The estimated 2.7 million Native Americans living in federally recognized tribal areas have to contend with problems like unemployment, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and suicide. Now a UN report is investigating the conditions of Native Americans in the U.S. Host Michel Martin speaks with S. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples.
Washington / New York (4 May 2012) The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, today concluded his official visit to the United States of America, which was carried out from 23 April to 4 May. In completing his visit, the Special Rapporteur urged the United States to strengthen federal and state measures to address the significant issues affecting Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples throughout in the country.
Special Rapporteur Anaya noted that "[c]ontinued and concerted measures are needed to develop new initiatives and reform existing ones, in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples... with a goal towards strengthening indigenous peoples' own self-determination and decision-making over their affairs at all levels."
Mr. Anaya will provide detailed observations and recommendations regarding the visit in a report to the UN Human Rights Council at its forthcoming session.
Professor Anaya visited Madrid, Spain from 10 to 12 April 2012 to meet with representatives of the Government of Spain, members of Congress, Spanish business enterprises, and NGOs concerning the impact of Spanish-based transnational companies on the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. The Special Rapporteur collected information and views on programs and policies of the Government of Spain, as well as on the policies and actions of Spanish business enterprises, related to human rights and indigenous peoples.
The Special Rapporteur's visit to Madrid is part of his ongoing work concerning the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of extractive industry operations in or near their traditional territories, an issue that he examined in his last report to the Human Rights Council and that he will also examine in future reports to the Council.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the Joint Communications Report of Special Procedures Mandate Holders for communications sent between from 1 June 2011 and 30 November 2011, and replies received from Governments between 1 August 2011 and 31 January 2012. The report contains several letters sent by the Special Rapporteur James Anaya and replies received from governments concerning cases of alleged violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples.
Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur reflected in the report are from Israel, Thailand, Malaysia, Peru, United States of America, Mexico, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Finland, Canada, Guatemala, Chile, Costa Rica, China, France, and Brazil. See the report here
In a series of presentations in Lima, Peru and Brasilia, Brazil, Special Rapporteur James Anaya stressed the need for greater measures to ensure that indigenous peoples are able to set their own priorities for development. Professor Anaya referred in particular to procedures to consult with indigenous peoples about legislative and administrative decisions affecting them, especially regarding proposed extractive industry activities. Such procedures, he stressed, should involve genuine dialogue in which indigenous peoples’ own development priorities are at the forefront. Read more
[Geneva, February 13, 2012] The Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples welcomes the World Radio Day, which was established by a resolution during the 36th General Conference of UNESCO in 2011. In this first celebration of World Radio Day, the Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize the importance of community radio of the world's indigenous peoples.
Radio has been a fundamental means for indigenous peoples to maintain their languages and to exercise and defend their rights. As recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 16 "1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and access to all other non-indigenous media without discrimination. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that the media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity."
Kirkenes, Norway 9 February 2012. In a keynote speech delivered in Kirkenes, Norway, Professor Anaya underlined the key developments that have taken place in recent decades aimed at safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples, while calling for a new model of development in which indigenous peoples have the opportunity to be genuine partners, especially in the context of natural resource extraction taking place in or near their traditional territories.
The Special Rapporteur's speech was delivered at a conference on "Indigenous peoples, corporations, and the environment," which was organized by the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples of the Barents Euro-Arctic Regional BEAR). The Working Group, a consultative body affiliated with the intergovernmental Berents Euro-Artic Council, is composed of representatives of the Nenet, Sami, and Veps peoples living in Barents region which spans across far northern parts of Finland, Norway, and the Russian Federation.
In a press release issued on 7 February 2012, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government of Panama and indigenous peoples to initiate a dialogue due to the situation of tension and violence following indigenous protests. In recent days, Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous representatives have blocked different points of the Inter-American highway in protest of proposed mining and hydroelectric activities on their territories. During these protests, there have been clashes with the police resulting in injuries, detentions and the death of one indigenous protester. Moreover, representatives of the Emberá and Wounaan and other indigenous peoples have made a public call denouncing the lack of legalization of their lands and stating they will begin demonstrations in solidarity with the Ngäbe-Buglé peoples.
The Special Rapporteur also urged the Government of Panama to take steps to ensure the safety and integrity of people participating in the protests, and to investigate and clarify the circumstances of the death of an indigenous protester and sanction those responsible.
