15 May 2007
Department of Public Information
News and Media Division
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
INDIGENOUS RIGHTS TO LAND RESOURCES BASIS
FOR COLLECTIVE SURVIVAL,
INEXTRICABLY LINKED TO SELF-DETERMINATION, FORUM TOLD
Two-Week Session Opens at Headquarters with Speakers Stressing
Importance of General Assembly Adoption of Declaration on Indigenous Rights
Indigenous peoples’ right to lands, territories and natural resources was the
basis for their collective survival, as it was inextricably linked to their
right to self-determination, free pursuit of appropriate development and sacred
responsibilities to the world, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Issues was told today.
Frustrated by what they saw as near-complete disregard for their rights to
access and manage their communal lands and natural resources, representatives of
indigenous groups called strongly on the 16-member Forum to make concrete
recommendations to United Nations agencies and member States that could bring
justice and restitution to the world’s marginalized native peoples.
Focusing on the special theme “Territories, lands and natural resources”, and
echoing a Forum expert’s warning that “land is not just something to buy and
sell”, one speaker from a South America indigenous group agreed that land, water
and natural resources were indeed living beings. “They are happy when we treat
them well, but suffer when they are exploited irrationally,” he said.
Development in the name of progress was prompting Governments to make mining,
oil and genetic concessions that violated international standards created to
protect indigenous rights.
The first indigenous parliamentarian to address the Forum, a representative of
Norway’s Sami Parliament, said Inuit and Sami peoples should be guaranteed their
rights to lands and natural resources. They also had the right to
self-determination and full representation in environmental management. States
were not only obliged to identify lands traditionally used by indigenous
peoples, but also to provide legal protection according to traditional customs
and laws. Indigenous groups had the right to be effectively consulted and to
share in profits derived from their lands.