“The UNITAR Training Programme has helped many indigenous leaders. It changed my life.”
-Kanyinke Sena, Chair United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
July 2013, Geneva, Switzerland and New York, U.S.A. - Mr. Kanyinke Sena, a lawyer, human rights and environmental advocate from Kenya, was appointed Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues during the twelfth session at United Nations Headquarters in New York earlier this year. The purpose of the Permanent Forum is to advise and help coordinate the efforts of the UN system, governments and indigenous representatives on policies and programmes to help improve the conditions of the world’s 370 million indigenous people. Mr. Sena said his advocacy began in 2005 when he participated in the UNITAR training programme on conflict prevention and peacemaking for indigenous representatives.
The intensive programme teaches conflict analysis, and examines rights-based and interest-based negotiation approaches through review of cases, theory, and negotiation simulations. The purpose is to strengthen indigenous leaders’ capacities to engage in dialogue and constructive negotiations with partners at all levels to prevent and resolve conflict in a mutually-beneficial, sustainable manner.
The Permanent Forum Chair served as a resource person in the 2013 Training Programme to Enhance the Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking Capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ Representatives which took place in July in Geneva, Switzerland. He engaged with the participating indigenous representatives from around the world on the mandate and strategies to work with the UN Permanent Forum, and spoke on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with particular reference to indigenous peoples’ participation in national processes in Africa.
Another training programme alumna, Ms. Karmen Ramirez Boscan, presented on indigenous peoples’ strategies to participate in the peace process in Columbia. This eleventh international training programme was made possible through the support of the governments of Finland and Sweden.
Two other alumni of the UNITAR training programme on conflict prevention for indigenous peoples’ representatives currently serve as Expert Members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Dr. Megan Davis of Australia who participated in the first international training programme in Geneva in 2000, and Mr. Saul Vicente Vasquez, of Mexico who completed the regional training programme in Mexico for indigenous representatives of the Americas in 2001. A fourth alumna from the training programme from the Pacific, Ms. Mililani Trask, was appointed as the first Expert Member from her region at the time of the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum in 2002.
The UNITAR programme is distinctive in offering this kind of advanced, in-depth training to strengthen the capacities of indigenous peoples’ representatives in the prevention and resolution of conflict and promotion and protection of their rights. A total of 454 representatives from around the world have participated in these programmes organized at the international and regional levels.
Photo 1: Kanyinke Sena, Chair, addresses the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Photo: UNPFII 2013
Photo 2: Rosalee Gonzales, Co-Coordinator, North American Region Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas identifying sources of conflict