Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

the last report on the 9th working group of the draft declaration, september 26, 2003

hello my relations,

i trust that you are all having a good weekend and for those of you returning home, i hope that all is well and you arrived safe and sound. i figured no one would be able to read this until monday (sorry manu!) so i took some time over the weekend to recover from the madness. sorry to keep the rest of you hanging like that over the weekend, wondering about what happened on friday. who would have thought a un meeting could turn into a cliffhanger?

ruefully, i don’t have good news to report about the meetings. like i said last week, the meetings on friday were not to begin until 3 pm as the chair was still ‘consulting’ with governments in order to forge some consensus on the various articles of the draft declaration. i spent the former part of the day in the caucus meetings listening to the upset and outrage of the indigenous caucus members as they tried to figure out what to do. the nordic countries came and attended the meeting for a little while to explain their position in trying to push forward their proposal, although it didn’t seem to me that much was said. it also appeared that there were many proposals being made behind closed doors for amendments for the text by certain governments (he who must not be named) that had not even been shown to indigenous delegates. pretty scary stuff, and man, did everyone just look haggard by this point. poor things. by the end of the caucus meeting, around 130 pm, a note was delivered from the chairperson which basically stated that he was not going to recommend any provisional adoption of any articles at all for he felt that significant progress was made during the two weeks and thus the discussions could pick up again next year. wow. i don’t know what planet he is on but certainly not the earth that we all know.

after lunch the chair met with the indigenous caucus for an hour and looked very shamed. many delegates expressed their unhappiness and outrage at his chairmanship, but again he managed to speak and speak and speak and said nothing! it is amazing, this talent that politicians have to be talking and not saying a single word of substance. questions were posed which were spoken around and again he noted that he would not be recommending any provisional adoption.

just past 4 pm we all returned to the hellmouth of room 16 to hear the closing statements. norway again presented their proposal and asked that governments give their consensus so that at least articles 14, 16, 18, 33, 44, 45 (the so-called ‘easy’ articles) could be adopted. countries in support of the nordic proposal were the european union, new zealand, russia, switzerland, canada, and the usa. countries against the proposal were guatemala, mexico, egypt, and peru. countries that would not take a position were bolivia, venezuela, brasil, ecuador, china, and chile. there were about three indigenous organizations that were in support of the proposal in an effort to simply make some process in the deliberations. most indigenous delegates were strongly against any changes, and a couple said that they could take no position at that time.

the chair then stated that he would have liked to have seen the adoption of some articles (the new name of the chairperson: luis lies too much.) but he didn’t feel disappointed because there had been much progress in the discussions this year. he then went through his reports on the working group and everyone present adopted all of those. before closing the meeting, the usa government took the floor and made the following statement:

the usa noted that the draft declaration was not a mere political exercise for them. it is real and has strong practical implications for the u.s. government. they are deeply committed to the rights of indigenous peoples as well as the draft declaration. the usa does understand the importance of the declaration and this is one of the reasons why it has been so hard to make an all-encompassing worldwide declaration on these rights. the usa stated that there must be a draft declaration before the end of the first decade on the world’s indigenous peoples, and if there is no adoption then the usa will no longer support a process that will not succeed. furthermore, the usa will not support the declaration in its current form as drafted by the sub-commission on human rights. they pointed out that many of the rights detailed therein the current text are illusory rights and it would be a ‘pyrric victory’ if the declaration went through as it is. they called upon indigenous peoples to consider changes to the declaration as it is the future generations who are ‘counting on us to get it right.’ the usa does not want an unimplementable document. the usa also noted that the history of the u.s. is full of policies to help native americans, even though some of these policies may be seen as assimilationist and destructive to tribes. they asked that all governments and indigenous peoples look forward and make changes to their positions so that the document will succeed by next year.

what is there to say to that?

i was going to do a summary of the major events of the working group, but it would not really be enough for a separate report. after two weeks of intense and insane discussions, absolutely nothing was decided. it turns out that even governments like guatemala and mexico who have adopted a ‘no change’ position like many indigenous delegates, have not adopted this position because they believe that the declaration should remain as it is. in fact, guatemala and mexico (among others) have adopted the ‘no-change’ stance because they know that it will block the declaration from ever achieving consensus. i remember myself thinking it was ironic how guatemala was seeming to be a champion of rights for indigenous peoples when i myself had met a mayan woman who had been forcibly sterilized by their government policies. little did i know that the supposed voice of reason from these two violent and abusive governments were in fact on the same side as the usa, canada, uk, australia and new zealand, but deceptively so. what a thing to learn! i am beginning to see the truth in the x files statement, “TRUST NO ONE.” it seems like you just can’t know what is going on behind the scenes, what decisions are being made, what words spoken to make people switch sides.

needless to say, many people were just devastated by the end of the meeting. it was so disappointing that nothing came out of the working group except a reinforced feeling of outright racism and discrimination as well as hopelessness that nothing would change for many communities who are at risk of extinction, among oh so many other things. for me, and again i don’t know if this is from the beautiful ceremony that we had last week, i am still smiling. i will not lose hope that at some point the human rights of indigenous peoples will be recognized and i will continue to do everything in power to help the cause. part of how i can help, i know now, is by not losing hope, not letting the governments evildoing affect my ability to help make a difference. this is what they are doing, and i saw with many delegates, it is working. i heard several people say that they would not be back next year, the situation is hopeless, why should they bother participating in an exercise that has a token indigenous presence. that is what the governments want! they want us to give up, to let go, allow them to continue raping our Mother Earth and committing the mass-murder of our relations. for myself, i will not let them win, and i know you will not either.

i will be returning to unicef to volunteer maybe one or two days a week until i get my organization up and running, so i should be able to attend many of the upcoming meetings going on at the un. if anyone would like me to attend any in particular and report back on what is going on, i would be more than happy to do that. i believe that all meetings are listed on the un website or even on the high commissioner’s website, . i may even be doing a bit of work in the high commissioner’s office so that is nice to know as well, i just feel sorry i wasn’t able to work there when mr. de mello was alive. in any case, i am here and willing to do most anything to help where i can. just let me know, and don’t feel shy about asking.

i send everyone big bear hugs and prayers that you are all well and as happy as possible. take care of you, smile, and remember that there is so much in life to be thankful for. there is an overwhelming ammount of beauty and wonder, so much more than the violence and darkness that was my role this time to relay to you all. thank you all for giving me this space to vent, i hope it wasn’t too much.

this is wincincala saying adios until our next journey.

toksa ake.



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