Summary: Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, Gender and Development
Improving international cooperation with indigenous peoples
||18 July 2002, 14:00-15:30
Moderator(s):|| • Mr. Adelard Blackman, Buffalo River Dene Nation|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Ms. Lounes Belkacem, Congrès Mondial Amazigh|
• Ms. Alejandra Pero, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
• Mr. Marc Steinlin, Helvetas
• Mr. David Lin, LanAn Christian Culture and Education Foundation
• Ms. Mililani Trask, Na Koa Ikaika O Ka Lahui Hawaii (NHLI)
||Synopsis by Maria Peñaloza (WWSF) in consultation with Sylvia Biss and Anaïs Gfeller
||Civil society, indigenous peoples, development, gender
In this working group session on Indigenous Peoples, Gender and Development, a panellist from the UN talked about the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with indigenous peoples, and then various NGO representatives talked about the obstacles to the participation of many indigenous peoples in UN and government decision-making processes that have enormous impacts on their lives, standards of living, and their traditional territories.
Mr. Alejandra Pero explained how UNDP has embraced the concept of human development, looking at human rights-based criteria as well as financial criteria in development projects. She also said that donor communities are using a more participatory approach when working with NGOs and indigenous peoples. ILO Convention 169 provides standards for working with indigenous peoples, with a less paternalistic approach than the previous convention. Deadlines are now being set for action by
Governments, and strategies are designed to tackle problems governments cannot deal with alone. Ms. Pero recommends that indigenous peoples strengthen their networks and lobby governments in order to achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
Marc Steinlin of INCOMINDIOS (Helvetas) stressed that development projects be human rights based. He stated that about 60% of development projects reinforce existing conflicts or fail to improve them. More and more international NGOs act by strengthening and training indigenous peoples' organizations. The right to self-development is a crucial
prerequisite of any development project: indigenous peoples must determine for themselves what their needs are. Mr. Steinlin added that land rights issues must be resolved for any development project to work.
David Lin from the Lau-En Foundation in Taiwan described the desperate situation of the Yamei
Tribe, an indigenous community from Orchid Island in Taiwan, dependent on fishing for their livelihood. In 1982, without consulting the Yamei people, the Taiwanese
Government established a nuclear waste site on the island. As a result, cancer levels are rising and fish are dying. Mr. Lin appealed to the UN and the international community for help to resolve this issue, which should be of concern to all since nuclear waste is an international problem.
Mililani Trask, representing the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, traced the problems facing the world and indigenous peoples to excessive consumption of natural resources by industrialized societies. According to the Convention on Biodiversity, the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples should be consulted, and discussions should be about benefit sharing, not profit sharing. Ms. Trask said that the theft of indigenous resources continues, which is why the right to self-determination is crucial. Ms. Trask disagrees with ILO Convention 169, which she
said does not give indigenous peoples the right to self-determination, due to the fact that it says in small print that the word "peoples" means nothing under international law. Instead, she
recommended that the World Civil Society Forum (WCSF) lobby for UN adoption of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is being blocked by a handful of powerful nations. She also
recommended that all organizations working with indigenous peoples make sure they consult them and include them in decision-making processes. She concluded by pointing out that indigenous peoples are poor and need financing, in order to attend conferences such as the WCSF.
In the discussion that followed, it was pointed out that commercialization has impacted how we live our lives, encouraging people to deplete natural resources. Traditionally, the use of such resources was accompanied by a ritual. These rituals prohibited the use of resources at certain times to ensure they were renewed. One participant observed that patents, which are contrary to sharing, are not the right way to preserve traditional knowledge. Rather, indigenous peoples must own their land, and civil society should partner with them. A Mapuche representative recommended that UN agents come to visit them in their communities and listen to their needs.
Presenters' Documents Available
18.10_steinlin_marc.doc (236 K)
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