UN experts deplore conditions of indigenous peoples

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 09 Aug 2017, 20:40:14
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UN experts deplore conditions of indigenous peoples

Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
A group of United Nations (UN) experts and specialist bodies has warned that the indigenous peoples face huge challenges worldwide even after a decade of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. 

The group issued a joint statement from Geneva on August 07, ahead of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples that falls on August 09. The statement was jointly issued by the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. 

The joint statement called on all world states to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights. 

The UN experts urged States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice. They deplored that in too many cases, indigenous peoples were now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago. 

The group pointed that the indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. It shows clearly, where statistical data is available, that they are still left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes. 

The joint statement said that the indigenous peoples faced particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources. But these are actually pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities. They said indigenous women faced double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They were frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence. 

The group observed that the worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders. Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists. Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. However, lasting peace requires that states, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, in particular indigenous women.

The UN experts alleged that many states still did not recognise indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth did not get official recognition and the right to direct political participation. Even in states where laws are in place, the Declaration was not fully implemented. They noted that it was high time to recognise and strengthen indigenous peoples' own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector for national solidarity.  

The UN experts and specialist bodies said that the world still had a long way to go before indigenous peoples had full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. They called on all states to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds. 

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.

sarwarmdskhaled@gmail.com

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