The Grand Council of the Crees

Urgent Need to Improve the U.N. Standard-Setting Process on Indigenous Peoples? Human Rights: Addressing the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Fourth Session, in New York

Urgent Need to Improve the U.N. Standard-Setting Process on Indigenous Peoples? Human Rights: Addressing the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Fourth Session, in New York

Posted: 2005-06-07

Joint Statement of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), Na Koa Ikaika Kalāhui Hawai?i, International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development (IOIRD), Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), Tebtebba Foundation, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA), Native Women?s Association of Canada, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples? Forum, Saami Council, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON), Assembly of First Nations, Association Tunfa (Niger), Tamaynut (Morocco), First Peoples Human Rights Coalition, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA - Cameroon), Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Ind?genas de la Cuenca Amaz?nica (COICA), Communaut? des Autochtones Rwandais (CAURWA Rwanda), Chin Human Rights Organization (Burma), Maasai Women for Education and Economic Development (MAWEED Kenya), Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Nepal Indigenous Peoples Development and Information Service Centre (NIPDISC), Maya Institute of Belize - Ukuxtal Masewal, Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana Cree Nation, Louis Bull Cree Nation, Tauhgya (Bangladesh), Programme d'Int?gration et de D?veloppement du Peuple Pygm?e au Kivu (PIDP-KIVU), Caribbean Antilles Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Diaspora, F?d?ration des Organisations Autochtones de Guyane (FOAG), Metis National Council, African Indigenous Women's Organisation (AIWO), Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organisation (MPIDO-Kenya), Taino Nation of Antilles and US, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), Trinamul (Bangladesh), Kus Kura Sociedad Civil (Costa Rica), Centre d'accompagnement des Autochtones Pygm?es et Minoritaires Vuln?rables (CAMV/RD-Congo), American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), Indigenous Information Network (IIN Kenya), Peace Campaign Group (India), United Confederation of Taino Peoples, Traditional Kirati Peoples' Alliance (Nepal), Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, South African First Indigenous and Human Rights Organization (SAFIHRO), Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Ligue Nationale des Associations autochtones Pygm?es du Congo (LINAPYCO), Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples (NCIV), Canadian Friends Service Committee, Rights and Democracy, Hawai'i Institute for Human Rights, American Friends Service Committee Introduction 1. In regard to Agenda Item 4(a), we welcome this opportunity to address the human rights of Indigenous peoples, particularly in regard to the intersessional Working Group that is considering the draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2. We appreciate the support of the General Assembly, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and many other U.N. bodies, specialized agencies and Special Rapporteurs, who highlight the crucial need to safeguard our rights. At the international level, a major objective is the adoption by the General Assembly of the draft U.N. Declaration. 3. However, as indicated by many Indigenous peoples at last year?s session of the Permanent Forum, there is an indisputable need to improve the U.N standard-setting process on Indigenous peoples? human rights. 4. Since its inception in 1995, the Working Group has only provisionally approved 2 of the 45 Articles of the draft U.N. Declaration. The two approved Articles solely address existing individual rights and not the collective rights of Indigenous peoples. 5. A principal reason why more progress has not been made in the Working Group is that some participating States ? such as the United Kingdom, France, United States and the Netherlands ? claim that our collective rights are not human rights. They insist, without substantiation, that the collective rights of Indigenous peoples must be excluded or segregated from international human rights law. 6. Such States fail to explain the inclusion of collective human rights in the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and other international instruments. 7. These State positions constitute serious violations of international law, including the Purposes and Principles of the U.N. Charter and the peremptory norm that prohibits racial discrimination. 8. Clearly, if we are to achieve a strong Declaration that sets minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the world?s Indigenous peoples, the deliberations of the Working Group must be guided by and must respect explicit international criteria. Consistent with the U.N. Charter, proposals that create discriminatory double standards or otherwise undermine the human rights of Indigenous peoples must be eliminated. 9. Therefore, we respectfully submit the following recommendations: Recommendations 10. We call upon the Permanent Forum to strongly recommend to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that it urge the Working Group: i) to carry out its mandate, at all times, in a manner that fully upholds the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and is wholly consistent with international law and its progressive development; ii) to adopt new and dynamic methods of work, with particular regard for the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples; and iii) to invite the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, as well as other experts on Indigenous peoples? human rights, to attend and contribute to the formal or informal sessions of the Working Group. Rationales for above recommendations 11. The first two recommendations fully reflect the texts agreed upon by Indigenous representatives at the Indigenous Peoples? Caucus meeting in Geneva on April 10, 2005. Similar texts were proposed without success by Indigenous representatives, as amendments to the CHR?s Resolution 2005/50 that extended the mandate of the Working Group for this coming year. 