Dear delegates of the Indigenous peoples,
The International Indian Treaty Council, the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), the Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust, the Asociación Napguana, the Buffalo River Dene Nation Organization and the Indigenous Information Network from the forest ecosystems of central Africa (REPALEAC) invite you to mark the end of the Decade.
While the International Decade for Indigenous peoples ends this year, the Project of Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous peoples has still not been finalized although it was one of the main objectives of this decade. In September, decisive negotiations will take place on this project which could bring international legal recognition and minimal standards to Indigenous peoples’ rights. Unfortunately, several States are opposed to this declaration, which may therefore never be finalized. That is why a coordination of Indigenous representatives is calling up an event in Geneva, to draw attention to the vital importance of this negotiation. It also suggests that parallel events be organized all over the world in order to make known the Indigenous demands and put pressure on the States.
As early as 1985 the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples began to draft a project for a declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples. In 1995, the Working Group on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was set up. This draft declaration represents the most ambitious initiative ever taken on the subject of the rights of indigenous peoples at the international level. It covers, among others, the very controversial themes of collective rights, the recognition of indigenous peoples and not only people or populations, land ownership and the right to self-determination. But whereas the general Assembly clearly stated that the adoption of a declaration was one of the key objects of the Decade, only two of the 45 articles have been approved so far - and that was in 1997. And yet, in 2004 - the last year of this Decade – the draft declaration is still at the drafting stage. The fact is that, to be acknowledged internationally, the declaration must first be approved by the Working Group on the draft declaration, then by the Commission on Human Rights, and finally by the General Assembly.
Last September, when the Commission on the draft declaration on indigenous peoples met, several countries strongly opposed the project. Some States, mainly Canada, the United States and Great Britain, lobbied for the Declaration to be drained of its substance, particularly on such sensitive issues as the use of the word “indigenous peoples”. This project, however, is not new. It is the result of a long process of consultation between the indigenous representatives and the States. From its inception some twenty years ago, it has used up innumerable working hours on the part of various indigenous representatives who have put a lot of hope in it. An international legal recognition of their rights, through the approval of the declaration, would constitute a significant and necessary step, because even if such a declaration is not legally binding for the States, it constitutes all the same an essential moral signal.
The draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the concern of indigenous peoples everywhere in the world!
Are you coming to Geneva in September? An event will take place on Friday and Saturday 17th and 18th September (during the two weeks’ Session of the Working Group on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the UN), in a park right in the center of Geneva. You can take part in a round table by choosing one of the following themes (present it briefly, put it in perspective in relation with the situation of your own people and what the Declaration would achieve):
1. Land rights
3. Collective rights
4. Indigenous peoples
5. Traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights
If you are not in Geneva next September, you might wish to organize a parallel event in your own country or community. Through an Internet site, we could create a collective space giving information on the various events organized in favor of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This international day will remind the international community and the States of what is at stake in such a declaration.
Thanks for writing to the following address:
and to firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal address: INDIGENÈVE, Ana Maria Cruz, 27 rue Caroline, 1227 Les Acacias, Genève, Suisse (0041 76 450 83 18)
Internet : http//:www.collectifsge.ch/indigeneve
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