Press Release

International Seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Autonomy and Self-Government Ends Successfully

March 15, 2019

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Mexico City, Mexico – The International Seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Autonomy and Self-Government as a Manifestation of their Right to Self-Determination—held on March 11-13 at the headquarters of Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, in Mexico City—has ended successfully, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said. The seminar was hosted jointly by the IACHR and by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the United Nations’ Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the host institution, Mexico’s National Institute for Indigenous Peoples.

The seminar, promoted by indigenous organizations as well as by event organizers, sought to promote the exchange and analysis of experiences related to recognition and to the exercise of autonomy and self-government, as a manifestation of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.

Seminar participants highlighted the ongoing debate about indigenous peoples’ exercise of self-determination. Indigenous representatives had the opportunity to share positive experiences and to debate the challenges they face in the effort to consolidate their models of autonomy. At the same time, they stressed the worrying implementation gaps that undermine that exercise. Among the event’s main conclusions, the right to autonomy and self-determination stands out as a fundamental pillar for the survival of indigenous peoples, and as a pre-requisite for the exercise of all other rights.

Participants requested that international human rights institutions take a more active role in the implementation of international instruments recognizing indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. They also asked such international institutions to adopt any measures necessary to prevent regressive moves in international law concerning recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and other rights related to it. Further, participants requested that international institutions promote coordination among the various mechanisms of the International System to Protect Human Rights and among the Special Rapporteurships whose mandates are linked to indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. In particular, participants asked the Permanent Forum, the Special Rapporteurship and the Expert Mechanism to influence treaty bodies and UN agencies so they protect indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Concerning the Inter-American Human Rights System, participants requested that it comment—through the relevant mechanisms—on the scope and content of the right to self-determination and make specific recommendations to States to ensure adequate implementation.

The Commission’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, said that “the IACHR has been working since the 1980s on the elements that make up indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination (such as non-discrimination, cultural integrity, territorial integrity and development), and key standards have been adopted at the Inter-American Human Rights System that must be taken into consideration for self-determination. I want to make the most of this opportunity to invite indigenous authorities to use the Inter-American Human Rights System, through its various mechanisms.”

“This seminar has been a great opportunity to advance intercultural dialogue with indigenous peoples and their conceptions about ways to exercise the right to self-determination, while it has allowed us to build alliances and to explain the various IACHR mechanisms that indigenous peoples can access,” said Commissioner Urrejola.

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. 068/19