Thank you, Madam Chair for giving me the floor. The EU is honoured to address the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and would like to take this opportunity to express its strong support for the work of the Forum. Allow me to share with the members of the Forum and with the distinguished delegates some aspects of the activities of the European Union with special regard to the region of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The EU seeks to integrate human rights, including indigenous issues, into all aspects of its external policies. This approach includes political dialogues with third countries and regional organisations, activities in multilateral fora such as the United Nations, as well as in its development policy and assistance. Indigenous issues are consistently mainstreamed in EU development cooperation strategies. In addition, the European Commission provides direct support to civil society organisations working on indigenous issues, in particular through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Since 1999, the rights of indigenous peoples have been included as a thematic priority under EIDHR. This instrument includes specific actions to be implemented both at country level and at transnational and regional levels.
The EU has a long history of co-operation with and support for indigenous peoples. Some of the projects specifically address indigenous peoples, while others affect or support them indirectly. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, the European Union has elaborated a wide range of country and region specific projects within its development policy, which ensures the coordination of activities concerning indigenous peoples.. Indeed, the European Union is financing different projects, which mobilize indigenous peoples around three areas (non-state actors and local authorities with regard to development, environment and sustainable management of natural resources, democracy and human rights), taking into account cultural diversity and different geographical, economic and social backgrounds. These projects focus on creating educational opportunities for native-language speaking people, women’s empowerment and strengthening social cohesion in order to promote respect for cultural diversity and reduce discrimination and racism. The projects also aim at improving indigenous peoples’ political control capacities and abilities to defend their rights, via promoting political rights and strengthening civil society organisations’ capacities. Projects are also designed for promoting sustainable forest management and agricultural production, supporting urban indigenous peoples, poverty reduction inter alia through the promotion of inclusive rural societies.
Allow me to set some concrete examples of our activities and their legal background.
In Colombia, the European Union is involved in 42 ongoing projects targeting indigenous peoples. The European Commission’s Colombia Country Strategy Paper 2007-2013 addresses the humanitarian and human rights situation of indigenous population and includes among its key priorities peace building through the involvement of marginalized citizens in local governance and participatory economy. This initiative raises awareness to indigenous peoples right to participation, as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Another example is the inclusion of indigenous people in the support for modernisation of the state, strengthening good governance and social inclusion as well as the support for social development in the poorest regions (mostly inhabited by indigenous a communities) in the European Commission’s Peru Country Strategy Paper 2007-13.
The initiative “Cinema at the borders” is an example for regional cooperation concerning indigenous peoples, namely between the European Union and the Andean Community. This project aims at contributing to the consolidation of the integration process in the border area of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, to the creation of an Andean zone of peace and the strengthening of democracy.
The EU is also active in the region of Central America: negotiations on an Association Agreement between the EU and this region were concluded in the spring of 2010, and preparations are ongoing for its signature and ratification. This agreement includes a specific article on co-operation on indigenous peoples and it also singles out indigenous peoples for particular attention in the articles on political dialogue, education and training, public health and cultural and audio-visual co-operation.
These examples also demonstrate that the European Union is fully involved in a variety of projects, which affect the daily lives of indigenous peoples in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The main challenge for the European Union remains to keep enabling these advances, by continuing to provide its full support and fostering dialogue and cooperation on indigenous issues with indigenous peoples’ representatives, the civil society and all the competent UN bodies.