Indigenous groups of Latin America and the Caribbean asked the United Nations for an international mechanism to monitor the commitments made by countries concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, after years of seeing those rights violated.
At an Informal Interactive Hearing at the UN headquarters in New York this week, indigenous groups proposed the creation of a “panel of experts”, whom would have the authority to monitor and recommend policies to governments concerning indigenous rights in their respective countries, forcing the state to take responsibility for promises they make in front of the UN.
According to José Antonio Medina, a representative of the Latin American and Caribbean Indigenous Peoples, “We want to be provided with this mechanism of authority so that it can put pressure on governments. We know that the plan is long term, and would not be immediate, but we have to work to implement these international instruments."
The proposed panel of experts would look similar to the functioning of the Human Rights Council, which regularly issues reports and recommendations to countries.
The assembly followed the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that took place May 11th and 12th, where they discussed the challenges facing indigenous communities worldwide. The special theme around the forum was “Good Governance”.
At the May meetings, they heard from a range of expert panellists from around the world about the various violations by the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – including everything from systemic abuse, racial discrimination and land appropriation.
UN General Assembly President John Ashe said that the discussions had brought to light the universal relevance of values which particularly concern the indigenous peoples, such as the freedom from discrimination, the right to live in freedom, peace and security, the protection of biodiversity, good governance, the sustainable management of natural resources, cultural diversity, among others.
The June 17th-18th meeting of the General Assembly was held in preparation for the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that will be held in New York September 22-23rd. This world conference will be the first of its kind.
The intent of the assembly was to provide a dialogue within the UN around indigenous issues that would contribute to the outcome of the World Conference.
“We need to create a convincing dialogue with the State. It´s important that as indigenous we pass from making complaints to making proposals,” said Medina.
Present at the assembly were representatives of indigenous peoples, entities of the United Nations system, academic institutions, national human rights institutions, parliamentarians, civil society and non-governmental organizations.