The Fourth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Item 4: Human Rights
Monday, 23 May 2005
Greetings honorable Chair, we the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean, which includes Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, have convened here to present perspectives on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.
We begin by supporting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples. We reiterate that all indigenous peoples share a spiritual, cultural, social, and economic relationship with their traditional lands and have a responsibility for preserving them for use by future generations.
We call attention to the urgent need to adopt a strong Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples elaborated in a manner consistent with international law and its progressive development. None of these statements are new; they are contained in numerous expert studies, reports, Joint Statements by Indigenous Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC, Indigenous Nations, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous Organizations.
While we understand that studies and reports are needed in order to address the particular situations of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples, it is time to implement without further delay our inalienable right to self-determination, and collective rights to our lands, territories, and natural resources.
Honorable Chairperson, with this in mind specifically as it relates to the situation of the Greater Caribbean we recommend:
1.) That both CARICOM and the Association of Caribbean States establish a desk to focus on Indigenous Peoples issues and concerns including the goals of the MDGs, with the full and effective participation of the Indigenous Organizations of the Region.
2.) That the Special Rapporteur on the rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples pay particular attention to the Revision of the Amerindian Act of Guyana which is currently under way to ensure that the Guyana government respect, recognize, acknowledge and adopt, recommendations made by the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana.
3.) That the governments of the Greater Caribbean:
a. Respect our right to self-determination, to exercise self-government and fundamental right to self-definition.
b. Recognize our collective rights our lands, territories and natural resources which are vital for our social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual development, our source of life sustenance, and intimately connected to our identity, culture, education, health and way of life.
c. Respect our right to freedom of association and movement within our lands territories and self-determines geographic areas.
d. Ensure equitable representation of Indigenous Peoples on relevant government commissions or other official working groups.
e. Undertake with the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples:
1. Who share a common ancestral heritage, and geographic area as do the Taíno and the Hoboshirima Arawak of Venezuela, create adequate mechanisms to facilitate boarder crossing using as a model the Jay Treaty observed between the United States and Canada.
2. Constitutional amendments that recognize the existence and identities of Indigenous Peoples in their countries.
3. Adopt laws and programs that eliminate discrimination intolerance and social exclusion.
4. Develop and implement a regular established process for Indigenous Peoples to discuss amongst ourselves, and review existing and proposed national policies, laws and regulations with government representatives, agencies, and departments to ensure they do not undermine or in any way restrict or limit our rights and to discuss other issues of concern to us as they arise.
5. Lastly to undertake with the free prior and informed consent the adoption of laws and polices that implement the Akwe:kon Guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding development proposed to take place on, or which are likely, to impact on, Sacred Sites, Ceremonial Grounds, Burial Grounds, lands, waters, traditionally occupied or used by Indigenous and local communities.
Honorable Chair, and distinguished delegates, we thank you for your patience and the opportunity to submit these recommendations.