Thursday, January 12, 2017

Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations 2005

Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations 

November 2-4, 2005 

Mar del Plata, Argentina

The population of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala--the (American) continent in the language of the Kuna of Panama—consists of about 50 million people (about 10% of the total population of so-called Latin America). There are hundreds of Indigenous nations throughout the continent.

For hundreds of years Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala have fought to regain their freedom and their ancestral territories. The states, created after independence and dominated by the elite of European ancestry, have continued to exert a policy of exploitation, oppression, and denial not only fundamental rights of first nations but even of their very existence.
The first international agreement concerning Indigenous Peoples, Covenant 107 of the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO), was established in 1957, and had as its primary objective that of integrating and assimilating Indigenous Peoples to the so-called national societies of the different states.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, faced with relentless efforts by states to penetrate their territories in search of more resources to exploit, Indigenous Peoples had to organize politically and adopt different means of struggle to defend their ancestral territories and fundamental rights.

In 1977, at the height of repression by military dictatorships in Latin America, the First International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples was held at the United Nations in Geneva, organized by Non-Government Organizations. This conference marked a milestone not only in the relationship established between Indigenous Peoples and the states in the American continent, but also in their relation with the states of other continents, and with non-government organizations and European society in general.

In 1981, the Second International Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held at the United Nations in Geneva: the Conference of Indigenous Land Rights. At the conference, participants expressed the need for the ratification of international agreements by the United Nations for the recognition of Indigenous Rights, and called for the modification of pre-existing agreements that were considered obsolete, such as Convention 107 of the International Labor Organization.

In 1983 the Indigenous Peoples’ Working Group of was created within the United Nations with the goal of discussing Indigenous issues and adopting a declaration that would recognize their rights. The representatives of Indigenous Peoples and organizations were allowed to participate in the Working Group, even though they did not have a consultative status within the U.N.

The ratified declaration has not yet been approved because of the negative attitude of some states. They have refused to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral rights, such as the rights to their land and territories, self-determination and autonomy, and to control natural resources within their territories.

Convention 107 also became an item of discussion within the ILO. It was updated and adapted to the social and political realities faced by Indigenous Peoples, and the recognition of Indigenous Rights was guaranteed. Convention 107 was voided by agreement, and with the participation and contribution of Indigenous delegates a new convention was ratified in 1989—Convention 169.

Convention 169 of the ILO is the most advanced convention ever ratified for its recognition of Indigenous Rights. It has been ratified by a majority of Latin America countries, with a few significant exceptions (Chile being one). Yet the Convention is rarely applied, a fact which we will return to later.

In preparation for 1992--the five hundred year anniversary of the Spanish and Anglo-Saxon invasion of Abya Yala--the Indigenous Peoples of the continent mobilized en masse to exert political pressure and propose measures to change the situation of oppression and marginalization they had endured for 500 years. As many protests and local, regional and international meetings were organized, Indigenous Peoples strengthened their ties of solidarity with other Indigenous Peoples in the fight for their ancestral rights. At the same time they forged alliances with different sectors of society, especially with the mestizo (mixed blood) population and workers, who, like Indigenous Peoples, suffer oppression from an unjust system which imposes an unfair distribution of resources and opportunities and thus denies them a dignified living.

The Indigenous Peoples declared the following as their inalienable rights:
• Self-determination,
• Recognition of ancestral territories (above and under ground)
• Indigenous identity
• Official recognition of Indigenous languages and of
• Indigenous education
• Respect of the environment and of
• Indigenous spiritual life and Indigenous ways of administering justice.

The Earth Summit organized by the United Nations and held in Brazil in 1992 was used by Indigenous Peoples to make an appeal to humanity about the dangers of contamination of the planet and the irrational use of so-called natural resources. Indigenous Peoples were also able to form alliances with many organizations which adopted the Indigenous agenda of fighting for a healthy environment, free of pollution, not only for the sake of Indigenous Peoples but for the sake of all of humanity.

Thanks to the Earth Summit, a Convention on Biological Biodiversity (CBB) was created within the Environment Division of the United Nations. Indigenous Peoples have a very important role to play in this Convention, since they have lived in a harmonious relationship with the natural environment for thousands of years, and since this natural environment is now threatened by the disrespect of the ancestral rights of Indigenous people by transnational corporations in collusion with national governments.
1994 was declared Indigenous Peoples’ Decade by the United Nations. This was extended for ten more years in 2004. But in spite of this, and the agreements, no significant advances were made that could change our Peoples’ situation of poverty, discrimination and opression.

In 1995 the Working Group for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was formed within the Organization of American States (OAS). This Working Group, comprised of states’ and Indigenous representatives, has the objectives of approving a declaration similar to that of the United Nations, yet for the same reasons discussed above, many states have refused to adopt a declaration that recognizes the aspirations of Indigenous Peoples.

In 2000 the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues was formed in the United Nations. This Forum meets every year in the United Nations in New York to discuss problems and proposals concerning Indigenous Peoples.
We must acknowledge that there have been some advances in the international arena and in different countries’ laws on Indigenous Peoples. For example, the constitutions of Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Argentina recognize the existence and, in some cases, the pre-existence of Indigenous Peoples before the arrival of Europeans. There is also limited recognition of ancestral lands in some regions.

The Problem:
In general, these agreements and national legislations are very seldom enforced. Even if there is some recognition of Indigenous ancestral lands and territories, it is far from sufficient. Furthermore, Indigenous rights to underground resources as well as to territorial space are not recognized, nor is the right to restitution of the lands that were usurped, in the course of history or recently. The reality is that today most of the ancestral lands claimed by Indigenous Peoples have not been recognized by the states.

