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Herman Wainggai – The 2016 – United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

May 24, 2016

The 2016 – United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Every year since 2007, the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous people holds meetings to discuss issues that are important to indigenous people of the world. It is an opportunity for us West Papuans to express our views and concerns, and to remind the United Nations of what happened more than five decades ago in West Papua under the New York Agreement (NYA), which was signed on August 15, 1962, and continued on in 1969 under the sham election known as the ‘Act of Free choice’. The result of this betrayal is the colonial occupation of our people and the destruction of our lands and natural resources. Our people were denied the “One man one vote,” which was agreed on in the New York Agreement (NYA). It is our duty to remind the UN of this history when we get the chance.

The UNPFIII focuses on three things that affect indigenous people across the world: conflict, peace, and resolution. It gives indigenous people from around the world a voice – an opportunity to raise their concerns about issues and conflicts facing them in their own countries.

I and other representatives of our people in West Papua attended these meetings at the UN headquarter in New York city, urging the UN body to review the mistakes of the past and understand why we West Papuans have been fighting against the illegal occupation of our lands till today. And to recommend to the UN peaceful solutions based on international laws. We reminded them that as long as our concerns are not being addressed, the struggles against imperialism will continue, which means more human rights violations against our people will continue.

For me, it was the third time I have attended these UNPFII meetings since its inception in 2007, working and lobbying hard to gain support for the struggle of my people. Most importantly, I took this opportunity to talk about the root causes of the conflict back home in West Papua and to remind the UN that all we want is freedom from colonialism. We want “self-determination,” which is our right to determine our own future; our own destiny. Our people have been fighting for their freedom for many years and even if they are outnumbered and faced military dictatorship, our struggle will continue; it will not stop until we are free.

Words from the UNPFII Meetings

“After three weeks of dialogue with indigenous peoples, Member States and UN entities, the Permanent Forum has today made strong recommendations to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights in times of conflict which is increasingly affecting them on their lands and territories,” said Mr. Alvaro Pop, the Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He added that “the statements made during the 2016 session show a worrying trend of increased threats and violations against indigenous human rights defenders – and that there is an urgent need to ensure indigenous peoples’ access to justice and to address impunity.” There’s nothing frightening about adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Tuesday at the UN. (Canadian Government).

Meanwhile, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould called on the United Nations to confront the “legacies of colonialism” around the world and to help rebuild communities for the world’s Indigenous peoples: “We had two world Indigenous decades, let us create an Indigenous century, let us make it a century where nation states and indigenous peoples work in partnership towards true reconciliation that supports strong and healthy indigenous peoples that are in charge of and in control of their own destinies,” she argued.

At the closing of the session, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for indigenous peoples’ participation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and said that “States must be held accountable for implementing the 2030 Agenda, with full respect for the rights and minimum standards guaranteed for indigenous peoples in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The Member States should come to grips with the paradox that while they ratify human rights treaties that impose hard law obligations, they also enter into trade and investment agreements that render the fulfillment of human rights treaties more difficult or even impossible.

To obtain clarity on these issues, should the UNGA invoke article 96 of the Charter and request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice? Reckon we’ll have to wait several years but think the opinion would specifically state that the human rights treaty regime must prevail over competing treaties. West Papuan right to self-determination must be recognized!

Herman Wainggai

Former Political Prisoner, Visiting Scholar And A Leader in West Papua’s Self Determination Struggle

With Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at the United Nations

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