Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

Fourth report on the 10th Working Group on the Draft Declaration, September 16, 2004


I would just firstly like to thank everyone who has demonstrated their appreciation of these reports in one form or another and would like to extend my own appreciation of their appreciation! As you may or not may not know, I do these reports on a voluntary basis and in honor of Grampa Tony Black Feather, for whom I wrote them last year, and I am glad that people are finding them helpful. I know he would want all of us to continue this work in whatever form that we can no matter how hard it may get for us with our roles in this struggle and the strong opposition from so many sides.

Today discussions preceded much in the same manner as they did yesterday, with people seriously polarizing on the Nordic Proposal (CRP1) both on the governmental and indigenous sides of the discussions. Based on my previous reports, I will say that most organizations and governments carry the same positions that they have expressed thus far and thus I will begin using my own discretion to note positions that are distinct from what has been made up to this juncture. I hope that people will not think I am assuming a similar role as the Chairman in generalizing the points of views, but for brevity and clarity’s sake, I feel that you will still be able to follow the threads of discussions.

PP19: Solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

*Yes, you would think it would be quite simple to adopt this one, but the CRP1 text adds quite a wordy ending to this introduction of the operative articles. The additional text was inspired by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) but comments of indigenous delegates demonstrated that the CRP1 language was lacking.

*It was noted that the wording is disingenuous and actually contradicts the UDHR. Many noted that if the drafters of the proposal are interested in improving the original sub-Commission text then they should use actual text from the UDHR and several proposals were made to this effect from FAIRA, ICC, AILA, the African Caucus among others. Most every organization, though flexible, noted that the original text was the preferable language.

A22: Indigenous peoples have the right to special measures for the immediate, effective and continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions, including in the areas of employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and disabled persons.

*There was a dramatic debate about procedure during the discussion of this article as Mr. Chavez was only allowing about 30 minutes for discussion, along with the same limitation of time for a series of articles that have, until now, never been discussed in the WGDD. Furthermore, the basis of discussion as determined by Mr. Chavez is CRP1, instead of the sub-Commission text. Government delegations including indigenous organizations and delegations found this very problematic and against procedure. The Chair noted in response that he was attempting to do several things at once, the first being discussing all the articles that have never made it to discussions for the report to the CHR next year, the second being an attempt to continue consensus-building by using the CRP1 as States have expressed already that the sub-Commission text is unacceptable as is, and third that there is simply no time to be giving an open reign on discussions as this is the last session of the WGDD.

*There were several proposals that were made regarding this article and following articles and so the Chair created working groups of proposal-makers to get together and come up with one text which would be presented before next Wednesday. These groups will begin meetings tomorrow and will present texts as they have them.

*The substantial discussion on the text centred on the right to special measures, to which the CRP1 drafters said there is no such right that would be provided for in international law, and a few other changes in the CRP1 were purely grammatical. The grammatical changes could be accepted by a majority of people, but the issue of special measures became problematic for indigenous peoples and some States, who would prefer the text to remain as it is originally drafted.

A32: Indigenous peoples have the collective right to determine their own citizenship in accordance with their customs and traditions. Indigenous citizenship does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.

*This discussion focused on the issue of identity versus citizenship as the CRP1 text substitutes identity for citizenship. Many indigenous delegates noted that citizenship within an indigenous group is a separate issue, and if States are concerned about this, they noted that people are able to have several citizenships in the world. There were again several proposals for alternate text, one of which was substituting the word ‘membership’ and many found this agreeable. A new proposal will be gleaned from the group of proposals and I will present it when I have more news on that. From here on out, you can assume that everyone favourable prefers the sub-Commission text as it is, without changes. The Saami Council noted that they found either the sub-Commission text or CRP1 acceptable with this article.

*The UK again opposed the term ‘peoples’ and would prefer ‘people’ or ‘individuals.’

A34: Indigenous peoples have the collective right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities.

*Again, you would think this is simple enough but the CRP1 adds a whole lengthy verbiage about collective rights, individual rights and third party rights and outlines the relationships between them. This is due to the concern of some states that collective rights will be used to trample on individual rights as well as legitimate third party rights.

*Interestingly, Ecuador asked the drafters of CRP1 to please withdraw the text from discussion as the original text is clear as it stands. Mr. Chavez would not allow them to withdraw it (not that they agreed anyway, but he didn’t give them a chance to respond) as he noted it reflected concerns of many states about third party rights that needed to be addressed within the DD. Most everyone was okay with the first paragraph amendment which adds only a clarifying few words. But the additional paragraph with text regarding third party rights will be discussed at a later time.

*Mr. Chavez also noted that it was completely impossible to achieve consensus on the original text and that delegates stuck on that must simply accept that changes will have to be made.

A35: Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with other peoples across borders.

States shall take effective measures to ensure the exercise and implementation of this right.

*The amendments made to the original text were actually brought up in consultations with the CRP1 drafters because of concerns they had for groups that crossed several (false) borders. The changes in the first paragraph of this article were acceptable by most people, but within the second paragraph the change of ‘ensure’ to ‘promote’ was problematic for indigenous peoples and a few governments alike. New language proposals were made for this sentence and I will let you know about them once the unified proposals have been made.

A37: States shall take effective and appropriate measures, in consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to give full effect to the provisions of this Declaration. The rights recognized herein shall be adopted and included in national legislation in such a manner that indigenous peoples can avail themselves of such rights in practice.

*CRP1 proposes to cut the last sentence as a Declaration does not have the power to require States to adjust legislation to meet them, as do conventions. There were, again, several proposals made for new language, and there seemed to be split between those who wanted the original text and those who were flexible on the issue. Another working group was established to unite all of the various proposals.

As I previously pointed out, the unified proposals that go along with each article will have to be presented to the Secretariat before next Wednesday for official translation and distribution. Also, on account of being quite behind in the schedule that had been planned for the week, as well as what he said was a stupendous energy of collaboration between government delegations and indigenous peoples, he would rather forego the informal consultations and continue with the discussions of previously undiscussed articles tomorrow. The discussion on self-determination will also begin tomorrow in the afternoon.

This weekend is also the IndiGeneve event that has been organized by several indigenous and local Swiss organizations will take place all weekend. The opening ceremonies are tomorrow, Friday at 7PM and the event will continue until Sunday night. There will be panels, discussions, presentations, performances, music, art exhibitions, children’s activities and oh so much more, so for those who can be there it will be wonderful.

I hope this finds you all doing well, and I will not be writing the next report until Monday on account of the event this weekend.

Have a wonderful few days!


P.S. There is still no word back on the status of Mr. Pary in the conferences, although both indigenous and governmental delegates enquired several times today on whether a decision had been received from New York.


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