Media Center

Press Release


  March 21, 2006

BRASILIA, Brazil – The Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin, today urged the governments of the Americas to be relentless in their quest for points of consensus so that the Declaration recognizing, respecting, and safeguarding the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples in the Hemisphere can be adopted as soon as possible.

“There can be no question that indigenous peoples have been excluded for too long from the political and economic life of many of our societies,” Ramdin said during the inauguration in Brasilia today of the Seventh Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus of the Working Group to Prepare the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The diplomat from Suriname added that such a Declaration was, in his view, “long overdue.” He noted, however, that that historical wrong was beginning to change as marginalized groups were entering the political process, “making their voices heard and demanding change.”
Ramdin was speaking to delegates of the OAS and of indigenous peoples and organizations of the Americas, as well as representatives of the Government of Brazil, who are meeting in Itamaraty, the headquarters of Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The OAS Assistant Secretary General said it was clear that our countries cannot attain desired levels of development, stability and democracy when a significant percentage of the population is deprived of real opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. He stressed the vital importance of ensuring the participation of indigenous people at all levels of public participation.

Albert Ramdin reiterated the commitment of the regional Organization and its authorities to promoting and protecting the human rights of all the citizens of the Americas within the rule of law. He said that the OAS was adopting that same approach as it continued to work toward a future Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, an initiative of Brazil.

At the same inaugural session, the Chair of the Working Group, Ambassador Juan León, the Alternate Representative of Guatemala and member of the Maya K’iche indigenous community said that recognizing the rights of the indigenous peoples not only contributed to the exercise of democracy, good governance, and economic and social stability; it also helped forge more just, and politically and judicially more equitable societies. He warned that so long as those rights remained unrecognized, democracy would continue to be incomplete.

In thanking the government of President Lula Da Silva for its hospitality, Ambassador León said that he hoped the Seventh Meeting would develop “with considerable foresight and vision an instrument that enables us to create the conditions needed to allow today’s forsaken peoples to enjoy the same dignity as the others.”

Also taking part in the inaugural session were the Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Brazil, Luiz Paulo Barreto; the Assistant Secretary General of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Antonio Patriota, and the representative of the Indian Peoples’ Caucus, Azelene Inacio Kaingang.

Reference: E-066/06