Retorno


Indigenous Peoples Have Been Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19 – Senior United Nations Official Tells Human Rights Council

Retorno

28 septiembre de 2021

28 September 2021

Council Starts Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples on the theme of the situation of human rights of indigenous peoples facing the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on the right to participation. The Council also started an interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Ilze Brands Kehris, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that indigenous peoples had been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as the pandemic had exposed and exacerbated pre-existing structural inequalities and systemic racism. Groups at particular risk, such as indigenous children and persons with disabilities, had been hit particularly hard. So had indigenous women and elders. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, numerous reports had attested to this disproportionate negative impact on indigenous peoples globally. She emphasised the importance of the participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations fora, particularly on issues that affected them. Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 had had on indigenous peoples, their participation was more critical than ever – particularly in recovery efforts and to effectively reverse the trend of growing inequalities.

Megan Davis, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, indigenous peoples were still facing severe challenges due to COVID-19. There had been little or no effort to involve or consult with indigenous peoples in the design of recovery policies, address their specific needs for assistance, or adopt culturally appropriate recovery measures.

José Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that indigenous peoples were more likely to die of COVID-19, were being hit the hardest by its socioeconomic consequences, and their inadequate access to health care increased the likelihood of them catching the virus. It was critical that State recovery measures and responses were carried out with the free, prior, and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples and that they controlled the COVID responses in their own communities.

Anne Nuorgam, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that during the pandemic, indigenous peoples had suffered negative effects to their human rights due to inequities and discrimination. The digital divide, autonomy, self-governance, consultation and participation were crucial issues for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the global community’s plans to “build back better.

In the discussion, speakers paid tribute to all those who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic in indigenous communities worldwide. Some speakers considered essential the participation of indigenous peoples' representatives in the planning and adoption of COVID-19 response and recovery measures. Concerns were expressed that some States had used the pandemic as a pretext to undermine the rights of indigenous peoples and that violence and harassment against indigenous human rights defenders had escalated. Some speakers said that the health crisis had also become a socio-economic crisis, having a disproportionate impact on the full enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Speaking in the discussion were: Guatemala on behalf of a group of countries, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Bolivia, European Union, Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, Senegal, Food and Agriculture Organization, United States, Russian Federation, Namibia, United Nations Population Fund, China, Indonesia and Guatemala.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Karelian Republican Public Organization, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Conselho Indigenista Missionário, Indian Law Resource Centre, Sikh Human Rights Group and Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco .

Russian Federation, Bahrain, Pakistan, Mauritania, Turkmenistan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Japan spoke in right of reply.

The Council also started its interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Megan Davis, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that while some States had used this crisis to improve their engagement with indigenous peoples, others had undermined and rolled back indigenous rights. She presented the Expert Mechanism’s reports on the rights of indigenous children, the right to self-determination, and the annual report. Despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, they had continued with their important country engagement work. The ongoing challenge for the Expert Mechanism was the lack of responses from States to mission requests.

In the discussion, speakers supported the Expert Mechanism’s recommendation on enabling indigenous peoples to speak on their issues at international fora and be protected from reprisals. Calls to vitally include indigenous communities in all national, regional and global discourse on the indigenous people agenda were made. States were urged to ensure a safe environment for all indigenous human rights defenders, in particular for indigenous children and youth defending their rights were made.

Speaking in the discussion were: Mexico, European Union, Norway, Indonesia, Food and Agriculture Organization, Venezuela, United States, Russian Federation, Peru, Brazil, Ukraine, Cuba, Algeria, Philippines, New Zealand, China, Panama, Colombia, Guatemala, Iran and Australia.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon for the half-day panel discussion on deepening inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and their implications for the realisation of human rights, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. The interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will resume at 12 noon on Wednesday, 29 September.

