Karla Major, an astute attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center wrote in an email (16 February) announcing the February 27-28 United Nations Consultation on “enabling participations of indigenous peoples’ representatives at the United Nations.” She strongly urged, “It is vitally important that tribal governments speak for themselves and present their views directly to the UN and member states during these upcoming consultations.” Since the Consultations will come to a close in September 2017, there is considerable truth in Ms. Major’s prod to increase participation by indigenous governments. Her urgent call for indigenous governments to take the initiative reflects a more profound truth. However, most indigenous governments cannot afford the great expense to travel to Geneva or New York City, lack information, or are prevented by many states’ governments from actually participating.
My question is, Will Nations take the Initiative? There are alternatives to the developing “closed door plans” ” or limitations imposed by the United Nations or individual UN Member States.
For more than thirty-eight years, the Center for World Indigenous Studies has advocated, prodded and provided analysis for international bodies (indigenous nations’ and states’) enabling indigenous nations and states to directly enter into dialogue and decision-making based on political equality. CWIS worked in 1991 and 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union to establish a Congress of Nations and States to serve as such a forum. The governments of Russia, Germany and tentatively Japan agreed along with ten indigenous nations. They agreed that such a Congress should be held in Russia (Remember Russia had just collapsed in August 1991 and Boris Yeltsin was their leader. The United States objected to the Congress and actively worked to scuttle the effort. Russia, quite weak and Germany and Japan actively interested…backed off. Now we see another effort emerging in the UN to promote indigenous nations’ participation on the international plain, but there are numerous questions that remain unanswered: Will indigenous nations become participants and political equals to states? Will there be local, sub-regional and regional UN organizational structures permitting full participation of indigenous nations throughout the world? Who will pay for indigenous nations’ participation? Will UN Member States be permitted to block indigenous nations from participating since many UN States declare they “have no indigenous peoples” (PR China, Russia for example)?
The Center for World Indigenous Studies prepared a detailed intervention responding to the UN General Assembly President’s call for contributions to the first consultation on the “enabling” subject in March of 2016. We noted that indigenous nations’ participation, as interlocutors at the UN would be hampered by several critical facts:
- Indigenous nations constitute individual political communities or societies.
- There are more than 5,000 indigenous nations with a combined population of 1.3 billion people (not 370 million as claimed by the UN). They are located in Africa (30%), Americas (15%), Asia (32%), Europe (4%) and Oceana (19%).
- Each nation must have a territory, seasonal territories on which they practice their culture, customary law and institutions.
- Defined by political identity nations should participate in local, sub-regional, regional and international bodies recognized by the United Nations and other multi-lateral bodies. This would allow those nations that have primarily a local capacity, sub-regional capacity, regional capacity or international capacity to directly engage the United Nations as political equals. CWIS projected in its submission to the UN General Assembly President that a minimum of 378 regional bodies would be necessary to accommodate participation by most indigenous nations.
While we made a good faith effort to point out the realities of the world’s indigenous nations, the consultations drew a very small number of contributors. There were indigenous governments (5), states’ governments (5) and a larger number of non-governmental organizations (14) that contributed to this first round of Consultations. These numbers did not grow significantly during four succeeding Consultations (ending 28 February 2017).
The focus of the working group of advisors to the UNGA President produced compilations of contributions in these consultations. Their emphasis? “… indigenous peoples’ representative institutions in consultative status would include within practical constraints” speaking at meetings of the General Assembly and subsidiary bodies. Well, a nation could participate I guess if it has access to a credit card with relatively unlimited funds. Nations would also need personnel well versed on the topics and procedures of the General Assembly. And, they would need access to one of the UN languages to go to New York or Geneva and make a ten-minute statement.
