The Grand Council of the Crees

Urgent Call to Defend the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - Grand Council and Inuit Circumpolar Conference refute call by International Indian Treaty Council to suspend Indigenous rights standard-setting process at UN for up to three years

Urgent Call to Defend the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - Grand Council and Inuit Circumpolar Conference refute call by International Indian Treaty Council to suspend Indigenous rights standard-setting process at UN for up to three years

Posted: 2005-03-30

CONCERNS WITH IITC ET AL. LETTER TO U.N. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS According to the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), a letter was faxed on March 15, 2005 (see Annex) to the President of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Ambassador Makarim Wibisono. IITC further indicated that on March 21, 2005, a ?delegation of Indigenous Peoples? will present this letter to the CHR President. The essence of the March 15 letter is to urge the CHR to adopt the text of the draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as approved in 1994 by the Sub-Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Should this not be feasible or possible, the letter requests ?a break or recess according to accepted UN procedure? (i.e. one to three years) so that the current process may be ?evaluated, reassessed and restructured by the CHR ? in full consultation with Indigenous Peoples?. Serious concerns with March 15 letter We have numerous concerns of a most serious nature with the March 15 letter. Some of these are briefly listed below. 1. Undemocratic process. Many Indigenous peoples, organizations and individuals have worked for decades to ?open the doors? of the United Nations. This is especially the case, in regard to creating a standard-setting process on Indigenous peoples? rights. Therefore, in the absence of adequate notice to Indigenous peoples and organizations impacted worldwide, it is highly undemocratic and disrespectful for some Indigenous representatives to formally propose to the CHR that this process be suspended for up to 3 years. It is also disturbing that distribution of the draft letter was restricted to selected peoples and organizations, until March 15 after the letter was already faxed to the CHR President. 2. Inherent contradiction. The initiators of the present letter have proposed to the CHR President that the standard-setting process be suspended for an extended period. Apparently, this has been done so that a greater number of Indigenous voices may be heard in the future. Yet, at the same time, the same proponents have excluded most Indigenous peoples globally from voicing their opinions on the merits of the March 15 letter before it was submitted to the CHR President. Such actions are highly contradictory. 3. Negative precedent. There has been no prior discussion with the Indigenous Caucus of the advantages and disadvantages of this proposed ?break? in the process. This reinforces a most unhealthy precedent. In the past, when a few Indigenous organizations made proposals on specific rights issues in the current Working Group on the draft Declaration (WGDD) without prior discussion with the Caucus, there was a strong outcry from other Indigenous representatives. Some of the initiators of the March 15 letter vigorously opposed such unilateral and exclusionary actions. They themselves urged a more democratic process. However, the present lack of collaboration reverts back to the same conduct that was severely criticized at that time. 4. Highly divisive strategy. An essential priority we have as Indigenous peoples is to maintain unity and solidarity within the Indigenous Caucus ? or at least among an overwhelming majority. Therefore, it is highly divisive for the initiators of the March 15, 2005 letter to now propose a strategy that runs counter to what Indigenous peoples within and outside the Caucus are committed to, with no opportunity for timely discussion. In particular, in March 2004, a Joint Submission was made by numerous Indigenous peoples and organizations globally to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. This Submission entitled Assessing the International Decade: Urgent Need to Renew Mandate and Improve the U.N. Standard-Setting Process on Indigenous Peoples? Human Rights emphasized that it would be unconscionable for the U.N. to terminate the standard-setting process without adopting a strong Declaration. Further, a range of possible improvements was proposed for consideration by all those involved. No Indigenous people or organization expressed any reservations with this approach. In addition, many other Indigenous peoples and organizations strongly endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of this Submission at the Permanent Forum in May 2004. 