UN Indigenous forum urges more support for youth, human rights, languages
"It's about righting historical wrongs. It's about shedding our colonial past"
Among the stand-out moments during the 10-day United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City, which wrapped up May 20, two came from Canadians: Carolyn Bennett, the Canadian minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Sarah Jancke, the National Inuit Youth Council’s vice president and member of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.
And, at its conclusion, the forum picked up on many of the points these two speakers raised, with the provisional agenda of its next session in 2017 to a focus on Indigenous human rights and youth.
In a May 10 announcement that drew a standing ovation in the UN General Assembly hall, Bennett announced that Canada is now a full supporter of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “without qualifications.”
“We believe the calls to action have also informed the path forward. What is needed is fundamental and foundational change,” Bennett said.
Forum delegates also applauded when Jancke spoke May 11 during the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus presentation, which you can listen to here.
Education has become a tool of stigmatization, causing an intergenerational trauma that is slaughtering indigenous communities through symptoms like drug and alcohol addiction, self-harm and suicide, she said.
“We deserve to heal,” Jancke said, noting that education can also be the solution.
But what kind — that of the colonizers or ancestors? “How do we move forward?”
Education can be influenced by ancestral values and Indigenous languages, she suggested, but Indigenous youth are now at a crossroads: “We must decide how to move forward.”
In its wrap-up statement, the forum — noting that more than half of the world’s Indigenous languages would become extinct by 2100 — also recommended states recognize the language rights of indigenous peoples and develop policies to promote and protect indigenous languages, including by supporting full immersion methods.
And it recommended more support and money for the efforts of indigenous peoples’ institutions to preserve and revitalize their languages, and that the UN General Assembly proclaim an International Year of Indigenous Languages by 2020.
The 16th edition of the UNPFII will take place April 24 to May 5, when hundreds of representatives from the 370 million indigenous peoples who live around the world meet again at the UN headquarters in New York.