Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 2, 2009

Littlechild to UN: Indigenous Peoples right to food

United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
2nd Session, 26 – 30 January 2009 Geneva Switzerland

A Joint Intervention, International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development
and the International Indian Treaty Council
Agenda item 2 “The Right to Food

By Dr. Wilton Littlechild

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Right to Food, and the range of rights required for its full exercise, is affirmed in a array of international instruments. Notably, Article1 in common of the two (2) International Covenants affirms the right of all peoples to freely pursue their economic social and cultural development, as well as their own means of subsistence.

Likewise, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms in Article 20 that “Indigenous peoples have the right…to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” Many other articles, including Article 26 on land and Natural Resources, and 37 on Treaties also affirm rights that are essential to the exercise of the Right to Food for Indigenous Peoples.

Our delegations strongly support the recommendations of the Advisory Committee’s Drafting Group on the Right to Food, in particular recommendation 5, “that the implementation of the concept of Food Sovereignty should be considered”.

Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples was affirmed as a “precondition for Food Security” in the “Declaration of Atitlan” from the 1st Indigenous Peoples’ Global Consultation on the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty (Guatemala, 2002). This Declaration also affirmed that Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples is a collective right based on rights to our lands, territories and natural resources, the practice of our cultures, languages and traditions, and is essential to our identity as Peoples.

Subsistence Rights are also recognized in many of the legally-binding international Treaties which our ancestors entered into with settler governments and their predecessors. For example, Treaty No. 6 entered into by Indigenous Nations, including the Cree Nation, and the Crown binds the Canadian Government to ensure our subsistence rights for “so long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.” Our ancestors, at Treaty time, secured our traditional avocations of hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping for food during all seasons.

We warmly thank the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Mr. Jean Ziegler for his recognition of the importance and scope of Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples. In his Interim Report to the UN General Assembly [UN Doc A/60/350] on 12 September 2005, the Rapporteur recognized that in most countries “hunger and malnutrition are disproportionately higher among indigenous than non-indigenous populations” and that “it is therefore urgent to strengthen the protection of the right to food of indigenous peoples, including by improving the protection of their lands and resources”. In this report, the Rapporteur also affirmed states’ obligations “to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food of indigenous peoples”.

We also thank the UN General Assembly for is resolution of 13 March, 2008, which “Stresses also its commitments to promote and protect, without discrimination, the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, in accordance with international human rights obligations and taking into account, as appropriate, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” [GA res 62/164, 13 March 2008 on the report of the Third Committee (A/62/439/Add.2), The right to food, paragraph 12].

We regret to report to this body that a range of factors, including Treaty violations, failure to respect human rights including Free Prior and Informed Consent, imposed development, environmental contamination and Climate Change are seriously impacting the Right to Food for Indigenous Peoples around the world.

We urge that the Advisory Council consider and include the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples as noted above in its report and recommendations to the Human Rights Council, as well as in any future work on this vital issue.

We are prepared to submit more detailed information upon the request of this body, and we thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Dr. Wilton Littlechild, IPC

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