Monday, January 12, 2009

Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Steps to Adoption

An international human rights declaration geared specifically toward meeting the legal needs of the indigenous peoples of the Americas took a step forward last month when the Organization of American States’ working group in charge of preparing the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples held a special session in Washington.

Around 50 indigenous representatives from the Americas attended the special session Dec. 9-12 at OAS headquarters in the Simón Bolívar Room. The OAS is an international body comparable to the United Nations that consists of 35 nations in the Americas. It is the region’s principal multilateral forum for strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, and dealing with shared problems such as poverty, terrorism, illegal drugs and corruption, and carries out mandates established by the hemisphere’s leaders.

The working group is involved in final revisions of the text, working out issues related to the process of negotiation, and pinpointing the particular issues unique to the hemisphere’s indigenous peoples that should be reflected in the declaration.

December’s special session was not a negotiating session, but nevertheless presented challenges, said Leonardo Crippa, a Kolla member from Argentina, and staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center, which has been participating in the process of developing the American Declaration since its beginning in 1989.

“In negotiating sessions we usually negotiate the language that will be in the text of the American Declaration, but this time even though there were no negotiations there were some challenges, for instance, the identification of the particularities of the region that this American Declaration should reflect. That was challenging because we needed to reach some sort of agreement between the indigenous representatives and the state representatives,” Crippa said.

There is consensus among the indigenous representatives, but one of the major challenges has been to get the U.S. government under the Bush administration to ratify any human rights treaty. The U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were the only four nations that voted against adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007.

Read more about the Draft American Declaration here.

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