Summary record of the 48th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Thursday, 13 April 2000 : Commission on Human Rights, 56th session
|UN Document Symbol||E/CN.4/2000/SR.48|
|Convention||Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities|
|Document Type||Summary Record|
|Subjects||Minorities, Indigenous Peoples, Discrimination, Displaced Persons, Prisoners of War, Migrants, Persons with Disabilities, Fundamentalism|
Economic and Social
7 November 2000
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 48th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 13 April 2000, at 9 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. Rodríguez Cedeño (Venezuela)
SPECIFIC GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS:
(a) MIGRANT WORKERS
(c) MASS EXODUSES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
(d) OTHER VULNERABLE GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS (continued)
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set
forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent
within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section,
room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session
will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.
The meeting was called to order at 9.05 p.m.
SPECIFIC GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS:
(a) MIGRANT WORKERS
(c) MASS EXODUSES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
(d) OTHER VULNERABLE GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
(agenda item 14) (continued) (E/CN.4/2000/76-79, 80 and Add.1, 81, 82, 83 and Add.1
and 2, 138; E/CN.4/2000/NGO/15, 22, 31, 47 and 58; E/CN.5/2000/3; A/54/303 and 348;
1. Ms. SAITO (Asian Womens Human Rights Council), speaking also on behalf of the
Korean Group of Former Internees in Siberia and the All-Japanese Association of Former
Internees, appealed to the members of the Commission to take action to defend the rights of
Japanese veterans taken prisoner during the Second World War. Japan had a moral and legal
responsibility to compensate the victims of its aggression, yet the Japanese Government had so
far refused to provide compensation to former prisoners of war for their period of forced labour
in Siberia, although it had made concessions to prisoners from other regions.
2. The veterans had sued the Japanese Government in 1981 for compensation and had
eventually been issued with labour certificates by the Russian Government, as requested by the
court, but their appeal had been rejected. The question of compensation did, however, have
international ramifications, as the victims included Koreans and Chinese from Korea conscripted
by the Japanese Imperial Army, and it was hoped the case would be concluded within the
lifetime of those prisoners of war who were still alive. She therefore called upon the
Commission to investigate the violation of the rights of the Siberian prisoners of war, and to
make recommendations regarding their compensation.
3. Mr. SARAF (World Muslim Congress) said that India was making a deliberate effort to
depict the Kashmiri freedom struggle as fundamentalist and terrorist, mentioning repeatedly in
that connection the so-called expulsion of Pandits from Kashmir by the freedom fighters, and it
was time to put the record straight once and for all.
4. According to a book by Mr. Sumantra Bose, a noted Indian author, concerning the
expulsion, the allegations made were largely a potpourri of fabrication and exaggeration. It was
simply impossible for a community with a population of less than 140,000 to have generated the
hundreds of thousands of refugees usually quoted, particularly as a sizeable Pandit population
continued to live in Kashmiri towns and villages. The respect that Kashmiri Muslims had
customarily shown towards Hindu places of worship had, for the most part, endured during the
current troubled times, and appeals in the newspapers requesting the Pandits to return warned
Muslims against tampering with any property belonging to the Pandits. There was an almost
universal conviction among Kashmiri Muslims that the departure of such a large number of
Pandits within such a short period of time had been instigated by the then Governor, Jagmohan,
who had taken office for four particularly repressive months in early 1990. Pressure had then
been brought to bear and incentives allegedly offered to encourage those people to leave.
5. Hindu, Muslim and Sikh neighbours were united in their resentment of the Indian
occupation forces, and the displacement of the Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits should be seen in
its proper context as part of the continuing tragedy that had overwhelmed the whole of Kashmir
6. Ms. SHAH (Muslim World League) said that although the 1992 Declaration on the
Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities had
created obligations for States to promote equal treatment, it had not quite achieved the objective
of ensuring that all persons were able to live according to their cultural, social, ethnic or religious
principles. Discrimination against minorities in India was an impediment to the implementation
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. With the rise of the extreme right in
India, efforts were being made to impose the will of the majority Hindu population on all
minorities in the country; as a result, non-Hindus would remain subordinate to the Hindu nation
and deprived of citizens rights unless they adopted the Hindu culture, language and religion.