(New York - 18-20 January, 2012) The Special Rapporteur discussed measures for combating violence against indigenous women and girls at the UN Permanent Forum-sponsored "International expert group meeting on combating violence against indigenous women and girls: Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" held in New York. The Special Rapporteur opened the three-day expert meeting with a presentation that emphasized a holistic approach to protecting and respecting human rights of indigenous women and girls in effectively combating violence against indigenous women. Such violence "cannot be addressed in isolation from the range of rights recognized for indigenous peoples in general," he stressed.
The brainstorming session, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark on 13 and 14 January 2012, was sponsored by the Government of Greenland, the Sami Parliament in Norway, and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. It provided an opportunity to discuss issues related to the participation of indigenous peoples in the World Conference as well as the substantive issues to be discussed during this high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly to take place in 2014.
In his opening remarks at the session, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that the World Conference provides an opportunity for 1) contributing to the development of measures for the direct participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations meetings; 2) advancing greater and more concerted efforts within the UN system to advance the rights of indigenous peoples; 3) promoting action at the national and local levels to secure the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights; and 4) celebrating indigenous peoples and their contributions worldwide. The meeting convened indigenous experts and representatives from around the world, as well as representatives from the two other United Nations mechanisms focused on indigenous issues: the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a public statement issued on 20 December 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples expressed his concern regarding the reportedly dire social and economic conditions of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which seemingly exemplifies the conditions of many aboriginal communities in the country. According to information received, many of this First Nation's approximately 1,800 members live in unheated shacks or trailers, with no running water. This is particularly serious during the winter season where temperatures are as low as -28 Celsius. In a communication sent to the Canadian government, the Special Rapporteur requested information on the government's efforts in responding to the situation at Attawapiskat First Nation as well as in responding to concerns over unequal funding of First Nations communities, as compared to non-Aboriginal towns and cities, and the effects this has on the ability of First Nations to attend to the social and economic needs of their members.
A United Nations expert urged Argentina to strengthen its measures to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples as well as their rights to land ownership and education, adding that a mechanism to establish dialogue between them and the Government is urgently needed.
“A central preoccupation expressed by indigenous leaders during my visit was the lack of judicial security over their land ownership rights and in particular the various problems and delays they face regarding their properties,” said UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous rights James Anaya after his 11-day visit to the country..
Many of the land disputes, Mr. Anaya noted, have occurred between indigenous groups and private companies – in particular excavating firms – which have been enabled by judicial authorities.
GENEVA (24 November 2011) - The UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya will visit Argentina from 27 November to 7 December 2011 to discuss the general situation of the country's indigenous peoples, including issues such as their right to lands and natural resources.
"During my mission, I will analyze the situation of indigenous peoples, who are among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups worldwide," said Mr. Anaya upon announcing the first visit to Argentina by an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Special Rapporteur participated in the event together with the Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Myrna Cunningham, and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vital Bambanze. During his two days at UNESCO's headquarters, the Special Rapporteur also met with the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, as well as with representatives of UNESCO programmes relevant to indigenous peoples, including UNESCO's Assistant Director Generals of Natural Sciences, Communications and Information, and Culture; and representatives of the World Heritage Centre and of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section Division for Cultural Expressions and Heritage.
LONDON. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Prof. James Anaya called upon human rights defenders and indigenous rights advocates to put additional effort into enhancing the capacities of the peoples affected by extractive industry operations in or around their traditional territories.
The Special Rapporteur made this statement as part of his keynote speech at the Conference "A Dangerous Business: The human cost of advocating against environmental degradation and land rights violations," organized by the NGO Peace Brigade International (PBI) at the Senate House University of London, on 31 October 2011. On occasion of his participation at the conference, the Special Rapporteur is holding informal meetings with United Kingdom Government representatives, Members of Parliament, and civil society organizations, with a view to collecting information and views on official policies and legislation concerning the impact of UK-based transnational companies on indigenous peoples around the world.
The Special Rapporteur's participation at the conference is part of his ongoing work concerning the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of extractive industry operations in or near their traditional territories, as signaled in his last report to the Human Rights Council.
In a public statement issued on 28 October, 2011, the Special Rapporteur warned that a proposal to repeal key laws and policies related to Sami people in Norway could "constitute an enormous setback for the recognition and protection of human rights in the country." He further stated that "Norway could cease to be the world leader it has become in the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples if the Norwegian National Parliament approves the proposal of one of the largest political parties in the country, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet)." The proposal would repeal key laws and policies related to Sami people in the country. The Special Rapporteur urged the Norwegian Government, members of Parliament and the Norwegian people to strongly reject the proposal of the Progress Party, as well as any future proposals that may undermine the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Sami people in Norway.
