11th session of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. 
Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun Agøy Engum.11th session of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun Agøy Engum

Annual UN gathering of indigenous peoples in New York

Last updated: 5/25/2012 // Almost two thousand delegates attended this year’s session of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York, most of them representatives of the world’s indigenous peoples.

Mr. Egil Olli, president of the Sámi Parliament, represented the indigenous population of Norway, while the Government of Norway sent officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs.

The UN Permanent Forum is an annual two-week gathering of indigenous peoples, indigenous representative organisations, non-governmental organisations and governments. Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonization and invasion of their territories, and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life. In recent decades, the international community has given special attention to the human rights situations of indigenous peoples.

Diverse agenda

This year’s main theme was the Doctrine of Discovery – the way courts justified the annexing of indigenous lands – and the right to redress for past conquests. The Permanent Forum has a broad and diverse agenda, and another issue that came up was combating violence against indigenous women and girls.

Reindeer livelihood and participatory mechanisms in the Arctic Council

Two reports that were presented during the two-week session were of particular relevance for Norway. One focused on how the change in land use and climate change impacts the livelihoods of indigenous reindeer herders. The other study presented examples of best practices of the indigenous participatory mechanisms in among others the Arctic Council, where Norway got some recommendations.

Norway commends the work of the Special Rapporteur

The Permanent Forum is one of three UN mechanisms concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, the other two are the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Special Rapporteur, currently James Anaya,  is tasked with reviewing and promoting the rights of indigenous people. During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, Norway commended his work on indigenous peoples and extractive industries, and also informed him about Norway’s plans for national follow-up of his recommendations to the Norwegian Government following his report on the situation for the Sami people, based on a visit to Sami areas in 2010. 

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014

Preparations for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples were also discussed. The Permanent Representative of Mexico, Luis de Alba, has been appointed by the President of the General Assembly to represent him in the preparations for the World Conference, together with an indigenous representative from the Global Coordination Group for Indigenous Peoples, Mr. John Bernhard Henriksen (Norwegian Sámi representing the Sámi Parliament). In the near future there will be several follow up meetings both in New York and regionally to discuss the modalities and the content of the upcoming World Conference.

The twelfth session of the UNPFII will be held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 20 to 31 May 2013.

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