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European Union backs indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide

The European Commission (EC) is one of the main sources of funding of the UN Human Rights programme, with an average of four million US dollars per year since 2001. Financial backing from the European Union (EU Member States and EC) has made up two-thirds of all voluntary contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The EU is the main source of funding for the rights of indigenous peoples © doCipSuch financing usually supports thematic projects or can be allocated to specific activities. In January 2010, OHCHR and the Indigenous Peoples' Center for Documentation, Research and Information (doCip) entered into a partnership with EU funds through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in UN meetings related to indigenous issues.

Throughout the year, OHCHR and doCip worked together to ensure that some 5000 indigenous leaders, regional networks, organizations and communities, as well as 3000 international organizations, governments representatives, academics and media were included in fora organized to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Apart from disseminating information, documents and news about indigenous peoples’ rights to stakeholders in several languages, the project also set up operations in Geneva and New York to foster interaction between indigenous, UN and Government representatives at meetings such as the Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process.

The NGO has also embarked on a project to digitalize and make accessible online more than 100 publications on indigenous peoples’ human rights, traditional knowledge, health, and the effect on them of climate change.

Ms. Zeinabou Wallete Aly, a Tuareg from Mali, was one of the indigenous representatives sponsored through the project for a six-month transfer of knowledge training which took place in Geneva from June to December 2010. 

Wallete Aly and fellow trainees learned how to promote their organizations and their field work through various means including the creation of a website and the establishment of a documentation centre. Another objective of the training was to teach participants how to ensure the durability of their organization by fundraising, particularly via the EC and EU Member States. The fellows have also vowed to continue working on their respective organizations for at least three more years and to transfer the knowledge they have acquired once they return to their respective countries.

“Before, we did not have access to the European Commission representatives in Mali because we did not know how to present our case to them, we always needed a go-between. Now, thanks to this training, I know how to reach them and I can also train my colleagues who didn’t have the opportunity to come to Geneva”, Wallate Aly said.

“We have a lot of information for Tuaregs but it’s all stacked in boxes, not really organized”, she added. “I hope that thanks to my training I can now ask for financing from the European Commission to help me set-up an information centre for Tuaregs, especially students, considering such information is rarely accessible in my country.”

Ms. Aissatou Oumarou, from the Mbororo people of Chad whose organization works to promote women’s rights and development in her country, also found the training useful in guiding indigenous representatives on how to address international meetings.

“We were able to understand how the UN works and how to put together our addresses to the Human Rights Council, for example. We had the opportunity to find out more about how other indigenous peoples live in other countries.”

“According to testimonies of many stakeholders, we can state that the partnership between OHCHR and doCip contributes to the effective participation of the indigenous peoples of all regions of the world to the various UN conferences debating their rights - in particular thanks to its plurilingual activities”, said Pierrette Birraux, Scientific director at doCip. “This strongly reinforces the credibility of the indigenous peoples’ process at the UN.”

30 December 2010