Wednesday May 24, 2017

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Week Ahead

Reference groups

Indigenous peoples are working towards permanent UN representation. Looking North may provide some inspiration
(Photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

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The Week Ahead
Each week, The Arctic Journal gets our readers ready for the week ahead by profiling some of the events we expect to be reading about in the coming days. If you have an event you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please contact us.

In the otherwise staid world of diplomacy, the annual meeting of the UNPFII, a UN organisation that deals with indigenous issues, makes for a welcome dash of colour and contrasting perspective.

As the group’s two-week gathering, which began on April 24, winds down in the coming week, discussion will turn to whether they can be guaranteed a year-round presence in the UN system. 

During the first week, the focus has been on celebrating the gains during the ten years since the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted, and how indigenous groups can benefit from UN’s long-term development goals. If the pattern of past meetings hold, activity will wind down considerably until next year’s session. Having a permanent representative of their own, it is hoped, would prevent this from being the case.

SEE RELATED: Editor’s Briefing I World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 

Currently, indigenous groups, when not meeting in the UNPFII, are represented through their national delegations, although certain sub-organisations, including those dealing with food issues, development and the environment, have formalised methods for involving indigenous groups in their work.

A permanent representative would make it easier for indigenous groups to express their perspective, and it would allow groups that span borders to do so with a single voice.

Inclusion of this nature is rare at the international level, but not without precedent. After the UN meeting, for example, Arctic indigenous groups will be in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the biennal Arctic Council meeting. There they will sit at the table with cabinet-level representatives from each of the eight member states.

In the Arctic Council, including indigenous groups, known in council parlance as ‘permanent participants’, in a meaningful manner in discussions is a cornerstone or regional relations. Drawing on the model as a source of inspiration could ensure that what happens during future indigenous meetings at the UN does not stay at the UN.

Indigenous Forum – Together We Achieve