Indigenous Peoples, Governments Discuss Zero Draft on Participation
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Member States expressed their views with regards to the zero draft for a resolution on the ways to enable the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them, to be adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at its 71st session.

Participants engaged with the text during consultations at the UN Headquarters on 26 April and 3 May, in advance of the intergovernmental negotiations on the zero draft, the first round of which took place on 5 and 8 May 2017.

3 May 2017: Representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Member States expressed their views on the zero draft of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the participation of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them. The zero draft was released on 21 April 2017 by the four advisers to the UNGA President on the process. The UNGA is mandated (A/RES/70/232) to adopt a resolution within the 71st session.

The Advisers prepared the zero draft based on views expressed during three consultations, held from 14-15 December 2016, 30 January-1 February 2017, and 27-28 February 2017. The text reflects options for each of the following: in which UN meetings should the participation of indigenous peoples be enhanced (venues of participation); how will indigenous representatives take part (the modalities); and how will they be accredited (method of selection or recognition).

Participants held consultations to respond to the text on 26 April and 3 May 2017. On venues of participation, most representatives of Indigenous Peoples expressed preference for inviting Indigenous Peoples’ representative institutions to attend and participate in all meetings of the UNGA and its Main Committees on issues affecting them and to invite the UN Human Rights Council to make such arrangements also.

On method of selection or recognition, many representatives of Indigenous Peoples opposed the proposal for a selection committee to be formed “on the basis of a proposal by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), prepared in consultation with Indigenous Peoples’ institutions,” explaining that the PFII, given its mandate, is not the appropriate fora for operative decisions. They also expressed strong opposition to the option of the UNGA President appointing a committee comprised of five State-appointed experts/ State representatives, one representative from each geographical region. They said the committee should be formed of an equal number of Member States and Indigenous Peoples, with the members to be appointed by the UNGA President after consultations with States and Indigenous Peoples.

On whether the selection committee should include a representative of each of the Indigenous socio-cultural regions of the world, many stressed that “an Indigenous People can only represent itself given its unique world-view,” and thus the committee should receive and accredit all valid applications “without limiting them to arbitrary, abstract mathematic formulas.” Mexico stressed that all the seven socio-cultural regions need to participate “on equal footing.”

China said the selection mechanism needs to be comprised of Member States, with Indigenous Peoples’ representatives playing an advisory role. He expressed support for a two-stage selection process: first, a review by seven experts selected by the UNGA President on the basis of a proposal by the PFII, prepared in consultation with Indigenous Peoples’ institutions from all regions; second, a decision by seven State experts/ representatives taking into account the seven socio-cultural Indigenous regions.

Rather than creating a separate selection mechanism, Russia proposed making the PFII and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples more effective. India stressed that the “self-identification” criteria used in the International Labour Organization (ILO) is not universally accepted, and should not be applied to the selection process, while New Zealand said that the self-identification criteria is essential.

Speakers differed over the sovereignty of UN Member States in relation to the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples.

Another topic of discussion was the sovereignty of UN Member States in relation to the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. Many representatives of Indigenous Peoples cautioned that paragraph 41, which refers to the “territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States” and is based on Article 46 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), when taken in isolation from the rest of the Declaration, undermines the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. They proposed adding text based on Article 37 of UNDRIP, which refers to Indigenous Peoples’ rights with regard to treaties and other agreements reached with States.

The EU expressed support for the participation of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them “as long as it does not undermine the intergovernmental nature of the UN or established practices.” Canada, also for Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), and supported by Norway, called to establish a distinct, observer status for Indigenous Peoples’ representatives at the UN. He also suggested: allowing Indigenous Peoples to participate in all UNGA meetings relevant to them; constituting the selection committee from an equal number of Member States and Indigenous Peoples through a transparent process, and without “no objection basis;” and giving more consideration to paragraph 41, which he said undermines Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination. Australia added that the UNGA resolution “is not about challenging the sovereignty of states but about enriching the discussions in the UN, acknowledging the value that Indigenous Peoples bring.”

Canada also expressed regret that the intergovernmental negotiations on the draft resolution will be closed, and invited Member States to continue engaging with Indigenous Peoples’ representatives outside the negotiations. Concluding the session, the Advisers encouraged Member States to continue consulting with Indigenous Peoples in their regions throughout the intergovernmental negotiation process.

The first round of intergovernmental negotiations is scheduled for 5 and 8 May, followed by another round on 25-26 May. [Zero Draft of UNGA Resolution] [DESA Webpage on Consultation Process] [SDG Knowledge Hub Coverage of Indigenous Peoples’ Participation at UN] [IISD Sources]


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