During the second week of the 2016 session of the UNPFII in New York, the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group presented a statement pinpointing their major concerns regarding the respect of indigenous peoples’ rights in this global effort.
Indigenous peoples lag behind in all measurements of human development. Root causes for indigenous peoples’ being left behind are complex and include, in many cases, disregarding their rights and discrimination. A common denominator among all regions is the lack of disaggregated data.
The absence of reliable numbers and data on human development has led to misguided analysis of discrimination and specific conditions of indigenous peoples and resulted to inappropriate development interventions increasing the gap between indigenous peoples and rest of the population.
Indigenous peoples' recommendations
The Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group summarised the obstacles faced by indigenous peoples in the SDGs:
- Non-recognition of indigenous peoples as distinct groups with specific perspectives and rights
- Lack of meaningful participation in designing and implementing development interventions
- Public policy that is not culturally sensitive
- Excessive focus on economic growth with less attention to environment and social dimensions
The Indigenous Peoples Major Group also stressed the urgent need to legally recognise and secure the customary lands and resources of indigenous peoples, and empowerment of indigenous women as key elements in achieving the SDGs.
In order to ensure effective participation of indigenous peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Major Group raised their recommendations to the Permanent Forum. They called for:
- Strengthen the collaboration for the engagement of indigenous peoples in the SDG processes
- Inclusion of the indicator on the legal recognition of the customary land rights of indigenous peoples for the targets under Goal 1 and 2
- To call on UN agencies, funds and programmes to establish partnerships with indigenous peoples’ organisations
- To urge States to establish specific mechanisms for consultation, participation and representation of indigenous peoples in local and national processes
- To call on States to allocate adequate funding and resources to implement appropriate plans and strategies designed with indigenous peoples
A call to respect indigenous visions
What lies behind these recommendations is the strong call to respect distinct visions of sustainable development. Historical and continuing colonisation and institutionalised racism have made indigenous peoples vulnerable in mainstream development processes in both developed and developing countries. Most indicators of well-being demonstrate that indigenous peoples are disadvantaged compared to other populations in all countries where they live.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda must heed the advice of UN mandate holders and experts on indigenous peoples issues to address their distinct circumstances by upholding their rights to determine their own visions of sustainable development.