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Human Rights Council discusses promoting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

20 September 2011

Holds Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and Expert Mechanism on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Holds Panel on Role of Languages and Culture in Protection of Identity of Indigenous Peoples

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations also addressed the Council, which then held a panel discussion on the role of languages and culture in the protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples.

James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that the first part of the report to the Council presented a summary of the Special Rapporteur’s activities while the second part provided a preliminary assessment of the issue of natural resource extraction in indigenous lands. There were four interrelated areas that the Special Rapporteur had worked on: the promotion of good practices, country reports, communications on specific cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies. Mr. Anaya said there was a need for reforms at the domestic and international levels to give effect to the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant international instruments.

Vital Bambanze, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the Expert Mechanism’s study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making complemented the progress report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making that was finalised in 2010. The study had benefited from an expert workshop. The right to participate in decision making was based on universally accepted human rights treaties, ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples as well as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The indigenous people’s right to participate in decision making was an expression of the right to self-determination. The progress report examined the important question of the role of women in indigenous people’s communities in decision making.

The Council also heard an address by Melakou Tegegn, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, who said that the Fund’s mandate was to assist the representatives of indigenous organizations and communities to participate in the deliberations of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Populations, the Human Rights Council and the treaty bodies. Mr. Tegegn expressed concern over a 70 per cent drop in contributions over the past four years, which presented an extraordinary challenge for the Fund and its mandate. He reminded the Council that the mandate of the Fund had been established to remove stumbling blocks to indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations processes and to make sure that their voice was heard at the international level.

Guatemala, New Zealand, Republic of Congo, France, Costa Rica, Norway, Finland and Sweden spoke as concerned countries and the national human rights institutions of some of them also took the floor.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers appreciated the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and recognized the important efforts he carried out in the promotion of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous People as well as the contribution of thematic studies carried out by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Speakers recognised the focus on the impact of extractive industries in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and encouraged him to further elaborate on this and present findings on how best to find agreeable solutions for all actors involved. They also welcomed the report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and recognised the Expert Mechanism as an important forum for discussing indigenous issues.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Guatemala, Bolivia, European Union, Mexico, Peru and Denmark. The Council will resume its interactive dialogue at noon on Wednesday, 21 September.

Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, opening the panel discussion on the role of languages and culture in the protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimated that at least 43 per cent of the world’s 6,000 spoken languages were endangered. The centrality of language to indigenous cultures should be emphasized. The role of language in protecting cultures was essential. Without indigenous languages to convey them, concepts were lost. A renowned expert in indigenous languages said “When we lose a language we lose centuries of human thinking.” The international community must support indigenous languages urgently before any more became extinct.

Speaking as panellists in the panel discussion were James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Vital Bambanze, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Lester Coyne, Senior Regional Aboriginal Health Coordinator and Chairperson of the Native Title Land Clearance Australia; and Javier Lopez Sanchez, Director General of the National Institute for Indigenous Languages.

In the discussion, speakers said that many native languages were in danger of disappearing and there was an urgent need to document and record indigenous languages. Language was not just a means of communication but was also a method whereby culture was transmitted and maintained and therefore both language and culture should be promoted together to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. It was a fundamental duty of the State to guarantee the cultural and linguistic rights of its people and speakers asked what measures, programmes, or initiatives were being put in place by States to support new media and emerging technologies in promoting and protecting indigenous languages and culture? Speakers urged passing legislation that stressed the equal worth of majority languages with indigenous languages and called for the full implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to ensure that indigenous peoples were actively engaged in the determination of their own cultures and traditional ways of life. Countries then shared some positive experiences from their own countries, such as official bilingualism in Paraguay, early education in Sami language in Finland, state subsidies for mass-media projects aiming to preserve indigenous language in the Russian Federation, protection of the language in the country’s constitution such as in Honduras, teaching indigenous language through school as families were increasingly less important in transmission and acquisition of indigenous languages, and others. Several speakers agreed that recognition of an indigenous language as an official language was crucial in protecting and conserving it.

Mexico, Australia, Guatemala, Norway, Canada, Bolivia, Nepal, Chile, European Union, Peru, Brazil, New Zealand, Paraguay, Finland, Russian Federation, Denmark and Honduras spoke in the discussion. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, the International Committee for the Indians of Americas, and Movement Contre le Racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples also took the floor.

When the Council resumes its work at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 September, it will proceed with the consideration and adoption of the outcomes of Belgium, Denmark and Palau examined during the eleventh session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. From noon to 3 p.m., the Council will continue its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Documentation

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous
peoples, James Anaya: Extractive industries operating within or near indigenous territories, (A/HRC/18/35), provides a summary of the activities carried out during the Special Rapporteur’s third year in the mandate, including cooperation with other international and regional mechanisms and bodies in the field of indigenous rights, and the activities carried out in his four main areas of work: promoting good practices; country reports; specific cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies. The Special Rapporteur devotes the second half of the report to an analysis of the impact of extractive industries operating within or near indigenous territories following the distribution of a questionnaire on the issue to Governments, indigenous peoples, corporations and civil society. The Special Rapporteur concludes with the need to continue the study of this issue through further consultations towards the operationalization of the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of natural resource extraction affecting indigenous territories in order to be able to present a specific set of guidelines or principles by 2013.

Communications to and from Governments, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.1), includes communications sent, replies received and follow-up.

Mission to the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.2), examines the human rights situation of the Sami people of Norway, Sweden and Finland. It is based in large part on information presented to the Special Rapporteur during a conference in Rovaniemi, Finland, from 14 to 16 April 2010 organized by the Sami Parliamentary Council. The Special Rapporteur is pleased that, overall, Norway, Sweden, and Finland each pay a high level of attention to indigenous issues, relative to other countries. In many respects, initiatives related to the Sami people in the Nordic countries set important examples for securing the rights of indigenous peoples. However, more remains to be done to ensure that the Sami people can pursue their self-determination and develop their common goals as a people living across more than one State. The The Special Rapporteur makes a series of recommendations, in light of relevant international standards, to assist with ongoing efforts to advance the protection and enjoyment of the rights of the Sami people.

