54th Human Rights Council Reports

Right to Development of Indigenous Peoples

Report on the Human Rights Council 54th Session

11 September 2023 – 13 October 2023

Meeting Date: 27 September 2023


Annual Panel on the Right to Development of Indigenous Peoples.

Report from the Panel:

The panel was conducted by a series of five experts and focused on two primary topics: The first being Sustainable Development Project Implementation Practices for Indigenous Populations. The second revolved around Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality, especially in context of Indigenous Women. The experts discussed as follows:

  • The Under-secretary of Human Rights:

    • Identified the necessity of measuring and examining the impacts of development projects on Indigenous Women (IW),

    • Recognized the importance of participation from every global sector in protecting the rights of Indigenous Women,

    • Reminded the council that development is dependent on free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC),

    • Addressed the concern of cultural damage with regards to climate change, and

    • Recommended the integration of protective legislation, regulatory policies, and monitoring economic policies to ensure fair compensation.

  • Sheryl Lightfoot – Vice-Chair EMRIP:

    • Reaffirmed the harm posed by militarization of development practices to Indigenous Populations (IP),

    • Encouraged the harmonization of domestic legislation with sustainable development and FPIC,

    • Insisted that national security or law and order should not be the main pushing factor behind development projects,

    • Called for a distinct definition to be made at the international level between development projects and land grab policies,

    • Recommended the increase of participation for IW in development dialogues, and

    • Highlighted the need for the increase of protective legislation for sustainable integration practices.

  • Anabela Carlón-Flores (Yaqui Peoples Legal Representative):

    • Outlined recent projects that posed a threat to the self-determination of IP,

    • Expressed concern surrounding an up-take in no consent construction projects and the use of intimidation tactics to implement land grab policies,

    • Recommended monitoring interactions between the World Bank and IP in order to ensure human rights are being fully considered, and

    • Condemned the contamination of natural resources and the criminalization of activist actions.

  • José Francisco-Calí Tzay:

    • Congratulated the implementation and integration of IP within development projects,

    • Warned about the continued violations created by extractive developmental projects,

    • Insisted on the importance of maintaining IP knowledge, especially when regarding scientific suggestions,

    • Recommended legislative policies that provide protections to the ownership of scientific and cultural knowledge of IP, and

    • Reminded the Council of the importance of inclusion and case-by-case considerations.

  • Adriana Quinones (UN Women):

    • Applauded the adoption of recommendation 39 to CEDAW, but

    • Reminded the Council of the need to maintain close participation with civil society,

    • Provided an example of beneficial reparation measures in Guatemala, and

    • Recommended the integration of sustainable partnerships that benefit IP, such as introducing leadership programs to increase political interest and participation.

Country Alignments:

Due to the inclusive nature of this panel discussion, country alignments were harder to define. Most countries found themselves in agreement and;

  • Congratulated the panel for leading the discussion with dedication and accurate information,

  • Regretted the threatening conditions posed by climate change to IP,

  • Reaffirmed the need to develop policies and programs that extend protections to all rights of IP, both nationally and internationally,

  • Called for the mainstreaming of development approaches that consider human rights above everything else, and

  • Highlighted each countries individual responses and accomplishments with regard to IP.

Notable disagreements:

  • China:

    • Condemned western nations for not fully recognizing their contributions to the violations of IP during the colonial process, and

    • Insisted that further progress needed to be built on true and good protections, not false ones that perpetuate neo-colonialism.

NGOs/NHRIs were given appropriate speaking time and found themselves mainly in agreement with member states, but they also:

  • Reminded states that colonial scarring is still present and only undermines the right to self-determination,

  • Insisted on the importance of IW receiving financial and physical security, especially following traumatic or abusive experiences,

  • Called for the member states to respect FPIC, specifically with regard to militarization of government approved development projects, and

  • Requested the integration of protective measures within three specific areas:

    • States monitoring and protecting from insincere business practices,

    • Human Rights Council monitoring and ensuring state compliance within the UPR framework, and

    • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights monitoring situations and extending assistance in all capacities to those whose situations necessitate a response.

Our Analysis:

The entanglement of cultural diversity and sustainable development featured prominently in this discussion. The vulnerability of indigenous women only heightens the danger they face by being uniformed during development projects. The need for better monitoring mechanisms and the encouragement of educational systems that provide information for indigenous peoples is absolutely required for ensuring the sustainability of developmental programs that may be introduced. The threat of losing cultures and their inherent diversity is a common thread throughout the discussion and something that must remain prevalent during all future discussions. It only seeks to establish that mechanisms incorporate the cultural knowledge of indigenous peoples in order to ensure that any and all development strategies meet the requirements of the most vulnerable societies.

Author: Eileen Vis

Uploaded: October 19th 2023


Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development for Peace