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Around Rio+20, France Said to Undermine Indigenous, BofA to Pollute Process

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- During the Rio + 20 negotiations at the UN, amid frustration at a metastasizing text full of brackets and co-chairs "grabbing power," a repeated complaint to Inner City Press was that France, through the European Union, was trying to switch away from the phrase "indigenous people" to a watered down reference which mixed indigenous and "other local communities."

  Given their long fight to adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People, there was much resistance to France's initiative, and much frustration that France "refuses to explain it," as one Francophone indigenous advocate put it to Inner City Press.

  The French Mission to the UN is among the least accessible: when its Permanent Representative Gerard Araud was last President of the Security Council, for example, he held only three question and answer stakeouts in the whole month, compared to more than a dozen by this month's Presidency.

  The Francophone advocate described trying to get an answer, without success. The French Mission is set to hold a confidential briefing for select press Thursday at 4:15 pm -- will the question be raised? Of the "background" format, one invitee snarked, "Now when we quote a 'Western diplomat' it'll be clear to whom we're referring."

  Another recurring concern, at least for some, was the way in which the UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has allowed corporate interests free reign in the UN.

  Ban named a panel on Sustainable Energy for All, and named as its co-chair the chairman of Bank of America, being protested by Occupy Wall Street and others as the bigger funder of mountain top removal coal mining.

  At a civil society press conference at the UN on March 27, Inner City Press asked about both issues: the switch of indigenous language and Bank of America's role. The representatives of the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace both expressed concern at the being "used" by corporation which are "destructive;" opposition to lumping indigenous and other local communities was confirmed.

  On March 25, protesters aligned with Occupy Wall Street brought tents to the small lawn in front of the UN, as a "mock'upation" of the UN by BP, Bank of American and others. They were stopped by police. But who will stop those who seek to roll back what indigenous people have fought for? Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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