Joint Statement by the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples
United Nations General Debate - Joint Statement
30 September 2021
Thank you, Mr. 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.
Indigenous Peoples represent 6.2 per cent of the world’s population.
They represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity; they speak the major share of the world’s languages; and their lands are among the planet’s most biodiverse and resource rich.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on a host of preexisting challenges faced by the majority of the world’s Indigenous Peoples; such as, poverty, food insecurity, and the lack of access to adequate health and social services.
The pandemic is as much a health crisis, as a socio-economic one.
It is a deep, multifaceted human crisis.
Indigenous elders —often the last remaining bastions of traditional knowledge—, persons with underlying health conditions, persons with disabilities, women and children, and persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, and are among the most vulnerable.
Our COVID-19 recovery strategies must be in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and must ensure that Indigenous Peoples’ voices are heard.
Equally important is ensuring equitable distribution of safe and effective vaccines, and access to health services, taking into account Indigenous Peoples’ right to traditional medicines and health practices.
The pandemic has shown the breadth of the digital and technological divide.
The disproportionate and multifaceted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected important UN processes of interest to Indigenous Peoples.
It is in this challenging context that Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, through their Temporary Coordinating Body, have requested to postpone to the seventy-seventh session, the General Assembly’s consideration of possible further measures to enhance their participation in UN meetings on issues affecting them.
The Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples fully supports this request, as we believe that inclusive and meaningful consultations are of paramount importance in ensuring the best possible outcome of this process.
Furthermore, our work at the Third Committee will seek to advance the ends of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and of other key human rights instruments.
Advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples also entails the protection of indigenous human rights defenders, who are all too often subject to attacks and reprisals. A reality that has increased since the start of the pandemic, and has also led to the loss of indigenous peoples’ lands and territories.
Indigenous women and girls face a “shadow pandemic” as they confront higher levels of discrimination. Violence against indigenous women and girls has intensified.
We must spare no effort to ensure that indigenous women and girls live free from violence and fear. We must spare no effort to ensure their full, equal and meaningful participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.
Indigenous Peoples’ languages play an integral role in maintaining the identity and vitality of indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge.
Yet, languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. Every two weeks, somewhere in the world, a spoken language dies with its last speaker.
Our work at the Third Committee must contribute to reverse this trend.
That is why two years ago the Group of Friends promoted the proclamation of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which is set to commence in 2022.
The International Decade will be a key tool to preserve, revitalize and promote Indigenous Peoples’ languages. We encourage all Member States to support efforts toward these ends.
In the face of challenges, Indigenous Peoples have always demonstrated enormous resilience.
As guardians of 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples are key climate action stakeholders, and have much to contribute to overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food insecurity, biodiversity conservation and combating desertification and land degradation. We can only rise to address these problems if we act together.
As we work to recover from the pandemic and address critical global issues, we must prioritize inclusion and sustainable development in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.
We must redouble our efforts to deliver on the promise of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In our determination to “rebuild back better”, we must rebuild back fairer, we must rebuild back more sustainably and inclusively, and we will only succeed if we do it together.