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Key Note Speech by H.E. Sven Mikser, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia at "Protecting the Rights of indigenous Peoples: Taking up the challenge in the context of the 2030 Agenda", 21 September 2017

21.09.2017

H.E. EU Commissioner Neven Mimica,
Distinguished guests,

It is a pleasure to address this event organised jointly by the European Commission and my own country, Estonia, dedicated to the rights of indigenous peoples.

I would like to start by saying that the protection of the rights of indigenous people is a vital part of Estonian foreign policy and human rights activities in the international organisations. We have firm belief that indigenous peoples add to the diversity of the world and enrich our cultures. Estonia together with Finns, Hungarians and other small ethnic indigenous Finno-Ugric people possess unique languages, cultural and artistic traditions that are irreplaceable part of our roots and our heritage.

It is paramount that the international community does everything possible to support indigenous peoples, honour their past and guarantee their future. The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 10 years ago was a crucial step towards the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples. However, today, the world’s indigenous peoples still face vast challenges. In many countries fundamental rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, of the indigenous peoples are not respected. This has led to their exclusion and discrimination. We also have witnessed that the space for indigenous human rights defenders is shrinking in many places around the world.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the foreign minister of the Presidency of the European Union, I would like to use the opportunity to underline that the EU has at various occasions reiterated its commitment towards the indigenous people. In May this year the EU adopted Council conclusions on the indigenous peoples and has included the protection of the rights of the indigenous people among its priorities in UN human rights fora. We emphasise the importance of addressing the discrimination and inequalities based on indigenous origin or identity. In particular, we are worried about the threats to and violence against indigenous peoples in the context of land and natural resources.

Estonia welcomes the adoption of the resolution by the General Assembly on 8th September. We will continue to engage in the consultations at the UN to enable the widest possible participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them. In this context we highlight the role of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. Estonia as the consistent donor of the Fund, invites the member states to allocate resources to assist the participation of the indigenous peoples and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am particularly happy to address this event together with the EU Commissioner for development co-operation, Mr Mimica, as today we launch the Indigenous Navigator - a very useful platform for the promotion and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples. Estonia welcomes digital innovation for data gathering and believes the benefits of the technological progress must be fully exploited with regard to the protection of the indigenous people. The tool like this is necessary to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples and the Sustainable Development goals of the 2030 Agenda.  We believe it will further contribute to the preservation and the promotion of the indigenous languages. In this regard, we welcome that the year 2019 has been declared as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

In conclusion, we should make more effort to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples. Thus, we call all member states to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and other international principles codifying their human rights.  

Thank you.

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