International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity: Closing declaration
Sixth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity
The Hague, 19 April 2002
On behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, we thank you for the opportunity to address this Conference.
1. Madame Chair, Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. This right is the basis of our recognition as a Major Group in Agenda 21 and other instruments that emerged from the 1992 Rio Summit. Agenda 21 recognises the right to full and effective participation in international processes that affect us. That is why we are here. We believe that the provisions and programs approved by the Parties of this Conference affect the future of the Peoples of the Planet. For us, these discussions are a matter of life and death.
2. Indigenous Peoples are rights holders and not mere stakeholders. We did not come here to negotiate our rights, but rather to guarantee the obligations of the Parties with respect to our Peoples.
3. The insistence on prioritising the economic interests of those that have historically expropriated our knowledge, innovations and practices has been one of the fundamental causes of the destruction of the Planet. We request that the Parties search their consciences to evaluate if the decisions approved are in compliance with the spirit and objectives of the Convention.
4. Madame Chair, distinguished delegates, free, prior informed consent over our knowledge, innovations and practices is a vital human right for Indigenous Peoples. Free, prior informed consent is related to our territorial, social and cultural rights and is part of the right to self-determination. The right to free, prior informed consent promotes the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples and the respect of our rights. The approval of provisions or guidelines that intend to limit, restrict or subordinate to national legislation, our free, prior informed consent is contrary to existing and emerging international law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
5. In the Bonn and Montreal meetings, some State Parties denied the principle of free, prior informed consent. This inflexibility is shameful and has worsened at COP6. Some countries unilaterally claim that our peoples support their proposals in order to approve provisions that are contrary to our rights. These attitudes do not contribute to the creation of a healthy climate for achieving constructive agreements between governments and Indigenous Peoples. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity is evaluating the possibility of addressing the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations and other pertinent bodies to present our concerns about this matter which denies a fundamental right such as free, prior informed consent.
6. Madame Chair, we support the statement and decision not to participate in the Multiple Stake Holder Dialogue of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu Tum. Before withdrawing from the meeting without reading her statement, Ms. Mechu declared that there cannot be a dialogue if the Parties do not have the will to hear the concerns of our peoples. This lack of will has also been constant in the Working Group sessions, and does not contribute to constructive dialogue in the spirit of the Convention.
7. We wish to reiterate our concerns about the recommendations approved in this COP on the question of access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. We consider that access should not be allowed without first establishing adequate mechanisms for the protection of the rights to our knowledge, innovations, practices and resources, taking into account our customary law of protection and promotion. We believe that the revision of the Bonn Guidelines in a future session of the Working Group on Article 8j and related provisions can provide an opportunity to make the guidelines consistent with the positions of Indigenous Peoples by guaranteeing the recognition of free, prior informed consent and other fundamental rights.
8. Regarding protection mechanisms, we wish to point out that registries, data bases and intellectual property systems are not adequate systems for protecting and transmitting our knowledge, innovations and practices. For millennia, Indigenous Peoples have had our own systems of protection and transmission under our customary law which are the most adequate for fulfilling this need and should be respected.
9. Regarding other agenda items that we could not address in this Closing Statement, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity reaffirms the statements made in the sessions of the working groups convened to discuss the agenda items of this Conference and requests that this closing statement and the statements made in the working groups be annexed to the final report.
10. Madame Chair, Indigenous Peoples wish to contribute to a constructive, broad and transparent dialogue that is truly intended to promote sustainable development and to halt the destruction of the Planet. This will only be possible if the Parties comprehend that for this dialogue to occur, it is necessary to foster an open and tolerant mentality which not only promotes the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity but, at the same time, promotes the respect of the rights of those who have known how to maintain a relationship of respect and development with Mother Earth.
Thank you, Madame Chair.