World Conference: The Center Calls for Indigenous Peoples to Respond

Dear Friends,

We have reviewed the President of the General Assembly’s February 25th decision concerning consultations with indigenous representatives on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.  The decision is very poor and inconsistent with the directive provided to the PGA by the UN General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/66/296 (attached).  However, it is not so bad that it warrants cancellation of the World Conference, as called for by the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC).  Summarized here are the Center’s reactions to both the PGA decision (attached) and the NAIPC decision (attached).

1.    The decision of the PGA is ill-advised and regrettable, especially concerning the GA Resolution calling for an interactive hearing to receive input from indigenous peoples -- called a "civil society briefing" by the PGA.

2.    The principal problem with the PGA decision is that it envisions a process in which there is no opportunity for indigenous peoples, in a meeting that includes states, to propose actions for the conference, to engage in some dialogue with states, to share ideas, to ask and answer questions, to discuss alternative proposals, to hear the reactions and problems that states may express, and so forth.  The GA Resolution at least provided for the interactive hearing and convening of inclusive and open informal consultations, and that should be revived and insisted on by states.  The prior practice of negotiations between states and indigenous peoples that contributed to the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be respected and observed by the PGA and the UN.

3.    Because of the PGA decision, it will be important for states to give high priority to meeting with indigenous representatives about their recommendations for the World Conference -- to meet in person and to receive their views by email, telephone, or regular mail.

4.    The PGA decision is not so bad as to call for boycotting nor for canceling or postponing the Conference.  To do so would be a terrible loss for all indigenous peoples.  The Conference should go forward and adopt the best possible action decisions.

5.    The arguments used to justify a boycott are not legally correct.  It is true that the PGA decision does not follow the requirements for indigenous participation outlined in the GA Resolution, but arguments that the PGA decision violates the UN Declaration go much too far.   

6.    Calling for cancellation of the Conference is not a good option.  It is unprecedented and it would require a state to sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly.  In the unlikely event that such a resolution is passed, it will likely call for postponement of the Conference and would delay the process at least four years, but would likely change little about the organization of the Conference.

The Center will send a letter objecting to the PGA decision and making recommendations consistent with these comments this week and will share that with you as soon as it is ready. 

It is now extremely important that states and the PGA hear directly from indigenous peoples and governments that they would like to see a productive World Conference.  Many states want to achieve positive outcomes at the Conference, and we intend to continue talking with states about our recommendations.  We hope you will consider sending letters, as a matter of urgency, to the PGA, the Secretary-General, the regional chairs of states, and to all state missions regarding your view.  The PGA’s email addresses are:;;;;;;;  The Secretary-General’s email is  The regional chairs of states email addresses are:;;;;;  If you would like the email addresses for all the member states, please let us know and we will get you that information.  We hope you continue to participate in preparations for the Conference, to demand opportunities to be heard and to participate, and to express hope and expectation that the World Conference will take place and achieve usable measures for indigenous peoples.  Please let us know how we can be helpful.

As you may have heard, the Mexico preparatory meeting originally scheduled for March 31-April 2 has been postponed.  Regardless, the plan for that meeting was deficient because it excluded indigenous peoples outside of the caucus from participating.  We did submit a letter (attached) to the Mexico Foreign Ministry on March 4th expressing our concerns before we received confirmation that their meeting had been postponed.  We must keep pressure on the PGA and states to keep indigenous participation open and inclusive and consistent with the positions adopted by the General Assembly and Human Rights Council in their resolutions calling for consideration of all indigenous peoples’ views and recommendations (beyond those expressed by the caucus in the Alta document). 

We look forward to keeping you informed and hearing your views, and we hope to see you at the U.S. State Department scoping session on the World Conference on March 10. 


Robert T. Coulter
Executive Director
Indian Law Resource Center
602 North Ewing Street
Helena, Montana 59601
406  449-2006  ext. 110