Media Center

Press Release


  December 4, 2006

The Organization of American States (OAS) today opened the eighth meeting of negotiations on the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, seeking to make substantive progress on issues related to self-determination, individual rights, fundamental freedoms and collective rights for the native peoples of the hemisphere.

The Chairman of the Permanent Council Working Group on this topic, Ambassador Juan León, who is Guatemala’s Alternate Representative to the OAS and a member of the Pueblo Maya K’iche indigenous community, said at the opening of the meeting that the approach to the concept of self-determination will be a key focus of this five-day round of negotiations. He called on representatives of the member states and of indigenous peoples alike to bring creativity in seeking outcomes that “unconditionally reaffirm this right and at the same time ensure unity, confidence and balance among all the players in each member state and the OAS as a whole.”

Ambassador León said, “We should spare no effort to imagine a future in which indigenous peoples can be totally free to determine and decide on their own affairs, in terms of what is best suited to their economic, political, social, cultural, educational and legal development, among other rights.”

He recalled that the indigenous representatives have “on every occasion” reaffirmed their view that self-determination does not imply the end nor the destruction of the territorial integrity of current states, an assurance that “instills confidence that a satisfactory conclusion can be reached on this matter.”

The Guatemalan diplomat said he was optimistic that the Working Group could make progress cleaning up the text under negotiation, saying he was confident “the necessary consensus will be achieved.” He conceded that consensus on certain aspects of the Declaration is not easy, but will depend on “all the delegations being flexible and broad-minded.”

Among others participating in the inauguration was Natalia Sara-pura, representative of Argentina’s Kolla indigenous community, who said that “self-determination is an inherent right for indigenous peoples.” She urged the OAS member countries to join the United Nations Human Rights Council “in recognizing that indigenous peoples, like all other peoples under international law, have a right to free self-determination.”

The last round of negotiations was held in Brasilia, Brazil, last March. At both the Fourth Summit of the Americas, held in Argentina in November 2005, and the last OAS General Assembly, in June of this year, the governments of the Americas reiterated the importance of a successful conclusion to this process and the eventual adoption of an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Reference: E-265/06