There are very few places in the world where the indigenous peoples can control their own lives. It is therefore important that the measures agreed upon by the world's nations at RIO+20 respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
From 20-22 June 2012 world leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro and gather with thousands of representatives from governments, representatives of the indigenous peoples and NGOs (private interest organisations) at the UN World Conference on Sustainable Development.
At "RIO+20", as the conference is called, the countries of the world will take stock of what has happened in the 20 years since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The most important question at RIO+20 will be what the world community must do in the years to come to become even better at creating both a globally sustainable and a socially just development.
Sustainable development which respects the environment while taking care to create progress that allows the people of the world to avoid hunger and poverty and to live in peace and freedom. I remember the mood and expectations at the first Rio conference but basically the same problems and challenges characterise the picture here 20 years later.
20 years ago the world community was not particularly aware of global climate changes. Likewise, it was not fully conscious of the negative effects that the massive use of fossil fuels (i.e. oil, coal and gas) had on the climate. This became much clearer 10 years ago when the UN held another major conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. At this conference the world realised in earnest the importance of using fossil fuels wisely, and that it had to use smarter and better technology not to plunder the earth's resources. When you use natural resources sensibly and when you produce food and consumer goods with cleaner and less polluting methods, it means that you have a "green economy".
When the countries of the world meet at RIO+20 they must come to agreement on how to create a green economy everywhere in the world. In addition, at RIO+20 there will be discussions and attempts to reach agreement on a large number of other matters. One of these is how to protect the marine environment so that people can continue to make a good living from the fish and animals found in the sea.
For the majority of the developing countries the assertion of the right to development still plays a major role. If they want industrial development there is no way around increased energy consumption and this is further closely linked to a higher standard of living. This is a dilemma, we fully understand, the more it is necessary to invest in the green economy even in our own corner of the world.
Naalakkersuisut, the Government of Greenland, will take part in RIO+20. because we want to help to take care of the environment, both at home but also all over the planet, while taking part in the fight to eradicate hunger and poverty. At RIO+20 the world's nations will come together on a range of agreements and rules on how to preserve the environment and develop a green economy. We believe that it is important that the rules and agreements are designed so that they suit the conditions in our country.
In Greenland we depend on the fish and animal life in the sea and on consumers in other countries wanting to buy our shrimp, fish and sealskin products. It is therefore important that we fish and hunt in a sustainable way, i.e. that we do not ruthlessly exploit the living marine resources. If we do not utilise the resources sustainably we run the risk of our descendants not having enough to live on. If we overfish we may get a bad international reputation so that consumers in other countries do not want to buy our products. For that reason the regulations and legislation that the world community agrees upon to preserve our global resources must be made to suit conditions in various countries.
By taking part in the world conference we can tell the world about our ancient culture as sealers and whalers. Hunting and eating seals and whales continues to be important for our culture and our health, even though we live in a modern society. Sealers and whalers still know how to take care of nature.
RIO+20 is a conference for the UN member states. However, the UN is allowing NGOs which represent farmers, private industry, scientists, women, trade unions, employer associations and indigenous peoples to listen in, and express their opinions.
Naalakkersuisut's objective at RIO+20 is to support the interests of the indigenous peoples. Greenland has had a long-standing international commitment to help promote the rights of the indigenous peoples. We have achieved great results in this work in collaboration with the Danish government and the ICC (Inuit Circumpolar Council). Our work has, for example, contributed to the fact that there is today a UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We took part in the conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in the conference in Johannesburg in 2002, where we were very active supporters of the interests of indigenous peoples. As a member of Naalakkersuisut at that time I attended the conference in Rio in 1992. There I worked with the Danish government to ensure that one of the most important agreements, "Agenda 21" also covered the indigenous peoples.
When Naalakkersuisut wants to support the indigenous people from other countries it is because we have not forgotten the friendship we share with other indigenous peoples around the world. They have given us many good ideas when we began our work to achieve Home Rule and a great deal of inspiration when we began to discuss self-government. Greenland is considered by many of the world's indigenous peoples as a pioneering country. Our excellent co-operation with Denmark has meant that we are listened to when we want to help to improve the rights and conditions of indigenous peoples.
It is stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that indigenous people have the right to control their own lives, their land, the way they live their lives and want to grow.
But in reality there are few places in the world where the indigenous people can decide for themselves. This is most clearly visible when governments and large private companies think that they freely and without permission can take land and natural resources way from the indigenous peoples.
A very common example is that many countries want to use less oil and gas as fuel for cars and machines, because this has a negative impact on the climate and the environment. Instead they would like to use oil from plants and trees as fuel. But to obtain enough biological oil from plants and tree very large areas of land are needed to grow the right plants and trees. When there is not enough land they suddenly catch sight of the land that the indigenous people have lived on for centuries. The result is that the indigenous people are forced to evacuate their land to create space for plant and tree plantations for biological oil. But without land where they can grow their own food, hunt and fish, the indigenous people become poor. It is therefore no wonder that most of the indigenous peoples’ experiences with governmental initiatives for development, even when the governments claim that these take place on a sustainable basis, are not always positive.
It is therefore of great importance for the indigenous peoples that the measures agreed upon by the world's nations at RIO+20 respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous people also believe that the best way they can contribute to global sustainable development is to keep their own cultures alive and decide themselves which form of government they want. Many indigenous people have a very special knowledge about how best to take care of nature. Some places, for example, there are special farming methods which are actually more sophisticated because they are adapted specially for their soil and are therefore better than modern technology. It is therefore important for the indigenous people that there is agreement at RIO+20 on the fact that culture is crucial for sustainable development, and that the nations of the world understand that the indigenous people must be able to participate in the work for sustainable development on an equal footing with the governments.
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has recently met in New York. During part of the meeting the indigenous people prepared for participation in RIO+20. They prepared themselves also for another very important conference, the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, which will be held in 2014. At the Permanent Forum's meeting the indigenous people's representatives got the idea that RIO+20 could be used as a kind of preparation for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. Naalakkersuisut, which is also taking part in the preparations for the World Conference in 2014 are in full agreement that good RIO+20 agreement, in which the indigenous peoples' rights are respected, will be important for the success of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.
Nalakkersuisut believes that it is only possible to create global sustainable development when the rights of the indigenous people are respected, so that all the people in the world can work together as equal partners.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples