Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 13 - 19, 2008: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of May 13 - May 19, 2008

Indigenous Peoples Fellowship Program with the United Nations

The English speaking component of the Indigenous Fellowship Programme began in 1997, as an initiative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) developed in the context of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (1995-2004).

The English speaking component of the programme generally runs for four months from May to September. The Fellows are based at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. The programme is an inter-active process, which consists of briefings on several topics (i.e. OHCHR’s work, the UN system and mechanisms) individual and group assignments. Fellows also have the opportunity to receive training sessions with other UN agencies, including ILO, WIPO, UNESCO and UNITAR.

At the end of the Programme, each Fellow should have a general knowledge on the United Nations system, international human rights instruments and mechanisms, in particular those relevant to indigenous peoples and be capable of giving training sessions within their communities/organizations on the knowledge acquired. Find out more about the fellowship here.

Young Australian Aborigines Hope to Fix an Unhealthy Imbalance

AS A teenager in Darwin, Ryen Biggle hadn't heard of a single Aboriginal student going to university, let alone studying medicine. But he is now part of a small group of indigenous students at Melbourne University's medical school. "It's pretty daunting," Mr Biggle, 18, says. "No one on my mother's side of the family ever went to uni."

"But she always told me if I worked hard enough then uni could be an option, and I should always believe I could make it. It was a dream of mine."

It was particularly challenging because there are only 125 indigenous medical practitioners in the country. On a per capita basis there should be almost 1000.

The University of Melbourne's Professor Ian Anderson, one of the first Aboriginal Australians to get a medical degree, says urgent action to encourage indigenous people into medical schools is a vital step in the Government's aim of closing the indigenous health gap by 2030. Read the rest of the interview here.

Indigenous Peoples of Guyana Are Fighting to Have Their Rights to Land Recognized

A landmark case in the High Court of Guyana is about to unfold in the wake of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Akawaio and Arekuna peoples of the Upper Mazaruni district. Of interest one should note that the lawsuit was filed in 1998, proceedings of which began in November, 2007.

One feels very strongly about the circumstances which prompted these aggrieved people to file a lawsuit and which, though historic in Guyana, is not alone in our global village. We are not alone and that is of tremendous importance to us Amerindians who live in this part of the world.

Certain pronouncements that point to us Amerindians as a people wanting to “create a state within a state” are immature, pre-emptive and should be ignored. Read the rest of the story here.

New Zealand Involved in Illegal Trade in North Africa - Impacting Indigenous People

On May 25, a Turkish owned ship called the Cake is due at Lyttleton harbour, and similar port records show the same ship is due in Napier between 3-5 June. On both occasions, the Cake will be unloading a cargo of phosphates that originated in the Western Sahara region of North Africa. This is a highly dubious trade, in seeming violation of the UN Charter.

This is because Western Sahara has been under military occupation by Morocco since 1975, against the wishes of the indigenous Saharawi people and of their UN recognized political representatives, the Polisario Front.

The Saharawi have not taken the theft of their country lightly. For 16 years from 1975 onwards, the Polisario Front waged a highly successful guerrilla war against the dual invading forces of Morocco and Mauritania, eventually forcing the latter out of the territory. The UN finally brokered a ceasefire in 1991, on terms that it would hold a referendum that would offer the option of full independence. Read the rest here.

Maritime Indigenous People's Human Rights Group Seeks Answers from Goldcorp

On Tuesday afternoon, May 20th Brian O’Neill, a Halifax member of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, will publicly challenge the policies of Goldcorp, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, at its Annual General Meeting in Toronto. O’Neill represents the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, a human rights and solidarity organization with committees and individuals active in all three Maritime provinces.

He has just returned from over a month in Guatemala, where he interviewed people and conducted research related to the strong opposition of Mayan communities to Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala. Concerns include inadequate consultation with indigenous communities who have been directly affected, threats to safety and security, and the environmental impacts of the mine’s operations, as well as issues of community compensation and land rights. Read the rest of the story here.

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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