Chiefs-in-Assembly have directed AFN engagement in international activities and mechanisms to advance First Nations rights. Therefore, the AFN is mandated to pursue an international dimension to its advocacy and activities.
The AFN advances the rights and interests of First Nations internationally by: strategically participating in key international fora and events; forging relationships and partnerships with other Indigenous peoples and their organizations and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs); facilitating international political, economic, cultural, and social relationships between First Nations and foreign States; and, seeking to establish working relationships with Canada towards informing their foreign and international policy approaches and objectives on matters of shared interest.
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
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.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) was established by the Human Rights Council, the UN’s main human rights body in 2007. Its mandate was then amended in September 2016 by Human Rights Council resolution 33/25. The AFN was actively engaged in reforming the mandate of the EMRIP, emphasizing the importance of sufficient human and financial resources to allow it to serve as an effective mechanism for advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The Expert Mechanism provides the Human Rights Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and assists Member States, upon request, in achieving the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through the promotion, protection and fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Expert Mechanism holds an annual session, usually in July, in which representatives from states, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous peoples’ organizations, civil society, inter-governmental organizations and academia take part.
The Assembly of First Nations participates in meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to protect and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in multilateral action on climate change.
This advocacy effort led to the inclusion of language in the Paris Agreement on the importance of recognizing human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples, when taking action on climate change.
The Paris Agreement is the first multi-lateral environmental agreement which specifically uses the term ‘Indigenous peoples’ in the text of the agreement itself. In addition, the Agreement created a new platform for Indigenous peoples and local communities at the front lines of climate change, in recognition of the unique role that indigenous peoples and local communities play in exchanging knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts related to addressing and responding to climate change.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
As a State party to the convention, Canada submits regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party.
The AFN attends session when Canada’s reports are reviewed by the Committee in order to advance First Nations human rights concerns. Canada’s 21st-23rd reports will be examined during the 93rd session of the CERD scheduled for July 31 – August 25, 2017.