UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues calls for an Expert Group Meeting on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

[Helena, MT, July 2, 2019] - The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has recommended that the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States, in cooperation with UN entities, “organize an international expert group meeting, by 2021, on ongoing issues of violence against indigenous women and girls in the region, including trafficking as well as the continuing crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.” The Permanent Forum made this recommendation in response to the voices of countless indigenous advocates and allies who have done so much work to bring awareness to this issue, and in response to the advocacy of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Indian Law Resource Center, National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center during the Permanent Forum’s 18th Session in April. “We are just now beginning to see results from the years of hard work to secure justice for the countless indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing,” said Paula Julian, Senior Policy Specialist for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. “We thank the Permanent Forum for their work, and for this essential recommendation, and we look forward to working with indigenous women and indigenous nations to turn this recommendation into action.”

On April 24, 2019, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Indian Law Resource Center, National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center co-sponsored a panel discussion at the United Nations in New York, Violence against Indigenous women in the United States: How Indigenous nations and women are leading the movement to end the epidemic of violence in Indian country and Alaska Native villages. This was a side event at the annual session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, one of the United Nations’ bodies specifically tasked with examining matters affecting indigenous peoples around the world including their human rights. Tami Truett Jerue from Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center and Paula Julian from National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center spoke on the panel. They were joined by moderator Terri Henry, Member of the Permanent Forum.

Besides educating UN staff and indigenous advocates about these issues, the speakers offered two direct recommendations to the UN. First, they called on the Permanent Forum to propose an international expert group meeting to study and discuss missing and murdered indigenous women as a complex international phenomenon that needs a multi-faceted response from the UN. “We know that this is not a problem unique to the United States,” said Chris Foley, staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center. “It is a violation of indigenous women’s human rights that is occurring worldwide, and it is very often connected with human trafficking, with issues of femicide and legal impunity, and with colonialism and discriminatory criminal justice systems.” Secondly, panelists urged the UN to adopt new rules to improve the ability of indigenous peoples’ representative institutions, including tribal and village governments, to participate in UN meetings on matters affecting them. “Our governments have the expertise, the resources, and the legitimacy to speak about our needs, but the UN needs to create space for our leaders to advocate directly for us and the UN needs to give our governments a status that respects them as rights-holders and global actors,” said Tami Truett Jerue.

Both of these recommendations are addressed in the Permanent Forum’s final report. In addition to its recommendation regarding the Expert Group Meeting, the Forum also urged UN Member States to continue working to enhance indigenous participation at the United Nations. “We know it will take more work and more advocacy to move from recommendations to address missing and murdered indigenous women to actually getting started,” Chris Foley said. “Even so, securing a formal recommendation from the Forum is a great victory and an essential step in this work.”

These recommendations are available in The Permanent Forum’s Report on the eighteenth session, UN Document  E/2019/43 E/C.19/2019/10, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2019/06/English.pdf.

For more information read:

Panel Urges UN to Act on Indigenous Women’s Rights: https://indianlaw.org/swsn/UNPFII_2019

PDF icon Download PFII Side Event Program (final).pdf 

PDF icon Download UNPFII 2019 UN Recommendations (Final).pdf