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After UN Indigenous Forum, "Politicization" with Crimea Issue Doubted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- Hours after the end of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on May 23, the buzz at the UN was why and by whose decision the finale of the Forum was taken over by the Crimean Tatar issue.

   Many participants sympathetic to the Tatars' plight nevertheless opined that it was a misuse of the Permanent Forum. They said they had not been consulted and asked, Who decided? The chair.

  Some Forum members said it was good to "get revenge on Russia" for question the modalities of the scheduled World Conference. But several of these said it was still a hijacking of a long-standing issues, the plight of the indigenous, by the "flavor of the month."

  "It's not like the Tatars don't have other defenders," one UNPFII veteran said. For example, there was a UN Security Council Arria formula meeting about the Tatars held, sponsored by Security Council member Lithuania (click here for more recent on that mission).

  Another added, "India just wanted more time, and Bangladesh was angry because of a half-hour screed against them by an advocate whose relative is an insider."

   "We shouldn't have let the Forum get politicized," said another. But it was done.

  When a constituency lets their issues be taken over in the heat of the moment, it might seem strategic - and might turn out not to be. The issue of injustice to the indigenous is too serious to be a play-thing for the flavor of the month, the Free UN Coalition for Access opines.

  Nearly unanimous, however, was criticism of UN President of the General Assembly John Ashe.

Background: The failure of UN President of the General Assembly John Ashe to “show leadership” in setting up the World Conference on Indigenous People scheduled for September was strongly criticized on May 23.

For more than a week, Inner City Press has been asking indigenous leaders what they expected from PGA Ashe. Only that he implement the “modalities” already agreed to for the Conference, was the answer. One speaker, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, noted that Ashe's office had tried to blame a member state for blocking things but this wasn't true.

  But at 4 pm on May 23 in the General Assembly, when a statement was read out for Ashe, it said that “no consensus” had been reached, even on Monday's watered-down proposal, and that Ashe would be calling for another meeting next week.

 There followed speeches of disappointment, not only from indigenous representatives but also countries: beginning with Mexico and Norway, through Denmark and Guatemala's Permanent Representative Rosenthal, heavily indigenous Bolivia, Finland, Australia and New Zealand.

 Nicaragua's deputy Permanent Representative spoke, then Sweden. Kenneth Deer called for full and equal participation. Panama spoke, and a representative of the United States, with obstructed view.

Earlier in the week Inner City Press asked Grand Chief Edward John from Western Canada about the proposed oil sands and tar sands pipelines there. He said the Harper government is expected to gives its approval. Then what?

Footnote: at these indigenous press conferences, the new Free UN Coalition for Access thanked the speakers; the old UN Correspondents Association was generally not there, except an appearance that triggers a response that Morocco is not in the African Union and therefore didn't participate in its programs. UNCA big wigs were trying a scam elsewhere, it emerged. Typical.


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