Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

second report on the 9th working group of the draft declaration september 16, 2003

hello everyone!

i am back with the second report of the happenings today at the un and the current working group. this one will be a bit more brief than yesterdays as there was much repetition, but i will make sure to cover all salient points.

article one of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was still on the table for discussion and to refresh it states:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.”

sadly there did not appear to be any consensus on the amendments to this article which would add ‘and individuals’ after the first two words. it was evident that indigenous people and organizations were wholeheartedly against this addition, but governments seemed to not see the problems with it and were calling for its inclusion (although they claimed to care about the perspectives of indigenous peoples). the same discussion as yesterday continued about collective versus individual rights and how this relates to indigenous cultures.

the next article up for discussion was article 2 which reads:

“Indigenous individuals and peoples are free and equal to all other individuals and peoples in dignity and rights, and have the right to be free from any kind of adverse discrimination, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.”

there was one proposal regarding the language of this article which would delete the word “adverse” from the text. at first it seemed as though no governments had anything to say about this article (indicating some form of consensus) as they were silent for a long time. then, of course, the american government delegate stated that this article is intrinsically linked to article 3 regarding self-determination and cannot be adopted until that issue is resolved. therefore they find the article unacceptable without substantial changes. several governments expressed their content at the article as is, and also found it would suffice to remove the word ‘adverse.’ but the usa basically obstructed a provisional adoption on article two until article 3 had been discussed. basically, for those who don’t know, self-determination of indigenous people is an issue that the usa government is wholly against as it would mean they would have to grant rights to the native people whose land they stole and pillaged (and continue to). by saying that article 2 couldn’t be adopted until after discussing article 3 was essentially blocking the adoption of both articles. this was a very disheartening development and it hurts me to report it. these seem to be typical tactics of the usa to railroad the declaration by making obtuse remarks and interfering in whatever way they can with the process of adoption. on this note, the meeting was adjourned for lunch.

after lunch article 15 was brought up which reads:

“Indigenous [individuals, particularly] children have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State. All indigenous peoples also have this right and the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning [which meet agreed educational standards]. *note, words in brackets are proposed amendments from new zealand*

Indigenous [individuals, particularly] children living outside their communities have the right to be provided access to education in their own culture and language.

States shall take effective measures to provide appropriate resources for these purposes.”

norway only supported the addition of ‘individuals, particularly’ as they felt it broadened the scope of education for everyone, as many may not have access until later on in life. canada supported all amendments. bolivia did not see what the proposals would contribute to the enrichment of the article and support it as is. a few indigenouorganizationsns asked new zealand to clarify their objectives in proposing thiamendeded language. different interventions recalled the discussion on collective versus individual rights and maintained that the term ‘individual’ illustrates the cultural differences between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures. furthermore indigenous delegates noted that by using the term ‘individual’ the rights provided by this article would be diluted. the international indian treaty council kindly asked the governments to try and view these rights as indigenous people see them, vis a vis guatemala’s inspired statement yesterday. new zealand responded that the proposal is to strengthen and not limit rights of education for all indigenous peoples, and furtheamendeded their proposal to read ‘indigenous peoples, particularly children.guatemalala said that this article is to promote the rights specifically of children and the proposal has served the effect of polarizing the working group. one asian indigenous organization as well as a woman representing the lakota nation gave their support of the addition of ‘indigenous peoples, particularly children’ as they felt it served to enrich the article as a whole (much to the vocal dismay of many indigenous organizations and people).

the discussion of this aspect of the new zealand proposal was closed and discussion began on the second part of the proposal which added the words “which meet agreed educational standards.” this was a kicker of a discussion. indigenous organizations noted how problematic this addition was as it forces indigenous schools to obey standards set by the state, which may not include bilingualbi-culturalal and other forms of education that would be appropriate for the well rounded education of an indigenous child. one indigenous organization stated that if these so-called standards would be set in cooperation with indigenous communities then the proposeamendmentnt is not so problematic, but they further noted that the point of this article is to allow indigenous communities to create their own educational systems. the chair stated that this aspect of the proposal did not subsume the rights of indigenous communities to create educational systems to the will of the state, but rather the educational systems would have to comply with international law. new zealand added that thiamendmentnt is to ensure that schools will meet certain standards and quality in terms olicensingng said institutions (hmmmm, don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see where this is going….). china, thankfully, stated that in that regard, governments and states may establish control of thlicensingng procedures for educational institutions and thus could prevent the full creation of an indigenous form of education. they were against thiamendmentnt as they felt it would relinquish the control of the indigenous to create their own schools.