7. While the safety of the Christian community in India was a cause of concern, the
Muslims, Indias largest minority, also continued to suffer from poverty, backwardness and
illiteracy, with many being massacred in communal riots. Muslims made up 12.6 per cent of
Indias total population, but their representation in Parliament, State legislatures and
administrative services did not reflect that proportion. The percentage of Muslims in the civil
and foreign service was almost negligible, and there was a huge disparity between the Hindu
majority and Muslim minority in educational institutions.
8. The effective implementation of the 1992 Declaration was essential for the full
promotion and protection of human rights, and all States must be made accountable on the basis
of the standards provided for in that Declaration. The Commission could not and should not
allow such blatant violations to continue.
9. Mr. WARIKOO (Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation) said that the problem of
internal displacement was an enormous human rights challenge, with the number of internally
displaced persons currently exceeding 25 million. Although he appreciated the contribution
made by the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons towards a
better knowledge of the problems of internal displacement in various countries of Asia, Africa
and Latin America, it appeared that the problems specific to South and Central Asia, where
violence against indigenous ethnic and religious minorities had lead to the displacement of
thousands of innocent people, had been dealt with in a casual manner in the representatives
10. The forced displacement of the entire Kashmiri Pandit indigenous minority was a classic
case of ethnic-religious cleansing with long-term implications for the socio-cultural environment
and secular polity in Kashmir. That community, currently in its eleventh year of displacement,
had suffered considerable social, psychological and physical harm, due in large part to the loss of
its own territory, cultural heritage and identity. The peoples living near the line of control in
Jammu and other areas had faced severe shelling from across the border and had been forced to
flee from their homes and live in tents, as minority communities had been ruthlessly displaced.
11. Such violent attempts to re-draw territorial boundaries on the basis of religious extremist
identities, ethnic cleansing and the brutal eviction of minorities had become the major cause of
forced human displacement in parts of South and Central Asia. Urgent steps should be taken to
define the precise legal status of such displaced persons with a view to facilitating an appropriate
humanitarian response. The restoration of the displaced persons homeland, ensuring dignity
and freedom of religion, was a prerequisite for peace and security in the region.
12. Mr. GURUNG (World Federation of Democratic Youth) recalled that the Gurkhas were
Nepalese nationals, who had been employed as soldiers by the British military since 1816.
Approximately 3,000 were currently serving in the British Army, half of whom were actively
engaged in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in East Timor.
But despite the sacrifices they had made and the services they provided, the Gurkhas were
blatantly and persistently discriminated against by the British Army on account of their national
origin. The most obvious example of such discrimination was at the economic level, in terms of
pensions, redundancy payments, compensation for widows and divisive pay and promotion
structures. They were also subject to religious discrimination, with the Hindu religion being
imposed upon them although the majority of Gurkhas were followers of Buddhism, and they
were not allowed the company of their spouses and children - a right granted to their British
counterparts, who were also paid special benefits in the event of separation.
13. In 1999, the Nepali Parliament had concluded that the British Armed Forces treatment
of the Gurkhas was a flagrant violation of human rights based on nationality, and he called upon
the Commission on Human Rights, and the Working Group on Minorities to take a bold stand
against the British Government and to address the plight faced by the Gurkha soldiers of Nepal
and their descendants.
14. Ms. BAUTISTA (Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of
Detained-Disappeared Persons (FEDEFAM)) said that the Federation was deeply concerned
about the rising tide of forced disappearances and grave violations of human rights and
international humanitarian law in Colombia, and the increasing number of forced displacements
over the past year. The poor rural population, including women and children, were the most
affected. A primary cause of the displacements in Colombia, as the Representative of the
Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons had indicated, was a deliberate strategy to
cleanse regions of populations suspected of being sympathetic to armed opposition groups.
Crimes were being carried out with such ferocity that people had no alternative but to flee.
Impunity was another factor in the rapid increase in forced displacements, with countless orders
for the capture of members and leaders of the paramilitary groups remaining unfulfilled. The
victims often suffered a double violation: not only were they denied their civil, political,
cultural, economic and social rights, but they were often forced to flee because of the forced
disappearance of relatives and friends.
