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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL STARTS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH VICE-CHAIRPERSON OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
18 September 2012

The Human Rights Council this afternoon started an interactive dialogue with the Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee after concluding its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Jean Ziegler, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, introducing the reports of the Advisory Committee, said problems studied and considered by the Advisory Committee concerned the rights of farmers and those working in rural areas whose lands had been seized and the problem of infant malnutrition and illness.  Other studies included underprivileged rural populations and rural women who also saw multiple violations of the right to food.   Other key issues looked at were the better understanding of traditional values and their relationship with human rights, which needed more time to be completed and would be submitted next year.  Human rights and their universality could not be downplayed while traditional values were to be used to understand these norms.  On the issue of hostage taking by terrorists, consultations were ongoing with States and an interim report had been produced.  For the topic of human rights and international solidarity, a draft declaration had been submitted.  The final mandate was that of strengthening international cooperation on human rights.  New mandates were now needed on areas arising from research, which had been submitted to the Council.

In the interactive dialogue, some speakers said that the Advisory Committee had too often strayed from the function for which it had been created and had become an expensive and duplicative effort.  Other speakers said that the Advisory Committee had undergone a particularly intense phase in which it had to consider a number of themes as requested by the Human Rights Council, and thanked the Advisory Committee for the new research proposals it had submitted.

Speaking on the interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee were the United States, Cuba, European Union, Bolivia, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Switzerland, Ireland and Russia.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Speaking in concluding remarks, James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said he would continue to focus on the issue of violence against indigenous women and girls and would incorporate it in all his activities, including country visits.  Governments must undertake serious efforts to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in connection with activities of extractive industries. 

Also in concluding remarks, Wilton Littlechild, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, said regarding the specific report by the Secretary-General on participation that that too was an access to justice issue and in his view, new rules of procedure at the United Nations might have to be looked at to improve the full, direct and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples.

During its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, the following delegations took the floor: Russia, Republic of Congo, Peru, Australia, Norway, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Sweden, El Salvador, United States, Colombia, Canada, Nepal, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Denmark, Estonia, Ecuador, Finland, Paraguay, Austria, Brazil and Malaysia.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke:  Indian Council South America, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, International Indian Treaty Council, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Lawyers Watch Canada, France Libertés and the Colombian Commission of Jurists. 

Malaysia and Nigeria spoke in right of reply.

The Human Rights Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 September to consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain, Ecuador and Tunisia.  At 1 p.m., the Council will continue with its interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Russia said that it welcomed the intention of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to continue consultations with stakeholders and to collect information on advanced experience in the area, as well as to promote dialogue.  Russia had considerable positive experience in achieving progress between business and indigenous peoples.  One of its priorities was the protection, preservation and development of the languages and cultures of indigenous peoples. 

Republic of the Congo said that all violence against women was prohibited and punishable by law.  In the Republic of the Congo, the exploitation of forests for the wood industry in some cases endangered the lives of indigenous people.  The situation was taken into account through law No. 5-2011 of 25 February 2011, on the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous populations.  The Government reiterated its commitment to ensure the effective implementation of that law.

Peru agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the most important starting point was ensuring a holistic approach to tackling violence against indigenous women and girls.  Also important was the need to avoid actions that could undermine the authority and the self-governance of indigenous peoples.  It had to be remembered that discrimination was a principle that was universally recognised in the area of human rights and so national human rights systems had an obligation to dispense justice in a non-discriminatory manner. 

Australia recognized the need for all to work together to ensure that benefits from extractive industries operating within the traditional lands of indigenous peoples could flow to the people who needed it most.  How could policy makers overcome the challenges associated with conflicting views within indigenous communities in relation to extractive industries?  Australia had a zero tolerance policy in relation to violence against women and was committed to reducing all violence; sadly, indigenous women in Australia were 35 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of family violence.

Norway had contributed $ 100,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in the preparatory meetings towards the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The work of the Special Rapporteur on extractive industries and indigenous peoples had contributed to increased knowledge and awareness of the topic.  Governments and businesses were increasingly taking those issues on board and the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights played a key role in this development.

Venezuela agreed with the Special Rapporteur regarding the obligations of States to combat violence against women.  Venezuela had developed public policies geared to strengthening the rights of indigenous women and girls through the creation of a home for women.  Venezuela had recognized the rights of the indigenous peoples to use their ancestral land and they had the right to participate in the implementation of development projects on their land and using their natural resources.

