United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Major Group: Indigenous People

By Lucy Mulenkei and Pricillah Settee.- Indigenous Peoples Caucus.
Indigenous Peoples are concerned that ecosystems, including water systems, have been
destroyed and polluted and are in crisis. For many Indigenous Peoples worldwide, safe
and adequate water supply and waste disposal facilities are lacking. There is a lack of
community infrastructure programs to address the most immediate he alth threats, basic
sanitation facilities and safe housing,.
Commercialization and privatization of land and water contradicts Indigenous
perspectives that water is inseparable from land and peoples. Oceans and fresh water
system are critical areas of Indigenous Peoples that continue to be polluted with
chemicals, pesticides, sewage, disease, radioactive contamination, and waste dumping.
Sustaining sanitation, as related to water policies and management systems, is a critical
issue to Indigenous Peoples - from every region of the world - both in developing and
developed countries. It is unfortunate that in some countries, the efforts of Indigenous
Peoples to achieve self-determination, the rights to their lands, territories and natural
resources; and the securing of their customary water rights has created serious disputes
between States and Indigenous Peoples. This situation could be one factor contributing
to the lack of prioritizing the sustainable sanitation needs and providing for the
implementation of services in Indigenous Communities.
Mr Chairman, Human Settlement, water and sanitation cover a complex of social and
ecological interrelationships, between peoples and Mother Earth. Human settlements are
cultural homes that nurture the traditional kno wledge and wisdom within our larger
ecological home, Mother Earth. Water is a sacred element of this planet and it sustains all
life. Sanitation standard determines the well-being, health and life of biodiversity and
Where peoples are not separate from their lands, territories and natural resources,
including water. These provide for peoples' social, economic, religious, political needs
and environments. This is a far cry from the urban concept of settlements as simply
infrastructures and facilities.
For Indigenous hunters, gatherers, nomads, farmers, herders, fishers and pastoralists, a
continuing relationship and access to their natural homelands provide for their livelihood
and food security. They follow patterns of human settlement, which are appropriate for
their natural environments.
Related to human settlement, water is a critical source of life. In many Indigenous
societies, their relationship to the life- giving qualities of water permeates their culture
and spiritual values. Indigenous Peoples' systems of water management and use are based
upon principles and practices that balance immediate needs with the needs of the
environment and other living things, plants and animals, as well as
other people, and the sustainability for future generations.
· Sufficient attention must be paid at this meeting to reviewing the overall concepts
of governance, practice of sustainable livelihood, integrated land-use planning
and resource management to ensure that the long-term diversity and health of
ecosystems continue to nurture human settlements, including the well-being of
Indigenous Peoples.
· Due respect must be given to the Indigenous Peoples' right to self-deteitnination
and sovereignty over essential life-sustaining elements. Government policies are
restricting access to their lands and territories, violating their right to sustainable
livelihoods, water sources and appropriate housing. These policies directly
undermine the goal of human security, poverty eradication and social support
systems for all, leading to the deep impoverishment of Indigenous communities.
· Within the action plan on human settlements, the implementation of integrated
land-use planning and natural resource base management strategies continues to
be weak, with slow progress being made in the mapping and demarcation of
Indigenous Peoples' lands and territories towards security of tenure and legal
protection. Indigenous Peoples urge the Commission on Sustainable Development
to give high priority to this activity.
· Local, National, Regional and International goals must be developed for realistic
targets for improved sanitation and hygiene services, adopting community-based,
low-cost and intermediate technological approaches, bearing in mind the human
right to clean, safe water and sanitation services.
· Developing and developed countries must develop clear policies, targets and
institutional frameworks to improve sanitation, assure safe and adequate water
supply, as well as access to hygiene services for the Indigenous Peoples who live
within their boundaries.
· All governments must commit to public sector delivery of water and sanitation
services. Indigenous Peoples have serious concerns with a market-based
approach to water, sanitation services and management. There must be assurance
that adequate financial resources are made available and that there is the provision
for local capacity-building. In areas with Indigenous communities, mechanisms
for the option for Indigenous Peoples to control and manage their own water and
sanitation systems must be provided.