Organization of American States



March 11, 2002







A special voluntary fund to facilitate indigenous peoples' input in crafting a hemispheric Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has moved one step closer to becoming reality.     

At the inauguration of a special meeting at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington on Monday Peru's Ambassador, Eduardo Ferrero Costa, announced that he had submitted a draft resolution to establish the special fund to the OAS Working Group mandated to prepare the draft declaration.  The Peruvian diplomat chairs that Working Group, which also organized this weeklong meeting. 

He said the Working Group hopes to give the OAS Permanent Council a "consensus document" as soon as possible, containing proposals emerging from the last meeting of the Working Group, along with any others submitted by representatives of indigenous groups. 

"The aim is to establish a permanent and secure system affording broad and representative participation by representatives of indigenous peoples in the deliberations toward adoption of the Draft Declaration," declared Ambassador Ferrero Costa.  He thanked the governments of Canada, Finland and the United States for their "genuine commitment to the indigenous cause" as well as their generous financial contributions that have helped to bring more than 50 representatives of indigenous peoples from around the Hemisphere to this week's gathering. 

OAS Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi welcomed the delegates, recalling how in the  late 1930s the governments of the Americas at the Eighth International Conference in Lima undertook to comprehensively uplift the standard of living of the Hemisphere's indigenous groups.  "The action immediately following this was the creation of the Inter-American Indian Institute, arising from the First Indian Congress, held in Mexico," Ambassador Einaudi added. 

He went on to state:  "We are convinced that, taking a quiet and progressive approach, the approval of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be the finest demonstration that a stronger democracy is now in place in the Americas, fostering better relations between the state and indigenous peoples." 

Speaking for the indigenous groups represented at the meeting, Lourdes Tibán Guala, Vice President of the Ecuador-based Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi, applauded the initiative of the proposed Declaration.  "This represents for us as well as the member states a historic and urgent moral commitment for those who traditionally have been marginalized." 

A message was sent by Peru's First Lady, Eliane Karp de Toledo, stressing Peru's commitment to defend its poor and to accord full constitutional recognition to the rights of its own indigenous peoples.  This, she said, was reaffirmed when Peru joined other Andean nations in signing the Macchu Picchu Declaration on July 29, 2001.