On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the IACHR Calls on States to Build New Relationships with Indigenous Peoples Based on Respect for their Self-Determination

August 9, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States in the Americas to build new relationships with indigenous peoples based on respect for their self-determination, in order to overcome a historical legacy of discrimination, racism, and colonialism.

The American and United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples expressly acknowledge the right of indigenous peoples to freely determine their political status and to freely pursue their own economic, social, and cultural development. Based on this, the IACHR report Right to Self-Determination of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples explains that, for indigenous and tribal peoples, self-determination is an inherent, pre-existing, and historical right.

It involves, among other factors, the ability to decide on their own forms of governance and self-government; to adopt their own priorities for development on their land and ancestral territories; and to preserve their cultures, identities, and existence into the future. It is therefore a right that is essential for the exercise and enjoyment of other rights—whether collective or individual—for these peoples.

Respect for the self-determination of indigenous peoples and the exercise of this right also entail an opportunity to strengthen State legitimacy at the local level, and therefore to enable and strengthen fully inclusive democracies. Along these lines, the right to self-determination must be understood as the basis for dialogue to build new relationships between these peoples and States, in order to reach specific agreements so these peoples may determine their own economic, social, and cultural development, among other aspects.

The IACHR calls on States to acknowledge the different world views of indigenous peoples and their different relationships to the natural environment. Indigenous and tribal peoples hold crucial answers to various global crises, like climate change and pandemics, through their ability to preserve their cultures, traditional knowledge, territories, government systems, territorial governance, and other elements that are essential for their self-determination. States must protect, promote, and foster these peoples' practices and knowledge.

State relationships with indigenous and tribal peoples that are based on respect for and recognition of these peoples' own expressions of autonomy and self-determination enable a reversal of historical legacies of discrimination, racism, and colonialism. These new relationships also enable the parties to overcome old ties based on assimilation or domination paradigms that have affected the lives of indigenous and tribal peoples in the Americas for centuries.

The Commission notes that its report Right to Self-Determination of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples holds recommendations and guidelines to effectively ensure and preserve this right in practice and to build new relationships based on respecting and protecting human rights. Finally, the IACHR recognizes the tireless work done by all indigenous peoples and their organizations in defense of their own rights.  

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 177/22

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