On 17 October 2011, the Special Rapporteur presented his third annual to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The Report provides a summary of the activities over the first three years of the Special Rapporteur's mandate. In his statement to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur addressed the topic of extractive industries, pointing out the negative and even catastrophic effect these activities have had on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the need to facilitate a common understanding among indigenous peoples, governments and private companies about key issues and applicable human rights standards in this context. He stated that this issue will be the major focus of his work during the next three years of his mandate.
The Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, issued an urgent warning about the situation of growing social tensions in Bolivia generated by the march of about 1,500 indigenous people against the construction of a highway through the indigenous territory and national park Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS). The Special Rapporteur called for the initiation, as soon as possible, of a process of good faith consultation with the indigenous peoples affected, in order to find a peaceful solution to this situation and address the underlying problems related to the construction of the road through the TIPNIS reserve. In addition, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government of Bolivia to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of persons participating in the march, and to prevent, investigate and punish any acts that affect their lives or physical integrity.
On 20 and 21 September 2011, the Special Rapporteur presented his fourth annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In his report, the Special Rapporteur provided a brief overview of the work he has carried out over the past year, and offered some comments on his study on extractive industries operating in or near indigenous lands.
Following the presentation of his report, the Rapporteur heard comments from representatives of governments, indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations present. See a video of the Special Rapporteur's presentation here.
Professor Anaya recently participated in an in-depth dialogue with representatives of the Government of Brazil, providing an overview of the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples. The meeting was attended by numerous government institutions, including the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE); the General Secretariat of the President of the Republic; the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); Brazil's Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR); the Palmares Cultural Foundation (Fundação Cultural Palmares); the Brazilian Institute on Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA); and the National Department of Infrastructure and Transportation (DNIT).
Professor Anaya expressed his hope that this meeting will assist in the advancement of Brazil's implementation of international standards regarding the duty to consult and the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Also while in Brasilia, Professor Anaya spoke at a public event organized by the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), which was attended by students, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples.
In the first half of the report, the Special Rapporteur provides a summary of the activities carried out during his third year in the mandate, including cooperation with other international and regional mechanisms and bodies in the field of indigenous rights, and the activities carried out in his four main areas of work: promoting good practices; country reports; specific cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies.
The Special Rapporteur devotes the second half of the report to a preliminary analysis of the impact of extractive industries operating within or near indigenous territories, following the distribution of a questionnaire on the issue to Governments, indigenous peoples, corporations and civil society.
The Special Rapporteur has released his annual report on his communications with governments concerning specific cases of alleged violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples. This report is complemented by, and should be considered along with, the joint communications report that is being submitted for the first time for all special procedures mandate holders (A/HRC/18/51). The Special Rapporteur's report refers to his examination of 25 cases in 15 countries between August 2010 and July 2011. For some cases the Special Rapporteur has provided detailed observations with specific recommendations or descriptions of other follow up measures he has taken.
These cases, which are included in annexes to the report, are the following: Read more
The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples congratulates the Congress of Peru for the recent passage of a consultation law for indigenous peoples (Ley del derecho a la consulta previa a los pueblos indígenas u originarios reconocido en el Convenio No. 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo) on 23 August 2011. He considers it an important step forward for indigenous peoples' rights in the country. The Special Rapporteur hopes that the passage of the law reflects a strong commitment by the Peruvian State to respond to the demands of indigenous peoples to be consulted about measures that directly affect them, and in particular about extractive industry projects in and around their territories. Therefore, he urges the President of the Republic to promulgate the law and calls upon the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the adequate implementation of the law.
The Special Rapporteur participated in the Fourth Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (11 July – 15 July 2011). In his statements to the Expert Mechanism, the Special Rapporteur described the activities he undertook during the past year under his mandate including the cases he has examined. He also offered comments on his upcoming annual thematic report on extractive industries on or near indigenous territories, and provided brief comments on the Mechanism's report on indigenous peoples' rights to participation. During the session, he held parallel meetings with representatives of indigenous peoples, organizations and States in order to discuss specific cases of allegations of human rights violations as well as to follow-up on cases previously brought to the attention of Governments.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, to present expert testimony on the principles of consultation and consent, during hearings before the Inter-American Court in the case of the Kichwa indigenous peoples of Sarayaku vs. Ecuador on 7 July. The Special Rapporteur presented a short statement on the issue, and responded to a series of questions by representatives of the Sarayaku community, the Inter-American Commission, the State of Ecuador, and the judges of the Inter-American Court.