I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Despite efforts over the last decades to improve conditions and increase recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and to enhance their involvement in decision-making processes, for many indigenous peoples around the world the situation is critical. Some indigenous peoples are subject to gross human rights violations, including violence, often as a result of them defending their rights. Poverty and social exclusion also hinder many indigenous peoples from being able to enjoy their rights and further weaken their opportunities to participate in decision-making processes.
While recognizing the complexities of having more than one people, with sometimes conflicting claims and rights, sharing a territory, violence can never be an answer. In this context we would like to express our appreciation to Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, James Anaya, who has been able to play a key role in the resolution, mitigation and improvement of situations of crisis involving indigenous peoples.
Indigenous women often suffer from multiple discrimination, both as women and as indigenous individuals, within the society and also within their own communities. There is a need to acknowledge the particular circumstances some women find themselves in. They often lack access to education, health care and land, face disproportionately high rates of poverty, are subjected to violence and are left out of decision-making processes. Indigenous women have sought to address such issues at the local, national and international levels, including at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Some improvements have been made, a number of important programmes and activities have been undertaken by for instance UNFPA and UNIFEM, but much more needs to be done to enhance the empowerment and equality of indigenous women.
Despite these serious concerns, however, there is some cause for optimism.
At the international level there has been substantial progress with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is gaining wider support, the establishment of the Permanent Forum, the appointment of the Special Rapporteur and the creation of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples noted in his latest report, however, there is some confusion about the respective roles and functions of the different mechanisms among indigenous groups and other stakeholders, as well as about the indigenous peoples’ representatives place within the institutional structure of the United Nations, as they are not always organized as non-governmental organizations. We appreciate the efforts made by the Special Rapporteur to strengthen and consolidate the coordination between the mechanisms, and we look forward to the report from the Secretary General, recently requested by the Human Rights Council, on promoting participation at the United Nations of recognized indigenous peoples’ representatives and how such participation might be structured.
It is important that we continue to build upon what we have already achieved, including the significant work carried out on the issue of the right to participation in decision-making and on the impacts of business corporations’ activities on indigenous communities. We welcome Professor Anaya’s efforts in developing specific guidelines in this field, with a particular focus on extractive industries.
The Nordic countries welcome the launching of the UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) earlier this year, and encourage states, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders to contribute to its work. This unique inter-agency initiative has the rights of indigenous peoples as its focus. UNIPP will contribute to mainstreaming indigenous rights in the UN-system and aims at delivering tangible progress at the country level.
Another issue of importance is the future ”World Conference” where all relevant parties, including national, regional and global forums for indigenous peoples, should contribute to the exploration of the modalities for the conference and its preparation.
Through his many visits, the Special Rapporteur provides insightful analysis and important practical guidance, taking on board the views from all relevant stakeholders. One important outcome seem to be the development of more practical consultation mechanisms in several countries. In terms of our own region, the Special Rapporteur last year visited the Sápmi region. In his report, the Special Rapporteur noted that overall, Norway, Sweden, and Finland each place a high level of attention to indigenous issues. However, more remains to be done, and we appreciate his input to our respective governments to assist with ongoing efforts.
One way of pursuing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur after his visit is through the ongoing negotiations on a Nordic Saami Convention. The Third negotiation meeting will take place in the near future. It is our hope that the process of negotiating the Convention, a process in which the Sami Parliaments are participating can be a catalyst for finding solutions to outstanding problems.
All the Nordic countries are members of the Arctic Council, which is a high-level consensus forum for cooperation, coordination and interaction between States and Arctic peoples. In the Artctic Council, indigenous peoples participate on an equal footing with governments.
In conclusion, the Nordic countries reiterate the need to improve conditions and increase recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples as well as our support to the UN Mechanisms working to fulfil those goals.
I thank you Mr./Ms. Chairperson.