Joint Statement of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples, 6 October 2020
Statement during the General Debate of the Third Committee 75th Session of the General Assembly
New York, 6 October 2020
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thank you, Madam Chair,
I have the honor to make this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples. Together, we are 20 States from different regions of the world.
The Group is comprised by: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, the Kingdom of Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, and my own country, Mexico.
We participate in this General Debate amidst difficult and unprecedented times.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a serious and disproportionate impact on the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples across the world, who account for over 476 million people.
The pandemic poses serious risks to Indigenous Peoples, both in urban and in rural areas, in particular, risks to the health and wellbeing of older persons, persons with underlying health conditions, persons with disabilities, and women and children, as well as persons who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This General Debate is an opportunity to create awareness and to call upon all Member States to address the needs and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Equality, non-discrimination and inclusion must guide our responses to COVID-19, and Indigenous Peoples should take part in their design, implementation, and evaluation.
We must work together with Indigenous Peoples to ensure adequate access to healthcare, medicines, vaccines, and medical equipment. In this endeavour, the effective recognition of the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good is a vital step.
We must work together to take measures to prevent all forms of discrimination and violence, especially those against indigenous women and girls.
It is urgent that States and international organizations provide Indigenous Peoples with adequate, accessible, and reliable information, in a culturally appropriate manner, including through the use of indigenous languages.
In the face of difficulty, Indigenous Peoples have always demonstrated enormous resilience.
Response and recovery efforts must therefore engage with Indigenous Peoples to bolster their resilience and response capacity. We must at all times be respectful of their traditional knowledge and practices; territories and resources.
This year the sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, together with many other important meetings were postponed due to the pandemic.
In addition, the indigenous peoples’ organisations with ECOSOC status have seen their access restricted.
Despite the postponements, our efforts and commitment to achieve the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples remain unwavering.
Bearing in mind the current challenges associated with promoting and protecting indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of the pandemic, we will continue in our efforts to promote the enhanced participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them. Both in the dedicated process mandated by resolution 71/321 and beyond.
In the context of the Pandemic, conducting all the consultations with indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions as foreseen in resolution 71/321 has not been possible.
It is against this background that Indigenous Peoples’ organizations through their Temporary Coordinating Body have requested the postponement of the General Assembly’s considerations of possible further measures to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ to its seventy-sixth session.
The Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples fully supports this request, as we believe that an inclusive and meaningful consultation process is of paramount importance in ensuring the best possible outcome of this process.
Advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples also entails the protection of indigenous human rights defenders, who are all too often subject to attacks and intimidation.
Our work at the Third Committee will also be crucial to ensure the adequate preparation of the “International Decade on Indigenous Languages” which is set to commence in 2022.
Languages are disappearing around the world at an alarming rate, and we must spare no effort to reverse that trend.
We must act urgently to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of Indigenous Peoples lives.
It has exacerbated the existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.
As we recover from the immediate health-related consequences of the pandemic, we must “Rebuild Better”; we must “Rebuild Fairer”; and for that, we must “Rebuild Together”.
With this in mind, the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples renews its commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and renews its pledge to leave no one behind.