Indigenous Leaders Seek a Strong Outcome from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

When the United Nations gathers for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Sept. 22-23, 2014, the most important result will be an Outcome Document that will be a guide for indigenous rights globally.  The Center, in partnership with 136 Indian governments or nations in North, Central and South America, including over 100 in the United States, and a number of indigenous organizations put forth recommendations for the document.

The recommendations are (1) establish an implementing and monitoring mechanism for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; (2) establish an accreditation process for the permanent participation of indigenous peoples and their governments in UN meetings and activities; (3) take action to combat violence against indigenous women and children; and (4) take action to protect sacred sites.  These four actions are now supported as priority measures by indigenous peoples and governments and by many UN member countries worldwide. 

The Conference Outcome Document is now almost agreed upon by consensus, and the current draft includes all four of recommendations in refined language.  Overall, the draft is reasonably good, though we wish, of course, that it were stronger.

The process now is largely beyond our control, but we hope that our months speaking in the UN, providing information to states, and talking with the member states individually will eventually move them to take positive action. We will make a strong final push to persuade states and will continue to try to influence their state-to-state consultations and negotiations.  Even if the Conference fails to make reasonable decisions, we have already made it manifestly clear to UN member states the top priorities of indigenous peoples throughout the world.

We have advised tribal leaders attending the World Conference to register to make statements during the Conference, but decisions have not yet been made on who will be permitted to speak.

We would like to extend a word of gratitude to the indigenous and tribal leaders who participated in the consultations, and to First Peoples Worldwide, the Bay and Paul Foundations, and Americans for Indian Opportunity for providing travel funds so that more of them could participate in the UN meetings.  This participation by authentic indigenous leaders who could not otherwise afford to attend is extremely important in lending credibility and persuasive power to indigenous advocacy in the UN.

Also, we extend a special thanks to the Ford Foundation and The Christensen Fund for providing funding for our work on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.