Chile highlighted the importance of a holistic approach and noted that there were characteristic features which were linked to multiple and aggravated discrimination against indigenous peoples.  Concerning the issue of extractive industries, some of the elements from the guiding principles on business and human rights should be operationalized to address the needs of indigenous peoples; consultations were crucial.  Regarding the reports of the Expert Mechanism, Chile supported the proposal for a study on access to justice and expressed support for the draft resolution presented by Guatemala and Mexico.

Bolivia reiterated its energetic rejection of legal doctrines and attitudes that perpetrated discrimination against indigenous peoples and their rights and welcomed the contribution of indigenous peoples in the preservation of World Heritage sites.  In order to fight violence against indigenous women and children it was necessary to address structural legacies inherited from colonialism and discrimination.  Bolivia appreciated the follow-up to the reports of the Expert Mechanism and reiterated the request to ensure that all reports in the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on indigenous peoples were translated into Spanish.

Sweden said the Laponia World Heritage site had involved a long and very challenging but worthwhile process and that the management structure of the site now included representatives of the Sami villages, the municipalities, and the national protection agency.  The “protect, respect, and remedy” framework incorporated into the guiding principles on business and human rights should apply to advance the right of indigenous peoples concerning extractive industries.  Sweden expected companies to apply these principles in Sampi and, as Chair of the Arctic Council, had launched a corporate social responsibility initiative. 

El Salvador said that it shared the many conclusions that appeared in the report of the Special Rapporteur.  The Government of El Salvador recognised that its society was multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural and thus had created a Secretariat for Social Inclusion.  In October 2010, El Salvador had for the first time held a national indigenous congress that established a frank and good-faith dialogue with different indigenous representations and Government institutions, with the aim of seeking mechanisms to respond in a coordinated manner to the fulfilling of the rights of indigenous peoples.

United States said that one option to involve indigenous peoples in the preparatory process of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was to hold prepcoms in the seven indigenous regions.  There could also be two outcome documents to the Conference.  The first would be concise and contain targeted and concrete proposals on protecting the collective rights of indigenous peoples, while the second could consist of summaries of the roundtables and panel discussions presented during the closing plenary session, including presentations of representatives of indigenous groups.

Colombia said that Colombia had a broad based legal framework that recognised the rights of 84 national indigenous peoples.  There were 710 indigenous reservations where these peoples owned the land and the indigenous authorities enjoyed special State authority status.  Dialogue and work between indigenous communities and the State was possible, as attested by the successful experience in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta where there once again was peace.

Canada said that the natural resources sector was an important contributor to global economic development and job creation.  Canada recognized a legal duty to consult and encouraged Canadian companies working internationally to respect all applicable laws and international standards.  Violence against indigenous women and girls was an issue of grave concern around the world and Canada was working in partnership with provincial and territorial Governments, Aboriginal people and others to take concrete steps to improve the response of the law enforcement and justice system. 

Nepal attached high priority to the rights of indigenous peoples, especially women and girls.  It had adopted various legislative measures to protect their rights.  Combating violence against women and girls and providing remedies and reparation remained key priorities in Nepal, which had promulgated the Domestic Violence Act in 2009 and launched the special programme against gender-based violence in 2010.  Nepal asked what factors should be considered while learning lessons from best practices of other States in the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Cuba said that the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 represented a historical victory, but was not an end in itself.  It had marked a new phase in the quest for the recognition of the rights of millions of indigenous peoples, especially the rights to their own institutions, culture and protection from racism and discrimination.  The United Nations must play a crucial role in taking action to remedy the five centuries of discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Sri Lanka welcomed the efforts by the Office of the High Commissioner to give voice to indigenous people’s rights in the Council and its mechanisms, and acknowledged the Expert Mechanism’s study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion of rights and identity of indigenous peoples, including the consideration of best practices.  Indigenous peoples had the right to maintain and safeguard their identity and the Government’s policy had an inclusive policy in the development process and took into consideration their specific aspirations in order to preserve their cultural identity and way of life.

