The U.N. Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), grown out of the World Forum on Human Rights held on the eve of 400 years of European colonization in Abya Yala and established at the end of the decade of indigenous peoples, held its 22nd annual meeting this April at the U.N. headquarters in NYC. The UNPFII is a high level advisory body to the U.N. Economic and Social Council and is an opportunity for states, NGOs, and representatives of indigenous nations and movements to negotiate and set policy recommendations. Most importantly it is an opportunity for indigenous leaders to meet and organize on a regional level.
Similarly, the newly established Permanent Forum on Peoples of African Descent, mandated at the end of the decade for people of African Descent, will hold its first ever meeting at the U.N. headquarters in NYC, at the end of May. The new body serves as, “a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent” as well as a high level advisory body to the U.N. Human Rights Council. These large gatherings of Black and indigenous peoples in New York created a unique moment to build connections between our struggles in Abya Yala.
The Black and Indigenous Liberation Movement (BILM), in collaboration with the Dandelion Collective, took advantage of this moment to bring indigenous delegates into conversation with Black delegates in order to develop a shared set of demands to advance in these international forums. To this end we organized the UNPFII Side Event: “A Dialogue Between Indigenous and Afro-descendant Activists for Unity Demands in International Forums” at the Robert Blackburn Print Shop, site of a communal arts space for Black artists and activists and a hub of Black Lives Matter organizing in NYC.
Indigenous delegates representing La Resistancia Olla Común of Chile; Sapara, Shuar, and Waorani leaders of the Amazonian Indigenous Confederation (CONFENIAE) of Ecuador; Zero Hour and Land Is Life of the United States; as well as indigenous organizers from Mexico attended. They met with Black delegates and activists representing the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) of Cuba, Mujeres de Asfalto of Ecuador, the 1199 union and Voices of Community Organizers and Leaders (VOCAL) of the United States.
The delegates shared their experiences advocating in international forums and discussed the struggles their communities are facing. From this exchange began a deep discussion on the points of unity between Black and indigenous peoples in Abya Yala and how these points can be converted into demands at the international level while serving to advance our struggles locally. Key points of unity were the need to teach and learn our histories within our communities and a platform to share our struggles with the w
orld. Central to moving forward was building a common understanding of our peoples’ diverse concepts and relationships with territory and the land and building shared demands for reparations. To this end BILM has proposed to create a reparations working group which can serve as a space to build a common vision of justice for our peoples.