Media Center

Press Release


  April 20, 2007

Representatives of Organization of American States (OAS) member countries and of the hemisphere’s indigenous peoples are set to meet in La Paz, Bolivia, beginning Monday, to continue discussing the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bolivia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, David Choquehuanca Céspedes, will inaugurate the tenth meeting of the OAS Permanent Council’s Working Group charged with drafting the declaration. During their weeklong meeting, the delegates will consider such crucial aspects of the draft as the rights of native peoples of the Americas to education, health, freedom of expression, autonomy and self-determination.

The Working Group’s Chairman, Ambassador Juan León of Guatemala, expressed the hope that the governments and the indigenous peoples “will reach consensus on various articles of the declaration, given the widespread awareness that effective and urgent action must be taken in order to improve living conditions and to redress the misery and the grave and persistent abuse and violation suffered by indigenous peoples throughout the hemisphere.”

León, who serves as Guatemala’s Ambassador to Ecuador, thanked the government of Evo Morales for hosting the meeting, which follows through with the OAS General Assembly mandate to continue negotiating the articles on which the indigenous peoples and representatives of the 34 member states have yet to agree. The mandate is also intended to foster broad and active participation of indigenous representatives in the negotiations.

The decision to draft an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples came nearly 20 years ago, when the OAS Permanent Council asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to explore the possibility of drafting a legal instrument.

Prior to the tenth negotiating meeting—from April 20 to 22—participants will gather in La Paz for an Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, to define strategies and discuss the language of texts that will be negotiated.

Bolivia is the third country in Latin America to host a negotiating meeting. Guatemala was the site of a previous meeting, in October 2005, and Brazil in March 2006. “Holding these meetings outside of OAS headquarters takes the issues closer to indigenous peoples and to other interested parties who lack sufficient funding to make costly trips outside of their countries,” Ambassador León noted.

Reference: E-108/07