Such a circumstance is neither realistic nor workable. Only those nations that can afford to participate (a very small number compared to the 5,000 total nations) will be able to travel to New York or Geneva. I think it is more realistic to adapt the UN structure to indigenous nations instead of the other way around. UN structures must be created to allow for direct indigenous nation participation—such as local, sub-regional and regional bodies. This approach. This must be the policy of those nations that wish to participate in the UN. If they don’t take the initiative to set a different agenda than what is now unfolding, they will be pigeonholed as yet another essentially limited part of the UN and not an active body of participating nations.
Countries and certain leaders permit, enable, or actively commit and/or facilitate genocide (the crime of crimes) and crimes against humanity. Money and specifically corporate investments sustain the criminal activity in these countries: Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Burma, Republic of Congo, Namibia, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan. We must extend the economic and social power of the global population to prevent, punish and defeat Genocide when even the threat of the International Criminal Court (created in 2002) is powerless to do so. By virtue of a world-wide campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction corporations, companies and business products that support individuals, groups and governments engaged in the crime of Genocide we can undercut one of the two legs of the stool that enables Genocide: Money and Power. Without the money, perpetrators of genocide cannot exercise power to activate genocidal crimes. Indigenous nations’ governments must now step up to prevent genocides and obtain justice. Virtually every indigenous nation “talks” about genocide, but virtually none do anything about it.
Indigenous nations in the eastern Mediterranean have been under “siege” for more than 600 years. It is apparent that the current tumult lit by the US war in the 1990s now involves Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—three states—that have moved as allies to contribute further to this mayhem. Rebwar Rashed, Co-chair of the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) wrote about the “Triangle of Terror” in the Kurdistan Tribune about the rising urgency to recognize the Turkish-Iranian-Saudi Axis. As well it is useful to note that these states are acting in its efforts to kill, relocate and otherwise intimidate indigenous Kurds, Beluches, Yezidi, Assyrians, Zoroastrians, and Shabakhs to force the development of oil pipelines through Northern Iraq to Syria to the open sea. From a religious sect point of view it seems unreal that such an Axis would be formed. Turkey is primarily Sunni and the last remaining remnant of the Ottoman (Osman) Empire that collapsed in the 1920s. Iran is the home of Shiites now dominating the Iraqi government. The Saudi Arabian Kingdom is the home of the toxic version of Islam called Wahhabism (originated by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab in the 18th century) whose founder helped legitimize the Al Sa’ud family. This became the foundation of their rise to power to dominate the Arabian Peninsula. That Wahhabism or its variant Salafism serves as the ideology of Daesh (the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) places the Al Sa’ud family in direct support of Daesh being fought by the Americans, Kurds and Iraqis. The House of Sa’ud is clearly meddling to endanger indigenous peoples. It seeks to expand Wahhabism by forcing conversions or the death of those who will not.
The apparent objective of the “Triangle of Terror” is to convert or destroy the indigenous populations that don’t accept domination. The Triangle of Terror appears in fact to be collaborating between “enemies of my enemies” with indigenous nations in the eastern Mediterranean as their targets. Indigenous nations must take their own initiative to build political, military and geopolitical obstacles to the Triangle of Terror.” It is fairly apparent that the United States, Russia, Syria, Iraq, France, Germany, UK, and of course Canada are entirely too preoccupied with their internal quarrels and intrigues. This is not to mention their deep investment by alliances with Turkey and the House Sa’ud. And to further mention their continuing the mess they started in the eastern Mediterranean. They cannot or will not prevent the killings, dislocations, rapes and starvations that appear to be the aims of Turkey, Iran and the House of Sa’ud. Indigenous nations must step forward themselves.
# # # #
Dr. Rÿser is the Chairman of the Center for World Indigenous Studies. He served as Senior Advisor to the President George Manuel of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, Advisor and Speechwriter to Quinault President Joe DeLaCruz, a former Acting Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, and a former staff member of the American Indian Policy Review Commission. He holds a doctorate in international relations, teaches Fourth World Geopolitics through the CWIS Certificate Program (www.cwis.org. He is the author of “Indigenous Nations and Modern States” published by Routledge in 2012.