Press Conference on Indigenous Issues Indigenous people must not be forgotten, discriminated against or marginalized in the efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals, because development was linked to the issues of territory, natural resources, good governance and democracy, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon. Speaking to the press were new members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Nina Pacari of Ecuador; William Langeveldt of South Africa (Khoe-san); and Mick Dodson from Australia (Yawuru).
Mr. Langeveldt of South Africa (Khoe-san) appealed to the authorities in Botswana to halt the forceful eviction of the San people from their ancestral land and allow them to live their natural lives as they had done for thousands of years.
He explained that, while his people had made some progress in getting back their land in southern Africa, a serious problem remained in Botswana -- the neighbouring country -- where the San people were forcefully removed from the Kalahari Nature Reserve. History had shown that forceful displacement of a people from their natural habitat led to irreparable psychological and cultural damage. Their alienation from their traditional way of life caused serious social problems, including abuse of alcohol and drugs, and domestic violence.
He also addressed the issue of the Hoodia plant, a traditional resource of the San, which had been patented by a European pharmaceutical corporation and marketed as a diet pill. When that company was sued, an out-of-court settlement was reached which allowed the affected community to benefit from its own indigenous knowledge.
Asked if they were satisfied with the outcome of the Forum?s current session, the speakers stressed its great importance for the exchange of views and dialogue between indigenous peoples? Representatives, governments and the international community on the whole. Ms. Pacari said that great political will was required for the implementation of indigenous peoples? Rights, and more interactive dialogue with governments was required.
Mr. Langeveldt said that, as a new member of the Forum, he had learned how the United Nations system worked. All participants had been very supportive of the Forum and the way forward. Much had been accomplished during the session, but much still remained to be done ?to turn things around?.
On the Botswana issue, he said he had met with South Africa?s Ambassador and a representative of the Botswana Government. In dealing with conflict, mediation was needed to bring the parties together, he said, adding that, through dialogue, it would be possible to find common ground and resolve the problem.
Note: From Kim Langbecker and Rupert Isaacson