Jul 22, 2002

Report on the 20th session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (First day - Afternoon)

Day 1
Monday PM, July 22, 2002
Afternoon Session 3:00 p.m.

Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Chairman of the Working Group
We start our work at 3:20 p.m. With regard to this morning’s decision to approve and adopt the agenda given we are now able to have definitive agenda. The changes were in item 4 to add another principal theme: c the future working relationship between the PF, the SR on Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the WGIP. That is how 4 (c) will look. Likewise, we decide to look at the subject of continuity of WCAR as item 8. This would be a separate item. Having said that, we will now begin in keeping with organization of this afternoon’s work on Item 5 to review development. There are 20 speakers and we will tentatively begin by granting each speaker five minutes. The bureau will keep track of the time and will try to keep on track.

Kenneth Deer, The Assembly of First Nations
The following achievements are among the major accomplishments of the past 20 years. The Voluntary Fund for IPs was established in 1985 with the purpose of assisting representatives of the Indigenous communities to participate in the deliberations of the WG. The WG initiated and was driving force behind the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The WG has examined specific themes of crucial significance to IPs including health; environment, land and sustainable development; education and language; IPs and their relationship to land; Indigenous children and youth. The WG in July 23-27 2001 examined IPs and the right to development, including their right to participate in development affecting them. Most importantly, the WG has provided a forum for IPs throughout the world to report on developments with respect to their human rights, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) also encourages the UN to continue to support the valuable work of the WGIP in its two-fold mandate to review the developments of the promotion and protection of HR, and the fundamental freedoms of IPs. The AFN also urges the entire UN system to give attention to the evolution of international standards concerning HR of IPs.

The future of the WG - Although progress has been made over the past 20 years toward formal recognition of our inherent treaty rights, there is still a long way to go before the persistent violation of the HR of IPs are alleviated and our collective rights are recognised. There remains much to do before we achieve our rightful place within the international community and in societies where we still suffer the worst levels of poverty, landlessness and social dispossession. Our right to our means of subsistence and to protect and benefit from our lands and resources are still not implemented in any meaningful, broad , practical sense. Now that the PF has been established, it is imperative we maintain the important role of the WGIP with respect to the HR of IPs. The WGIP provides important complement to the broader mandate of the PF. The AFN calls on ECOSOC to support the continuation of the WGIP’s HR role.
The National Chief Matthew Coone Come had the honour of opening the PF in New York. He indicated the PF must be more than house of complaints and we must work with it and member states to develop within the UN concrete steps and practical action. Where there is dispossession, mistreatment, aggression or worse, this forum must be in a position to bring the issue to the immediate attention of the international community and work with all those concerned to bring these things to and end. With respect to the budget of the PF, the AFN stands by its IP brothers and sisters in strong support of separate and adequately funded secretariat.

First Nations Governance Act-The government of Canada has launched a campaign to disparage the integrity of the First Nations leadership, as well as divert priority from addressing unfinished business with respect to inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights in Canada. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Honorable Robert Nault, recently tabled legislation entitled the First nations Governance Act (FNGA) with the stated intent to amend the Indian Act. Despite a flawed consultative program in which the majority of first Nations peoples refused to participate, due to the unilateral nature of the federal initiative, which contradicts recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The governance initiative is narrowly defined and threatens treaty rights. The legislation, the first such law introduced subsequent to the recognition of the Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 directly contradicts Canada’s commitments under international law to protect First Nations right of self-determination (SD).
The AFN has rejected the FNGA, tabled in Parliament on June 14 2002. The AFN has proposed a First Nations plan that will advance a first nations agenda. It includes proposals to develop processes for treaty implementation and SD based on recognition of our rights under section 35 of the Canadian constitution. The introduction of the FNGA signals a new attack on our inherent right to self-government. The Minister is determined to make our rights subject to the Indian Act, not the Canadian Constitution under section 35.

Self-Determination- The right to SD is an essential ingredient in the development of international standards. Only a few states remain opposed to the recognition of this collective right, but most acknowledge it as a central underpinning in the development of international HR framework. It is only on this basis that the IP can have adequate protection. IPs have the right to SD without discrimination. By virtue of that right we have the right to govern ourselves in accordance with out history, tradition, cultures and languages. We call upon the sub commission and ECOSOC to support further discussions, workshops and activities for IPs and State representatives to clarify the issues surrounding the right to self-determination. It is essential this is done as we approach the next work session on the Draft Declaration. We need to build consensus on the issue prior to the session.