15. Although there were fewer forced displacements in Mexico, the situation there was also a
matter for great concern, particularly as those affected again came from the poorest sectors of
society. Regrettably, the lack of legislative and political measures, and especially the continued
militarization of indigenous and rural areas, were not conducive to any improvement in the
situation. A further case was Guatemala, where the continuing difficulties faced by displaced
persons, often the victims of State officials and paramilitary groups, remained a problem that had
not been adequately dealt with by the Guatemalan authorities, and that should be addressed along
the lines of the MINUGUA recommendations (United Nations Mission for the Verification of
Human Rights in Guatemala).
16. In view of the lack of political will on the part of the States concerned, the international
community should take decisive action regarding the legacies of the past and the problems of the
17. Ms. PHYU (International Peace Bureau) said that, while she welcomed the mandate of
the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the
work he had accomplished, there was still a long way to go to address those issues adequately.
Although in her own country, Burma, there were approximately 2 million IDPs, more than half
of whom belonged to ethnic minorities, their existence was denied by the ruling State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC). The IDPs had been considered as enemies of the military after
their rejection of the relocation sites they had been allocated. Their cities, lives, crops and
belongings were systematically destroyed by fire, and landmines were planted where they hid
their food. The situation they faced was one of the worst of any IDPs in the world and in one
attack alone, on 1 April 2000, more than 4,000 had been forced to cross the border and take
refuge in Thailand.
18. The Commission should call upon the SPDC to stop its atrocities against the internally
displaced persons and respect and protect their human rights. Furthermore, since political
change in Burma was required in order to address the social problems of that group, the SPDC
should enter immediately into dialogue with the National League for Democracy and with the
leaders of ethnic nationalities.
19. Ms. THI (Worldview International Foundation) said that members of certain minority
groups automatically became targets of governments and were subject to many forms of
discrimination. In Burma, for example, the minorities suffered several forms of social and
cultural injustice in connection with the human rights violations sponsored or conducted by the
SPDC. Ethnic nationalities were suffering all kinds of repression, such as a ban on the teaching
of ethnic languages, which made it very difficult to pass on a cultural heritage to future
generations. Minorities among minorities, such as religious groups, were also being persecuted.
With regard to the situation of women in Burma, the Committee of Experts monitoring the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had requested
the SPDC to include in its next report more information on the situation of women in as many
ethnic minority groups as possible, and on the measures taken by the Government to protect and
ensure their human rights under the Convention.
20. The fact that people belonged to minority groups did not give the ruling regime or
Government the right to violate their human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
would mean nothing to minorities unless their potential was fully recognized and their human
rights were respected. She therefore appealed to the Commission to question the violations of
the human rights of minorities in countries like Burma, and to make Governments or ruling
regimes accountable for any such violations.
21. Mr. SIDDIQUI (Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace) said that unity in diversity of
cultures, ethnicity and language were of primary importance for the promotion of democracy.
However, in Pakistan, the Mohajirs, the largest ethno-linguistic minority, were being subjected
to repression, discrimination and isolation, having become the victims of the arrogance and
hegemony of Punjabi leaders. The ruling apparatus of Pakistan, in which the Mohajirs hardly
had any say, had devised means of contravening established human rights laws, practices and
norms: for example, in 1999, the census figures had been manipulated to show the Mohajir
population to be half of what it actually was.
22. His organization recommended that the Government of Pakistan cease its policy of
repression, oppression and persecution of the Mohajir and Sindhi nations with immediate effect,
withdraw the Punjabi forces and return to true democracy. Corrupt feudal and military rule in
Pakistan should be ended and full autonomy granted to all the minority provinces. Political
prisoners should be granted due process of law and the Sindhi issue should be resolved through
meaningful and sincere dialogue.
23. Mr. CANNY (International Catholic Migration Commission), speaking on behalf of the
Steering Committee of the Global Campaign for Ratification of the International Convention on
the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, welcomed
the increasing attention being given to the protection of the human rights of migrants. All the
Global Campaigns member organizations had begun to provide the Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of migrants with material to assist her in fulfilling her mandate, and a particular
effort was being made to gather reports on specific cases in different regions of the world.
