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20 March 2007

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people issued the following statement today:

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, today presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on the state of human rights of indigenous peoples around the world and on the challenges to the protection of these rights.

According to the report ( http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/4session/A.HRC.4.32_sp.pdf), in 2006, the Special Rapporteur carried out official missions to Ecuador and Kenya He also presented a study on best practices for the implementation of the recommendations included in his annual reports

Indigenous issues are now firmly established in the human rights agenda. However, there is still an “implementation gap” between the norms and practice, the formal recognition and the actual situation of indigenous peoples, who continue to be the victims of serious violations of their individual and collective human rights, and who continue systematically to show lower indicators of human development.

The decrease of indigenous territories, including the loss of control over their natural resources, the environmental impact of extractive industries, the extension of plantation economies and the destruction of the last native forests of the planet are all processes that particularly impact indigenous peoples, paving the way for massive violations of their human rights. Criminalization of social protest has generated new and sometimes serious violations of human rights, affecting indigenous people who have to resort to different forms of social organization and mobilization in order to defend their rights and give voice to their needs. Indigenous migrants and indigenous women also continue to be particularly exposed to violations of their human rights.

Even though numerous governments have adopted social policies with the objective of “closing the gap” between the indicators of human and social development of indigenous and non-indigenous people, the results obtained are still very limited.

Indigenous communities in many parts of the world celebrated the Council’s adoption last year of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many of these communities are, nevertheless, worried and disappointed by the delay imposed on the adoption of the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly. As an instrument to guide and frame best practices in favour of the human rights of indigenous peoples, the Declaration represents a key reference for the Council, as well as for other international human rights bodies and agencies. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Members and observers of the Human Rights Council to use their political will and good offices in favour of adoption of the Declaration by the General Assembly as soon as possible.

The Council should also take into account the important legacy of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations as a forum of discussion and technical expertise regarding indigenous peoples’ rights, and consider the establishment of a new expert body in this area.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur invites the Council to consider the importance of renewing the mandate on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people. The mandate has been an important instrument for making the situation of indigenous people in the work of human rights bodies and international agencies more visible, and has opened spaces for dialogue among indigenous peoples, States and international organizations.