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Mr Chairperson, I have the pleasure of speaking on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
The EU wishes first and foremost to thank the Secretary General for transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (contained in document A/74/149) as well as the reports of the 12th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and of the 18th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII).
The EU is of the view that the successful discharge of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (SRRIP), together with those of the EMRIP and the PFII, are of key importance for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well at the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
The EU wishes to reiterate its steadfast commitment to the indigenous mechanisms. The EU engages proactively in the meetings and the work of the indigenous mechanisms on the basis of a range of policies. Some policies are directed specifically to indigenous peoples’ rights in line with UNDRIP, whereas others are policies of general or sectoral nature in which indigenous issues are mainstreamed.
Most important are the EU Council Conclusions on Indigenous Peoples of May 2017, where the EU confirmed its commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Apart from a range of other commitments, the EU decided to give priority to fighting the discrimination and inequalities based on indigenous origin or identity in relation to ensuring economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. Actions should also be taken to address the threats to and violence against indigenous peoples and individuals as well as to Human Rights defenders, in the context of land and natural resources, in the protection of the environment, biodiversity and the climate.
Furthermore, we would like to refer to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-discrimination adopted by EU Foreign Ministers in March of this year. These Guidelines provide both conceptual and operational guidance for EU’s Human Rights Policy in External Action. The EU’s commitment to promoting equality and non-discrimination are firmly based in the fundamental values of European Union treaties and of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Another example is that of the EU’s Gender Action Plan covering the years 2016-2020 (GAPII). During the highly interesting and inspiring “Panel on Indigenous Women in Power” held in conjunction with the 12th session of EMRIP, we made a detailed intervention on the relevance of our Gender Action Plan for the empowerment of indigenous women and girls. Without restating our intervention in its entirety, allow us to reiterate some of the key features of the EU GAP II:
One of the core objectives of the EU’s GAP II is that of strengthening the voice and participation of women and girls in policy and governance processes. The Action Plan highlights in particular the need for equal rights to participate in, and influence decision making processes. There is also a need to engage in concerted efforts in ending all forms of violence against women and girls which is the first core objective of the EU’s Gender Action Plan. Still in this day and age indigenous women continue to be disproportionately affected by violence, both from within their own communities, but also from outside their own communities, especially in situations of conflicts over land and environment.
Another core objective of the Action Plan is economic and social empowerment. In this regard, the EU believes education is a key component for empowerment. According to UNESCO, children and young people of indigenous families remain less likely to be enrolled in school or in training programmes. Other sources indicate that indigenous girls are particularly affected. This speaks to the urgency of removing the barriers to education so that indigenous women and girls can enjoy the same level of education attainment, not only comparable to that of indigenous men and boys, but notably comparable to other segments of the national population. The EU remains deeply committed to work with all indigenous mechanisms and other partners for the empowerment of indigenous women and girls. Such attention is essential if Sustainable Development Goal no. 5, on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, is to be achieved.
Many States worldwide have enacted laws, even constitutional provisions, and policies on the rights of indigenous peoples based on the provisions of UNDRIP as well as the ILO convention no. 169 for those countries that have ratified it. Despite these normative and policy developments at national, regional and international level, we are aware of the many remaining implementation gaps. These are also described well in the reports of SRRIP, EMRIP and the PFII. However, and while many challenges remain, we should not forget to celebrate the progress that has been achieved over the past year and since we last met here at the 3rd Committee to discuss the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We would here like to highlight two areas:
The first area concerns that of indigenous languages. The International Year of Indigenous Languages is soon coming to an end. The multitude of activities and events at national and global levels have been important in raising the awareness of not only indigenous peoples and States, but also the general public on indigenous peoples’ right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their languages, as set out in UNDRIP, but also on the urgency to halt the disappearance of their languages. We would therefore like to thank all the indigenous mechanisms for their contributions to the International Year as well as the entire UN system, and UNESCO in particular as the coordinator for the Year, in their efforts and contributions to make the International Year a success.
The EU agrees that much more work is needed if we are to ensure that indigenous peoples can freely exercise their linguistic rights as stipulated by UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to reverse the trend of disappearing languages.
We would suggest that International decade of indigenous languages foreseen by the relevant resolution of 42nd session of the Human Rights Council to be proclaimed by this session of the General Assembly is a decade of collaboration. Consideration should be given to collaboration not only among and between indigenous peoples, States and the UN wide system, but also among regional treaty organisations active in the field of languages, culture and education; the private sector, including media and ITC companies; and civil society and academic. We furthermore believe that national and regional human rights institutions could play a meaningful role.
The second area of progress is on the issue of the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant United Nations bodies on issues affecting them. Here the establishment by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 24th Conference of the Parties of the Facilitative Working Group for the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, with equal participation by Indigenous Peoples’ and UNFCCC Party representatives, is an achievement worth celebrating. In this regard, let us briefly mention that the EU will engage with an open mind in the considerations related to the expansion of the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples in order to support the participation of indigenous peoples in UN processes related to climate, but also UN processes on business and human rights. (as also recommended by the HRC 42 resolution L.XX).
When it comes to participation in human rights fora, and notably the Human Rights Council, we also saw some progress during the consultations held this summer in conjunction with the 12th Session of EMRIP. The EU was pleased to note that a number of participating States expressed their readiness to opening up to the participation of indigenous peoples' representatives and institutions in the Human Rights Council. We are now a little less than one year from the start of the 75th Session of the General Assembly during which the GA (as foreseen in GA resolution A/res/71/321) will “continue its consideration of possible further measures necessary to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in relevant United Nations meetings on issues affecting them”. Based on our commitments to this process, the EU will contribute constructively towards achieving consensual outcomes during the 75th Session.
Mr. Chairperson, in closing allow us to raise the deep concerns on the safety of human rights defenders. The spike in numbers of indigenous human rights defenders being targeted, as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and other human rights mandate holders and NGOs, is deeply unsettling and unacceptable. The same goes for the reprisals against indigenous peoples’ representatives for attending UN meetings, including in the indigenous mechanisms. The EU urges that each and every allegation of human rights violations be thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators be brought to justice. While that being said, we also believe that it is important to support the development of effective preventive measures to reduce risk of violations against human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders.
In this context the EU welcomes wholeheartedly, the choice of the theme “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16” for the forthcoming 19th Session of PFII in 2020. We believe that this will be an important venue for promoting and devising practices on reducing risks of human rights violations.
Mr Chairperson, support to human rights defenders is one of the major priorities of the EU’s external human rights policy and this is why the EU will continue to stand by indigenous human rights defenders who experience threats and violence, including in the context of protecting land, natural resources, the environment, biodiversity and the climate.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.