Friday, November 14, 2008

POLITICS: Civil Society Demands Voice at Americas Summit

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 4 (IPS) - Caribbean civil society groups say they want to have direct input at the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad and Tobago next April, and are urging hemispheric governments to begin implementing some of the 600 recommendations that have been agreed upon at previous summits dating back to 1994.

"We are happy that Trinidad and Tobago is focusing on implementation at the Apr. 17-19 summit, and we are lending our expertise to that process," said Dr. Kris Rampersad, director of Lobby, Advocacy, Research and Public Relations of the Network of NGOS of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women.

She told IPS that at a two-day Caribbean Sub Regional Civil Society Forum held here over the weekend, delegates also agreed on the need for including civil society representatives in government delegations -- one of the commitments made at the Quebec Summit five years ago and reiterated at the last summit in Mar de Plata, but never implemented.

"It is time to deliver. Since Trinidad and Tobago, as host, is leading this call for implementation, it is an ideal opportunity that our government leads by example and start implementation from the home front, beginning at national level," Rampersad said.

"The Caribbean has in the past had relatively low-keyed involvement in the summit process. Now that it is being staged in the Caribbean, it gives the region an opportunity to redefine its roles and responsibilities within the hemisphere," she added.

The Summit of the Americas is held every three to four years, and brings together the region's 34 heads of state to discuss political, economic, social, and security issues.

Hazel Brown, coordinator of the Trinidad-based Network of NGOs, reminded delegates that "nothing will be handed to us -- we have to take it," and that the purpose of the forum was to allow for the establishment of a strong citizens' movement in this hemisphere of which the Caribbean is a vibrant part.

The forum here was organised by the Trinidad-based NGO, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Canadian-based Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) and held under the theme "Building Civil Society Capacity for Participation in the Summit Process and Follow-Up".

More than 100 NGOs and civil society groups were represented at the forum, which discussed issues such as human prosperity, environmental sustainability, energy security, democratic governance, and strengthening the summit process.

OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin said that the participation of civil society in next year's summit "cannot be a one-off activity".

"This engagement should be a continuous one, structured and well defined, and even beyond the Fifth Summit of the Americas. Civil society engagement is not a gesture, it is an obligation," he said.

But the forum here also noted the failure of the 34 hemispheric governments to implement many of the recommendations that had emerged from previous summits and recalled, for example, the 2003 Quebec summit, which produced at least 43 pages of recommendations.

"We, as part of a hemispheric group of civil society organisations -- the Active Democracy Network -- monitoring implementation of the summit mandates will launch an index of government compliance that will rank the governments based on analyses carried out by experts throughout in terms of implementation," Rampersad said.

"From preliminary data, it is clear that there has been regression in some of the areas. In others, governments have made some progress," she said, noting that in some cases "there has been no movement at all".

The Active Democracy Network's initial focus is on recommendations involving local government reform, freedom of expression, access to information and involvement by civil society in decision making.

For example, regional leaders committed in the Quebec Plan of Action to strengthen local government systems by making them more autonomous and active agents of political and administrative decentralisation.

"Instead, even despite the national consultations, in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, we are seeing evidence of reducing the powers of local government and increasing control by central government," Rampersad said.

At the summit in Quebec, the participating governments had also agreed to promote mechanisms to facilitate citizen participation in political life, and provide the resources to do so, including information, training and technical support and financial resources.

Rampersad believes that with the summit being held in the Caribbean for the first time ever, regional countries, and more specifically the Trinidad and Tobago government, should use the opportunity to set an example.

"Here is a very good place to start. We have measurable data of where implementation can be improved. We must go beyond the rhetoric and act on it," she added.

Arthur Gray, advisor to the National Coordinator of the Fifth Summit Secretariat, said that the summit, apart from the historic significance of being held in a small island developing state, provides an opportunity for the Caribbean to shape a hemispheric agenda "that addresses the issues and themes that are of direct relevance to our region even as it lays the foundations of a new structure of Inter-American relations that is in consonance with the urgent realities of our time."

The delegates at the just concluded Caribbean Civil Society Forum say they want it to become the core of a network of Caribbean civil society organisations (CSO) that will work to advance CSO involvement in the summit process, sharing expertise and experiences.

In addition, they have also pledged to form national umbrella CSOs to lobby their governments to hold national consultations that would feed into the regional compilation of civil society recommendations.