Mission to Guatemala, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.3), is the result of an exchange of information and communications with the Government of Guatemala and other relevant stakeholders and of the Special Rapporteur’s official visit to the country in June 2010. These observations focus on the crucial question of the rights of indigenous people in the context of extraction and other types of projects that directly affect their traditional territories. In the annex to this report, the Special Rapporteur focuses on the specific case of the communities affected by the Marlin mine, in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, Department of San Marcos. In these observations, the Special Rapporteur hopes to contribute to the debate with several specific considerations and recommendations, in the light of the international instruments that regulate consultation with indigenous people and are binding on Guatemala. In addition, the Special Rapporteur identifies other basic issues which, in his opinion, have also contributed to the currently unstable situation.

Mission to the Republic of the Congo, 2 to 12 November 2010, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.5), examines the situation of marginalized indigenous peoples in the Republic of the Congo, on the basis of information gathered during his visit to the country from 2-12 November 2010 and subsequent independent research. The focus of the report is an examination of the situation of those groups in Congo that have previously been known as Pygmies and that are generally regarded by governmental and non-governmental actors as the country’s indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteur discusses the extreme social and economic disadvantages of these peoples and their discrimination and marginalization in comparison to the rest of Congolese society, especially in labour relations, housing, education, access to health services, lack of civil status, participation in public life, as well access to land and natural resources. The Special Rapporteur identifies recent initiatives undertaken to advance the rights of marginalized indigenous peoples. Finally, the Special Rapporteur makes a series of recommendations to assist with ongoing efforts to advance the protection and enjoyment of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Congo.

Mission to New Caledonia by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.6), examines the situation of the Kanak peoples in New Caledonia, France. Mr. Anaya conducted an official visit to New Caledonia, a sui generis collectivity of France, from 6 to 13 February 2011, where he visited North Province and South Province on the main island of New Caledonia, as well as the Loyalty Islands Province. He met with representatives of the Government of France, officials of the Government of New Caledonia, municipal authorities, members of several Kanak communities and their authorities, including chiefs and customary councils, representatives of a number of Kanak organizations, members of political parties, labour unions, various civil society organizations and mining interests. He conducted a visit to Paris from 22 to 24 June 2011, where he met with French officials to further discuss the situation of indigenous peoples in New Caledonia. The report is based on information provided to the Special Rapporteur during his visits, as well as on a number of written submissions and independent research. The Special Rapporteur makes a number of observations and recommendations to assist with ongoing efforts to advance the rights of the Kanak people in the context of the Nouméa Accord and the United Nations supported decolonization process.

Mission to Suriname,13 to 16 March 2011, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.7), makes observations and recommendations to assist the State in the development of laws and administrative measures to secure the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname, in particular their rights over lands and natural resources. The Special Rapporteur outlines a process for moving towards developing legislation and related administrative measures to secure these rights. The Special Rapporteur also includes suggestions about the basic contents of the legislation, while emphasizing that this legislation should be the outcome of a participatory process, assisted by relevant international institutions, in which indigenous and tribal peoples are themselves involved.

The Mission to Costa Rica by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, (A/HRC/18/35/Add.8) on the situation of the indigenous peoples affected by the El Diquis hydroelectric project examines the proposed construction of a hydroelectric dam and plant on the Rio Grande de Térraba in the south-east of the country for the purposes of large scale electricity generation. The Special Rapporteur notes that a number of indigenous territories recognized by the State are located in the area affected by the project. The Special Rapporteur visited Costa Rica, and afterwards made recommendations on measures the government should take into account if they are to go ahead with the hydroelectric project, that should be acted upon in the near future.

The Final report of the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making: Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (A/HRC/18/42), complements the progress report submitted by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/HRC/EMRIP/2010/2) by focusing on examples of good practices of indigenous peoples’ participation in different levels of decision-making. It also includes Expert Mechanism advice No. 2 (2011): indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making. The present study should be read in conjunction with the progress report.

Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on its fourth session, Geneva, 11 to 15 July 2011, (A/HRC/18/43), says the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples held its fourth session from 11 to 15 July 2011. The Expert Mechanism held a discussion on follow-up to thematic studies and advice and on the final report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making. It also held discussions on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and on proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its eighteenth session. The Expert Mechanism adopted its final report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, as well as a number of proposals.

Presentations by Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, and Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that the first part of the report to the Council presented a summary of the Special Rapporteur’s activities while the second part provided a preliminary assessment of the issue of natural resource extraction in indigenous lands. There were four interrelated areas that the Special Rapporteur had worked on: the promotion of good practices, country reports, communications on specific cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies. Mr. Anaya said there was a need for reforms at the domestic and international levels to give effect to the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant international instruments.

The report on the Sami people examined the situation of this indigenous people in their traditional territory across Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Rapporteur paid particular attention to Sami self-determination both within and across State borders, especially as exercised through the Sami parliaments, and the rights of Sami to their lands, territories and resources and efforts to revitalize Sami languages and provide Sami children and youth with culturally appropriate education. The report on the situation of Maori people in New Zealand was a follow-up to the visit and report of the previous Special Rapporteur and focused on the issue of settlement of indigenous rights claims in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi, among other key issues. The Special Rapporteur noted that New Zealand had made notable strides to advance the rights of the Maori people and the process for settling claims under the Treaty of Waitangi was an important example of an effort to address historical and ongoing grievances of indigenous peoples. However, the process had suffered from evident shortcomings that manifested themselves in numerous instances of frustration by Maori tribes and the report included a number of recommendations to address these issues.

In another report, the Rapporteur addressed the situation of indigenous peoples in the Republic of Congo, who faced extreme social and economic disadvantages, as well as profound discrimination and marginalization. There were several recent initiatives undertaken to advance the rights of marginalized indigenous peoples in the country, most notably a new Law on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, however, there were various challenges that would need to be overcome for an effective implementation of the new law and other initiatives. In the report on the situation of Kanak people in New Caledonia, France, the Rapporteur noted that the Noumea Accord, the processes of decolonization it had advanced and several Government initiatives represented significant steps towards reversing historical trends of oppression against the Kanak and establishing conditions with dignity for them in New Caledonia. Yet the Kanak people faced ongoing challenges to maintain and develop on their own terms the multiple aspects of their cultural identity, to secure rights over lands and resources in accordance with customary tenure, to fully participate in political processes and government, to improve the economic and social conditions of daily life, and to be free from discrimination.

