Wolves backed into the corner: Voting on Item 15, Indigenous Issues (Or the Twenty-fifth Report on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights, April 20, 2005)

*This report is to date incomplete. Please come back in a couple days for the complete version. Thanks!

April 20, 2005 the Commission on Human Rights voted on Item 15, Indigenous Issues, much to the embarrassment of the Americans and Australians citizens in the room. All of the resolutions concerning indigenous issues were passed, even the contentious ones, and the overwhelming arrogance of the USA and Australia were made crystal clear to the entire world in their single-minded opposition to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Resolution E/CN.4/2005/L.56 on Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was adopted by a roll-call vote of 39 in favour, 13 against, and one abstention. This is traditionally Cuba’s resolution (you will recall that Professor Miguel Alfonso Martinez who did the treaty study is one of Cuba’s delegates) and has become more and more controversial each year, especially considering that the USA would like to get rid of the WGIP in general. When Cuba presented the resolution they pointed out that it is the same resolution as last year except for a new paragraph dealing with the Second Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The USA haughtily informed the Commission that in their view the WGIP had outlived its influence and ‘it’s day is done.’ The USA would like to see the Permanent Forum subsume the work of the WGIP, and the five days be translated into more time for elaborating the Draft Declaration. The USA called a vote which went like:

In favour (39): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo et Zimbabwe.

Against (13): Australia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom et United States.

Abstention (1): Finland.

The USA did not mention the fact that a large number of indigenous delegates are not able to attend the Permanent Forum because of visa difficulties as well as their fascist definition of what is a terrorist through the wholly illegal Homeland Security and Patriot Acts.

Canada’s resolution on the future of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration, E/CN.4/2005/L.62 entitled Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights to elaborate a draft declaration in accordance with paragraph five of the General Assembly resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, was the next to be tabled for discussion. Canada made a very general statement in presenting their text, in which they noted that governments and indigenous peoples concerns were taken into account in the text drafting, as well as mentioning the good progress the WGDD was making. There were a large number of co-sponsors for this resolution. The USA proceeded to table an amendment to the text which would force the WGDD to complete its work before the 62nd Commission on Human Rights this year. They wanted the Commission to know how committed they are to the WGDD and the importance they place on a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, but that the WGDD could not continue indefinitely and had to be adopted by the end of this year. Canada took the floor once again in support of the original text of the Resolution to state that the Co-sponsors were very much against this amendment as it would not allow the WGDD to successfully complete its work. Guatemala made an excellent statement in which they reiterated much of what Canada said, but surprisingly encouraged the Chairperson of the WGDD to include within the sessions new and dynamic methods of work in order to clarify procedural matters for all the participants. This comment was made by a multitude of indigenous delegates as there has been confusion about the definition of consensus and provisional adoption among other technical issues arising in the Declaration elaborations. Mexico re-stated the comments made by Canada and Guatemala, also noting that the Chairperson of the WGDD needs to adopt new and dynamic methods of work, as well as the fact that we are in the crucial moments of the future of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Mexico stated that nothing can prevent the adoption of the Declaration, and furthermore if the 10 years of the 1st Decade on Indigenous Peoples did not see the adoption, then how could anyone think that in 20 days of meetings the negotiations would be finished. Mexico opposes any time limit on this process because even though it has been slow, there has been progress and it is evident that the WGDD needs more time. Both Mexico and Finland encouraged the Commission to vote against the amendment of the USA.

The USA called a vote on the amendment which was embarrassingly rejected as follows:

In favour (2): Australia and United States.

