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20 October 2008 - Statement on behalf of the European union - Item 61 - Indigenous issues

- Unofficial translation -

Mr. President,

I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA member of the European Economic Area Liechtenstein, as well as Ukraine and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many indigenous peoples are still all too often marginalized. They are often victims of discrimination, even violence, the most exposed to climate change as well as the food crisis and are chronically plagued by poverty. To tackle this injustice, the international community has decided to pay special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples, and has thus undertaken initiatives such as the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, and adopted international instruments specifically dedicated to indigenous peoples.

In this regard, the United Nations’ adopting on 13 September 2007 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the culmination of more than twenty years of dialogue between States and the representatives of indigenous peoples. This historic document represents significant progress in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, which have long been ignored and violated. This declaration also provides international community actors with a specific framework for the design and implementation of development policies for indigenous peoples. Thus, the European Union reaffirms its support for this declaration which, albeit not legally binding, establishes the rights that apply to all persons belonging to indigenous peoples.

The United Nations and especially the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have key roles to play in implementing this declaration. In this regard, the European Union would like to commend Professor S. James Anaya for his recent appointment as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous populations and reaffirm its support for his work.

Moreover, indigenous peoples participating in debates on implementing instruments that regard them is essential for better taking into account their situation. It was in this spirit that Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established in 2000. This forum plays a fundamental role as a platform for discussion on the issues of indigenous peoples by proposing solutions to the challenges facing these populations. Today, the European Union welcomes the Human Rights Council’s establishment of a mechanism of experts whose first session was held this month. This mechanism, to which the representatives of indigenous peoples broadly aligned themselves, is an innovative instrument that supplements the initiative of the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur as regards promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Mr. President,

The European Union is actively involved in this issue and calls upon the international community to take all necessary measures to respect, protect and promote the rights of persons belonging to indigenous peoples so that this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can embrace its full meaning.

Thank you.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU