I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries*.
We thank the Special Rapporteur for her report. As it highlights, Indigenous human rights defenders play a special role, particularly in preserving biodiversity, fighting climate change and protecting rights, cultures and traditions of Indigenous Peoples. Doing so also expose them to high risk; Indigenous Peoples represent 6 per cent of the global population, however in 2021 they represented 26 per cent of human rights defenders killed globally. They also suffer non-lethal attacks and other reprisals.
Sadly, we have witnessed such a reprisal at this very Council. Ms. Anexa Cunningham, a member of EMRIP, appointed by this Council, was denied return to her home country of Nicaragua after participating at the EMRIP’s 15th session last year. Eight months later, she is still in Switzerland, banished from her country and living in forced exile, which has a major impact on her, her family, and her community.
We agree with the Special Rapporteur that it should be recognized that Indigenous human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable to attacks and reprisals. We strongly condemn any form of reprisals against all human rights defenders, including for cooperating with the UN system. We call on all States to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and do their utmost to protect Indigenous human rights defenders.
*Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Guatemala, New Zealand, Norway, USA