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May Revolt: Indigenous Rebel at Permanent Forum 2008

May 9, 2008
Indigenous Peoples Groups Demand Right to Speak at United Nations

Indigenous Uprising at the UNPFII

Story By David M. Kinchen Editor

Photos By Arthur Manuel

UN Exterior photo by David M. Kinchen

New York, NY (HNN) -- Last week, Indigenous Peoples put pressure on the chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, demanding to have the right to speak on the recommendations of the Permanent Forum.

At the end of its two-week conference at the United Nations Headquarters, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) said the World Bank funding for carbon trading had set "good examples" for partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

The protesting Indigenous peoples disrupted the start of the meeting, and refused to sit down, shouting in Spanish "La palabra", and in English "we want to speak".

The protesters requested the elimination of paragraphs 5 and 37 of the document E/C.19/2008/L.2, saying Indigenous Peoples recommendations had generally not been reflected in most of the Forum's final documents on Climate change, the theme for the 7th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

"This is not our Forum, it doesn't reflect our opinions," shouted one of the protesters.

"It was a loud and very assertive effort, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the chair of the Forum did not want to recognize the speakers for the South American Indigenous Caucus," said Arthur Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation of British Columbia, Canada.

"The effort of the Indigenous Peoples to be heard resulted in U.N. Security try to remove an Indigenous Elder from the room, The situation got very tense until the UN Security were asked to leave the Permanent Forum Assembly Room because their involvement only intensified the situation," added Manuel.

"We are the Ongeh-Huh-Weh people, the real people of Mother Earth -- you have to listen to us," shouted Douglas Anderson down from the the upper level of the plenary room, before U.N. Security officers moved in to forcibly remove him from the conference room.

"I did not resist when they pulled and pushed me towards the door, but I asked the U.N. security officers to show me the law that we cannot speak at our Forum. I was worried what will happen next, I knew that the Indigenous Peoples would not allow this to happen, I feared a erruption of violence, don't forget, most of us deal with this type of police oppression back home on a daily bases," added Anderson, from upstate New York, Tuscarora, 6 Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

It was a dramatic moment when Rocio Velanda-Calle, one of the few persons standing at the upper level, rushed to Mr. Anderson's rescue, while the Indigenous Peoples at the lower level of the room shouted in shock, anger and objection to the actions of the U.N. Security forces.

Most indigenous peoples attending the forum felt unable to participate. "We Indigenous Peoples had to make a stand to be heard at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - the lack of real participation is a complete contradiction of the very existence of the Forum," said Mrs. Velanda -Calle after the U.N. security officers were ordered to leave the room. "Our views and recommendations were neglected by the so-called experts, the members of the Permanent Forum, and the Chairperson," she added.

"The Forum tried to make recommendations serving the World Bank and the interests of corporations and states, not ours," added. Anderson "We come here from around the world , people spend money, sleep on the street because they cannot afford to pay the hotel costs, they devote their time and money to have a voice, but now we all see, it is not our Forum, it became a business."

Most Indigenous Peoples are resisting oil, gas and coal exploitation and so called "good practices" such as carbon trading -- this were not addressed in the final text of the PFII, the opposite, the text claimed that we are all for it" said Thach Thach, from the Khmer Krom people, from southern Vietnam. "We agree with our brothers and sisters from the south, who had the courage to stand up against the Forum. The carbon trading programs - energy companies and others that release greenhouse gases can buy the right to keep polluting, we don't want that."

"There are many grievances -- just this year the Permanent Forum announced new rules, so called guidelines, which are hindering Indigenous Peoples to show films or videos at the Forums side events. Now, films can only be screened, if sponsored by a government, " said Rebecca Sommer, from the Society for Threatened Peoples International. "These new UNPFII rules are raising serious questions in our human rights circles, they are, in our view, in contradiction with Article 19, of the Universal Human Rights Declaration."

"We understand that the 16 PFII experts are independent, their Report is based on their personal views and decided by consensus," said Andrea Carmen, the executive director of International Indian Treaty Council, a NGO in consultative status to the UN. Carmen added: "The Report did not reflected key aspects of what the Indigenous Peoples actually said on this issue. During the two-week session, there was such a overwhelming opposition expressed, including by the Global Indigenous Caucus, against these market based so called solutions." Carmen added: "Instead they have a huge impact on our human rights. In the future, we need to work with the PFII members to ensure that the Report will accurately reflect the input of the nearly 2000 participants, to avoid problems like this in the future."

After numerous attempts to reject the right to speak to the Caucus, and the growing anger coming from the plenary rooms attendees, the Chair, Victoria Taulu-Corpuz, finally gave the floor to the Caucus Indigenas de Abya Yala, represented by Florina Lopez.

Lopez said on behalf of the South American Caucus, that, despite the oral amendments to document E/C.19/2008/L.2 as read by the Forum Rapporteur, the text did not reflect the concerns of Indigenous Peoples about emissions and deforestation. The list of recommendations it contained would reflected the opinions of the UNPFII's experts and not the positions of indigenous peoples.

As a result, the UNPFF included lukewarm amendments to the text, this would not have happened, if we would not have stood up and demanded our rights," said Rocio Velanda-Calle."We should never forget that, we must continue to stand up for our rights, and are not to be intimidated"

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