While no news has to count as good news about negotiations between the Arctic Council and the EU about the latter’s application to become an Observer in the former, renewed efforts are being made to keep afloat the dialogue between the European Commission and Arctic indigenous peoples. On 18 October, a 2nd Arctic Dialogue workshop took place in the exact same location as the first workshop had in March 2010, the Schuman room of the Berlaymont building, the Commissions imposing headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Inuit, Saami and Russian indigenous peoples’ organizations were represented at the workshop while their European counterpart was made up of associates of various Commission Directorate-Generals, primarily DG MARE, the organizers of the workshop.
“We are on stage, but we’re the cheap ones,” chairman of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples Lars-Anders Baer said to the BarentsObserver.com during the Barents Summit 2013 on Tuesday this week.
His remark followed the presentation of the renewed Kirkenes Declaration that, among other things, calls for a “further strengthening of indigenous peoples’ representation in the Barents cooperation.”
Baer flanked a distinquished panel of Prime and Foreign ministers and top-ranking officials of the Barents region states and the EU, discussing the future of the region before signing the 2013 Kirkenes Declaration. However, the reality is indigenous peoples strive financially to take part in the Barents cooperation, and that, rather than increasing their representation, indigenous people will have to “partly suspend” their participation, Baer further told BarentsObserver.com.
As Canada prepares to take over – by mid-May - the chairmanship of the Arctic Council with a program focused on resource developments, the Canadian Government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being met with a series of protests from aboriginal leaders.
The Idle No More movement, as the protest movement has been named, sprang up in November 2012 in response to the omnibus Bill C-45 presented by the Harper government.
According to the protesters, the way the bill was presented and passed as well as what it says concerning the management of waterways fail to measure up to standards for democratic due process, in general, and for respecting the rights of indigenous peoples to consultation and prior informed consent, in particular.
The Idle No More movement accuses Harper’s government of failing to acknowledge aboriginal peoples’ right to benefit fully from resource development, and leaving aboriginal leaders out of discussions on how to develop the country’s natural resources.
Protect, Respect and Remedy, the UN framework on business and human rights, was adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Last month, implementation of the framework took a big step forward as the Human Rights Council decided to establish a working group on business and human rights.
Prominent Russian indigenous peoples’ leader Pavel Sulyandziga has been appointed member of the working group along with 4 other experts from various corners of the globe. In general, indigenous peoples within the Russian Federation seem determined on finding ways to secure their rights and redefine themselves in relation to business enterprises.
The new Danish Arctic Strategy for the 2011-2020 period that was released yesterday, Monday, 22 August, by and large maintains the wording of the draft version leaked to the press in May.
Since May, Denmark has submitted the needed documentation for laying claim on two extended continental shelf areas by the Faroe Islands, whereas, the strategy document announces, 3 areas – one of which covers the North Pole - off the coast of Greenland will be claimed by 2014.
Denmark has had a strategy for support of Indigenous Peoples rights since 1994. A revised strategy was presented in 2004, whereas the recent workshop was part of an on-going review covering the period from 2001 to 2010 that is expected to present its result in February 2011.
So far, a so-called Inception Report describing the methodology and timelines of the review process has been presented, next the final report will be prepared, and, finally, the review team will summarize results of the work in a How-To-Note.
The main objectives of the review are:
1) to document efforts, experiences, and results of applying the Danish strategy to promote the rights of indigenous peoples
2) to analyze efforts and results to identify recommendations on future actions
The review period has witnessed the inauguration of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2001, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, as well as an increasing focusing of global efforts to combat climate change through mechanisms such as the so-called REDD+ program for forest preservation and management.
All of this has been and will continue to massively influence right-based initiatives concerning indigenous peoples, and thus will have to also deeply imprint the outcomes of the review, as will the new Danish Development Strategy called ”Freedom from Poverty, Freedom to Change” that is currently being implemented.
Coming from all corners of Danish landscape of official and NGO indigenous rights promotion, participants in the workshop emphasized a variety of issues drawn from their respective fields of interests. Not being directly related to the DANIDA context, IPS took part in the workshop as an observer.
During the half-day event, It was pointed out that Danish initiatives within the indigenous sector not least has been driven by Greenland, and that recently Greenland Premier has persistently emphasized the need to revitalize Danish efforts within the field.
Attention was also drawn to the shift of geographical focus from Latin America to Africa, to the growing importance of initiatives from institutions like the World Bank as national efforts such as Danish Commitments in Russia and Eastern Europe continues to decrease, and to gender-related issues.The review of the Danish Strategy for promoting indigenous rights is being lead by Elsebeth Tarp of the Danish Foreign Ministry and two external consultants, Birgitte Feiring and Verner Kristiansen, all of which are seasoned experts within the field of indigenous rights promotion internationally.
The non-binding declaration commits member states to protect the rights and resources of indigenous peoples within the state. The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign when the accord was adopted in 2007, claiming that resource rights and other claims included in the text clashed with their constitutions.
Australia and New Zealand have since signed on. And the Conservative government signalled in the Throne Speech this year that the Prime Minister was prepared to end his government’s opposition. Word came Friday afternoon from United Nations headquarters that Canada had signed, with certain qualifications. The government decided it was better to endorse the declaration and explain its concerns, rather than reject the whole document.
“It signals a real shift, a move forward toward real partnership between the first nations and the government,” Shawn Atleo, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Friday in an interview.
Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan said in a statement that in endorsing the document the government was recognizing its importance to aboriginal Canadians.
“Canada's aboriginal leadership has spoken with passion on the importance of endorsing the declaration,” Mr. Duncan stated. “Today's announcement represents another important milestone on the road to respect and co-operation.”
Coupled with the Harper government’s earlier apology to the survivors of residential schools, Friday’s announcement appears to signal that the Conservatives are prepared to fundamentally rethink the relationship between the federal government and Canada’s Indian, Metis and Inuit peoples.
The declaration, hammered out over 20 years of talks between diplomats and representatives of aboriginal groups from around the world, says indigenous peoples have a number of rights – to their lands, culture, and languages, among other things – and that governments should work to protect these rights.U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made improving relations with and living standards for native Americans a priority. It has decided to review its position regarding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a decision made in response to calls from tribes and other indigenous groups and individuals.
Related issues: Uncertainty surrounding Canadian endorsement of the UNDRIP?:
Photo: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister