Tue, Aug 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Aborigines can aid in nation's UN aspirations

By Chen Lung-chu 陳隆志

One of the most important objectives of the UN is to promote the fundamental freedoms and rights of all human beings, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, language and religious beliefs, as well as to facilitate international cooperation to help solve issues relating to the global economy, society, culture, humanity and human rights.

To demonstrate its respect for the cultures of indigenous people around the world, the UN has designated Aug. 9 -- today -- as International Day of the World's Indigenous People. The event is celebrated every year.

On Dec. 10, 1994, the UN initiated a program entitled "the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People." Its intention was to strengthen cooperation between different organizations and regional committees within the UN and promote the world body's collaboration with other international institutions, as well as to assist member states in making improvements on issues concerning economic, social and educational development for indigenous people.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), inaugurated in July 2000, aims to provide consultation and suggestions to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly to help solve issues related to economic and social development, as well cultural education, the environment, health and human rights.

The forum, which is a subsidiary body of the ECOSOC, now serves as a platform for the world's indigenous organizations and non-governmental agencies to discuss indigenous issues and exchange ideas.

For Taiwan, however, because it is not a member state of the UN, the path taken by the nation's indigenous people in an attempt to gain entry into the Permanent Forum has been arduous.

It would be tremendously significant if Taiwan were able to attend the PFII, for the nation would not only be able to promote and introduce its Aboriginal culture to the international community, but also incorporate and study the Aboriginal policies of other nations to help us map out better policies.

Clearly, the mainstream principle espoused by the international community is to uphold human rights. Moreover, a nation's human-rights record regarding indigenous people has become an important yardstick to evaluate the overall condition of its human-rights environment.

In 2000, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) signed an accord to re-confirm the partnership between the government and indigenous people.

This year, the government promulgated the Aboriginal Basic Law (原住民族基本法) and vowed to include indigenous issues in the new constitution, which is planned to be written in 2008.

These efforts by the government to improve the human rights of indigenous people in recent years will definitely be helpful in promoting "Aboriginal diplomacy."

Additionally, to help place the nation in the international spotlight, the government has to encourage indigenous people to participate in international activities.

Only through engaging in exchanges with the indigenous organizations of other nations can Taiwan share the experience of how it has endeavored to protect the interests of indigenous people and assist other nations in the development of indigenous cultures -- which can eventually benefit the nation diplomatically.

Chen Lung-chu is chairman of the New Century Foundation and the director of the Taiwan United Nations Alliance.

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