The Special Rapporteur also made observations and recommendations on specific cases of alleged human rights violations around the world, such as those concerning the situation of the Gibe III hydroelectric project in Ethiopia; the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert in Israel; native customary rights in Sarawak, Malaysia; the alleged issuing of mining concessions in a region that was sacred to the Wixarika or Huichol people in Mexico; and the situation of the Native Americans in relation to artificial snowmaking from recycled wastewater in the San Francisco Peaks in the United States. The Special Rapporteur said that he was currently examining issues associated with large-scale projects for the extraction or development of natural resources on or near indigenous lands. There was a need for change in the current state of affairs if indigenous rights standards were to have a meaningful effect on State and corporate policies and actions. An initial step toward such change would be to establish a common ground of understanding among the indigenous peoples, governmental actors, business enterprises and other relevant actors. Mr. Anaya said that without a minimum level of understanding the application of indigenous rights standards would continue to be contested and indigenous peoples would continue to be vulnerable to serious abuses of their individual and collective human rights and extractive activities that affected indigenous peoples would continue to face serious and social economic problems.

MELAKOU TEGEGN, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that the mandate of the Voluntary Fund was to assist the representatives of indigenous organizations and communities to participate in the deliberations of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Populations. As per the Human Rights Council resolution 65/198 of December 2010, the mandate of the Fund had been expanded to assist representatives of indigenous people’s organizations and communities to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council and of human rights treaty bodies. Direct participation of indigenous peoples organizations from all the world’s regions in the work of the Council was of critical importance, as it permitted to continue the constructive dialogue between United Nations Member States, Special Procedure mandate holders and indigenous peoples. Also, it ensured that human rights concerns of indigenous peoples were channelled in the appropriate bodies that could address them in order to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and help focus the Permanent Forum and the Expert Mechanism on their mandates to maximise their effectiveness.

Mr. Tegegn thanked a number of countries which had made generous contributions to the Voluntary Fund and appealed to all governments and private entities to consider further contributions to enable it to fulfil its mandate in the coming year. He also expressed concern over a 70 per cent drop in contributions over the past four years, which presented an extraordinary challenge for the Fund and its mandate. Indigenous communities continued to be for the most part at the margins of the larger society; they were voiceless and constituted the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable peoples of the world. In conclusion, Mr. Tegegn reminded the Council that the mandate of the Fund had been established to remove stumbling blocks to indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations processes and to make sure that their voice was heard at the international level.

Vital Bambanze, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the Expert Mechanism’s study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making complemented the progress report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making that was finalised in 2010. The study had benefited from an expert workshop. The right to participate in decision making was based on universally accepted human rights treaties, ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples as well as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The indigenous people’s right to participate in decision making was an expression of the right to self-determination. The progress report examined the important question of the role of women in indigenous people’s communities in decision making. The expert mechanism detailed challenges and developments in its study. The final element of the report focused on the study of good practice. There were questions about the meaning of good practices. Elements of certain practices may have positive aspects based on information received. Some practices required legislative and funding support while some did not.

The Expert Mechanism approved advice on indigenous people and had attached this as an annex to the report. Advice was supplied on specific situations such as when the obligation to obtain free prior and informed consent arose. National Human Rights Institutions, academia and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples had attended the last meeting of the Expert Mechanism. The Expert Mechanism had become an important method by which indigenous peoples could engage with the United Nations. The Expert Mechanism agreed to make a number of proposals to the Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council should request that the Expert Mechanism continue its work and undertake cooperative work with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. The suggestions made to the Expert Mechanism in its fourth session had a specific focus on extractive industries. There was ample scope for a rich analysis of both the challenges and opportunities associated with extractive industries for indigenous peoples. Transnational cooperation was required focusing on indigenous peoples issues. The Expert Mechanism with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was working to disseminate its handbook.

Statements by Concerned Countries

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala), speaking as a concerned country, said that the situation of indigenous peoples was critical for all development efforts in Guatemala. Since 1996, when the domestic armed conflict had ended, Guatemala had ratified several legal instruments, such as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization on indigenous peoples. Consultation with indigenous peoples was critical, even in the absence of a domestic legislative framework, and the Government of Guatemala had prepared a series of legislation for consultations which was presented to the indigenous people to incorporate their viewpoints. However, the process was interrupted due to a series of legal procedures. By establishing public policies in the medium and long term, the Government of Guatemala would be able to overcome the poverty and social exclusion that the indigenous people suffered from and the Government was willing to engage in all forms of dialogue evidenced by the establishment of a roundtable, which would serve as a tool for dialogue to facilitate negotiations so that the Government could better deal with indigenous peoples and provide concrete solutions. Concerning the Marlin Mine in Guatemala, mentioned by the Special Rapporteur, the Supreme Court had issued a decision on the matter stating that the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacan and the department of San Marcos could not impose the consultation it had proposed.

SERGIO MORALES, Procuradoria des los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, said he agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples that Guatemala was facing high pressure in relation to entrepreneurial activities by extractive industries in traditional indigenous areas. The Special Rapporteur had expressed serious concerns and demanded urgent measures to protect those affected and to address the underlying problems which included lack of participation and standards in negotiations, as well as inadequate protection for property of indigenous communities. Among his conclusions and recommendations, the Special Rapporteur pointed out that the institutions had not been able to deal with the situation and that other institutions should be taking charge of inclusion of indigenous peoples in negotiations. The Special Rapporteur also urged the Government to carry out a broad-based study on the consequences of the extractions for indigenous communities in order to avoid human rights violations. Mr. Morales appealed to the international community to assist the Government of Guatemala in the implementation of recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, especially those related to dialogue and consultations on the importance of the integration of human rights, especially of indigenous peoples, in the economic, social and cultural development of the country.

DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), speaking as a concerned country, said New Zealand welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to New Zealand.
The treaty of Waitangi had long been recognized as the basis of the relationship between the Government of New Zealand and the Maori. The treaty formed part of the terms of reference for a review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. The review would cover a wide range of constitutional topics and include Maori representation in parliament and local government. The two year review was the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Maori Affairs. New Zealand was proud of the process in place to resolve historical breaches of the treaty of Waitangi by the crown. New Zealand endorsed the call of the Special Rapporteur for a timely resolution of historical claims. The Government of New Zealand had a goal of completing all outstanding historical settlements by 2014. The Government had also taken into account the Special Rapporteur’s concerns regarding customary rights over marine and costal areas. The Government welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s endorsement of the Whanau Ora programme, an inclusive culturally anchored approach to providing services and opportunities to families. It required multiple government agencies to work together with families rather than separately and with individuals.

