– Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*,and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
The respect for human rights and equality are core principles of the European Union (EU) and its global action includes combating discrimination and exclusion. Indigenous peoples around the world continue to face denial of their rights, marginalization and discrimination.
Our new Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2012) reiterate the EU’s commitment to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in the context of combating discrimination.
The need for the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and the advancement of their situation is set out in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007.
This year we celebrate the Fifth Anniversary of this Declaration along with ever-increasing commitments from Governments to promote its implementation. Its adoption was an important milestone for indigenous peoples. The EU welcomes the increased international consensus on the Declaration notably that the four States who voted against the resolution have in the meantime endorsed it.
The Declaration is an important instrument for promoting human rights, but its full implementation is key to the actual enjoyment of those rights. The EU has repeatedly called on all states to make this a reality.
Article 41 of the Declaration refers to the UN system’s role in contributing to the full realization of the provisions of the declaration and on the ways and means of ensuring participation of indigenous peoples. In this regard, the EU warmly welcomes the report prepared by the Secretary General on participation at the United Nations of indigenous peoples’ representatives on issues affecting them and the right to participate in decision-making. The EU believes in the importance of active engagement between Member States and Indigenous Peoples when considering further developments of the findings and suggestions in the report
We have also engaged in the preparations of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The EU fully supports the World Conference and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples throughout the preparatory process as well as during the Conference. Full participation of civil society in the conference must also be ensured.
We are pleased that the GRULAC-EU sponsored resolution on the Rights of the Child has “indigenous children” as the topic for this session of the General Assembly. The adoption of the Commission on the Status of Women resolution 56/4 entitled “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication” is also a very welcomed addition to the UN work on this area.
The EU reiterates its support to the three UN mechanisms addressing indigenous issues, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples –Mr. James Anaya-, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We appreciate the complementary manner in which these mechanisms work furthering a coherent approach to the challenges faced by indigenous peoples. We also value Mr. Anaya’s emphasis on the mainstreaming and harmonization of activities within the United Nations system which affect indigenous peoples.
Beyond political affirmation of the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the EU supports indigenous peoples in different ways. Since 1998, the EU has recognized the importance of cooperating and assisting indigenous peoples as part of the wider development agenda, not least due to their valuable contribution to sustainable development and the conservation of biological diversity. Indigenous issues are mainstreamed in EU development cooperation programmes and other EU policies.
In addition, the EU gives direct support to civil society organisations working on indigenous issues, in particular through the budget line “European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights” (EIDHR). These projects aim at supporting indigenous organisations so as to ensure their inclusion in policy-making processes. Some of the main topics of these projects include empowerment, capacity-building and anti-discrimination.
There is also a long-standing cooperation between the EU and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the ILO, to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Several EU Delegations and a number of EU Member States are engaged in local cooperation with UN bodies’ projects to support indigenous peoples.
The EU believes that the issues affecting indigenous peoples often cross state boundaries. International cooperation is hence essential to advance the rights and situations of indigenous peoples. The EU provides support to help develop the economic, social and environmental potential of the Arctic regions of the EU and neighbouring areas through a regional approach, including cross-border and transnational collaboration in the fields of innovation, business competitiveness, accessibility, education, research, natural resources and cultural heritage.
Despite of the improvements, a wide gap continues to exist between the promises of the Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous People and the reality of its application on the ground.
The European Union will continue to work towards achieving its full implementation and we call on all partners to make contributions in this regard. That is why, in the new EU Human Rights Strategy, we are committed to taking a new look at our policy and further developing it in the context of the UN Declaration and in preparation for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. We hope that others will do the same to achieve a successful outcome at the 2014 World Conference.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process