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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At the UN, Tentative Deal for Indigenous Rights, Once Member States' Sovereignty Enshrined

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 6 -- On the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a deal has been reached to impose nine changes on the text previously agreed to before the UN Human Rights Council, and to decide on this modified text on September 13. At a press conference on Thursday, Inner City Press asked about the changes, particularly Article 46, to which was added that nothing in the Declaration should be "construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair totally or in part the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent states." Video here, from Minute 15:05.

            Les Malezer, Chairperson of the Global Indigenous Caucus, answered that the amendments were presented as a group, take them or leave them. "We would not have gone for the amendments, we call for the adoption without amendments... but we have a very good result." Mr. Malezer predicted that either Canada or Russia may call for a vote, and vote against the Declaration. "That will reflect on them," he said.

            Inner City Press asked how Article 46 will be interpreted.  Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, pointed to decisions by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which "acknowledge the territorial integrity of indigenous people," and to Article 26 (rights to land) and 37 (treaties). "At the end of the day, this whole resolution will go through a battle of interpretations," she said.

Indigenous people confront mountains of paper at the UN, 2007

            Joseph Ole Simel, Coordinator of the African Regional Indigenous Caucus, from Kenya, was asked by IPS' intrepid Nergui Manalsuren about the statement by Kenya's Ambassador to the UN that Kenya does not have any indigenous people. Video here, from Minute 36:32. The response referred to "ILO 169" and asserted that Canada had improperly pressured Kenya to consider opposing the Declaration.

            After the briefing, Inner City Press interviewed an indigenous longtime proponent of the Declaration who said that the changes "are not good, but what are we going to do?" We'll see.

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without Ban's DPA having responded.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540