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Native Sun News: UN report cites violence against women

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The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


In a recently released report, James Anaya, a U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, criticized a current trend toward applying the principle of “consultation and free, prior and informed consent” as the measure of mining industries’ treatment of indigenous peoples, saying it “is blurring understanding” of the relevant human rights framework in which to understand the issue. PHOTO COURTESY/UNITED NATIONS

UN report says violence against indigenous women, girls must be targeted
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

UNITED NATIONS — International human rights advocates should make it a priority to defend indigenous women and girls against violence, as well as to protect indigenous territories from extractive industries such as mining, energy development and logging, special rapporteur James Anaya said in a report during the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 21st session, which began Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 28 in Geneva.

Anaya criticized a current trend toward applying the principle of “consultation and free, prior and informed consent” as the measure of extractive industries’ treatment of indigenous peoples, saying it “is blurring understanding” of the relevant human rights framework in which to understand the issue.

“A better approach is first to consider the primary substantive rights of indigenous peoples that may be implicated in natural-resource extraction,” he stated. “These include, in particular, rights to property, culture, religion, health, physical well-being and to set and pursue their own priorities for development, as part of their fundamental right to self-determination.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council appointed Anaya to the post of special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in 2008.

Anaya released his findings just prior to a webcast scheduled for Sept. 13 of a panel discussion entitled “Legal Effects of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Understanding ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ Relevance to Resource Development.”

The event is set for 1:30-4 p.m. EST at www.afn.ca and is sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Canadian Friends Service Committee and KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

In compiling the report, Anaya took field testimony from around the world, including indigenous territories in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Sweden and the United States, where he visited Southwestern, Northwestern and Great Plains tribal locations.

“The issue of violence against indigenous women and girls has arisen in the context of the Special Rapporteur’s country visits, in particular to the United States, and in his examination of specific cases,” Anaya stated in the annual report.

“Violence against indigenous women and girls, which is distressingly all too common across the globe, cannot be seen as separate from the history of discrimination and marginalization that has been suffered invariably by indigenous peoples,” Anaya noted.

“The history of discrimination against indigenous peoples has also resulted in the deterioration of indigenous social structures and cultural traditions, and in the undermining or breakdown of indigenous governance and judicial systems, impairing in many cases the ability of indigenous peoples to respond effectively to problems of violence against women and girls within their communities,” he said.

“Combating violence against indigenous women and girls therefore requires remedying the structural legacies of colonialism and discrimination that indigenous peoples have faced,” he added.

He said a “holistic approach” to quelling the violence would improve the effectiveness of the effort. The approach “requires that both their rights as women and children, and their rights as indigenous peoples, be advanced,” he stated.

“More broadly, the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which are designed to remedy the continuing legacies of discrimination against indigenous peoples, should be advanced concurrently with programs that are designed specifically to target violence against women and girls. Lastly, indigenous self-determination in particular must be enhanced,” his report concludes.

To accomplish this, he recommended that states refrain from undermining or replacing “indigenous peoples’ own authority and self-governance.” States “should increase indigenous peoples’ own participation in the design, delivery and oversight of programs related to preventing and punishing violence against women,” he said.

“There is a need for indigenous peoples themselves to continue to strengthen their own organizational and local governance capacity, and their own justice institutions,” he added.

Natural-resource extraction and development on or near indigenous territories has become one of the foremost concerns of indigenous peoples worldwide, Anaya noted. It is “possibly also the most pervasive source of the challenges to the full exercise of their rights,” he said, vowing to focus on the issue throughout his mandate.

His report cites “a fundamental problem with the current model of natural resource extraction in which the plans are developed with little or no involvement of the affected indigenous community or peoples concerned, and in which the corporation is both in control and the primary beneficiary of the extractive operation.”

He suggests that a new model more conducive to indigenous peoples’ self-determination is needed, which he will examine in more detail in a future report.

Anaya posits that there is a fundamental problem with the current model of natural-resource extraction in which the plans are developed with little or no involvement of the affected indigenous community or peoples concerned, and in which the corporation is both in control and the primary beneficiary of the extractive operation.

He suggests that a new model more conducive to indigenous peoples’ self-determination is needed, and he promises to explore that possibility in more detail in a future report.

On Sept. 6, Survival International Director Stephen Corry echoed the Organization of American States in calling for an exhaustive investigation of Amazonian wildcat gold miners allegedly massacring as many as 80 people in an isolated Venezuelan jungle community.

His statement came three days after the Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonia released a declaration recognizing the efforts of the investigation, while expressing concern that investigators “did not reach Irotatheri Shapono, the place where the alleged events took place in July.”

"With record gold prices, illegal gold mining in the Amazon has become an epidemic,” an article at Mongabay.com reported. Legal mining also increasingly threatens indigenous homelands in the Americas and beyond.

“The practice not only leads to conflict with indigenous people, but destroys forests, contaminates rivers with mercury, and fuels social problems such as forced labor and child prostitution,” said the Internet environmental news publication.

In January 2012, the special rapporteur together with members of the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum, participated in a two-day brainstorming session on the upcoming 2014 high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly – to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, or WCIP, 2014.

During the session, which took place in Copenhagen, Anaya noted that the world conference provides an opportunity for contributing to the development of measures for the direct participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations meetings.

The occasion affords “greater and more concerted efforts within the United Nations system to promote the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

It could foster action at the national and local levels to secure the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights and celebrates their contributions worldwide, he added.

However, participants in discussions of the North American Regional Indigenous Peoples' Caucus of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues have sounded the alert that Russia, as well as some other nations, are trying to control and block indigenous participation in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

“Russia wants a state-controlled WCIP and is further limiting indigenous participation,” discussion participant Petuuche Gilbert remarked on Sept. 3. “I think we and our representatives need to object strongly.”

Oglala Lakota Itancan (Chief) Oliver Red Cloud announced a Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council meeting on Sept. 19 and 20, partly in order to review council interpreter Alex White Plume’s recent participation in the U.N. Third Seminar on Treaties held in Geneva.

The council is hopeful that participation in international forums, such as the United Nations, will help to enforce the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties, he said in the invitation for the meeting to be held at Prairie Winds Casino.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Asia-Pacific Forum have set Sept. 21 as a deadline for public comments on a draft training manual about “The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Operationalising the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)


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