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February 26, 2005

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Asian Indigenous Delegates Assert U.N. Rights in Shillong Meeting

The governments, United Nations Agencies, and international communities should pay attention to improve the situation of indigenous peoples and promote their rights, especially the rights of indigenous peoples in the Northeast India,” said Mr. Parshuram Tamang, the current Asia member to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UN PFII) at the concluding session of the Shillong meeting that took place from February 25 to 26.

At this Asian preparatory meeting, about 40 representatives from ten countries made recommendations to UN Permanent Forum, UN Agencies, governments, and international agencies to implement strategies and action plans for poverty reduction and primary education programs for the indigenous communities. Ms. Lola Garcia-Alix from the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Denmark also attended the meeting.

This meeting was aimed with the objectives to gain a broader understanding of UNPFII and make concrete recommendations to the Permanent Forum, which will convene its 4th session in New York this coming May.

The delegates came from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Burma, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and Taiwan.

“Indigenous peoples should use the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as advocacy tools for establishing their rights”, added Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpus, the other Asian Representative to United Nations Permanent Forum during the Shillong meeting over the weekend.

The two-day long preparatory meeting was jointly organized by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP), Thailand and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Philippines and hosted by the Naga Women’s Union in Manipur (NWUM), and the Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC). In this meeting indigenous delegates have made recommendations on land rights, right to forest and resources, education, women, children and youth.

Recommendation was made on free, prior and informed consent must be followed in all the processes for the developmental activities that affect indigenous peoples, directly or indirectly. It was also discussed in the meeting that the right-based poverty reduction strategy should be adopted for indigenous peoples who are the most vulnerable.

Expressing their concerns about the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, the meeting participants said they have failed to include indigenous peoples and made specific recommendations to the 4th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the body set up by the United Nations to deal with indigenous peoples issues.

The indigenous representatives also appealed to Chief Minister D. D. Lapang to cancel the uranium mining at Domiasati, West Khasi Hills not to resort to coercion, intimidation and force on the people who are demanding guarantees for their future generations.

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