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Respect, Protection, and Sustainability: UN Indigenous Forum 2014
Respect, Protection, and Sustainability: UN Indigenous Forum 2014
Starting May 12th, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened for the thirteenth time at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The ten day forum focuses on a spectrum of indigenous issues including economic, social development, environment, culture, health, education, and human rights. The first six sessions of the Indigenous Issue's Forum had an overarching theme. After the sixth session, the forum decided to alternate sessions focusing on policy discussion one year, and the next, implementation. Only the sessions, every other year, which focus on policy discussion, have a theme. This year's theme was, "Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46".  While the United Nations meets to discuss the issues this year, many side events are open to nongovernmental organizations and visiting groups. The UU United Nations Office had the opportunity to attend many of the side events on topics ranging from sustainable development of indigenous people's land, to indigenous women's role in conservation, to Russian indigenous education, and even indigenous peoples' opinion on the progression of indigenous rights in Latin America.   Week One of Events attended by Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Staff included:   Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights of Indigenous Youth  Hosted by Incomindios and the United Religious Initiative    

This panel focused on the issues that indigenous youth face regarding sexual health and the cultural surrounding sexual health and education in their area and the larger indigenous community. The panelists included a representative from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), a delegate from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation and founder of Caring Together Natives Oppose Wipeout (ACT NOW), and native Navajo tribe member and granddaughter of two medicine men. The discussion shed light on the difficulties of sexual health education in indigenous communities and what the NYSHN and Akwesasne Mohawk delegate are doing at the grassroots level to solve this problem. To close, the native Navajo woman discussed her childhood of conflicting education between society's perception of health and her culture's.

Bridge to Future: Indigenous Youth Document the Achievements of the First Indigenous People's delegates at the United Nations

Hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Center for Documentation, Research, and Information (doCIP)

The Bridge to Future panel and film screening, hosted by doCIP, discussed the lack of progress the United Nations and Indigenous Peoples have made since the first Indigenous People's United Nations forum. The film, "Bridge to Future", was shot by women from around the world to help preserve the oral history of the first United Nations Geneva Convention on Indigenous Peoples in 1977. The film, itself, stressed the importance of choice for indigenous people, while the two directors, also panelists, spoke about the origin of the project and behind-the-scenes aspects.The convention itself was unique in itself, in that if brought together indigenous people from all over the globe and brought the issue to the forefront of the United Nations.

Climate Change and Food Sovereignty: the Commitments of the Millennium for Future Generations Hosted by Land is Life The panel, organized by Land is Life, met to discuss the effects of climate change on certain indigenous communities in Brazil, the Philippines, and other parts of Asia. The panelists' main concerns were how global markets and systems were taking over indigenous lands in the name of "development". Destruction by larger mining and energy companies also causes problems for indigenous peoples who believe in sustainable development and sacred land. Panelist Bestang Dekdeken explains, that in many cases there are human rights violations when governments use the military to silence people who resist. Overall, all panelists concluded that indigenous peoples should have the right to address climate change and food sovereignty instead of global markets and corporations. Importance of Understand Indigenous Men's and Women's Use of Knowledge and Natural Resources Hosted by Conservation International Conservation International's panel discussed how conservation efforts can be geared towards both helping the environment, and both genders of Indigenous Peoples. They demonstrated this fact in their mention of their program in Kenya, which uses cattle to fertilize farming land by getting women and men involved. The other two panelists from Ecuador discussed the sacredness of the land, indigenous people's relationship to the land, and the importance of women in the conservation effort. The last panelist, Theresa Buford from the Social Policy and Practice Sector of Conservation International, spoke about all the programs they have and how they incorporate indigenous fellows and guidelines created with case studies to utilize for all programs they initiate. Can't Stop the Water: film documentary: the plight of Native peoples in Louisiana losing their homes and livelihoods to rising Gulf waters Hosted by Grail, UFER, Sunray Meditation Society, Yachay Wasi, and The Mother's Project

“Can’t Stop the Water” is a half hour long film which uplifts the voices of an indigenous community living in the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana.  This film was a great example of Climate Change cross-cutting human rights issues. The documentary focused on the stories of the elders and how they survived throughout the natural disasters that have been chipping away at their community over the years.  The stories also showed how the governmentally funded infrastructure to protect Louisiana citizens has cut out this indigenous community. Despite negotiations with the Chief and state leaders, little effort has been made.  During the Q&A to follow, the film participants learned that the tribe was denied federal recognition of being an indigenous group.

