide an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples from around the world to have direct dialogue with members of the Forum, Member States, the UN system, including human rights and other expert bodies, as well as academics and NGOs. The Permanent Forum prepares a report of the session containing recommendations and draft decisions, which is submit­ted to ECOSOC.


International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior and informed consent

In December 2021, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) organized the international expert group meeting entitled “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior and informed consent”, as recommended by UNPFII and endorsed by ECOSOC. The meeting consisted of five two-hour sessions over five days on an online platform at different times of the day to facilitate participation from all regions.

Over the five-day discussion, experts discussed issues related to the impact of businesses on Indigenous Peoples’ rights. They proposed a series of recommendations to better address the situation and advance the implementation of rights in business operations. Some of the issues highlighted were the reprisals experienced by Indigenous Peoples when not consenting to development projects affecting their livelihoods, and the more significant impact that acts of intimidation and retaliation have on Indigenous women, children, and youth. The meeting further emphasized the need to work at the national level to develop national action plans on business and human rights that are inclusive of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, with the support of the UN country teams. Another issue of concern highlighted was the lack of effective and accessible remedies for Indigenous Peoples to challenge businesses and extractive industries and the need for Indigenous Peoples to keep developing their own protocols on free, prior and informed consent.

The meeting was attended by Indigenous experts, members of the Permanent Forum, members of the Expert Mechanism, UN entities, government representatives, academics, NGOs and the general public. A report of the expert group meeting will be presented at the 2022 session of the Permanent Forum.

2021 session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Owing to the evolving COVID-19 situation, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues took place in a hybrid format with mostly virtual (online) meetings from 19-30 April 2021. The special theme of the 20th session of Permanent Forum was Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16. Throughout the year, members of the Permanent Forum continued to carry out the Forum’s mandate, readjusting to new and changing circumstances.

The report of the session[1] highlights the importance of peace and security and that the Forum is committed to facilitating a process among Indigenous Peoples and Member States aimed at rethinking and supporting international efforts to ensure peace and security and creating peacebuilding processes that guarantee the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition to the special theme, the Permanent Forum also discussed COVID-19: building back better and its far-reaching implications for Indigenous Peoples, the upcoming International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Human rights and challenges faced by Indigenous human rights defenders featured prominently in dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Forum reiterated that access to justice for Indigenous Peoples – through mechanisms that do not violate or threaten their rights – is essential and that States must recognize that Indigenous Peoples’ own justice systems are pivotal to ensuring their right to maintain their autonomy, culture, and traditions. The Forum noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and aggravated many pre-existing inequalities faced by Indigenous Peoples, especially Indigenous women and girls who have not only been left behind but have been left even further behind.[2]

Gender and Indigenous women

In 2019, the Permanent Forum reiterated its invitation to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to adopt a general recommendation on Indigenous women, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments:

The Forum recommends that the general recommendation on indigenous women consider issues related to the individual and collective rights to equality, non-discrimination, and self-determination; social and economic rights, including the rights to decent work and land, territory, and resources; the right to water and food; cultural rights; civil and political rights; and the right to live free of any form of violence.[3]

On 24 June 2021, the Permanent Forum welcomed the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s organization of a virtual day of general discussion on the rights of Indigenous women and girls, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Further, the Permanent Forum stated that it was highly committed to this process and looking forward to contributing meaningfully to this effort. The Forum called for the adoption of a general recommendation on Indigenous women by CEDAW, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments, which would be a milestone in the response to the Indigenous women’s struggle. 

In the same vein, the Forum reiterated that the general recommendation on Indigenous women must consider issues related to individual and collective rights to equality, non-discrimination, and self-determination; social and economic rights, including the rights to decent work and to land, territory, and resources; the right to water and food; cultural rights; civil and political rights; and the right to live free of any form of violence.           

The Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch-Secretariat of the Permanent Forum (IPDB/SPFII) created and manages a dedicated webpage on gender and Indigenous women, as part of its outreach and awareness-raising activities. The web page contains information on Indigenous women in intergovernmental processes such the Permanent Forum and the Commission on the Status of Women (both subsidiary bodies of the Economic and Social Council), relevant recommendations, publications, reports and videos.[4]

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2021 (9 August)

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated annually on 9 August. In 2021, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs organized a commemorative event with the theme “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract”.[5] Participants included Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, United Nations agencies, Member States, civil society, relevant stakeholders and the general public.

The event featured an interactive discussion with two speakers on the distinct elements to be considered when building and redesigning a new social contract that is inclusive of Indigenous Peoples – in which Indigenous Peoples’ own forms of governance and ways of life must be respected, based on their free, prior and informed consent and genuine and inclusive participation and partnership.

Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development

As an expert body of the Economic and Social Council, the Permanent Forum plays a key role in ensuring that the rights and priorities of Indigenous Peoples are considered in the review and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030. At the July 2021 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) at UN headquarters in New York with the theme of: “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”, 16 out of 42 Member States[6] included some reference to Indigenous Peoples in their voluntary national reviews. Indigenous Peoples were most frequently highlighted in reviews of Goal 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere), Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture), Goal 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), and Goal 16 (promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels).

