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Aqqaluk Lynges speach at Geneva

STATEMENT OF AQQALUK LYNGE

INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR CONFERENCE

Commission on Human Rights

Working Group on the draft Declaration

Speach delivered at United Nations, Geneva  September 25th 2003 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Aqqaluk Lynge and I am the President of Inuit Circumpolar Conference (Greenland) and a Member of the Greenland Home Rule Parliament. As some of you may know, the Greenland Home Rule Government is one manifestation of the Inuit exercise of self-determination within local, regional and international political and legal arenas. The Home Rule Government has authority over a range of matters, including culture, health, education, and economic development.

However, today I am here as an elected political representative of an indigenous peoples’ organization to gather news about the work on the draft Declaration. Our peoples await news about "substantive progress" on the affirmation of our right to self-determination and the world community's acceptance of indigenous peoples as distinct peoples in international law.

Such an affirmation is directly linked to the issues before the Greenland Home Rule Parliament. Because our rights, interests and concerns extend far beyond our territories and respective national governments, we are eager to independently promote and safeguard our interests through negotiations with other parties, including other nation states. We have an ongoing and positive dialogue with the Danish Government concerning this matter. This is one example of the need for our right to self-determination to be recognized as a single right with multiple dimensions, including our relations with others beyond our local and national governments. With the increasing challenges arising from globalization, this will be a critical avenue for the protection of our distinct collective human rights as peoples.

One example of the need to protect our interests beyond national borders is the Thule Relocation case, which I raised at this working group last year. The relocation of the Inughuit of the Thule District was prompted by a foreign interest: the United States government. With little or no regard to the impact upon the Inughuit, in 1953 the Danish government undertook the forced relocation of Inughuit without their free and informed consent. The Inughuit, with the assistance of the ICC, have taken this case before the Danish Supreme Court, the Human Rights Committee and the ILO Committee of Experts. One critical element of these proceedings is the need for the Inughuit to be formally recognized as a distinct people in international law. The Supreme Court deliberations are scheduled for November 2003. We are at a great disadvantage due to the lack of financial resources and more importantly, the lack of genuine sensitivity to the full impact that forced relocation has had upon the Inughuit. Yet, we remain optimistic about the possible outcome of the court in redressing the violation of the fundamental rights of the Inughuit.

Turning to this forum, the ICC would like to appeal to the state government members of the Commission on Human Rights and the observer governments present to shift your focus away from the unnecessary fixation on the principle of territorial integrity that has hindered the progress of the Declaration. Despite the unrest being experienced in certain regions of the world, there is no question in our minds that the nation state members of the UN know the underlying principles of international law which continue to be the framework for the maintenance of peace and security, and international cooperation. These principles include far more than the principle of territorial integrity and by singling this concept out in the Declaration, it is likely to invite abuses or distortions of our right to self-determination.

Primary among these principles is respect for the equal rights and self-determination of all peoples, including indigenous peoples. In your collective efforts to harmonize "the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends," the ICC urges the Working Group and in particular, states, to rise to the occasion and give real meaning to the purposes and principles of the United Nations by adopting the Declaration in a form that strictly adheres to and promotes the very principles each and every member state is obligated to uphold.

The Inuit world awaits the news of such action. You can be sure that when the news of the UN General Assembly's adoption of a just and fair Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples arrives in the communities of our vast Arctic homeland, it will bring both warmth and hope to our hearts as well as confidence that there will always be distinct Inuit in this world. We genuinely hope that the nation states of the world will soon deliver this news and give indigenous peoples cause for celebration, not only in the Arctic but also around the world. Quyaanaq.