Eleventh Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
7-18 May 2012 (UN Headquarters, New York)

UNPFII-11 concluded with the adoption of nine recommendations, including on: the special theme of the ongoing impact of the doctrine of discovery on indigenous peoples and the right to redress; arrangements for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); food sovereignty; human rights; and emerging issues.

The recommendation on the impact of the doctrine of discovery on indigenous peoples (document E/C.19/2012/L.2) notes the need to redefine the relationship between indigenous peoples and the State as a way to develop a vision of the future for reconciliation, peace and justice. The Forum notes that UNDRIP Article 26, treaty body jurisprudence and case law from all major international human rights institutions confirm that indigenous peoples hold collective rights to the lands, territories and resources that they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used, and that respect for their customs, traditions and land tenure systems is owed to them. Such rights have the same legal status as all other property rights to lands, territories and resources. International human rights law, including norms on equality and non-discrimination such as those affirmed in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and UNDRIP, demand that States rectify past wrongs caused by doctrines such as terra nullius, including the violation of the land rights of indigenous peoples, through law and policy reform, restitution and other forms of redress. The Forum welcomes the recommendation to establish a voluntary international mechanism to receive and consider communications from indigenous peoples specifically concerning their claims to, or violations of, their rights to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired, noting this recommendation deserves further elaboration by indigenous peoples and others concerned.

In the recommendation on human rights (document E/C.19/2012/L.9), the Forum recommends that the World Health Organization (WHO) revisit its report on social determinants of health to address the cultural determinants of health, such as land, language, ceremony and identity, which are essential to the health and well-being of indigenous peoples. The Forum also recommends that the full, effective and direct representation and participation of indigenous peoples, including their indigenous governments, councils, parliaments and other political institutions, should be ensured at all UN fora and negotiations, as well as in the drafting processes of the corresponding emerging instruments. Such instruments must be harmonized with UNDRIP, which is regarded as a reflection of the minimum human rights standards necessary for the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples, nations and communities.

On WIPO, the Forum recommends that WIPO seek the participation of experts on international human rights law specifically concerning indigenous peoples, so they could provide input into the process under the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), especially regarding language in the negotiating text that refers to indigenous peoples as “beneficiaries” and “communities”, as well as the general alignment of the draft with international human rights norms and principles (document E/C.19/2012/L.4). The Forum demands that WIPO recognize and respect the applicability and relevance of UNDRIP as a significant international human rights instrument, and also requests that WIPO commission a technical review of the IGC draft texts, to be conducted by an indigenous expert with the framework of indigenous human rights.

In the recommendation on the right to food and food sovereignty (document E/C.19/2012/L.10), the Forum notes that indigenous peoples’ right to food and food sovereignty is inextricably linked with the collective recognition of rights to land and territories and resources, culture, values and social organization. Subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering are essential not only to the right to food, but to nurturing their cultures, languages, social life and identity. Following the invitation by the Government of Mexico, the Forum appoints members Saul Vicente and Dalee Sambo Dorough to attend the G-20 Summit in June 2012 and present their views regarding the right to food. The Forum also welcomes the recent adoption of the FAO voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security, and notes that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD orRio+20) should embrace the cultural dimensions of sustainable development. It also recommends that States formally recognize shifting cultivation as a traditional occupation for indigenous peoples that is closely related to their social and cultural identity and integrity. Visit the meeting webpage … Read the UN coverage of the concluding session … Read WIPO’s release on the dialogue with the Forum …