Media Center

Press Release


  April 23, 2007

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In opening the tenth meeting of the Working Group charged with negotiating the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Director of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), Carmen Marina Gutiérrez, called on the governments and representatives of indigenous peoples to “reach the necessary consensus for the timely approval of the text of this declaration.”

Participating in today’s opening ceremony were Bolivia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, David Choquehuanca Céspedes; the Chair of the OAS Working Group on the issue, Ambassador Juan León; the Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the OAS, Ambassador Reynaldo Cuadros, as well the representative of the Indigenous Conclave, Ramiro Galindo, and Bolivian Ombudsman Waldo Albarracín.

Carmen Marina Gutiérrez thanked the government of President Evo Morales and the people of Bolivia on behalf of OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who could not participate in the meeting due to scheduling conflicts. She reiterated “the complete support” of the OAS General Secretariat for the adoption of the declaration, at the same time expressing concern about the slow pace of the process.

“While we recognize the difficulty that certain issues represent, we also are mindful of the urgency required for the adoption of an instrument that recognizes the rights of 40 million people of our hemisphere, who in their majority suffer the consequences of social exclusion,” Gutiérrez said. She stressed that this five-day forum can help national entities make concrete decisions and ensure that “the negotiations that will take place here have an effect in each state in concordance with their internal laws.”

Speaking to delegates of the 34 OAS member countries and some 200 representatives of native peoples of the Americas, Gutiérrez noted the need to discuss this issue in all political arenas. “The General Assembly and the Summits process are suitable forums in which to seek institutional support from the highest authorities. Although it is still unknown what will be the focus of the next Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009, we do know that there is a commitment to address the issue of the rights of indigenous peoples,” she added.

Foreign Minister Choquehuanca welcomed the delegates on behalf of his government and noted the importance not only of promoting greater interest in the recognition of the rights that belong to indigenous peoples, but also of basing these on values and principles. “We are facing great challenges and imbalances caused by development. Hopefully this meeting will allow us not only to reflect on human rights but also to gather together the values and principles that guarantee a balance between our communities and nature,” he said. Choquehuanca thanked the OAS for its concerted effort to advance a declaration that reflects this balance, as expressed by indigenous peoples throughout the hemisphere.

Ambassador Juan León of Guatemala, who chairs the OAS Working Group, said the process of discussing the text should continue using the same methodology, seeking to move apace “but also reaching a balance in terms of substance to be able to arrive at a timely approval.” Léon, who currently serves as Guatemala’s Ambassador to Ecuador, urged the member states and indigenous peoples to work with a sense of collaboration and flexibility to reach consensus, noting that “the train is on track and we should continue moving forward.”

For his part, Ambassador Reynaldo Cuadros of Bolivia said the discussions about the declaration “should be a complementary joint effort, where we all can learn and build a better future for humanity.” He thanked participants for attending the event, expressed hope that his country can make a difference in this process, and invited those involved in the negotiations to facilitate the process by following the recommendations received, lifting objections and approving the draft declaration.

It is expected that by week’s end there will be agreement on issues related to cultural identity, organizational and political rights, and on social, economic and property rights. Bolivia is the third Latin American nation to host these negotiations; Guatemala was the site of a previous meeting, in October 2005, and Brazil in March 2006.

Reference: E-109/07