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Young Indigenous Activists in Global Advocacy Spaces

FRIDAY FILE: In October AWID spoke to Mirna Cunningham and Maria Oberto, about the first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), this week we follow up with Dalí Angel, young indigenous woman activist from the Zapoteca nation in Oaxaca and Latin America Focal Point for the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus[1], about the Caucus’ involvement in advocacy spaces and some of the challenges they face.

By Gabby De Cicco

AWID: What is the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus and in which global advocacy spaces do you participate?

Dalí Angel (DA): The Indigenous Youth Caucus is an open space where any young person that comes is able to participate, share their opinion and contribute. We are members of the Central American and Mexican Indigenous Youth Women's Network and work together with the Indigenous Women's Alliance and the International Indigenous Women's Forum. In the South - for instance, in Peru - there are other regional Indigenous women's and young women's networks, and when we go to New York we meet as a region to decide on our priorities, our claims, what we want to see in the agenda and what we want to make visible.

Internally, one of the spaces the Caucuses have is our annual meeting at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Sometimes representatives from all seven regions make it to the Forum but often they cannot because of lack of funding. We instead communicate through the grassroots organizations we are members of and through the networks active in the different regions. The regions encourage discussion between the Caucuses and promote the participation of Indigenous Youth in different spaces so the youth processes are not disconnected from other official process. This is the best-case scenario, though the communication is not always good, we try our best.

At the United Nations (UN) the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus is involved in the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues that meets every year in May. From there we have been able to follow-up on the preparatory processes for the World Conference on Indigenous People (WCIP), and demand youth participation in preparatory regional meetings. On April 2013, the Youth Caucus held a preparatory global meeting in Finland that resulted in a position document that includes Indigenous Youth priorities. We were also able to join the drafting group for the Alta Outcome Document and it was our participation in the Permanent Forum that facilitated this whole process.

We have also contributed to the thematic reports developed by the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Together with the women's movement, the Indigenous Young Women's movement has been able to attend the CSW and to bring our priorities there. In 2012, when Mexico submitted its report to CEDAW, we were able to present an Alternative Report, the first report by indigenous women. This is why I think it's important to say that many Indigenous women have contributed to make the involvement of the new generations possible.

AWID: What are some of the challenges to effective participation of youth in global spaces?

DA: One limitation we have is lack of financial resources. It is not always easy to get a visa and travel to New York. Months in advance, one of our tasks is to get funding to ensure our participation in the Permanent Forum. And because we think these spaces should be used to the maximum, we also organize training in advance about what the Forum is, how the Global Youth Caucus works and what contributions to bring, so our participation is more effective.

Communication is also a challenge within the Indigenous Peoples' movement (women and men). While there is often encouragement for youth participation there are also practices that do not really support these initiatives. The Indigenous Women's movement has driven youth participation the most, for instance, Dr. Myrna Cunningham really believed that the new generations could be in other spaces, in other fora for participation. Together with her we have opened up training spaces involving youth, where Indigenous Women's leaders with a solid trajectory are invited to exchange experiences and strategize for further participation in different spaces. We believe it’s not possible for us to go into the UN system without the knowledge of instruments like the ILO Convention 169, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or how Treaty Bodies work.

For us it is not only very important to go through prior training but also to be able to relate it to what we have learned from our experiences and for the work we do in our communities. We should never isolate our community work from our international advocacy efforts.

Another limitation we face, not just within the Caucus, but with regard to our overall interactions with the UN system, is language. Everything is in English: meetings, official documents, etc, so we need to use interpreters. This means that there is always somebody talking "for" you, it's never you who speaks, which is a limitation. UN documents also have their specific language so we continue to organize training and follow-up mechanisms. Again resources are a challenge, because we do not always get enough to ensure broader participation.

AWID: What are your thoughts on the outcome of the first WCIP, especially the Outcome Document?

DA: The Document says nothing new and refers to many issues that are already in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But it is enforceable, and we can use it because it mentions women and youth. If you compare it with the Alta Document, you will find changes in language - the Alta document was more focused towards enforceability, but we still consider that it has been a significant progress based on the fact that the UN hosted a Conference on Indigenous Peoples for the first time.

For me, a very important achievement for the Caucus is to have youth mentioned in the Outcome Document for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. For us it was very important to have been involved in the whole process, from the preparatory meetings and the development of the first drafts; and to have been heard. Even though the Indigenous Youth Global Caucus does not represent the entire global Indigenous Youth (because of limitations of participation described above), its existence and its role as a channel for dialogue with other actors, as a venue for involvement and as encouragement for youth participation in the UN is a big achievement.

But the reality at the local level looks different

DA: Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, was one of the speakers at the WCIP who gave a very good speech, in which he mentioned the Outcome Document a lot, as well as the progress made by the Mexican government in foreign policy. It is therefore regrettable that only two or three days after the WCIP, 43 students were disappeared in Ayotzinapa, most of whom are Indigenous.

This has left us asking - How can the government bring a good speech to international spaces and the UN system, and only days later this happens in Guerrero? Although I think this is the case everywhere - the inconsistencies between the international agreements and treaties they have ratified[2]and the violations of Indigenous peoples' rights, particularly of Indigenous Youth, that are committed in their territories. I find this incongruence on the part of the Mexican state very sad. For Mexico delivering good speeches is not enough: they have to actually do what they say.

The students, from Ayotzinapa Normal School, have been missing since September 26. On November 20, the anniversary of Mexico's 1910 revolution, there were nationwide and international mobilisations and protests because of the lack of action around the fate of the 43 murdered students, other mass disappearances, Mexican government corruption and the war on drugs.

[1] And member of the organization Mujeres Indígenas por Ciarena

[2] Mexico has ratified ILO Convention 169, signed the Declaration and was one of the States that pushed for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to become a reality.