Denmark was pleased to note the focus of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the issue of indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making in the context of extractive industries.  Denmark asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on his vision for future work on women and children; and, concerning the 2014 World Conference, on how to make the preparatory process and its results as inclusive as possible.  Denmark also asked how the Expert Mechanism would approach the coming thematic study on access to justice.
 
Estonia said that the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples had always been among the priorities of Estonia’s human rights agenda.  Attention should be paid to the protection of women and children.  Promoting the participation of women in political and economic life would help increase the importance of women in society and the combat of discrimination and violence against women should be intensified.  Estonia encouraged the Special Rapporteur to pay closer attention to new technologies for indigenous peoples and welcomed the establishment of an informal academic network by the Expert Mechanism.

Ecuador said that Ecuador had implemented concrete measures for the rights of indigenous peoples, including the implementation of affirmative action related to economic and social policies and the development of a pluri-national plan for the elimination of racial discrimination.  Ecuador had also created a National Policy for the Protection of Peoples in Situations of Voluntary Isolation.

Finland said that the issue of violence against women and girls was a complex one, related to many structural reasons like unequal division of power as well as discrimination, and fighting indeed required a holistic approach.  Both their rights as women and children as well as their rights as indigenous peoples needed to be advanced.  Finland also called for urgent and special measures to be taken in the revitalisation of indigenous languages.

Paraguay said that in the world indigenous women and girls were subject to different forms of violence, all of these hampering the enjoyment of their rights, especially given that they often faced different forms of discrimination.  Paraguay agreed with the Special Rapporteur that violence against them had to take into account the culture of indigenous people and the respect for human rights, in particular the principle of gender equality.  

Austria said that violence against women remained a global problem and there were far too many women suffering from violence committed against them.  A holistic approach at the international and regional levels, taking into account the specific needs of victims of violence was needed.  This issue illustrated the need to further address and take into account multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination as well as gender inequalities at large.  Austria encouraged the Special Rapporteur to actively participate in the first session of the forum on business and human rights. 

Brazil said the State had a protective role in ensuring a framework that recognised indigenous peoples’ rights that may be affected by extractive operations.  Brazilian law ensured that an informed consultation process was carried out in good faith and in a culturally appropriate manner, aimed at enabling indigenous peoples to take part in the decision-making processes that affected them.  An inter-ministerial group had been created and would propose a legal instrument on the basis of consultations.  Such measures demonstrated the Brazilian commitment to implement international standards of protection. 

Malaysia reaffirmed its support and commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.  Combating violence against indigenous women required a holistic approach and could not be addressed in isolation from other rights in general.  A proper consultative mechanism involving the indigenous people in the decision-making process of the extractive industries on or near indigenous territories was necessary.  In Malaysia, ongoing efforts for the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights continued through comprehensive policies and strategies for the development of the status and quality of life of indigenous peoples.

Indian Council of South America said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not the sole source of law that indigenous peoples could harness to realize their rights.   The Indian Council of South America could not accept a process that would systematically reduce the scope and application of indigenous rights and did not accept the reduced modalities in the World Conference.

Permanent Assembly of Human Rights was concerned by the situation of some indigenous peoples in Argentina, whose rights were violated despite being recognised in the constitution as was rightly noticed by the Special Rapporteur.  They were the victims of violence, often with the approval of provincial authorities.  The Permanent Assembly requested the State to take the necessary measures to prevent the persecution and harassment of indigenous peoples.

International Indian Treaty Council said that when extractive industries were carried out in indigenous lands and territories, the rights of indigenous women and girls were impacted in various ways.  Treaties could provide a solution and a tool to address violence against indigenous women and girls, as well as the broader violation of the rights of indigenous peoples with regard to extractive industries.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom referred to its participation during the visit of the Special Rapporteur to Argentina.  Indigenous organizations had actively participated and shared his conclusions and concerns and hoped for a genuine dialogue with the State.  Indigenous peoples in Argentina continued to lack the implementation of the right to consultation, as established by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169.  They continued to suffer from exploitation by extractive industries and from discrimination.  Argentina counted with abundant legislation but it was not implemented.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada welcomed the recommendations and the findings that States needed to take a holistic approach to preventing and punishing violence.  Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada noted that despite the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressing concern about violence experienced by indigenous women and girls in Canada, a lack of equal access to justice remained as a global problem that continued to fuel human rights abuses against them.  States should urgently address this.

