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“Indigenous Peoples and Conflict Resolution”

UN WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS

22nd SESSION JULY 19-23 2004

JOINT STATEMENT OF THE SAAMI COUNCIL AND THE INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR CONFERENCE

Item: 4b “Indigenous Peoples and Conflict Resolution”

Thank you Mr. Chairman,
First, we want to congratulate you on your reelection as Chairperson Rapporteur of the Working Group.

We focus in this presentation on the process of the draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Working Group of which will end its mandate this year, coinciding with the end of the International Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In our opinion, a UN document of universal applicability outlining the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples would constitute the most important tool in preventing and resolving conflicts in indigenous territories. Conflict resolution on the situations between governments and Indigenous Peoples is highly dependent on the necessary adoption of a declaration acceptable to indigenous peoples. In most cases, conflicts between indigenous peoples and states arise as a result of states not adhering to the rights and principles enshrined in the Declaration, with detrimental effects on our peoples as a result.

Mr. Chairman;

We are therefore deeply concerned since we feel that the process towards the adoption of the draft declaration has entered a very critical stage. Presently, the draft declaration is the focus of a Commission on Human Rights-level working group (CHRWGDD), where it has become very contentious and is highly politicised mainly due to the comprehensive nature of the text and state opposition to respecting indigenous human rights standards.

We are entering a particularly critical period towards any further development in the process. We have one and a half session left before the end of the mandate of the working group this year. Only two articles have been adopted so far. The provisions in the draft declaration regarding our fundamental rights to, lands, territories and resources, our collective rights and, in particular, the right to self-determination are those articles which could provide more understanding between states and Indigenous Peoples towards conflict resolution. The Saami Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference underlines that history is evidence of that it is impossible to prevent or resolve conflicts if neglecting the fundamental right of all peoples to determine the future of their societies. Naturally, conflicts in indigenous territories are no exception in this regard.

Mr. Chairman;

The Saami Council’s and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference’s position has been expressed as acknowledging that there is room for improvement and clarification of the substantive articles of the draft declaration. We reiterate, however, that any amendment of the present text must respect the principle of equality, must not violate the peremptory norm of absolute prohibition of racial discrimination, must respect the identity and integrity of Indigenous Peoples and their communities and must also otherwise be consistent with international law.

We hope that the upcoming sessions of the WGDD will provide mutual understanding between all involved parties. We all have responsibility to reach an agreement on an acceptable Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, not least because such an instrument is paramount to prevent and resolve conflicts in indigenous territories, putting an end to the suffering and marginalization that almost all indigenous peoples are suffering from.

Finally, Mr. Chairperson, it is our understanding that there are discussions on forming a Working Group on Conflict Resolution. We would like to underline that if such a Working Group is established, it is very important that the members of the Working Group are appointed with respect for the principle of regional distribution. The Working Group should thus include indigenous representatives from all the seven indigenous regions decided by the indigenous caucus in connection with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, including the African and Asian region.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.