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  • U.N. Human Rights Council adopts Declaration on Indigenous Rights

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    U.N. Human Rights Council adopts Declaration on Indigenous Rights

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: July 05, 2006 by: _Valerie Taliman_
    ( / Indian Country Today

    GENEVA - It was an emotionally charged moment in a room packed full of
    hope and hundreds of delegates, human rights advocates and two dozen indigenous
    participants at the Palais des Nations as the newly established United
    Nations Human Rights Council decided the fate of the draft Declaration on the
    Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    As the resolution for adoption was introduced, Luis-Enrique Chavez of Peru,
    chairman-rapporteur of the U.N. working group on the declaration, reminded
    members that it was co-sponsored by 45 states. He offered a ''brotherly
    appeal'' to the council to adopt the declaration by consensus.

    ''Indigenous peoples have been subjected to widespread human rights
    violations - including policies of extermination - since the 15th century,'' he said.
    ''After more than 500 years, the international community for the first time
    in history is recognizing the rights of the world's 350 million indigenous
    peoples. We can change the course of history. It's time to send a positive
    signal by adopting the declaration by consensus.''

    The outcome of the roll call vote brought mixed reactions as the votes from
    the 47-member council came in - 30 in favor, two opposed, three absent and 12

    Delegates from Latin American countries such as Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and
    Cuba seemed exuberant as they mustered a majority vote against large
    countries like Russia and Canada.

    At the end of the day, the declaration - a nonbinding statement of the
    rights of indigenous peoples in international law - was adopted by majority vote
    and will now be sent to the U.N. General Assembly for consideration, perhaps
    as early as its September session in New York.

    ''We are very pleased by the great number of countries that have stated
    their support for the rights of indigenous peoples in this draft declaration,''
    said Robert Tim Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center
    based in Helena, Mont., and Washington, D.C., and one of the original authors
    of the declaration.

    ''This declaration contains many of the important human rights that we have
    fought for nearly 30 years to establish - the right of self-determination for
    indigenous peoples; rights to our lands, territories and resources; the
    right to exist as distinct peoples and cultures; recognition of our treaties; and
    many other rights,'' he said.

    ''However, because a majority of the member states on the Human Rights
    Council have chosen to adopt the declaration by a vote rather than to seek
    consensus, this means that the declaration may have little legal impact and limited
    application. This abandonment of consensus is a huge disservice to indigenous
    peoples and our long quest for human rights.''

    Human rights declarations are normally adopted by consensus in the United
    Nations, meaning there are no objections. In opposing the declaration's
    adoption, representatives of Canada and Russia made statements stressing that the
    declaration was not legally binding and not applicable in their countries.

    In explaining its ''no'' vote, the representative of Canada expressed
    concern that language in the declaration could give indigenous peoples the right of
    veto on land and natural resource issues, and may give indigenous peoples
    claims to lands they had already ceded, creating new problems for ongoing land
    claims. He insisted the declaration had no legal effect in Canada and that it
    does not reflect customary international law.

    ''We are disappointed that in several respects the declaration is inadequate
    and it falls short of what it should have stated,'' said Coulter, who
    lobbied hard to continue working on the declaration for another year in the hope it
    might achieve consensus.

    ''We fought hard to persuade countries to do better and to continue the work
    to strengthen the declaration. But at least these 30 states are willing to
    accept this improvement over the past, where discrimination and denial of
    rights have been the norm.''

    Wilton Little Child, a Cree attorney representing the International
    Organization of Indigenous Resource Development in Alberta, Canada, said the
    declaration was the result of many long and difficult years of debate among states
    and indigenous peoples, and while the text was not perfect, he was convinced
    that further deliberation would not have produced a stronger text.''

    ''We recognize that some indigenous peoples preferred a stronger text which
    would go further in recognizing indigenous rights. We also recognize that
    many indigenous peoples from around the world see it as an acceptable compromise
    which upholds basic principles such as treaty rights, self-determination,
    land rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent.

    Little Child, who is also a member of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous
    Issues, said the declaration is ''an acceptable minimum standard for the
    survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples and a basis for honest
    partnership, improved relations and much-needed reconciliation between states
    and indigenous peoples.''

    The effort to build a strong body of indigenous rights will now move to the
    General Assembly, where all the member nations of the United Nations have a
    vote. While the Human Rights Council has a rotating membership of just 47,
    there are 191 member nations of the U.N.

    It is possible that countries in the General Assembly will decide that
    further debate and negotiation are called for in order to reach consensus among

    But indigenous peoples can count on opposition from the United States,
    Canada, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom have said they will oppose
    the declaration in the General Assembly.

    In debates last month, the United States, Australia and New Zealand issued a
    four-page controversial statement that said certain articles of the
    declaration regarding rights to self-determination and to lands and resources were
    ''unworkable and unacceptable.''

