The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is a high-level advisory body to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Permanent Forum is one of three UN bodies mandated to deal specifically with Indigenous peoples’ issues; the others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Forum was established on 28 July 2000 by resolution 2000/22, with the mandate to deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. More specifically, the Permanent Forum provides expert advice and recommendations on Indigenous issues to the Council, as well as to programs, funds and agencies of the United Nations, through ECOSOC; raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system; prepares and disseminates information on Indigenous issues The Permanent Forum holds annual two-week sessions at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The sixteenth session of the Permanent Forum occurred from April 24 to May 5, 2017. At this year’s Permanent Forum, Canada built upon their statement of unqualified support for the Declaration from the fifteenth session by formally abandoning its 2014 statements on paragraphs 3 and 20 of the Outcome Document from the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. In so doing, Canada is formally on record as being fully committed to the standard of free, prior and informed consent expressed in the UN Declaration.
The issue of the participation was also discussed during this year’s Forum. As follow up from the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the President of the General Assembly appointed four facilitators – two Indigenous representatives and two state representatives, to engage Indigenous peoples and states on proposals to improve the participation of Indigenous peoples in United Nations fora.
The proposal is now being negotiated between UN Members States and the AFN secured Canada’s support for greater participation of Indigenous peoples representative organizations within the United Nations system. A final resolution will be addressed at the 72nd session of the General Assembly in September 2017.
National Chief Bellegarde delivered a statement in the UN General Assembly Hall on behalf of the Coalition on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stating, “Since the adoption of the UN Declaration 10 years ago, a great deal of work has been done and significant progress has been made in acknowledging the importance of Indigenous peoples rights as a human rights priority. This session of the UN Permanent Forum is especially notable because discussions here have potential to bring us a step closer to greater participation and recognition as Indigenous peoples in UN bodies, including the General Assembly.”
2017 is the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration. The AFN marked the anniversary by co-hosting a side event on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Opportunities in Canada with the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The event was moderated by Grand Chief Edward John with participation from the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and Chief Denise Stonefish, Chair of the AFN Women’s Council.