Indigenous Voices, Indigenous Rights: The Role of Community Media

Mr. Jeff Brez gave welcoming Remarks and outlined some of the existing policies that protect indigenous rights. Ms. Suzanne Benally discussed her work at Cultural Survival, and the right of all indigenous groups to their own community media, in their own languages. She further explained the need for access to non-indigenous media, without discrimination.

Mr. Shaldon Ferris shared the benefits of local radio stations, which include providing people with a voice and preserving community identities. Mr. Ferris grew up with mainstream American media, and while it was a good form of entertainment, no one ever looked or sounded like the indigenous people watching. Under the Apartheid regime, all media was controlled and consisted of news from other places. The indigenous need local radio to preserve their identity and culture. They have stories to share, but they have no platform.

Ms. Avexnim Cojití gave statistics on the Guatemalan population and indigenous languages. They are the poorest of the population; they are malnourished and do not have access to electricity and media. Newspapers do not reach indigenous communities, and most are not literate in Spanish, leaving radio as the best form of communication. Even though the government is supposed to support and allow indigenous media, current radio stations do not attend to the needs of local communities, and most operate unsupported by the government. While there is still pride for indigenous history, it is becoming shameful to be indigenous in Guatemala. Community Media would help spread pride, and advocate for human rights, indigenous rights, etc.

Mr. Dev Kumar Sunuwar explained that the indigenous people of Nepal lack resources, and have low access to education in technical knowledge and skills. The speakers were followed by a round of questions, reinforcing the need to spread media outlets to indigenous communities around the world.

Meeting: Briefing on “Indigenous Voices, Indigenous Rights: The Role of Community Media” (co-organized by NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events Section, Outreach Division; and the Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information (DPI))

Date/Location: Thursday, April 27, 2017; 11:00-12:30; Conference Room 11, UNHQ NY

Speakers: Jeff Brez, Suzanne Benally, Shaldon Ferris, Dev Kumar Sunuwar, Avexnim Cojití

Written By: WIT Representative Renée S. Landzberg

Edited By: Fred Yonghabi

Indigenous Peoples Lobby for Recognition in the Post 2015 Development Agenda

alsesha pictureDuring the General Assembly meeting on Indigenous Peoples, the Moderator started the session by stating that the indigenous people feel that the current development model has resulted in global inequality, environmental degradation, climate change and the current economic crisis. This model has not valued economic, social, religious and spiritual aspects of indigenous people. Thus culture and identity rights need to be included in the new developmental model that provides a broad normative framework and a more holistic approach based on the collective rights and interests of all.

Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz highlighted that the indigenous people were included in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and also in the on-going Open Working Groups (OWGs) on the processes of the post 2015 development agenda. She and all speakers hereafter stated that the Alta Outcome Document should be the reference point for the ‘Indigenous Priorities for Sustainable Development’. The Zero Draft Outcome Document in her opinion provided very generic goals and had no mention of indigenous people. After further discussions and lobbying, the indigenous people were able to achieve five reference points in the Document. The development agenda should not just focus on market solutions (such as public-private partnership) but should also look at non-market solutions for a more comprehensive agenda. It is very important to work in partnership with states to address these issues.

The Representative of the Pacific Region and the Representative of Latin American and the Caribbean generally emphasised that cultural solutions are the drivers of the development agenda. Eradicating poverty amongst indigenous people and securing their economic, social, cultural and developmental rights is also imperative. The Representatives appealed that the outcome document should be concise and action oriented. The Permanent representative of Guatemala then emphasised that indigenous people should overcome exclusion and receive their right to education and expression. Finally she stated that there has been a lot of progress on paper, however this century should focus on action and implementation.


Meeting Title: Informal interactive hearings as preparatory process for the High-level meeting of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples: Interactive discussion 3 “Indigenous priorities for sustainable development”
Speakers: Moderator; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Distinguished Representative of the Pacific Region; Distinguished Representative of South America and the Caribbean; Distinguished Representative of Guatemala.
Date: 18 June 2014
Location: General Assembly Hall (NLB), United Nations Headquarters, NY.
Written by WIT Representative: Aslesha Kaur Dhillon
Edited by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Doing Justice to Sustainable Development

Integrating the Rule of Law into the Post 2015 Agenda 

Professor Michael Doyle explained that law is a valuable reflection of human dignity and must be preserved for equality. Democracy based rule of law, entrenched with human rights is essential to ensure that laws are not changeable by any majority in a way that violates equality and social inclusion. Judit Arenas emphasised that rule of law and the sustainable development goals have to go beyond words on paper to ensure that this transformative agenda is actually changed for the better.


Judith Arenas summarized the IDLO report that has been posted online explaining that the key points in the document include legal frameworks for sustainable governance of resources, access to fair market trade to stimulate the economy, and legal rights that ensure transparency and participation. The recommendations from Rio +20 require that economic growth creates employment and decent work to ensure the eradication of poverty; strong legal institutions promote investment and encapsulate development.

Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, via video statement, said that environmental degradation is an existential threat to all of us, and although it touches all, it will particularly affect the poor, vulnerable and indigenous people. The wealthy and developed nations’ citizens have the ability to move between countries but millions of poor and vulnerable people have to face climate change as a threat to their existence.

Justice Antonio explained that to have the legal framework in place is one thing, however as a society we need to ensure goals are actually fulfilled. In order to do this the world requires good governance, more than legislative text, but rather interlinked goals alongside systems of compliance and enforcement. Justice Antonio also declared that judges can not be influenced by political and economic pressure, they should not be afraid of favoring weaker parties for their legal rights.


Meeting Title: Doing Justice to Sustainable Development: Integrating the rule of law into the post-2015 agenda
Speakers: H.E. Riitta Resch Ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; Professor Michael Doyle, Foreign and Security Policy Columbia University; Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, National High Court of Brazil; Professor Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of UN Permanent forum on Indigenous Issues; Nury Montiel, Director of Human Rights for Supreme Court of Justice of Paraguay, Andres Vazquez Coordinator Human Rights Projects for Supreme Court of Justice of Paraquay, Judit Arenas Director of External Relations IDLO
Location: United Nations UN, Conference Room 5 NLB, New York
Date: 17 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark