Remarks on Social Issues at the Third Committee meeting on the Rights of Indigenous People, Conference Room 4

Lauri Shestack Phipps, Advisor
New York, NY
October 22, 2012


Thank you, Mr. Chair. We also would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Akhtar of DESA for her presentation of the report to the committee.

Mr. Chair, the Secretary-General’s report on the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples notes that indigenous peoples’ concerns need to be addressed within broader development objectives, notably the Millennium Development Goals, which apply to all persons. As we heard earlier from Ms. Akhtar, the report also calls for indigenous peoples’ participation in the design, implementation, and evaluation of development-related policies and programs. Furthermore, it recommends culturally appropriate development policies.

The actions of the United States on behalf of indigenous peoples are consistent with these approaches. Both at home and abroad, indigenous peoples benefit from U.S. programs in the areas of economic growth, health, education, democracy and governance, and conflict mitigation and management. We believe indigenous peoples should be involved at each stage of the decision-making process. The United States directs its agency components to consult with federally recognized tribes on policies or regulations that affect them. We also encourage the establishment of organizations that address indigenous people’s needs. The United States is also developing sustainable uses of environmental resources, taking indigenous peoples’ interest in this goal into account. While we acknowledge that more still needs to be accomplished regarding indigenous peoples in the United States,” we are proud to be making economic and social progress in this regard.

Turning briefly to U.S. assistance efforts overseas, I would like to highlight some of the activities we have undertaken to improve the lives of indigenous peoples. In Guatemala, the United States supports several efforts which benefit indigenous peoples among others: outreach centers for at-risk youth; democracy programs that significantly increased indigenous representation in local leadership; and programs to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. In Honduras, our HIV counseling, prevention, and testing activities reach nearly 54,000 indigenous people each year. In Nicaragua’s indigenous communities, we set up five mediation centers that provide free legal services. And in eastern Panama, a U.S.-IOM agreement promotes political participation and economic opportunities for indigenous youth.

Economic and social development cannot be fully achieved without the empowerment of women. Accordingly, we have focused efforts on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence – a problem that indigenous women and girls frequently experience, not only in the United States, but in developing countries as well. We appreciate Special Rapporteur Anaya’s focus on violence against indigenous women and the importance of working with communities themselves to address the issue most effectively. The U.S. government is working with tribes to address the disproportionate rates of violence that indigenous women suffer in the United States. To this end, we have set up a national clearinghouse for training and technical assistance concerning sexual assault of Native American women, have awarded public safety grants of nearly $120 million to tribes over the past two years to improve public safety, and are coordinating law enforcement efforts in the United States. Internationally, one example of our efforts to stem violence against indigenous women is support for the Casas de Justicia in Guatemala, which in addition to providing legal and administrative functions in local communities, offers counseling on domestic and gender-based violence.

The United States is sensitive to the importance of the environment and biodiversity to indigenous peoples, as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report. We are frequent contributors to the discussion on development safeguards, including in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's deforestation (REDD+) discussions. We also worked in the context of Rio+20 discussions on the role of indigenous peoples in promoting a green economy. On the regional front, we participate in the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon, which aims to mitigate environmental hazards connected with extractive industries and infrastructure development. As part of this initiative, indigenous groups are trained in business management skills to help attract private investments in sustainable forestry, which in turns improves the quality of life in indigenous communities.

Mr. Chair, the United States looks forward to working with other member states, UN organizations, indigenous groups, and other partners to further the well-being of indigenous peoples.

Thank you for your attention.


PRN: 2012/237