UNPFII 17 adopted recommendations related to the session's theme of indigenous peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and resources.
The Forum also adopted three draft decisions on its future work.
Discussions over the two weeks underscored the close links between recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights over lands, territories and resources and the achievement of several targets under the SDGs.
27 April 2018: The 17th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII 17), which took place from 16-27 April 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, adopted recommendations related to indigenous peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and resources. The session also finalized three draft decisions on its future work for consideration by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Unlike previous Forums, there were no closed meetings during the first week, which enabled all delegates to access the plenary discussions of all substantive agenda items. During the second week, members of the Forum held informal meetings with representatives of indigenous peoples, Member States and UN entities with a view to developing strategic, focused, and actionable policy recommendations.
The Forum adopted five reports focusing on: the session’s theme of indigenous peoples’ collective rights to lands, territories and resources; the Forum’s dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the preliminary report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; implementation of the six mandated areas of the Forum under the Declaration; and follow-up to the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples of 2014.
The Forum also adopted three draft decisions on its future work that call, inter alia, for a three-day international expert group meeting on the theme, ‘Conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples,’ and propose two new agenda items for discussion at the next UNPFII session in 2019: establishing a series of regional dialogues of indigenous peoples and Member States; and providing input towards preparations for the International Year of Indigenous Languages that is led by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Discussions over the two weeks underscored the close links between recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights over lands, territories and resources and the achievement of several targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 (zero hunger) target 3 on secure and equal access to land. They further pointed to the detrimental impact that falling short on these targets could have for efforts to address global challenges such as poverty, environmental destruction and climate change.
Data cited at the meeting indicated that some 370 million indigenous peoples face dispossession of their ancestral lands due to, inter alia, expansion of extractive industries, infrastructure projects, large-scale agriculture, hydroelectric dams and even conservation efforts. Other issues addressed at the meeting included the disparity between indigenous and national maternal mortality rates in many countries and the growing trend of targeting human rights defenders as terrorists. The discussions expressed particular concern about the impacts of environmental violence on indigenous peoples, especially women and girls.
In his opening statement, UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak outlined steps being taken to “break down the barriers to the participation of indigenous peoples in the work of the United Nations.” He noted the introduction of the interactive hearings at the 2018 UNPFII, to be chaired by the UNGA President, and encouraged delegates to provide concrete ideas and proposals.
UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Cristiana Paşca Palmer reported on ongoing efforts to recognize the collective actions of indigenous peoples and local communities and to develop an indigenous-specific safeguard framework under the Convention.
During the closing session, UNPFII Chair Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Mali, said the discussions had spotlighted some progress, but also serious challenges still faced by indigenous peoples around the world. She expressed concern about the huge gap in implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting in particular the evidence pointing to higher poverty rates, poorer access to education and major gaps in life expectancy between indigenous peoples and other groups. Towards this end, Aboubakrine emphasized the Forum’s role in facilitating greater dialogue and cooperation among Member States and indigenous peoples towards shared goals and national development objectives and called on all stakeholders to be bold and ambitious as they move forward.
Established in 2000, the UNPFII provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the UN’s Economic and Social Council as well as to specialized agencies that work on issues like development, agriculture, environmental protection and human rights. [UN Press Release on Outcome of UNPFII 17] [Opening Statement by UNGA President] [Opening Statement by CBD Executive Secretary] [UN Press Release on UNPFII 17 Opening] [UN Press Release on UNPFII Opening Statements] [UNPFII 17 Website]