Q&A With Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus

Q&A With Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus

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John Ahni Schertow
December 2, 2006
 

Q&A With Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, Les Mazeler, by Elisa Burchett

2006-11-30 | When a correspondent brought to light, during the noon briefing at the U.N., that some delegations were saying “We will just wait until September”, Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokesperson for the President of the 61 session of the General Assembly responded, “Well, I think that’s the cynical view, but I think the hope is, knowing that many people are waiting on this, particularly NGOs and of course indigenous peoples themselves, and I think everybody is aware of the importance people have placed on this [issue] after 24 years. So I think she certainly will do her best to make sure that, as the resolution says, that consideration of the Declaration will be completed by the end of this session. But of course, it depends on Member States and the will of Member States to make sure that this resolution passes.”

I thought readers might want to know about the implications of this vote and having very little understanding of these proceedings myself, I was very curious about the “next step” and if there was a system used to ensure the declaration is not delayed until September 2007 as some delegations were suggesting.

I’d like to thank Les Malezer, Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the U.N., for taking the time to answer a few basic questions for us regarding the November
28 vote to delay the passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

EB: My main questions are…and any question you feel to answer would be just fine…What is the general outlook at the Indigenous Peoples Caucus?

LM: For the moment we are very angry about the way the declaration has become a political football of the States, and the lack of regard for its human rights status. We are determined to continue our fight for identity and rights and believe the process in the U.N. is not yet finished. We will fight for an accountable U.N., and we will expose corrupt political handlings in the U.N. human rights system.

EB: How damaging was yesterday’s vote and how much of a delay are you expecting before an agreement will be reached by all member states?

LM: In reality, there is no damage caused by the resolutions of yesterday. (28 Nov.) The declaration still, under the decisions of the Third Committee, must be considered before the end of the 61st session of the General Assembly. So the States will have to come back together to vote again on the declaration.

The voting on the Namibia resolution, to delay adoption, was a bit of a shock because we had done so much work to explain why a delay would put the declaration at risk. The opponents of the declaration want time and a process to make changes, and they may very well have that opportunity now. However, a changed declaration still has to go through the process of adoption. It will be much harder to adopt a changed declaration than the existing declaration.

The process to get agreement on changes will be very difficult as there is no working group and no obvious way to get any form of consensus. There is no clarity on how Indigenous Peoples will be involved and there will be a lot of resistance to accept a declaration to which the Indigenous Peoples are not committed. So, in all, we are at the same stage of adoption; waiting for alternatives to be presented and, if inappropriate, rejected.

EB: What is the next course of action?

LM: The Declaration is yet to be adopted by the General Assembly during this session. The States who have insisted upon delaying the adoption, who promise consensus and a better process and who secretly want to dismantle the Declaration, will find that they have taken up the poisoned chalice. We know the Declaration has been drafted, examined and adopted by the highest human rights authorities in the world. It
is a human rights document, but now it is undergoing a political mashing by States who have committed racism against the Indigenous Peoples in their countries. The task of the Indigenous Peoples of the world is to hold the United Nations accountable to the human rights standards they espouse and the concept of the equality of peoples.

EB: Where can we go to get more information about yesterday’s vote for the resolution to delay the passing of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

LM: If you go to the caucus website you can listen to the discussion online. There is a recording available. The CANZUS states should each post a copy of their statement on their mission websites, but this is not so likely for the African States. I believe that someone is doing the transcripts and these should be available within a few days time.

We will try to post these statements on the website. The address is http://www.ipcaucus.net

EB: Thank you so much for making yourself available to us.

Elisa Burchett

U.N. OBSERVER & International Report

Please also see:

UN affirms Indigenous Peoples are not equal to all other Peoples

The Indigenous Caucus is shocked and outraged by the actions of the United Nations, who today failed to adopt the most important international instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights for Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which represents more than 20 years of work within the UN, constitutes the minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.

The newly created UN Human Rights Council, which is the premier international body to deal with human rights, adopted the Declaration in June of this year. The Declaration was one of the substantial achievements of the Council. However, it was delivered a huge blow today by African States, most of whom had chosen not to participate throughout this standard-setting process. Africa took the lead in blocking the adoption of the Declaration, which strategy was supported and encouraged by New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United States.

It is clear that these actions are a politicization of human rights that show complete disregard for the ongoing human rights abuses suffered by Indigenous Peoples. This betrayal and injustice severely impacts 370 million Indigenous people in all regions of the world, who are among the most marginalized and vulnerable.

On May 24, 2002, Secretary General Kofi Annan, had proclaimed that the world’s Indigenous Peoples “…have a home at the United Nations.”
However, today’s vote by opposing States clearly demonstrates that this is not the case.

Indigenous Peoples Caucus
At UN Headquarters, New York

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ CAUCUS http://www.ipcaucus.net

and

UN Non-Action Decision on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a Deplorable Setback to the Global Struggle for Human Rights for All

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Centre for Organisation Research and Education receive with great disappointment the news that the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted for a non-action motion on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
(MORE)
http://www.forum-asia.org/news/press_releases/fa/29nov06_unga.shtml

Botswana should respect culture of the San Bushmen
STATEMENT BY ARCHBISHOP TUTU
6 November 2006 (transcribed from video)
http://www.ipcaucus.net/Botswana.html

Elisa Burchett: African States Deliver Huge Blow to Indigenous Rights Declaration
http://www.unobserver.com/index.php?pagina=layout5.php&id=2879&blz=1

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