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News & Media

16 July 2012

The Human Rights Committee this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Right of Indigenous Peoples in which it discussed the right to self-determination and the right to participation in decision-making, and ways the Committee would work more closely with indigenous peoples.

Jannie Lasimbang, Member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, gave a presentation in which she detailed the differing work of the three Indigenous Mandates – the Expert Mechanism, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Permanent Forum on the Indigenous Issues. The Expert Mechanism, established by the Human Rights Council in September 2007, conducted studies on issues relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, for example education, participation in decision-making processes and indigenous peoples’ participation in extractive industries.

In the ensuing discussion, Experts asked the Expert Mechanism about its work with the Human Rights Council, differences between the Indigenous Mandates in thematic advice and studies and how they took the Committee’s work into account. The Experts agreed that they could engage more with indigenous peoples and received suggestions from the Expert Mechanism on ways that could be followed-up.

The Committee will next meet in public today, 16th July, at 3 p.m. when it begins its review of the third periodic report of Armenia (CCPR/C/ARM/2-3).

Opening Statement

JANNIE LASIMBANG, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, begun by providing a background to the Expert Mechanism, established by the Human Rights Council in December 2007, its mandate and composition. There were three Indigenous Mandates which all used the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a common framework but had distinct mandates. The first, the Expert Mechanism, provided thematic advice to the Human Rights Council and met annually for five days in Geneva with the participation of indigenous peoples, States, non-State actors, academia, national human rights institutions and others. The second body, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, focused on obstacles to the promotion of their rights, gathered information and communications, formulated recommendations, cooperated with other mandates, conducted country visits and undertook thematic studies. The third, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, advised the United Nations Economic and Social Council and promoted integration and coordination of activities on indigenous issues within the United Nations system. The Permanent Forum was currently working on the 2014 World Conference of the Indigenous People.

The first study conducted by the Expert Mechanism had been on education. It focused on education as an indispensable means to indigenous peoples realizing their right to self-determination. Lessons learnt included the need for constitutional recognition, the need to adopt laws and policies on education, and the importance of providing adequate resources. A further study, on participation, focused on the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making; which had a clear relationship with the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, including the right to autonomy of self-government. That meant that the institutions of decision-making should be devised to enable indigenous peoples to make decisions relating to their internal and local affairs and to participate collectively in external decision-making processes. The most recent study, on languages and cultures, focused on indigenous peoples’ participation in extractive industries and would be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September 2012.

Interactive dialogue

In the ensuing discussion the Committee asked the Expert Mechanism to comment on its understanding of the concept of participation and the distinct substantive rights that were emerging from the practice with regard to participation. Experts said the Human Rights Committee could engage more with indigenous peoples, and asked how that could be brought about through the Permanent Forum. The Expert Mechanism was subsidiary organ of the Human Rights Council; how did that affect its work? Could more information be provided on the process of conducting studies and how the Committee’s conclusions, recommendations and observations were taken into account in the work of the Expert Mechanism?

In reply, Ms. Lasimbang said the Expert Mechanism relied mostly on Article 1 in relation to participation and the self-determination of indigenous peoples. There was a lot of interference in internal decision-making within indigenous communities, which others had dismantled. The Expert Mechanism engaged substantively with the Human Rights Council; it was necessary to continue the process based on the studies and encourage more States to consider them and their advice and recommendations. Quite a lot of indigenous peoples had been examining the work of Human Rights Committee and further engagement would be welcome. Such engagement could take place through coordination of the three indigenous peoples’ mandates.

An Expert said the thematic studies by the Expert Mechanism were very useful and encouraged all, including Committee Members, to study them and the advice and recommendations contained therein. He asked what the differences were between the Indigenous Mandates in thematic advice and studies. The Committee worked within the very broad framework of the Covenant and it was very interesting to hear from people who worked in very specific areas, such as persons with disabilities or indigenous peoples. The Committee noted that it may be worth consulting with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people on specific country situations before reviewing that country.

Ms. Lasimbang replied that there were commonalities in thematic approaches by the Indigenous Mandates, but they all tried to look at different aspects of the issue. For example, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples provided his perspective on the thematic studies conducted by the Expert Mechanism, but thematic studies conducted by that mandate were different in a sense that he looked more at communications and recommendations to States. It would be useful to have more interaction with the Human Rights Committee, for example by involving the Committee through the expert meeting.

For use of information media; not an official record