2012 ushers in a spirit of dialogue for states and indigenous peoples

  •  united nations
  • Inter Press Service

2012 marks five years since indigenous peoples were formally recognized by the United Nations in the form of a non- binding declaration of rights, and welcomes a 'spirit of dialogue' and 'optimism' said Luis Chavez, former Chair of the Working Group on Indigenous populations at a press conference earlier this month.

At the conference held to commemorate the fifth anniversary, speakers from the forefront of indigenous movements in Canada, Australia and Malaysia were unanimous in their eagerness to move on from the perilous beginnings of the declaration. The fact that a set of standards for land provision, cultural identity, language rights and self- determination was accepted is 'a success story' said Grand Chief Edward John (Canada), Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The declaration was passed in 2007 but met with the stubborn opposition by four key UN members, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, who voted against the declaration.'The provisions on lands and resources are particularly unworkable and unacceptable', said government representatives of the US, Australia and New Zealand in a joint statement at the 2006 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII).

Five years on 'those who not so long ago voted against the declaration of indigenous rights can now join the group in acceptance of the text of the declaration' according to Chavez. But 'few states have entered into effective dialogue or have undertaken adequate legal reforms to implement the Declaration', concluded this year’s PFII.

'While it might be difficult to put the declaration into effective force, the fact is it has to happen' said Les Malzer, former Chair of the Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus.If states are slow to seek partnership and equality indigenous peoples will push for it’ he added. He emphasized that 'togetherness is the way to go forward', and the declaration serves as a roadmap guiding states and indigenous peoples towards a mutually constructed future.’

© Inter Press Service (2012) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service