an indigenous organization asked new zealand to clarify what they mean by ‘standards,’ to which the new zealand delegate, once he began trying to clarify their proposal, that he was quite confused himself about what was meant by the term ‘standards.’ (yes, he actually said that.) the indigenous delegate underlined the fact that even the proposal-maker is confused and thus attests to the notion that the statement is highly problematic. they further noted that thamendmentnt only muddies the water of a clear statement on the rights of indigenous children to an indigenous-based education. norway noted that they did not understand why such a debate was going on about a simple article. guatemalala asked new zealand to withdraw this portion as untiinter-culturalal standards are set for education, there risks further marginalization and exclusion of indigenous peoples from this standard setting process. a delegate of the navajo nation stated that in the usa the standards of education involve assimilation and erasure of the navajo and other indian cultures, and thus existing standards in the usa would not be appropriate. there were many speakers reiterating points on either side of the argument, and thus the chair closed the debate on article 15 until next week, the extensive list of speakers would have an opportunity then to voice their opinions.

article 16 was then brought up for debate:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to have the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations appropriately reflected in all forms of education and public information.

States shall take effective measures, in consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all segments of society.”

things really began to heat up as the proposals for amendments to this article had not been distributed and there was confusion about where these documents were to be found. apparently they were contained in last year’s report of the working group and thus many delegates left the room to obtain copies. as governments did not appear to want to take the floor on this article, different indigenous orgs gave statements in support of this article and gave examples of how in their community educational systems, indigenous people had been brutalized by the rhetoric of the state which painted them to be monsters and evil, so on. these misconceptions that had been promoted by states was the main reason why access to an education free of lies and propaganda needed to be protected in an article such as this.

still no governments wanted to take the floor and again we all thought that the article would be provisionally adopted. then, oh boy, france took the floor and all hell broke loose. they had the nerve to state that this article details rights that are not human rights per se, and thus they are unable to accept the article in any way, shape or form as it stands. (um, then why didn’t they say anything sooner if they had SUCH a HUGE problem with this?!) the uk went back to interventions they had made yesterday which had detailed this new and oh so progressive idea of Human Rights and Other Rights. this article falls into the category of Other Rights as the rights flow from a different source of rights than human rights (whatever that means. from what i see the article is about cultural, social and civil rights, all coded as basic human rights in the united nations. okay addled-brain british woman, you are making SO much sense…), and thus the uk can not go ahead with this article without major reworking. for the uk, there is this same problem of Other Rights in many other articles of the draft declaration (so we all have THAT to look forward to as well). guatemala asked the uk to clarify what would determine human rights in the uk, but they did not respond.

ah, and then our favorite delegate ever from the usa took the floor and expressed their wholehearted support of the rights of indigenous peoplesacrosss the board. BUT ahah, you knew it was coming!) the statements in the article should not have to be rights granted to educational systems and thus they oppose this article. (so in essence, freedom from misinformation, propaganda, lies, watered down historical lies and the like have the right to remain in the educational system.) (can you imagine!!!! i just was flabbergasted, floored to tears almost). and of course the usa is in full support of france, canada and the uk.

an indigenous delegate from india gave a technical definition of human rights vis a vis the ilo and the un, and asked france if they agreed with said definition, in which case their comments became a moot point. france stated that the article does not detail issues that are rights, but rather are objectives. (so again, it is not a right to have an education free of lies, that is only a pretty fluffy cloud of an ideal.) australia agreed with the usa et al. brasil called for the adoption of the original text sans all amendments. finally (well, technically they weren’t the final speaker but i will take a liberty here as i would like to close this report with it), the intl indian treaty council made an eloquent statement noting how the usa had overreached with this discussion of fundamental human rights definitions. they pointed out that according to the special rapporteur on education, education must be accessible meaning, it must reflect truth and reality. if it does not reflect these things, when truth is eliminated from education, then it becomes inaccessible and thus a violation of basic human rights. curriculum must be appropriate, and in terms of the rampant misconceptions about indigenous cultures within educational systems, this article is very necessary in order to afford indigenous peoples with schooling that reflects the truths of their own cultures. the meeting was closed for the day.

i am really trying to stay positive about the process going on here but i am getting more and more worried about the next stunts these evildoer nations will pull. as this is my first year at the working group i am beginning to figure out how things work in the meetings and know that things will only get more tense. supposedly these articles that have been discussed are the ‘easy’ and non-controversial articles! aaah, what will happen when the ‘hard’ and controversial articles come up!? i still feel that there is quite a bit of support from many governments to adopt the declaration as it is, and there does seem to be a sense of the sneaky attacks that the usa and company are making on the adoption of the declaration. i still feel that there is a really good chance that many articles will be adopted in this working group and i am trying to not lose hope, although every time the usa speaks i feel this awful sinking sensation in my soul. i will resist! they will not bring me down with their sinking ship! my prayers are with everyone and i hope you will all say prayers also for a successful completion of this meeting. everyone take care and smile!

this is wincincala signing off until tomorrow.

toksa ake.



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