    ''They ignore the contemporary realities in many countries with indigenous
    populations by appearing to require the recognition of indigenous rights to
    lands now lawfully owned by other citizens. Such provisions would be both
    arbitrary and impossible to implement,'' the statement read.

    It is unclear whether there are sufficient votes in the General Assembly in
    favor of the declaration, but the support of the 30 states voting ''yes'' in
    the Human Rights Council will be an important positive factor in that

    At press time, there was no word on whether or not the declaration would be
    on the General Assembly's agenda for its September session
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2
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    Women request U.N. travel fund for permanent forum

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: July 03, 2006 by: _Gale Courey
    Toensing_ ( / Indian Country Today

    NEW YORK - When the North American Indigenous Women's Caucus submitted
    recommendations recently to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous
    Issues, one of the items was a request to the U.N. agencies to establish a
    travel fund for North American indigenous women to attend the forum's sessions in
    New York.

    ''We need it to ensure representation from North American indigenous
    peoples,'' said Tia Oros Peters, Zuni and executive director of the Seventh
    Generation Fund. Oros Peters co-chairs the Indigenous Women's Caucus with Beatriz
    Schulthess, Kolla from northern Argentina.

    The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held its fifth conference in May.
    The forum was established by the U.N. Economic and Social Council in 2000 with
    a mandate to discuss and make recommendations concerning indigenous peoples'
    development, environment and human rights. The forum is the only place
    where indigenous peoples from around the globe can gather, voice their concerns
    and try to shape their collective future.

    A U.N. Voluntary Trust Fund exists that provides, among other grants, travel
    money for indigenous peoples to attend the permanent forum. But in a twist
    of irony, American Indians do not qualify for grants.

    ''The U.N. has certain requirements, and what they would consider developed
    nations - the U.S., Canada, and Australia - can't access certain funds, which
    precludes or hinders the full participation of indigenous peoples, whether
    women or men,'' Oros Peters said.

    In addition to not helping their Native populations attend the permanent
    forum, the United States, Canada and Australia share other characteristics: All
    three are countries with large indigenous populations in their midst and
    dubious claims to the land the governments took from them, and all three oppose
    the draft U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    ''Just because we're in the U.S. doesn't mean that organizations or Indian
    nations have funding. It's just an assumption they're operating on and I think
    it even feeds more misunderstanding of indigenous people. Our situation may
    be quite different, but by no means are our communities rich,'' Oros Peters

    No information is available on when or if the request for a travel fund will
    be addressed.

    According to the forum's secretariat, around 2,000 people from 70 different
    countries officially registered for the forum, ''but about a little more than
    1,200 were actually participants and managed to come,'' said. Oisika
    Chakrabarti, the secretariat's information officer.

    Of the 1,200 delegates, perhaps 200 were from tribes or indigenous
    organizations in North America, Chakrabarti said. Finding the funding is always an
    issue, she said.

    The Voluntary Fund grants are issued from the United Nations in Geneva,
    where the Human Rights Council, formerly the Human Rights Commission, is housed.
    Details about the fund and the number of grants issued for the forum's fifth
    session were not immediately available because the information was still
    being collected.

    Oros Peters credited the New York-based American Indian Law Alliance for
    filling some of the gap left by a lack of U.N. funding.

    ''They're not able to provide funding - they're struggling with funding as
    much as anybody - but whether they're trying to find limited free or
    reasonably priced housing for a week or arranging for food on a shoestring, American
    Indian Law Alliance is on the front line in terms of opening the pathway for
    the participation of indigenous people. I know they've made a great difference
    for us,'' Oros Peters said.

    The Seventh Generation Fund is a California-based, 30-year-old, nonprofit,
    nongovernmental organization whose mission is to promote and maintain the
    uniqueness and sovereignty of Native peoples and distinct Native nations.

    Neither Seventh Generation nor the AILA accepts funding from the U.S.
    government, based on a principled refusal to accept the strings attached to federal

    The AILA was founded in 1989 by Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Onondaga Snipe
    Clan. The alliance is an indigenous, nonprofit organization that works with
    indigenous nations, communities and organizations on issues of sovereignty, human
    rights and social justice for indigenous peoples.

    The idea that the United States is a ''developed country'' doesn't hold true
    for Indian nations that are as badly off as those in the South or in
    developing nations, Gonnella Frichner said.

    ''The South exists in the North. If you go to Indian country you will find,
    very easily and not very far from where we're sitting, people who do live in
    conditions that you'd find in the South. The poorest places in the U.S. are
    many Indian territories where the rates are so high in terms of poverty and
    unemployment, health issues and all those things related to poverty,''
    Gonnella Frichner said.

    The universal pattern with colonization and developed nations is to keep the
    indigenous people in a state of poverty, Gonnella Frichner said.

