Press release from the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
November 15, 2019 – Rovaniemi, Finland – Leaders of six Indigenous peoples’ organizations from across their circumpolar Arctic homelands have concluded a weeklong gathering from November 13-15 with the ceremonial signing of a joint “Vl Arctic Leaders’ Summit Declaration”. The Declaration focusses on “Calls to Action” that address the most pressing issue facing the planet – climate change – as well as the common concerns for the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic, notably language preservation, support for education, sustainable business development and respect for the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
In Rovaniemi the Declaration was signed by ICC Greenland President Hjalmar Dhal. He said, “We had an excellent week of meetings here. Arctic Youth met as well, and we had exchanges with several Arctic Council Observers. This Declaration reflects the historic concerns we have all experienced as Indigenous Peoples in the circumpolar nations, and of course the climate change crisis facing the planet, but affecting the Arctic in greater measures, so that is why you see it first in the Calls to Action as the countries of the world prepare to gather in Spain next month for the COP25 Climate Change Conference.”
The Declaration affirms that, “climate change constitutes a state of emergency for our lands, waters, animals and Peoples, and that we will accordingly utilize our local, national and international forums and partnerships to achieve meaningful progress towards the Paris Agreement targets.”
ICC Chair Dalee Sambo Dorough stated, “This Declaration reflects the ongoing struggle for social justice and the respect for our Indigenous human rights that all of us have worked so hard to achieve over several decades. Key instruments are in place, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and this Arctic Indigenous peoples Declaration affirms these indivisible rights.”
The Rovaniemi Declaration calls for “concrete follow-up on the recommendations in the Outcome Document of the high plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, in order to achieve the ends of the UN Declaration.”
ICC Canada President Monica Ell-Kanayuk noted the Calls to Action in support of Indigenous languages. “We are all facing language loss – all of us. There are two calls for action here that address this issue, including the call for the UN to adopt a Decade to focus on Indigenous Languages.”
The document calls for “measures to legally protect and revitalize our Languages and that for them to remain strong, Indigenous Peoples’ language schools and learning institutions must be financially and otherwise supported and established.”
The President of ICC Chukotka, Liobov Taian said, “We also addressed our traditional and contemporary economies in the Calls to Action. There is a call for the development of a mechanism to promote sustainable business behaviour in the Arctic to ensure that the rights of Arctic Indigenous Peoples are protected.”
The Declaration concludes with a sweeping Call to Action to all UN member states, including those engaged in the Arctic Council, to recognize and honor their international commitments and obligations, including the interrelated human rights that are at the foundation of our Arctic future as Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, we call upon UN member states and agencies, Arctic Council members and working groups, third parties, and all others to respect this Declaration and to actively respond to these Calls to Action.
The six Arctic Indigenous peoples’ organizations are all Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council: Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council.
The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (IPO), founded in 1977 to promote and celebrate the unity of 160,000 Inuit from Alaska (USA), Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). ICC works to promote Inuit rights, safeguard the Arctic environment, and protect and promote the Inuit way of life. In regard to climate change, we believe that it is crucial for world leaders and governments to recognize, respect and fully implement the human rights of Inuit and all other Indigenous peoples across the globe.
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