Group Photo, New York, UN chapel

The World Council of Churches delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues lead a morning prayer prior to the start of the Forum’s 23rd session, 15 April 2024, United Nations, New York, Photo: Rebekka Read/WCC

The theme is Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth.”

After decades of Indigenous leaders pushing for inclusion and representation at the United Nations, on 28 July 2000, the forum was established as a high-level advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council. Since 2002, the forum has been meeting annually. 

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples raises awareness, brings policy changes to other UN bodies, and influences how Indigenous rights are implemented at the local and national levels. Over the past 23 years, the forum has coordinated and commissioned over 64 studies and reports and 60 publications. Members of the forum have worked on drafting policies for UN agencies and have made recommendations to other UN bodies.

The World Council of Churches last engaged with the forum in 2019. A WCC delegations participation this year marks an important step in reorienting members of the Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples Network to the work of the forum.

The message from the WCC Indigenous Peoples Pre-Assembly in Karlsruhe, in 2022, spoke to forums significance in articulating Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination in spiritual matters. As Indigenous representatives of the Christian community, WCC delegates bring important voices to international conversations. 

The WCC delegation includes: 

Mari Valjakka, project coordinator and Sámi pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and moderator of the WCC Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples Network Reference Group

Juan Chavez, from Bolivia, an anthropology PhD candidate at the University of California, Riverside

Lempang Phom, postgraduate student in ecumenism, theology, and religion, who is following the forum proceedings from his home in India

Lori Ransom, WCC Indigenous Peoples consultant

Ryan Smith, programme executive, Ecumenical Office to the UN

Rebekka Read, advocacy assistant, Ecumenical Office to the UN

The WCC led a morning prayer, prior to the start of the forums session, in the chapel located at the Church Centre for the United Nations. 


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