France Libertés : Fondacion Danielle Mitterrand wanted to mention the amendment to the Argentine Civil Code for which no consultation had been foreseen even though this had been denounced by human rights organizations.  If this was adopted it would promote indigenous evictions.  The regulation on community ownership was not included in this and though Argentina promoted this as bringing domestic law in line, it could not be argued that it met standards in force.

Columbian Commission of Jurists said the survival of indigenous people was being threatened by extractive industries and said the responsibility for their protection was within a legal framework agreed by the State.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office in Colombia said the appropriate consent had not been acquired from the communities for projects and it was crucial that the Special Rapporteur monitored how to harmonise rural development policy. Infrastructure projects should also be monitored for their appropriateness.

Concluding Remarks

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, in concluding remarks expressed satisfaction at the action that the United States was taking to address the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur and wished to hear more about the steps to address root causes, historical conditions and acts of oppression that continued to be felt by the indigenous peoples in this country today.  With regard to Argentina, the Special Rapporteur noted the progress made in the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples since his visit.  He noted the expressions of concern heard about the reforms of the Civil Code currently underway in Argentina and wished to hear more about how indigenous peoples were consulted in this reform.  Mr. Anaya commended Norway for its action on the rights of the Sami people and the steps it had taken to implement the recommendations from the country visit.  The Special Rapporteur would continue to focus on the issue of violence against indigenous women and girls and would incorporate it all in his activities, including country visits.  Also, a further study into extractive industries would take place next year, with a specific focus on its impact on women.  Mr. Anaya stressed that Governments must undertake serious efforts to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in connection with activities of extractive industries. 

WILTON LITTLECHILD, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Persons, in concluding remarks thanked all those that took the floor. Barriers and challenges had been mentioned but also alternative solutions that merited attention.  Mr. Littlechild thanked Norway and Sweden for their expressed contributions to the Voluntary Fund.  On access to justice, he was encouraged by the many comments focusing on women but also by the mention of traditional courts and systems, as it was important to also look at traditional approaches to justice of indigenous peoples.  Ironically, it was noted that courts and court rulings were barriers to access to justice.  Regarding the specific report by the Secretary-General on participation, that too was an access to justice issue and in his view, new rules of procedure at the United Nations might have to be looked at to improve the full, direct and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples.  Also perhaps meriting some consideration was that a handbook on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples be made for the judiciary.  A continuous dialogue should be maintained between State representatives and indigenous representatives. 

Right of Reply

Malaysia said the amendment to the Malaysia Evidence Act (Section 114) meant that the owner of a computer on which abusive material was published was presumed to be responsible.  This was not a presumption of guilt but could be rebutted by the provision of evidence.  This shielded people from online attacks which could be done under the cloak of anonymity and so that people did not become victims of cyber-bullying.

Documentation

The Council has before it a note by the Secretariat on the report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on its seventh, eighth and ninth sessions (A/HRC/21/56).

The Council has before it the report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on traditional values and human rights (A/HRC/21/57).

The Council has before it the interim report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the issue of hostage-taking by terrorist groups (A/HRC/21/58).

The Council has before it the final paper on human rights and international solidarity prepared by Chen Shiqiu on behalf of the drafting group on human rights and international solidarity of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (A/HRC/21/66).

Presentation by the Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

JEAN ZIEGLER, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, presented a report on the work of the Advisory Committee during its last three sessions.  On the right to food, he said the Food and Agriculture Organization had shown that the world could sustain twice its population on the current levels of food production, the issue was instead access.  Problems studied and considered concerned the rights of farmers and those working in rural areas whose lands had been seized and the problem of infant malnutrition and illness.  Other studies included underprivileged rural populations and rural women who also saw multiple violations of the right to food.  Each of these studies had been accepted by the Council.  Other key issues looked at were the better understanding of traditional values and their relationship with human rights, which needed more time to be completed and would be submitted next year.  Human rights and their universality could not be downplayed while traditional values were to be used to understand these norms.  On the issue of hostage taking by terrorists, consultations were ongoing with States and an interim report had been produced, though again more time was needed for this.  For the topic of human rights and international solidarity, a draft declaration had been submitted and it was up to the Council to decide when to take action on it.  The final mandate was that of strengthening international cooperation on human rights and replies from Missions had been included and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was to organize a seminar based on the study.  New mandates were now needed on areas arising from research, which had been submitted to the Council.