24. The Steering Committee was a unique alliance of concerned international
inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations that had been formed to promote the
entry into force of the 1990 Convention. Given the deterioration in the treatment of migrants and
other foreigners in numerous places in the world, there was a more urgent need than ever for the
wider adoption of the instrument protecting migrants, who were particularly at risk as they did
not enjoy the same protection as the nationals of the countries they lived in. The Steering
Committee was frustrated by the slow pace of ratification and the lack of resources made
available to promote and monitor respect for the human rights of migrants. Those rights were
furthered not only through legal standards, but also through other means, including political and
educational institutions and the media.
25. The Steering Committee therefore welcomed the proposal by the working group of
intergovernmental experts on the human rights of migrants to designate 18 December as
International Migrants Day. It also attached great importance to the forthcoming World
Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which
would offer an unprecedented opportunity to combat discrimination and promote equitable
treatment for all.
26. Mr. SUN Zhonghua (China Disabled Persons Federation) noted that less and less
importance had been paid to disability by the United Nations and some Member States since the
United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons had ended in 1992. Disabled persons were a very
vulnerable group and the problem of marginalization had still to be addressed. While the
Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities were to be
welcomed, as were the Special Rapporteurs efforts in that connection, the Rules were not
binding, and an international convention was needed to protect the rights of persons with
disabilities. At the world NGO Summit on Disability held earlier in the year, the United Nations
had been strongly urged to take steps in that regard. However, during the discussions regarding
a resolution on disability at the thirty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development,
the representative of the United States had taken a surprising stance, repeatedly opposing the
inclusion of wording to request the Special Rapporteur to explore further the possibility of a
27. According to statistics, more than 650 new cases of mental illness in China had been
caused by the practice of Falun Gong, a source of serious concern to his organization. The head
of the Falun Gong cult violated human rights by engaging in mind control, and the China
Disabled Persons Federation had been surprised to find that such a cult had been used as an
excuse to attack the human rights situation in China.
28. Mr. ALI KHAN (World Federation of Trade Unions) said that the condition of minorities
in States founded and run in the name of a religion was often becoming unbearable in the
modern world. Pakistan, for example, was becoming an increasingly closed, inward-looking
State, where anyone outside of the Muslim mainstream was treated as a second class citizen.
The plight of its Ahmadi, Christian and Hindu people was continuing to worsen. Religious
minorities were not permitted to vote as part of an integrated electorate, according to a system,
that maintained the segregation of Muslims and non-Muslims and ensured that minorities
remained without effective representation in the administration. Moreover, the upkeep of the
Hindu shrines in Sind, where 96 per cent of Pakistans 1.2 million Hindus were concentrated,
was unsatisfactory, partly because of lack of funds, but largely because of encroachment by
Muslims; a number of such shrines were believed to have been converted into mosques.
29. The Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution on minimum humanitarian standards
(E/CN.4/1998/L.50), had recognized the desirability of identifying fundamental standards of
humanity applicable in all situations. He trusted that Pakistan would undertake to implement its
international commitments in that regard.
30. Mr. SAINI (International Institute for Peace) said that the real test of a States
commitment to human rights was to provide a safe existence for religious and cultural minorities.
Unfortunately, many States were failing that test and were instead supporting religious
fundamentalism and extremism, making minorities as well as secular-minded citizens
vulnerable, particularly as fundamentalism often encouraged terrorism. Although
fundamentalism was by no means confined to Islam, those engaged in the jihad presented a
serious threat to minorities. Islam was a religion of compassion, justice and equality, yet it had
been projected by self-styled leaders and warlords as an emblem of defiance, intolerance and
crude militancy. War against fundamentalism and extremism could not be waged in isolation.
The only way for the international community to contain the Islamists threat and protect
minorities was by giving greater powers to the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.
31. Mr. GILANI (World Society of Victimology) recalled that, in connection with its
consideration of human rights situations that caused or threatened to cause mass exoduses or
displacements, the United Nations had instructed India and Pakistan to ensure that all citizens of
Kashmir should be free to return, and to exercise all their rights as citizens. Unfortunately, those
two nations had failed in their obligation towards five generations of refugees and it was ironic
that since 1990 the trouble in Jammu and Kashmir had affected all communities, causing the loss
of homes and many displacements.
