Mexico attempts to satisfy Africa Group
22 May 2007
The United States of Mexico has proposed a new motion for the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The newly worded motion highlights the national and regional specificity of the application principles of the Delcaration. The move is intended to resolve concerns from the Africa Group regarding how the Declaration will impact on Africa. Africa Group has submitted 34 amendments to the Declaration which was adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, but blocked by Africa and the Caribbean before its adoption by the General Assembly in November.
Indigenous African leaders have expressed frustration with the Africa Group as the amendments have been negotiated over 22 years and Africa has now attacked the key concept of the right to self determination, which is already guaranteed by the UN Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. The African Commission examined the case of indigenous peoples and ruled in November 2003 that there are indigenous peoples in Africa who suffer discrimination and to whom the African Charter's collective rights clauses should apply. The Africa Group appears to be deliberately ignoring African jurisprudence in an effort to exercise their power relative to Latin America in the General Assembly.
Bilateral meetings with African states and IPACC indicate that most African States will vote in favour of the Declaration in its current form if it comes before the General Assembly, but the political dynamics require the Africa Group to try to maintain unity in its negotiating position.
It appears that the Africa Group may reject the Mexican compromise and stick to a hardline rejection of the Declaration text. Some more conservative African states prefer to follow Canada and United States in re-opening the text for negotiation. The indigenous peoples caucus fear that such an action would lead to decades further negotiation without any progress. It would also undermine the UN Human Rights Council. Canada helped negotiate the Declaration but after a change in Prime Ministers, it suddenly changed tack and voted with the Russian Federation against adopting the non-binding human rights standards document. Canada is seen as acting as a proxy for the United States which has continually opposed indigenous peoples or environmental rights at the global level.
Africans are watching states including South Africa and Burundi who already have constitutional and legal mechanisms to ensure the right of self-determination and the recognition of indigenous peoples. Indigenous African caucus members are expecting that the African diplomatic solidarity may give way to a free vote if the Declaration comes up in front of the General Assembly without changes.
The Global Indigenous Caucus is due to react to the new proposals and speak directly with the President of the General Assembly.