5. Confused messages. Indigenous peoples have widely expressed concern that a ?major objective? of the first International Decade of the World?s Indigenous People was not achieved ? namely, the adoption of a declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples by the U.N. General Assembly. This concern was highlighted as one of the reasons why a second Decade was essential. Now that a second International Decade has been proclaimed, it sends a confusing message to the U.N. to request that the standard-setting process be suspended for up to 3 years. It is also confusing to suggest that the process should be suspended, so that more Indigenous voices may be heard. First, there are other more direct and concrete measures that can be taken, such as substantially increasing State contributions to the U.N. Voluntary Fund. Second, the degree of progress in the WGDD will not be significantly improved by simply increasing Indigenous participation. Rather, effective strategies are required to address the lack of political will among some States to agree to norms that are consistent with international law and its progressive development. 6. Proposed strategy entails huge risks. There are considerable risks to proposing a ?recess? or ?break? in the standard-setting process as suggested in the March 15 letter. Undoubtedly, the present process urgently needs to be improved (see Joint Submission to OHCHR referred to above). However, this does not mean that the process should be suspended for an uncertain number of years. Such an extensive delay could play into the hands of those States who do not wish to have any Declaration adopted by the U.N. The momentum generated to date to address Indigenous peoples? human rights could also easily disappear. The letter proposes that the CHR create, ?in full consultation with Indigenous peoples?, a ?new process which would include effective and viable mechanisms for the voices of the greater numbers of Indigenous Peoples? worldwide to be heard. However, many of the State members of the CHR are not active supporters of Indigenous peoples? rights. What if the CHR agrees to a 3-year recess, yet fails to establish any effective new process? In this uncertain context, it is especially risky for the letter to only specify ?full consultation with Indigenous Peoples?. The letter does not even provide an indication of what that must include. The notion of ?consultation? sets a lower standard than what Indigenous peoples and organizations have consistently proposed within the WGDD. Also, the U.N. General Assembly calls for ?full consultation and collaboration with indigenous people?, in regard to the planning and implementation of activities and objectives for the Second Decade (Res. A/RES/59/174). 7. OAS process may well set lower standards. There is an additional risk to proposing a suspension strategy in the March 15 letter. Such a ?recess? would make it easier for the present OAS standard-setting process in Washington, D.C. to establish lower norms than what presently exists in the draft U.N. Declaration. If so, this would set a most unfortunate precedent for future work at the United Nations. For example, the draft American declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples that is presently being discussed at the OAS does not include the right of self-determination consistent with Art. 1 of the international human rights Covenants. It also does not include the principle of free, prior and informed consent. There are a host of other problems as well. Many OAS States are trying to rush the standard-setting process. This is hardly the time to suspend any opportunity for progress within the U.N. process. 8. Discussions during the recess? During the uncertain period when the standard-setting process is suspended, it is indicated in the March 15 letter that the undersigned Indigenous peoples and organizations are committed to: work to address, discuss, and hopefully resolve, the current problems and cross cutting issues which remain as stumbling blocks for the adoption of the Declaration. The letter adds that this will be done by the co-signers in other forums ? that is, by continuing the ?dialogues with member States and within various UN and regional bodies, upcoming seminars and world conferences?. Who exactly will be discussing these matters and what is the nature of the solutions being proposed? What happened to the need for broad and democratic participation by Indigenous peoples globally? How is it that these other forums can resolve the ?stumbling blocks? to adoption of the Declaration? What if these forums do not have a mandate to even examine the draft Declaration? How will such resolution occur, if at least some of the co-signers are committed advocates to a ?no-change? position in terms of the existing Sub-Commission text? In summary, the proposed suspension of the process could well mean years of further delay without advancing the likelihood of achieving a strong Declaration. In view of the other concerns highlighted above, it is hoped that this note will stimulate a constructive, democratic and informative dialogue that will serve to reinforce unity among all Indigenous peoples and organizations concerned. Sincerely, Dalee Sambo Dorough INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR CONFERENCE [a non-governmental organization in special consultative status] Romeo Saganash GRAND COUNCIL OF THE CREES (EEYOU ISTCHEE) [a non-governmental organization on the Roster] ANNEX IITC ET AL. LETTER TO U.N. