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Speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs at the opening of a meeting for indigenous peoples

Held 13 January 2012

Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,


I would like to thank the hosts, IWGIA, the Sámi Parliament and the Greenland Representation, for organising this important meeting and also for inviting me to speak here today.


Together with the Premier of Greenland, I am pleased to bid you all a warm welcome to cold Copenhagen and to this meeting which marks the commence-ment of the preparations for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.
I am particularly pleased to be opening the meeting with Kuupik Kleist, the Premier of Greenland, because the backbone of Denmark’s engagement in the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights is our long-standing and close partnership with Greenland. This cooperation has been a basis for our active contribution and engagement in a long line of international fora and processes on this issue. On the basis of this strong collaboration, I believe we have achieved significant results in collaboration with our international partners.


Major progress has been made on indigenous issues over the last two decades, including the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the adop-tion of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism.


I believe that indigenous peoples’ right to development – economically, socially and culturally – is an important matter. Diversity - be it in cultures or in languages - is our strength not our burden. The loss of cultural diversity makes us all poorer wherever our roots may be.


The Declaration plays an important role in connection with the World Conference. Important in the sense that numerous articles in the Declaration quite clearly confirm indigenous peoples’ right to effective participation in decision-making – not least in matters which would affect their rights.


In other words: We now have a golden opportunity to prove in practice that we are able to implement this key element of the Declaration by securing that indigenous peoples’ right to full and effective participation at all stages of prepa-ration and decision-making of the World Conference are being respected. The Danish Government will work to push in the right direction and I am sure that you will do the same. That is basically why we are all here today.


Indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation in the World Conference’s process will be a very appropriate way to ensure that indigenous views, recommendations and aspirations on the practical implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are taken into consideration during the preparatory process. And most importantly, that these views are reflected in the outcome document of the Conference.


We hope that both indigenous peoples and States will use this process to reiterate and further strengthen their sincere commitment to the theme of the Second International Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples, namely “Partnership for Action and Dignity”.


As a closing remark, I would like to stress that we have come a long way in respect of creating the international frameworks and structures to address the rights of indigenous peoples. The challenge ahead is how to convert principles into tangible results.


I am looking forward to receiving the outcome of this weekend’s meeting and to continue a close cooperation with you in the process towards the World Conference.


I hope you have a fruitful and interesting meeting here in Copenhagen.
Thank you.