Realizing indigenous rights through partnership

The UN's first indigenous peoples partnership was created in 2012 to help implement global standards on indigenous peoples around the world.

News | 23 May 2013

Protecting cultural heritage, calling out discrimination, addressing land rights, stopping violence against women and encouraging electoral participation among the world’s many indigenous populations—the work of the UN Indigenous Peoples Partnership’s (UNIPP) is a tall order.

During the 12th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) on Tuesday in New York, members of UNIPP’s Policy Board, as well as representatives from indigenous populations, UN country teams, and governments of Nicaragua and the Republic of Congo provided an unprecedented look into the current operational activities and progress made under the partnership.

UNIPP was created in 2012 as an initiative by UN agencies—the ILO, OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA—to help implement global standards on indigenous peoples, namely the ILO’s Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (No. 169) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Led by UNIPP Co-Chair Marcia Kran, the panel discussed findings from the partnership’s first Annual Progress Report, which presents results from six joint country-based projects (in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Nepal) as well as one regional project in South-East Asia.

Laurent Assogba, UNFPA Representative in the Republic of Congo, described the efforts undertaken determine the proper size and localities of indigenous populations present in that country, and outlined the legislative reform efforts taking place to protect and promote indigenous peoples rights.

A series of recent decrees aim to increase access to education and health services, while protecting traditional medicine and bringing indigenous populations into governmental decision making-processes that determine future national development priorities.

Eloy Frank, Vice Minister from the Secretariat of Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Affairs of Nicaragua, and Pablo Madeville, UN Resident Coordinator in Nicaragua, both spoke to the progress made in that country, where a focus on dialogue and capacity building has been key to educate indigenous peoples about relevant international law and to strengthen the existing institutions designed to protect indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ rights.

Closing remarks were made by Co-Chair and PFII member Devasish Roy and by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, H.E. Mr. Jarmo Viinanen after an interactive discussion between panellists and the audience, from which members indicated their keen interest in the continued work of the partnership, and expressed their support for more country-based projects, like the one’s presented, that would help realize the array of existing international standards that enshrine the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

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