6th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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GENEVA- The 6th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) concludd in Geneva (8-12 July 2013). Members of the Expert Mechanism were joined by representative of States and numerous representatives of Indigenous Peoples, UN Bodies, NGOs, national human rights institutions and academics from all over the world to discuss how to advance and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The week-long Expert Mechanism focused, among other themes, on 4 main topics:

  • The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

  • A Follow-up to thematic studies and Advice

  • The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • Proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and approval

The session's objective was to prepare for discussions at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, scheduled for September 2014. In the discussions, the EMRIP introduced the Alta outcome document as an official UN document. This is the result of the Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference, which was hosted on 10-12 June 2013 by the indigenous Saami people in Alta, Norway, in anticipation of the World Conference.

The Alta Outcome Document specifies recommendations and proposals to be presented at the World Conference. The Expert Mechanism and various speakers expressed their strong support for the document and proposed that the topics specified in the document should form the basis for discussions at the World Conference in 2014.

As a follow-up to thematic studies and advice, States, Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders reported on how studies and advices by the expert mechanism had been useful to further protect and enhance the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Examples of good practices, of lessons learned, and of remaining challenges for the future were shared. The EMRIP paid special attention to the study on access to justice in the protection and promotion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which had been requested by the Human Rights Council in 2012. The mechanism firstly focused on recommendations related to the envisaged Truth and Reconciliation Processes.

Concerns over the accessibility of national justice systems for indigenous peoples were raised. Indigenous Peoples often face legal discrimination, and are victims of structural violence. Speakers criticized the lack of legal knowledge and legal services as well as extremely high legal fees that hinder their access to justice. Finally, it was identified that Indigenous Peoples, States and businesses each define “justice” differently and observers recommended that these differences should be considered in the study.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was addressed in form of panel discussion and interactive dialogues. According to a questionnaire, which had been sent to the representatives in advance, no State has yet implemented specific laws or polices which required consideration of the Declaration. Also, only a few Indigenous Peoples organizations have strategies to implement the Declaration. Speakers expressed concerns about the wide gap between the adoption of the UN declaration and its application on the ground. It was noted that the Declaration is the most essential tool in the protection of Indigenous People’s rights achieved so far and it was agreed that raising awareness about the Declaration remains one of the major challenges ahead.

Finally, the EMRIP adopted several proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and approval:

  1. The study on access to justice of Indigenous Peoples should be continued in light of what has been discussed and agreed to at the 6th EMRIP session.
  2. The themes identified in the Alta outcome document should serve as the grounds for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Financial, technical and political assistance should be given by the Human Rights Council to enable Indigenous Peoples’ representative to participate in the World Conference. All UN indigenous mechanisms should be granted equal standing in the preparation of the World Conference and studies; advices issued by the EMRIP should receive full consideration in the process.
  3. States and Indigenous Peoples should report on measures taken to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This work could be supported by independent surveillance mechanisms to oversee and to help implement the rights framed by the Declaration.
  4. The Human Rights Council must ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism are firmly incorporated in the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.
  5. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the work of the EMRIP should increasingly serve as input to the Universal Periodic Review process and the Declaration should be included in the list of standards on which the UPR process is based.

All five proposals are to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session in September 2013.

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