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United Nations to Better Represent Indigenous Peoples

United Nations Permanents Forum on Indigenous Issues logo

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The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) called on governments, courts and UN agencies to implement mechanisms to support and protect Indigenous peoples’ lands and lives in its 21st session, as well as more opportunities to participate in the General Assembly process. Although Indigenous voices are currently heard, their role is constricted because only UNPFII members can make recommendations to other bodies like the Economic and Social Council or UNESCO. Indigenous nations, communities and non-governmental organizations cannot vote or speak to UN bodies, including the General Assembly, without an invitation.

At the forum, Indigenous representatives and leaders discussed how dangerous mining practices driving the green energy transition are threatening Indigenous peoples around the world, how harmful conservation practices are impacting traditional territories and the need for urgent attention on violence against Indigenous land defenders and women. Geoffrey Roth, a Standing Rock Sioux descendent and UNPFII member, says, “A basic first step for enhanced participation would be the United Nations recognizing that tribes have a right to be here and have a right to be able to attend.” With enhanced participation, they can engage equally with member states to ensure rights are protected and concerns are heard.