Post-2015 development agenda cannot put 'some on the blind-spot'

Photo credit: CNS:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said earlier, "our goal must be a world of dignity, opportunity and well-being, where no-one is left behind." But there are specific communities that feel they are slipping on the blind-spot as post-2015 sustainable development agenda-setting process is moving forward - indigenous peoples and people in the Pacific nations are among them. "Why is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) working group document leaving us behind? That is why United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) has expressed specific concern over the way SDGs are again overlooking the rights of indigenous peoples" said Pranika Koyu from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

Pranika was speaking at Asia Pacific CSOs Forum on Sustainable Development where representatives of 17 specific constituencies among others are deliberating to consolidate the development justice agenda for post-2015 sustainable development framework.

Pranika raised questions on the nature of development model governments are racing ahead with. "Is building roads, infrastructure, hydro-dams, or developing economic zones for industries, that displaces people from their ancestral lands, called development? Such development models deny inherent rights of people to continue practicing their traditional skills and traditional agriculture, with dignity. Peoples have to give up their identity to fit into the new concept of 'global village'. Asia is incredibly diverse in culture and identities, then why are we reduced to just being cultural mascots? Why are we just numbers? We are living beings whose language is endangered everyday - according to a UNESCO report, 1 out of 3 indigenous language are getting extinct everyday - and yet, we are denied the right to education in our mother tongue despite of proposed and agreed concept of bilingual education."

Pranika Koyu, AIPP
"When you get deprived of the rights, then your language - your existence - is given the 'invisibility cloak'. Vulnerabilities of indigenous peoples increase because they are not really accepted for who they truly are. That is why indigenous young people go through psychological trauma of identity crisis to such an extent that they even commit suicide." 

"Indigenous peoples are also part of other specific constituencies such as: women, young people, migrant workers, people with disabilities, domestic workers, military, among others. Yet indigenous peoples are unique as their needs are specific as well. The alarming trend when companies and government join hands to aggressively push their development agenda, because of which indigenous peoples get severely marginalized and their human rights violated, is increasing in every part of the world."

Pranika shared a heart-wrenching experience of how the recent Nepal earthquake impacted indigenous peoples among others. "31 districts in Nepal were badly affected by the earthquake on 25 April 2015. Out of these 31 districts, 12 districts faced the severest brunt of this calamity and all of these 12 districts are home districts of indigenous communities - where entire villages have been flattened out. Out of the verified number of dead individuals as released by the Nepalese Home Ministry, 69.71 per cent of them are indigenous peoples. But even in this aftermath, when it comes to providing the relief assistance, it is the indigenous peoples who are not receiving it adequately.  One of our indigenous partners on the ground was asked by the Chief District Officer - why they wanted to provide relief to the 'Danuwar' community which is even lesser known amongst the indigenous peoples in Nepal! With current model of rehabilitation, rebuilding and reconstruction, it means 'more of the same' nature of development will happen in Nepal - how can we believe that indigenous peoples' rights and interests be well addressed in such a situation? This is why Indigenous Peoples have to refuse to continue being living museums.  We are living people and we need to engage and speak for ourselves" emphasized Pranika.

Call for adequate representation for Pacific nations

Noelene Nabulivou from the Pacific
Noelene Nabulivou from Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality in Fiji, is one of the two participants from the entire Pacific which has 22 states and territories! "There is no way we two can adequately represent the entire Pacific. We need to seriously address the issue of 'invisibility' of the Pacific and its under-representation" said Noelene.

She pointed towards "one of the slippages" as the post-2015 sustainable development process is inching ahead: "We have stopped talking about special circumstances! 'Special circumstances' language has been pulled out and now, it is no where in the documents now. So all of us should be asking for its inclusion not just for our own constituencies and ourselves, but for other constituencies as well."

"If the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) is going to mean anything on the ground then it is about many kinds of different constituencies from which we come. This is why we need the 'special circumstances' language back in!"

Noelene emphasized on ensuring that "all of us align with the linked approach: whenever we are talking about climate change can we please also talk about disaster risk reduction (DRR), ocean related issues, sea level rights, among others?"

"In our region we have one of the highest per-capita rates of gender based violence in the world. Gender equality and women’s human rights have to be part of every statement we make. Some of the losses we have were not just about reproductive rights but around sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The ability to do full SRHR – no qualifications – that is a very important thing we need to raise. The Pacific nations have made some progress on moving ahead on sexual rights including with the governments. There are over 65 LGBTIQ groups in the region. For the Pacific, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also an important issue and for nations such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), HIV continues to be a major challenge" said Noelene.

Referring to economic, trade, finance and development aid, Noelene pointed out that "investment dispute mechanisms that are being put forward in the trade agreements are going to have a huge impact on small island states." She appealed to the civil society in Asia and the Pacific to support the ongoing campaign "Tabu Pacer Plus" ('Stop Pacer Plus', or 'Ban Pacer Plus'). The campaign is calling for "immediate suspension of the PACER-Plus negotiations until there has been informed, comprehensive dialogue with civil society to attain whether there is a popular mandate for such negotiations; The immediate release of all negotiating texts to allow full, comprehensive and informed input from civil society; Following the release of the texts a properly funded social, cultural, environmental and human rights impact assessment be undertaken to determine the impacts of any proposed outcome." Noelene also strongly echoed the call for resisting the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The struggle for development justice indeed truly means leaving no one behind. Let's hope less heard voices get due space as post-2015 development process moves ahead.

Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service (CNS)
18 May 2015