U.N. Delays Vote on Native Self-determination
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service (IPS), 28 November 2006
UNITED NATIONS -- Leaders of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples and their supporters expressed sadness and anger Tuesday as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly rejected a draft declaration calling for the international recognition of native peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their traditional lands.
The Third Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, decided to put aside the matter for further discussion, as a majority of member states approved a resolution in favour of deferment.
"It is shameful," said Arthur Manuel, chief of the Secwepemc Nation, about the outcome of the vote on the declaration. "This was an historic opportunity for the U.N. to at least recognise our inalienable rights."
Les Malezer, an Australian aboriginal leader who chairs the Indigenous Caucus at the U.N., added: "This is unjustifiable. This is an attempt to derail the whole process."
Both Manuel and Malezer said they had hoped that the General Assembly would approve the declaration since it was already adopted by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council during the summer.
Though African nations had supported the declaration in Geneva, this time around they changed their position, demanding that the wording on the "right to self-determination" be changed, a move that undermined the attempt to get the declaration adopted by the Assembly during its current session.
In interviews with IPS, some indigenous leaders said they were surprised at the new stance of the African bloc, but others suggested it was the U.S. and its allies which had lobbied behind the scenes.