32. The Commission should request the Representative of the Secretary-General on
Internally Displaced Persons to respond to the displacements in Jammu and Kashmir. In the
light of Indias and Pakistans obligations the Commission should also request the
Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that the two
United Nations commissions composed of nominees from India and Pakistan respectively were
established to deal with the situation of displaced persons in Kashmir. Furthermore, India and
Pakistan should be encouraged and assisted to take tangible steps to alleviate the suffering of the
people of Kashmir. In order to arrest the stream of displacement, it was important for Kashmiri
citizens to be involved in the conduct of public affairs. The United Nations had a role to play in
ensuring that a Government comprising the principal political elements in Kashmir should take
all possible measures to make it known that peace, law and order would be safeguarded.
33. Mr. LITTMAN (Association of World Citizens) said that the ancient Jewish community
of the Islamic Republic of Iran was in grave danger of destruction as a religious group.
Thirteen Jews accused of espionage were currently awaiting a trial that had recently been
postponed once again, and although eight Muslims were also facing the same charges, no outside
observers or lawyers were permitted. Furthermore, 10 of the Jews had not had any access to
lawyers since their arrest, despite the fact that under Islamic law, protected minorities were
supposed to be granted civil rights and freedom from persecution. In a time of change and
public debate on the nature and aims of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he called on the
Commission to act upon its resolution E/CN.4/RES/1999/13 on the situation of human rights in
the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to improve the situation of minorities in that country, and
particularly that of the Jews.
INDIGENOUS ISSUES (agenda item 15) (E/CN.4/2000/84-86; E/CN.4/2000/NGO/11,
16, 37, 39, 83, 100, 120 and 128; A/54/487 and Add.1; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/18-20;
E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1999/4 and 6)
34. Mr. WILLE (Chairperson-Rapporteur of the open-ended inter-sessional ad hoc working
group on a permanent forum for indigenous people), introducing his report (E/CN.4/2000/86),
recalled that the mandate of the working group, as contained in Commission on Human Rights
resolution 1999/52, was to submit one or more concrete proposals on the establishment of a
permanent forum for consideration by the Commission at its current session. The working
groups second session, which had been held from 14 to 23 February had been conducted in an
open and constructive spirit. There had been broad support for the working group to recommend
the establishment of a forum for indigenous peoples as a subsidiary body of the Economic and
Social Council. There were, however, differing views regarding the name of the forum;
indigenous participants proposed permanent forum for indigenous peoples, while some
Governments preferred permanent forum on indigenous issues.
35. There had been support for the idea that the forum should have a mandate to discuss
indigenous issues addressed by the Economic and Social Council and the themes of the
International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous People. Representatives had expressed the view
that the forum should be an advisory body with members serving in their personal capacity and
should promote coordination of the United Nations activities relating to indigenous issues.
Membership should be divided equally between government nominees and indigenous
representatives, although there were differing views on how the latter were to be selected. There
was broad agreement that the forum should be financed from the Regular Budget of the
United Nations and that voluntary contributions should also be sought. Further discussion was
required on some issues, such as the size of the forum, the length of its annual sessions and its
rules of procedure.
36. The establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples would not only fulfil one
of the goals of the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous People, but would also add
worth to the work of the United Nations and provide a welcome opportunity for Governments,
indigenous peoples and the United Nations specialized agencies to work together.
37. Mr. CHÁVEZ (Chairperson-Rapporteur of the working group established in accordance
with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/32), introducing his report
(E/CN.4/2000/84), pointed out that the terms indigenous peoples and indigenous populations
had been used synonymously in the text without prejudice to the different views expressed
concerning those terms. The session had taken place in a more positive atmosphere than in the
past, and the frank and open discussions had initially focused on draft articles 15-18. Views on
those draft articles differed, and Annexes I and II of the report contained proposals submitted for
future discussion by Governments and indigenous representatives respectively, the latter
proposals being consistent with the draft text used as a basis for the groups work. Although it
had not been possible to adopt formally any of those articles, much progress had been made in
the discussions, thanks partly to greater participation by Government delegations. The
experience gained should serve as a basis for the organization of future work.
38. It appeared advisable for the future, however, to leave consideration of draft
articles 15-18, on which as much progress as possible had been made, and to concentrate on
other articles that had been considered on a preliminary basis in previous sessions. Participants
should remain in contact prior to the next session in order to exchange views and for the session
to be successful, participants should bear in mind the need to maintain a constructive approach.
