Representatives from the Pacific are in Samoa this week to talk about the framework on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The regional meeting is on enhancing inclusive development in the Pacific in the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it brings together over 30 Government officials, representatives of national human rights institutions and civil society from Pacific Island countries to share information, exchange experiences and identify key strategies to move forward the agenda of indigenous peoples in the national, regional and global policy context.
The four day workshop at the Hotel Millenia was officially opened by the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afioga Peseta Noumea Simi.
“I wish to extend a warm welcome to our visitors in particular the representation of the United Nations and participants from our Pacific Island countries,” said Peseta.
“The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted at the General Assembly on 13th of September 2007, aimed at raising support among the international community on the survival, dignity, wellbeing and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
“The Declaration also bars the discrimination against Indigenous people and addresses individual and collective rights to education, health, employment as well as rights to land and culture.
“When we signed up to the Declaration in 2009, Samoa understood firsthand the value and importance of recognizing the rights of indigenous people, their inclusiveness and contribution to development.
“From our own experiences, our culture has been the foundation and mainstream of our heritage. It is the thread which has tightly woven our rights into our belief and political form.”
To underscore Samoa’s commitment to the values of right of indigenous people, Peseta said we were reviewed for the second time last month by the Human Rights Council in Geneva on our human rights record.
Peseta said the challenges that we currently face in recognizing indigenous rights stemmed from the fact that development and rights of indigenous peoples are mutually exclusive and these are absent from the Sustainable Development Goals.
“While it is also important that we recognize the SDGs of the new 2030 Agenda and its multi dimensional challenges, we are also faced with bigger challenges in our part of the world.
“Not only do we have geographical size and disposition but also the issue of people displacement because of land issues and potential impacts of climate change.
“With the loss of land comes the loss of language and culture and when that is lost, we lose our identity.”
Peseta said the challenge to all of us today is for the Pacific to find its voice in the international stage so that the rights of indigenous peoples are respected and reflected in the planning table of development.
“We should also be encouraged to think of pragmatic solutions and develop tools that Government can utilize in order to ensure a collaborative approach that includes indigenous people.”