Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

Third report on the 9th working group of the draft declaration, september 17, 2003

hello friends,

i hope everyone is well and happy as can be. i am afraid that this report will be as brief as i can make it as my brain is this close ( ) to simply shutting down. i will cover everything of importance and summarize the rest. as i have said, if you don’t want to continue getting these reports just let me know. and of course forward them at will! you have my informed consent to do so 🙂

i apologize, but i wasn’t able to attend the morning session as i had a doctor’s appointment (don’t worry, i’m fine! well, exept for my overloaded brain) but i heard from a friend who is also reporting on the meetings that no consensus was reached and the same Obstructor Governments were back again hard at work blocking every article up for discussion. to refresh these Obstructors they include the usa, canada, uk, france, etc.

the following articles were up for discussion and the proposed amendments are in brackets.

article 16: (this is the one the usa, uk and france think should not be considered rights, the whole Human Rights and Other Rights spin doctoring.)

“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. ”

article 17:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages. They also have the right to equal access [on the same basis instead of equal access] to all forms of non-indigenous media.

States shall [or should] take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. ”

article 18:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to [instead of have the right to, change to shall] enjoy fully all rights established under [applicable] international labour law and national labour legislation [replace legislation with law]. [States shall take immediate and effective measures to ensure that indigenous children are protected from the worst forms of child labour.]

Indigenous individuals have the right not to be subjected to any discriminatory conditions of labour, employment or salary.”

as seems to be quite usual in the working group, most indigenous organizations and nations are against any changes to the original texts of the draft declaration, but many governments want this text added. i don’t want to generalize as there are some cases when indigenous groups feel the amendments enrich the text, but it seems to be not so common. i know this is a very sparse explanation of this morning’s discussion but apparently it was quite repetitive and much of yesterday’s debate on a fair and truthful education continued. i can get more details on this if people so wish, i feel bad that i wasn’t there for the whole day.

after lunch, article 18 was closed with no consensus reached and article 44 was opened up. article 44 states:

“Nothing in this Declaration may be construed as diminishing or extinguishing existing or future rights indigenous peoples [and individuals] may have or acquire. ”

‘existing or future’ rights has been replaced with ‘rights indigenous people have now or may acquire in the future’ which is the wording in the spanish translation of the declaration. basically, the usa wanted to add the dreaded ‘and individuals’ after ‘indigenous peoples’ and they found this proposal problematic as they did not understand what ‘future rights’ would entail as well as ‘existing.’ again, the usa has a problem with affording rights to peoples and will not find this article (or any other article) acceptable without this concession. the intl indian treaty council pointed out that article 43 specifically deals with the rights of individuals and is clearly stated, and reminded the usa that this is one of the two articles that has already been adopted. so there was yet another discussion about collective versus individual rights and cultural differences between those supporting the usa and indigenous peoples. how this was explained to me is that the addition of ‘individuals’ in many of these articles pretty much nulls and voids the rights of indigenous peoples. for example, land rights. if an individual owns a piece of land but originally it was indigenous territory, then an addition like ‘and individuals’ could be interpreted to protect the individual living on stolen land. any lawyers in this list will know much better than me the ramifications of this amendment.

discussion moved to article 10 which is:

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return. ”

ha, you can imagine how this began to go i’m sure. australia made a proposal which reads as follows:

“No arbitrary removal or relocation of indigenous peoples shall take place. Forced removal or relocation shall only take place in accordance with the principles of due process and just compensation, and, where possible, with the option of return.”

if i didn’t have the mother of all migraines coming on i would have a whole lot of outrage. the intl indian treaty council stated that the committee on the elimination of discrimination (CERD) has criticized australia’s own land removal projects, and further noted that INFORMED CONSENT is a requirement of international law. canada wholeheartedly granted support to australia. the saami council was against the proposal and noted how it opened the door to the removal of indigenous peoples from their lands against their will. guatemala and mexico agreed with the saami council and intl indian treaty council. capaj mentioned the spiritual connection that indigenous peoples have with their land and stated that no removal of indigenous groups should ever be acceptable. australia had stated that the desire for this amendment sourced from worry of a medical emergency in which people would have to be moved quickly. a gentleman from an american indian law group noted that this issue of medical emergencies is included in article 4 on the covenant for civil and political rights, and suggested that language be taken from that article if this is the true intention of australia. [australia did not respond, surprised much?]. both devashien roy of the chakma people, the mesquito (sp?) people of nicaragua, the inuit circumpolar conference, the mapuche people, and leilani trask of the permanent forum noted the discrepancies that arise from the term ‘due process’ which is in fact not a globally recognized concept. ms. trask noted that the term ‘informed consent,’ on the other hand, is globally recognized in various documents on international standards and international law. new zealand and brasil both supported the article as it stood. the assembly of first nations of canada asked for the text to be adopted as is, and if so desired then australia could propose a new article on this issue of emergencies. the chair stated that the only positive thing to come from the discussion was how to deal with relocation in the event of a medical emergency, and furthermore, no one but canada supported this proposal. the usa immediately took the floor in support of australia and further noted that text from the geneva convention should also be added in regards to emergencies. finland noted their support of the content and spirit of the article as it stands. the discussion on article 10 was closed and article 13 was tabled.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have [reasonable] access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of [their] ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of human remains.

States shall take effective measures, in conjunction with the indigenous peoples concerned, to ensure that indigenous sacred places, including burial sites, be preserved, respected and protected.”

for many minutes the chair kept asking if anyone wanted to begin discussion and not a single government said a word. the intl indian treaty council reminded the chair that he had said if there were no comments to be made on an article then it could be adopted. he said that was not really what he said (though it was) and then the new zealand delegate took the floor with the two above amendments. new zealand’s concern was that some sacred lands are privately owned (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and thus the addition of ‘reasonable access’ could better take this into account. the inuit circumpolar conference stated the desire ofindigenouss people for the repatriation of sacred lands that have become privately owned. the intl indian treaty council noted that in CERD recommendation 23, paragraph 5 it recommends taking steps to return sacred lands and also said that international law is in support of repatriation of stolen sacred sites and land. finland fully supported the proposal of the inuit and the treaty council. capaj said that ‘reasonable’ was just not good enough access. norway was okay with the amendments. indigenous world association also stated that ‘reasonable access’ is not appropriate as the ‘occupiers and encroachers’ of the land must repatriate it, their occupation of the lands was wholly inappropriate. new zealand pointed out that the article is about access, not land or resources which are covered in other articles. the new zealand delegation is concerned about access and how it relates to privacy, they further noted that repatriation was totally impossible as the property is now privately owned (very similar to this issue of collective and individual rights, no?). the new zealand government was the last to speak and the chair noted that tomorrow we begin discussion on the issue of self-determination.

okay, my head is about to explode and i kind of need it for tomorrow so i will go now. sorry this report is more dry and less descriptive as the others, but i am sure i will be back in full form tomorrow. as i like to end these on a positive note and there was not so much positive from the meeting today, i will say that today was a very good day for the ngo i am trying to start, funding for indigenous leaders and activists (FILA). i received buckets and buckets of support from many wonderful and amazing people, as well as the full support of two similar organizations here in switzerland! one of the two organizations is doCip and we are officially collaborators now! yay! and i am only about halfway done on my list of people to talk to so there will be more fun with that tomorrow. i easily have the support of more than 35 indigenous organizations and/or nations! woo hoo! don’t lose hope, there will be funding for all of you amazing indigenous leaders! hope everyone is doing well. my prayers are with all of you.

this is head-aching wincincala saying chau chau until tomorrow.

toksa ake.



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