Beverly Longit, Cordillera Peoples Alliance
The present situation of the Igorots is very alarming. Governments and private companies continue to implement destructive industries such as mining and dams in our territory despite protests. Instead of listening to our appeals, the Philippine government has opted to militarize. There are 3 military brigades of approximately 3000 regular soldiers in the regions where they believe there is guerilla stronghold. This is in addition to regular police elements in the provinces and at least 8 companies of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) or paramilitary groups in the entire region. To justify their presence the bureaucracy uses the excuse of maintaining peace and order, and in crushing the ongoing revolutionary movement. We didn’t ask for their presence, they are there to continue unhampered access to our resources. Contrary to government claims, militarism has resulted in violations of our individual and collective rights.

The military sets up camps, soldiers fire against women and subject them to interrogation. They impose restrictions that affect and transgress the social and cultural customs. Recently a national newspaper published a photo of 16 years old into the armed forces. There are arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, and violence against women and children. Last August, elements of the third Special Forces summarily executed an elder. In November, a solider of the same unit raped a 17 year old student. Police officers molested a physical therapist. A member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and a same unit subjected him to interrogation. Other cases include surveillance and harassment. Respected chairperson, this situation is very alarming especially since military and police violate our rights with impunity. We call for an independent investigation of violations of human rights and to facilitate justice. We also call for pullout of our land. Also, to conduct a study on military on indigenous peoples land. Even in this kind of situation, Cordillera Peoples Alliance is for a just and everlasting peace.

Yoanna Claquin, Voices for Peace
We are working with northern part of Bangladesh, but the government doesn’t recognize indigenous peoples in the law and its constitution. There are killings of indigenous leaders and evictions from homelands. Bangladesh failed to ensure IPs rights and to ensure IP’s participate in economic progress and development. The community and land rights are ignored. Since 2000, many indigenous leaders were killed, including Alfred Soren, a Santal leader, Mrs Gidita Rema, a Garo woman of Modhupur forest and Sentu Nokrek, a young Garo leader. No justice has been given. Many times, government takes land in the name of tourism, military bases, and dams. The Government doesn’t consult with IP when taking development project. They do not have right to live in peace and security as a distinct people or guarantees against discrimination and acts of violence. The ILO Convention 169 to which Bangladesh is a party, in Article 11 states the right of ownership of peoples concerned over the lands, which they traditionally occupy, shall be recognised. The Bangladesh government denies implementing this convention from the inception.
In 2001 the Khasi and Garo IPs faced eviction in the Northeast region of Bangladesh. The government made a plan for an Eco park without consulting IPs. The government did not mention the inhabitants in the proposal, just considered them illegal inhabitants. Seven villages and 1000 Khasi and Garo families face forceful evictions.
Regarding indigenous issues we request WGIP to have attention on these issues.
1) Recognize IPs of Bangladesh in the constitution and there should be a policy for their development before taking any development activities, meaningful consultation must be ensured.
2) Ecopark and social forestry projects on Khasi and Garo land must be cancelled and a dialogue should be beginning.
3) Encourage Indigenous language
4) Establish land commission
5) Special measures to be taken to develop IPs.

Laurentius S. Tsatago Davids, Namimbia
In Namibia, a country with so many social and economic disparities, the Nama indigenous peoples of Namibia are still not part of the mainstream economic and social development. Thousands of them are still living in total destitute, impoverished by continuous droughts and subsequent loss of their livestock and the lack of job opportunities in the areas traditionally inhabited by them.

In the face of globalization, education is becoming an important tool in the lives of IPs so that they can protect and fight for their rights such as the fundamental right of having access to education, to health, to be taught through their own mother tongue and to earn a living wage. Meagre monthly incomes earned as domestic workers and farm laborers result in parents being unable to keep their children in school. This is how the vicious cycle of illiteracy and impoverishment continues.

