human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples – two

Linked to our presentation of Rodolfo Stavenhagen – Mexico.

Information Note on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, by Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, February 2005.

In the beginning, the same speach as on June 2004, until …

… In April 2005, Mr. Stavenhagen presents to the CHR his fourth report which focuses on the hindrances and inequalities that indigenous peoples face in relation to the access to and the quality of education systems. It contains examples of good practices and initiatives aimed at providing durable solutions to the education challenges indigenous peoples find in different countries.

The report contains information received from different sources indicating that even if the right to education has been universally proclaimed; indigenous peoples are far from enjoying it fully. Economic, social and cultural factors often impede the full participation of indigenous children in the education. The high rates of illiteracy, the high level of absenteeism and the deficient education services being provided in schools tend to be higher among indigenous peoples than in the mainstreaming society. In his report the Special Rapporteur, while taking note of the relevant efforts by a number of Governments to reduce such differences, stresses the persistence of a number of obstacles for indigenous peoples to have access to education services. The demographical distribution and the lack of appropriate transportation facilities are often important obstacles for indigenous children access to the few existing schools in the areas where they live. The existing schools in indigenous areas are normally badly serviced and lack of minimum economic and didactic resources. In addition, in many countries, discrimination practices against indigenous education persist.

The Special Rapporteur notes that the main current obstacles indigenous peoples find not to fully enjoy their right to education are due to the traditional assimilation practices and the ignorance and underestimation of the indigenous languages and cultures in the mainstreaming education systems. Over the last few years we are witnessing a change in this direction and in some countries the benefit of indigenous cultures in the mainstreaming education has obtained officially recognition. Some countries have also found that a bilingual and intercultural education was very much needed. However, this has not satisfied yet indigenous people’s aspirations. Indigenous peoples claim a right to receive an education in their own language adapted to their own culture.

Intercultural bilingual education is in fact facing numerous challenges ranging from the lack and the deficient capacity of the bilingual teachers to develop appropriate didactic and pedagogic methods to the failures in achieving a real involvement from the communities in the design and management of their own education facilities at all levels. Currently there are some achievements in a few countries but their impact is limited to the pre-primary and primary education. The Special Rapporter ends its conclusions by stressing that the indigenous education, adapted to the cultures and values of the indigenous peoples is the best way to guarantee the right to education.

Based on these conclusions, the Special Rapporteur recommends, among others, that states give priority to the purposes and the principles of the indigenous culture and that states provide agencies and both private and public institutions in charge of promoting indigenous education with the necessary material, institutional and intellectual resources. He invites states to prepare specific programmes in close relation with the indigenous communities to form an adequate number of teachers for a bilingual and intercultural education within the framework of the forthcoming second International Decade of the Indigenous Peoples of the World. The Special Rapporteur invites the Organization of the United Nations for the Education, the Science and the Culture (UNESCO), and the international cooperation in general, to provide support in this effort. It is also recommended that indigenous universities are expanded and consolidated and the implementation of the academic content on indigenous peoples (on history, philosophy, culture, art, means of living, etc.) is done in an antiracial, multicultural attitude, in the respect of the cultural and ethnic plurality, with a gender perspective. The Special Rapporteur, invites to pay a special attention to the relation between indigenous peoples and the environment and to promote the scientific investigation operating in this field in particular in more vulnerable areas such as the Artic or the tropical forests.

The Special Rapporteur further recommends that the physical education, special education for indigenous peoples in the system of criminal justice, as well as the education for indigenous little girls and women, are strengthened. He recommends to the media the inclusion regularly in their programs of references to indigenous peoples and cultures, in respect of the principles of tolerance, equality, and non discrimination already established in the international instruments of human rights, and that indigenous peoples and communities be endorsed of the right to access freely to the media at large including radio, television and the internet.
2. Country visits

A crucial component of the Commission’s expert mandate is on-site country visits in order to open constructive dialogue with the Government, indigenous communities, and other relevant organizations, and report to the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of indigenous peoples. Country visits are an excellent way of analysing and understanding in-situ the situation of indigenous peoples in the light of every possible circumstance and represent also an important tool to raise awareness in the international community. Country visits are also becoming an important pillar of the mandate as they provide a means for assessing the extent to which the protection, assistance and development needs of indigenous peoples and communities are being met at the local and national level.

In 2002, the Special Rapporteur undertook country visits to Guatemala (E/CN.4/2003/90/Add. 2) and the Philippines (E/CN.4/2003/90/Add.3). In 2003 he visited Mexico (E/CN.4/2003/80/Add. 2) and Chile (E/CN.4/2003/80/Add. 3). In March and May 2004 respectively the Special Rapporteur visited Colombia (E/CN.4/2005/88/Add. 2) and Canada (E/CN.4/2005/88/Add. 3) .

The Special Rapporteur presents to the Commission on Human Rights 2005 the reports of his last two visits.

Looking ahead, the Special Rapporteur has requested country visits for 2005 to New Zealand and South Africa .

The Special Rapporteur has initiated a process of following-up with the recommendations from his visits to the above mentioned countries. In this context, the Special Rapporteur invites indigenous peoples, Governments and civil society organizations to bring information to his attention regarding developments in the implementation of his recommendations. The information should be addressed to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

3. Communications

The Special Rapporteur receives a large number of communications providing him with information about allegations of violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The main sources of theses communications are non-governmental organizations, indigenous organizations, intergovernmental organizations and other United Nations procedures concerned with the protection of human rights.

He analyses such information and decides whether or not to take action. Given the difficulty in assessing the degree of credibility of any particular allegation, great care must be exercised in the evaluation of every communication and, therefore sources are urged to include all relevant documentation and evidence in support of the allegation. In the case of violations of the rights of individuals, full information should include: full name of the victim, clear name of the community at risk when applicable, age, place of residence or origin, profession, marital status etc and the precise circumstances of the incident such as date, place, description of how the event occurred etc. When the victims of alleged violations are communities or members of distinct collectivities (tribal communities, families etc), full information should include social and cultural context, references to public policies and specific circumstances under which the alleged violation occurred, as well as the characteristics of the group and when, if applicable, the nature of the human rights gap and the demands of the people concerned.

The main type of communications sent by the Special Rapporteur is “urgent appeals” in cases of imminent dangers of violations of the human rights of individuals, or even entire indigenous communities. He also transmits “allegations letters” to Governments on cases of less urgent character. Over the past two years, the Commission’s expert has strengthened the coordination with other human rights special mechanism and participated in joint communications with other special mechanism of the Commission. Follow-up of the cases in which his intervention has been required is a matter of particular concern to the Special Rapporteur and therefore, a third type of communication is also under consideration which consists in follow up letters on earlier communications.

Please note, that as a general rule, both urgent appeals and letters of allegation remain confidential until published in the annual report of the Special Rapporteur to the Commission on Human Rights. A summary of such communications and the replies received from the concerned State are formally included in the Addendum 1 of the Special Rapporteur’s annual report to the Commission.

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