With the celebratory announcement by the United Nations General Assembly president, that a member of the Sami people has been appointed to conduct consultations on his behalf in preparation for the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, we would be advised to consider this development in light of UN conduct to date. While this supposedly inclusive gesture is heralded by the UN as a major achievement, the fact that the co-appointment of the UN Human Rights Council chair from Mexico notes his recent responsibility for coordinating UN climate change negotiations should give us pause.
As readers here are well aware, the UN climate change talks since 2008 have made a mockery of Indigenous peoples rights as enshrined in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and indeed, the UN has treated Indigenous nations delegates to the climate change talks in Poznan, Copenhagen and Cancun with open contempt–so much so that they had Indigenous Caucus leaders ejected from the proceedings.
As for the major achievement, public relations announcements by the UN hardly compare with the real life accomplishment by the World Council of Indigenous Peoples or its successor, the Center for World Indigenous Studies, in forcing the colonial institution to recognize Indigenous peoples as worthy of human rights. The fact this took three decades of research, education and organizing on the part of Indigenous activist scholars is to the shame of the UN bureaucracy and its member states. Attempting to take credit for this achievement by acts of false magnanimity is appalling, but par for the course for the UN.
As Indigenous peoples gear up for the psychological warfare waged by UN public relations staff against their movement of liberation, UN plans to control Indigenous participation in global discussions on human rights and the environment need to be discussed for what they are, not what some may wish they were. While we all would like good faith diplomacy between Fourth World nations and UN member states to be the rule, we know from experience that it is the exception. Holding the UN accountable means exposing its deceit.
While the Indigenous peoples are prepared to lead, the UN is hopelessly locked into a habit of abetting market interests at the expense of tribal survival.
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