Media Center



March 21, 2006 - Brasilia, Brazil

Dear indigenous sisters and brothers
His Excellency, the Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Patriota
His Excellency, the Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Luiz Paulo Barreto
His Excellency, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS
His Excellency, Ambassador Juan León Alvarado, Chair of the Working Group to Prepare the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Representatives of the member states of the OAS, distinguished members of the diplomatic corps, international organizations, authorities, observers, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the indigenous peoples and organizations of the Americas, I thank the Government of Brazil for its hospitality and support and for hosting the Seventh Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus regarding the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We would also like to thank the Ministry of Justice for its financial support and logistical arrangements to enable the representatives of the indigenous peoples to attend this meeting and for making this meeting possible. We thank the Voluntary Contributions Fund for facilitating the selection of the indigenous delegates and we call upon the States to contribute to the Fund in order to guarantee adoption of the Declaration. Special thanks go to Fundação Nacional do Índio and to Warã Instituto Indígena Brasileiro, for coordinating and facilitating communication between the indigenous peoples and both the OAS and the Government of Brazil.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished representatives of the States, the systematic violation of our fundamental human rights persists to this day in the Americas. It includes the loss of our lands and territories, resulting in the death of our leaders in those struggles and the ongoing hunger and impoverishment of our peoples, all in the name of projects that are supposedly for development, such as oil, mining, hydroelectric, river, road and other projects that lead to the displacement and forced resettlement of our communities.

Another consequence of these violations is food insecurity inasmuch as they disrupt the ties we have developed for thousands of years with mother earth.

This situation also persists because the international instruments in the system are inappropriate for protecting our rights. We observe with concern the adoption by States of declarations of an economic nature that increase the marginalization of our peoples as well as the absence of measures to protect those directly affected.

Nevertheless, we indigenous peoples view with optimism the election of Mr. Evo Morales to the Presidency of Bolivia. We extend him greetings from the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus of the Americas and we also salute the culmination of the work of the United Nations Working Group on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its adoption in the near future. These achievements are part of a truly representative, pluralist, and inclusive democracy.
The States and the indigenous peoples must overcome the obstacles that have prevented us from establishing a State in which we indigenous peoples conduct our own development. For that to come about there has to be recognition of the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples and legal instruments have to be adapted to allow the exercise of those rights. These are essential steps that will surely lead to the structural transformation of States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this meeting marks the end of a phase in the negotiation of this Declaration. We have found many points of consensus and of dissent in the basic document. However, this is not so much an obstacle as a pointer to the need to further deepen our dialogue on the topics on which we have reached agreement.

The session on general provisions is closely related to the contents of the Declaration as a whole. Therefore, in establishing limits to the rights of the indigenous peoples, we cannot accept discrimination standards that are lower than those already established in international law. We trust that the outcomes of the Seventh Meeting of Negotiations will allow us to move forward...

The first session addressed fundamental principles of law: self-determination and collective self-identification, which are important principles of international law on the human rights of the indigenous peoples. These rights will guarantee the survival of the indigenous peoples. For that reason, understanding and adopting them should not be regarded as a problem.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates of the States, this session constitutes a decisive and firm step on the part of States to acknowledge that the ongoing exclusion and marginalization of thousands of indigenous persons in the Hemisphere is unacceptable. It is still necessary to continue guaranteeing the full and effective participation of the indigenous peoples in this process, which is crucial for open and transparent dialogue between States and indigenous peoples.

Never again shall the Americas exclude the indigenous peoples.