Opening Statement to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Fifth session, 2012

By | 9 July, 2012


Statement by James Anaya,
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

5th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Human Rights Council

9 July 2012
Geneva, Switzerland


 Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
Delegates of Member States,
Representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful to once again have the opportunity to address the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and all those attending this session. I would like to acknowledge the work of the experts and thank the Secretariat for facilitating my participation in this session.

The Expert Mechanism held its first session not long after I assumed my mandate as Special Rapporteur in 2008, and I have enjoyed our collaboration over the past four years and seeing the important work of the Expert Mechanism develop and progress. The thematic studies and advice of the Expert Mechanism have been valuable contributions to the advancement of indigenous peoples’ rights within the United Nations system. I encourage the Expert Mechanism to continue to build upon its role of assisting the Human Rights Council in its consideration of indigenous issues.

Mr. Chairperson,

As you are aware, over the past year, I have continued to carry out various activities within the terms of my mandate, and have on several occasions coordinated with the Expert Mechanism on this work. One of the main points of our collaboration has been surrounding our respective examinations of the thematic issue of extractive industries affecting indigenous peoples. In the case of the Expert Mechanism, the study of extractive industries took place in the context of its ongoing investigation into the issue of indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making. I commend the Expert Mechanism for its recent report on this study.

I would like to take this opportunity say some words about my own progress in looking into the issue of extractive industries. In September, I will present to the Human Rights Council a report detailing my progress since reporting to the Council on the issue last year.

Over the past year, I have engaged in a number of consultations with representatives of indigenous peoples, governments and transnational corporations to obtain their perspectives on the various dimensions of the issue of extractive and other major natural resource development projects affecting indigenous peoples.

Concerns about extractive industries were repeatedly raised by indigenous peoples in the context of my official visits to Argentina, Costa Rica and the United States. During these visits, I had the occasion to examine various cases of mining and the development of oil, gas and hydroelectric power; and to discuss these cases with government officials, as well as with the representatives of affected indigenous communities. Additionally, I have exchanged information on numerous cases of extractive industries with representatives of indigenous peoples, governments and transnational corporations in the context of the communications procedure.

I further engaged with relevant actors on various aspects of the issue of extractive industries through my participation in a number of conferences and meetings in the United Kingdom, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Also, I am finalizing plans to engage in consultations in Australia this coming August with representatives of indigenous peoples, federal and state governments, and Australia-based companies about the activities of those companies both in Australia and in other countries.

On the basis of this work, I have observed the need to focus attention on the duty of states to protect, and responsibilities of corporations to respect, the primary substantive rights of indigenous peoples that may be implicated in natural resource extraction. These include, in particular, rights to property, culture, religion, health, and physical well-being; and the right of indigenous peoples to set and pursue their own priorities for development, as part of their fundamental right to self-determination. My views and recommendations in this regard are elaborated upon in the report I will be presenting to the Human Rights Council in September.

In the future, and in coordination with the Expert Mechanism, I intend to identify elements of good practices and case studies on the basis of my examination of experiences in various parts of the world.

Additionally, the Expert Mechanism has recently proposed to jointly develop guidelines to implement the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of extractive industries, and I look forward to discussing this proposal further over the coming week. On Sunday, we will hold a meeting to discuss this and other coordination issues. In any case, I look forward to the Expert Mechanism’s future work to explore and provide advice on other core issues of concern to indigenous peoples. I hope that, as part of this work, the Expert Mechanism will continue to provide practical orientation on ways to address the challenges that indigenous peoples face on a day-to-day basis and to implement their rights as affirmed in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr. Chairperson,

Before I conclude, I would like to note that, as in the past, during this session of the Expert Mechanism I will be holding parallel meetings with representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations. I am grateful to the Expert Mechanism and its Secretariat for its assistance in facilitating these meetings. Holding these meetings at the annual sessions of Expert Mechanism, I believe, is an important component of the cooperation between our respective mandates. These meetings are good opportunities for me to hear directly from indigenous peoples and organizations about matters of concern to them, and to begin or further the process of taking action in appropriate cases.

Mr. Chairperson,

I would like to conclude these brief remarks by expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this session of the Expert Mechanism. I look forward to addressing the distinguished members of the Expert Mechanism again later this week during the specific agenda item on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As always, I am committed to cooperating with the Expert Mechanism in the shared pursuit of promoting and securing the full enjoyment of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Thank you for you kind attention.