UN General Assembly Meetings Lack Representation for Indigenous Peoples

by Vins
Published: Updated:

The UN General Assembly’s September 2016 meetings in New York lacked representation for some 400 million indigenous peoples, Clare Church reports for Open Democracy. Church found that although poverty, displacement, and malnutrition were subjects covered at the General Assembly meetings, indigenous peoples—some of who are the most impoverished, displaced, and malnourished peoples on Earth—were not included in the meetings. Church reports that over 15% of the world’s poorest people are indigenous. “Despite this,” Church writes, “indigenous peoples do not have a seat at General Assembly sessions, and are therefore unable to participate in meetings that have a massive impact on their lives.”

Instead, for indigenous peoples to raise issues at the General Assembly they must route them through the representatives of member states. Church quotes an international representative of the indigenous Sami parliament of Norway, John B. Henriksen: “Currently, this is the only way for indigenous peoples to participate,” said Henriksen. “There are no specific or permanent participatory arrangements for indigenous peoples in the UN General Assembly.”

Church also describes ongoing efforts to include indigenous peoples in future meetings of the UN General Assembly. A committee commissioned by the UN was prepared to delivery 16 pages of recommendations at the New York meetings. However, Church reports, “The advisers are not permitted to present their findings without formal invitation from the next president of the General Assembly, who is yet to be appointed.”

As of December 6, 2016, searches using the ProQuest database suggest that this story has not been covered in the corporate press, although the issue of UN representation did receive some coverage in local newspapers serving American Indian reservations.

Source: Clare Church, “Who Will Speak for Indigenous Peoples at the UN General Assembly?” openDemocracy, September 16, 2016, https://www.opendemocracy.net/clare-church/who-will-speak-for-indigenous-at-un-general-assembly.

Student Research: Austin Welch (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Suzel Bozada-Deas (Sonoma State University)