The second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is scheduled to take place from 12 thru 23 May 2003 at UN Hqrs in New York City.

In another resolution, an exceptional three-day pre-sessional meeting of the members of the Forum was approved from 7 to 9 May 2003.

On 18 December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly approved without a vote a Secretariat in New York City for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Secretariat will be part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and will have 3 positions for 2003: a Director, a Programme Officer and a General Staff. The 3 remaining positions will be funded in a later year.

As 3 months only remain until this Second Session, a temporary Secretariat is established: Elsa Stamatopoulou, currently Deputy to the Director in the NY Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is Acting Chief, Secretariat for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, DESA. John Scott, OHCHR in Geneva, is also assigned to this temporary body.

Permanent positions will be filled at a later date.

Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues- Department of Economic and Social Affairs - United Nations DC2-1772 - New York, NY 10017 USA - Telephone number: 212-963-0098 - Email address: indigenouspermanentforum@un.org


First Session of the PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES(From Yachay Wasi newsletter Fall 2002 issue)

The inaugural meeting of a new United Nations body, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 13 thru 24 May 2002, brought together Indigenous leaders and civil society from all parts of the world. This was the first time that Indigenous voices were heard at such a high level by the world Organization. UNPFII

The creation of the Forum as a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations is a historical achievement.

It was approved by ECOSOC on 28 July 2000 and adopted by the UN General Assembly in the Fall of 2000.

The 16 members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) for a 3-year term of office ending on 31 December 2004 are:

INDIGENOUS MEMBERS: Ole Henrik Magga (Norway), Chair - Antonio Jacanamijoy (Colombia), Vice Chair - Mililani Trask (United States), Vice Chair - Parshuram Tamang (Nepal), Vice Chair - Willie Littlechild (Canada), Rapporteur - Ayitegau Kouevi (Togo) - Zinaida Strogalschikova (Russian Federation) - Fortunato Turpo Choquehuanca (Peru).

GOVERNMENT MEMBERS: Njuma Ekundanayo (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Vice Chair - Wayne Lord (Canada) - Ida Nicolaisen (Denmark) - Otilia Lux Garcia de Coti (Guatemala) - Marcos Matias Alonso (Mexico) - Yuri Alexandrovitch Boitchenko (Russian Federation) - Yuji Iwasawa (Japan) and as of 25 October, 2002: Qin Xiaomei (China).

The First Session of the PFII was attended by 900 Observers from Indigenous world organizations, UN Agencies and Member States who were able to give their views on various issues such as Economic and Social Development, Education and Culture, Environment, Children and Youth, Health and Human Rights. Highlights of discussions were included in a comprehensive report (Document E/2002/43 Part I & II dated 3 July 2002).

Among many other decisions in this final report of the First Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the PFII called first for a Secretariat to be located in New York City and attached to the Secretariat of ECOSOC and, secondly, to hold the Second Session of the PFII from 12 to 23 May 2003 in New York City.

During the Substantive Session of ECOSOC in July, supportive Member states led by the Permanent Mission of Sweden drafted their own resolutions in support of the PFII’s demands which were then approved by ECOSOC. The next step was to have the General Assembly adopt these decisions and authorize funding. This was accomplished in the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in December 2002.

By the beginning of 2003, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will be operating at United Nations Headquarters in NYC on a daily basis thru the UN paid staff of its Secretariat.



Beginning in the 60’s, concerned NGOs and UN Agencies started to attract attention on this neglected part of humankind. Particularly, the International Labor Org. (ILO) wrote conventions and their 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention #169, the most comprehensive, established the areas of concern to Indigenous Peoples.

In October 1977, for the first time in history, Native American leaders from North and South America were called to Geneva to present their historical and contemporary grievances. They then, organized themselves in Non-Governmental Org. (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the leading organ of the United Nations, next to the Security Council.

August 9, 1982 - The first annual 5-day session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations convened in Geneva with Indigenous and NGOs Representatives to establish the basis of the Draft Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, their different issues to be worked out with countries in yearly Commission on Human Rights sessions in Geneva over the years since.

In 1991, a UN International Year of the World Indigenous People was announced for 1993 under the leadership of the Human Rights Centre, Geneva. In October, a new NGO Committee for the Year was created under the initiative of Mrs. Stamatopoulou, Chief, NYC Office of the Human Rights Centre. As the then Representative of the International Romani Union (NGO/ECOSOC), Yachay Wasi officer Eliane Lacroix-Hopson became one of the four co-founders of this Committee and in this capacity, in its first official meeting at the UN, January 13, 1992, took the floor making two proposals:

1) For the Hopi Interpreter to present the century old Hopi Prophecy to the UN General Assembly at the Opening Ceremony for the Year, 10 December 1992

2) For Indigenous Peoples to create world organizations and request Observer Status at the UN.

The large audience stood in a standing ovation to second the proposals and Ms. Stamatopoulou promised to push them through.

On December 10, 1992 at the Launching Ceremony for the Year, one of the Native American National leaders, which Eliane had informed of her proposal, requested Observer Status for Indigenous Peoples and this request was part of all UN material until the June 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna which states:

”… A Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations System should be considered.” (# 32 Vienna Declaration.)as one of the goals of the UN International Decade of the World's Indigenous People 1995-2004.

The idea of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples affairs gradually imposed itself to Government members in spite of the usual tug of war between countries. Supported by the Secretary-General Office, pushed by some countries, such as Denmark, Chile and others and a Working Group of the Commission of Human Rights, support fluctuating according to political changes in countries finally led to the agreed need of a “Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues” putting the concept within the general UN interest in human rights, sustainable development, culture, etc…

Finally, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) was approved by ECOSOC on July 28, 2000 and by the General Assembly in October 2000 as a subsidiary body of the Council as reported on page 1.

The incentive behind Eliane Lacroix-Hopson’s 1992 proposal:

Indigenous Peoples are recognized as spiritual peoples, as Observers or now, as a permanent subsidiary body of ECOSOC, they are the sole entities which could give to the United Nations the spiritual vision lacking in political countries.

This fact has been recognized at this PFII first session by Mary Robinson, then High Commissioner for Human Rights, ending her 13 May 2002 opening address with these words:

“Beyond their traditional knowledge and cultural accomplishments, the Indigenous Peoples of the world are possessed of a unique spirituality, vision and sense of community. If the members of the Permanent Forum can find a way to share some of the wisdom and world view of their peoples with the United Nations family and with the wider international community, then this may prove to be their most important and enduring achievement.”

And on 24 May 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan closed this PFII first session in these terms:

“Indeed, you have rights, needs and aspirations that can and must be addressed by the world Organization. And you have knowledge, vision, values, skills and many other attributes that can help us at the United Nations, and indeed all of humankind, to achieve our long-sought goals of development and peace.”