Indigenous Peoples in Asia Gear up for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

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With the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) coming up in September 2014, indigenous peoples and their organizations in Asia are now engaging their respective governments to push the WCIP to come up with an action-oriented outcome document.

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will be a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly to be held in September 2014 in order to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including to pursue the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In response to the UN’s decision to hold the WCIP, indigenous peoples in Asia have been organizing events  and participating in relevant activities to generate discussions on the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia and their perspectives and recommendations for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples in the region. 

In November 8-9, 2012, fifty-two indigenous participants representing indigenous peoples organizations from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Taiwan/China, Thailand and Vietnam gathered in Bangkok, Thailand for an Asia Preparatory Meeting on the WCIP.  The meeting discussed  the situation of indigenous peoples in the region whereby many governments in Asia still do not recognize indigenous peoples as distinct peoples with specific collective rights.  Indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources continue to be exploited for development projects such as dams, mining, plantations, etc. without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. Resistance and opposition from indigenous peoples on these projects are met with heavy militarization and attacks on indigenous communities and their leaders.

The preparatory meeting came up with an outcome document called  “A Call to Action from Indigenous Peoples in Asia to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples”. The document discusses the major issues of indigenous peoples in Asia especially in relation to their struggle for Self-determination and self-governance; militarization and conflicts; securing lands, territories and resources and local economies; and Culture and spirituality.  The agreed document also provides recommendations to Asian Governments and the United Nations on the abovementioned issues. The participants also called on the United Nations to appoint an Under-Secretary General for Indigenous Peoples and to establish mechanisms to strengthen indigenous peoples’ participation in governance and advisory bodies of the United Nations.

The meeting also produced an Asia Action Plan which includes active engagements with governments to support the recommendations of indigenous peoples in Asia during the WCIP in 2014 and more importantly for the recognition of indigenous peoples rights in the region.

Following the Asia Preparatory Meeting, around thirty-five participants representing indigenous peoples organizations participated in a Global Preparatory Conference on the WCIP from June 8-13, 2013 in Alta, Norway.  This Conference was attended by around  600 indigenous representatives from all over the world and unanimously adopted the  Alta Outcome Document.  This Document   contains recommendations to States and the United Nations on the following issues: Indigenous peoples’ lands, territories, resources, oceans and waters; UN System action for the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples; Implementation of states of the rights of indigenous peoples; and Indigenous peoples’ priorities for development with free, prior and informed consent.

Indigenous women from all over Asia will likewise participate in a global preparatory meeting of indigenous women on the WCIP in Lima, Peru on October 28-29, 2013 to discuss the specific issues and recommendations of indigenous women to the WCIP and other relevant global processes and mechanisms.

Aside from these regional and global activities, indigenous organizations at the national and local levels are now taking up initiatives in organizing dialogues, meetings, conferences and other activities aimed at raising awareness of indigenous peoples on the WCIP and to engage their respective governments in implementing the rights of indigenous peoples and to support the WCIP processes, as well as collaborating with UN agencies and other institutions.