Statement by James Anaya
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
67th session of the General Assembly, Third committee,
22 october 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honor to once again present my report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the many indigenous peoples, Governments, United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations and others for the cooperation and support they have provided me in my work as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Since I started my mandate in May 2008, I have undertaken a range of activities to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide and to promote steps to improve their conditions. As I note in my written report, my activities fall into four interrelated areas: the promotion of good practices; reporting on country situations; examination of cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies.
In my written report, I provide an overview of the main activities I have carried out over the past year. These activities include my country visits to Argentina, the United States, El Salvador and Namibia, and my exchanges with numerous Governments about allegations of human rights violations. With respect to thematic issues, I note that my report to the Human Rights Council this year provides an update on progress made on my ongoing study on the issue of extractive industries affecting indigenous peoples; additionally, the report addresses the thematic issue of violence against indigenous women.
This year, my report to the General Assembly provides comments on the need to harmonize the myriad United Nations activities within the United Nations system that affect indigenous peoples.
A wide range of institutions and procedures exist within the UN that affect indigenous peoples and that have important roles to play in the promotion of their human rights. I detail in my report to the General Assembly processes and programmes that are of particular relevance to indigenous peoples or about which indigenous peoples have expressed concern. These include those related to United Nations programmes and specialized agencies, including UNESCO; the Food and Agriculture Organization; the World Intellectual Property Organization; and the World Bank Group; as well as processes carried out within the framework of UN treaties and other instruments, like the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
As those present are aware, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, calls upon the various components of the United Nations system to contribute to and promote the full realization of the rights affirmed in the Declaration. Towards this end, a number of institutions and procedures within the United Nations system have done important work to promote the rights of indigenous peoples.
However, as I note in my written report, the agencies, funds, programmes and intergovernmental organizations of the United Nations should do more to develop or further pursue initiatives within their respective work areas that are aimed at promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, in all instances they should ensure that the design and execution of their various activities and programmes are consistent with and reinforce the Declaration.
In addition, work within the United Nations system for the development of new multilateral treaties or other instruments should be consistent with international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, both in relation to indigenous participation in these processes as well as in terms of substantive outcomes. In no instance should a new international treaty or other instrument fall below or undermine the standards set forth in the Declaration or established in other international sources.
As for existing treaties or other normative instruments, including agency guidelines and policies, they should to be interpreted and implemented in a way that is consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whether or not the specific texts of these instruments reflect language that exactly matches the terms of the Declaration. If a text is such that it cannot be applied consistently with the Declaration, it should be amended or reformed.
I would like to make special mention of the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which will be held in 2014 as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly. Being of obvious interest to indigenous peoples, the Conference should allow for full and adequate participation by indigenous peoples, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Declaration. I urge flexibility and innovation in the interpretation and application of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly to govern the modalities of the conference, in order to ensure effective indigenous participation in this high-level meeting in accordance with the standards of participation that General Assembly itself affirmed when it adopted the Declaration. Additionally, the outcomes of the World Conference should reinforce, and in no way undermine or go below, the standards of the Declaration.
I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly. Through my work, I hope to help achieve the future envisioned by the General Assembly when it adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, a future in which indigenous peoples’ distinct identities and cultures are fully valued, and a future in which they have the opportunity to control their own destinies, under conditions of equality, within the broader societies in which they live.
I thank you Mr. Chairperson, and all those present, for your kind attention. I look forward to our interactive dialogue.