Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas:  INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS

The leaders assigned greater prominence to the situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Santiago Plan of Action. All countries agreed to promote the participation of indigenous peoples in society, through adequate access to education, health care, and occupational training, with the aim of improving their standard of living . More specifically, the member nations pledged to undertake the following actions within this mandate area:

Finally, it should be noted that in the area of Property Registration, governments committed to implement measures, where necessary, to protect property rights accorded to indigenous populations, as well as to provide informational programs to increase awareness of these rights.

Meeting of Government Experts

Significant progress is being made in the analysis and approval by OAS member states of the proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented to the General Assembly in 1997. Pursuant to a General Assembly resolution, the Inter-American Juridical Committee presented its analysis of the proposed text to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council.

On February 10-12, 1999, the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs convened a meeting of government experts at OAS headquarters in accordance with the pertinent resolutions of the General Assembly.  The Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, presented the proposed Declaration, explaining its background and the various articles of the document. A presentation was also given on the process of consultation with governments, indigenous representatives, and other experts in this area.

For the first time in the Organization�s history, there was dialogue between representatives of the member States and indigenous representatives from all parts of the Hemisphere on the contents of the proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations.  The government delegations of the OAS member States listened to the demands of the indigenous organizations and completed the review of the Preamble of the Proposed Declaration. It is important to mention that during the course of this process an ad hoc Indigenous Committee of the Americas was created, composed of representatives of different indigenous communities.  The purpose of the Committee is not only to participate more effectively in the drafting and negotiation of the Declaration, but also to act as the mouthpiece for indigenous communities.  Highlights of the meeting included the remarks made by the President of the National Congress of American Indians and Mr. Aucan Huilcaman (of the Mapuche Nation), who co-chairs the Committee.

The following recommendations were approved during the meeting:

  1. To continue to examine the Proposed Declaration based on the results of the Meeting of Government Experts.
  2. To seek such advisory services as may be necessary from national institutions and entities of the inter-American system, as well as from nongovernmental organizations of indigenous representatives.

Working Group to Consider the Proposed American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In June 1999, during the OAS' XXIX General Assembly, member States approved resolution AG/RES. 1610 (XXIX-O/99) in which they decided to establish a working group to continue consideration of the Proposed Declaration.  The States mandates that representatives of indigenous communities are to participate in the process.

The Working group held its first meeting at OAS Headquarters in Washington D.C. November 8-12, 1999.  Following five days of intense deliberation, the Group concluded its first meeting in which  representatives of the organizations of the Inter-American System, of member States, and of indigenous communities from all parts of the Hemisphere participated in the sessions which were presided by the Chair of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. The Working Group concluded a first reading of the Proposed Declaration and registered a number of observations made by the participants. In accordance with procedures previously agreed upon by the member States, representatives of the indigenous communities commented on the various articles of the Proposed Declaration. Their interventions were recorded in the report of the Chair of the Working Group.

For its part, the Inter-American Indian Institute (III) provided advisory services to the working group.  It presented a Report on the Actions Taken by other International Organizations to Promote the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The III also supported the General Secretariat in implementing measures to facilitate the participation of indigenous leaders in the Hemisphere.  (For further information, please see the documents of the meeting.)

On another note, the second Central American indigenous one-day meeting on "Land, Environment, and Culture" " was held in San Salvador, El Salvador, on July 26, 1999. Representatives of 47 ethnic groups from 18 countries attended this event. The purposes of the meeting were to exchange experience and seek solutions to the problems of land, sustainable development, and strengthening cultural identity.

The Indian Law Resource Center (Centro de Recursos Juridicos para los Pueblos Indigenas) has developed a program of work over twenty years that is aimed at meeting the needs of indigenous peoples. Through their program work, the Center seeks to advance the rule of law, by establishing national and international legal standards that preserve indigenous human rights and dignity, and to challenge the governments of the world to equally esteem all human beings.

XXX OAS General Assembly

At the 30th regular session of the General Assembly held June 4-6, 2000, in Windsor, Canada, member States adopted a resolution that renewed the mandate of the Working Group so that it may continue to consider the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the resolution called for the Working Group to hold their second meeting before the 31st regular session of the General Assembly with continued support by the Inter-American Indian Institute and the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs.

Second Special Meeting to consider the Proposed American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Since September, 2000, the Working Group to consider the Proposed American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been working towards celebrating a Second Special Meeting in order to more carefully consider the Proposed Declaration. The meeting is scheduled to take place April 2-6, 2001, at the OAS Main Building in Washington, DC, and will include the participation of member States and representatives from various indigenous groups throughout the hemisphere. It is hoped that this meeting will advance the consideration and possible adoption of the Proposed Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Working Group, as it has in the past, will count on support from the Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Inter-American Indigenous Institute in successfully coordinating and executing the meeting.

Indigenous Peoples' Summit of the Americas

The Indigenous Peoples' Summit of the Americas will take place on March 28-31, 2001, in Ottawa, Canada. The Conference will be hosted by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and has a primary objective of establishing recommendations to be submitted to the Quebec City Summit of the Americas for the consideration of participating heads of state. Participants at the Indigenous Peoples' Summit will consider the following themes: economic development, connection to the new economy and human rights issues. As part of the conference, the Indigenous groups will be connected, via video, with the the United Nations' Commission of Human Rights, which will be meeting in Geneva, Switzerland at the same time. The Summit also plans to launch a Web site with the Canadian government for post-conference follow-up. For more information about the meeting, please see the following Web site: http://www.afn.ca.

The mandates and initiatives for indigenous peoples were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities on this issue, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001