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Permanent Forum’s Twenty-First Session to Focus on Equal Treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Commercial Operations, 25 April-6 May

Press Release

Following two consecutive years of virtual sessions, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will take place this year in a hybrid format, open to in-person and online participation.  Running from 25 April to 6 May 2022, the twenty-first session of the Permanent Forum will focus on indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior and informed consent.

Incoming Permanent Forum Chair Dario Jose Mejia Montalvo remarked:  “As indigenous peoples, we share a harmonious relationship with our lands and territories, which is why we have preserved our spirituality and the rights of other natural beings.  Our lands, territories and resources are attractive for the interests of companies and investments.  Time and time again we have seen extractive operations exploiting the lands, territories and waters of indigenous peoples, which profoundly affect their right to self-determination, as guaranteed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“States and businesses must respect the principles of free, prior and informed consent, and treat indigenous peoples as equal partners in all commercial operations related to their lands,” he added.

Although international legal frameworks contain provisions for indigenous peoples and their lands and resources, including in business contexts, an implementation gap persists.  More than 200 environmental defenders were killed in 2020 — over a third of them were indigenous defenders denouncing resource exploitation (logging, mining and large-scale agribusiness).  Indigenous defenders also face judicial harassment, death threats and violent attacks, and have limited access to effective remedy to such human rights violations.

The session will open at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, 25 April, with a ceremonial welcome by Katsenhaienton Lazare, Bear Clan, Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee.  Statements will be delivered by President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid; the President of the Economic and Social Council, Collen Vixen Kelapile; the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Dario Jose Mejia Montalvo; and the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Maria-Francesca Spatolisano.

The Permanent Forum will also discuss issues relating to the pandemic recovery and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and hold meetings with the Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls.  All sessions will take place in a hybrid format accommodating both in-person and remote participation.  All sessions can be viewed live on UN Web TV, and interpretation in all six official United Nations languages will be available.

Side events

Over 100 side events are scheduled to take place during the two-week session, arranged by indigenous peoples’ organizations, United Nations Member States, United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders.  All side events are organized virtually.  The full list of side events can be found at bit.ly/3JTOMHh.

Background

Indigenous peoples make up less than 6 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest.  They live across some 90 countries, represent 5,000 different cultures and speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2000.  The Forum provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the United Nations system through the Economic and Social Council; raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of relevant activities within the United Nations system; and disseminates information on indigenous issues.

The Permanent Forum is comprised of 16 independent experts, functioning in their personal capacity.  The Economic and Social Council appoints the members, eight of whom are nominated by Governments and eight by indigenous peoples’ organizations from the different regions of the world.  The Forum has gained increasing recognition and impact as the global platform for dialogue, cooperation and concrete action on indigenous peoples, with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the fundamental framework.

The Permanent Forum is conscious that indigenous peoples have faced serious challenges in participating in the upcoming Forum, given the travel restrictions due to the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic. The United Nations Secretariat has attempted to mitigate these challenges by facilitating hybrid meetings.

For media queries please contact Julia Hagl, United Nations Department of Global Communications, at email:  [email protected]

To contact the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, please contact Gemma Kentish at email:  [email protected]

For more information on the twenty-first session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, please see bit.ly/3J2viRf.

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