I have the honour to address the Committee on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden in addition to my own country, Norway.
The 61st session of the General Assembly will hopefully be regarded as a turning point for the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights.
The Human Rights Council, during it’s first session in June this year, decided with a large majority to send the draft Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to the General Assembly for final adoption.
In its 5th session in May 2006, the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues underlined that the draft Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples will be an instrument of great value to advance the rights and aspirations of the worlds indigenous peoples, and therefore recommended the adoption without amendments of the Draft Declaration.
The draft declaration is the result of more than 10 years of hard work amongst member States and representatives of indigenous peoples and groups. As is obvious from the long lasting negotiations within the Working Group, concluding the task was not easy, and many compromises had to be made to reach an end result.
All the parties to the negotiations participated with keen interest, open mind and willingness to enhance the situation of indigenous peoples around the world. No party to the negotiations can claim that the result is perfect. In our opinion, however, this is the best compromise that realistically could be reached. A wide range of problems was solved for the first time and awareness raising was being brought to a new level due to the work of this Working Group.
The rights of indigenous peoples are of key importance to the Nordic Countries. This issue affects the lives of, not only the indigenous peoples in our countries, but the population as a whole.
We view the draft Declaration as an important tool in underscoring the principle of full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making processes. The adoption of the draft Declaration will in our view strengthen the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. Once the draft Declaration is adopted, it can serve as a comprehensive framework for partnership between states and indigenous peoples.
The Declaration is first and foremost a political document setting a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. It is therefore of utmost importance that the draft declaration is now adopted by the General Assembly. The work of hundreds of government's and indigenous peoples' representatives should be honoured and the process, that started over 10 years ago, be brought to a honourable and meaningful end.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has proven its value as a meeting point for governments and representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world. In addition, the existence of such a forum has made the world organisation and its member states more aware of issues relating to indigenous peoples.
Over the past five years, the Forum has played a unique interactive role in gathering the views of different parties and successfully acted as a catalyst and adviser for the UN system as a whole. At the fifth session last May, we were particularly pleased to note the high degree of interest shown by UN agencies and the World Bank. Within a short period of time, the Permanent Forum has established itself as the key forum and focal point for indigenous issues within the UN system. We firmly believe it will continue to further enhance that role in the future, and look forward to its sixth session this coming May.
Regrettably, indigenous peoples around the world remain among the most marginalised groups in their countries. Dispossession of their lands and resources remains a major source of indigenous peoples’ impoverishment. One of the UN Millennium Development Goals, to which all States are committed, is the eradication of poverty. Indigenous peoples need to have a real say in the way their traditional lands are administered.
The Nordic Countries lend their full support to the Programme of Action for the Second International Decade for the Worlds Indigenous Peoples and wish to assure the Coordinator of the Decade of our cooperation in his endeavours
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr Rodolfo Stavenhagen, for his tireless efforts in advancing the rights of indigenous peoples. We encourage him to continue to conduct an active dialogue with States and the Human Rights Council. It is important that this is done in a manner which allows for substantive participation by indigenous peoples. We would also like to reiterate the invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit our countries to examine the situation of indigenous peoples
In his last report he particularly focuses on the gap between written laws and regulations regarding the rights of indigenous peoples and their implementation, or lack thereof. The Special Rapporteur has shown that we have a long way to go before indigenous peoples and individuals enjoy the same rights as we take for granted.