UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
3rd Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD , 10 and 13 February 2017,
IFAD Headquarters, Rome, Italy
Thank you very much for inviting me to say a few words at this opening session of the 3rd Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum here at IFAD. Since I started to know and engage with IFAD in 2002, there have been many significant developments which I would like to highlight today. 2017 is the 10th year anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly in 2007. Thus, I will use this opportunity to cite what I think IFAD has done to implement the Declaration.
Article 41 of the Declaration states that;
“The organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations System and other intergovernmental organizations shall contribute to the full realization of the provisions of this Declaration through the mobilization, inter alia, of financial cooperation and technical assistance. Ways and means of ensuring participation of indigenous peoples on issues affecting them shall be established.”
At the recently held UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Expert Group Meeting which dealt with the implementation of the Declaration, I cited some good practices done by IFAD in this regard. Article 41 clearly says ways and means of ensuring indigenous peoples’ participation shall be established. What you have done in terms of adopting a Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, setting up of institutional mechanisms for sustained dialogue with indigenous peoples, such as this Indigenous Peoples’ Forum and related processes, the placement of the internal work on indigenous peoples within the Operations Department within IFAD and the establishment of the Indigenous Peoples’Assistance Facility (IPAF) are some of the ways you are implementing the Declaration. No other UN agency or international financial institution, as of yet, has matched these accomplishments of yours.
These are remarkable achievements especially because the truth is that many indigenous peoples have not heard of IFAD before 2002. I can say this for myself, as it was only in 2002 that I knew more about IFAD and started engaging with it. At that time my institution, Tebtebba, was organizing indigenous peoples’ participation in the sustainable development processes. I reached out to Mr. Phrang Roy, who was then the Assistant Vice-President of IFAD, to support the Global Indigenous Peoples’ Summit on Sustainable Development which we organized in Kimberley, South Africa just before the official UN Summit in Johannesburg. We managed to bring around 200 indigenous participants and they also took part in the official ùn meeting. It was in this Rio + 10 summit where the term “Indigenous peoples” with an “s” was adopted by the Heads of States in the Johannesburg Declaration. Since then, indigenous peoples participation in IFAD started to increase to where it is now.
I think there are 3 key factors which allowed for all these to happen. First, is the strength of indigenous peoples movements and their determination to assert and claim their rights and promote their own visions of development. Without indigenous peoples exercising their own agency to achieve their visions and goals, not much will happen. Most of the people here are leaders in their own right and there is an increasing crop of indigenous women and youth leaders in every part of the world.
Secondly, IFAD’s efforts to consciously involve indigenous peoples ‘ representatives to actively participate in shaping the work of IFAD on indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples were given lead roles in some processes, such as being the majority in the Board of the IPAF, indigenous peoples’ organizations co-managing IPAF at the regional levels and the holding of Regional preparatory consultations prior to the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum which were led by indigenous peoples’ networks and organizations. After the adoption of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document, IFAD has been supporting country-level policy dialogues led by indigenous peoples organizations in partnership with IWGIA and the Secretariat of the UNPFII.
Clearly, giving indigenous peoples the possibility to co-organize and co-manage IFAD processes and mechanisms relevant to them spell a great difference. Sharing with indigenous peoples and soliciting their comments on important documents like the IFAD’s Strategic Framework 2016-2025, among others, is another way of showing that our views do matter. This is another way to enhance the agency of indigenous peoples and give us ownership over these policies, processes and mechanisms. The strength of indigenous peoples, I believe is what President Kanayo stated earlier. We are able to push IFAD and other UN bodies into unchartered territories.
Third, is the presence of individuals within IFAD who are committed to strengthen this partnership between indigenous peoples and IFAD. Mr. President, Kanayo Nwanze, you are one of these individuals. It was under your leadership that the partnership has been institutionalized and various policy instruments were put in place. I sincerely thank you for going out of your way to do these. Part of the institutionalization which you have done is putting the indigenous peoples’ office in the Operations Department, in a Technical Division which is close to IFAD’S operations on the ground. This, for me is a wise executive decision. There maybe grand policies or declarations on indigenous peoples but if these are not effectively implemented and operationalized and no impacts in terms of improving indigenous peoples well-being, dignity and survival are achieved on the ground, these declarations and policies are meaningless. Having a head of an institution walking the talk in terms of implementing a policy on indigenous peoples is not very common and I can only hope there will be more of you. Your legacy will not be forgotten and we will treasure these gains achieved under your mandate.
