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08 May 2019, UNITAR New York Office, United States – The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations, the Division of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (Indigenous Peoples Rights Program), the University of Kansas, and the Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples (GoFIP) hosted the 2nd Orientation Workshop on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the UN Headquarters in New York as a part of the programme “Leveling The Playing Field” sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations.

Mr. Pelayo Alvarez, Programme Coordinator at UNITAR New York Office, delivered the opening remarks, welcoming our participants and introducing our speakers for the day. Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou, the Director of the Indigenous People’s Rights Program, and Mr. Arturo Requesens-Galnares, the Associate Legal Officer at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; then gave the participants a brief overview of the major issues related to indigenous peoples and development that would be touched upon this morning in their company.

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The morning session began with a presentation by Mr. Arturo Requesens-Galnares, who highlighted the key concerns of the indigenous peoples, such as the right to self-determination and the right to lands, territories and resources, and their defense within the United Nations and the international community. This included granting participants perspective regarding the progress of the defense of indigenous peoples movements throughout the 20th century, and its various incarnations, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Senior Politcal Advisor at the PGA Office, Andres Fiallo, then brought attention to the existing rights of the indigenous peoples and to the newest measures taken by the PGA in office, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces.  To conclude our morning session, Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Program, Elsa Stamatopoulou projected a video and triggered a stimulating discussion about the value and relevance of the indigenous peoples and the preservation of their culture throughout the world.

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The session continued with presentations by Mr. Devasish Roy, a Former Member of the UNFPII and the Chief of Chakma Circle, and of Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou. Firstly, Mr. Devasish Roy touched upon the United Nations Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, studied the various existing bodies within the United Nations, and explained their interactions and functioning. The participants were actively engaged with the presentations, allowing for fruitful discussions with the panellists.

Finally, Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou organized a group exercise, divided the participants in three groups, and attributed to each group a question. The purpose of this exercise was to enable a revision of the three key approaches of the day to indigenous issues, being the existing challenges, the actions to take, and the methods to empower indigenous peoples. The exercise was also successful in allowing the last remaining curiosity amongst the participants to fuel a constructive discussion. the completion of the workshop, Professor Stamatopoulou thanked the participants for attending UNITAR NYO’s series of workshops on the rights of Indigenous issues.