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WPLC Joins Thousands of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues


May 3, 2024

Photo by: WPLC Executive Director and Senior Attorney Natali Segovia (Quechua).

WPLC Joins Thousands of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

United Nations Headquarters, New York — On April 15-26, 2024, the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) joined thousands of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 23rd Session. Held every year, UNPFII gathers Indigenous Peoples from around the world to provide testimony and recommendations to the Permanent Forum, which are gathered in a report to the ECOSOC Council, and ultimately member states. The theme for this year’s session was: “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.”

On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, WPLC’s Communications Coordinator and youngest staff member, Nizhoni Begay (Diné/Quechua),  presented WPLC’s statement on the importance of protecting Indigenous youth. Nizhoni’s impassioned statement urged immediate action necessary to address militarization, extraction and Green Colonialism to ensure a future for the next seven generations: “We must see an end to militarization, illegal occupation of our ancestral lands, and ongoing violence of colonization that brings about the pandemic of MMIR.” The statement also honored the memory and recent loss of Lakota youth Cole Brings Plenty, whose braids were cut off in what is widely regarded as a hate crime, and demanded an end to discrimination of our cultural practices and traditions. 

The Water Protector Legal Collective submitted other testimonies on a variety of issues affecting Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island and internationally. These addressed issues including the impact of Green Colonialism and extraction on MMIW, denounced the escalating weaponization of the law and technology against Indigenous defenders, including disproportionate violence by Private Military Security Companies and state actors, highlighted the need to harmonize laws with international standards protecting Indigenous Peoples, and also called for action to address the ongoing militarization in the Pacific and illegal occupation of Hawaiʻi, through a shared statement with University of Hawaiʻi’s Kamakakökalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and Ka Låhui Hawaiʻi.

WPLC staff at United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 23rd Session. Photo by: Keola Kauhane Castro (Kanaka Maoli).

All statements can be found here:

On Friday, April 19, 2024, WPLC hosted an in-person and virtual conversation with Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) at The People’s Forum addressing the structural and legal challenges facing human rights defenders and Indigenous Peoples working in defense of the Earth in the U.S. and around the world, including from those on legal front lines. As an official UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues side event, our panel included WPLC Executive Director and Senior Attorney, Natali Segovia, Joan Carling (Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples Rights International), Aaron Marr Page (Managing Attorney, Forum Nobis PLLC), and Steven Donziger (Human Rights Attorney). 

The panel addressed timely and pressing questions about the challenges and possibilities for human rights internationally, corporate accountability, and trends in the law in the United States and around the world relating to protecting protectors and Indigenous Peoples seeking to protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. The panel comes on the heels of grim milestone reported in 2022 with more than 400 targeted killings of human rights defenders in 26 countries, with the five most targeted areas of human rights work being environmental, land and Indigenous Peoples’ rights (11%); freedom of expression (10%); protest movement/ freedom of assembly (9%); women’s rights (7%); and impunity and access to justice (6%). These are the issues our communities face every day and WPLC is working to protect.

For more information on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 23rd session:

For more information about WPLC at the United Nations:

Born out of the #NoDAPL Movement at Standing Rock, the Water Protector Legal Collective is an Indigenous-led legal nonprofit that provides support and advocacy for Indigenous peoples and Original Nations, the Earth, and climate justice movements. To learn more about WPLC and how to contribute, visit:

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