ROSSLYN NOONAN, New Zealand Human Rights Commission, said that the New Zealand Human Rights Commission welcomed the report on the situation of the Maori people in New Zealand. The Commission noted the Special Rapporteur’s following recommendations: the important role the State should play in increasing Maori participation in the political process, the work that needed to be done to overcome the shortage of teachers in the Maori language and that the Government should redouble efforts to address high rates of incarceration by Maori people. The Human Rights Commission had recognized the need to address issues raised by the Special Rapporteur. The priority of addressing entrenched economic and social inequalities was reflected in the Human Rights Commission’s theme of a Fair Go for All. The Government, through its annual race relations report, would report on its progress in improving the rights of the Maori people.

LUC-JOSEPH OKIO (Republic of Congo), speaking as a concerned country, said that the Government considered the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples to the country in November 2010 as an opportunity. Post-colonial administration had banned colonial legislation, emphasizing the distinctive signs among the population. With respect to indigenous peoples the Government had set up legislation to take into account their particular needs, but because of their lifestyle which was nomadic, some of the measures had not had the desired effects. More than half of the population of the Republic of Congo lived below the poverty line and the majority of them were indigenous peoples. The law recently promulgated by the Government had established additional protection for languages and property of the indigenous peoples and was also accompanied by the action plan to see it implemented. The Republic of Congo noted that any act committed against indigenous peoples could be prosecuted by the authorities. The Republic of Congo asked for continuing support of the international community to implement the above mentioned law and thanked the Special Rapporteur for his visit and the report.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking as a concerned country, said France welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur. France also welcomed the President of the Customary Senate of New Caledonia. France had carried out work on the rights of indigenous peoples in both national and international policy and it had co-sponsored the resolution on the rights of indigenous peoples in 2007. The State and two main political families in New Caledonia had signed an agreement based on the ongoing search for an agreement. Damage to indigenous rights as part of a historical legacy was explicitly recognized. The Madeline agreement explicitly noted the legal identity of the Kanak clan. The clan would now be able to defend its interests without need for any other legal status. The cultural heritage of indigenous peoples would be enhanced by a cultural centre. The cultural centre was a development pole for dissemination of contemporary Kanak culture. Ongoing efforts had been made with respect to employment. An ongoing objective for the French was to seek economic and social rebalancing. The southern islands held most of the New Caledonian institutions and the 1998 and 1988 agreements were designed to rebalance this. Seventy per cent of the State’s aid went to the northern islands. The State had development contracts valued at 370 million Euros to develop the northern islands.

CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET-FERNANDEZ (Costa Rica), speaking as a concerned country, said that Costa Rica had received the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur with interest. Costa Rica was pleased that the Special Rapporteur had met with senior Government officials and the electricity board officials. Costa Rica had ratified the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 in 1992 and the Supreme Court had established important parameters concerning the rights of indigenous peoples. Costa Rica had carried out efforts to make more effective indigenous peoples’ rights, through which the Government established indigenous reservations, now indigenous territories, which were inalienable and exclusive for those communities which lived in them. Open and frank dialogue with indigenous communities should be boosted. Costa Rica was pleased to note that the Special Rapporteur took note of the willingness of the Government to engage in dialogue with indigenous peoples concerning the hydroelectric project. The Government and the electricity commission, an independent institution, had decided to rectify the consultation process in conformity with the ILO Convention No. 169, taking as a framework the proposal of the Special Rapporteur. Costa Rica also welcomed the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur to facilitate a process of consultation without imposing it on indigenous peoples, allowing indigenous populations to decide on the modalities of representation. Concerning the recovery of indigenous land, the Government was in full disposition to engage in dialogue so that indigenous people and public institutions could find the right formulas to achieve recovery. Costa Rica reiterated its willingness to engage in dialogue to address the issue of representation of indigenous people and land recovery on the basis of the proposals of the Special Rapporteur.
STEFFEN KONGSTAD (Norway), speaking as a concerned country, said that the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples identified the extractive industries operating close to traditional territories of indigenous peoples as one of the most significant sources of abuse of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. The report contributed significantly to the advancement of the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework, by focusing on the impact of corporate activities on indigenous communities, lack of regulatory frameworks and lack of consultation and participation. Norway welcomed the efforts in developing specific guidelines and principles to be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2013. Norway welcomed the report by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which contributed to the issue of indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making.

Turning to the Special Rapporteur’s report from the visit to Sami areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway, Norway said that Mr. Anaya had identified the consultation procedures in Norway in 2005 as an example of good practice. Still, there were matters where agreement had not been reached between the Norwegian Government and the Sami. One such issue was the disagreement regarding the new mineral act which in the opinion of the Sami political leaders was unsatisfactory. The agreement was also lacking on benefit-sharing mechanisms. The Government of Norway considered that those and other remaining issues should be considered as part of the comprehensive package on Sami land rights currently being considered, while the Sami Parliament wanted the issues concerning minerals to be resolved more rapidly. Norway wanted to hear the view both from Professor Anaya and from the Expert Mechanism Chair on the development of formalized consultation procedures of this kind in other regions and their potential for being a useful tool, especially where the economic stakes were high. Norway said it would give due considerations in the on-going policy making process to other recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur. Norway asked the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism Chair to offer their views on how to proceed on ensuring that the voices of indigenous peoples were heard in the Human Rights Council and hoped that the appropriate time could be allocated during the twenty-first session of the Council to discuss in depth the modes for more direct participation of indigenous peoples own governance bodies and institutions.

KATHARINA ROSE, of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, said the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights would like the draw the Council’s attention to issues concerning the Sami peoples. The Special Rapporteur noted that decisions should not be taken without free prior and informed consent. The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights noticed new proposals had decreased the Sami participation in the regulation of reindeer herding without such consent. Norway should pay close attention to securing fishing rights in costal areas for the Sami. The State did not explicitly recognize the historical right of the Sami to fish in the costal areas. The Special Rapporteur encouraged information about the Sami people. There were many instances of discriminations against the Sami. The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights called for the open discussion of a truth commission to cover the situation of the Sami. The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights welcomed reopened negotiations on the Nordic Sami Convention.

