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UN Permanent Forum 8 -NY

Published: May 27, 2009, Author: MHirch

UN Headquarters, New York City – Today is the third to the last day of a two-week session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting in Conference Room 4 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.  Perhaps two-hundred delegations are attending from mostly indigenous organizations representing sometimes many communities. Most are attentively listening to the business of the Permanent Forum…reports from various UN agencies on steps they are taking to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and agency requests for information from indigenous organizations, and today reports by the special rapporteurs on Climate Change and Human Rights. These discussions will continue throughout today.

The Permanent Forum, of which I have been very critical in the past, is evolving into a very normal agency of the UN…a place to discuss, offer opinions and to make appeals. In the end, the process is extremely arduous and demands a long-term commitment to achieve small steps.

I met with a young attorney at the German Mission this morning during which time we spoke about the complications of climate change as an issue and how climate change offers an opportunity for building new bridges of communication between adversaries. Anna, the young attorney, had only three months ago been assigned to the German Permanent Mission to the UN.  She will return home soon.  She has already come to the conclusion that the UN process is just that…a process.  It is an opportunity for individuals to meet and work out possible solutions to huge problems.  Large meetings have their place, but, as Anna was readily aware the actual substance was and is always addressed at the personal level.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an opportunity to address large problems at the individual level.  The meeting of hundreds of delegates documents the process and serves as the place for executing carefully drawn up strategies and organizational tactics.  In the end, decisions are made by individuals, but of course a consensus must be achieved for those decisions to be carried forward.  The Permanent Forum is the means for demonstrating that consensus even though the agreements must be made around a cup of tea in the lounge.

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