Apr 21, 2010

Nagalim: Ban Ki-Moon Urges Respect For Indigenous Cultures

Sample Image A representative from Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) highlights at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the advances made during the last years on the protection of indigenous people.

Below an article published by The Morung Express:

The annual United Nations Permanent Forum on indigenous issues opened on Monday [19 April 2010] with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging member states to promote development and respect indigenous cultures and traditions. A significant highlight to Moon’s call was the Government of New Zealand announcing that it would reverse its decision and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he attaches great importance to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007.  In that landmark document, member-states and indigenous peoples had reconciled with their painful histories and had resolved to move forward together towards human rights, justice and development for all.

An observation on Moon’s statement was also made by Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights. A representative from NPMHR is currently attending the UN session. The United Nations had made significant progress on indigenous issues over the past 40 years, including the establishment of the forum itself, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“And yet, we can not even begin to be content with our progress,” Moon cautioned, noting that the first-ever United Nations report on the State of the World’s Indigenous People, released in January [2010], had revealed alarming statistics. The report stated that indigenous people suffer high levels of poverty, health problems, crime and human rights abuses, primarily resulting from armed conflicts all over the  world.  

“Every day, indigenous communities face issues of violence, brutality and dispossession,” Moon said. Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of life are under constant threat from climate change, armed conflict, lack of educational opportunities and discrimination, he said. The UN chief said that their cultures are being distorted, commoditized, and used to generate profits which do not benefit indigenous people, and can even lead to harm.  “This is not only a tragedy for indigenous people.  It is a tragedy for the whole world,” he declared. 

“Indigenous (peoples’) issues are more prominent on the international agenda than ever before.

And yet, we cannot even begin to be content with our progress,” Moon said adding the United Nations is working to make sure that indigenous people themselves are not isolated. “You have a unique place in the global community.  You are full and equal members of the United Nations family,” he added.

The secretary general’s call was followed later by the announcement by Pita Sharples, New Zealand’s Minister of Maori Affairs, that the New Zealand government would reverse its decision and support the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.  

New Zealand was one of four countries – the others being Australia, Canada and the United States – that voted against the Declaration in 2007.  Australia reversed its decision last year.  Greeted with enthusiastic applause, he said: “We are pleased to express our support for the Declaration as both an affirmation of fundamental rights and an expression of new and widely supported aspirations.”