Interactive Dialogue with the Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

United States said that the Advisory Committee had too often strayed from the function for which it had been created, namely to provide expertise to the Council on issues within the Council’s mandate and consistent with the guidance by the Human Rights Council.  Also, the Advisory Committee had become an expensive and duplicative effort and its work had already been covered more extensively by other mechanisms.  Future work of the Advisory Committee should not be duplicated in other forums and it should not be assigned research beyond the mandate of the Council.

Cuba said that the Advisory Committee had undergone a particularly intense phase in which it had to consider a number of themes as requested by the Human Rights Council, such as the right to peace, enhancement of international cooperation in the area of human rights, and others.  The main role of the Advisory Committee was to provide expertise and new research for the Human Rights Council.  Cuba thanked the Advisory Committee for the new research proposals it had submitted and said that the Council would examine them in their own merit.

European Union said that the revised draft report on traditional values now reflected a more balanced view of the negative impacts they could have on human rights and was concerned about the potential misuse of the non-defined concept of traditional values.  The European Union said that some of the proposals in the study on human rights issues related to terrorist hostage-taking did not fall within the mandate of the Human Rights Council, particularly the drafting of new international instruments on the matter.  The value added of the work of the Advisory Committee was in its focus on human rights and not in expanding its remit without mandate.

Bolivia wanted to refer to the final study on promoting the rights of people in rural areas where the Advisory Committee warned about the vulnerability of and discrimination against persons living in these areas, often fuelled by extreme poverty.  The report concluded that the current instruments were not appropriate to reverse the conditions and recommended a declaration on the rights of farmers.  Bolivia appealed to States to support the proposal.

Republic of Korea believed the study on local government and human rights would be meaningful as the work of local governments in realizing human rights in people’s daily lives could be significant in many ways.  The theme of human rights and humanitarian action was also welcomed as the Human Rights Council had not considered this issue in detail although the number of people with their rights threatened in the context of humanitarian crises was on the rise.

Venezuela recognised the valuable work of the Advisory Committee, saying it had produced significant analyses, including the draft declaration on education and training, the right to peace, international solidarity, and the right to food.  The future topics suggested were worth looking at and Venezuela would offer assistance to the Advisory Committee.  It was important that the Advisory Committee could work in total independence.

Switzerland welcomed the efforts made in order to balance the preliminary study on traditional values and, in particular, concerning the negative impact some of them may have on the enjoyment of human rights in the case of women or minority groups.  State obligations derived from international instruments were not up for interpretation and Switzerland hoped that the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity would appear in the final report of the Advisory Committee.

Ireland said that while the Advisory Committee acted as a think-tank and reported to the Council it was also legitimate to look at its work in terms of the wider United Nations system and national Governments, such as integrating different human rights themes and to identify lacunae, including on implementation.  While international humanitarian law and refugee law provided a solid basis for the protection of those affected by conflict or complex emergencies, norms in relation to victims of natural disasters were less developed.

Russia said it was necessary to make greater use of the potential of the Advisory Committee, welcomed the proposals put forward by Mr. Ziegler and hoped that the work of the Advisory Committee would be fully consistent with its mandate.  Russia informed the Committee that in the draft resolution which Russia intended to submit to this session concerning traditional values, it intended to note that the work of the Advisory Committee was carried out within its mandate and to propose to the Council to give the Advisory Committee additional time to prepare the report.

Algeria took note of the new research proposals by the Advisory Committee and said that traditional values could not be invoked to justify human rights violations.  The Advisory Committee should move forward and finalize this study.  International solidarity could be a basis to resolve temporary problems of humankind and that was why the Advisory Committee should cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the issue and complete the study. 

Right of Reply

Nigeria, speaking in a right of reply concerning the accusations by a non-governmental organization against Nigeria of violating the rights of indigenous peoples and grabbing of the Ogoni land without prior content in River State, said that this could not happen.  The River State was looking into development of the state and Nigeria confirmed that it had established the hydrocarbon pollution project to deal with environmental fallout of oil exploration and production.  Nigeria denied that scores of Ogoni people had been killed in the quest for land; this could not happen in a democratic country like Nigeria.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC12/110E