HANNU HIMANEN (Finland), speaking as a concerned country, said that the rights of indigenous peoples continued to be a priority area in the human rights policy of Finland. Despite increased international attention paid to the rights of indigenous peoples during the last decade, the indigenous peoples of the world continued to face enormous challenges in the realization of their rights. There were positive signs, such as the important work carried out by United Nations special mechanisms. Finland thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work and the report on the Sámi people in the regions of Sweden, Norway and Finland. They were the only indigenous people in Finland and their autonomy was guaranteed through the Sámi parliament, including their protection of their culture and homeland. The obligation to negotiate with the Sámi parliament concerned all levels of the administration. The Governments of Sweden, Norway and Finland had started negotiations on a convention protecting the Sámi people. The Finland delegation would consist of six members, three of whom would be Sami representatives and may express their opinion separately in both national delegation meetings and during negotiations. The Sámi Parliament was capable to appeal in case the rights of the Sámi as an indigenous people had not been duly respected. The new Finnish Government stated in its programme that it aimed to ratify International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 and was working on its plan, taking stock of human rights instruments and institutional structures; the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur would be important in this work. There was a working group focusing on the Sámi languages. Finland wished to express its appreciation for the work of the expert mechanism on indigenous peoples. Finland continued to support its mandate to provide the Council with thematic advice concerning indigenous people and the work in improving the participation of indigenous peoples in decision making. Finland encouraged all indigenous people to work on the United Nations partnership. The United Nations Environment Programme aimed to mainstream indigenous rights within the United Nations system and the deliver practical results.

JAN KNUTSSON (Sweden), speaking as a concerned country, said that the report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples was good and solid and Sweden welcomed the emphasis on increasing the ability of the indigenous peoples, in particular the Sami people, to participate in decision-making processes. Sweden reminded that the basic element of the Sami policy in Sweden was to support the right to self-determination of the Sami people in matters that concerned them the most. The Sami had been now recognised as people by the Swedish Parliament as of last year. The Special Rapporteur expressed his concern by the lack of demarcation of traditional and reindeer-herding areas. Concerning the other recommendations by the Special Rapporteur, Sweden said it had supported the process with the Sami Nordic Convention and had hosted the first meeting of the three concerned countries. Reindeer herding would be affected by climate change and the Government of Sweden had already made significant financial allocations to start addressing this issue.

Interactive Dialogue

LUISA BONILLA DE GALVAO DE QUEIROZ (Guatemala) said that Guatemala found it useful to see the innovative way in which indigenous people could participate in decision making processes. Guatemala appreciated the way in which good practices had been included, such as the way in which Guatemala allowed indigenous people to participate in decision making. Guatemala wished to draw attention to the parliaments of indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Guatemala would present with Mexico the traditional resolutions on indigenous peoples at the end of this session of the Council.

MAYSA URENA MENACHO (Bolivia) said Bolivia appreciated the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and recognized the important efforts he carried out in the promotion of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous People as well as the contribution of thematic studies carried out by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this regard, Bolivia requested that Mr. Anaya participate in the next high-level meeting of the General Assembly on indigenous peoples in 2014. Concerning the report presented by Mr. Bambanze on the forth session of the Expert Mechanism, Bolivia expressed appreciation for the thematic proposals presented which demonstrated the pending tasks in relation to the right of indigenous peoples and would continue to work to ensure their progressive inclusion. Bolivia supported the creation of a development fund for indigenous and farming communities, funded by oil, and managed by sector ministries and representatives of indigenous peoples and farmers. The participation of indigenous peoples in the Bolivian Parliament was direct through their own customs and representatives. Indigenous peoples had the opportunity of participating in national and local elections representing their own organizations.

ANNE KOISTINEN (European Union) said that the European Union was committed to promoting the rights of indigenous peoples and continued to support them through various tools to build their capacity and ensure their development. The European Union recognised the focus on the impact of extractive industries in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and encouraged him to further elaborate on this and present findings on how best to find agreeable solutions for all actors involved. The European Union also welcomed the report of the Expert Mechanism on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and said that the European Union recognised the Expert Mechanism as an important forum for discussing indigenous issues. The European Union noted the introduction of the new agenda item to be considered at the fifth session of the Expert Mechanism, namely at the World Conference on Indigenous peoples in 2014. The European Union wished to hear more from the Expert Mechanism on the preparatory process for the Conference and how to ensure the full participation of indigenous peoples in the Conference.

LILIANA PADILLA RODRIGUEZ (Mexico) said Mexico had looked closely at the Expert Mechanism’s study which included examples of best practices. Mexico was very pleased to see reference to the Mexican constitution in this respect. Mexico maintained its belief in moving forward on indigenous issues. Proof of this was the increased involvement of indigenous peoples in planning and development and exercise of their rights. A draft law had been drawn up and was being consulted upon. Different proposals would help them move forward in this respect. The Special Rapporteur had carried out different studies. Mexico acknowledged that the aim of the Special Rapporteur was to move forward towards a comprehensive broad based dialogue with all parties to promote consensus.

CARLOS ALBERTO CHOCANO BURGA (Peru) said that the report presented by Mr. Anaya showed the determination of States in promoting safeguards for the protection of indigenous peoples but also the lack of minimum common understanding of the basic repercussions of the international norms or agreements and institutional methodologies necessary to make them effective. It would be crucial to hold broad-based consultations to understand different norms and their application. Extractive activities could positively contribute to national development. Indigenous people had the right to be consulted and should receive benefits from extractive activities in their territories that contributed to the improvement of their standards of living, while enjoying full respect for their culture and customs. In the context of the commitment of the Government to protect indigenous people and advance in the consolidation of a more pluralistic society, a law for consultation with indigenous people that was fully aligned with International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 was recently passed by Congress.

