Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

22nd session of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Statement by International Development Law Organization (IDLO), delivered by Henk-Jan Brinkman, Permanent Observer of IDLO to the United Nations in New York

22nd session of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
25 April 2023


It is my honour to speak on behalf of the International Development Law Organization, the only global intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law to advance peace and sustainable development.

I would like to make three points.

First, the historic UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contains clear and relevant provisions on recognition of indigenous justice systems and access to justice for the resolution of disputes with States or other parties.

Yet Indigenous People continue to struggle to realize their rights, including the right to use indigenous justice systems and govern their land and resources.

The rule of law is a key tool for ensuring that States meet their obligations under the Declaration.

It is also essential to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s promise to leave no one behind.

As Indigenous Peoples around the world remain at high risk of being left behind, due to systematic exclusion and denial of their rights, the SDGs can be achieved only if those rights are respected and protected in line with the UN Declaration.

Second, it is vital to recognize and integrate the role of Indigenous justice systems and practices in efforts to achieve justice for all – among other measures needed to ensure respect for and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Toward that end, IDLO co-leads a global Working Group on Customary and Informal Justice and SDG16+ which advocates for the centrality of customary, Indigenous, and other pathways to justice outside the formal courts. It seeks to create a global consensus on the need to incorporate diverse pathways, including Indigenous justice systems, in efforts to achieve justice for all.

We aim to bring that message to the 2023 SDG Summit in September and invite new allies here today to join us.

Third, the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources and the flourishing of their cultures and values is also central to the challenge of biodiversity protection needed to safeguard planetary health.

The land that Indigenous Peoples live on is home to over 80 per cent of our planet’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have thrived for centuries.

However, these lands are routinely appropriated, sold, or degraded by States and private firms, with Indigenous Peoples uprooted due to discriminatory policies or armed conflict.

These abuses violate both the laws of States and Indigenous rights, including land rights, that are recognized under international law, notably in Article 26 of the UN Declaration.

Indigenous Peoples have repeatedly voiced these concerns with the Convention on Biological Diversity and other UN-backed policy frameworks.

Recognizing the critical role of Indigenous Peoples in ensuring a resilient and healthy planet for people and nature should be placed at the centre of present and future global challenges.

Promoting the rule of law to protect Indigenous land rights, and to ensure free, prior, and informed consent in line with Article 11 of the UN Declaration, are essential starting points.

To sum up, IDLO fully supports the UN Declaration and stands ready to further promote and implement Indigenous Peoples’ rights within the framework of the 2030 Agenda to ensure no one is left behind.

The vision embodied in SDG 16 of more inclusive societies governed by the rule of law can contribute to recognizing and supporting Indigenous Peoples’ rights, both by strengthening indigenous justice systems and by safeguarding Indigenous land rights in ways that contribute to biodiversity conservation and climate action.

We look forward to exploring with you how IDLO can contribute to this Forum’s work in the years ahead, and how relationships of trust and solidarity with Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and other committed stakeholders.