Stories articles Indigenous Rights

Session during the 54th UN Human Rights Council happening in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room in Geneva (UNOG). Photo: Nia Tero

A session takes place in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room during the 54th UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (UNOG). Photo by Nia Tero.

October 2, 2023

The Voices of Indigenous Women Were Heard at the 2023 UN Human Rights Council

Indigenous women leaders from Peru and Colombia attended the United Nations' 54th Session of the Human Rights Council to address violations faced in their territories.

The UN Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations responsible for promoting all human rights around the globe. Yearly Indigenous representatives from the seven socio-cultural regions worldwide have had the chance to speak out, offering glimpses into their lived experiences, bravely denouncing situations that put their survival at risk, and warning about the damage their territories are suffering.

In the last week of September, two Indigenous women, Ginny Alba (Piratapuyo People) and Tabea Casique (Ashéninka People), attended this global forum on behalf of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) and the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC).

The participation of the Indigenous women in the forum brought Indigenous rights to the forefront of the discussions. They spoke about the negative impact of extractive industries on Indigenous Peoples' territories. They also addressed topics such as the militarization of Indigenous territories and the threats against Indigenous leaders trying to protect their lands.

“We are the voice of those who have no voice, and it is important to make known the importance of Indigenous Peoples,” said Ginny Alba (Piratapuyo People), Technical Secretary of the Human Rights Commission for Indigenous Peoples in Colombia and a member of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC). “I am participating in this important session to make visible the situation experienced by the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia, especially the Colombian Amazon, on relevant topics such as militarization and the effects of large megaprojects on our territories,” she added.

Alba participated in the Annual Panel on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 27th. She spoke about the repeated violations of human rights happening in Colombia related to livestock, timber, oil industry, and mining, among other issues, and noted the negative consequences of the militarization of Indigenous territories. She also demanded the implementation of measures aimed at recognizing and strengthening the role of Indigenous women, as well as the promotion of Indigenous Peoples' political rights and participation in the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policies.

Tabea Casique (Ashéninka People), from the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), sent a statement to the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in which she highlighted the importance of guaranteeing consultative processes and developing accurate, effective, and viable mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples to be able to access green funds. “We believe that the space for participation in this 54th meeting of the United Nations is an opportunity to bring the voices that are often not heard. There are important issues that we believe that we can bring attention to,” said Casique.

She also highlighted the threats and murders of Indigenous guardians in the Amazon, where impunity often prevails, mentioning the murder case of four members of the Saweto community in Peru, whose trial failed to punish those responsible for the crime.

The Indigenous representatives Alba, Casique and Guerra in the meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People. Photo: Nia Tero
Indigenous representatives Casique, Guerra, and Alba meet with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, Mr. Francisco Cali Tzay. Photo: Nia Tero

Alba and Casique also had a closed-door meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They advocated for implementing protection measures in the face of violence, threats, and murders that affect Indigenous Peoples defending their rights and territories.

It was the first time for these two leaders to have the chance to participate in this global forum discussion. They were together with Nia Tero’s Policy Manager, Carmen Guerra (Kankuama People, Colombia), who raised the importance of the presence of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making spaces: “The voices of Indigenous leaders resonated in Geneva, conveying shared demands and concrete proposals. They defended Mother Earth and underscored the human toll of environmental degradation,” said Guerra. “Their message is a resounding call to action for humanity, including decision-makers present in those meetings. Failing to define urgent measures that prioritize human rights could have consequences. The fate of our lives, the lives of our children, and the generations yet to come is profoundly intertwined with the decisions we make today.”