Saturday, May 10, 2008

Indigenous Protests at the UN's Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues

In an article by David M. Kinchen in The Huntington News titled, "Indigenous Peoples Groups Demand Right to Speak at United Nations" (09 May 2008) we are told that:

Indigenous Peoples put pressure on the chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, demanding to have the right to speak on the recommendations of the Permanent Forum.

At the end of its two-week conference at the United Nations Headquarters, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) said the World Bank funding for carbon trading had set "good examples" for partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

The protesting Indigenous peoples disrupted the start of the meeting, and refused to sit down, shouting in Spanish "La palabra", and in English "we want to speak".

The protesters requested the elimination of paragraphs 5 and 37 of the document E/C.19/2008/L.2, saying Indigenous Peoples recommendations had generally not been reflected in most of the Forum's final documents on Climate change, the theme for the 7th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

"This is not our Forum, it doesn't reflect our opinions," shouted one of the protesters.

"It was a loud and very assertive effort, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the chair of the Forum did not want to recognize the speakers for the South American Indigenous Caucus," said Arthur Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation of British Columbia, Canada.

"The effort of the Indigenous Peoples to be heard resulted in U.N. Security try to remove an Indigenous Elder from the room, The situation got very tense until the UN Security were asked to leave the Permanent Forum Assembly Room because their involvement only intensified the situation," added Manuel.

"We are the Ongeh-Huh-Weh people, the real people of Mother Earth -- you have to listen to us," shouted Douglas Anderson down from the the upper level of the plenary room, before U.N. Security officers moved in to forcibly remove him from the conference room.

"I did not resist when they pulled and pushed me towards the door, but I asked the U.N. security officers to show me the law that we cannot speak at our Forum. I was worried what will happen next, I knew that the Indigenous Peoples would not allow this to happen, I feared a erruption of violence, don't forget, most of us deal with this type of police oppression back home on a daily bases," added Anderson, from upstate New York, Tuscarora, 6 Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

It was a dramatic moment when Rocio Velanda-Calle, one of the few persons standing at the upper level, rushed to Mr. Anderson's rescue, while the Indigenous Peoples at the lower level of the room shouted in shock, anger and objection to the actions of the U.N. Security forces.

Most indigenous peoples attending the forum felt unable to participate. "We Indigenous Peoples had to make a stand to be heard at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – the lack of real participation is a complete contradiction of the very existence of the Forum," said Mrs. Velanda –Calle after the U.N. security officers were ordered to leave the room. "Our views and recommendations were neglected by the so-called experts, the members of the Permanent Forum, and the Chairperson," she added.


"There are many grievances -- just this year the Permanent Forum announced new rules, so called guidelines, which are hindering Indigenous Peoples to show films or videos at the Forums side events. Now, films can only be screened, if sponsored by a government, " said Rebecca Sommer, from the Society for Threatened Peoples International. "These new UNPFII rules are raising serious questions in our human rights circles, they are, in our view, in contradiction with Article 19, of the Universal Human Rights Declaration."

"We understand that the 16 PFII experts are independent, their Report is based on their personal views and decided by consensus," said Andrea Carmen, the executive director of International Indian Treaty Council, a NGO in consultative status to the UN. Carmen added: "The Report did not reflected key aspects of what the Indigenous Peoples actually said on this issue. During the two-week session, there was such a overwhelming opposition expressed, including by the Global Indigenous Caucus, against these market based so called solutions." Carmen added: "Instead they have a huge impact on our human rights. In the future, we need to work with the PFII members to ensure that the Report will accurately reflect the input of the nearly 2000 participants, to avoid problems like this in the future."

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