Annual Half-day Panel Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the Situation of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic, with a Special Focus on the Right to Participation

Statement by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that indigenous peoples had been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as the pandemic had exposed and exacerbated pre-existing structural inequalities and systemic racism. Groups at particular risk, such as indigenous children and persons with disabilities, had been hit particularly hard. So had indigenous women and elders. The pandemic had also impacted the transmission of indigenous languages and traditional knowledge, affecting their unique cultures. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, numerous reports had attested to this disproportionate negative impact on indigenous peoples globally and provided recommendations to States to place human rights at the centre of their response and to systematically and adequately include and consult indigenous peoples therein, and ensure that they were informed about, and protected from, the disease in a culturally appropriate manner.

It was imperative that States implemented this crucial advice, which reflected their human rights obligations, guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant instruments. Ms. Brands Kehris emphasised the importance of the participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations fora, particularly on issues that affected them. Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 had had on indigenous peoples, their participation was more critical than ever – particularly in recovery efforts and to effectively reverse the trend of growing inequalities.

Statements by the Panellists

MEGAN DAVIS, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, indigenous peoples were still facing severe challenges due to COVID-19. There had been little or no effort to involve or consult with indigenous peoples in the design of recovery policies, address their specific needs for assistance, or adopt culturally appropriate recovery measures. Vaccination plans were often being adopted without meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples. Such poor vaccination plans had worsened the marginalisation and discrimination of indigenous peoples, resulting in low vaccination rates among them. The key element for an efficient State response to the pandemic for indigenous peoples was to respect the autonomy of indigenous peoples to manage the situation locally, while providing them with the information and the financial support they identified as necessary.

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALI TZAY, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that indigenous peoples were more likely to die of COVID-19, were being hit the hardest by its socioeconomic consequences, and their inadequate access to health care increased the likelihood of them catching the virus. Indigenous peoples reported a lack of information in indigenous languages, increased violence against women and children, and being targeted as carriers of the virus. It was critical that State recovery measures and responses were carried out with the free, prior, and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples and that they controlled the COVID responses in their own communities. The Special Rapporteur also reiterated the need for the prioritisation of vaccines for indigenous peoples and the importance of indigenous authorities being involved in immunisation planning and delivery. Recovery plans should not only deal with the current crisis, but also include prevention measures and address underlying structural inequalities.

ANNE NUORGAM, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that during the pandemic, indigenous peoples suffered negative effects to their human rights due to inequities and discrimination. The digital divide, autonomy, self-governance, consultation and participation were crucial issues for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the global community’s plans to “build back better. While the effects of this pandemic would eventually pass, the changes it had brought to the way everyone lived would stay. Ms. Nuorgam concluded by saying that the Forum noted that indigenous peoples’ needs had often been neglected in the emergency response measures taken by Member States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the right to participation was clearly recognised by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, many Member States still lagged behind in establishing adequate mechanisms to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples at all levels.

Discussion

Speakers paid tribute to all those who had lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic in indigenous communities worldwide. The pandemic had exacerbated the challenges faced by the majority of indigenous peoples around the world, such as poverty, access to health, access to technological services, remote educational opportunity, food insecurity, and discrimination. Some speakers considered essential the participation of indigenous peoples' representatives in the planning and adoption of COVID-19 response and recovery measures. Tributes were paid to indigenous health workers who played an important role in fighting and preventing COVID-19 at the sanitary barriers created to control entry and ensure observation of quarantine requirements for visitors to indigenous lands. The slogan "build back better" was a distant dream for indigenous peoples. In order to build back better from the pandemic, speakers said indigenous peoples’ right to participation needed to be protected and respected. Concerns were expressed that some States had used the pandemic as a pretext to undermine the rights of indigenous peoples and that violence and harassment against indigenous human rights defenders had escalated.

