The indigenous peoples of the world meeting at UN headquarters in New York
On behalf of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Deputy Director-General Sha Zukang opened yesterday on the second day of Pentecost the twelfth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the UN headquarters in New York with the participation of up to two thousand participants from indigenous peoples around the world.
The special panel of experts under the UN, called Permanent Forum in everyday speech, consists of 16 members of whom 8 members are elected by indigenous organizations that have consultative status at the UN bodies. Thus the Inuit Circumpolar Council shares a seat along with the Saami Council. The lawyer Dalee S. Dorough, an Inuk from Alaska, is currently in the Forum and will continue for the next three years.
This year the main agenda will be broad and will deal with topics covering health, education, culture and language. Inuit Circumpolar Council will be represented by its International Chair Aqqaluk Lynge and Hjalmar Dahl from ICC Greenland and Rena Skifte and Leanna Ellsworth from ICC Canada. Also participating from Greenland is Kattie Egede Motzfeldt and Aviaaja E. Lynge in the Women's Forum. For the first time Jakob and Rita Petrussen from the Greenland Deaf Association are also observers at the meeting.
The Permanent Forum's twelfth session for the world's last colonized peoples are eloquently held in the UN Trusteeship Council that deals with colonial relations.
The large meeting room has just been renovated, paid for by the Danish government and was inaugurated by Crown Princess Mary a month ago.
Statement by the Arctic Caucus. Item 3 (c) Culture
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 12th session
May 20–31, 2013
Thank you Mr. Chair. Congratulations with your appointment, we wish you success during your term. This is an Arctic Caucus intervention on behalf of the Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Council.
Culture, including all of its creative, spiritual and material aspects, constitutes the foundation upon which people thrive. Culture provides meaning and identity to community life. In order for the Arctic Peoples to continue to develop as distinct peoples, appropriate conditions for the on-going growth and enrichment of Saami and Inuit culture must be assured.
Since this item on culture is related to the review and follow-up of previous recommendations of the Permanent Forum, I will remind you about my statement during the 9th session of the Permanent Forum during the review on development with culture and identity: articles 3 and 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I stated then, that industrial development is rapidly reaching our areas and our way of life will be affected and we will have to adapt to these changes, on top of what we already are experiencing from the effects of climate change.
Cultural development and the protection of the Arctic environment are inseparably linked. In particular, the vital role of subsistence practices within the Inuit culture and reindeer husbandry in the Saami culture provides further compelling reason for safeguarding the integrity of the vast circumpolar environment and its living resources.
We do not want to dance to the tunes of the resource extraction companies. It is therefore of utmost importance that the principle of free, prior and informed consent is respected in those cases and appropriate democratic infrastructure is in place to protect our culture and identity. The diverse cultures of the Arctic Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar North are part of all humankind. In this context, each culture has a dignity and value which must be respected and protected.
Non-material cultures are part of the cultural heritage of Inuit and Saami. The collective rights of Inuit and Saami to those non-material cultures are to be respected and Inuit and Saami credited with the full benefits, including both cultural and financial benefits (royalties). Intellectual property and copyright regulations have to be respected in regard to Inuit and Saami knowledge and non-material cultures. The Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Saami Council will represent Inuit and Saami by promoting their rights to culture, both intellectual and international, in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Inuit and Saami cultures, like other cultures, are dynamic and not static. It is evolving and changing in response to stimuli from within and outside the Arctic. The Arctic cultures must be made an essential focal point when development decisions are taken concerning Arctic regions, in order to avoid undesirable assimilation or destruction.
The language is central to the continuity of our culture and to cultural identity. It is the cohesive thread that binds a particular people. Perceptions of society, nature and the universe are manifested through language. Languages that are not frequently used are likely to eventually disappear. That is the reason why it is so important extensively to use our languages in education, public affairs, commerce and governmental activities and as the official language in government, education and every day life.
The Saami in Scandinavia and Inuit in Greenland are part of the Nordic Council Language Convention, with the right to use our own language in education and receive support to print books in Saami and Inuit languages. The same cannot unfortunately be said about Inuit in North America, where the Inuit language is rapidly disappearing. Only in the self governing territories such as Nunavik and Nunavut in Canada steps are taken to protect the language.
As a Permanent Participant in the 8 Arctic states cooperation, the Arctic Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Council is now heading the "Arctic Indigenous Language project". Its work will concentrate on solutions that aim to stop the disappearance of languages and start an coordinated effort to establish communication across borders, such as through cooperation on setting up television and radio channels, as the Saami in Scandinavia and Greenland have done for many years. It's time to act and use the new technologies at hand.
Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Saami Council want to participate in international bodies and promote technological initiatives that will promote linguistic diversity, fight the tendencies of linguicide and promote youth initiatives to keep our languages strong.
Thank you Mr. Chair