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Statement by President of the Human Rights Council at the opening of the sixth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

8 July 2013

Mr. Chair,
Mme Director,
Distinguished members of the Expert Mechanism,
Distinguished Indigenous representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all on this important occasion of the sixth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I am especially privileged to welcome the new members of the Expert Mechanism as well as the different delegations attending the session as observers, including States and indigenous delegates.

The Human Rights Council recognizes the important work undertaken by the Expert Mechanism and remains committed to supporting and collaborating with its mandate. The studies and advice on the Right to Education, the Right to Participate in Decision-making, the Right to Cultures and Languages and the follow up report devoted to the Right to Participate in Decision-making with a Focus on Extractive Industries have all been well received by the Council and positively contributed to the efforts to further the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Council also listens attentively to the proposals the Expert Mechanism submits to its consideration. This is reflected in the thematic focus of the present session. Given the gravity of the issues facing indigenous peoples in accessing justice, the Council agreed with the proposal of the Expert Mechanism to devote its next study on access to justice in the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples. As you all know, access to justice remains a key concern for indigenous peoples, especially indigenous children, youth, women and persons with disabilities. Challenges associated with indigenous peoples’ access to justice are multi-faceted and include, for example, a lack of adequate legal representation and legal aid; cultural insensitivity; high incarceration rates of indigenous individuals, including women and youth and inadequate provision of interpretation in indigenous languages. The Council will consider the study of the Expert Mechanism on this issue at its 24th session in September this year.

The Human Rights Council attaches high importance to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In order to contribute to addressing challenges that remain in the implementation of the Declaration, the Council requested the Expert Mechanism to continue its survey of best practices with regard to measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the Declaration. I look forward to the presentation of the survey at the 24th session and would like to thank all States and indigenous peoples who have contributed to it.

I am heartened to see that your efforts to ensure strong, informed attention by the Council to human rights issues facing indigenous peoples are yielding results. The Council devoted increasing time to dialogue on these issues, not only through the important work of the Expert Mechanism but also by holding panels devoted to key developments. At the September session, we will have a half-day discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and I am confident that your discussions this week will help us ensure an informative and interesting exchange.

In addition, the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review is an important mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights, and, in that regard, I am pleased by the increased participation of indigenous peoples in the UPR process, in a number of cases facilitated by the support of the UN Voluntary Fund. It has helped to ensure that human rights challenges facing indigenous peoples are addressed.

Participation of, and partnership with indigenous peoples, in these and other relevant UN processes and forums is instrumental to ensure that our efforts to advance the rights of indigenous peoples are successful. As noted by the Secretary-General in his report on the issue, participation at the UN of indigenous peoples’ representatives on issues affecting them “has led to fruitful outcomes and greater commitments by indigenous peoples, States and the United Nations system to strengthen recognition and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights”. With this mind, the Council has continually explored further ways to enhance such participation, including by calling for the participation of indigenous peoples during the preparatory process of the Word Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The Council has also recommended that the studies and advice of the Expert Mechanism be considered in the formulation of the agendas of the preparatory process leading to the World Conference.

Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to conclude by expressing my support to the important work of the Expert Mechanism. I look forward to continuing cooperation between the Human Rights Council and the Expert Mechanism and wish you all a very successful session.