- The AFN sent a delegation to the 22nd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held in New York, USA, April 17 to 28, 2023.
- The thematic focus of this year’s Permanent Forum was “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach”.
- AFN sent a delegation, led by National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, that included several First Nations leaders, Chief Mark Hill from Six Nations and former Kukpi7 Judy Wilson from Neskonlith Indian Band, Executive Members from the AFN National Youth Council, Ashley Daniels and Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, and experts from the AFN Secretariat.
- National Chief Archibald, with support from former Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, addressed the Permanent Forum several times, advancing priorities related to economic reconciliation, implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, First Nations Climate Leadership, residential institutions of assimilation and genocide, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Permanent Forum produced a Draft Report, found here: UNPFII2023_DRAFT_REPORT.pdf, and recommended to the Economic and Social Council: i) a three-day expert meeting on Indigenous Peoples in a greening economy, and ii) a proposed theme for the 23rd session: Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth.
The AFN sent a delegation to the 22nd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held in New York, USA, April 17 to 28, 2023. The thematic focus was “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach”.
The delegation was led by National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and included Chief Mark Hill from Six Nations, former Kukpi7 Judy Wilson from Neskonlith Indian Band, Executive Members from the AFN National Youth Council, Ashley Daniels and Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, experts from the AFN Secretariat, Andrew Bisson and Graeme Reed, as well as staff from the National Chief’s Office.
The AFN has been participating in the Permanent Forum, and other related international events and conferences, to elevate the concerns of First Nations to a global audience, advocate for the protection of First Nations rights, including the right to self-determination, the ethical and equitable engagement with First Nations knowledge systems, and highlight other issues that affect First Nations from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and around the world.
Other notable First Nations participation included Joe Alphonse, Chief of Tl’etinqox First Nation; Aly Bear, Vice Chief of Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations; Reg Niganobe, Grand Council Chief of Anishinabek Nation; Chief Wilton Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation, and Kenneth Deer, Haudenosaunee External Relations Committee, among many others.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII or Permanent Forum) is a high-level advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), established in 2000 by resolution. It is mandated to provide expert advice and recommendations on Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health, and human rights. Additionally, UNPFII has the objectives of:
- Promoting non-discrimination and inclusion of Indigenous Peoples.
- Full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making.
- Re-defining development policy from a vision of social equality.
- Adopting targeted policies with emphasis on special groups (women, children and youth).
The Permanent Forum changes its thematic focus every year. This year’s theme was “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach.” At the end of the session, it was announced that the proposed theme for the next session will be “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth.”
AFN Priorities and Highlights
- AFN delegates attended the UNPFII to address critical issues facing First Nations, including those related to the session’s thematic focus: health, planetary health, and climate change, as well as advance First Nations leadership, such as the AFN National Climate Strategy and the First Nations Climate Lens.
- With support from former Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, National Chief Archibald addressed the Permanent Forum several times.
- National Chief Archibald delivered remarks related to the thematic focus of the session and spoke of the declaration of the First Nations Climate Emergency as a mechanism to embrace a revitalization of value systems, including the role of Indigenous women and girls.
- On the last day, National Chief Archibald delivered a statement, in a slot provided by Canada, which focused on economic reconciliation and called for a new framework outside the federal budgetary cycle as part of self-government. In closing, National Chief Archibald spoke of national institutions of assimilation and genocide (commonly referred to as residential schools).
- The AFN Delegation also participated in the “New Pathways in Indigenous Climate Leadership: Arctic Youth-Led Climate Action” event. National Chief Archibald provided opening remarks on our sacred responsibilities to care for the planet and ourselves and how First Nations perspectives on climate change will lead to holistic action. Taylor Behn-Tsakoza was a panel member, highlighting the role of First Nations youth in transformative change.
- National Chief Archibald hosted a media conference to highlight First Nations priorities, creating space for First Nations leadership in attendance, including Chief Joe Alphonse, Vice-Chief Aly Bear, and Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.
- Taylor Behn-Tsakoza delivered a joint statement with the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund to express support for Indigenous Peoples’ full and effective participation in all UN venues, including the Human Rights Council.
- The AFN delegation participated in the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus, which intended to create space for all Indigenous Peoples attending the UNPFII.
- The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called for legally binding climate change mitigation measures to protect biodiversity designed and mitigated by the people living on these lands for years, and that not involving Indigenous Peoples as agents of change in this conversation will cause further damage to the ecosystem.
- UN Permanent Forum Member Geoffrey Roth delivered an important intervention on the usage of the term “Indigenous Peoples and local communities” as it conflates Indigenous Peoples with local communities, pointing out that the term has not been used in good faith and does not acknowledge that the UNDRIP is the product of a decades-long struggle for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and that this term is used by states to refuse to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ rights to free, prior, and informed consent and self-determination.
UNPFII 2023 offered a significant opportunity to maintain the momentum from previous international events, including the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the fifteen Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. It also provided AFN with an opportunity to discuss domestic leadership related to climate action, including the upcoming release of the AFN National Climate Strategy.
The Permanent Forum produced a Draft Report, found here: UNPFII2023_DRAFT_REPORT.pdf. In the Draft Report, several key themes emerged:
- The connection between Indigenous languages, Indigenous knowledge systems, and supporting Indigenous-led action on the climate crisis.
- The promotion of General Recommendation No. 39 (2022) on the rights of Indigenous women and girls of the Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’s General to all States and UN Entities, including a call for UN-Women to conduct and present a study on its’ implementation by 2025.
- A reiteration of the call to create a clear distinction between Indigenous Peoples and local communities, removing the combined term from UN processes and focusing on upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The call for Indigenous Peoples to be afforded full and effective participation, in line with their free, prior, and informed consent, in all planning, development, and implementation related to climate change, including renewable energy and concerns related to the green transition.
- An explicit call on Canada to re-examine its support for the Enbridge Line 5 Oil Pipeline, which jeopardizes the Great Lakes and threatens the Treaty-protected fishing Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including a call for its decommissioning.
The Permanent Forum closed with three recommendations to the Economic and Social Council:
- A set of dates for the next session, April 15 to 26, 2024.
- A three-day expert meeting on Indigenous Peoples in a greening economy.
- A proposed theme for the 23rd session: Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth.
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Assembly of First Nations