UN FORUM FOCUSES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS TO TERRITORIES, LANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
The sixth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met in New York, US, from 14-25 May 2007, with the theme “Territories, Lands and Natural Resources.” Over one thousand delegates from seventy countries participated at the forum, which sought to build support for a UN General Assembly vote to endorse a declaration protecting indigenous peoples' land and resource rights.
Reaffirming indigenous peoples' central role in decision making concerning their lands and resources, the Forum urged States to take measures to halt land alienation in indigenous territories, through for example a moratorium on the sale and registration of land in areas occupied by indigenous peoples. Agenda items included: the implementation of recommendations on the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); a dialogue on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; data collection and disaggregation; and Asia and urban indigenous peoples and migration. The Forum made recommendations regarding economic and social development, health, education, culture, environment and human rights, and discussed ways for implementing recommendations within the framework of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People to achieve the MDGs. With regard to the international regime on access and benefit-sharing under negotiation in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a number of indigenous peoples and organizations meeting during the session issued a declaration on indigenous peoples' rights to genetic resources and indigenous knowledge, urging the UNPFII to prepare a legal analysis on States, peoples and sovereignty and their relationship, scope and application, to assist the CBD parties in understanding sovereignty in the context of the Convention and the role of sovereignty in developing an international regime on ABS; prepare a report on the social, cultural and economic impacts of commercialization of genetic resources and indigenous knowledge on indigenous peoples; and recommend to the CBD that, consistent with international human rights law, States have an obligation to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to control access to the genetic resources that originate in their lands and waters, and associated traditional knowledge, as such recognition must be a key element of any international ABS regime.
The 2008 session, to be held from 21 April to 2 May 2008, will focus on climate change, the Pacific region and indigenous languages.
Links to further information
UN ECOSOC press release, 17 May 2007
UNPFII press release, 25 May 2007
UN press release, 25 May 2007