The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and post-2015 development agenda aspire to “leave no one behind.” Yet, at this critical juncture in the elaboration of the SDGs, the process is in jeopardy of excluding Indigenous Peoples from the agenda. Ironically, while traditional Indigenous Territories “encompass up to 22 percent of the world’s land surface” and “coincide with areas that hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity,”[i] the post-2015 development agenda is poised to repeat the broken promises of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the world’s Indigenous Peoples.[ii]
At the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Post-2015 Development Agenda, for instance, the Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG) has consistently called attention to the near “invisibility” of Indigenous Peoples in the Outcome Document of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals now under discussion.[iii] Indigenous Peoples are specifically referred to only twice in the wide range of targets that directly affect our lives.
Indigenous peoples current state of invisibility in the proposed SDGs is contrary to what States already affirmed in the Rio+20 outcome document “The Future We Want”.[iv] Paragraph 49 specifically recognizes: “the importance of the participation of indigenous peoples in the achievement of sustainable development” and “the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the context of global, regional, national and sub-national implementation of sustainable development strategies.”
Unfortunately, as with the MDGs, the post-2015 development agenda seems to be moving toward promoting universality at the expense of diversity and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. This approach is manifesting beyond the proposed SDGs to the Co-Chairs recent presentation of the SDG Declaration Discussion Paper and the release of the Bureau of UN Statistical Commission’s technical report on an indicator framework for goals and targets of the SDGs. Both documents embrace the use of the term “vulnerable groups,” for example, without clearly identifying who these groups are or acknowledging that the term fails to recognize the distinct cultural identities and political status of Indigenous Peoples who are rights-holders and agents of change.
The inadequate recognition of Indigenous Peoples in the SDGs/post-2015 process contradicts the commitment of States to recognize our special situations, which is articulated in the outcome document of recent World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. At paragraph 37, States affirm that “...indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In this regard, we commit ourselves to giving due consideration to all the rights of indigenous peoples in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda”.[v]
In February, the IPMG noted that “effective implementation of universal goals means being mindful of national contexts whilst respecting cultural diversity.”[vi] In addition, the IPMG’s recently released “policy brief” also recognizes the critical importance of the disaggregation of data and the establishment of special measures for indigenous peoples.[vii] As stated by the IPMG, goals and targets that “aim to leave no one behind” can only succeed “if data is disaggregated to show who are the ones at risk of being left behind.” The development of indicators that fail to specifically include and mention Indigenous Peoples will not promote principles of equality and non-discrimination or respect for human rights and social inclusion.
The Post 2015 Development Agenda should not pave the way to the further marginalization of Indigenous Peoples, but rather seize this unique opportunity to remedy past shortcomings and historic injustices based on inequality. This can only be achieved with the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the development, monitoring, and evaluation of post-2015 development agenda and the political will of States to respect and implement our rights. The UN system cannot remain neutral in this instance as it is obligated to present these realities to States seeking advice and technical expertise. The SDGs and post-2015 development agenda aspire to “leave no one behind,” however, if the current trends continue to render us invisible; there is little hope that this process will deliver positive changes to the estimated 370 million Indigenous Peoples around the world.
Roberto “Múkaro Agüeibaná” Borrero is a member of the Indigenous Taino Peoples and UN Programs Consultant for the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), an NGO in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC. The IITC is a global organizing partner for the Indigenous Peoples Major Group.
[i] The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation, World Bank, 2008 at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTBIODIVERSITY/Resources/RoleofIndigenousPeoplesinBiodiversityConservation.pdf
[ii] See E/C.19/2005/4/Add.13,Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Fourth session, Special theme: Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples, New York, 16-27 May 2005: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/Indigenous%20Peoples%20and%20the%20MDGs.pdf
[iii] See the January 2015 and February 2015 statements of the IPMG at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=148
[v] See the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, A/RES/69/2, Paragraphs 33; 37 at http://www.un.org/en/ga/69/meetings/indigenous/documents.sht
[vi] Ibid at 3