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Overall Disappointment at the United Nations: World Conference endangered

Indigenous peoples were left with frustration and disappointment as the preparatory process for the realization of the High Level Plenary Meeting also known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was left in a limbo at the closing session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The World Conference, planned for September 2014 has been put at serious risk after the Ambassador Crispin Gregoires, adviser and representative of John W. Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly, Friday May 23 reported on the lack of consensus among States on the proposed road map presented by the President of the General Assembly on May 19, in which the preparatory process for the realization of this global event was specified. Official delegations of a number of countries, including Mexico, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and the US and indigenous representatives deplored the indecisive attitude of President John W. Ashe, who has led the organization of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples into an unprecedented entrapment. Many speakers demanded that John Ashe fulfills his duty to enforce the mandate contained in Resolution 66/296 of the UN General Assembly, which defines the modalities for organizing the so-called World Conference. This resolution, adopted on September 17, 2012 by the highest body of the United Nations, defines aspects of great relevance to indigenous peoples related to their full and effective participation in this process. It also defines a process of consultation and an "informal interactive hearing" to be held not later than June 2014. The expectation of the indigenous peoples of the world is enormous because the General Assembly has also decided that the World Conference will result in "a concise and action-oriented outcome document". It also states that the outcome document should "contribute to the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, pursue the objectives of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and promote compliance with all internationally agreed development goals". Obviously, indigenous participation in all phases and levels of the organization of the World Conference is a crucial issue that emerges from their status as peoples with the right to participate in all matters that concern them, as the very UN recognized in Article 18 of the Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples adopted in 2007 by the General Assembly. However, until now, John W. Ashe, has succumbed to pressure from certain states who oppose to ensure full indigenous participation in this process, hindering the fulfillment of the modalities resolution adopted by consensus in 2012 by the General Assembly. It is noteworthy that the proposed road map, presented on Monday 19th May by John W. Ashe, was accepted by representatives of indigenous peoples and governments who have actively supported and promoted the rights of indigenous peoples to participation, despite the fact that it left it to the President alone to define what will be the participation of indigenous peoples in the consultation process for the preparation of the outcome document, and also does not clarify whether indigenous peoples may participate in the final process of negotiation of the outcome document. Despite the ambiguities of the road map, indigenous peoples, in a show of flexibility and maturity, decided to accept the proposal and expected that the President of the General Assembly would announce the acceptance by states and a firm timetable for the consultation process ahead at the last session of the Permanent Forum. Unfortunately, the president's announcement was negative due to the opposition of some states. The main countries to oppose the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the preparatory process for the World Conference are Russia, India and Bangladesh. However, it is possible that other influential countries also support this position. According to some specialized observers and analysts, John W. Ashe is not exercising the power granted to him by the General Assembly Resolution on the modalities of the World Conference. The representative of John W. Ashe, Ambassador Crispin Gregoires, announced Friday that the President of the General Assembly will seek consultation with the States as soon as possible, but it is not known whether these consultations will aim at developing a new road map that accommodates the demands of certain States, or if the President will insist on the road map already on the table. This uncertainty feeds the analysis that this is not the optimal moment for the process and the outcome document from a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to meet the demands and aspirations of indigenous peoples and advance in the implementation of their rights as they are set forth in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately, the obstacles imposed by certain states in recent months and the unfortunate lack of decision on the side of the President of the General Assembly, has rekindled the debate about a possible postponement of the event, as only four months ahead of the event, procedural matters are still being discussed while there has been no discussions on more substantive issues such as the content of the outcome document. As many indigenous leaders and several governmental officials have warned, this situation challenges the will, the image and legitimacy of the United Nations with regard to indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ Global Coordinating Group (GCG) has made a strong appeal to the President of the General Assembly to urgently take firm and effective decision in accordance to the mandate given to him by Resolution 66/296. Read the statement of the GCG by clicking here John W. Ashe, citizen of Antigua and Barbados, was elected President of the sixty-eighth session of the UN General Assembly on 14 June 2013. He has previously served as his country's ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and been his government’s chief negotiator for sustainable development issues.



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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