12. The rationales or substantiating arguments for all three recommendations have been elaborated in detail in a Joint Submission entitled Assessing the International Decade: Urgent Need to Renew Mandate and Improve the U.N Standard-Setting Process on Indigenous Peoples? Human Rights. It was formally submitted by Indigenous peoples to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on March 30, 2004. Last year, copies in English and Spanish were provided to all of the Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 13. In regard to Recommendation i) above, we firmly believe that the criteria specified should be applied to the intersessional Working Group since they reflect existing commitments and long-standing approaches under international law. 14. For example, the Purposes and Principles of the U.N. Charter require actions ?promoting and encouraging respect? for human rights and not undermining them. According to the Charter, the duty to promote respect for human rights is to be based on ?respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples?. 15. Yet these obligations have never been explicitly applied by the Chair of the Working Group as essential criteria. As a result, some States continue to propose amendments to the draft U.N. Declaration that would severely undermine our human rights. 16. Similarly, the Chair of the Working Group has never required that proposals by States or other participants be ?consistent with international law and its progressive development?. Thus, a number of States regularly propose discriminatory double standards within the Working Group to the detriment of more than 300 million Indigenous people worldwide. 17. The notion of ?progressive development? is an essential element that is used in diverse ways in the U.N. Charter. For example, in its studies and recommendations, the U.N. General Assembly, which includes all Member States, is required under Article 13 to encourage the ?progressive development of international law and its codification?. A similar affirmation is found in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. 18. In addition, the Statute of the International Law Commission, established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1947, declares that the ?Commission shall have for its object the promotion of the progressive development of international law and its codification?. 19. Within the Inter-American legal system, the 1996 Declaration of Panama on the Inter-American Contribution to the Development and Codification of International Law underlines in its preamble that ?it is necessary for the member states to reaffirm their full support for the progressive development and codification of international law?. The 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter also refers to the ?progressive development of international law?. 20. In regard to environmental protection, the 1975 Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (Helsinki Final Act) declares that participating Status are committed to ?promoting the progressive development, codification and implementation of international law?. 21. Therefore, in relation to the standard-setting process concerning Indigenous peoples? rights, there can be no justification whatsoever for the U.N. and its member States to refuse to explicitly affirm, and adhere to, the Purposes and Principles of the U.N. Charter. Similarly, it would be a discriminatory double standard to refuse to ensure that the norms in the draft U.N. Declaration are ?consistent with international law and its progressive development?. 22. In regard to Recommendation ii) above, we propose the adoption of ?new and dynamic methods of work? within the Working Group. This reflects the specific recommendation made to the Commission on Human Rights in the 2005 report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2005/87, p. 8, para. 32). 23. With regard to Recommendation iii) above, we believe that the knowledge and findings of Special Rapporteurs Rodolfo Stavenhagen and Erica-Irene Daes and other experts on Indigenous peoples? human rights could assist the Working Group in resolving outstanding differences. Need to eliminate State discrimination 24. In all regions of the world, rampant discrimination and dispossession of Indigenous peoples? lands, territories and resources have resulted in an ongoing legacy of severe impoverishment. This widespread poverty has in turn led to further discrimination and denial of our human rights. 25. Yet some States continue to obstruct and deny us affirmation of our collective human rights in the U.N. standard-setting process. As a result, the legacy of impoverishment and dispossession is not being effectively redressed. 26. As concluded in the May 2003 Report of the African Commission?s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities, ?It is highly important to ? safeguard fundamental collective human rights?. 27. Recognition and respect for the right of self-determination and other collective human rights establish an essential context for the enjoyment and exercise of Indigenous peoples? rights to lands, territories and resources. Without an adequate land and resource base, our impoverishment by States and others will continue. This threatens our collective and individual security. The survival and well-being of distinct Indigenous peoples are being jeopardized. 28. Further, the impoverishment of Indigenous peoples and communities has had and continues to have a devastating and disproportionate impact on Indigenous women and children. Twenty-eight U.N. independent experts jointly affirmed last December that ?Indigenous women face multiple forms of discrimination, both as women and as members of the indigenous community.? 29. As highlighted in CHR Resolution 2005/54, ?tolerance and respect for diversity and the universal promotion and protection of human rights are mutually supportive?. 30. If States are firmly committed to respect for human rights, as well as justice, diversity, equality and non-discrimination, they must not deny us affirmation of our collective human rights under international law. 31. As emphasized by Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen in his August 2004 report, ?If the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved, particular attention must be paid to the rights of indigenous peoples.?