Any specific suggestions for improving the original draft texts would be welcome with a view to
reaching a genuine consensus. Efforts should be intensified to ensure that as many Governments
and indigenous representatives as possible participated in the working group, and Governments
and non-governmental organizations should act to ensure the attendance of a high number of
indigenous representatives, in particular by supporting the Voluntary Fund for the International
Decade of the Worlds Indigenous People.
39. Ms. TAULI-CORPUZ (Chairperson, Board of Trustees, United Nations Voluntary Fund
for Indigenous Populations), noting that the latest information concerning the Fund was
contained in documents A/54/487 and Add.1, and E/CN.4/AC.4/1999/6, said that thanks to the
donors to the Fund, it had been possible to help indigenous representatives to participate in the
working group on indigenous populations, the working group on the draft declaration on the
rights of indigenous peoples, and in the working group on the establishment of a permanent
forum. In 1999, a total of 90 travel grants had been approved to enable indigenous
representatives to attend meetings and another 34 in 2000, with a further 160 applications under
consideration. The presence and active participation of indigenous persons in the Commissions
bodies dealing with indigenous issues had created a healthy environment for dialogue between
governments and indigenous peoples - the first step towards the achievement of justice and
development for peoples long oppressed and marginalized. Donors were to be thanked for their
support, which had made it possible to cover expenditure for 2000. New contributions of
approximately US$ 600,000 would be needed to cover expenditure planned for 2001.
40. Mr. DODSON (Chairperson, Advisory Group, United Nations Voluntary Fund for the
International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous People), noting that detailed information on the
Funds situation could be found in documents E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1999/4, A/54/487 and
E/CN.4/2000/85, announced that the Fund had been able to double the number of projects
financed from 12 in 1997 to 24 in 1999. In accordance with Commission on Human Rights
resolution 1997/32, it had also financed the organization of a workshop on higher education and
indigenous peoples in Costa Rica in 1999. At its current session, the group was analysing
60 projects received from indigenous communities and organizations and would be making
recommendations for approval of project grants up to a total of US$ 150,000. Taking into
account all contributions and pledges, it was hoped the Fund would have sufficient resources to
cover all its activities for the current year, which included a second workshop for indigenous
journalists, two sub-regional seminars in Africa on indigenous issues, and a two-day workshop
on indigenous children.
41. Mr. SFEIR-YOUNIS (Observer for the World Bank) said that the World Bank was
assisting many countries to improve the welfare of their indigenous peoples. Having recognized
the importance of cultural sustainability, the World Bank had developed a safeguard policy for
all the projects it financed. That policy sought to ensure that any project relating to indigenous
peoples had to be linked to development and poverty reduction; that legal measures were taken
to protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their land, cultural, religious and sacred values and
use of natural resources; that indigenous peoples were fully informed of the potential impact of
any project involving their land and were consulted prior to any such project; and that the
knowledge and culture of indigenous peoples was respected.
42. The establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples within the framework of
the Economic and Social Council would be a major step forward. It would be a mistake not to
embrace the knowledge of indigenous peoples for the creation of a sustainable, integrated and
global society. Indigenous peoples would contribute actively to the discussions, and the forum
might be the only place where such persons could participate in deliberations at international
level. It was essential to reconcile progress with the fundamental notions of life on earth as
portrayed in the societies of indigenous peoples. Indigenous cultures, their societies and
knowledge were central to the Banks efforts on social inclusion, and the Commissions support
was central to the success of the Banks mission.
43. Mr. BELIZ (Observer for Panama), speaking on behalf of the Central American Group,
said that the countries of that Group attached great importance to indigenous issues, in view of
their multi-ethnic background. At the regional level, efforts were being made to increase the
participation of indigenous peoples in all areas of society and to recognize their identities and
cultures. At the international level, the establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous
peoples was essential to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations
system. The mandate of the ad hoc working group should be revised once the forum had been
set up to enable it to continue to function. The development of standards to protect the rights of
indigenous peoples was fundamental to those populations, and the Central American Group was
an active participant in the working group established to elaborate a draft declaration on the
rights of indigenous peoples. The international community was urged to continue to provide
financial support to the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations. Meanwhile, Panama itself
remained firmly committed to the effective integration of indigenous peoples and to the full
recognition of their rights.
