COVID-19 recovery attempts are significantly affecting indigenous peoples, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, he published a paper on the effects of urbanization on indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteurs are UN human rights experts who are independent of the UN system.
Special Rapporteur José Francisco Cali Tzay stated on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9, 2021, that the COVID-19 epidemic has accelerated the promotion of mega-projects, and that States have not done proper consultation with affected indigenous peoples. Business operations have been increased “at the expense of indigenous peoples, their lands, and the environment” to progress economic recovery, according to Cali Tzay, who encouraged states to include indigenous peoples in the design and execution of recovery plans. Even in cities, he believes, this should be the case.
Cali Tzay’s 2021 report focuses on indigenous peoples living in cities, urging UN Member States to incorporate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into urban legislation, policies, and programmes, prohibit forced eviction and displacement and ensure that involuntarily displaced indigenous peoples have the right to return to their traditional lands, guarantee indigenous peoples in urban areas participate in the creation and execution of specific places and services that fulfil their socioeconomic needs, as well as the maintenance and strengthening of their political, legal, economic, social, and cultural institutions, Recognize and support community-based and intercultural education, collect and publish disaggregated data on indigenous peoples living in urban areas; and ensure that all indigenous households, regardless of tenure status or income level, are entitled to and have effective access to essential services.
On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also sent a message. He claims that the value of indigenous knowledge in resolving climate and biodiversity problems and avoiding the spread of infectious illnesses is becoming more widely recognized. He advocated for indigenous knowledge to be owned and shared by indigenous peoples themselves. He went on to say that for indigenous peoples to exercise their own vision of development, they need free, prior, and informed consent.
The UN Human Rights Council released the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights annual report on indigenous peoples’ rights in July 2021. The report (A/HRC/48/30) gives an update on actions related to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant international human rights treaties. The pandemic has “particularly affected indigenous peoples [and] exacerbated the marginalization of indigenous communities in many countries.” according to the report. It emphasizes the importance of indigenous peoples in the preservation and transmission of traditional indigenous practices that can help with food security, health, well-being, and COVID-19 rehabilitation.
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will have its annual session in April 2022, with the topic “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy, and human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior, and informed consent.” The Forum will host a round of informal conversations before this session to assist in the creation of guiding principles for the fulfilment of indigenous peoples’ rights to autonomy and self-governance. This issue is timely, according to the Chair of the 2021 PFII, because of the “increasingly important role that the private sector plays in matters that affect indigenous peoples”.
The theme of the PFII’s April 2021 session was “Peace, justice, and strong institutions: Indigenous peoples’ role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16.” The importance of effective access to justice for indigenous peoples through mechanisms that do not violate or threaten their rights was stressed during the discussions, as was the need for States to recognise that indigenous peoples’ own justice systems are critical to ensuring their rights to autonomy, culture, and traditions.