U.S. Statement: UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 18th Session Agenda Item 12; Participation of Indigenous Peoples

Linda Lum
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 26, 2019


The United States continues to champion ensuring the diversity of views in the United Nation system, through pushing for robust participation of various stakeholders including civil society and indigenous peoples.  Unfortunately, the General Assembly’s enhanced participation process ended without creating a separate category for indigenous peoples at the UN, and indigenous representatives still have to register as NGOs reps in order to participate at UN meetings.  The United States continues to support having a wide array of views heard at the UN.  We think that this enriches the debate and leads to more informed outcomes – indigenous peoples have valuable knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics addressed at the United Nations, and we need to ensure that this expertise is heard here and not stifled by some member states.

To this end, we would like to highlight our concerns about certain indigenous populations beyond our borders, particularly those in Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.  The United States is deeply concerned by severe restrictions on the expression of cultural and religious identities in these areas, including with respect to use of the Tibetan and Uighur languages.  We are alarmed by the mass detention of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims in detention camps, where they are required to renounce their ethnic identities and cultural practices.  We again call on the Chinese government to close the internment camps in Xinjiang and demonstrate respect for the human rights of members of Xinjiang’s indigenous communities.

This is why, for example, we take the work of the Permanent Forum so seriously.  The forum will have open seats on May 7th and we encourage all ECOSOC members to vote for those members running who protect and promote the human rights of all indigenous peoples and support their participation at the UN.  We do not want to walk back efforts on this topic by electing members who will not ensure that the goals of the Forum are fulfilled.

Thank you for your attention.