Media Center

Press Release


  April 27, 2007

LA PAZ, Bolivia–Member state delegations wrapped out their tenth meeting on negotiations of a draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, proclaiming that substantial progress has been made on the Organization of American States (OAS) declaration.

“La Paz has moved us beyond the pessimism that initially surrounded the negotiations on this declaration,” said Ambassador Juan León, Chairman of the OAS Working Group responsible for the drafting the document. León, who is Guatemala’s Alternate Representative to the OAS and has steered the negotiations over the past four years, noted the progress made in La Paz in agreeing on language related to the cultural identity issues that include indigenous people’s spirituality, health and education.

Hugo Fernández, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, addressing the closing ceremony, thanked the OAS and the Working Group for the effort put into the five-day negotiation meeting. Bolivia’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Reynaldo Cuadros, also addressed the closing session, as did Venezuelan Noemí Pocaterra, representing the Indigenous People’s Caucus.

Representatives of the OAS member states and delegates representing the hemisphere’s indigenous peoples agreed that, among other things, the original inhabitants of the Americas have a right to freely express their own spirituality and to pass on and teach their traditions, and have a right to unhindered access to all health institutions and health services.

The right to education was one of the major issues addressed, with the approved text emphasizing the right of indigenous peoples and individuals—and indigenous children in particular—to all levels and types of education, without any discrimination.

Upbeat about the direction that the negotiations have taken, Leon said “this time it was evident that the will of the participants can be the basis for taking firm and decisive steps to make headway and, through the OAS, to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples.” With the new work strategy through a core drafting group comprised of governments and Indigenous Caucus representatives, the Working Group reached agreement on a number of paragraphs of the draft Declaration and was close to agreement on others that were more difficult.

“Because of the new dynamics, we are now more confident that the Working Group will be able to carry out its mandate to draft this long-awaited American Declaration as soon as possible,” León stated, expressing appreciation for the effort and flexibility demonstrated by all delegations meeting here in Bolivia to seek the very outcomes that were achieved.

Ambassador León repeated what has been underscored at the previous meetings—that the deplorable conditions in which indigenous people are forced to live in OAS member countries makes this Declaration all the more urgent. He encouraged the government delegations and the representatives of indigenous peoples to continue working “with the same energy” that was displayed during the latest rounds of negotiation.

León concluded by stressing how a substantive, in-depth, broad-based and solid Declaration “is necessary if the democracies of the Americas are to function at their fullest while efficiently and effectively asserting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

Meanwhile, the government of Venezuela offered to host the eleventh meeting to negotiate the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Reference: E-112/07