(Before It's News)
Indigenous women and girls across North America endure alarmingly high levels of marginalization, exclusion, discrimination, violence, exploitation, and abuse. At the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) in Ottawa on June 29, 2016, the governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States decided to form a North American Working Group on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls, as a commitment to coordinated action to address the disproportionate levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls.
These new opportunities for coordinated action symbolize today’s convening of leaders from all three of our countries at the White House and reaffirm our respective national and regional commitments to: exchanging knowledge of policies, programs and best practices to prevent and respond to violence against Indigenous women and girls through increased access to justice and health services, with a human rights and culturally-responsive approach; enhancing cooperation to address violent crimes against Indigenous women and girls, including human trafficking, within or outside of their communities and across our borders; and, enhancing the response of our justice, health, education, and child welfare systems to violence against Indigenous women and girls.
We are proud to announce that the next trilateral meeting of the working group will be hosted by Canada in 2017. Together, our three countries are committed to including full participation of Indigenous groups as part of the next meeting.
Criminal justice responses to violence against Indigenous women and girls, including regional coordination on law enforcement data
- Roundtable on Regional Law Enforcement Coordination on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls: The U.S., Mexico, and Canada, will organize a roundtable and knowledge exchange on the coordination of law enforcement in the North American region, particularly across borders, on missing, murdered, and trafficked, Indigenous women and girls, potentially to be held during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) in May 2017. This discussion could spur all countries to take stock of how our national law enforcement and crime investigation units are already cooperating through the U.S. Justice Department’s program, NamUs, and could agree to discuss possible expansion of the coordination on missing and murdered persons cases involving gender violence.
- Exchanging Knowledge and Best Practices on Indigenous Justice Practices: All three countries committed to participate in future activity to discuss Indigenous justice practices that support access to justice for Indigenous women and girls, including identifying culturally appropriate ways to measure and evaluate these practices. This would support ongoing work at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and through the Open Government Partnership.
Social services & public health prevention and response to violence against Indigenous women and girls
- Knowledge Exchange on Regional Ethnicity and Health hosted by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO): On 21-23 November 2016, public health leaders from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and other countries will convene representatives at PAHO for a knowledge exchange on the health priorities of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and other ethnic/racial groups in situation of vulnerability living in the Americas. Specific health priorities include: violence against Indigenous and Afro-descendant women and girls, mental health, HIV, tuberculosis, and immunization.
- Side event on Indigenous Women and Girls at 2017 World Health Assembly: The U.S., Mexico, and Canada, will jointly elevate the issue of the health sector’s role in addressing the causes of health disparities for Indigenous women and girls including barriers in access to health resources and victim services for gender violence, by co-hosting a side event on the role of the health sector in improving health system responses to this violence at the May 2017 World Health Assembly, building on recommendations of the WHO Plan of Action and the PAHO Regional Plan of Action on Violence against Women and Children.
Human rights, women, peace, and security: prioritizing Indigenous women and girls in multilateral affairs
- Joint Statement at United Nations Human Rights Council: At the 2016 September United Nations Human Rights Council, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, delivered a joint statement announcing the establishment of the North American Working Group to demonstrate the highest level commitment to improving regional responses to eliminate all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, encouraging other Member States to replicate this effort as a model for regional coordination.
- Trilateral Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The U.S., Mexico, and Canada, will jointly recognize the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the margins of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2017.
- Side event at 2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women: The U.S, Mexico, and Canada have committed to co-host a high-level side event on empowerment as a means to effectively eliminate all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls at the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women, in March 2017, in recognition of this year’s review theme of empowering Indigenous women and girls.
- U.S. International Visitors Leadership Program: The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in coordination with the U.S. Embassies in Ottawa and Mexico City intend to sponsor an exchange program in Spring 2017 to bring together Indigenous youth leaders from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The program will connect these youth leaders to representatives from government, private enterprise, and civil society to find innovative ways to promote economic competitiveness while preserving cultural heritage and protecting the environment. The program will expose Indigenous youth leaders to methods and tools for shaping policy and messaging aligned with their ideals and include a focus on how the participants can promote gender equality in their communities and prevent violence against Indigenous women.