Policies and conventions are important instruments but what is more important is a political will and empowerment of indigenous peoples. The lack of vocational and other training facilities in the traditional areas of the Nama, that would be supportive of the traditional economic activities of the IPs would open access for development for the Khoekhoe.

It is universally accepted that language and culture are intertwined and language is regarded as the vehicle for cultural transmission. The loss of their language means the loss of their culture and identity. The right to schooling at least in the formative years of schooling in the mother tongue would be an important step to help preserve the identity of the KhoKhoe. A loss of language example is where descendants of the Khoekhoe in S. Africa have totally lost their language. IPs do not have access to economic and social resources. Economy should be based on traditional economic basis. Hundreds of Khoekhoe emerge from educational system with nowhere to go. The skills of the indigenous people should be developed to contribute to overall development of the country. Indigenous people should be supported, especially in the developing world, to get the opportunity to also participate in the mainstream economic activities of the country. That is the only way in which they would be able to change their own circumstance.

Dr. Dhanabir Laishram, Center for Progress of Manipuri Peoples
Within these past decades, protection of land rights and resources are debated continuously. We look forward to your expertise. In Manipur, over 31 IPs live. All the IPs have flourished in coexistence for centuries. British interference changed this. In 1891, with the defeat of Manipur, traditional institutions were abolished. Land rights were impinged upon and transferred to the state. The system was continued after the Dominion of India annexed Manipur in 1949. The Indian Constitution does not safeguard IP’s right to land and resources. Articles 3, 270, 271 and 272 deprive us of all our land rights. With these articles the State of India holds all our resources from us. At present, destruction of agricultural land and forests goes unabated.
Land is a gift of nature. The Loktak Hydroelectric Project has submerged more than 30,000 hectares of fertile land. The Thoubal Multipurpose Project, Dolaithabie Mulitpupose Project and others are set to destroy more land. Office complexes, jails and housing colonies are planned and constructed destroying fertile land. Forest has been snatched away in the name of Reserve and Protected forests. The State has allowed wanton felling of forests by timber merchants. The result is forest cover is now reduced from 75% to the present 50%. The state is planning to destroy more forests with the Loktak and Tipaimukh hydro electric projects. I request agricultural and forest land be saved and SR and WG to focus on land rights in Manipur.

Ujana Chakma, Jumma People Chittagong Hill Tracts
I am representing Jumma people from Chittagong Hill Tracts. Most of you are aware we had a peace agreement with government of Bangladesh in 1997. We are still in a difficult situation due to violation of the accord by the government. I would specifically like to mention three points that were violated
1) Prime minister keeps the CHT affairs ministry under her charge instead of giving to an IP minister.
2) Hill districts council, the local government body in the CHT, have been formed with people nominated by the government. The bodies are working as the ruling BNP party office in the CHT. It is an attack on democracy.
3) The government appointed Wadud Bhuiya, a Bengali non-indigenous settles as the chairman of the CHT Development Board.
The government is considering placing a Bill in Parliament to amend the constitution for reservation of seats for women in Parliament, where there will be one woman member in the Parliament from each district of Bangladesh. But for the CHT, where we have 3 districts, there will be only one woman member in Parliament. This is a step to institutionalize discrimination against IP women in the CHT. Women organisations placed memorandums to the Prime Minister demanding three women members, in line with the other regions of Bangladesh. We are yet to receive a response. I request you recommend in your report the urgency of proper implementation of the CHT Accord for democratization and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Jumma people in the CHT.

Loyal David Hauheng, President, Bawm IPs Organisation, CHT, Bangladesh
This is a great privilege to present here. On 2 December 1997, there was an agreement between our political party, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the Government of Bangladesh. After five years of signing this CHT Accord, major provisions remain unimplemented. These include:
1. hundreds of army and paramilitary camps remain in the region.
2. Government-sponsored Bengali settlers who have been receiving regular free rations and other benefits from the government since 1978 have not withdrawn from the region.
3. Many of the Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jummas and PCJSS members have not been rehabilitated.
4. The land commission to resolve land disputes between Jummas and settlers has not begun its work.
5. Power relating to local government system, including law and order, civil and land administration, has not been transferred to the Hill District Councils and CHT Regional Councils as per the Acts passed under the CHT Accord.

