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Indigenous Peoples and the European Union launch Indigenous Navigator

The Indigenous Navigator Initiative was promoted as an innovative tool for improving indigenous peoples´access to justice and human development through strategic community based monitoring at a side event co-hosted by the Estonian EU Presidency in cooperation with the European Commission, the International Labour Organization, the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for sustainable development, and Indigenous Navigator Partners on 21st September 2017 in New York.

The global launch of the Indigenous Navigator was held at the United Nations’ Headquarter in New York during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. The European Union took the opportunity to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a high-level panel.

The side event confirmed the commitment by states and international agencies to deliver on indigenous peoples´ rights in the framework of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and presented the Indigenous Navigator as a concrete instrument for documenting most urgent gaps, raising awareness on the relationship between human rights and development, and enhancing the dialogue between indigenous peoples and governments.

H.E. Sven Mikser, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia and representing the EU Presidency described the Indigenous Navigator as “a very useful platform for the promotion and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples” and as a “necessary tool for monitoring the implementation and evaluation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of indigenous peoples and the sustainable development goals”, in his keynote speech, in which he also stressed the importance of exploiting technological progress for the benefit of protecting indigenous peoples´ rights.

The EU reaffirms its commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples

Referring to indigenous peoples as “important change agents”, EU commissioner on international cooperation and development, Mr. Neven Mimica, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to support indigenous peoples in their demands for the recognition and respect for their rights in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

“Too often their collective voice is not heard. They remain some of the most marginalised peoples in the world”, Mr. Mimica said about indigenous peoples and presented the Indigenous Navigator as one concrete initiative supported by the EU to engage and empower indigenous peoples to eradicate poverty and inequality.

The 2017 European Consensus on Development commits the EU and its Member States to give special attention to indigenous peoples as a group facing disadvantages and marginalization while underlining the importance of respecting the rights of indigenous and local communities in support of conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.

The European Union also recently reaffirmed its’ commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in its Council Conclusions on Indigenous Peoples of 15 May 2017.

Among other things, the council resolution highlights the priority of actions to address discrimination and inequalities based on indigenous origin and identity and actions to address violence against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders. 

As part of its commitments to improve indigenous peoples’ access to justice and to make the sustainable development goals work for indigenous peoples, over the next three years, the European Union is supporting the development and application of the Indigenous Navigator in a number of indigenous communities in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

The project is expected to contribute to enhanced visibility and participation of indigenous peoples in the implementation of the 2030 agenda.

A holistic tool for monitoring indigenous peoples´rights

In the second part of the event, Ms. Birgitte Feiring from the Danish Institute of Human Rights led the audience through a short introduction to the Indigenous Navigator framework, allowing them a first glimpse of the vision behind the initiative as a pioneering approach. 

The Indigenous Navigator provides an enabling set of community-based tools that can be used by indigenous peoples worldwide to gather information on their rights and development against an integrated framework grounded in international human rights instruments such as UNDRIP and Convention No. 169 and also aligned with key SDGs targets and indicators of particular relevance for indigenous peoples.

The Indigenous Navigator seeks to reinforce the capacity of indigenous peoples to gather their own data and conduct evidence-based advocacy and engagement with policy and decision makers at different levels. It also reinforces their contributions to the design, implementation and monitoring of public policies affecting them.

The presentation was followed by the testimonies of local experiences of testing the Indigenous Navigator on the ground, shared by Mr. Stanley Ole Kimaren Riamit, Executive Director of ILEPA, Kenya, and Mr. Phallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation in Bangladesh.

Mr. Kimaren related how implementing the Indigenous Navigator in pastoralist communities in Kenya and Tanzania made him realize that existing frameworks for reporting are distant from the daily dynamics and realities of local indigenous peoples.

The Indigenous Navigator appears to be one of the greatest efforts to establish a framework and tools to translate textual gains into meaningful respect of human rights for indigenous peoples

As a contrast, “the Indigenous Navigator appears to be one of the greatest efforts to establish a framework and tools to translate textual gains into meaningful respect of human rights for indigenous peoples”, he said.

He told how the Indigenous Navigator provides “a landscape approach to monitoring human rights instruments”,  giving a complete picture of rights as opposed to the fragmented realities shown by single instruments based approaches whereby gender rights, children rights, etc. are monitored separately.

Providing a nexus where all these rights can be monitored together, the Indigenous Navigator has also turned out to be a very powerful tool for awareness-raising of indigenous community members, Kimaren said. 

The 2030 agenda as a historic opportunity to link development to human rights

The 10th anniversary the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a reason for celebration, but also an occasion to reflect on ways and means to accelerate efforts in support of the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide and to explore innovative approaches, alliances and partnerships for ensuring that indigenous peoples are not left behind on the path to 2030.

“Celebration does not leave room for complacency. The 2030 Agenda brings a new dimension to the work on promoting the respects for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, their cultural diversity and their inclusion”, said Ms. Elena Kakku, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, who together with the Spanish state representative encouraged the upholding of indigenous peoples´ voices in the years to come, calling on member states and indigenous peoples to contribute to the discussion of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Ms. Joan Carling, representing the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable development welcomed the commitment and support expressed by EU member states and institutions, and mentioned partnerships with member states and international bodies of government as essential to securing indigenous peoples’ human rights in the 2030 agenda.

She stressed the importance of the “leaving-no-behind” pledge in the global agenda, but also the need to seriously reflect on models of sustainable development, which are transformative, inclusive and just.

“The world needs IPs to reverse the business-as-usual-approach based on massive resource extraction, economic domination and control of resources and technologies by the powerful and few”, Ms. Carling said.

About the event

The event was opened by an Indigenous Cultural Ceremony performed by Ms. Olga Letykai, followed by a roundtable discussion moderated by the ILO, including the current EU Presidency of Estonia, representatives of the European Commission, Finland, Canada, Spain, Chile, Indigenous Peoples' Mayor Group, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and indigenous peoples. The side event was followed by a networking reception and a cultural performance by indigenous artists.

Watch the whole side EU-event here


Supported by the European Union


© Indigenous Navigator 2018

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The Indigenous Navigator provides a set of tools for indigenous peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights.

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