Thursday, 15 July 2010

Global Indigenous Youth Caucus Intervention at the 3rd Session of the EMRIP

Global Indigenous Youth Caucus Intervention to the 3rd Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Agenda Item 3: Study on Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Participate in Decision-Making 13 July 2010

This is the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus’ first official presence at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We sincerely hope we will be welcoming more youth to join us in future sessions. Whilst the progress report gives us a comprehensive overview to the participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making, indigenous youth is only mentioned in paragraph 62 and the role of indigenous youth in decision-making is poorly addressed.

Indigenous youth and children globally represent some 50 to 70% of the total indigenous population. Despite this, we are often excluded and ignored from discussions where decisions affecting us are made. There is a desperate need to involve indigenous youth as stakeholders in decision-making processes on the national and international level as we as youth hold a key position between our indigenous tradition and modernized structures. We are carrying the great value of being familiar with both, thus play an integral part in the formation of indigenous identities and the continuation and sustainability of cultural practices and traditions. It is critical that we have full and effective participation in decision-making processes, so our voices can be heard, allowing us to identify our needs and act accordingly.

Echoing the study, we prepared a situation analysis on indigenous youth’s participation in decision-making process based on information and input provided by the members of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus worldwide.

Key points drawn from the analysis follow:

1. At the community level, format and degree of youth’s participation in decision-making vary. While some youth are intensively included in cross-generational connections and communications with their elders, others are not permitted to express their opinions with ultimate decision making lying with elders. Native models of congenial cross-generational communication should be put forward for consideration at the UN and in decision-making process on all levels.

2. In most countries, indigenous youth are not represented in the federal, state or local government. Indigenous focused political parties are not common. If present they rarely place indigenous youth on the agenda. In most countries the turnout of indigenous youth in elections is low. There are often cases where indigenous youth are excluded from the election process because they are not able to acquire legal documents. As youth make up a considerable part of the indigenous population and as we are the future work force. If not included in this process today, we face a bleak outlook for all indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making tomorrow.

3. Many governments claim that “youth are the best experts on young people’s lives”. However this does not carry over to policy that affects us; education, vocational training, cultural survival and environmental protection policies are often made by senior officers without any input from youth, or consultation with indigenous youth.

4. Indigenous youth participants can be spotted in many regional and international gatherings. However, may I ask everyone who is under age of 24 to raise your hand? (Thank you.) As can be seen here, it is obvious that the number of indigenous youth representatives present in international occasion is still low. Financial constraint is often but not the only issue. Members of the Youth Caucus have been denied entry to international conferences due to visa, accreditation, or political interference.

5. Indigenous youth is in general a strong and dynamic force in the grassroots movements for the rights of indigenous peoples. Numerous indigenous organizations are generated from the indigenous youth, dealing with practical promotion and development of indigenous culture and language among young people. We do this through advocacy, lobbying, awareness raising, demonstration and protest against governmental and non-governmental policies that have adverse effects on indigenous peoples and our cultural identity. However, in some areas, indigenous youth are not allowed to establish their own associations of any kind.

6. Other key obstacles that hinder youth’s participation include, cultural constraint, lack of access to adequate information, poor understanding of information, deprivation of our rights to learn about our rights and relevant international instruments. Our education does not adequately reflect our indigenous heritage and the specific needs and world view of indigenous youth. There is general exclusion from capacity-building processes and lack of motivation to participate.

This situation analysis reflects indigenous youth from various participating Global Indigenous Youth Caucus countries that demonstrate their interaction and participation in decision-making roles. We respectfully call upon the Experts to include the importance of indigenous youth and their participation in decision-making in the final study. We further call for support of any kind to assist the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus in compiling a more detailed and comprehensive study of indigenous youth and their participation in decision-making.

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