BAGUIO CITY (Apr. 26) — It is the first time for young natives of the Asia Pacific Region to be united for a common cause in strengthening and advancing their struggles.
INDIGENOUS YOUTH. Asia Pacific youth march through the streets of Baguio City with Cordillera Day delegates. Photo by Noel Godinez/NORDIS
Indigenous youth of the region are now united in calling for the right to land and self-determination with the founding conference of Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN).
Held last April 18-22, the conference gathered around 100 youths from 15 different countries to prepare for their participation in different United Nations bodies and to enhance their leadership skills for struggles within their countries.
They said they would strengthen relations between organizations and institutions to make their voices heard despite their young age. The youth has long been ignored in decision-making in many countries.
Youth representatives from Burma, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Russia, Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Manipur, Nagaland, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Pakistan and Nepal all approved the APIYN declaration stating their position on issues of Indigenous Peoples (IP).
“Today, we come together for our fellow youths and peoples, our cultures and our lands,” the declaration reads. “We come together not only as victims, but as warriors; not only as witnesses, but as actors.”
Partly sponsored by Global Forest Coalition (GFC), the conference included discussions on the underlying causes of forest degradation and on the Convention on Bio-Diversity. Sandy Gauntlett of GFC stressed that protection of the environment goes hand in hand with the conservation of indigenous knowledge and the protection of human rights.
In most of the indigenous communities in Asia Pacific, development aggression is a continuing problem. Large-scale mining, construction of dams, logging, oil plantations, tourism, militarization and urban development are just some of the forms of exploitation of IPs. As a result, they lose their lands to big corporations, lose their cultural heritage and sometimes, their lives, all in the name of profit. These forms of aggression persist even in countries which signed the Convention on Bio-Diversity.
In response, APIYN promises to resist abuse. “We shall commit to build the capacity of the youth in our respective tribes and communities by arousing, organizing and mobilizing them to the causes that we continue to carry as peoples,” the youth group said.
They were also determined to maximize the UN to further advance the causes of indigenous youth. “We unitedly declare that the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues call upon member states to recognize the inherent rights of IPs and the right to self-determination.”
APIYN is a product of the International Indigenous Youth Conference which started in 2002. The IIYC was an initiative of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance Youth Commission, now Cordillera Youth Center.
In the solidarity night which showcased their cultural rituals and presentations, partners and delegates received a token which bears a quote from Rafael Markus “Makoy” Bangit, among the IP victims of political killings in the Philippines under the Gloria Arroyo Regime: “Until our right to self-determination is recognized, the struggle will not end. If it means the sacrifice of our lives to achieve freedom, then so be it!”
Delegates of the conference also participated the celebration of Cordillera Day. # < strong>Anjo Rey O. Cerdeña for NORDIS