Expatria · Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

Sixth report on the 10th Working Group on the Draft Declaration, September 20, 2004


As things had left off on Friday, the WG was discussing a proposal that had been put forward by the African Indigenous Caucus, Arctic Caucus, Asian Caucus, Latin American Caucus, Pacific Caucus, American Indian Law Alliance, Assembly of First Nations, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Grand Council of the Crees, Innu Council of Nitassinan, Native Women’s Association of Canada, and RAIPON. As I said in the 5th Report, this proposal would be read in conjunction with the AILA/Guatemala proposal from last year for PP15, and the proposal creates a new PP to follow PP15, and would thus allow A3 on self-determination to remain as it is in the sub-Commission text.

This is being called the Indigenous Proposal and it reads as follows:

Encouraging harmonious and cooperative relations between states and indigenous peoples based on principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, non-discrimination and good faith.

Today’s meeting opened with an intensive discussion about this ‘ground-breaking’ proposal given by Dalee Sambo of ICC who had initially presented the proposal. Basically, (and bear with me as I am not a lawyer), this proposal accommodates the concerns of many indigenous peoples and governments over a variety of issues, especially territorial integrity and political unity. Furthermore, it allows A3 on self-determination to remain as it is in the original text. There is a far more complicated explanation of this, which I can relay if people are interested or need the information, just let me know. The abovementioned indigenous organizations and caucuses took the floor to endorse the proposal as well as Guatemala, Canada and Ecuador. Many indigenous organizations noted that of course, they prefer the original sub-Commission text, but in the spirit of compromise and in an effort to move consensus forward, they were happy to support the Indigenous Proposal.

ILRC was not in a position to support the Indigenous Proposal and they made their own proposal of language to be added to the text. They stated that this proposal, as a package, was problematic and limited the definition of self-determination of indigenous peoples. ILRC took the position that the legal background that was used to explicate the Indigenous Proposal was outmoded and inappropriate. This also was a very theoretical legal discussion and for those who want more details I will try to get a copy of the statement that was given. Also, the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, Navajo Nation, World Peace Council and the Tetuan Oyate preferred the original text. Australia, Russia and the United States were okay with adding the new PP, but stated that A3 was not acceptable as it stands in the sub-Commission text. The USA supported the proposal made by ILRC.

The discussion shifted back to the Nordic Proposal (CRP1) and France noted their concern that self-determination is something that applies to all people, not just indigenous peoples. There was a very long list of speakers at this point and Mr. Chavez asked the WG whether anyone in the list of speakers were in favour of the CRP1 proposal regarding A3, which adds two very lengthy paragraphs and includes issues of territorial integrity and political unity among others. Brasil would like to see the two added paragraphs of the CRP1 to be made into a separate article. USA spoke in support of ‘internal self-determination’ and said that they had no problem with the article if ‘self-determination’ could be called something else. Guatemala does not support CRP1. Willie Littlechild noted that although the text that has been added to the CRP1 is from the Vienna Declaration, he demonstrated that one of the main concerns of self-determination has to do with control over natural resources and although these concerns are outlined in the Vienna Declaration, they are absent from the text present in CRP1.

A lengthy discussion ensued once the views had been expressed about setting up informal consultations during the week in order to build consensus and Mr. Chavez distributed a work plan that will include further discussions on self-determination as well as the issues of land and territories.

IITC tried once again to get the Chair to adopt PP2, 3, 7, 9 and A8 but Mr. Chavez said that he didn’t feel the WG was ready to do this yet.

As there were informal consultations led by Guatemala and Mexico on a group of articles, the meeting did not resume until 5:10 PM (even though the Chair asked everyone to be ready to return to the self-determination discussion at 4:30 PM sharp). In the last 50 minutes, general statements were made from several organizations regarding self-determination.

AILA made a notable statement in response to the ILRC proposal and statement from the morning. AILA went through all of the various charters, declarations and covenants that detailed the right of self-determination to all peoples in the world. Among the noted documents were the UN Charter, the 1960 Charter of Independence, General Assembly resolution 1541 that grants the right of self-determination to all peoples, two 1966 Human Rights covenants, the 1970 covenant on Friendly Relations Among States as well as the Vienna Declaration. They further noted that the Vienna Declaration only includes 3 of the clauses on self-determination of the 11 that exist in the 1970 covenant. Please forgive me if I have butchered the titles of any of these documents! Like I said, I’m not a lawyer! AILA also noted the huge conciliations that were being made in the Indigenous Proposal and that it would be a breakthrough in the work of the WG if it was accepted. Furthermore, they addressed the issues of some indigenous organizations and peoples that this proposal weakens self-determination for indigenous by quoting an Italian jurist who stated that self-determination is controlled by no one. International law provides for self-determination.

The Saami Council stated that even though they are signatories of the Indigenous Proposal, they can accept the CRP1 proposal also as self-determination is already provided for in international law. Russia made a new amendment for A3. Japan noted their support of CRP1 text as it would allow them to adopt many other articles in the Declaration. IITC also addressed the issues brought up by ILRC as well as the USA delegation on the issue of ‘internal self-determination’ which is an issue that is not provided for in international law.

Until tomorrow,



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