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UN Opens Two-Week Forum on Indigenous Issues

UN Opens Two-Week Forum on Indigenous Issues to Consider Ways Forward

New York, May 16 2005 3:00PM

With indigenous peoples being the poorest and most marginalized in many countries, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today said the failure of Member States to negotiate an acceptable declaration on their rights is one of the major challenges facing the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

“At the level of international law, Member States have still not adopted the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, despite many, many years of negotiation and advocacy,” Ms. Fréchette said as she opened the fourth session of the Permanent Forum.

Meeting in Geneva last month, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged all parties involved in negotiating the declaration, a process underway since 1995, “to do their utmost to carry out successfully the mandate of the Working Group and to present for adoption as soon as possible a final draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.”

“Like other vulnerable people, indigenous communities are often disproportionately victimized by the effects of armed conflict, adding a destructive and deadly burden to already difficult struggles,” Ms. Fréchette said.
“There is a need for a concrete plan of action, drawn up with the participation of indigenous peoples, that would point the way towards measurably improved standards of living and greater respect for human rights,” she said, urging indigenous peoples and the international community to “take up this challenge.”

The Forum, through its decade of work, was drawing attention to neglected issues and was playing a catalytic role in forging partnerships between indigenous peoples, governments and the UN system, she said.
On the UN General Assembly’s September summit review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), she said, “Each of those eight goals are, of course, of direct concern to indigenous people, whether we are talking about improving maternal health, ensuring access to primary education, or guarding against the loss of land and other natural resources.”


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