In an effort to ensure Caribbean voices at the session, the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) is again facilitating administrative services and program coordination for delegates planning to participate within the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean (IPCGC) at UN Forum.
UCTP representative Roberto Mukaro Borrero states “Our presence here at the United Nations has without question increased the visibility of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.” He continued “We are beginning to see more agencies taking a closer look at the region for possible inclusion within their programs.”
Indeed, as a result of interventions made at previous sessions, UNICEF coordinated a precedent-setting regional meeting focusing on “Caribbean Indigenous and Maroon Children” in June 2007. Representatives of indigenous organizations and communities including the UCTP were invited to participate in this special session that took place in Georgetown, Guyana.
The Convention on Biological Diversity has also increased participation of Caribbean representatives a move Naniki Reyes Ocasio of the Caney Quinto Mundo hailed as a “significant step forward” considering the vulnerable situation of small island states. Reyes Ocasio - a respected Taíno community leader from Puerto Rico - also stressed that the next step is for the agencies to “get serious about capacity building in the region including Puerto Rico.”
“This year is important to us as it is our 10 year anniversary and our advocacy on behalf of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations has been a major focus” stated Borrero. “Twenty years ago no one would have imagined we could have impacted the system in the way we have but as a result of our unity and solidarity across international boarders the UN’s attitude toward Caribbean Indigenous Peoples is changing” he said.
“Of course there is much more we need to do and in many cases our situations, especially with regard to our sacred sites are urgent but we had to begin the process and our work as the UCTP or within the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean is precedent-setting.”
Mildred Karaira Gandia, a UCTP representative who has been participating in the UN sessions has also noticed a change in attitudes. She noted that “in collaboration with supportive NGOs like the Tribal Link Foundation, various representatives from the region have also been able to receive training on how to engage the United Nations System.” To date indigenous representatives from Guyana, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Barbados, and Dominica have been able to participate at the United Nations with assistance from the UCTP.
A highlight of Caribbean Indigenous participation at this year’s PFII session will be a special event entitled Climate Change, Bio-Cultural Diversity and Livelihoods: A Caribbean First Nations Perspective. Taino representative Elba Anaka Lugo from Puerto Rico along with Carib and Arawak delegates Chief Charles Williams from Dominica and Hereditary Chief Damon Corrie of Barbados will take part in this program on Wednesday, April 23, 2008.
Caribbean Indigenous Peoples will also be highlighted in the UN Art Exhibition “Spirit of Our Ancestors” along with other Indigenous Peoples from around the world. The featured works of Taíno artists Mildred Mukara Torres Speeg, Aguilar Marrero, and Reina Miranda, will be presented. Guyanese Lokono Arawak artist Foster Simon will also have several works on display in the public exhibition, which opens April 21 through May 18, 2008.
The Permanent Forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.