Project Access supports indigenous peoples’ participation in international meetings and conferences where decisions are being made that affect their rights, cultures and livelihoods. Of particular importance is the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII). The UNPFII takes place annually at UN Headquarters in New York. The 10th session of UNPFII took place May 16-27, 2011 at UN Headquarters and instead of having a special theme, it was a review year; a 2 week session that focused on the work of the UNPFII since 2009. Project Access is designed to provide support for 15-20 indigenous peoples to participate in the Forum and a three-day training prior to the Forum. Through training and participation, indigenous representatives develop more capacity, which expands their ability to preserve their cultural and natural heritage, care for their land and its biodiversity, and contribute to climate change mitigation. Download 2010 PDF.
Each of the representatives sponsored by Project Access is provided with individual support by the project coordinators and instructors. Tribal Link organizes media interviews, arranges meetings with various UN agencies and departments, and also assists in writing interventions and lobbying.
Trainings are led by some of the world’s most experienced indigenous rights experts, and are geared towards giving participants practical knowledge and skills that could be put to use immediately to forward their peoples’ struggles. Special emphasis is given to understanding and participating effectively in the Permanent Forum.
When indigenous peoples of different communities meet, they often discover that they face common issues: land rights, preservation of culture and language, the struggle for the recognition of their human rights, concern for the preservation of biodiversity, and the sustainability of their communities. As a result, in addition to being empowered to speak about the preservation of life in their own communities, indigenous peoples become empowered to band together to speak in a collective voice about the preservation of life in a broader arena: the planet earth.
Below you will find select quotes from last year’s Project Access participants, focusing on the issues facing their communities and their experiences at the 2009 Permanent Forum and Tribal Link trainings sessions.
Erity Teave (representative of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island)
“We have a very fragile ecosystem—the Island is rather small—and the climate change impact has been obvious: several seaweed and animal species are now extinct. And due to migration from Chile, we’re also facing difficulties in several other areas, including unemployment, health, and safety.”
“I found the [Project Access] training to be very helpful, and I was especially touched by meeting representatives from all over the world with common causes, tears, and struggles. [At the training] we were encouraged to approach UN and government officials, which I did, and it went very well: I had a challenging but successful meeting with the official Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues, Mr. Anaya.”
“Two concrete projects—a port and airport—are about to be signed [by the Chilean government] that the Island does not need, and both would be using important archeological places, so we’ve been fighting against it.”
Jiten Yumnam (Meitei people of Manipur, India)
“I created relationships with important UN Agencies, members of the Permanent Forum, and human rights experts of the UN Human Rights Council—all of whom would have been otherwise inaccessible. This has already helped the advocating of human rights concerns afflicting Indigenous Peoples.”
“The issues I raised, including calls for an end to human rights violations, were highlighted in the local, regional, and national media, which certainly reached the eyes and ears of various stakeholders.”
Damon Corrie (Lokono-Arawak people of Guyana, South America)
“The Permanent Forum exposed me to many individuals and communities facing similar challenges, and allowed me to share my ideas and receive advice on how improvements can be made. I met many representatives eager to help.”
“I feel very lucky to have been sponsored to receive the Project Access training. I’m honored to be able to share the experience and knowledge I gained with my people and with as many other indigenous brothers and sisters I’m fortunate to meet … I marvel at the scope of Project Access, and the myriad of opportunities it affords to indigenous peoples around the world. My only hope is it could be bigger and benefit more people.”
“My spirit is renewed every time I meet fellow Tribal Link students and receive advice from my Tribal Link tutors. I always leave New York City with a boosted determination to continue on with my struggles, with the firm conviction that one day my work becomes a reality.”