Giving Compass' Take:
- A draft report from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues offers guidance on Indigenous health and land rights and encourages Indigenous participation in solutions.
- Some Indigenous leaders call for the U.N. system to change to allow more Indigenous leaders to participate in negotiations that involve them. How can the forum help advocate for these changes?
- Learn more about Indigenous peoples and ways to get involved.
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Colonialism and market forces are destroying the planet and affecting Indigenous peoples’ health, a draft report from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues declared last week. One of only three U.N. bodies that deal specifically with Indigenous issues, the Forum’s report was the culmination of two weeks of talks around the theme of Indigenous peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health, and climate change. “The destruction of the Earth is driving a global health and humanitarian crisis,” the Forum wrote.
“It is unacceptable that we continue to hear how Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders from among Indigenous peoples are threatened, harassed, and killed for defending their home,” Forum chair Darío José Mejía Montalvo, Indigenous Zenú from Colombia, said in a closing statement.
The near-final report described the eviction of Indigenous communities to create protected conservation areas, green energy projects that violated human rights, and the killings of land defenders—particularly women and children. It made a list of recommendations to U.N. agencies and member states, including calling on the United States to release Indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier and decommission the Line 5 oil pipeline that passes through Canada, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Forum also called on UNESCO to “step up” its protection of Indigenous lands and culture from mining activities like Rio Tinto’s projects in Oak Flat in Arizona and Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.
The challenge now is ensuring that the report’s recommendations are implemented by U.N. agencies and member states, over which the Forum has no enforcement power. Last year, for example, the Forum for the first time made the same recommendation about releasing Leonard Peltier, and a similar recommendation that member states, primarily Australia and New Zealand, reform their child protection policies to prevent the removal of children from Indigenous communities. In both instances, member states ignored the Forum’s recommendations.
But some Indigenous leaders say that for action to truly take place, the U.N. system itself needs to change – and provide Indigenous peoples access to international negotiations to influence policy, a fight Indigenous advocates have been advancing for a century, beginning in 1923 with the League of Nations. Currently, Indigenous leaders are excluded from high level U.N. bodies like the General Assembly, which decides the U.N. budget, elects member states to the Security Council, and sets other key international goals and policies.
Read the full article about Indigenous peoples by Joseph Lee and Jenna Kunze at Grist.