Rampersad said that the forum also agreed that "there be meaningful and effective spaces for civil society interface with Government at the summit and to dialogue on recommendations for the Summit plan of action".

Author: Peter Richards
Article Source: IPS News

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

International expert group meeting on the role of the UNPFII in the implementation of article 42 of the UN Indigenous Rights Delaration

International expert group meeting on the role of the UNPFII in the implementation of article 42 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

United Nations Headquarters
14-16 January 2009

This Expert Group Meeting is being organized following a recommendation of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, approved by ECOSOC decision 2008/249, which authorized a three-day international expert group meeting on the implementation of Article 42 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and requested that the results of the meeting be reported to the Permanent Forum at its eighth session. The workshop will discuss the way in which the UNPFII should address its mandate under Article 42 of the Declaration.

The EGM will be attended by indigenous experts and UNPFII members as well as interested Member States, UN Agencies and Indigenous Peoples' Organizations. Interested parties should contact the Secretariat about participating in the EGM as observers. Please note that space in the conference room is limited and the Secretariat may not be able to accommodate all requests for participation.

Meeting documents are available at:


Carol Pollack
Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Division for Social Policy and Development - Department of Economic and Social Affairs
2 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017


Reunión internacional de expertos sobre la implementación del Artículo 42 de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas

Sede de las Naciones Unidas
10 Noviembre 2008

Esta reunión internacional de expertos se está organizando siguiendo una recomendación del Foro Permanente de la ONU para las Cuestiones Indígenas, aprobada por la decisión 2008/249 del ECOSOC, la cual autoriza una reunión de tres días de un grupo internacional de expertos sobre la aplicación del artículo 42 de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y pide que se informe al Foro de los resultados de la reunión en su octavo período de sesiones. La reunión analizará la manera en que el UNPFII debe abordar su mandato bajo el Artículo 42 de la Declaración.

En la reunión participarán expertos indígenas y miembros del UNPFII, así como también los Estados Miembros interesados, agencias de Naciones Unidas y organizaciones de pueblos indígenas. Los interesados deben contactar a la Secretaría para asistir a la reunión en calidad de observadores. Se les informa que el espacio en la sala de conferencias es limitado, y por lo tanto es posible que la Secretaría no pueda acomodar todos los pedidos de participación.

Los documentos de la reunión están disponibles en la pagina web del Foro Permanente:


Carol Pollack
Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Division for Social Policy and Development - Department of Economic and Social Affairs
2 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Thursday, November 6, 2008

High Commissioner in Haiti

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is visiting Haiti from 2 to 5 November. Her first official meeting in the country was with President René Préval, where she addressed the situation of a number of economic and social rights. The High Commissioner also discussed public security and the need to strengthen the police and justice systems in the fight against crime and impunity, among other issues.

The High Commissioner expressed concern about the vulnerability of the population to natural disasters and discussed the issue of development of public policies to protect human rights to adequate food, health, housing and water. Access to primary education, for which very limited financial and human resources are available, minimal national quality and safety standards in schools, and equality and non-discrimination in primary and secondary education were also discussed.

The High Commissioner also praised the President for his work on bringing stability to the country and agreed with him that further developments in civil and political rights need to be based on progress in economic and social rights.

The High Commissioner visited Cité Soleil, a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, where the delegation witnessed what life is like for Haiti's majority. In Cité Soleil, she visited Kay Jistis (“House of Justice”), a community-focused project supported by USAID in conjunction with other partners such as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), where she met with beneficiaries of the project.

Kay Jistis aims at improving access to justice and reinforcing local governance. It also offers legal assistance to victims of detention related violations and addresses the issue of prolonged pre-trial detention, which continues to contribute enormously to the crisis of overcrowding in the prisons.

The mission also included meetings with senior ministers, as well as police and judicial authorities, the Ombudsman, and civil society. In a meeting with human rights NGOs, she praised their courageous work. All interlocutors pointed at the difficult conditions in prisons, where over 8,000 detainees live in unacceptable conditions and face long pre-trial detention.

OHCHR supports the human rights component of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti. The High Commissioner met with Hédi Annabi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of MINUSTAH, and with the Mission’s Rule of Law Working Group which briefed her on a joint 18-month initiative of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and OHCHR, to measure the progress of the justice system in the institutional building process.