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09 / 08 / 2004
Indigenous youth to present their conclusions about the rights of indigenous peoples before the United Nations

Over the past weekend, forty youth participations in the UN program for aid to indigenous peoples met in order to identify the objectives for the next decade on indigenous peoples. The conclusions of this meeting will be presented at the end of this week. The document will be presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations so that it will be taken into account in the process of drafting a declaration of indigenous rights.

In December 2004, the decade of indigenous peoples will end, a deadline that the UN set in order to provide solutions to their problems. Over these ten years, they have been working on a declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples that will have 45 articles, of which only two have been approved. Those are the articles that recognize individual rights of citizenship and equality between men and women. The delay in approving the rest of the articles comes from divergences in the debate on collective rights, which deal with very conflictive issues such as the right to self-determination, control of territories and natural resources. Many member countries of the United Nations are blocking the accords because they see risks for their economic and political interests.

Julian Burger, responsible for the indigenous program of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed his regret at this delay, but has announced a second decade for indigenous peoples. "In order to establish objectives for the next decade, in the UN we want to consult the viewpoints of the indigenous themselves and listen to what they are asking of us," said Burger.

The future declaration will serve as a framework for the states that work on rights for indigenous peoples, like what is currently happening with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "When indigenous peoples become familiar with their rights, they will be able to reclaim them and denounce situations of abuse before their governments," proclaimed Burger.

A member of the conclusions work group, representative of the Maya Mam people of Guatemala, Daniel Domingo Lˇpez, explained the reasons for the presence of the indigenous youth in the events in celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples at the Forum 2004: "We are at the Forum to demand our free determination, respect for our traditions and that human rights be for all humans." He then called for a change in attitude toward indigenous peoples, that they not be "someone we need to save" but rather part of humanity. He expressed his regret at how useless it is to recognize the rights of people without providing laws so that they are respected and economic resources in order to develop them.

Maya Mollen, representative of the Innu Montagnese community in Quebec, Canada, called for more effort on the part of the press and dominant cultures to get to know indigenous values.