Against (49): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Abstentions (2): Romania and Togo

After the vote the USA again noted how committed they are to the completion of the Declaration, but they are against an open-ended mandate of the Working Group. They said that even though their amendment was rejected, they will assume that the work will be finished by the 62nd Commission and will treat the WGDD as such. This meaning that even though they didn’t get their way, they will treat the WGDD as if their amendment passed and next year if the process isn’t done the spoiled brats will make it difficult for further sessions of the WGDD. They also said that they would call a vote on the original resolution, and they would abstain from the vote. Australia snakily stated that they will give consensus this year for the WGDD, but like the USA (anyone surprised?) they will consider these the last sessions of the WGDD and they will not support the WGDD if it is not completed its work by 2006.

The vote was 51 in favour, none against and one abstention from the USA. How embarrassing, I was quite ashamed of my passport and I apologize for my country. Sincerely, I am very sorry.

The Guatemala/Mexico Resolution on Human Rights and Indigenous Issues, which deals with the work of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues was adopted by consensus. This resolution discusses the mandate of the SR as well as the topic of his next report which will deal with indigenous peoples and legislation. There is also a mention of the SR to work closer with the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide in order to assess and protect indigenous peoples within this issue.

The Sub-Commission draft resolution on the protection of indigenous peoples in times of conflict was also adopted by a recorded vote of 35 in favour, 13 against, and 4 abstentions. The UK regretted that they had to call a vote on this draft resolution because they continue having trouble with the word ‘peoples’ within texts referring to indigenous people. Although it appeared the speaker herself was confused because she used the word ‘peoples’ several times in discussing indigenous people. The UK said that all of this resolution is included already in the adopted resolution on human rights and indigenous peoples, and that it is not the mandate of the Secretary General to be dealing with conflict issues, this is for the Security Council. I would think that the second mention of indigenous peoples and genocide is also problematic for all those who voted against the text, even though she did not explicitly state this. The voting was as follows:

In favour (35): Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Against (13): Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (4): Congo, India, Japan and Republic of Korea.

The Sub-Commission resolution regarding Madame Erica Irene Daes’ report on indigenous people’s permanent sovereignty over natural resources was tabled by the Commission. Australia called a recorded vote. Pakistan regretted that a vote had been called on this very important resolution, and lauded the excellent work of Madame Daes. Pakistan said it was imperative that an expert seminar be convened on this topic to examine the issues that arise with indigenous peoples and lands. Cuba was also surprised that a vote had been called and of course they would vote yes in favour of the resolution. Cuba also noted that it was quite odd for a vote to be called without an explanation as to why. The vote went like:

In favour (38): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (12): Armenia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

I don’t know if you noticed but the last two votes did not include Togo, who had been in the beginning one of the not-so-subtle lackeys of the USA/Australia team. I had originally thought they had an attack of conscience and left the room so they would not have to vote, but when I looked I saw that they were in fact sitting there but were deciding not to vote. Very interesting, and the UN Briefing does not count them as being absent from the vote in their summary of the day’s session…These things make me believe that really there are Spirits sitting behind each of these delegates and sometimes they are able to get through and help someone stop doing the wrong thing, which does take them closer to the right thing even if it may not be so obvious.

The final resolution that had to do with indigenous peoples and disappearing states, also a Sub-Commission resolution, was adopted by a vote as well. This resolution entitled the legal implications of the disappearance of States and other territories for environmental reasons, has to do with Ms. Haimpson’s report on disappearing States and she will be submitting an expanded working paper to the 57th Sub-Commission. The vote was 51 in favour and 2 against, would anyone like to venture a guess as to whom where the rogue States? USA and Australia, and they had nothing to say for themselves. How embarrassing.

But at least the various working groups regarding the Draft Declaration and indigenous populations are still being supported by a majority of the Commission, and it would appear there are some fantastic advances for the Declaration, a striking one being Canada’s admission that they are in fact willing to support the text as it is. Although this was never stated on the floor, I heard this through my extensive grapevine and was very thankful to find it out. Also, Madame Daes report will be published as an official UN document and for those who have not read it, it is truly fantastic and I feel will be of great assistance to indigenous people’s of the world.

Until next time and in honour of Tony Black Feather,

Sezin

Thoughts?

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