Calling For A Strong Future

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Rhonda Lee McIsaac

Haida language learner Haana Edenshaw travelled to New York this spring to deliver a message before the United Nations.

Haana presented at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Friday, April 26, 2019 on the topic of Sustainable Development. There she delivered a Joint Statement of Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Upon her return Haana’s mother Jaskwaan reported back to the International Xaad kil Langauge Gathering in Gaw Tlagee Old Massett, with resounding support from her community for her efforts towards sustainable development.

Below is the text of her speech:

Kul jaad aangaa, kilslaay aanga, Xaada laa isis,

Haana hinnu dii kyaang. Tsiits gitanee sduu dii isgagaan. Xaayda gwaay sduu dii isgagan. Dalang ‘waadluwaan ahl kil ‘laagang.

Respected women, respected men, good people, My name is Haana Edenshaw, from the Tsiits gitanee clan from Haida Gwaii. I thank all of you for listening.

I am 15 years old and have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I would like to begin by highlighting that my own nation, the Haida Nation, proudly asserts the right to sustainable development in our land and marine areas. For example, the Haida Nation and the government of Canada entered into The Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement in 2010 and affirmed in 2018 in the Gwaii Haanas Gina ’Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan 2018:

… the Gwaii Haanas marine area shall be regarded with the highest degree of respect and will be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner that meets the needs of present and future generations, without compromising the structure and function of the ecosystems …

In regard to sustainable development, the most significant international instrument is Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To date, it has been reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly by consensus at least 41 times. In particular, States resolved:

between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities … to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.

States added: “we pledge that no one will be left behind. … And we will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.” In December 2015, the General Assembly stressed by consensus “the need to ensure that no one is left behind, including indigenous peoples, who will benefit from and participate in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”.

Yet, too often, Indigenous peoples in all regions of the world are faced with developments that are not sustainable and that fail to meet international standards. Too often, States are not including any references to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development in their domestic laws.

Further, in the 2018 Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, entitled Global warming of 1.5°C, it is emphasized that the “avoided climate change impacts on sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be greater if global warming were limited to 1.5°C rather than 2°C”.

Madam Chair, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms our right to sustainable development when read as a whole. Article 20 affirms the right of Indigenous peoples “to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of […] development”. Articles 23 and 32 affirm our right to determine our own priorities for development. These rights are all reinforced by our core right to self-determination.

In September 2015, in relation to Indigenous peoples in Colombia, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination emphasized the “fundamental right to free, prior and informed consent and their right to sustainable development”. Further, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reaffirms the right of Indigenous peoples to “conserve, restore, and protect the environment and to manage their lands, territories and resources in a sustainable way.”

In conclusion, the Coalition strongly urges the UN Permanent Forum to adopt the following positions:

  1. THAT States explicitly include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an essential framework in their own domestic laws and not solely focus on Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. THAT States implement emissions reductions in line with the objective of limiting the increase in average global temperature to no more than 1.5ºC, so as to avoid increased climate change impacts, including on sustainable development.
  3. THAT UN treaty bodies, special rapporteurs and other independent experts, and States emphasize the Indigenous peoples’ right to sustainable development.
  4. Endorse the American Declaration and consider as a regional reference for their ongoing work.

Damaan ad iid yakudang, iith ad hla k’aayGuu gan yakudaangga.

We respect you, join us in respecting nature.

The Council of the Haida Nation along with numerous organizations endorsed Haana’s message including Amnesty International; Assembly of First Nations; Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et Labrador; BC Assembly of First Nations; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); First Nations Summit; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) / Cree Nation Government; Indigenous World Association; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics; Dr. Wilton Littlechild; Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams; Friends of Wild Salmon; Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition; Tŝilhqot’in National Government; and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.


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