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APF members highlight their work with indigenous communities

Graphic: APF representatives attend the UNFPII meeting in New York

Four APF members have showcased their work to promote the rights of indigenous peoples at a recent UN meeting in New York.

The national human rights institutions (NHRIs) of Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have showcased their work to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples at a recent United Nations meeting in New York.

With support from the APF, the four NHRIs attended the annual meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), held from 9-20 May 2016.

Through interventions made during plenary sessions, as well as at a specially-convened side event held on 13 May 2016, they highlighted the unique role of NHRIs to work alongside indigenous peoples and to advocate for greater recognition of their rights.

For example, the NHRIs of Malaysia and Indonesia have both completed national inquiries examining the land rights of indigenous peoples in their respective countries and are actively lobbying for implementation of the recommendations made by those inquiries.


Graphic: Indigenous man smiling

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Guide for NHRIs

This manual outlines the key elements of the Declaration and the ways in which NHRIs can use their mandates to promote its implementation in practice


In addition to describing their work with indigenous communities, the APF members also used their speaking opportunities to encourage UNPFII to allow 'A status' NHRIs to participate independently in its meetings.

While UNPFII has been one of the few New York-based UN bodies to encourage the participation of NHRIs in its work, this is not formally reflected in its Rules of Procedure.

"As with our campaign at the Commission on the Status of Women, our goal is to ensure that NHRIs have the same opportunity to contribute to the UN mechanisms of the General Assembly in New York as they do with the UN Human Rights Council bodies in Geneva," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

Unlike the Human Rights Council, NHRIs do not have standing in their own right to participate in General Assembly mechanisms and they can generally only attend as part of a registered NGO delegation or with their country's government delegation, if they are invited.

"This situation fails to recognise the unique role of NHRIs, which is independent from government and from civil society, as well as the independent information and expertise they can provide to international discussion of human rights issues," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

This was recognised in December 2015 when the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for NHRIs to be given the opportunity to contribute independently to the work of different bodies within the UN system in New York.

Date: 24 May 2016


Indigenous people give evidence at SUHAKAM's national inquiry into land rights

The theme of the UNFPII's 15th Session was "Indigenous People: Conflict, Peace and Resolution"


Image credits

  1. APF representatives attend the UNFPII meeting in New York - Gwen Pimentel-Gana
  2. Indigenous people give evidence at SUHAKAM's national inquiry into land rights - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia