Summary: Joint Session between the Working Group on Environment, Trade and Sustainable Development and the Working Group on Human Development
The role of indigenous peoples and civil society to implement sustainable development
This joint session brought together members of the Working on Environment, Trade and Sustainable Development and the Working Group on Human Development to talk about the role of indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in promoting sustainable development.
Ms. Vicky Tauli Corpuz from the Tebtebba Foundation stated in her opening that indigenous peoples are fundamental to sustainable development. She said that indigenous peoples are expressing concern about the environmental harm caused by the effects of the liberalization of investment. She also said that the Tebtebba Foundation, with its focus on 'mainstreaming' Agenda 21 (the conclusions of the Earth Summit in Rio 1992), was instrumental in the insertion of Chapter 26, which recognizes the importance of the involvement of indigenous peoples. Based on research, her organization makes proposals as to how best to pursue sustainable development projects at conferences such as the forthcoming Indigenous Peoples Summit on Sustainable Development (scheduled to take place in Kimberley, South Africa, in August 2003). Tebtebba supports demands for corporate accountability, and the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
Mr. Marc Rwabahingu, formerly of the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development, talked about good governance as a prerequisite for sustainable development. He also discussed the need for a pan-African law court, and emphasized that corruption was undermining the activities of civil society organizations in Africa. Mr. Rwabahingu said that wars are perpetuated by corrupt and powerful interests as a means of appropriating resources.
Acknowledging that a necessary condition of stable government is an end to the wars that are endemic in many parts of Africa, he issued a plea to those in power to listen to local organizations' demands for greater stability.
Ms. Patricia Borraz presented Almaciga, a support group for indigenous people that works mainly in Latin America. She suggested that NGOs from developed countries should focus more strongly on lobbying their own governments, and she reminded participants that indigenous peoples have clear views about what they need. Ms. Boraz concluded by calling for a cooperative approach among NGOs, aimed at forming strong alliances to advance common goals.
Interesting issues and questions
Mr. Sébastien Magellőes from Formations Sans Frontičres asked that a distinction be made between "tradition" and "sustainability". He
stressed that he had observed an unproductive assumption that all indigenous peoples have sustainable traditions. Mr. Magellőes said that both sustainable and unsustainable traditions are found in most countries and cultures, and to assume that all indigenous peoples are environmentalists is misleading.
The moderator, Mr. Gonzalo Oviedo, asked Mr. Rwabahingu how the corrupt neocolonial democratic systems in Africa could be reconciled with the need for real democracy. Mr. Rwabahingu replied that conflicts first need to be resolved, by international intervention if necessary, and that if one or two countries can form stable democracies, others will follow.
Panelists agreed that indigenous peoples must play a major role in sustainable development and that some of the obstacles to this role include a lack of recognition of indigenous peoples by governments in power and, in some places, by war or civil strife.
Ms. Catarina Ixmata of Guatemala seemed to summarize the general consensus when she passionately asserted indigenous peoples' need for peace and good governance to live according to their customs.
Presenters' Documents Available
18.12_rwabahungu_marc.doc (111 K)
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