The Representative of Denmark said that Denmark was pleased to see that the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism exhibited constructive synergies in their choice of topics and so furthered a coherent approach to challenges faced by indigenous peoples. Denmark welcomed the report of the Expert Mechanism on participation of indigenous peoples in decision making and supported the proposals made, which addressed several important issues including indigenous peoples and their right to participate in decision making in relation to extractive industries. Denmark asked the Expert Mechanism to elaborate on how it envisaged its future work in relation to this particular issue. Denmark commended the Special Rapporteur for dedicating a substantial amount of time to meet with representatives of indigenous peoples and said that his latest report was of significant value to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. Denmark fully supported the recommendations made in this report, including the development of guidelines aimed at promoting best practices with regard to cooperation between States, corporate actors and indigenous peoples. Denmark asked the Special Rapporteur how he intended to proceed with the development of such guidelines and how he intended to further build on the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework.

Panel Discussion on the Role of Languages and Culture in the Protection of Well-Being and Identity of Indigenous Peoples

Introduction

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the panel discussion on the role of languages and culture in the protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples, saying that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimated that at least 43 per cent of languages spoken were endangered. On the Australian subcontinent at the time of European settlement, 250 languages were spoken; 205 of these 250 languages were now lost or very seriously endangered. In Russia some indigenous languages were spoken by less than 10 people. In Asia and America many languages were close to dying out. The centrality of language to indigenous cultures should be emphasized. The role of language in protecting cultures was essential. Without indigenous languages to convey them, concepts were lost. A renowned expert in indigenous languages said “When we lose a language we lose centuries of human thinking.” The National Geographic Project on Endangered Languages said the languages of powerful groups had spread. This had occurred through laws or through the allure of speaking an imperial language. In contemporary times indigenous peoples often had prioritized other languages over indigenous languages due to the need to engage with the media and the Internet. There was a heartening potential to promote the survival of languages. Article 13. 3 of the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically stated signatories should take measures to ensure indigenous people could understand and be understood in official proceedings. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues had carried out important work. The international community must support indigenous languages urgently before any more became extinct.

Statements by the Panellists

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that language and culture were an integral part of indigenous peoples’ identity. The fulfillment of indigenous peoples’ fundamental rights concerning language had suffered from assimilationist attitudes and was reflected in practices concerning justice systems, consultation and participation. Developments in the international area reflected a change in attitudes. The preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognized the contributions of indigenous people to sustainable development, the right to transmit their culture, the right to have access to education in the language, and technical and financial assistance to enjoy their rights. In some instances indigenous languages had been recognized, at least in the places where they were used, despite assimilationist policies. The denial of the right to practice one’s culture might take many forms. In some contexts, as Prof. Stavenhagen, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indicated, the right was sometimes denied even when there were no formal prohibitions simply by the presence of a negative environment. Positive steps for the creation of more favorable environments to the enjoyment of the rights relative to language and culture had been taken in a number of places. However, even in countries where indigenous languages were protected, Governments needed to give a high priority to the protection of indigenous peoples’ language as much as the protection of their autonomy and natural resources. The centrality of language and culture to indigenous peoples could not be overstated. Language could not be divorced from their people and spirituality, it was related to the transmission of knowledge and knowledge systems closely linked with indigenous identity and formed an important component of the multicultural fabric of which a large number of States were formed.

VITAL BAMBANZE, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that the panel would provide an excellent opportunity to converse directly with the Council on issues of importance to indigenous peoples with a view to the implementation of indigenous people’s rights. The Expert Mechanism had completed two studies in relation to indigenous peoples’ rights, one on education, completed in 2009, and one on the right to participate in decision making, completed in 2011. While the Expert Mechanism based much of its analysis on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, many of the Declaration’s rights simply applied binding human rights norms to the indigenous peoples’ context, as was the case with indigenous peoples’ rights to language and culture.

The Expert Mechanism was clear in its view that indigenous peoples’ education rights included education in their own languages, even where indigenous individuals lived outside their indigenous communities. Further, education in indigenous languages should be undertaken in a manner appropriate to indigenous cultural methods of teaching and learning and necessary funding should be provided. The Expert Mechanism supported indigenous educational autonomy, including indigenous control of institutions providing education in indigenous languages. The Expert Mechanism also addressed the need for the teaching of indigenous languages in mainstream education and drew special attention to vulnerable indigenous languages spoken by numerically small groups and called for decisive action to preserve such languages. A number of comments and recommendations were made involving indigenous peoples’ languages and cultures, including: the need for the provision of information for voters in indigenous languages; that indigenous peoples must be involved in decisions that affected them; that indigenous peoples should have autonomy over some matters and cited an example for management of indigenous language policy; and that in relation to the duty to seek indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent, information should be provided in a manner and form understandable to indigenous people. In Africa, indigenous languages were traditionally viewed as barbarous and the ability of indigenous peoples to express themselves in their own language was repressed. However in some countries, such as Morocco, there was recognition of local African languages with efforts to protect them.

Lester Coyne, Senior Regional Aboriginal Health Coordinator and Chairperson of the Native Title Land Clearance Australia, said 2.5 million Aboriginal people lived and died on the Australian continent in the millennium before European settlement with around 500,000 people speaking 250 languages. The population of 620,000 people 218 years later had lost most of these languages. The older people found it difficult to relate to younger people. The identity issue was of great importance to aboriginal culture. There were 25 centers of aboriginal languages in Australia. These centers were not well funded, receiving $ 4.9 million, much less than more commercially helpful languages. The centers did their best but they had annual funding not tri-annual so this meant short-term projects. Funding of most of the staff came out of the Aboriginal budget rather than the mainstream budget, leaving less money for projects. Aboriginal languages were transmitted by oral and see/do culture. Low levels of formal education meant paper based education in languages was not helpful. Cultural gatherings were used to help transmit languages but presently the gatherings were often only for funerals now. The Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages was established in 1991 and its charter was to promote the retrieval and revival of community based programmes. A regular news letter allowed people to meet and share stories. There was no national policy on aboriginal langue in the country. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders studies was set up to be a repository of Aboriginal Culture and history. Mr. Coyne regretted the low profile of Aboriginal culture today. High rates of drug and alcohol abuse had led to a reduced interest in aboriginal languages. The use of interpreters had hit problems as Aboriginal language speakers often did not have formal qualifications. Aboriginal law differed from mainstream law. It was statutory and non interpretive. Aboriginal languages remained outside the national curriculum.

