Media Center

Press Release


  November 8, 2004

Noting the remarkable progress on the draft hemispheric declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Acting Secretary General, Luigi Einaudi, today opened a one-week meeting on the document, acknowledging also that much work remains before the declaration can be completed.

Einaudi was addressing the fourth meeting of negotiations in the quest for points of consensus on the Declaration, which has drawn delegates from member states to continue efforts to draw up the text of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Acting Secretary General told the delegates to the meeting, convened by the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that a series of decisions on this subject, such as the historic land rights ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in favor of an Awas Tingni community in Nicaragua, reflect a growing hemispheric consensus on indigenous peoples’ rights. He added that the Inter-American Democratic Charter “articulates the Organization’s unswerving commitment to respect for differences and specific features of the cultures of indigenous peoples.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Aristides Royo of Panama, praised the working group for facilitating and promoting consultations with the states, under an initiative that has engaged representatives of indigenous peoples from throughout the Americas. According to Royo, integral involvement of indigenous peoples in the process helps to give any draft Declaration that emerges the necessary “relevance and legitimacy.”

In calling for the Declaration to be adopted as soon as possible, the Permanent Council Chairman cautioned: “We cannot frustrate the legitimate hopes of millions of human beings as they seek recognition and attention they are historically due.”

Speaking on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Luann Jamieson of the Seneca Nation of the USA listed a series of concerns regarding violations of rights and denial of access to indigenous peoples. She said the Caucus feels the adoption of an American Declaration “is crucial for the development of peace and democracy in the hemisphere.” She further noted such adoption is “imperative to ensure dialogue, full participation and mutual understanding between states and indigenous peoples as steps towards the respect for human rights.”

The weeklong meeting is being presided over by the Working Group’s Chairman, Ambassador Juan León, who is also Guatemala’s Alternate Representative to the OAS. He outlined the central objective of the gathering as producing a document that will be adopted with full and broad participation of the hemisphere’s indigenous peoples.

He went on to explain why consensus was being sought: “There are differences between and among indigenous representatives and government representatives. We have different perspectives, different interests and different realities and must find common ground.”

The American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stems from a 1999 OAS General Assembly mandate that established the Working Group. To date, a series of meetings have been convened—under the purview of the OAS Permanent Council.

Reference: E-204/04