A study conducted by a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) calls for mechanisms to facilitate indigenous peoples' full participation in decision-making processes related to the oceans, and to secure their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for activities that have a direct impact on them.
The recommendations of the study are expected to be considered by PFII 15 in May 2016.
19 February 2016: A study conducted by a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) calls for mechanisms to facilitate indigenous peoples’ full participation in decision-making processes related to the oceans, and to secure their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for activities that have a direct impact on them. The recommendations of the study are expected to be considered by PFII 15 in May 2016.
The study is authored by Valmaine Toki, PFII member, in line with a mandate from the 14th session of the PFII. Presented in a note by the PFII secretariat (E/C.19/2016/3), the document, titled ‘Study on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Pacific Ocean,’ highlights key provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to the ocean and its environs. It also examines UN processes that govern the oceans, provides an overview of the Pacific region and presents case studies of selected countries that have been affected by climate change and deep sea mining.
According to the study, indigenous peoples do not have a strong standing within the UN system, and do not participate directly in either the International Seabed Authority or UN-Oceans. Instead, they must rely on States and governments, whose officials are “invariably not indigenous.” The study finds that UNDRIP provides “clear grounds for the right of indigenous peoples in the Pacific region to govern the ocean.” It notes that activities that have a negative impact on the oceans also have “disastrous” effects on the health, lives, economies and cultures of indigenous peoples. The study recommends that organizations and agencies such as UN-Oceans, the International Seabed Authority and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) involve PFII members and independent indigenous experts in decision-making processes.
The author says there has been resistance from countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, to relocating people in the Pacific region who are affected by climate change. The creation of a climate change displacement coordination facility, she indicates, could enable organized migration and planned relocation, as well as compensation to people fleeing rising sea levels, extreme weather and ruined agriculture.
At the national level, the author remarks that provisions relating to traditional knowledge are included in Pacific islands’ legislation, but the legislation is not flexible enough to capture and cater to adverse effects and problems related to climate change, such as climate change refugees, rising water levels and access to water, and protection of traditional lands in the context of deep sea mining.
Finally, the study highlights that local communities are protesting against deep sea mining in Papua New Guinea, due to potential risk of environmental damage and other possible impacts. They have presented a petition with over 24,000 signatures to the Government to halt experimental seabed mining, in which mineral deposits are extracted from the ocean floor.
On 18 February 2016, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft appointed four advisers to lead consultations on improving indigenous peoples’ participation in UN bodies, as called for in resolution 70/232 . Views presented during the consultations will form the basis for a draft text to be finalized and adopted by the UNGA during its 71st session. [Study on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Pacific Ocean] [IISD RS Story on Consultations on Indigenous Peoples’ Participation]