JAVIER LOPEZ SANCHEZ, Director General of the National Institute for Indigenous Languages, thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the invitation to participate in this panel and to share ideas. Language was culture. It was a fundamental tool to understand the world and how social organizations worked at all levels. Through language and culture human beings were able to interact. When a language died a culture and a form of understanding the world died together with it. It was important to wonder about the current status of indigenous languages and what had happened to many languages. Languages had in many instances come to be part of politics and efforts to study and to understand languages had served as instruments of domination. However, history showed that the situation had never been simple black and white. This had been the case in Mexico. While the number of speakers of indigenous languages had decreased and the displacement of indigenous languages took place since the nineteenth century, as in many other places in part due to deliberate policies, plurality remained. Language had been at times used as a tool for discrimination. It was important to remember that indigenous languages were at some point normal languages and eventually grew marginalized. It was important to note that they had gone through a culture of domination which had led to a system of stereotyping among both indigenous and non-indigenous people in Mexico. Language pluralism in the contemporary world had been promoted by globalization and movements which advocated for indigenous rights. One of the greatest challenges would be to include indigenous languages with dignity.

In 1992 for the first time, Mexico recognized the multicultural and multilingual character and Congress recognized the rights of indigenous people regarding language. Indigenous languages were recognized as national languages, equal to Spanish, and a public institute for indigenous languages was established. In the face of these achievements they could say that they had moved forward. It was important for language rights, national planning and public policy to promote plurilinguism and multiculturalism, and for a public policy to promote not only consultation but active participation. Creating a list of languages, standardizing the writing systems, promoting the prestige of national languages, teaching national indigenous languages, and professional training of interpreters and translators were all ways to do this. Linguistic and cultural diversity was as important as biodiversity and was an important part of humanity. For this reason, moving from the particular to the universal was a futile task, they had to move both ways. Unless they held a fundamentalist world view, it was clear that there was not a single way to see the world. Paradigms such as interculturality represented an achievement for multicultural projecst and approaches. This scenario required a broad effort, the support of an entire society, including the government, academic institutions and other civil society actors was necessary.

Discussion

In the discussion, speakers said that as many native languages were in danger of disappearing there was an urgent need to document and record indigenous languages. Language was not just a means of communication but was also a method whereby culture was transmitted and maintained and therefore both language and culture should be promoted together to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. It was a fundamental duty of the State to guarantee the cultural and linguistic rights of its people and speakers asked what measures, programmes, or initiatives were being put in place by States to support new media and emerging technologies in promoting and protecting indigenous languages and culture? Speakers urged passing legislation that stressed the equal worth of majority languages with indigenous languages and called for the full implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to ensure that indigenous peoples were actively engaged in the determination of their own culture and traditional way of life. Speakers asked if there was a link between indigenous language and the health and well being of individuals living in indigenous communities. What were the strategies and best practices that the panel would recommend to Governments and indigenous communities to encourage the learning and revitalization of indigenous languages, particularly among youth. Speakers noted that in some countries free courses in indigenous languages were provided to all civil servants to promote intercultural dialogue and to consolidate various cultural identities. States should recognize the rights of indigenous people to establish educational systems in their own languages and speakers asked how the least developed countries could best cope with the requirement for enhanced resources to finance the education of children in indigenous communities in their mother tongue. The Human Rights Council had a role to play in facilitating cooperation between States, national human rights institutions, indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations to guarantee and promote the human rights of indigenous people, including the use of indigenous languages. Speakers said there should be a Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to ensure that there was legal protection of the languages and rights of indigenous peoples.

Mexico, Australia, Guatemala, Norway, Canada, Bolivia, Nepal, Chile, European Union, Peru, and Brazil took the floor, as did the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

Response by Panellists

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said it was heartening and encouraging to see a high degree of consensus in the room about the importance of indigenous languages. In responding to a question on what was the best strategy to pursue, he said there had been a history of genocidal discrimination against indigenous people that had included active discrimination against indigenous languages. These attitudes and their persistence in societies needed to be acknowledged. Concerned efforts needed to be made to contact these elements of direct discrimination. Passive forms of discrimination needed to be identified. Access to government services and education often disregarded indigenous languages and formed a barrier to revitalization efforts of indigenous languages. The central role of indigenous peoples in the process should be emphasized. The government’s role was often that of financial assistance and facilitation of indigenous people in revitalizing languages. A number of programmes of revitalization had been realized by international cooperation. Studies had shown that the effective education of children was best done in the mother tongue. Education and the goal of providing generally good education should not be seen in tension with each other.

VITAL BAMBANZE, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, gave the floor to his colleague.

Mr. W. LITTLECHILD, of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, referring to the question on the recommendations to encourage the use of indigenous languages, especially by youth, gave an example of his own community, where the indigenous peoples had put together a dictionary online, to enable the young people to learn the language. On the question of reconciliation, Mr. Littlechild said that it was important to give indigenous language back to people, even if only half of it was left. The Secretary-General stated two weeks ago that every two weeks, an indigenous language died. Language was crucial to identity and the survival of indigenous peoples.

LESTER COYNE, Senior Regional Aboriginal Health Coordinator and the Chairperson of the Native Title Land Clearance, said that the best practices were suggested by people who spoke indigenous languages. From a health perspective, if indigenous people were recognized in the Constitution, then that would provide a positive input to the health of indigenous people. Immersion and early intervention were the most effective ways for households to become deeply involved in learning indigenous languages. Bilingualism was critical for promoting the learning of indigenous languages because it was much easier for children to learn a third language if they already spoke two languages. Mr. Coyne said that one challenge that indigenous peoples in Australia faced was a constant change in the Australian bureaucracy and departments dealing with indigenous affairs.

JAVIER LOPEZ SANCHEZ, Director General of the National Institute for Indigenous Languages of Mexico, said that in order to contribute to strengthening and development of national languages it was important to raise awareness of the importance of languages. Concerning strategies in the context of the Mexican experience, Mr. Lopez Sanchez indicated that it was not possible to appreciate something that was ignored or remained unknown. He underlined the challenge of combating underlying or implicit discrimination against indigenous cultures and languages. An open minded attitude was necessary but it was not easily achieved. Visibility and hearability of indigenous languages was important. In Mexico, indigenous people were very pleased to know they could hear their languages on television and on the radio, including in entertainment programmes and publicity concerning rights. People had reacted positively to this. Moreover, with regards to public policy it was important to promote a participatory approach and the active engagement of indigenous people, rather than the imposition of certain policies. For instance, policy on the promotion and teaching of indigenous languages was not being imposed by the National Institute but rather facilitated through promoting the engagement by indigenous people. It was important to include an intercultural focus in the academic curricula since many school books lacked cultural content relevant for indigenous people. Books and school materials had to be culturally significant. Efforts in the public and private arenas were leading to important results. In the recent census on housing 16 million people had described themselves as indigenous; in a previous census only 10 million indigenous people were registered. This was because the marginalization of culture had led to a rejection of the indigenous identity. Finally, Mr. Lopez Sanchez agreed that it was important to have a multilingual approach and concerning recommendations suggested that the Council could perhaps promote multilinguism. It was not about speaking you own language but to value the possibility of speaking more than one or multiple languages.

