Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse

14th Report on the 10th Working Group on the Draft Declaration, December 1, 2004


This will be a far shorter update than yesterday’s (for which I am sure many of you will be thankful!) as most of the day was spent in informal/informal consultations and much of what was discussed yesterday was again rehashed today.

The hunger strike and spiritual fast continued on its third day, and there is a board outside the conference room where letters of support continue to flow into the UN. At this point there are several hundred and more coming in all the time. Again, to write in your support of this action please write to or send a fax to 00-41-22-917-0079. It has been a remarkable thing to watch and each of the hunger strikers has been emitting this very strong and white light, a brilliant glow, since I saw them this morning. They just all keep smiling and radiating peace even though they are so hungry and feeling very weak. Amazing!

In terms of the substantive discussions, one hour was spent in the morning to discuss Article 29 regarding intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples as well as the concept of traditional knowledge. The CRP1 Proposal basically deletes the existing Sub-Commission text and replaces it with watered down and generic language that does nothing to protect intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples. The New Zealand government claimed that intellectual property issues are being addressed in ‘other fora’ and that it was not productive for the WGDD to pre-empt these ongoing negotiations by outlining this right. IITC took the floor to focus on the statement made by New Zealand, and stated that although it went unsaid in the government comments, what they appeared to be alluding to is that the WTO will be dealing with these issues. IITC noted how inappropriate it would be for a body such as the WTO to be outlining rights on these issues with their policy of supporting western corporations in copyright regimes much to the detriment of indigenous traditional knowledge and intellectual property issues. The Saami Council further noted that the WTO and WIPO will not be addressing these issues crucial to indigenous peoples from a human rights standpoint and this of course problematizes the issue. The Saami Council further noted that they can not agree with the Sub-Commission text as from a legal standpoint there is no definition of ‘cultural and intellectual property’ in regards to indigenous peoples. They pointed out that the CRP5 text presented by their Council as well as Tebtebba clarified this point and this was the text they supported. The Asian Caucus noted their support of CRP5 but stated as well that aspects of CRP4 could also be acceptable to them. Other groups that supported CRP5 were Mililani Trask and ICC on the basis that the terms ‘intellectual property’ had more to do with western copyright regimes (WIPO and WTO) and the term ‘traditional knowledge’ was more appropriate in terms of protection of indigenous peoples rights regarding this issue. Tebtebba further clarified that the term ‘intellectual property protection’ is problematic in the context of WIPO and WTO (after numerous consultations with both international organizations) because these issues are based on western copyright systems that do not have anything to do with human rights or the protection of indigenous peoples, rather this term protects corporations, et al who would be using indigenous peoples traditional knowledge and marketing it. Tebtebba would like to see the CHR and PF define what is ‘cultural heritage’ as indigenous peoples’ systems challenge the western intellectual property regimes.

Guatemala and SUANPA made new proposals for this article, but SUANPA also supported CRP5 text.

Willie Littlechild made a proposal to add indigenous sports and games specifically to the list of intellectual property issues listed within Article 29.

IWA, FAIRA, Brasil, Treaty 6 Confederation, and AIR Trust all supported the text as it stand in the Sub-Commission version.

The rest of the day was spent in informal/informal discussions regarding the issues of self-determination, lands and territories and treaties. The lands and territories discussions basically mirrored the discussions from yesterday but more proposals emerged as well as a proposal from ILRC that was supported by the USA. They continued debating the issue of redress/restitution/reparation among other language that many States find problematic. The self-determination discussions were closed to the public and were only for those who had put forward proposals in order to consolidate the many proposals into one or two main ones to be presented to Mr. Chavez. The discussion on Article 36 regarding treaties also was debating very particular language as well as a new proposal from indigenous peoples that is borrowed from language of the OAS.

This is all I have to say for today and I will be back tomorrow with further updates.

In the spirit of Tony Black Feather,



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