ILO Statement to the Third Committee of the 66th General Assembly

Greater resources and effort needed to implement the Indigenous and Tribal People Convention

Full implementation of the ILO Convention has been delayed, resulting in tensions as indigenous communities show signs of dashed hopes.

Statement | New York | 17 October 2011
Mr. Chair,

In its pursuit of universal social justice, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been concerned with the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples virtually since its inception. Its longstanding engagement in this area led to the adoption in 1957 of the first international instrument concerning indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights (Convention No. 107) which was revised and updated in 1989 by the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169).

The ILO supports the empowerment of indigenous women and men through a dual strategy of intervention by promoting policies to protect their rights and supporting capacity-building initiative through technical cooperation projects for indigenous peoples in their ancestral domains.

Globally, the discourse and international efforts on indigenous peoples’ rights has entered a new era since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations Declaration represents a global consensus and a universally accepted standard on the rights of indigenous peoples. The ILO believes that the Declaration and ILO Convention No. 169 of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples are intertwined international instruments which have emerged as mutually reinforcing and whose implementation must be mutually sustaining.

In regard to our continuing efforts to promote the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendation last year provided important guidance on the right to consultation of indigenous peoples. This includes the right to effectively participate in national decision-making processes; the principle of given consent; the importance of establishing appropriate procedural mechanisms, and the important of granting indigenous peoples as much control as possible when implementing measures related to their own economic, social and cultural development.

The ILO believes that the implementation of the Declaration needs to be tracked and monitored with the view to assessing its actual impact on the daily living conditions of indigenous peoples. To this end, the ILO has committed itself to investing in the Inter-Agency work on indicators, and hosted the first Experts Meeting on the issue last year, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commission for Hyman Rights and the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum.

The experts acknowledged the importance of the creation of a common assessment framework to enhance coordination, complementarities and synergies.
The framework should reflect the full range of rights enshrined in the Declaration and ILO Convention No. 169, in addition to the “deficit-oriented” approach applied in many countries to document the social, political and economic gaps between the indigenous and non-indigenous sectors of society. The framework should also help to identify bridges to the broader human rights framework as well as links to existing institutionalized supervisory mechanism.

In the Americas, the ILO has the largest number of ratification s for Convention 169 (14 out of 22), however, implementation has been delayed resulting in tensions as indigenous communities show signs of dashed hopes. It is imperative that enhanced efforts and a higher level of resources are invested in the implementation of this convention, which was designed as a tool for good governance, dialogue and social justice.

The ILO would like to recognize the efforts of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for providing guidance on and contributing to greater awareness of indigenous issues by placing the issues on its regional human rights agenda. In 2010, Africa recorded its first-ever ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 by the Central African Republic. Furthermore, the ILO would like to congratulate the Republic of Congo who in 2011 developed the first specific law in the region on indigenous peoples.
In Asia, the debate on indigenous peoples’ issues is drawing more attention and is bringing the issue into national policy discussions in a number of countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Programmes on lands, poverty reduction, climate change and sustainable management of forests as well as natural resources are all areas of intervention by ILO on indigenous issues.

In all of these regions, the ILO is scaling-up its technical cooperation work to assist countries in adopting or implementing standards on indigenous peoples. To date the ILO has the largest global programme on indigenous peoples under Pro 169, with activities taking place in more than twenty-two countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa. The Programme trains more than two thousand government officials and indigenous peoples every year and works to mainstream the concerns and needs of indigenous peoples into countries’ national development frameworks.

The ILO continues unwaveringly to contribute to global and United Nations’ initiatives on indigenous peoples. The ILO is currently hosting the Technical Secretariat of the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Partnership, which is an unprecedented joint rights-based initiative between the ILO, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNDP, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund. UNIPP is a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and calls for its full realization through the mobilization of financial cooperation and technical assistance.

And finally, Mr. Chair, as global discussions and awareness on indigenous rights gain momentum and the promotion and protection of their human rights are strengthened, the ILO stands ready to assist Member States in their efforts in ratifying and implementing Convention 169 and continually promoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.