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UN Youth Flash: If you have ever participated in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), it is most unlikely that you missed the presence of the Indigenous Youth Caucus (IYC). To demonstrate their solidarity with their colleagues from IYC, every time a statement of the IYC is delivered, members of the IYC stand behind the person who is presenting the statement. While these statements address different issues, the indigenous youth voice their concerns and offer their specific suggestions on the topic at hand. Their contribution always attracts much attention and provokes discussions. With the 10th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues due to commence on the 16th May 2011, there has not been a better time to highlight indigenous youth issues and the work of the Indigenous Youth Caucus.

The Indigenous Youth Caucus is comprised of numerous indigenous youth from various States, organizations, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Ever since the first session of the UNPFII, young indigenous participants have gathered together and developed statements voicing concerns of youth. The IYC was formally inaugurated in 2006 and has ever since convened every day during the annual session of UNPFII to discuss the various issues and concerns of indigenous youth worldwide. These discussions led to the collective development and presentation of several statements to the Forum. In 2008, the UNPFII and the UN Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recognized the IYC as a working caucus.

Today, Jocelyn Hung Chien, an indigenous young woman from the Pinuyumayan (a.k.a. Puyuma) People in Taiwan, and who grew up in the capital city, Taipei, in Taiwan, chairs the IYC.  When Jocelyn was young, she was not aware of her indigenous origin. Then, in 2006, the first time that she attended the UNPFII, a journalist asked her, "what makes you an indigenous person?"  This question got her thinking about her roots. She spent time exploring and studying indigenous issues, and realized, as an indigenous person, it is not only her blood that makes her indigenous, but also her identity, her relationship with the community and nature, her responsibility to ensure indigenous peoples' rights as peoples and as human beings.

She says, “The rights of indigenous peoples are of a very mixed nature- political, social, economic and cultural. Indigenous peoples have specific needs and unique worldviews that should be respected.”  This is the vision that inspires Jocelyn’s work as Chairperson.  She has been participating in the UNPFII, as well as the IYC, since 2006. Besides the statement drafting and lobbying at the UNPFII session, she has collected information from members of the IYC and drafted a study on indigenous youth's participation in decision-making processes. This study was presented at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) in July 2010 as a debut of the IYC at EMRIP sessions. She is working now to further enrich the study with examples from more indigenous peoples and good practices. The final study is expected to be presented at the next EMRIP session.

Jocelyn observes that in her experience of attending the UNPFII in the past 4 years, there is a low percentage of young participants. Although it is generally recognized that children and young people play critical roles in advocating the human rights of indigenous people and in keeping indigenous cultures alive, they are often unable to participate in international occasions like UNPFII. With the aim of empowering indigenous youth and strengthening their meaningful participation in the UNPFII, as well as sustaining their efforts for ensuring the full enjoyment of their rights, together with other members of the IYC, Jocelyn is organizing a IYC preparatory meeting for the upcoming 10th session of the UNPFII on May 15 2011. A side-event during the UNPFII session on youth initiatives that protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples jointly with UNICEF, Secretariat of the UNPFII (SPFII) and UN Programme on Youth. The side-event is scheduled on 19 May 2011 from 1:15-2:45pm and will be held in UNICEF House, New York.

Over the past years, the empowerment and participation of indigenous youth have been of great importance in the indigenous rights discourse. The IYC has been improving the representation of indigenous youth in the UNPFII sessions and further asserting youth’s voices in other occasions, like the EMRIP. However, there remains much more to be done. The continued recruitment, involvement and training of youth from various indigenous peoples communities worldwide are critical for the Forum, along with various indigenous rights mechanisms and organizations, to tackle the issues before indigenous people comprehensively and effectively.

As Jocelyn sums up, “If the rights of indigenous people are not addressed particularly, taking into consideration their history, customs, traditions, culture and social structure, then true equality will never be achieved. As an indigenous person, the work to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples is the daily practice of the right to life, culture, identity and development.”

 

Source:UN YOUTH FLASH. Vol. 8, No.4, April 2011

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