Statement by the President of the Human Rights Council
H.E. Ms. Nazhat Shameem Khan
Monday, 12 July 2021
Distinguished members of the Expert Mechanism,
Distinguished representatives of indigenous peoples and governments,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I open this fourteenth virtual session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of indigenous peoples. At the outset, allow me to congratulate the two new members of the Expert Mechanism, Sheryl Lightfoot and Margaret Lokawua, on their appointments. I have no doubt that they will make an excellent contribution to the work of the Expert Mechanism. In the same vein, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lounes Belkacem and Kristen Carpenter for their hard work and commitment to the Expert Mechanism, a steadfast dedication which lasted until the completion of their mandates in April of this year.
The Human Rights Council recognises the important role indigenous peoples play in the United Nations, in promoting and protecting their own rights and the rights of non-indigenous peoples. It is for this reason that indigenous people's full and effective participation with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms is absolutely essential. And it is our collective responsibility to ensure that indigenous peoples can meaningfully engage with the Council and at all levels.
I am pleased to recall that the Council will be holding a number of activities on the meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in Council activities and the rights of indigenous peoples, respectively. Indeed, this Friday, the Council will hold an intersessional roundtable on enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples' representatives and institutions in meetings of the Council on issues affecting them. In addition, the theme of the Annual Half-Day Panel Discussion on the Rights of indigenous peoples this year is on the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on the right to participation.
However, I will take a moment to emphasise that, not only is the Council holding activities on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Council is also producing important work on the human rights challenges indigenous peoples face. Indeed, the reports of the Council-mandated Expert Mechanism and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous peoples cover the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples' right to participation in decision-making, including the lack of inclusion of indigenous peoples in government responses to COVID-19.
If I may, I would like to highlight one important aspect of the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions affecting them: indigenous languages. In this connection, I draw your attention to the International Decade of indigenous Languages, which is scheduled for 2022–2032. This decade is an opportunity to consider the risk posed by the alarming loss of indigenous languages on the effective and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples with the United Nations as a whole, and I strongly encourage you all to reflect on this concerning issue during the upcoming decade.
To conclude I would like to emphasise that this Expert Mechanism is a valuable tool for states and indigenous peoples to better promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples and work towards the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples. This is particularly true in the case of the Expert Mechanism's country visits, which offer indigenous peoples opportunities for increased participation, including by affording them the opportunity to request country visits. Indeed, I am happy to see that, despite the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Expert Mechanism has still managed to engage with states and indigenous peoples.
Let us build on this momentum, engage with all stakeholders, and especially indigenous peoples, to better promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples and ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in decisions affecting them. In this spirit, I wish you a very fruitful and productive conversation.