Media Center

Press Release


  January 22, 2007

The member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) today resumed negotiations in Washington on the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, focusing at this five-day meeting on language related to cultural identity as well as organizational and political rights for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Opening the ninth “Meeting of Negotiation in the Quest for Consensus,” OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin assured the delegates of the Organization’s strong commitment to seeing this process brought to conclusion as soon as possible. He stressed the need for the final document to address the hemisphere’s diversity with respect to geography, language and other elements, viewing these as bases for unity.

Ramdin noted that despite challenges, the last few years have witnessed an increased engagement of civil society and of historically marginalized groups—indigenous peoples, women and youth, among others—in the work of the OAS. “That new reality has brought new dynamics in the hemisphere,” Ramdin said. “The main objective is that through these efforts we try to create more understanding.” While acknowledging that the negotiating process has been difficult, Ramdin stressed the need for tangible progress on the draft American Declaration, urging the delegations to be creative and constructive. He argued that at times it is necessary to revisit the original objectives of an initiative to determine what can be realistically achieved.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Juan León, the Alternate Representative of Guatemala to the OAS and Chair of the working group charged with preparing the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the focus of this round of negotiations relates to rights pertaining to the diversity of cultures, language, education, cultural heritage and other important factors. According to León, part of the challenge in some countries is the lack of participation by indigenous peoples in the national or local political process, either because they themselves do not want to participate, or because “governments have not opened up the channels for them to participate.”

This week’s round of meetings, he said, seeks to negotiate language to recognize the right to cultural identity as well as to education, language and health, while also recognizing the need for participation in national political processes. He joined the Assistant Secretary General in urging maximum effort towards having the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ready for adoption at the OAS General Assembly in 2008, which will coincide with the hemispheric body’s 60th anniversary.

Reference: E-014/07