Discussion

In the discussion, speakers said that this subject was dear to many of them and said that strengthening of indigenous peoples’ rights, including languages and cultures, was an important priority. Languages and cultures of indigenous peoples ensured diversity in the world and deserved to be protected. Many manifestations of indigenous identities and cultures had disappeared due to discrimination they had been exposed to. Languages were crucial to the survival of indigenous peoples and communities and their loss was also the loss of common wealth and diversity and a loss of civilisation. A speaker noted the concern over the actions by corporations negatively affecting indigenous peoples, such as land grabbing and environmental degradation.

Countries then shared some positive experiences from their own countries, such as official bilingualism in Paraguay, early education in Sami language in Finland, state subsidies for mass-media projects aiming to preserve indigenous language in the Russian Federation, protection of the language in the country’s Constitution such as in Honduras, teaching indigenous language through school as families were increasingly less important in transmission and acquisition of indigenous languages, and others. Several speakers agreed that recognition of an indigenous language as an official language was crucial in protecting and conserving it. In New Zealand, for example, the Mauri language had been made an official language in 1967, which had helped its conservation. A big role was played by dedicated TV channels, which fostered speaking of language at home and within families by the Mauri.

Delegations asked the panel to further comment on how to meet challenges brought by urbanisation on preserving languages and cultures of indigenous peoples and the reality of mixed traditional and modern livelihoods. A speaker wanted to hear more about recommendations on how to deal with climate change and how best to prevent land seizures and land grabbing.

Speaking in the discussion were representatives of New Zealand, Paraguay, Finland, Russian Federation, Denmark and Honduras. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Committee for the Indians of Americas, and Movement Contre le Racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples

Concluding Remarks

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the development of good practices was about the urbanization and mixture of cultures. It was needed to move beyond eradication of discrimination against indigenous languages to mainstreaming of languages. The promotion of indigenous languages required acceptance and revitalization. Mr. Anaya raised the example of Paraguay where an indigenous language was one of the majority languages and was spoken widely. In New Zealand Maori language was known to the society at large. While not spoken outside the indigenous community there was an appreciation of the language at some level in New Zealand’s society. The challenges were daunting in this regard. Moving the agreed consensus to represent genuine revitalization should be a goal. Cooperation between States and international agencies was necessary, including making sure these issues were truly grounded in the indigenous communities themselves.

VITAL BAMBANZE, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, thanked delegations who took the floor and spoke in favour of preventing and stopping discrimination against indigenous languages. Discrimination had a direct impact on indigenous peoples’ access to justice, equity and international cooperation. Sometimes discrimination also had an impact on education and employment, given its effects on access and curricular content. Mr. Bambanze wished that this practice of promoting cultural equality and the acknowledgement of past instances of discrimination and prejudice would be carried to the international level so that there would be no more segregation of people speaking indigenous language. When Mr. Bambanze attended school he had been signaled and segregated because of the way he spoke the national language. It was important to have this discussion at the Human Rights Council. Mr. Bambanze hoped that this debate would lead to specific recommendations within the United Nations so that its bodies could undertake specific programmes for the protection of the languages and the people who spoke them and to promote their development. Specific methods should be sought to protect transported languages when borders got in the way of people who spoke the same languages, sometimes leading to segregation. Finally, Mr. Bambanze hoped that the Council would have another debate, perhaps a yearly debate, on the rights of indigenous people so that they might benefit from the advantages granted by the Council.

LESTER COYNE, Senior Regional Aboriginal Health Coordinator and the Chairperson of the Native Title Land Clearance, Australia, in his closing remarks, said that the question of languages of indigenous peoples mentioned time and time again was that of rights and legislation. In Australia for example, there were many verbal acknowledgements of rights, but they were not enshrined in legislation. This was then the recommendation to indigenous peoples, to ensure that their Governments had enacted appropriate legislation guaranteeing and protecting their rights. Many indigenous peoples had to bow to the economic realities and abandon their indigenous languages and cultures. If people did not feel like learning the language, the struggle was lost, so it was very important to find the ways to motivate them to do so. Indigenous peoples needed to get their Governments not only to pay lip service, but to enact the legislation. The Aborigines made up about 650,000 of the population of 21 million Australians, so they represented not even two per cent, but nevertheless, their rights to language and culture were real. Indigenous languages and cultures were usually the cost and victim of Western civilisation. Protecting them was up to indigenous peoples too, particularly the youth, who needed to be convinced that they had a role to play. By 2020, there would be 4.5 million Australians suffering from Alzheimer, the largest proportion of them would be Aborigines, mainly due to abandoning their cultural practices and way of life. Aborigines needed to be more mindful and take more responsibility themselves.

JAVIER LOPEZ SANCHEZ, Director General of the National Institute for Indigenous Languages of Mexico, said this was a complex situation that posed quite a challenge. There were people who were adversaries of diversity, the mono-cultural attitudes of national States. Macro economic action was needed. It was not enough to refer to legal frameworks but they had to think about changing mindsets. Recognition and appreciation of linguistic diversity was needed. Specific action to upgrade the appreciation of diversity was also needed. Some of the ideas used for the Maori language had been helpful. It was not enough to talk about revitalizing a language. People needed drinking water. Revitalizing a language had to be done along with other projects. People needed to be sensitized. There were some parents who said “let us not teach our child a native language, let us teach him English or Spanish”. The National Institute for Indigenous Languages of Mexico worked with those with experience and provided academic and financial support in teaching indigenous languages. People had prejudices against revitalization. A top down and bottom up approach with the media and the people was needed.

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