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First Statement at Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva

By Linda Zhang

GENEVA—Twelve representatives from the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (IYC) made their first official presence at the 3rd session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva this past July. Collectively, the group made three statements before the Expert Mechanism on the need for full access and participation in decision-making processes for indigenous youth worldwide.

They spoke on the following ongoing agenda items: the Study on Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Participate in Decision-Making on July 13, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on July 14, and Proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and approval on July 15. Members of the group stood up in support as their fellow representatives presented the statements, a move rarely seen at the weeklong meeting, drawing much attention and some applause from other participants.

IYC Maori representative Kingi Snelgar, who made the second statement, was happily surprised by the reaction of the group’s statement. “I think because we have a fresh voice and we give a different perspective, people were interested in what we have to say,” he said. “I was definitely proud to recognize the global youth voice.”

This first presence at the Expert Mechanism unified youth voices from Canada (Khmer Krom), France (Khmer Krom), New Zealand (Ngapuhi and Ngati Rehua), Taiwan (Pinuyumayan and Paiwan), Tibet (Tibetan), and US (Native Hawaiian).

Though the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus started in 2002 at the UN Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Issues in New York, the UN Permanent Forum only formally recognized the working group in 2008. Since then, it has grown to about 100 members and has secured spots on the speaker lists at the Permanent Forum meetings.

Jocelyn T.H. Hung Chien, current chair of the IYC and a Taiwanese representative who made the first statement, said that she received positive feedback from Jose Morales, the chair of the Expert Mechanism, after the meeting.

Looking ahead, Hung Chien and other members of the group see the need to help the group expand in size and establish permanency. “Other caucuses have good resources and have been working together for 10-20 years since the development of the Declaration,” she said. “They know how it works and they know each other.”

Making an active presence at the Expert Mechanism is one of the important first steps toward working toward these goals and like other members of the group, Hung Chein concluded, “I have quite good faith in our youth.”

 

Video coverage of statements can be found on YouTube:

 First Statement on July 13:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L87bP1ccGIw

 Second Statement on July 14:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVt10fB-BwY

Third Statement on July 15:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLQbU4VQTns

 

 

 

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