Verna Colliver Attends the Twentieth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: APRIL 19-30, 2021.
Verna Colliver reports on her experiences at the virtual meetings of the Twentieth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this past APRIL 19-30, 2021. She describes emotional moments and inspirational goals for the future.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) convened for its Twentieth Session as a mostly virtual meeting which ran from April 19-30, 2021. In-person meetings were limited to participation by Forum members and Member States and included only the opening and closing meetings. The forum focused this year on “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of Indigenous Peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16.”
The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
In addition to the main meetings, there were numerous “Side Events” scheduled. On April 27 a dynamic and poignant side event, “Indigenous Women Land Defenders, Protection of Nature and Human Rights and the Escazú Agreement,” highlighted the challenges women face in securing human and Indigenous rights and participating in environmental and climate policy. The panelists from South America shared how the Escazú Agreement can be a powerful tool for the protection of human rights, women land defenders, local territories, and communities.
Maria Luisa Rafael from Bolivia spoke tearfully, asking for support to challenge the government and corporations denying their right to the land. “I ask for everybody to join us in this fight because otherwise, we are all going to die. Tomorrow we aren’t going to be able to eat gold or silver. If we take care of the water, we will have long life,” she declared. (go to 50 min. mark to hear her full speech).
The women expressed frustration over their feelings of invisibility and the need for their voices to be heard. They also fear retribution when they speak up and demonstrate great courage in continuing in the face of opposition. Speaking as women to women, they remind us that “we are all connected,” and that we must work together and put our energy behind the Agreement to make it work. Learn more about the Escazú Agreement here.
In another session on Apr 26, 2021, climate activist and youth advisor to the UN Secretary-General who belongs to an indigenous community in India, Archana Soreng, spoke passionately about Loving Nature As We Love Ourselves. She explains, "nature is a source of identity" for Indigenous Peoples. She stresses that nature is not a commodity. Our relationship with nature needs to be one of "caring for nature, it has to be love for nature, and it has to be love for nature as we love ourselves." But also the protection of Indigenous Peoples is a priority because without that protection they cannot feel secure and be able to sustain their traditional knowledge and practices which will preserve nature.
The Recorded Sessions are now available via UN WebTV.
Opening Ceremony, President’s Address
First Meeting - Opening Ceremony
Eighth Meeting - Closing Ceremony
If you are interested in attending the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues notify the Executive Committee by sending a letter of interest with an explanation of what you hope to learn.
Verna Colliver is a member of EPA CONAM and the Communications Team for the NEJNAMC.