I also give credit and thanks to Adolfo Bricci from the Technical Division for all the support you have given in terms of space for the implementation of the Policy and the technical support which allowed for this. The improvement of policy designs which include the guidance and processes to obtain free, prior and informed consent and strategies tailor-fitted to address needs of indigenous peoples are having some good impacts in several communities. When I attended the Slow Food Terra Madre event in Turin, I saw the dedicated conference space for indigenous peoples which you supported and the vibrant and dynamic participation of indigenous peoples.
Of course, Antonella Cordone and Jean-Philippe Audinet are the ones who are at the core in ensuring that such favorable decisions for indigenous peoples from the top are influencing the work on the ground. So we thank you both for this commitment and passion you have in shaping this evolving partnership. I certainly hope your efforts will be sustained and even strengthened and supported further.
And I also wish to thank all the committed staff at IFAD, the Country Programme Managers who are going the extra mile to make things happen, even in countries where it is difficult. We need more of these committed staff.
This not to say that everything is fine and dandy. There are still things that we can and must improve on together. The global situation is not very favorable for the world, especially the ones who continue to suffer from discrimination, marginalization and oppression. Tremendous efforts have to be done to address the growing conservative populism resulting in narrow nationalism that justifies the most egregious forms of human rights violations. In my mandate as the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples’Rights, I receive daily reports of violations of human rights of indigenous peoples. With the support of IFAD and other UN bodies, agencies and programmes, I certainly hope we will be able to reduce these kinds of incidents.
IFAD needs to improve on implementation support of projects and capacity building of governmental staff in charge of projects implementation at the country level. I have direct knowledge and experience with several IFAD financed projects and I can tell you that some of your staff are oblivious of the realities of indigenous peoples and are not responsive. For sure, there is huge margin for improvement. One is in developing and using specific indicators which will measure how the well-being, rights and cultural dignity of indigenous peoples at the project level.
There are still many opportunities which should be tapped to increase the financial assistance and technical support from IFAD and enhance its policy support at the global, regional and national levels. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals or the 2030 Development Agenda needs even much stronger collaboration between indigenous peoples and IFAD. Implementing the Goals with a human rights perspective is the only way to ensure that indigenous peoples will not be left behind.
Addressing climate change is another area. Indigenous peoples are actively engaged with the processes of the UNFCCC and also with the Green Climate Fund. We are also the ones providing some solutions for climate change mitigation and we are trying our best to adapt to these changes. I know that IFAD is an accredited entity of the GCF. We have a team of indigenous peoples who have convinced the Board of the GCF to develop an indigenous peoples’policy which will safeguard our rights when GCF funded projects are designed and implemented. I think it will be helpful if IFAD and indigenous peoples get together to think through the possibility of working out proposals from indigenous peoples which will be funded by the GCF through IFAD.
The theme of this 3rd meeting on economic empowerment is very timely, especially with the 2030 Development Agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals. Putting focus on women and the youth also means we have to develop very good gender sensitive programmes and put in place measures to achieve intergenerational justice.
I believe that the work of indigenous peoples in strengthening their communities is one of the key solutions which will address these global crises that we all face. I would like to stress that when indigenous peoples talk of their community this refers to the past, present and future communities, which will also include the living and non-living and the seen and the unseen. Thus, actions taken to strengthen indigenous communities should ensure that intergenerational justice, using indigenous knowledge and indigenous governance systems over lands, territories and resources and interculturality are taken into account in these efforts.
The overall aim of a partnership with IFAD is to ensure that indigenous peoples will be able to pursue their self-determined development, continue to live in and sustainably use their lands, territories and resources, continue practicing and developing further their cultural heritage, values and traditional knowledge, traditional governance and justice systems (which should be coherent with international human rights standards) and that all these will be transmitted to the next generations.
Thank you again for inviting me to say these words and I look forward to seeing a strengthened and dynamic partnership between indigenous peoples and IFAD in the years to come. I also look forward to a sustained relationship between my mandate and IFAD especially in pursuing the right of indigenous peoples to participation and development.
Contacts: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: www.unsr.vtaulicorpuz.org, ohchr.org
* * *