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS March 15, 2005 Honorable Ambassador Makarim Wibisono President, 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights cc: Ambassador Mr. Gordan Markotic, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations Office, Geneva, Vice President, 60th Session, UN Commission on Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Dzidek Kedzia, Representative, Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Geneva Members of the Commission, Warm and Respectful Greetings, We are writing this letter to first of all thank you for making time to meet with a delegation of Indigenous Peoples at the beginning of the 61st session of the UN Commission for Human Rights as a follow up on to the very productive conversations which took place in Geneva with Ambassador Markotic, Mr. Kedzia and other UN Officials the week of November 29 - December 3, 2004 during the 10th session of the Intersessional Working Group on the UN Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The understanding and trust we built, and their willingness to hear and understand our deep concerns about the current process at the Working Group was very much appreciated. We also thank Ambassador Markotic for his report of December 1, 2004, which we understand was circulated to the Regional Coordinators of the Commission. We feel that this report is very fair and balanced. It reflects a considerable depth of understanding regarding the concerns and thoughts that we expressed to him, on behalf of our Peoples, organizations and communities as well as many other Indigenous Peoples concerned with this process and its outcomes. At that time we reiterated our support for the adoption of the current text of the Declaration as passed by the UN Subcommission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in 1994, which represents the minimum standard required to uphold, defend and protect the rights and dignity of Indigenous Peoples. We called for this text to be considered by this session of the UN Commission on Human Rights with the understanding that in 10 years, no proposal to weaken or amend the text has achieved consensus in the Working Group, which includes both States and Indigenous Peoples. Since that time we have undertaken considerable discussion and assessment of the outcomes of the last session and our discussions with Ambassador Martovic and the other UN officials. We have discussed ways to address the serious problems in the Intersessional Working Group, including the lack of opportunity for broad input by grassroots Indigenous Peoples of the world. Furthermore, the process that has been implemented encourages openly discriminatory proposals for changes by States which weaken the Declaration, but does not allow us to defend the position of the vast majority of Indigenous Peoples of the world calling for adoption of the text approved by the Subcommission. We have also seriously considered the option which Ambassador Martovic explained to us regarding the typical UN procedure when Standard Setting Working Groups have failed to demonstrate significant progress over several years. This involves taking a recess or break in the process for one to three years Based on these considerations, we have concluded that the best response at this time is for us to support the CHR in calling for a pause or recess in this process in order to take effective steps that would make the chances of success much greater. This recess will provide the Commission on Human Rights, beginning at this session, with the opportunity to establish, in full consultation with Indigenous Peoples, a new process which would include effective and viable mechanisms for the voices of the great numbers of Indigenous Peoples from around the world that are affected by these discussions to be heard. We will be glad to offer our suggestions towards this end as a continuation of the discussions on this issue which we began in December. We base our conclusion on the following: 1) We feel strongly that the process which has developed over the last few years in the Intersessional Working Group is not in the best interests of Indigenous Peoples, as it provides a few States with the opportunity to weaken and undermine the Draft Declaration developed in the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations and adopted by the UN Subcommission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in 1994 with participation by States, UN experts and Indigenous Peoples. 