Media Center

Press Release


  November 10, 2003

Assistant Secretary Luigi Einaudi today opened a round of negotiations at Organization of American States (OAS) Headquarters, underscoring important progress he said has been made in drafting an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Representatives of indigenous peoples from more than 20 countries are participating in the gathering, convened by the OAS Permanent Council’s working group that is preparing the draft American Declaration.

Welcoming delegates after a ceremonial invocation by a Native American leader, the Assistant Secretary General noted that indigenous leaders and organizations are finding the OAS increasingly a forum where they can present their issues and take part in discussion and analysis while learning more about the realities of other indigenous peoples in the Americas.

He cited as another example of progress the joint effort towards new conceptions or legal definitions to deal with outmoded concepts. Einaudi said, “We have seen how such concepts as the nature of ownership of indigenous lands or the concept of self determination were discussed and reviewed, with new and creative proposals introduced into the discussion—providing platforms for agreement, to allay fears or misunderstanding.”

For his part, Héctor Huertas, of the Cuna People of Panama, stressed the need for the search for consensus to include as well that between indigenous peoples and states. He stressed that for this to occur, “the full and active participation of indigenous peoples is crucial at every step of the process.”

Noting the aim of rights recognized in the Declaration is to help usher in a new era in relations between indigenous peoples and the state, Huertas suggested that each member state submit a report to the Working Group before of the next meeting, detailing steps taken to engage in national consultations with indigenous peoples.

Meanwhile, the Working Group Chairman, Peru’s Ambassador to the OAS Eduardo Ferrero Costa, hailed the round of negotiations to seek consensus on the Declaration as a “unique experience in the history of hemispheric negotiations.” Ambassador Ferrero Costa identified as a special feature of the process the ongoing, active participation by indigenous peoples.

The Chairman also spoke about steps the Working Group has taken to ensure effective and continued participation by representatives of indigenous people and for the process to remain transparent.

During their three-day meeting, the delegates are considering among other issues the question of cultural identity, organizational and political rights and labor rights as well as health as included in the Draft American Declaration.

Reference: E-216/03