During the HLPF session, Ms Irma Pineda Santiago, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, took part in a panel entitled “How do we get on track for building more peaceful, equal, and inclusive societies (SDGs 3, 10,16, 17 and interlinkages among those goals and with other SDGs)”. The issue of the negative socio-economic and health impacts of the COVID pandemic were discussed, including the increase in pre-existing inequalities. The need for a renewed social contract to address inequality and exclusion and provide access to justice was highlighted. Participants also noted that building back better required human rights-based approaches, should consider the impacts of climate change, and needed to involve all stakeholders, including youth, migrants, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities.[7]

In the summary of the July 2021 HLPF, the President of ECOSOC[8] reported that Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable groups were among the most deeply affected by the pandemic. It was further stated that gender-based inequalities and risks had deteriorated in particular, with negative impacts on the safety and socio-economic wellbeing of women and girls, Indigenous women also being significantly affected. It was also emphasized that inequalities in pandemic response and recovery had been exacerbated by the digital divide and unequal access to technology. Participants also noted that building back better required approaches based on human rights and which take into account the impacts of climate change, and that they needed to involve all stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples.

Within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and leaving no one behind, the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch/Division for Inclusive Social Development of UN-DESA provides technical support for Member States in their implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the global pandemic greatly restricted in-person gatherings, UN-DESA continued its collaboration with the governments of Uganda and Namibia in 2021, providing capacity development and policy advice in the drafting of policies that advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Uganda, support was provided for both in-person and online meetings of the consultation group that is developing an affirmative action plan on Indigenous Peoples. In Namibia, a draft White Paper on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being considered by the cabinet, prior to official action. This support is provided within the framework of the System-Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and includes policy and legislative review, capacity development for government officials and Indigenous representatives and the organization of dialogues that bring together Indigenous representatives, government officials and relevant stakeholders. UN-DESA provides such support at the request of governments from developing countries and it is always provided within the context of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. UN-DESA also provides support to Resident Coordinators and United Nations Country Teams on matters related to Indigenous Peoples.

System-wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Inter-Agency Support Group (IASG) for Indigenous issues consists of more than 40 UN entities and other international organizations and has the main task of implementing the System-Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (SWAP). The SWAP was officially launched by the United Nations Secretary-General in 2016, at the 15th Session of the Permanent Forum. IPDB/SPFII is the permanent co-chair of the Inter-Agency Support Group and plays a central role in implementing the SWAP.

The annual IASG meeting was hosted by the 2021 co-chair, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in cooperation with IPDB/SPFII, and held online on 22 and 23 November. The meeting was attended by the Chairs of PFII and EMRIP members. The meeting included discussions of the IASG’s involvement in implementing the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination’s Call to Action on Indigenous Peoples and other activities in 2021 to ensure the more systematic participation of Indigenous Peoples in United Nations country processes, such as the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks as well as discussion of the IASG’s contribution to the 2021 theme of the UNPFII “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent”, including agencies’ policies.           

The new co-chair of the IASG for 2022 is UNESCO. The IASG intends to host round tables with UN Resident Coordinators on issues related to Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and its potential to advance sustainable development; protecting Indigenous human rights defenders; and promoting the participation of Indigenous Peoples in national development processes.

Further, the IASG will continue working to including Indigenous Peoples in UN Decades relevant to them, such as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) and other international meetings.

The IASG will also continue working to implement the System-Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[9] and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination’s Call to Action on Indigenous Peoples[10] at all levels and mainstreaming Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the UN development system.

Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 2020-2022

On 31 December 2022, the 16 members of the Permanent Forum will conclude their three-year term (2020-22). They are: Mr. Vital Bambanze (Burundi); Mr. Phoolman Chaudhary (Nepal); Ms Tove Søvndahl Gant (Denmark); Ms Lourdes Tibán Guala (Ecuador); Ms Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Chad); Mr. Grigory E. Lukiyantsev (Russian Federation); Mr. Bornface Museke Mate (Namibia); Ms Hannah McGlade (Australia); Mr. Dario Jose Mejia Montalvo (Colombia); Ms Anne Nuorgam (Finland); Mr. Simón Freddy Condo Riveros (Bolivia); Mr. Geoffrey Scott Roth (USA); Ms Irma Pineda Santiago (Mexico); Mr. Sven-Erik Soosaar (Estonia); Mr. Aleksei Tsykarev (Russian Federation) and Ms Xiaoan Zhang (China). Ms Tibán Guala, Ms Nuorgam and Mr. Chaudhary are all serving their second and final term as members of the Permanent Forum.

Of the total number of members, seven are women and nine are men.

Please visit the UNPFII website for more information about the members and the selection process: www.un.org/indigenous

The article was written by the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch-Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

 

This article is part of the 36th edition of The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced. Find The Indigenous World 2022 in full here

 

Notes and references 

[1] United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Report on the twentieth session (19–30 April 2021). New York: United Nations, 2021. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://undocs.org/en/E/2021/43

[2] United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Report on the twentieth session (19–30 April 2021). New York: United Nations, 2021, para. 35. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://undocs.org/en/E/2021/43

[3] United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Report on the eighteenth session (22 April–3 May 2019), para. 53. New York: United Nations, 2021. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2019/06/English.pdf

[4] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Women and the UN system. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/mandated-areas1/indigenous-women.html

[5] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2021. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples-2021.html

[6] Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chad, China, Colombia, Denmark, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Sweden, Thailand, Zimbabwe.

[7] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2021. Summary by the President of the Economic and Social Council of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development convened under the auspices of the Council at its 2021 session. Accessed February 9, 2022. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/29282POEs_summary_of_2021_HLPF.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples. System-wide action plan (SWAP). Accessed on February 9, 2022. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/about-us/system-wide-action-plan.html

[10] United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Building an Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient Future with Indigenous Peoples: A Call To Action. New York: United Nations, 2020. Accessed on February 9, 2022. https://unsceb.org/sites/default/files/2021-01/CEB-Call-to-Action-Indigenous-2020-WEB%20%281%29.pdf

Tags: Global governance

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