    ''There's a reason for that. When you keep people oppressed then it becomes
    easier to appropriate a couple of things - one, their land; and two, their
    resources,'' Gonnella Frichner said.

    Kent Lebsock, Gonnella Frichner's executive director at the AILA, not so
    quietly seethed at the fact that tribes do not contribute more to human rights
    efforts: ''They give to the museum in Washington. That's hardly a legacy to
    our people. It's helping the U.S. government display what they stole from our
    people,'' Lebsock said.

    Lebsock said he has witnessed a shift in representation at the forum since
    his involvement began in 1992. Back then, the delegates were predominantly
    North and South American Indians.

    ''We are now in the minority. Now it's Asian and African, by and large.
    South America tries to keep up their end, but they get a lot of funding from the
    north from white American organizations that want to support Indian causes,
    but not here, because this country does not want to look at its own genocidal

    ''It's much easier to have the Indians in Brazil. The fact is, there are
    Indian people in their own back yard whose wealth they're living off,'' Lebsock

    Lebsock said he can understand why tribal governments, dependent on the U.S.
    government for so much funding, do not contribute to the forum.

    ''They couldn't possibly participate in this without jeopardizing their
    financial positions, and in America that's what it's all about. I would say the
    whole process is depoliticized because none of the real power players want or
    can do this work. It's left to us - grass-roots organizations who have no
    funding or resources to do it,'' Lebsock said.
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


    • #3
      Geneva 01st July 06
      >>Tetuwan Oyate
      >>Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council
      >>PO Box 140, Manderson, SD 57756 USA Phone: (605) 399-1868
      >>June 30, 2006
      >>"The UN is Misleading Indigenous Peoples"
      >>A Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed by the new
      >>United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday, June 29, 2006, but not
      >>all Indigenous nations are happy.
      >>"The Declaration that was passed by the UN Human Rights Council is not
      >>the Sub commission text that was supported by the Teton Sioux Nation
      >>Treaty Council," stated Charmaine White Face, Spokesperson. "Many of the
      >>original working Articles were changed by the Chairperson, or totally
      >>deleted," she adds.
      >>The Working Group Chairperson, Luis Chavez, (Peru) submitted his own
      >>version of a Declaration which he always called the Chairman's text. In
      >>December, 2004, six Indigenous representatives conducted a hunger
      >>strike-prayer fast in the meeting room at the UN to insure that the
      >>original Sub commission text would be sent to the Human Rights Commission
      >>as there was no consensus on the Chair's text. As of Feb. 2006, there was
      >>still no consensus. It is unusual that this so-called Declaration was
      >>passed by the Human Rights Council since the Chairs' recommendations did
      >>not have the consensus of the Working Group. Unfortunately it is
      >>misleading the whole world and will give false hope to the very peoples
      >>it is to be helping, the Indigenous peoples of the world.
      >> As an example, Preambular Paragraph 19, on page 20 of the 80 page
      >> document, which announces the declaration was originally stated in the
      >> Sub commission text as:
      >> "Solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on the
      >> Rights of Indigenous Peoples:"
      >>This is the correct way to proclaim a declaration.
      >>However, even though there were debates about this particular paragraph,
      >>Chairman Luis Chavez changed the wording in his text to:
      >> "Solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on the
      >> Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a standard of achievement to be pursued
      >> in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect, ". The very words, "to
      >> be pursued" affirms that this is not a Declaration, but something that
      >> is still to be sought. To state that the United Nations has passed a
      >> Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is misleading. No
      >> Declaration has been passed, but only an idea "to be pursued".
      >> Unfortunately, there is nothing that states how a real Declaration is to
      >> be achieved at the United Nations.
      >>History of the Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council and the Declaration
      >>The spokesman for the Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council, the late Antoine
      >>Black Feather, Pine Ridge Reservation, and the late Garfield Grassrope,
      >>Lower Brule Reservation, a TSNTC Representative, worked diligently for
      >>the passage of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Their
      >>efforts began in 1984 when they attended the first meetings with hundreds
      >>of other Indigenous representatives in Geneva, Switzerland, to develop a
      >>Draft which was eventually approved in 1994 by two United Nations
      >>committees: the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and the Sub
      >>commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
      >>Minorities, which is now the Sub commission on the Promotion and
      >>Protection of Human Rights.
      >>For the past eleven years, the Sub commission text, as the Draft of the
      >>Declaration was called, was debated at the United Nations in Geneva.
      >>For the past few years, the current spokesperson Charmaine White Face,
      >>with representatives Garvard Good Plume Jr., and Clifford White Eyes,
      >>have continued the work. Ms. White Face can be reached at (605) 399-1868.
      >>For more information contact Emmanuel Civelli at ++41.22.779.For more
      Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


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