UNGA71: Third Committee: Agenda Item 65(a) and (b) - Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Statement delivered by Ambassador Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations,17 October 2016
Mr / Madame Chair,
New Zealand aligns itself with the statement delivered under this agenda item by Australia on behalf of the Group of Friends on Indigenous issues, of which New Zealand is a member.
We wish to focus our National statement on three key issues:
1. The Special Rapporteur’s report, including the analysis of conservation measures and their impact on the rights of indigenous peoples.
2. Indigenous peoples’ participation in UN meetings on matters affecting them.
3. The revised mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Conservation and indigenous peoples
As the Special Rapporteur notes in paragraph 14 of her report, traditional indigenous territories encompass around 22 percent of the world’s land surface, yet coincide with areas that hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Accordingly, overlap of protected areas established on lands traditionally occupied and used by indigenous peoples is significant in many parts of the world, including in New Zealand.
We note the Special Rapporteur’s recognition of New Zealand, along with Canada and Australia, as a country where policies on protected areas have gradually shifted towards recognition of indigenous land rights. In this vein, the New Zealand government continues to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples in New Zealand based on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and as such, recognises that secure indigenous land tenure can lead to positive conservation outcomes.
Seeking and maintaining effective relationships and partnerships with tangata whenua – the indigenous peoples who identify and are recognised as guardians of ancestral lands – is a critical element of achieving enhanced conservation of natural resources and historical and cultural heritage.
In addition to these partnerships, an ongoing process of settling Treaty claims has led to innovative approaches to governance and management of natural resources in New Zealand. For example, a 2010 Treaty settlement recognises a particular river as a tupuna - an ancestor - which has a lifeforce of its own.
Recent settlements have gone beyond this: a 2014 Treaty settlement has given legal personhood to a river: the river has the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person. The ‘human face’ of the river is provided by a guardian – a role comprised of one iwi representative and one government official.
Other co-management and co-governance arrangements are also being developed, consistent with the Treaty and based on mutual good faith, cooperation, and respect.
Indigenous people’s participation
As reflected in the statement of the Group of Friends, New Zealand continues to support the effective participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in relevant United Nations meetings on issues affecting them.
We welcome the compilation of views document, presented to member states on 25 July 2016, and thank the President of the General Assembly of the 70th Session and his four experts for their work in preparing that document.
New Zealand thanks the current President of the General Assembly for launching the consultations process early in this 71st session.
We would like to stress the importance of continued participation of indigenous peoples. It is only through continued participation and effective consultations with indigenous peoples that the final outcome of this process will have legitimacy and value.
New Zealand commends the General Assembly’s decision to further expand the mandate of the Fund last year, pursuant to resolution 70/232, to include support for representatives of indigenous peoples’ organizations and institutions to participate in this consultation process.
We look forward to the negotiation of a resolution, drawing on the compilation document, to be adopted by the Assembly during its 71st session. We are committed to participating constructively in consultations towards this goal.
New Zealand also welcome the recent adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 33/ 25, which seeks to strengthen the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and fulfilled the commitment in paragraph 28 of the outcome document of the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples. We hope the new mandate will enable EMRIP to better guide states through drawing on best practice to work towards achieving the ends of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We welcome the widening of EMRIPs membership to cover all seven indigenous sociocultural regions, which will ensure that EMRIP will be more representative. We recognise that the revised mandate necessitates increased financial resources, but New Zealand considers that it is both desirable and appropriate that the UN’s work on the rights of indigenous peoples be properly funded. We look forward to continuing our strong engagement with the mechanism.
As we take stock of local and global efforts to advance indigenous rights, we must acknowledge that much work remains to be done to achieve the ends of the Declaration.
In these efforts, particular attention and targeted action must be dedicated to the most marginalised - indigenous girls and indigenous persons with disabilities. New Zealand remains committed to promoting increased attention to indigenous peoples across the UN system, and to mainstreaming the rights of indigenous peoples across the UN agenda.
New Zealand welcomes the special theme of the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – Examining the measures taken to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Declaration. We also welcome the commitment of the President of the General Assembly to convene a high level event to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of this landmark historical achievement.
Thank you Mr / Madame Chair.