Suva – The United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) is important to the Pacific where indigenous people are the majority in the region.
Pacific Islands Association of NGOs senior technical adviser, Laitia Tamata echoed these sentiments after attending the Regional Meeting on Enhancing Inclusive Development in the Pacific in the framework of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Apia, Samoa last week.
Tamata, who was among approximately 20 government officials, representatives of national human rights institutions and representatives of civil society from Pacific Island countries at the meeting, said a highlight was the realization by participants that UNDRIP actually applied to the Pacific islands.
“There’s always been the assumption that UNDRIP applied only to indigenous people in countries where they are the minority,” Tamata said.
“ But havingthe UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) representatives there to clarify that UNDRIP is relevant and applicable even in a region where the indigenous population is a majority was an eye opener for many of us participants,” he said.
He said the declaration obligates the state to protect indigenous people, natural resources, language and culture in any situation.
“This was particularly important as most of the Pacific island countries have leaders who are indigenous so the assumption has always been that that is enough guarantee for the protection of indigenous interests. That is not often the case.”
“Out of the Pacific, only two countries have adopted this declaration. That’s Samoa and Federated States of Micronesia.”
“The push now is for participants to lobby for their governments to adopt the UNDRIP and apply it in-country. These participants were from Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji, Solomons and the Cook Islands.”
Tamata said CSO and government representatives for each country were given the opportunity to do action planning around this goal.
“So these countries now have action plans. PIANGO contributed to the Fiji action plan but also has its own plan which focuses on supporting the efforts of its national liaison units and echoing their voices in regional and global forums on this issue.”
PIANGO Executive Director, Emele Duituturaga stated that PIANGO will now look at adopting UNDRIP as a policy instrument and step up their efforts to raise awareness about UNDRIP so that Pacific governments will adopt this UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
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