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Statement from the Indigenous Youth Caucus

Fifth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

May 15-26, 2006

United Nations, New York

The following statement was presented at the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York in May. Victor Maqque, a Quechua from Peru who is also a Maryknoll Affiliate, presented the statement on behalf of the youth representatives from the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation; Tayoko People; Tosu People; Amis People; Puyuma People; Melanesian; Association of Taiwan; International Service for Human Rights; Vivat International; Rongmei Women Organization; Taiwan National Youth Commission; Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth; Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association; and the International Treaty Counsel.

Madam Chairperson and members of the Forum:

The Indigenous Youth Caucus is pleased to be a part of this fifth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. My name is Victor Maqque and I represent the Quechua youth of Peru, but today I speak on behalf of millions more indigenous youth around the world that were not able to attend because of the safeguards of poverty and circumstance. The issues and concerns are reflective of those that were recently discussed at the International Youth Conference held [in] Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 2005. Over 180 different indigenous young people were represented, where they drafted what was to be known as the Declaration of the Second International Indigenous Youth Conference. The concerns of the Indigenous Youth are ones that should be of great concern to the Permanent Forum as WE will be the ones that will suffer the most and have the greatest losses with the disintegration of our indigenous heritage. We are the bridge that links the past to the present and are the ones that will carry it on to the future generation.

Our history and heritage is being lost to assimilation. This results in a generation that no longer identifies their indigenous roots that lies beneath them due the inadequate educational practices and principles. Without this indigenous historical knowledge we face continual discrimination against us from non-indigenous people. A study done by Northern Arizona University found that about three out of ten Native American students drop out of high school on both reservations and in cities. In North America, Native American and Native Alaskan students have a dropout rate twice the national average which is the highest dropout rate of any United States ethnic or racial group. Even academically capable Native students often drop out of school because their needs are not being met, while others are pushed out because they protest in a variety of ways on grounds of how they are treated in school. This also is reflective in the global youth across the board Education is how we bridge from what we know now to what we will know in the future.

We recommend that member states uphold promises made that quality education be made possible in the mother tongue. Intercultural education that is sensitive to indigenous holistic world views, languages, traditional knowledge and other aspects of their cultures should be included in all programs of education for indigenous peoples. Integrating indigenous learning systems and knowledge in formal and informal education for indigenous peoples should also be of consideration in developing curriculum. Special emphasis should be placed on the training and education of teachers at all levels to become more indigenous-sensitive.

Our recommendations include but are not limited to obtaining disaggregated data specifically for Indigenous youth. We recommend that UN bodies like the UNDP to spearhead this vital project. We support the full implementation of CEDAW and propose a particular reference to vulnerability of indigenous women and youth. We also recommend such measures that will enable international communities coming together as the United States and Cambodia have to expedite those who commit crimes of human trafficking and exploitation to be prosecuted within their own national borders. This allows a developed State that may be more capable of prosecuting perpetrators to relieve victim member States where the crime was committed of such things as case volume, incapacity or inability. Disaggregated data will not only give us a clearer picture of the problem but will also unveil possible solutions. 

We recommend that member States work closely with the indigenous peoples and language consultation agencies to clarify all official documents in the national language and make them available in the indigenous languages that make up each member States. We ask that these formal documents be sensitive to indigenous identification and be reflective of the groups that do exist in each State. In adopting these measures with accurate language, we will begin to foster a symbiotic relationship between the indigenous people and the States that govern them. This is crucial to start to build trust that the State has true intentions of working with their respective indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately for indigenous peoples, there isn’t an endangered protected list as there is with animals to save us. But we, the contributing members of the Permanent Forum, can begin the process to stop this extinction of our people. Indigenous peoples of the world should not have to succumb to finding that the only time the world will properly take notice of their presence is in a history book once they are gone.

On behalf of the Indigenous Youth Caucus, thank you members of the Permanent Forum for your time.

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