44. Mr. RAJA NUSHIRWAN (Observer for Malaysia), emphasizing the importance his
country attached to indigenous issues, said that Malaysias own indigenous peoples had regained
their self-esteem and were progressive enough to embrace the future while respecting the past.
Although progress had been made, his country was concerned that the discussions on a draft
declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples had not yet been completed, and substantive
progress should be achieved in the forthcoming discussions in order to justify the costs incurred.
In that connection, it was essential to establish whether the draft declaration was to constitute a
standard to be worked towards, or a minimum standard to be applied, since it should not seek to
do both. Also, it was important to decide whether the draft should be adopted unchanged or with
modifications. The issue of definitions should not stand in the way of progress on other articles,
and Malaysia would be prepared to accept draft article 3 on self-determination as it was currently
45. It was regrettable that more progress had not been made on the establishment of a
permanent forum. The working group established should not discuss issues that were not
directly related to the question at hand. The mandate of the forum should be such as to enable it
to consider issues addressed during the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous People,
such as human rights, environment, health and education. Also, the method of selecting
indigenous representatives and the mechanisms to be used to pass information on to the
indigenous peoples should be the subject of further discussion.
46. Ms. SOOVALI (Observer for Estonia) said that the rights of indigenous peoples
continued to be at risk in many parts of the world, and Estonia welcomed the growing consensus
on the need to establish a forum for indigenous peoples that would contribute significantly to
achieving the objectives of the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples. It also
welcomed the spirit of compromise that had prevailed in the working groups deliberations. The
forum should be able to discuss all issues affecting indigenous peoples, carry out studies, make
recommendations to the Economic and Social Council, promote coordination of the activities
related to indigenous issues within the United Nations system, and define development strategies
for indigenous peoples. She hoped that the permanent forum could be established as a subsidiary
body of the Council during the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples as a
means of furthering the objectives of the Decade in partnership between Governments and
47. Mr. FARRELL (Observer for New Zealand) said that a major priority of the new
Government in New Zealand was to close the gap between Maori and non-Maori and to provide
greater opportunity for Maori development; a cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister
herself had been set up for that purpose. The Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of the
New Zealand nation State, continued to guide both the Maori and the Government in their
dealings with one another. The Government had made significant progress in settling claims
arising from historical breaches of that Treaty, and redress totalling more than $NZ 500 million
had been provided to date. Furthermore, in celebration of the International Decade of the
Worlds Indigenous Populations, the New Zealand Government had established a decade fund
focusing on projects promoting the development of the Maori language. It had also reviewed its
position on ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) and was considering
the implications of ratification.
48. At the international level, New Zealand contributed regularly to United Nations
voluntary funds and to the Indigenous Peoples Centre for Documentation, Research and
Funding. Although progress on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples had
been slow, New Zealand had been encouraged by the increasing level of participation by States
and the more open dialogue between States and indigenous representatives, and it called on all
participants to intensify their negotiating efforts in good faith. It had also been encouraged by
the progress made on the issue of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples, and strongly hoped
that the Commission on Human Rights would endorse the principle of establishing such a forum
at its current session. At the midpoint of the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous
Peoples, much had been accomplished, but there was still much to be done to achieve the
objectives of strengthening international cooperation to solve the problems faced by indigenous
peoples, a goal to which New Zealand was firmly committed.
49. Mr. LEHMANN (Observer for Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries,
commended the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for her constructive work
as coordinator of the International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples. The activities
undertaken thus far within the framework of the Decade had served to increase awareness of the
specific problems encountered by indigenous peoples and the need for solutions at the national,
regional and global level. The voluntary funds established had enabled indigenous
representatives to attend United Nations meetings on indigenous issues, thereby furthering
dialogue with governments, and should be actively supported.