2) The Sub Commission text has been endorsed and supported by hundreds of Indigenous Peoples and organizations around the world as the minimum standard required for the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples' rights internationally. No proposals to change the text has been accepted by the consensus of the Working Group, so the Subcommission text still stands as the only and most recent consensus document produced by a UN Body. 3) During the last session of the Working Group, in support of the hunger strike and spiritual fast, over 700 letters of support from organizations, NGO?s Peoples and communities around the world were received expressing support for the adoption of the Subcommission text. Some of these organizations represent large coalitions had networks themselves, many with thousands, and in at least one case, millions members. The sad fact is that the current process does not have a mechanisms for incorporating these voices at the table, the voices of those who will be most affected by the outcomes of these discussions. 4) We would once again ask the Commission to adopt this text at this session and to pass it on to the next step in the UN Process. But if this is not feasible or possible, a break or recess in this process according to accepted UN procedure in cases where there is a lack of progress in standard setting bodies would allow time so that the current process can be evaluated, reassessed and restructured by the CHR. This would need to be done with the full consultation with Indigenous Peoples, to insure greater participation and a more equitable process which reflects the views and positions of Indigenous Peoples. 5) During this time, we will commit ourselves to work with our Peoples and communities, as well to continue dialogues with member States and within various UN and regional bodies, upcoming seminars and world conferences. We will work to address, discuss, and hopefully resolve, the current problems and cross cutting issues which remain as stumbling blocks for the adoption of the Declaration. Mr. President, we are certain that you understand that Indigenous Peoples, in the name of our ancestors and our future generations, can never allow our rights to be negotiated, compromised or diminished in a United Nations process. The United Nations itself says that human rights are inherent and inalienable, and must be applied to all Peoples without discrimination. We respectfully thank you for your time and consideration. We, as Indigenous Peoples, organizations, Nations and communities, look forward to working with you to insure that the United Nations continues to uphold the commitment it expressed so beautifully to all the Peoples of this world in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights: ?the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world?. Respectfully, for all our Relations, The undersigned, 1. Consejo Internacional de Tratados Indios/International Indian Treaty Council 2. Indigenous World Association 3. Movimiento de La Juventud Kuna, Panam? 4. Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, Canada 5. Asamblea Nacional Ind?gena Plural por la Autonom?a (ANIPA), Mexico 6. Consejo Mazahua Regi?n Almoloya de Juarez AC (Mexico, estado de Mexico) 7. Red Ind?gena de Turismo de Mexico A.C (R.I.T.A.) 8. Asociaci?n Napguana, Panam? 9. Fundaci?n para la Promoci?n del Conocimiento Ind?gena, Panam? 10. Fundaci?n Dobbo Yala, Panam? 11. Organizaci?n Nis Bundor, Panam? 12. Innu Council of Nitassinan, Canada 13. Fundacion Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Mexico 14. Fundacion Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Guatemala 15. Defensoria Maya, Guatemala 16. Oxlajuj Ajpop de los Ajq?ijab? (Conferencia Nacional de Ministros de la Espiritualidad Maya de Guatemala) 17. Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indigenas, miembro del Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indigenas, Mexico 18. Defensa Legal Ind?gena, Guatemala 19. Convergencia Nacional de Organizaciones Ind?genas waqib? kej, Guatemala 20. Asociaci?n de Coordinaci?n de Desarrollo Integral Maya- ASCUDIMAYA, Guatemala 21. Asociaci?n Comunitaria de la Comunicaci?n B?lam juyu?-ACOBA, Guatemala 22. Fundaci?n CHOLSAMAJ , Guatemala 23. Asociaci?n Sotzil, Guatemala 24. Oficina Embajadora de Buena Voluntad de Acuerdos de Paz, Guatemala 25. Wuqub? No?j, Guatemala 26. Sociedad Maya El Adelanto (1894-2005), Guatemala 27. Fundaci?n CEDIM, Guatemala 28. Asociaci?n Guatemalteca de Alcaldes y Autoridades Ind?genas-AGAAI, Guatemala 29. Consejo del Pueblo Xinka de Guatemala (COPXIG), Guatemala 30. Comite Campesina del Altiplano, Guatemala 31. Frente por la Democracia y el Desarrollo- Coalici?n Campesina Ind?gena del Istmo (FDD-COCEI), Mexico 32. Universitarios Ind?genas Quechuas Aymaras Amazonicos de Cusco Per? 33. Buffalo River Dene Nation, Canada 34. Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, United States 35. Nation of Hawaii, Hawaii 36. Aotearoa Indigenous Rights Trust, Aotearoa/New Zealand 37. Te Rau Aroha, Aotearoa/New Zealand 38. Te Ngati Ranginui, Aotearoa/New Zealand 39. The Eagle and Condor Indigenous Peoples' Alliance, United States 40. Indigenous Environmental Network, United States 41. Coordinadora Ind?gena de la Cuenca Amazonica/Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazonian Region (COICA), South America 42. F?d?ration des Organisations autochtones de Guyane (FOAG), membre de la COICA, French Guyana/Federation of Indigenous Organizations of French Guiana, member of COICA 43. Consejo de Todas las Tierras, Chile 44. Pit River Tribe, California, United States 45. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, Alaska, United States 46. Ekluta Native Village, Alaska, United States 47. Wanblee Wakpeh Oyate, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, United States 48. White Clay Society (Member of the Blackfeet Confederacy), Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana, United States 49. Cactus Valley/Red Willow Springs Sovereign Community, Navajo Nation Reservation, Arizona, United States 50. Instituto Cientifico de Culturas Indigenas (Amawta Runakunapak Yachay), Ecuador 51. Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples Alliance, United States 52. American Indian Treaty Council Information Center, Minnesota, United States 53. Anipa Quintana Roo, Mexico 54. Anipa Guerrero, Mexico 55. Consejo de la Naci?n Amuzga, Mexico 56. Centro para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Ind?genas del Alto Balsas, Mexico 57. Ndu Nu ?u Savi, Mexico 58. Yoloxochitl SPR, Mexico 59. Federaci?n de Ind?genas Migrantes de Acapulco, Mexico 60. Axale, S.S.S., Mexico 61. Se Ojtli Yankuik, A.C., Mexico 62. Coordinadora Guerrerense de Mujeres Ind?genas, Mexico 63. Frente Independiente de Pueblos Indios, Mexico 64. Consejo de Organizaciones Triquis, Mexico 65. Consejo Ind?gena Municipal Chocholteco, Mexico 66. Umbral Axochiatl, Mexico 67. Red Ind?gena de Turismo Alternativo de M?xico, Mexico 68. Centro de Derechos Humanos Yaxkin, Mexico 69. Fraternidad Revolucionaria, Mexico 70. Consejo de Pueblos Nahuas del Alto Balsas, Guerrero, AC, Mexico 71. Regiones Aut?nomas Pluri?tnicas, Mexico 72. Red Codapi, Mexico 73. Coordinadora Regional de Organizaciones Ind?genas de la Sierra de Zongolica, Mexico 74. Consejo Tradicional de los Pueblos Indios de Sonora, Mexico 75. Anipa Chihuahua, Mexico 76. Parlamento Ind?gena Estatal Campesino y Popular, Mexico 78. Consejo de la Nacion Nahua, Mexico 79. Alianza de Pueblos Ind?gena de la Sierra Oriente del Estado de M?xico 80. Consejo Mazahua Regi?n Almoloya de Ju?rez, Mexico 81. Consejo de la Nacionalidad Otom?, Mexico 82. Coordinadora de Grupos Culturales Ind?genas y Populares, Mexico 83. Organizaci?n de Artesanos Migrantes "Tonhalli", Mexico 84. Alianza Ind?gena Mexicana-Anipa Hidalgo, Mexico 85. Anipa Tabasco, Mexico 86. Organizaci?n Naci?n Purhepecha, Mexico 87. Mephaa-Savi Mujeres Ind?genas, Mexico 88. Cooperativa Flores de la Tierra Amuzga, Mexico 89. Noche Sihuame Sanse Tajome, Mexico 90. Committee on the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States 91. National Native American Prisoner's Rights Advocates Coalition, United States 92. Traditional Independent Seminole Nation of Florida, United States EMAIL COMMUNICATION From: "Andrea Carmen" Subject: Carta al Presidente de la Comisi?n de Derechos Humanos/ letter to the President of the UN Commission on Human Rights Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 22:16:48 -0900 Andrea Carmen wrote: Dear Indigenous Brother and Sisters This is the letter that will be presented to the President of the UN Commission on Human Rights by a delegation of Indigenous Peoples on March 21st in Geneva. As you can see it has 92 co-signers. It was been submitted via fax to him and to the other recipients on March 15th so it is fine if you want to distribute, post or circulate it, so that everyone can be informed of our position. We will be happy to add other cosigners and present them during the Commission. To sign on to this letter, please e mail a note with your organization/tribe/Indigenous Nation?s name to: andrea@treatycouncil,org by April 8, 2005l Thank you for your interest, and thanks to all those who supported this statement to date. Best wishes to all Andrea Carmen Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council Web Site: www.treatycouncil.org E-Mail: andrea@treatycouncil.org Office: 907-745-4482 Fax: 907-745-4484