The Handmaids' Unanima representative, Sister Margaret Scott, attended May 2016 forum
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Margaret was there! The Handmaids were there! The Forum, on the theme of conflict and our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, echoed with the cry of so many indigenous people whose lives have been destroyed, whose cultures are being bulldozed with their sacred spaces, whose rights are continually violated, who are regularly excluded from participation in their countries’ affairs and whose activists are intimated and murdered with impunity.
The testimonies were heart-wrenching, particularly the Mexican speaker whose son was one of the 43 indigenous students who “disappeared” 19 months ago. The young Sami people who are voiceless in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The countless displaced victims of the conspiracy between mining companies and many States.
The Forum heard their cry, took note and urged member states of the UN to fulful their obligations to protect the minimal rights of indigenous people. The Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, expressed his solidarity with all indigenous people throughout the world. The President of the Forum called for a “New Ethic” to transform that world. The old one “is not working”. So the fight goes on.
Next year the Forum will focus on the Empowerment of Indigenous Women
Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda
The United Nations General Assembly adopted “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” on 25 September 2015. The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) came into effect on 1 January 2016 and will carry through the next 15 years. The 2030 Agenda is a broad and universal policy agenda, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets which are described as integrated and indivisible. It promises to leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first.
References to Indigenous Peoples in the 2030 Agenda
As a result of indigenous peoples’ strong engagement in the process towards the 2030 Agenda, the final resolution “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (A/RES/70/1) refers to indigenous peoples 6 times, three times in the political declaration; two in the targets under Goal 2 on Zero Hunger (target 2.3) and Goal 4 on education (target 4.5) – and one in the section on follow up and review that calls for indigenous peoples’ participation. See this overview of references to indigenous peoples: Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda Infographics
Apart from the direct references, many of the Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets are relevant for indigenous peoples. Moreover, the overarching framework of the 2030 Agenda contains numerous elements that can go towards articulating the development concerns of indigenous peoples. Of significance is the fact that human rights principles and standards are strongly reflected in the 2030 Agenda (A/RES/70/1 paragraph 10). Moreover, the 2030 Agenda overall focus on reducing inequalities is of particular relevance to indigenous peoples, who are almost universally in situations of disadvantage vis-à-vis other segments of the population.
The list of global indicators that will measure progress of implementation of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) includes two indicators that refers directly to indigenous peoples (Indicator 2.3.2 and 4.5.1) and several other indicators that are relevant for indigenous peoples, particularly indicator 1.4.2 and 5.a.1 on land rights. Moreover, there has been much focus on the need of disaggregation of data which indigenous peoples have been advocating for. The proposal states that “SDG indicators should be disaggregated where relevant by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, or other characteristics, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics“. The global list of indicators was approved by the Statistical Commission on 11 March 2016, but will still be work in progress and adjusted as necessary in the upcoming years. Now follows a process where indicators have to be developed at the national and regional level.
Ongoing Discussions on Follow-up and Review
Presently, discussion are ongoing on the global framework of follow-up and review to the 2030 Agenda. The primary responsibility of implementation, review and follow-up lies at the national level as stated in A/RES/70/1. At the global level, the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the main UN platform for overseeing follow-up and review. The HLPF will be meeting once a year under auspices of Economic and Social Council and every 4th year under the auspices of General Assembly.
The next meeting of the HLPF will take place in New York from 11-20 July 2016 and will include overall discussions related to the design of the framework for future follow-up and review. Suggestions on how to put in place a coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review system at the global reference following the mandate outlined in the Agenda has been put forward in the Secretary-General’s report on critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level (A/70/684). The report mentions indigenous peoples once, highlighting that the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) should give adequate consideration to vulnerable peoples by encouraging various forums, including on indigenous peoples, to contribute to HLFP discussions with dedicated inputs (paragraph 33).
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN and the 2030 Agenda
The Permanent Forum has made several recommendations related to indigenous priorities in the post-2015 Agenda, later known as the 2030 Agenda. The Forum’s 14th Session report includes several recommendations related to the 2030 Agenda, calling for indigenous peoples’ participation in the process towards the adoption of the Agenda, recommending the inclusion of in the goals and recommending that progress be measured for indigenous peoples on relevant key indicators (paragraph 9, 10, 11, 31 and 40). Read the report here.
The 14th session’s recommendations reflect a follow-up to the commitments made in the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ Outcome Document, where Member States committed themselves to giving due consideration to all the rights of indigenous peoples in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda (paragraph 37) and in general, to working with indigenous peoples to disaggregate data, as appropriate, or conduct surveys and to utilizing holistic indicators of indigenous peoples’ well-being to address the situation and needs of indigenous peoples and individuals, in particular older persons, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities (paragraph 10).
The Third Committee Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/70/232) included strong language on ensuring that indigenous peoples are not left behind in implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including three paragraphs related to considering indigenous peoples issues in national and global reports on the 2030 Agenda, ensuring protection of indigenous peoples’ rights when implementing the agenda and finally, inviting the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to give due consideration, within their mandates, to the rights of indigenous peoples as related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
To follow-up on the recommendations, the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs) organised an “Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda” in October 2015. At the meeting, experts proposed concrete indicators for indigenous peoples’ priorities and suggested ways forward to ensure indigenous priorities are reflected in review and follow-up to the 2030 Agenda. The report from the discussions at the Expert Group Meeting will be available for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 15th Session 9-20 May 2016.