I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and my own country Denmark.
For years, the Nordic countries have been actively engaged in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. We wish to take this opportunity to once again reiterate this commitment.
The issue of indigenous peoples affects the lives of, not only the indigenous peoples in our countries, but the population as a whole. We firmly believe that the promotion and protection of rights of indigenous peoples contributes substantively to the maintenance and development of multicultural, pluralistic and tolerant societies. Such societies build upon the effective participation of all groups in society – and thus full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all decision-making processes.
The mile stone adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples last year placed the issue of the special challenges for Indigenous Peoples high on the international agenda. It is now up to us to move forward and to make the content of the Declaration widely known, also among the indigenous peoples, in order to facilitate the dialogue on the practical implementation of its principles.
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has already proven its value as a meeting point for governments and representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world. Over the last few years it has established itself firmly as a key expert forum actively pursuing its broad mandate and thereby raising awareness of indigenous issues throughout the UN system. The Permanent Forum is playing a vital interactive role in gathering the views of different parties and is successfully acting as a catalyst and advisor for several agencies. We pledge to continue to support this important forum.
At its 6th session in December 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to establish an Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to give expert advice to the Council on the situation of indigenous peoples. At its 8th session in June this year the members of this Expert Mechanism was appointed and at its latest session in September, the work programme for the first session of the mechanism was decided by the HRC. We wish to welcome the establishment of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the appointed experts. We trust that the mechanism will be able to offer concrete and useful advice to the Human Rights Council on issues regarding the rights of indigenous peoples relevant to the work of the Council and thus be pivotal in the advancement of the situation of indigenous peoples world wide.
I would also like to take this opportunity to warmly welcome the appointment of Professor James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people. The Nordic countries will continue to provide strongest possible support to his mandate. We encourage Mr. Anaya to continue the active dialogue with States and the Human Rights Council, and to continue his already established practice of allowing for substantive participation by indigenous peoples in this dialogue.
We are confident, that with the above mandates and mechanisms in place, the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, we have a solid platform on which we can all work together to protect and improve the lives and rights of indigenous peoples.
Regrettably, we have a long way to go before indigenous peoples in practice enjoy the rights that others take for granted. Indigenous peoples around the world remain among the most marginalized groups in their countries. Besides being suffering from poverty, exclusion from decision-making processes and violence, indigenous peoples have been victims of racial discrimination for centuries. There is a continuing need to overcome the persistent racism and intolerance that affect indigenous peoples, and therefore this issue should be reflected in the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference.
Further, even though the effects of climate changes vary from place to place, they pose significant challenges for many indigenous peoples and their rights all over the world. Climate changes are threatening the traditional lifestyles and culture of indigenous peoples i.e. by jeopardizing biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of crucial importance to indigenous peoples. Therefore, all relevant bodies and stakeholders should take the issue of indigenous peoples into account when discussion, designing and implementing climate change policies and programmes nationally and internationally.
Finally, Mr. Chairman,
I wish to reiterate that the Nordic countries remain strongly committed to protecting and improving the lives and rights of indigenous peoples world-wide. We will work jointly with all parties in supporting the mandates and mechanisms set in place to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and in implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Thank you for your attention.