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البيانات آليات متعدٓدة

الملاحظات الافتتاحية التي أدلت بها السيدة فلافيا بانسيري، نائبة المفوضة السامية لحقوق الإنسان، في الدورة السابعة لآلية الخبراء المعنية بحقوق الشعوب الأصلية

07 تموز/يوليو 2014

Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX
7 July 2014

President of the Human Rights Council,
Distinguished Experts,
Representatives of Indigenous Peoples,  
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to open the seventh session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  I warmly welcome the members of the Expert Mechanism, including newly appointed member, Mr. Edtami Mansayagan. I would also like to congratulate Chief Wilton Littlechild for his appointment to a second term. I thank you all for the commitment and energy with which you pursue your work.  It is also good to see the Chair of the Permanent Forum, Ms. Dalee Sambo Dorough, and the new Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz joining this session and further strengthening the excellent cooperation between the United Nations’ indigenous mandates. On behalf of OHCHR, I would like to congratulate you both on your appointments.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to all the indigenous peoples’ representatives from different regions, including 32 OHCHR indigenous fellows who are completing their programme this week, as well as 20 beneficiaries of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. Your contribution and active participation are essential for ensuring that the work of the Expert Mechanism addresses the real concerns of indigenous peoples and that the conclusions and recommendations emanating from this session make a targeted and concrete contribution to the advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The two themes that will be addressed during this session are of crucial importance for indigenous peoples.

Access to justice continues to be a paramount human rights challenge for the world’s indigenous peoples. It is closely linked with other central human rights concerns, including poverty, illiteracy, poor education, recognition of lands, territories and resources and self-determination. Indeed, access to justice is a concern in respect of virtually all articles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As the Expert Mechanism stresses in its draft report, access to justice must therefore be understood in a broad sense, both as a right in and of itself and as a means of securing the respect and fulfilment of other rights enshrined in the Declaration and other international instruments, as well as national laws. I am certain that the Expert Mechanism’s second study and advice on access to justice will contribute to further shedding light on this complex issue. In particular, I commend the Expert Mechanism for examining the situation of indigenous women, children, and persons with disabilities, who are very often the victims of multiple discrimination in their efforts to access justice.

The Expert Mechanism’s study contains a range of examples illustrating the catalytic role that access to justice play in the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.  It shows that while States are the primary duty bearers in ensuring indigenous peoples’ access to justice, we all have a role to play in these efforts. This includes the entire United Nations system.

Enhancing the human rights of indigenous peoples is one of the main focus areas for OHCHR and will continue to be so. In addition to supporting the work of the Expert Mechanism and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in many countries OHCHR is pursuing initiatives of empowerment and capacity building –complemented by outreach and advocacy.

This work is in many cases directly linked to improving access to justice. I recently had the opportunity of witnessing first-hand the impact of our office’s Maya Programme in Guatemala, which empowers indigenous organizations by training them in strategic litigation and accompanying them before the national judicial system in the presentation of cases involving their individual and collective rights. The programme also works with judicial officials in order to strengthen their capacity to uphold the application of international law related to indigenous peoples’ rights. I heard from communities how, with the help of our programme, they were able to obtain judicial decisions to protect their lands and territories and to fight against multiple discrimination of indigenous women.

There are many other examples of OHCHR carrying out concrete work to improve indigenous peoples’ access to justice. For example, in Cambodia our office is advancing indigenous peoples’ access to justice in a land dispute with companies that were granted land concessions, by facilitating the filing of cases by indigenous peoples in a provincial court to protect their rights to land and natural resources.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would now like to devote a few words to the topic of the other draft study that you will be discussing in the coming days. With the frequency and force of natural disasters on the rise, indigenous peoples and their rights are often particularly at risk.

We have seen this time and again, including when the Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last year. Indigenous communities were among those most heavily affected by the typhoon, losing homes, sources of livelihoods, and in some cases, lives. The remote location of these communities created an additional obstacle for the delivery of emergency supplies.  In light of the serious human rights implications of the typhoon,  OHCHR deployed a team of human rights officers in the context of the humanitarian response to this disaster. Our Office advocated for non-discrimination in the delivery of humanitarian aid and, together with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, carried out a joint mission to assess the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Capiz Province in the aftermath of the typhoon.

While interventions of this type are important and necessary, we must also strive to tackle the other side of the equation, and ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights are protected when States adopt measures to reduce disaster risks. Indigenous peoples, through their traditional knowledge and their relationship with their lands and territories, have a great deal to contribute and it is crucial that their views are taken into account in national disaster risk reduction processes.

I am therefore very glad to see that the Expert Mechanism is examining this issue, paying particular attention to the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making with relation to disaster risk reduction strategies. I am certain that your work in this area will contribute to a deeper understanding of how States, indigenous peoples and the international community can work together to build a rights-based approach to disaster risk reduction that fully reflects also the rights of indigenous peoples.

While the focus on specific human rights challenges is crucial, we must also address the bigger picture. I would therefore like to encourage all of you to take active part in the discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  This discussion on the Declaration will be facilitated by a survey we have carried out once again with the Expert Mechanism on best practices regarding appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the Declaration, and I would like to thank all the States and indigenous representatives who contributed to this survey. The results continue to show that, even though the standards of the Declaration are often overlooked and targeted strategies for their implementation remain too rare, there are also many positive practices at the national level that must be supported and replicated.

The survey also shows that successful implementation of the Declaration requires engagement of a wide range of actors, including those with a more general human rights mandate. With this in mind, our Office is pursuing a close partnership with national human rights institutions as we seek to make the provisions of the Declaration a reality on the ground. I am pleased to recognize the presence of several NHRI representatives in this session. Together with our partner, the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, we have recently issued a new handbook for national human rights institutions on how they can advance the implementation of the Declaration in their work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This session will also be an opportunity for an inclusive and open discussion on the  World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held this coming September. I would like to thank the Expert Mechanism for its advocacy in favour of the full and equal participation of indigenous peoples in the World Conference and its preparatory process. Our Office has also consistently advocated for an inclusive World Conference with strong engagement of indigenous peoples. In this regard, I am very pleased to inform you that, through the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, we will be supporting the participation of 84 indigenous representatives from all regions in the World Conference.

As the preparatory process continues in the coming weeks, I would like to remind all of you that the World Conference is a unique opportunity for the international community to reiterate its commitment to the Declaration. It is my sincere hope that the World Conference and its outcome document will lead to concrete measures to improve the implementation of the Declaration, for example through increased national level implementation action plans and strategies. It can also act as a catalyst for enhanced attention to the rights, and participation of, indigenous peoples within the UN system. OHCHR stands ready to support such efforts, including in its capacity as the current Chair of the UN Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues. I also encourage Member States, indigenous peoples, the UN system and other actors to draw upon the wealth of knowledge contained in the Expert Mechanism’s studies and advice as you move forward in the preparation of the outcome document, and we hope that the compilation of the Expert’s Mechanism’s advice that OHCHR has just published will facilitate this task.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights looks forward to continuing to support and cooperate with the Expert Mechanism and to working with all our partners and allies towards our common goal of advancing the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.

I thank you for this opportunity to address you and wish you a successful seventh session.

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