Governments, Indigenous Peoples Discuss Participation Criteria, Venues
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UN Member States and Indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions held three days of consultations on Indigenous peoples' participation in UN meetings on issues affecting them.

Venues of participation, participation modalities, recognition and selection mechanisms, and selection criteria received particular attention.

The consultation was the second in a series of four taking place between December 2016 and May 2017.

31 January 2017: UN Member States and Indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions held three days of consultations on Indigenous peoples’ participation in UN meetings on issues affecting them. Venues of participation, participation modalities, recognition and selection mechanisms, and selection criteria received particular attention.

The informal consultation convened from 30 January-1 February 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, and was the second in a series of four consultations taking place between December 2016 and May 2017. The consultation process was mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) (A/RES/70/232).

The four advisers to the process issued an elements paper in July 2016. Based on the views exchanged at the first consultation, in December, the advisers issued a revised elements paper. Participants at the second consultation commented on the relevant sections of that revised text.

On venues for participation, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and China opposed creating a new category for Indigenous peoples representatives and institutions. They stressed that the intergovernmental nature of the UN should not be undermined, called for respect for UN’s rules of procedure, and said Indigenous peoples should not participate in closed meetings, but only in open meetings of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its subsidiary bodies. Australia, Canada, Guatemala and New Zealand supported Indigenous peoples representatives’ participation in UNGA meetings relevant to them, including in the Third Committee (social, cultural, and humanitarian). Australia called for flexibility with regard to the phrase “issues affecting them,” given that these might differ in different meetings, and could change over time. Norway said Indigenous peoples should have participatory rights like other UN observers. Argentina and New Zealand expressed support for deciding case-by-base on Indigenous peoples’ participation in closed UNGA meetings.

On participation modalities, the elements paper calls for the broadest possible modalities for participation in Third Committee meetings on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in the dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many Indigenous peoples representatives called for the rights to propose agenda items, submit inputs, speak, and participate in relevant meetings, as well as the right of reply. They also suggested that they should be prioritized before NGOs with regard to seating and speaking. On closed meetings, they supported the suggestion that the meeting chairs should decide on their participation, based on the modalities for that meeting.

Brazil, supported by China, stressed the intergovernmental nature of the UN established by Chapter 2 of the UN Charter, and said Indigenous peoples should have the right to be present in meetings, to speak and circulate written documents, but not to submit resolutions, vote, reply, or be involved in intergovernmental negotiations. The US opposed Indigenous peoples’ routinely participating in drafting, negotiating, or voting on UN resolutions. She added that NGOs should also benefit from speaking time, although perhaps for a shorter time than Indigenous peoples. Russia said that as non-state participants, Indigenous peoples should have the same modalities for participation as other non-government participants. The EU opposed the proposal for the chairs of closed meetings to decide on Indigenous peoples’ participation on a case-by-case basis.

On establishing a new mechanism to select the Indigenous peoples’ representative institutions that will have consultative status with UNGA, the elements paper provides several alternative options, as there was little consensus on the matter during the first informal consultations. Indonesia, supported by Bangladesh, China, India and Russia, said the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs should be used as accreditation mechanism. She noted that if a new mechanism is created, it should be comprised of Member States and Indigenous peoples representatives appointed by Member States. India, China and Russia expressed concern with regard to the budgetary implications of creating a new mechanism, and called for representatives to be approved by the UNGA. The US, with Canada, Ecuador, Guatemala and others, supported the creation of a new accreditation mechanism under UNGA, which would determine its working methods and be comprised of an equal number of Member States and Indigenous peoples representatives. Supported by Canada, the US also specified that the UNGA would not need to approve or vote on the decisions reached by the mechanism regarding enhanced participation. Many Indigenous peoples representatives supported the creation of a new, independent mechanism built on gender equality and fair geographical representation. Some suggested that, if the new mechanism has seven slots for Indigenous peoples representatives from the seven geographical regions, then the same should be applied to Member States.

On selection criteria, the elements paper suggests that self-identification be an essential factor, with state recognition as a significant but not a determinative factor. It adds that if an Indigenous representative institution is recognized by the state, the selection processes might be expedited. Canada, US, New Zealand and others supported self-identification as an essential factor, and said state recognition should not be a determinative factor. Some indigenous peoples representatives and institutions called for adding a criteria that includes youth. Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Russia said state recognition should be a determinative factor. They also stressed the need for an agreed intergovernmental definition on “Indigenous people” before discussing criteria, and said the criteria need to take into consideration national legislation.

The third and fourth consultations in the series will take place from 27-28 February 2017, and during the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), which convenes from 24 April-5 May 2017. [Updated Elements Paper] [Consultation Process Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Revised Elements Paper]


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