11th session of UNPFII opens There will be no true development without participation of the indigenous peoples, says Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary-General

There will be no true development without participation of the indigenous peoples. In every aspect of development project, Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the IPs is very essential, says Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro reaffirmed this commitment of the UN during opening session of the 11th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) held at general assembly hall of the United Nations headquarters in New York on 7 May 2012.

She started her address by thanking all the indigenous peoples who have traveled from all over the world to make this happen. She reaffirmed the commitment of the UN to work for the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples.

She emphasized that the Secretary General wants solid participation of the indigenous peoples in Rio+20 and called upon the indigenous peoples to share their traditional knowledge there.

She further said, still now, we keep hearing stories of suffering of indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples facing injustice, women see violence, marginalization and even extinction. But, time has come now to change these stories.

Opening of the session was started by the amazing earthly sound of “didgeridoo”, an Australian aboriginal instrumental music, played by Mr. Cameron McCarthy.

Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, declared the opening of the 11th session of the UNPFII.

Opening welcome was made by Todadaho Sid Hill, traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation. He greeted all the participants with his traditional ceremonial welcome, acknowledging “mother earth” as our true mother, and acknowledging everything that the creator has given to us.

In the opening session, Grand Chief Edward John, a hereditary Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation located on the banks of the Nak’al Bun (Stuart Lake) in Northern part of Canada, was elected as the Chairperson for the eleventh session and Mr. Megan Davis, Director of the Indigenous Law Centre of Australia’s University of New South Wales was appointed as a Special Rapporteur.

The newly elected chairperson Mr. Edward John, with the consent from the respected members of the PFII, adopted the Agenda and Programme of work for the Eleventh Session. “The enduring impact of the “Doctrine of Discovery” was set as special theme for this year’s session. The other agenda items that were set for this session include the rights of indigenous peoples to food and food sovereignty; the situation of indigenous peoples in Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia; the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014).

Talking about the main theme, “Doctrine of Discovery”, Chief Edward John said, importance should be given on enduring impact of historical wrongs as state reviews their relationship with the indigenous peoples. He said this Forum is a wonderful opportunity for the indigenous peoples to share their stories and to discuss their collective future. He expects that the discussion that will take place at this Forum, will really make a difference to the indigenous peoples.

Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Co-ordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, acknowledged the depth of knowledge of the forum members. He stated PFII is one of the best session in UN calendar where Indigenous Peoples, different organization and UN system all come together to advance IP’S rights. He called upon the IPs to take solid participation in next month Rio+20 conference, where they can share their knowledge for sustainable development and to fight against climate change and also it will be a prime opportunity for the indigenous peoples to reaffirm all section of humanity. He further added, attention is needed from the states to promote & protect IPs rights, equality & justice.

The opening session was ended with a ceremonial prayer offered by Mayan elders.

This year, a group of indigenous representatives from Bangladesh comprising Information and Publicity Secretary of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti Mangal Kumar Chakma, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad and chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Rabindranath Soren, member of Kapaeeng Foundation Anmoy Kiran Chakma, Kamalasen Chakma and Sudattapriya Chakma of Parbatya Pratibandhi Sangstha attended the 11th session of the UNPFII. Besides, member of the UNPFII and circle chief of Chakma Circle Raja Devasish also attended the session.

The 11th session of the UNPFII will continue to 18 May 2012.