The adoption of Convention 169 of the ILO ratified by a majority of states has been an advance in the international recognition of Indigenous rights. Yet, in practice it is seldom applied, leaving Indigenous Peoples unprotected and at the mercy of arbitrary and discriminatory laws, which in many cases are in contradiction with international laws and also obsolete.

The Latin American states have for decades been affected by a growing dependence on the industrialized countries of the North, such as the United States and Europe. Because of the unequal terms of exchange between raw materials and technologies, and because of all the money borrowed to support military and political elites, debt and dependency have continued to increase.

The dependency/illegitimacy/ingovernability equation is getting worse with the weight of a practically impossible foreign debt. What results is that the peoples’ just demands are met with repression. The rich of the different countries have benefited from economic globalization since their profits have gone up with the loss of workers’ benefits. Further, they have completely neglected their responsibility in the face of the current social and economic crises and the situation of poverty and oppression that the majority of the people live in.

With economic and political globalization, states have signed international agreements with other governments and have agreed to be part of structures such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is managed and controlled by industrialized countries like the United States and Europe.
Through these agreements, states have signed the handing over of so-called natural resources to transnational corporations, to the detriment of the environment and the health of the population. These states’ measures are irresponsible acts to the people, since the corporations have as their only objective monetary gain, and do not take the peoples’ wellbeing into account.

Many of the resources turned over to corporations are found in Indigenous territories, and this is the main reason why the states refuse to acknowledge the ancestral rights of Indigenous Peoples to their land, territories, and natural resources. The majority of Latin American governments and states, in order to maintain their own privileges and those of local elites, have become corrupt and dependent on wealthy countries.

The social services which governments should provide to their citizens have instead been privatized, leaving the population without any protection for their rights to basic necessities, and requiring of them to purchase essential resources at market rates. Water, for example, an essential element of life, is first contaminated by mining, oil and damns, and then sold to the people as a commodity.

Many Indigenous communities have been contaminated by oil drilling and mining, as well as the construction of roads which have caused death and diseases such as cancer.
At the same time, workers are completely unprotected, as social benefits have been eliminated due to the pressure of transnational companies.

Indigenous Peoples have had their most fundamental rights threatened and have had to organize to defend themselves. They have faced brutal repression of their governments, which have killed, imprisoned, and intimidated their leaders.
In Colombia hundreds of Indigenous leaders have been assassinated by the paramilitary forces, by the military and by the guerillas. In Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia and Brazil, targeted assassinations of Indigenous People are a constant occurrence. In Chile, Mapuche leaders have been repressed imprisoned, and some have been murdered by the military police who were defending the interests of logging companies. These companies take advantage of the antiterrorist laws of the previous military dictatorship, which are still in place today.

The global war on terrorism launched by President Bush after September 11, 2001 has been used by Latin American government as an excuse to criminalize the peaceful demands of Indigenous communities, as Indigenous leaders have been accused of incitement to terrorist activities.

Regional and international agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), bilateral agreements between the Latin American states and the United States, and the planned Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) have had very negative effects on the life and rights of Indigenous Peoples and the majority of the population. Through these agreements transnational corporations have been given the power and the right to exploit the resources found in Indigenous territories, leading to contamination and poverty, and in many cases to the loss of ancestral lands.

We are concerned that in the next Presidential Summit of the Americas, new agreements will be signed which will have a negative impact on Indigenous Peoples. That is why our organizations find it necessary to call for the Continental Summit of the Indigenous People in Mar del Plata, to be held before the Presidential Summit. Our Summit will allow us to produce documents that will communicate to the presidents our concerns about the human rights violations carried out in our communities. At the same time we will elaborate working strategies of solidarity with other Indigenous Peoples of the continent, and we will build alliances with other sectors of society which also are suffering from the effects of political and economic globalization. We are proposing a new relationship between Indigenous Peoples and states, in which the latter commit to respect and apply the existing agreements, and recognize the ancestral rights that historically belong to us as original Peoples.

General Objective:
To organize a Continental Summit from the 30th of October to the 2nd of November 2004 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, with the participation of seventy delegates from twenty three countries and belonging to the major indigenous organizations of the continent. The meeting will take place before the meeting of the presidents of the Americas.

Specific Objectives:
1.. To elaborate by consensus amongst Indigenous Organizations a broad document which will reflect the aspirations of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, This document will be send to the governments one month before to the Summit for their consideration. Also that document will be expanded in the Indigenous Summit and distributed widely in the media and general public.
2. To actively participate in the International Forum of Civil Society and the peoples’ Summit. Those meetings will take in Mar del Plata from November 1st to the 5th.
3. To develop strategies of communication using modern technology in order to strengthen the International Indigenous Network and be able to increase the participation in the international communities in the struggle for democracy and justice.
4. To publish and disseminate to the national and international media and society in general the documents produced by the Continental Indigenous Summit.

Planned Activities:
Duration of the Project: Four months, from the first of September to the 31st of December 2005.
a) Elaboration of a preliminary document by the International Indigenous Committee. This document will need to be approved and finalized by the middle of September to be sent to all the presidents of the respective countries and to the organizing country (Argentina) so that it can be presented to the presidents at their summit. This document will reflect on the political, social and cultural situation of Indigenous Peoples, and will contain proposals for the acknowledgement of the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples.
b) Coordination of activities with the Forum of Civil Society and with the Peoples’ Summit for the production of a document that will reflect the aspirations of different sectors of society, based on respect of diversity.
c) The indigenous organizations in each country will lobby so that the respective governments will agree to include in the Indigenous proposals the agenda.

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