Some western countries endorsing obscuring of UN Indigenous Rights declaration -GOIP

The Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP) says, in a letter to President Bharrat Jagdeo, that interpretations of sections of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as distinct from the whole is leading to negative interpretations in some African and Caribbean states.

According to the letter, signed by GOIP secretary Percy Peneux, the declaration, adopted by the UN Human Rights council in June 2006, is "a long-overdue affirmation of the minimum international standards needed to uphold the human rights of Indigenous Peoples" in Guyana. It is based on core international principles and values that embraces tolerance, peace and respect for the dignity of all cultures and peoples and, consistent with the UN Charter, it requires that the "human rights and freedoms of all shall be respected." The organisation said it has been alerted that a small number of African and Caribbean states have been encouraged by a few Western States: Aotearoa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, to interpret the declaration in an erroneous way. Each provision of the declaration cannot be read as a separate fragment but should be interpreted in a holistic manner as to do otherwise could lead to extremist and absolute interpretations that could not be justified under the declaration or international human rights law as a whole.

The GOIP said the negative interpretations have recently led to a General Assembly resolution to defer action on the adoption of the declaration which authorises "time for further consultations." In response to this resolution, the GOIP said, "It is our sincere desire that your Administration recommend that these "consultations" should not be converted into a working group or any other process that fails to preserve the text of the Declaration" as adopted by the council in 2006.

The GOIP said the declaration is described as a "standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect". It does not create new rights but elaborates on existing human rights and standards as they apply to indigenous peoples. The organisation said it agrees with the Indigenous People's Caucus which in a recent statement submitted to the president of the General Assembly, said the key purpose of "consultations" is to bridge understanding, especially for those countries who chose not to participate in the "standard-setting process" that took place over 20 years.

The organisation said in the Indigenous global context, the declaration is an essential complement to the survival, dignity and well-being of the world's indigenous peoples and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. GOIP calls on the government to join with sister Caricom states Dominica and Haiti and in urging the General Assembly to adopt the declaration as soon as possible.

Source: Starbroek News, 15 February

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