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Statement by Mr. Tian Lixiao of the Chinese Delegation, at the Third Committee of the 56th UNGA, on the Issue of Indigenous People (item 116)

2001/10/29

Mr. Chairman,

"The International Decade of the World's Indigenous People" was launched in 1995. Since then, the UN has strengthened its efforts to protect and promote the rights of indigenous people. In recent years, the Human Rights Commission has considered the rights of indigenous people under a separate agenda item, and has made a good number of recommendations in this regard. The working group, which has been set up by the Human Rights Commission to draft the "Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People", has proceeded vigorously despite some major difficulties it has encountered. To safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, the Human Rights Commission has appointed a special rapporteur specifically responsible for the question. The Working Group on Indigenous Populations under the Sub Commission of Human Rights conducts an annual thematic discussion on the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous people, this year's theme being "Indigenous People and the Right to Development". The World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, attached particular importance to the question of indigenous people. The Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the Conference, in clear terms, calls upon the International Community and all governments to take necessary measures to eliminate discrimination against indigenous people, to ensure their full participation in social life, and to preserve the characteristics of their culture, language and spiritual pursuits.

Last year, the Economic and Social Council, by a resolution, decided to establish a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. This is the first time that a UN body consists of both indigenous and governmental experts, enabling indigenous experts to exchange views with their governmental counterparts, and voice their opinions with regard to the formulation of international policies relating to indigenous people. This represents an important step towards the partnership the UN is building with indigenous people. It is also a specific achievement of the Decade.

Mr. Chairman,

The Chinese Government supports the international community in carrying out activities of the Decade. It offers understanding and support to indigenous people's reasonable demands and positions. On the occasion of the inauguration of the Permanent Forum, the Chinese Delegation would like to offer the following observations as a way of voicing our expectations:

Firstly, in carrying out its work, the Permanent Forum must bear in mind the special features of the issue of indigenous people. It is a special one that arose in given historical periods and given countries and regions. It is not a question that exists in all countries or regions. It differs from the issue of minority people which all countries face due to national, racial, linguistic and religious differences. Failure to make such a distinction would result in weakening the protection of the indigenous people's rights.

Secondly, the Permanent Forum must strictly follow the mandate given by ECOSOC resolution 2000/22 in its activities. As an expert and advisory body, it is well positioned to focus its attention on issues related to indigenous people, such as culture, environment, education, health, and human rights, and on the basis of work done, put forward policy recommendations to ECOSOC and other UN agencies.

Thirdly, the Permanent Forum would do well by paying attention to the division of labor and coordination with other competent agencies of the UN system, so as to avoid overlapping or waste of resources. To this end, it is necessary for the Forum to gain knowledge of the work done by these agencies first, and on the basis of such knowledge, determine its own priority areas and methods of work.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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