We are seriously concerned about the infiltration of Bengali settlers into the CHT after the formation of the new government, led by the BNP. A non-IP settler has been elected to the 8th Parliament from the CHT on the basis of a manipulated voter list which included Bengali settlers, in violation of the Accord. This MP has also been appointed Chairman of the CHT Development Board although it was a post reserved for an IP. There are 500 army camps making it one of the most militarized areas in the world. Recently, 12 June one PCJSS memmber, Mr Chanu Ranjan Chakma (45) was brutally tortured by a group of army led by Lieutenant Masud of Dighalchari army camp and on the 19th June, two Hill Students Council activists, Mr Pu Swe Thwai Marma and Mr U Thwai Prue Marma were arrested and detained by a army group led by Captain Abedin of the Bandarban Brigade. Therefore, the following recommendations are
1) proper and immediate implementation of accord;
2) rehabilitation of Bengali settlers with dignity outside the CHT;
3) immediate steps to prevent new migration of Bengali;
4) formation of local police force with permanent residence of CHT according to the accord;
5) rehabilitation of PCJSS members, Jumma refugees, and internally displaced Jummas
6) empowerment of the hill districts council according to the CHT accord;
7) establishment of CHT regional council with legislative prerogatives;
8) recognition and protection of land and resources of the Jumma people by strengthening the hill district council and establishment of an independent commission on land.

John Sinclair- Sr. Assistant Deputy Minister Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Government of Canada
Government of Canada welcomes opportunity on the 20th anniversary. We wish to share developments relating to quality of life in Canada. In August 2001, Prime Minister established a reference group of ministers on aboriginal policy to strengthen efforts in tackling pressing needs of aboriginal communities. Government’s most recent budget 2001 will provide an additional 185 million dollars over two years to help aboriginal children to receive the best possible start in life. First Nations people themselves support a broad based approach to improving quality of life and a national poll of First Nation people living on reserve show that 71 % of respondents agree that providing the tools for good governance will improve conditions for development. A follow up poll in June this year revealed that almost 9 0f 10 First Nations people believe that settlement of land claims will provide land and resources necessary to expand their economic opportunities. Most reporter concern about quality of life issues such as housing, education, early childhood issues. A national action plan is being developed to secure safe and clean water supply. The government of Canada is taking action for ensuring clean drinking water, reviewing how best to narrow the unacceptable gap in academic results and to develop recommendations to increase educational opportunities and workforce participation for aboriginal peoples.

On June 13, Canadian Center for Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims was established to change lack of transparency and fairness. Government of Canada has introduced the First Nations Governance Act which will supply modern governance tools missing from the Indian Act. It will update voting. Urban Aboriginal Strategy for IPs living in cities will be complementary to respond to the news of urban indigenous peoples. In October 2001, a Devolution transfer agreement was signed and a new Yukon Act was introduced which will provide Yukon government with control and management of land and resources of land in the Yukon. The revised Yukon Act will come into effect in April 2003. The most recent comprehensive claim agreement was signed with Yukon first nation; Ta’an Kwach’an Council (TKC) will retain approximately 785 sq kilometers of land. In addition, the FN will receive 26 million dollars over the next fifteen years and have access to $4.9 million from a strategic investment fund. Four Yukon First Nations are reaching completion of their final stages of claims agreements. Canada is committed to bringing these claims aimed to improve quality of life for FN. We move forward in collaboration with our partners and with respect where economic and social development goes hand in hand.

Saganash Diom Romeo, Grand Council of the Crees
I am honored and privileged to be here today. Our hope is that this important work will continue until IPs achieve full recognition and full enjoyment of all rights. Many individuals and organizations have made a tremendous impact. Bob Epstein is a common friend of both you and me. He has been diagnosed with fatal disease. Mr. Epstein would have wanted to be part of the official presence. I would like to pay homage to his work as one of the true warriors. I am honored to report to you that a final agreement was reached and signed Feb 7, 2002 and was unprecedented on issues such as partnership in development, right to benefit development in own land, and recognition of Cree people as a nation. I cite this agreement as an example for the world to follow.

Chair Miguel Alfonso Martinez
I have been hard hit regarding news of Mr. Epstein. He has been workin