Indigenous Nations Call for Full and Effective Participation of Indigenous Nations in United Nations

Published on Jun 18, 2013

In lead up to 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples tribal nations engage in global dialogue concerning the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Washington, DC – Indigenous governments, including the tribal nations of North America, are seeking an official status within the United Nations in the lead up to the High Level Plenary to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) in New York City in September of 2014.

In late May of 2013 during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City, more than 72 tribal nations and ten Indian and Native Hawaiian organizations – including NCAI, called on the UN to adopt rules to recognize the “regular and permanent status” of constitutional and customary Indigenous governments at the UN and become fully inclusive of all Indigenous governments. More specifically, the joint statement (download) made three recommendations for consideration leading up to the WCIP:

  1. That a new monitoring body be incorporated within the UN to help guide implementation of the Declaration by members states of the UN;
  2. That the UN take action to address the issue of violence against Indigenous women, including convening a high-level conference to discuss this matter, ensuring any monitoring mechanism of the Declaration pay particular attention to Article 22, and to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a specific focus on violence against Indigenous women and children; and
  3. That the UN take action to give constitutional and customary governments of Indigenous Peoples a dignified, permanent status within its processes, which acknowledges their rights as self-governing nations.

In a global meeting held last week in Alta, Norway, tribes continued to advocate that the UN adopt rules to recognize the “regular and permanent status” of constitutional and customary Indigenous governments at the UN and become fully inclusive of all Indigenous governments.

Currently, Indigenous governments have no official status in the UN.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are given a formal ‘consultative status” in UN processes and are relied upon in matters affecting Indigenous Peoples, while the elected or traditionally appointed governments of Indigenous Nations are often denied an active role in discussions affecting their people. 

The global meeting in Alta was held to prepare for the UN’s High Level Plenary Meeting to be held in September 2014, and produced an Outcome Document (download) with recommendations for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with input from 7 Indigenous caucuses from throughout the globe. Recommendation 2.10 states:

Pursuant to the universal application of the right of self-determination for all Peoples, recommends that the UN recognize Indigenous Peoples and Nations based on our original free existence, inherent sovereignty and the right to self-determination in international law.  We call for, at a minimum, permanent observer status within the UN system enabling our direct participation through our own governments and parliaments.  Our own governments include inter alia our traditional councils and authorities.  

Participating in the Alta Meetings were – Chairman John Sirois, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Chief John Giesbrecht, Kwikwetlem First Nation; Chief Wilfred King, Gull Bay First Nation; and Dwight Witherspoon (Tribal Council Representative) and Leonard Gorman (Executive Director, Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission) on behalf of the Navajo Nation.

Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Executive Director, United Tribes of Michigan) also participated as an official delegate of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

Statement of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI):

“The tribal nations that participated in these meetings helped continue the push for full and effective participation for Indigenous nations in the UN. NCAI has an NGO status with the UN, yet believes that tribes should be afforded their full and effective status, and is committed to acting as a resource for tribes wanting to participate in UN discussions. NCAI insists that Indigenous nations need an active, direct voice within the UN, especially considering that Indigenous nations remain at the forefront of the world’s most challenging issues - from climate change to poverty.  To recognize the autonomy of Indigenous governments and afford them a rightful seat at the table is a critical step to fully implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. NCAI is committed to providing technical assistance to tribes in making the push for each of these issues. Each of these recommendations remains a priority for Indigenous nations as we move forward toward the 2014 WCIP. “

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