GENEVA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a panel discussion on Wednesday on the impact of social and economic recovery plans in the COVID-19 context on the rights in general and food security in particular of the indigenous peoples.
The participants then also held an interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a UN body that is mandated to deal specifically with indigenous peoples' issues.
Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the protection of indigenous territories was vital to recovery as it promoted sustainable livelihoods and increased resilience in the face of future pandemics.
"The lack of protection of indigenous land led to deforestation, violence, killings, pollution, and forced eviction of indigenous peoples," he said.
For indigenous peoples, he told the Council, land is everything, and the indigenous peoples over generations had learnt to live with the land in a mutually respectful way. They were restorers, protectors and observers, but they were also those who suffered the most from crises and food insecurity.
"States should adopt dedicated measures to ensure that indigenous peoples are further protected, with the agreement and participation of the groups concerned, including them in the decision-making processes, and leaving no-one behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals," he stressed.
Binota Moy Dhamai, chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that since the outbreak of the pandemic, numerous reports have attested to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples, globally exposing the pre-existing structural inequalities.
"The Expert Mechanism recognized that indigenous peoples had been hit the hardest by (COVID-19's) socio-economic consequences and inadequate access to health care and other key services," he said.
Myrna Cunningham, first vice president of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the voice of indigenous peoples was fundamental because they held the key to a transformative recovery based on their knowledge, their collective consciousness and worldview.
Yon Fernandez De Larrinoa, head of the Indigenous Peoples Unit in the Partnerships and United Nations Collaboration Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that the food and knowledge systems of indigenous peoples needed to be protected in order to protect the remaining biodiversity, with specific attention given to indigenous women.
Ilze Brands Kehris, assistant UN secretary general for human rights, said that since the outbreak of COVID-19, numerous reports have attested that the gains of many indigenous peoples around the globe have been reversed.
"Indigenous peoples are key partners in the process of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and their meaningful participation, including of indigenous women, needs to be an overarching principle," she said.