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Giving Priority to Indigenous Peoples at the UNPFII

The New York Declaration Page 3 of 3
The Akha Heritage Foundation
UNPFII 2007 New York

Giving Priority to Indigenous Peoples at the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) New York

The Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues in New York needs to be restructured.

It is the understanding of indigenous delegates that the Forum is designed for their needs and benefit. These indigenous peoples come from all over the world, on very limited budgets. For them it is a great sacrifice.

The indigenous delegates invest significant time in writing statements both collective and individual for presentation at the forum.

Yet the forum itself is not designed does not appear to be designed for indigenous peoples or organized in its day to day use of time for the benefit of indigenous peoples.

Confusion rules as these indigenous peoples sign up and try to figure out when they will speak. They must compete for limited computer and printer time in order to write and print their interventions. Carefully writing interventions while the Forum is going on, while indigenous discussions are developing, is crucial to the development of these indigenous statements.

Yet in the Forum itself, the process of discussion is distinctly not indigenous. The indigenous while being given some recognition in the Forum’s function are in fact pushed aside in priority of discussion and speaking. The new indigenous members who often have the most urgent cases in their home lands, will have to compete for very limited time to speak LAST. They will be given a mandatory 3 minute limit if they are able to speak at all. If they are out of the room while waiting days to see their name called, they will be skipped.

Country delegates are given precedent over the indigenous, and make long generalized statements about their wonderful treatment of indigenous peoples, or completely deny the existence of indigenous peoples in their countries.

Agency statements also are given precedent. In fact the Forum does not function as a priority space for indigenous representation and presentation.

Country governments need to speak last, after indigenous individuals and indigenous groups, and their statements should be directed by the forum, to answer to specific cases raised by the indigenous, as well as to report what they have done about specific cases brought the previous year. There needs to be accountability.

We recommend:
The floor of the Forum must make priority to INDIGENOUS speech and causes. The Floor of the Forum must be open for indigenous leaders to ask questions of governments and to accept questions from the indigenous in discussion. The Forum MUST NOT be a tool for one group to exclude another group, but must remain open to ALL.

Our overall recommendation is that the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues must return to being a forum by and for the indigenous otherwise it deteriorates to remain just one more diffused medium of the colonial powers.

Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation

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