Rewriting International Relations

Rewriting International Relations

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June 19, 2014

On May 12 2014 at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus — a UN-appointed association of self-appointed lobbyists that includes the infamous North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus — issued a statement calling for cancellation of the September 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. On May 19, scores of American Indian tribes, along with the National Congress of American Indians, issued a statement in support of holding the conference as scheduled at UN Headquarters in New York. On June 17 and 18, the UN held a hearing for indigenous peoples and governments to put forward recommendations for inclusion in the World Conference Outcome Document.

As Rudolph C. Ryser of the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) noted in an article on June 9, indigenous nations dedicated to identifying best practices for implementing the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are committed to constructing good faith relations with UN member states, including resolution of grievances about the UN process that the caucus lobbyists and tribal governments share. As Dr. Ryser notes, the World Conference will convene in September in New York, and while the pace of this new phase of the international discussion on the rights of indigenous nations is unsatisfactory to many participants, it is nonetheless moving toward dialogue that will “significantly rewrite the international relations rule book.”

As CWIS associate scholar Mirjam Hirch wrote in a February 2009 op-ed, UNDRIP elevated an invisible matter of domestic concern to the level of international concern. Noting that the world’s original nations — with their own laws, cultures and governing authorities — draw their authority from inherent powers distinct from modern states, Dr. Hirch observes that, “The laws of states compete with the laws of nations, and it is this very fact that demands changing the way states and the world’s original nations deal with each other.” Sounding a note of hope, Dr. Hirch observes, “When this leveling of the playing field is achieved, nations and states will be able to directly address the challenges that test human kind.”

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