The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held it’s seventeenth session from April 16 – 27. The theme for the 2018 forum was; “Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights to Lands, Territories and Resources.” According to the UNPFII, indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. Indigenous Peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Several indigenous communities from around the globe were represented at the UNPFII. Many of them had opportunities to present statements on issues of concern to their different communities.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, in his opening remarks at the forum, painted the grim picture of the situation of the over 300 million Indigenous Peoples around the world. He noted that while Indigenous Peoples make up about 5 percent of the world’s population, they comprise 15 percent of the world’s poorest people. A situation he described as ‘shocking.’ Mr. Lajčák also highlighted some of the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples as violations of their human rights, marginalization, and violence they face for asserting their rights. Focusing on the theme of indigenous land, territories and resources, Mr. Lajčák pointed out that, “Indigenous Peoples are being dispossessed of the lands their ancestors called home,” often by big time and multi-national farmers and mining corporations.
In a recent report by Conselho Indigenista Missionaria (“Indigenous Missionary Council” – a subsidiary of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), some of the challenges faced by a number of indigenous communities in Brazil (as well as indigenous communities around the world) include; high rate of of suicide, lack of health care, high child mortality, alcohol and drug abuse, lack of indigenous education and lack of general support from the State.