Week two of events included:     Conversation with Haitian Activists: on ending child slavery, the rights of the child in Haiti, and the role the United Nations is playing in the country Hosted by Amnesty International and Beyond Borders Amnesty International was able to host Beyond Borders, an organization in Haiti that works on the issue of child slavery in the form of "restavek", or unpaid servitude that traps 10% of Haitian children. As Beyond Border representatives explained, these young girls are living in dismal conditions and belittled and traumatized through physical and mental abuse, and rape. Rural Haitian families, were stated, to be at the most risk to send their children into restavek, because of the lack of opportunities, hospitals, schools, and jobs in their area. Beyond Borders currently works to lobby the government to change the policy around ambiguity in prosecuting abusers, educate communities on the issue, and creates books that explain the concept in pictures encouraging action by neighbors. Sustainable Development of Indigenous Peoples: Russian Experience Hosted by the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation The Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation hosted a round-table discussion to explain how the Russian government has been successful in including, protecting, and aiding the 199 indigenous groups found there. Over the past few decades, the government has moved to help indigenous groups modernize their infrastructure and create more sustainable development opportunities, while protecting their culture. An example given was the Sakhalin Energy group, who has spent over 69 million roubles on over four hundred different health, education, and culture preservation enterprises, including economic programming to create business plains, self-sufficiency grants, and micro loans. In addition, the Russian government emphasized its' law stating that indigenous groups are entitled to education in their native language, just another example of how the Russian government is making strides towards including indigenous groups. The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples: the climate change convention (UNFCCC), and the convention on biological diversity: updates and ensuring effective participation of indigenous women Hosted by Asian Indigenous Women's Network The Asian Indigenous Women's Network coordinated a panel with three speakers on the role of indigenous women in environmental conservation and global preservation efforts. The Incoming United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, urged more support and involvement in other UN programs on climate change, after discussing the issue of financing and non-carbon benefits. The Executive Director of Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA) in Kenya, spoke about the recent ADP conference and need to discuss indigenous issues and solutions prior to the convention in Paris in 2020, and increase the number of indigenous groups in attendance. The final speaker, the Executive Director of the Forest People's Programme spoke about the Convention on Biological Diversity and its' connection to indigenous peoples as the majority of indigenous people dealing with these diverse ecosystems on a daily basis. Working Indigenous Human Rights into Peaceful Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals: post 2015 Workshop to protect traditions, medicine, and peoples from development Hosted by the Indigenous Women and Human Rights Mentors The five panelist meeting hosted by the Indigenous Women and Human Rights Mentors focused on social and economic sustainability in Latin and South America. Each speaker shared their own personal experiences of how their indigenous communities were affected by governmental politics, including destruction of land, lack of protection, and lack of recognition. In addition, panelists discussed various tactics to promote human rights to corporations and politicians to gain further protections and recognition in their areas. Overall the panel conclused that indigenous groups are constantly being discriminated against by government officials and more social awareness is needed to bring social change. Hopefully, the post 2015 agenda will work on strategies to implement sustainable economic growth and social justice. . Managing Forests, Sustaining Lives: Lessons Learned from the Learning Route to Indigenous Peoples Communities in the Mekong Region Hosted by IFAD, AIPP, and PROCASUR Each of the four panelists have brought a unique perspective about how we can learn about sustaining and protecting our forests by looking to indigenous peoples. The representative from PROCASUR spoke about the "learning route" in the Mekong region in Thailand and how strengthening policy dialogue for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in conservation efforts. The delegate from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) emphasized self-sufficiency in conservation to increase indigenous people's involvement in government to spread their knowledge of land management. The last two panelists, both from indigenous groups in Cambodia, spokeof the strengths and challenges that they face on a local level in terms of sustainability, forest management, and self-sufficiency. Building Dialogue Around Rights, Governance, and Citizen Participation Through Indigenous Community Media Hosted bySobrevivencia Cultural "When you're Native, everything is political". This is a quote from one of the panelists at this event, which focused on the role the media plays in promoting the "Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent". Lack of prior and informed consent for indigenous people result in deprivation of knowledge outlining of one's own powers.  Often times we overlook both the language barrier and technical language barrier which comes with education that vulnerable minorities such as remote indigenous populations often lack. To combat this, a Mohawk man created a local newspaper and radio station to keep the area informed and connected while offering content in the Mohawk language. This had the effect of empowering those who thought they would never hear their Native tongue spoken on a radio station as well as keeping the local community informed. Overall the Thirteenth United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues provided an excellent platform for our office to learn about indigenous human rights issues, connect with experts in the field, and meet hundreds of representatives from indigenous groups from across the globe. While the topic of this year's overall permanent forum was "principles of good governance" in compliance with the UN Indigenous People's Declaration, every side event stressed some of the same ideas and needs for indigenous groups: recognition, protection, assistance, and self-sufficiency. We are hopeful that the issues expressed at this year's forum are adequately addressed over the next few years so that all indigenous people and groups are respected and included in the international processes.

This United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues come at a perfect time for the Unitarian Universalist Association as it just wrapped up its Spring Seminar on Indigenous Peoples. For more information on this year's seminar check out, http://www.uua.org/international/events/seminar/.

In addition, this September the World Conference on Indigenous People will be held between September 22nd and 23rd. More information on the conference at http://wcip2014.org/world-conference-on-indigenous-peoples-september-2014.

   

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