Some speakers said that the health crisis had also become a socioeconomic crisis, which was having a disproportionate impact on the full enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples. One speaker said that indigenous peoples preserved 80 per cent of the world´s remaining biodiversity thanks to their food systems. They said that lack of recognition, marginalisation, and violence were pushing indigenous peoples into situations of vulnerability, poverty and malnutrition. Speakers regretted that centuries of colonisation had resulted in the dispossession of indigenous lands and the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. They were worried about the use of the pandemic and its restrictions to curtail indigenous peoples’ rights to participation in decision-making and to consultation, allowing for mega-projects to take place on lands and territories traditionally inhabited and used by indigenous peoples without seeking their free, prior and informed consent. Calls were made for States to adopt specific measures in favour of the self-determination of indigenous peoples and to promote and protect the recognition of their political status and their own economic, social and cultural development.

Concluding Remarks

MEGAN DAVIS, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination had been conflated with the right to prior consent despite them being two different concepts. There were many fructuous examples where indigenous peoples had been managing the pandemic in an autonomous and successful manner. She urged States to revisit the report to better accommodate indigenous peoples.

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALI TZAY, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, noted that some indigenous peoples from Canada had decided to close the borders of their territories, which had stopped COVID-19. The same situation had been seen in some parts of the Amazonian forest where today some communities did not have one case of COVID-19. There were some negative examples, he continued, where States had been criminalising indigenous peoples for using their right to self-determination.

ANNE NUORGAM, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that key problems for indigenous peoples were the digital divide, autonomy and participation; indigenous-led solutions to the pandemic were crucial. The Permanent Forum had found that the opportunity for consultation and participation in decision-making had improved online, but that indigenous peoples preferred in- person consultations. The online options exposed inequalities and the digital divide.

Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Presentation of Reports

MEGAN DAVIS, Chair-Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that while some States had used this crisis to improve their engagement with indigenous peoples, others had undermined and rolled back indigenous rights. The Expert Mechanism saw its study on the rights of the indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/HRC/48/74) as an opportunity to integrate a human and children’s rights based approach to the interpretation of indigenous children’s rights under the Declaration. The report on the right to self-determination (A/HRC/48/75) explored how this right had developed since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The report concluded with recommendations for both States and indigenous peoples highlighting the direct correlation between the extent of recognition of indigenous peoples as indigenous peoples by States, and the extent to which States respected, protected and fulfilled their right to self-determination. The greater the level of recognition, the more profound implementation of the right. The Expert Mechanism had also adopted its annual report.

Despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Expert Mechanism had continued with their important country engagement work. They had finalised a country engagement request from indigenous peoples in Brazil, as well as with Sweden; and they had engaged in follow-up to their country mission of 2016 to Finland; and were preparing for a mission to Canada. The Chair-Rapporteur added that an ongoing challenge for the Expert Mechanism was the lack of responses from States to mission requests. She confirmed that the report next year for 2022 would be on the militarisation of indigenous lands. For 2023, it would be on the impact of development policies on indigenous heritage, focusing on indigenous women. Ms. Davis concluded by thanking the Human Rights Council for its efforts in advancing the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as Guatemala and Mexico which continued to play a lead role in pursuing the resolution on indigenous peoples.

Discussion

Speakers supported the Expert Mechanism’s recommendation on enabling indigenous peoples to speak on their issues at international fora and be protected from reprisals. Calls to vitally include indigenous communities in all national, regional and global discourse on the indigenous people agenda were made. Indigenous peoples’, including indigenous children’s right to participation in decision-making was a key part of the right to self-determination under article 3 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They shared the concern by the Expert Mechanism about acts of intimidation, reprisals and violence against indigenous human rights defenders. Speakers called upon all States to ensure a safe environment for all indigenous human rights defenders, in particular for indigenous children and youth defending their rights.

Some speakers agreed that the recognition of indigenous peoples provided the legal basis for the realisation of their right to self-determination, the full exercise of which also required that cultural rights, the right to lands, territories and resources, participation and consultation be respected and protected. Calls were made for the protection of indigenous human rights defenders. Threats, harassment and violence against them were deemed unacceptable. Concerning the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, speakers encouraged the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the international community at large to make a long-lasting commitment to save and strengthen indigenous peoples’ languages. Full, equal and meaningful participation by indigenous peoples, both nationally and internationally, was crucial.

Retorno

Retorno

No