9th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
FAO Statement delivered by Sharon Brennen-Haylock, Senior Liaison Officer
FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations
19 April 2010, New York
Introduction and General statement
FAO’s mandate is to pursue food security for those whose livelihoods are threatened by chronic poverty, scarce access to resources, environmental degradation and other socio-economic difficulties, including discrimination and marginalization from opportunities for production.
Biological and cultural diversity is in many ways integral for food and livelihood security, and it is in this vein that work on indigenous issues is acquiring greater attention at FAO. Although the process of effectively integrating indigenous issues into development efforts still needs greater support, there has been an upward trend in recent years.
Along with this increasing engagement also comes a greater awareness of the notion of “Development with Culture and Identity.” FAO fundamentally believes that development is more sustainable when it builds on skills, knowledge systems and resources that are already present, and for this reason FAO endeavours to respect and support local peoples and ecosystems in its work. “Development with Culture and Identity” is therefore present in many FAO activities.
Examples from FAO’s work
I would like to mention three examples of FAO’s work that apply the concept of “development with culture and identity” and highlight the important link between cultural and biological diversity:
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Initiative
This Initiative aims to reinforce the underlying ecological and socio-cultural processes that have sustained the agricultural practices of a given area, and to empower smallholder communities- many of which are indigenous- to dynamically conserve these traditional agricultural systems. Currently, the initiative has activities in Peru, Chile, China, Philippines, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania. As an example, in the Peruvian central Andes, GIAHS is helping to preserve the traditional agricultural terracing system. Terraces help control land degradation and allow cultivation in steep slopes and different altitudes, factors which give local indigenous Aymara and Quechua communities the ability to continue cultivating their traditional products, including up to 177 varieties of potatoes.
Indigenous Peoples’ traditional food systems
Together with the Centre for Indigenous People’s Nutrition and Environment (McGill University, Quebec), and with leaders of indigenous communities, FAO has documented 12 indigenous food systems around the world. The case studies focus on the fundamental relationships among people, traditional food practices and their supporting ecosystems. They demonstrate the inherent nutritional, spiritual and cultural value of traditional foods, as compared to modern food systems, based on globalization and homogenization of production. Based on the findings, FAO and its partners have begun to develop health strategies and interventions designed to improve community health and nutrition through the strengthening of traditional food systems. This work demonstrates that culturally-sensitive approaches and sustainable management of natural resources can go hand in hand to create important development outcomes.
FAO and the fisheries and aquaculture sectors
Increasingly, FAO’s work in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors explicitly recognizes and addresses the needs and rights of small scale fishers and indigenous fishing communities. In 2008 FAO and the Royal Government of Thailand co-organized the global Conference on Small-Scale Fisheries – Securing sustainable small-scale fisheries: Bringing together responsible fisheries and social development. The Conference identified several critical ways forward in securing sustainable small-scale fisheries based on an integrated approach to social, cultural and economic development. Among other things, it highlighted the fundamental importance of human rights principles as well as the rights of indigenous peoples when dealing with issues of access to and use of all aquatic resources, inland and marine.
Overview of main activities carried out last year
In last year’s 8th Session, FAO participated in an open dialogue during which it answered questions about its work on indigenous issues and clarified some of the obstacles and issues which influence this area of work.
The Forum made three main recommendations for this past year which FAO addressed carefully.
In 2009, FAO and the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Territory launched a joint project called Communication for Sustainable Development Initiative (CSDI), which applies communication strategies and approaches to Climate Change Adaptation, sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) and Food Security. Working together with indigenous peoples, CSDI implements communication programmes and services in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In Bolivia, the initiative is currently being implemented in conjunction with indigenous organizations, such as CIDOB and the Plataforma Indígena, and within the framework of the UN-REDD programme.
FAO is also working on elaborating improved methodologies for participatory land delimitation and titling. The approach that FAO intends to follow is an inclusive one, based on dialogue and collaborative actions among governments and IP constituencies.
FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
A draft policy was developed in close consultation with members of FAO’s Working Group on Indigenous Issues, and with significant contributions from indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations. Comments were also provided by the IASG, the UNPFII, and various other “experts,” including the former Special Rapporteur. A draft of the policy was finalized in February and approved by one level of management at FAO. At the moment, the process of final clearance continues.
Peoples’ Forum for Food Sovereignty
In November 2009, in parallel to the World Summit on Food Security, representatives of indigenous peoples from all regions convened an Indigenous Caucus within the Peoples’ Forum for Food Sovereignty. FAO representatives were invited to discuss various issues with members of the caucus. This open dialogue was received positively by all participants.
The new Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
One of the newest developments which holds significant implications for the political representation of indigenous peoples at the international level is the reform of the CFS.
The recent reform aims at making CFS the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform dealing with food security and nutrition. Indigenous peoples’ organizations can play a significant role in the new CFS. Civil society organizations/NGOs are expected to submit to the CFS Bureau a proposal regarding how they intend to organize their participation in the CFS in a way that ensures broad and balanced participation by regions and types of organizations. This is an important opportunity for indigenous peoples and civil society more broadly, and it is FAO’s hope that they will be able to form a united representative front within this reformed Committee.
 The studies are from Canada, Japan, Peru, India, Nigeria, Colombia, Thailand, Kenya and the Federated States of Micronesia.
 The book is available at www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0370e/i0370e00.htm.
 Convened in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and The World Fish Center, Bangkok, Thailand, 13-17 October 2008. See http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1227t/i1227t00.htm.
 1) it recognized the initial efforts made by FAO towards the elaboration of a methodological discussion platform to address indigenous peoples’ territorial rights; 2) it encouraged FAO to continue supporting indigenous peoples’ organizations in the field of communication for development; and 3) it encouraged FAO to address indigenous peoples’ issues in a more consistent way through a specific FAO Policy.