Indigenous peoples and others in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations felt that the structures of the United Nations were not well-suited to consider issues of concern to indigenous peoples comprehensively. In addition, they felt that the participation of indigenous representatives in the United Nations was limited. In light of these concerns, indigenous peoples and others proposed establishing a new body that would focus on global issues related to indigenous peoples and that would offer the opportunity for indigenous peoples to participate effectively.
Participants at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna discussed the creation of the Permanent Forum. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recommended that such a forum should be established within the framework of the United Nations International Decade of the World`s Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004).
In June 1995, a workshop was held in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss establishing a permanent forum for indigenous peoples. Participants included representatives of governments, indigenous peoples and independent experts. They discussed the potential scope of a permanent forum, which UN body the proposed forum would report to, the forum`s mandate and terms of reference, including what activities it might undertake, membership, indigenous participation, its relationship with the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and financial and secretariat implications. The report of this workshop was transmitted to governments, indigenous peoples` organizations, and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. Recipients of the report were invited to express their views.
When the General Assembly adopted the Programme of Activities for the International Decade of the World`s Indigenous Peoples, it recognized that the establishment of the Forum was one of the primary objectives of the Decade.
A second UN workshop on the Permanent Forum was held in Santiago, Chile in 1997, during which representatives of governments, indigenous peoples` organizations, NGOs, UN organizations and bodies and specialized agencies considered the findings of the Secretary-General`s review and further developed proposals for establishing a permanent forum.
The workshop reported to the Commission on Human Rights with suggestions on how to proceed.
Throughout the entire process, indigenous groups around the world organized international conferences about the proposed Forum. Conferences were held in Chile, Panama, India, Geneva and Tanzania. These conferences produced Declarations with recommendations and proposals concerning the Forum`s mandate, membership, indigenous participation, location, and funding.
The Commission on Human Rights met in 1998 and created an ad hoc working group to consider proposals for establishing the Permanent Forum. The working group met first in early 1999, then convened another session in early 2000. By the end of the second session, the working group had designed concrete proposals that were then submitted to the Commission on Human Rights for consideration.
In April 2000, the Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution to establish the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues during the International Decade of the World`s Indigenous Peoples. Three months later, the Economic and Social Council endorsed the resolution, and the Permanent Forum came into formal existence.
The Permanent Forum is now an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. According to its mandate, the Permanent Forum will :
- provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council, as well as to programmes, funds and agencies of the United Nations, through the Council
- raise awareness and promote the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system
- prepare and disseminate information on indigenous issues The Permanent Forum is to hold an annual session. The first meeting of the Permanent Forum was held in May 2002, and yearly meetings will take place either in New York or Geneva.
Third session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was held in New York on 10-21 May 2004. The special theme of the third session was “Indigenous Women” . Given the special theme of the event, organizations were encouraged to include an enhanced presence of indigenous women in their delegations.
The session was opened by the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Economic and Social Council, together with an indigenous elder and an indigenous woman, on Monday, 10 May 2004, at the United Nations Headquarters.
A high-level panel and dialogue on Indigenous women, were held on Monday, 10 May 2004, addressed by Mrs. Njuma Ekundanayo, Vice-Chairperson of the Permanent Forum; Mrs. Kyung-wha Kang, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women; Mrs. Noeli Pocaterra, the Second Vice-President of the National Assembly of Venezuela; Mrs. Mary Robinson, Chairperson of the Council of Women World Leaders, Executive Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland; and Ms. Stella Tamang, Chairperson of the International Indigenous Women.s Caucus. The panel was chaired by Mr. Ole Henrik Magga, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum.
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