Friday, June 23, 2017

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

One year ago, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the "American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." Click here for an "Insight" about that Declaration from the American Society of International Law. It was authored by Stefania Errico, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Coventry University Centre for Agroecology, Water, and Resilience (United Kingdom).

Here's an excerpt:

Comprised of forty-one articles divided into six thematic sections, the American Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] recognizes a wide-ranging series of individual and collective rights deemed “indispensable for [indigenous peoples’] existence, well-being and integral development as peoples." According to Article XLI, these rights constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In keeping with the approach commonly followed in the other instruments concerning indigenous peoples, the Declaration does not provide any definition of the term “indigenous peoples.” Rather, it relies on the criterion of self-identification according to the “practices and institutions of each indigenous people” in order to define its scope of application.

Self-Determination, Autonomy, and Participation

In its Preamble, the [American] Declaration reproduces some paragraphs of [the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)] and recalls the historic injustices suffered by indigenous peoples, the urgent need to respect and promote their inherent rights, and the importance of eliminating all forms of discrimination against them. Strikingly, however, it does not acknowledge indigenous peoples as peoples “equal to all other peoples,” as UNDRIP had done, making explicit the link between indigenous groups as peoples and the right to self-determination. By doing that, UNDRIP acknowledges that indigenous peoples, like other peoples, have a full right to exercise self-determination, including in its external dimension, should the conditions be met.

A similar statement is not found in the American Declaration, which merely states that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, borrowing language from common Article 1 of the UN Covenants on Human Rights and Article 3 of UNDRIP, and lays down that in exercising this right, indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, reproducing Article 4 of UNDRIP. This right is understood as a right to internal self-determination, in accordance also with the limits formulated in Article IV to safeguard “the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.”


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