50. It was to be hoped that concrete results on issues such as the establishment of a
permanent forum for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system and the drafting of a
declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples could be achieved before the end of the
International Decade. The recent meetings of the ad hoc working group on a permanent forum
had been very constructive and a point had now been reached where concrete action could be
considered. With regard to the declaration, it was important to build on the consensus emerging
among Governments and indigenous peoples in the working group by accommodating the
reasonable concerns of interested parties, while at the same time respecting the spirit of the draft
51. Mr. ZOZULIA (Observer for Ukraine), said that the adoption of a draft declaration on
the rights of indigenous peoples and the establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous
peoples were two key objectives of the International Decade. Ukraine had always recognized the
need for the classification of ethnic groups to facilitate national policies protecting the rights of
national minorities and indigenous peoples. The draft declaration on the rights of indigenous
peoples should distinguish between at least two categories of indigenous entities: those leading
an isolated, tribal way of life and those integrated with the rest of society. Ukraine fully agreed
that use of the term peoples in the declaration would have no implications regarding the right
of self-determination or any other rights that might be attributed to that term under international
law. The draft declaration should include provisions to prohibit any actions designed to impair
the territorial integrity, political unity and stability of sovereign States, and the working group on
the draft declaration should avoid excessive politicization in its future work.
52. One of the most urgent tasks awaiting the Ukrainian Government was to ensure the
peaceful return of those forcibly deported from Ukraine over 50 years ago and their integration
into society, without infringing on the rights of the countrys existing residents. His delegation
finally noted the activities of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in searching for peaceful
solutions to situations involving indigenous peoples.
53. Mr. ALFRED (Observer for South Africa) said that South Africa was embarking upon
systematic consultative accommodation of its indigenous peoples. The new post-apartheid
Constitution extended equal rights to all citizens, and specific steps were being taken to promote
indigenous languages. It also provided for the establishment of a statutory commission for the
promotion and protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities. Practical
measures including land restitution and compensation to indigenous communities were being
implemented by the South African Government to give effect to the new legislative provisions.
54. At the international level, South Africa hoped to contribute increasingly to the
progressive and constructive consideration of indigenous issues within the United Nations
system. It supported the efforts being made on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous
peoples and on the establishment of a permanent forum for such peoples, as both initiatives were
important to ensure that the principles of human rights were universally applied and that the
fundamental rights and freedoms of indigenous populations were recognized and protected. It
also looked forward to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which would offer an ideal opportunity to highlight the
impact of racial discrimination on indigenous peoples and the legacy of marginalization and
discrimination they faced.
55. Mr. FOUX (Observer for Switzerland) said that Switzerland hoped that tangible results
would be achieved in the near future on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples,
since the only universal instrument affording them protection was the ILO Indigenous and Tribal
Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), the principles of which had recently been incorporated into
the Swiss cooperation for development programme. A permanent forum for indigenous peoples
under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council would enable representatives of
Governments and indigenous peoples to discuss matters such as sustainable development and the
rights of indigenous communities, and would help to coordinate activities concerning indigenous
issues carried out in the United Nations system. Geneva would provide an ideal location for the
permanent forum in view of the large number of organizations there dealing with indigenous
issues and Switzerland would continue to assist indigenous representatives to attend meetings in
Geneva. It hoped that the permanent forum would soon become a reality, and would be prepared
to make a practical contribution to enable the forum to begin its work as soon as possible.
56. Ms. CASSAM (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) said
that UNESCO had always demanded the right of indigenous peoples to human dignity and had
always recognized the value and diversity of indigenous cultures. Her organization was
endeavouring to raise awareness of the problems faced by indigenous peoples, such as
marginalization and the abuse of their most basic human rights, and to encourage those people to
defend themselves. Its work included a programme for recognition of indigenous languages
throughout the world and a study of the internal migrations of indigenous peoples in five
Latin American countries and their impact on educational demands in large populated areas.
57. UNESCO was undertaking work to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples by,
inter alia, campaigning against discrimination affecting vulnerable groups. In addition, it was
actively involved in work to recognize the value of the knowledge of indigenous peoples, and its
programme Man and the Biosphere was focusing on areas that included natural resources, the
rights of indigenous peoples and biosphere reserves. It aimed to support the emergence of
indigenous cultural identities and to protect their heritage. In its view, there was no contradiction
between modern living and respect for the traditions of the past. Accordingly, it was feasible to
seek the broadest possible access for indigenous peoples to new technologies while preserving
and disseminating their traditional knowledge. Such knowledge was not only a heritage of the
past; it also offered solutions for the future, particularly in the medical and pharmaceutical fields,
and would help to redefine mans relationship with nature. UNESCO was looking forward
impatiently to the establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous peoples.
The meeting rose at 11.45 p.m.