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2005 International Conference on Engaging Communities - Workshop on Engaging the Marginalized

2005 International Conference on Engaging Communities

Workshop on Engaging the Marginalized: Partnerships between Indigenous Peoples, Government and Civil Society

Opening Remarks of Michael Dodson

Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Distinguished members of Governments
Distinguished guests and colleagues
Ladies and Gentleman

It is a pleasure to welcome all of you on behalf of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and its Secretariat to this workshop on "Engaging the Marginalized: Partnerships between Indigenous Peoples, Governments, and Civil Society". I would also like to express my appreciation to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of Australia and the Commissioner, Mr.Tom Calma, whose office has been an important partner in organizing this workshop. As an indigenous person representing the Pacific region at the UN Permanent Forum, I am especially pleased to work with other indigenous peoples and stakeholders interested in our shared objectives of furthering indigenous peoples rights, aspirations, and participation in policy and governance processes that directly or indirectly affect them.

The last few years have been significant for indigenous peoples with the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum, which has provided a platform for indigenous peoples to engage the UN system and governments at the international level. The Permanent Forum has a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights while providing expert advice and recommendations to the Economic and Social Council and the UN system. The Forum also raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues, and prepares and disseminates information. The Forum, in itself, is a unique model of partnership between indigenous peoples and member states of the UN since eight of its members are nominated by indigenous peoples' organizations, and the other eight are nominated by member states of the UN system. All members of the Forum have equal status as experts within the United Nations and work in consensus

In the four years since its existence, the Permanent Forum has held sessions that have focused on indigenous children, indigenous women and the Millennium Development Goals. A number of recommendations have emerged from these sessions, which particularly address the issue of engaging indigenous peoples through the human rights based approach to development, their involvement in all stages of the policy and programming cycle, including implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and most importantly the principle of free, prior and informed consent. The Secretariat of the Permanent Forum organized an international expert workshop on this principle in January 2005 following a decision of the Forum and my colleague, Elsa Stamatopoulou, from the Secretariat will further discuss and elaborate on this concept in her presentation.

This year has also been particularly significant with the UN General Assembly having proclaimed a Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (Resolution A/59/174). A Second International Decade is a recognition by the General Assembly that the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples need to be protected more effectively, and that concrete solutions have to be adopted to make a real difference in indigenous peoples' lives. Never before has the international system been so primed to incorporate indigenous views and messages into general policy directives, legal and development frameworks within the international system are illustrative of the importance and necessity of engaging indigenous peoples. .

The UN Permanent Forum recognizes the importance of working collaboratively with governments, civil society and the private sector to help build their capacity to work in partnership with indigenous peoples so that policies and programs may be developed which are culturally appropriate, sensitive, targeted and effective. These programs must be underpinned by the human rights based approach to development, which is now policy within the UN system, with a fundamental recognition that indigenous peoples must be at the center of these processes. The Forum along with its Secretariat and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has thus organized this workshop to further build on this approach and identify opportunities, as well as challenges for engaging indigenous communities in governance processes.

We have a number of distinguished panelists who will lay out international frameworks, as well as national and local level examples of engaging indigenous communities. The workshop will take the format of presentations in the morning session, and I would like to request each of the panelists to limit their remarks to a maximum of 10 minutes to allow some time for questions before we recess. Following the morning presentations we will reconvene in the afternoon for break out discussions, at 2:10pm where facilitators will assist with discussions at each table. I encourage you to identify specific mechanisms and challenges that you have experienced in engaging indigenous peoples and report back to the panel at the end of the break out session. I am particularly pleased to see Aborginal peoples here today and trust that they will be active participants in our workshop. These discussions also represent an opportunity to provide concrete recommendations for a report of the workshop, as well as for the Brisbane Declaration which will be adopted at the end of this international conference.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to this workshop, and look forward to your 'engagement' with us in this collaborative endeavour. I would now like to request my colleague Ms. Elsa Stamatoupoulou to make a presentation on international legal, institutional and policy frameworks for engaging indigenous peoples.

Last updated 24 January 2006.